Guys Being Dudes

Table Of Contents

6 | Your Favorite Passion

Arlo had predicted that he was going to end up strapped to a chair in a trailer being interrogated at some point. It was a bit of an occupational hazard in his profession. What he hadn't anticipated was the nature of the questions, or by whom the interrogation would be undertaken.

"Before I tell you anything, I need to know: is my information confidential and is Candela acting in her capacity as an enemy team leader or as my ex?"

"Neither. I'm vetting the jerk who's messing around with my little brother."

"Wait, y'all are related? Damn, Professor Willow must have gotten around. I can see it. I mean, I'm not into older men, but, like, he's got a pretty good ass for someone his age —"

Blanche had covered their face with one of their hands. "Please. Stop. Your information will not be reported to either of our bosses. This is squarely a personal issue so completely irrelevant to either side's administration. And while we are not related by blood, we consider Spark family, so it is our duty to ensure that any suitors are worthy of him and screen out possibly dangerous candidates, especially if they are openly evil and also total douchebags."

"Uh, isn't that word out of character for you? Wouldn't you, like, call me a 'receptacle for menstrual hygiene product' or something?"

"I am just using the terms you do. I may prefer formal language, but I do not forsake accuracy in describing my sources. Candela, the business card, please."

Candela rummaged through Arlo's pockets until she produced a business card featuring a sleek black design with rounded corners, silver trim, and red text describing Arlo's position as "Team GO Rocket Scientist / Professional Douchebag". The back of the card described his extensive experience in the field of evil. She held it in front of Arlo's face, much to his consternation.

"For your information, Sierra ordered those for me as a joke! I was not informed of her choice of titles!"

"You still carry them in your pocket, implying you do not consider the word choice incorrect. QED."

"Well, maybe I just consider hygiene important. Have you ever considered that?" He tilted his entire face upward, in order to turn up both his nose and chin at the other team leaders and make his best attempt at looking down on them, which wasn't very effective seeing as he was seated and Blanche was taller than him. "Also, she got my contact information and field experience right; I'm not going to waste a perfectly good business card."

"Whatever you say. So, what are your intentions in engaging in liasons with Spark? He has been even more inattentive in official matters than usual lately. I've had to extract him from texting someone labeled with a black heart emoji during meetings on multiple occasions."

"D'aww, he even used the emo heart. You didn't hear that."

Candela burst in from the corner, finally fully revealing herself. "Blanche, I don't think your usual approach will work here. Let me use my tried and true tactics. So, is Spark your boyfriend? Do you love him? Do you wanna kiss him? Hmm?"

"Candela, please, we're not first-years. Although, I can not doubt your tactics' efficacy."

Arlo had started sweating to a point that his body spray likely did not obscure. He nervously took off his glasses, fully revealing the reddening of his face.

Candela switched her approach to a mockery of Blanche's analytical air, pacing around Arlo's entire body while scratching her chin. "Hmm. Your physical reactions definitely seem legit, but who's to say? So. Do you actually like Spark or was this some sort of bizarre evil plan to get back at me?"


"Which one of those?"

Blanche directed a quick wink in Arlo's direction. "Well, you didn't specify that you meant an exclusive or. I keep telling you that using xor in conversation would be much clearer. Unlike iff, it's even pronounceable in English phonetics."

"Don't formal logic me, Blanche. So, which is it?"

"Well, uh, it totally did start as the evil plan thing, but then I turned out to actually like him and vice versa, so yeah. Also, we have totally kissed, and while I can't tell you about actions at Team GO Rocket HQ to cite other statistics, he is totally better at it than you. Nyeh." Arlo narrowed his eyes at Candela, making all of the motions of sticking out his tongue save actually doing it.

Blanche was barely stifling a smile at seeing her colleague visibly flustered. "I see. And did Spark know you were asking him out for nefarious purposes when you first approached him?"

"Yes. That's actually one of the first things I told him. Well, not the Candela thing, it was actually that Sierra assigned me to get laid; it's a funny story, really, but I think he inferred the Candela thing and my being assigned to do so as Official Team Rocket Business—" He specifically overenunciated each word of the last phrase in order to emphasize that he was sarcastically referring to the concept. "—falls under the 'evil plan' banner, and I did kinda approach him to get back at you, so yes. Both are true. Also, I do love him. What are you going to do about it?"

"Ugh. Well, that level of smugness can't be anything but legit seeing as I don't think you'd lie about having the social skills of a chainsaw and being proud of it. You seriously told him that Sierra assigned you to get laid?" Candela facepalmed before beginning to pace around him. Blanche backed off, figuring that their fellow team leader could handle the rest. "Come on, dude, that's a totally transparent excuse."

"No, uh, she literally did. Also, you have the social skills of an...acoustic saw, so who are you to judge?"

Candela froze mid-step in the midst of what was about to be a circling monologue. "Well, that's kinda messed up. And acoustic saw? Really?" She resumed her pacing around the captive Go Rocket leader. "Anyway, let's discuss your evil plan to get back at me, shall we? Don't talk. I want to see if I can infer your motives for myself."

"Uh, if you can perfectly infer my motives, doesn't that mean that on some level you're just as evil as I am?"

"Yes. The only difference is that I'm better at it by being subtle. So, let me guess — you based your plans on the classic cliche that the best way to get someone interested in you, especially if they're your ex, is for them to see you with a new partner. This leads them to reminisce about how great you were when you were with them and eventually conclude that no one else can have you. Depending on the genre, they'll either engage in overwrought gestures to get you back or kill your faux-rebound. You shouldn't have tried it with me, Arlo. For all you know, I'd go with the latter which would be far less convenient for you."

"Pfft, you know I could dispose of a body. I mean, hello. I've got a Charizard plus my organization has contingency plans for that."

"Your capability for corpse disposal aside, that whole concept relies on a monogamy-normative idea of love in which someone is the property of whoever they're screwing at the time and just assumes that no one involved would be open for a frank discussion about an open relationship. Which, by the way, you should have with Spark. You knew that wouldn't work on me. Hell, a better tactic would be to pick almost anyone other than Spark and ask me if I wanted to join in. I would have seriously considered it."

"Wait, would you?"

Candela held her hand over her mouth and released a string of high-pitched, arrogant laughs. "It's a pity you'll never know since Spark is your boyfriend and you love him and I'm sure as hell not messing with anyone who's fucking my bro."

"Please use one term for sexual relations consistently, or at least keep your choices at the same level of vulgarity." Blanche had moved outside of the main examination area, but called out into it with exasperation.

"Blanche, you more than anyone should know that just because words have the same meaning doesn't mean they have the same connotation. I'm picking whichever one is the most stylistically appropriate in context!"

Candela sighed and returned to pacing the perimeter of the room, keeping her gaze trained on Arlo from every angle. "Anyway, for a concept that's a whole different kind of -normative, you also figured that if you not only got a new partner but they were masculine-aligned, I would be devastated and try harder to get you back under fear that I was such a horrid lover that I 'turned you gay'. What I say to that is that the Bisexual Agenda meetings are on Thursdays. Bring snacks." She picked her bag up from a hook on the wall, shoved it in Arlo's face, and pointed to a pin of a Team Valor emblem in the bisexual flag colors before resuming her circling rant.

"And of course, we must bring up the fact that ever since the Go Fest 2020 afterparty, we all know that you're super into Spark. Even if we attribute the events of that event to alcohol-induced disinhibition, ignoring that you still essentially had your full faculties given the low amount you imbibed, I have reports from the field of a presumably non-intoxicated you being notably different in your behavior towards Trainers at Pokestops lately. Not only have you interrupted a number of Pokestop invasions to answer texts at which you make high-pitched noises, you also seem generally 'out of it' per Trainer reports and at one point, retorted to an Team Instinct trainer who insulted your fashion sense by saying that their team leader was way hotter than them and he liked you, so their opinion was invalid. Put shortly, there is strong evidence given this combined with your flustered behavior at present that you've got it bad, and you've had it bad for a while. I've seen your comments on his Instagram stories."

"I appreciate his dedication to Pokemon training. His physique is a demonstration of that. And, like, come on, it's kinda hard not to notice someone's pecs if they seem to be trying to get your attention."

"Yeah, and Cliff totally appreciates Giovanni's 'dedication to Pokemon training'. You liked him from the offset. You just weren't secure enough in your masculinity to, well, GO for it. Even before the Go Fest 2020 afterparty, there are recordings from the field when you and your fellow leaders first emerged of you ranting about yaoi while preparing Shadow Pokemon. I guess I can't argue that you and Spark do look like the classical couple, but I don't really think that it's the story you're interested in there."

"I don't see how this is relevant."

"Well, I'm satisfied. You do seem like a good couple. Oh, and speaking of your security in your masculinity, I have to say while we're off the clock that you look good. You've really got a handle on the sexily evil glasses guy slash emo kid aesthetic. It's not something I would have thought of, but it works on you. Now you just need to get past the douchebro personality and you'd actually be hot."

"Hey, it worked on Spark, right?"

"I think Spark is just drawn to edgelords because he thinks they need hugs. Anyway, I'm going to turn you over to Blanche for the parts of this interrogation I don't really want to hear. And just to fulfill the stereotype, if you do anything to hurt my little brother, I'll rip your balls off."

"Uh, that's going to be difficult for a number of reasons."

"Fine. I'll pay for the surgery for you to get balls and then rip them off. But seriously. He's not like us. He's eminently wholesome. Don't corrupt him."

"Works for me."

"Blanche! Here's your cue! I'm going to go rendezvous with Spark. And no, Arlo, that's not a euphemism. I can hear your brain gears whirring."

Blanche proceeded to regale Arlo with a gauntlet of questions more thorough than anything he had ever been asked at a doctor's appointment concerning his partner history, medications, use of protection and birth control, and whether he was out to Spark, all interspersed with periodical checks to make sure he was comfortable being asked such and anecdotes from Blanche's own experience. By the end of it, as well as being reminded to drink water and take off his hoodie if he started feeling faint at all in order to avoid heat exhaustion; gravely warned that if he was chest binding, he'd want to take a break about halfway through the day and should set a reminder on his phone; and grilled about the necessity of Team Rocket's bimonthly STD testing requirement and the implications thereof; Arlo was supported in his endeavors as long as he and Spark came with Blanche to a sexual health seminar the following Wednesday and he promised to contact them if he had further need of anything in that regard so they could forward him to local resources. They released him from his restraints, returned his phone, and gave him and Spark their blessing before briskly exiting the mobile lab. As Arlo left, he caught a glimpse of Professor Willow waiting outside the trailer seated on a tree stump, completely red in the face and clearly contemplating if it was safe to come back in yet. He waved at the professor as he headed towards a nearby row of Pokestops to make his requisite appearances, leaving the older man utterly bewildered.

The day continued to pass without incident. The weather wasn't especially hot given the region and time of year, nobody got attacked by hat-wearing Flygons like the last Go Fest, and Arlo didn't even get bothered that much since as compared to previous years, there weren't that many tasks for the Go trainers involving fighting Team GO Rocket members. Really, the whole scene was disturbingly peaceful. Arlo couldn't deny that as much as he may have appreciated not being harassed by Go trainers who either wanted to fight him or ask if Team GO Rocket was recruiting, the overwhelmingly good vibes and subtle scent of Gracidea still felt thoroughly off. In part because he was very much aware that the only reason things at this year's event remained as peaceful as they did was because he and his colleagues weren't doing much. Did they even really need to be there? The grunts probably weren't that stupid; they could totally handle themselves — he ended up provoking himself into laughter with that thought. The grunts totally were that stupid. But he still didn't think they needed all 3 leaders to wrangle them. Well, he still had a couple of hours before the designated event time ended and they could leave and Spark was out doing whatever it was that the team leaders did during these things, so there wasn't much for him to do except wait.

While Arlo was leaned against a tree with his earbuds in looking totally super brooding and cool (nobody needed to know that he was reading webcomics at the time), Spark approached and tapped him on the shoulder. The Go Rocket leader immediately leapt up from his seated position, rounded on Spark with Pokeballs prepared, and got into position for his spiel.

"Uh…my sole purpose in life is to win! I'll vanquish whoever dares to get in my — oh. Hi, Spark. Don't sneak up on me like that!"

"Oh, sorry, should have thought about that. So, I've just about had my fill in there. Figured I'd go see what you were doing. Did you pass inspection?"

"What, from Candela and Blanche? You knew about that?"

"They didn't specifically tell me they were going to do anything, but they were pretty thorough in their vetting of my ex and unlike you, there wasn't history there. It was a reasonable inference. So, how did it go?"

"Well, as well as mocking me about you being my boyfriend and how I love, it still feels weird to say non-arrogantly even if I'm quoting her, Candela dissected why any evil machinations I had to get her back involving you wouldn't work and Blanche gave me a very detailed spiel about making sure we're being safe. By the way, are you free Wednesday?"

"Yeah, that checks out. I've heard from my Mystic friends that they give that lecture and the seminar invites to anyone who's acting sufficiently flirtatious. It's considered a bit of a rite of passage. And, wait, what's this about me being your boyfriend?"

Spark made a quizzical head tilt, and then kept his head in position and nodded in Arlo's direction. They were leaned against Arlo's side in position such that the intended signal was clear. He started petting the Team Instinct leader's hair and briefly drew his hand back after he got shocked and shook it for a bit just to verify the sensation was real.

"Uh, well, re: the boyfriend thing, it looks like everyone else is using that word anyway so I'm cool with making it official if you are —"

"Dude, I was actually about to ask you that. If you were comfortable using that word, that is." Arlo let out a subtle high-pitched noise at seeing that Spark was the one awkwardly blushing for once. "I just didn't know if you were ready. But, like, I'm a masculine-aligned person you're in a romantic relationship with, right?"

"So I have a boyfriend."


"I have a boyfriend!" Arlo excitedly pumped his fist before leaving the hand up for Spark to high-five it. After that, they both giggled at the decidedly non-traditionally-romantic display of excitement.

"We really did it. We both have boyfriends now."

"Yeah. If only the people who made memes about you in 2016 could see us now. In totally unrelated news, how is your hair literally always staticky? You'd tell me if you weren't human, right? Because I'd be totally down for that. I've always wanted a magical girlfriend. Or boyfriend or whatever."

"I'm actually cool with 'girlfriend' since you're referencing a trope. Really, you can refer to me with whatever's funniest at the moment. And before I tell you any dark secrets, what's with your eyes?"

"What about them?" Arlo blinked a couple of times in what appeared to be completely non-feigned confusion.

"That's not a color non-animated human eyes are supposed to be. Like, are you albino and do you just dye all your body hair, are you a Shadow Pokemon, are you wearing contacts, or do you just not get enough sleep?"

"You don't know if I dye all my body hair." Arlo gave Spark a simulated seductive look before bursting into awkward laughter. "Anyway, uh, I don't get enough sleep, but I think the second one."


"When I first joined Team GO Rocket, I was consumed by breakup-rage and dove into the Shadow Pokemon project nonstop for a week. I don't know if it was that I was handling various mixtures of drugs and corrupted XM, only sleeping in 30-minute increments and eating when Cliff slid food under my door, or listening to Escape the Fate the whole time, but my eyes have been red ever since with no sign of fading. They used to be blue."

"Right. And I'm part Zapdos on my mother's side and my hair is actually made of feathers. Let me guess, that's where the red streak in your hair is from, too?"

"No. That I dyed."

"'re joking. Right? I honestly can't tell."

"Want to see a picture of me from before?"

Arlo swiped through a few pictures before coming up to an picture of him and Candela from when they were dating that had been marked for deletion for 3 years, although he'd never actually gone through with it, and handing the device to Spark.

"Pfft, you looked like a fratbro. And not even the classy kind. And..." Spark zoomed in on the photo, clearly not expecting to see anything, and his eyes widened upon realizing that Arlo's were, in fact, blue at the time.

"Huh. I guess that would explain how you seem to drain the light from any room you enter." He stretched his hand up to run his fingers through Arlo's hair.

"D'aww, you flatter me. You're such a good boyfriend. Heh, that feels so weird to say."

Arlo ruffled Spark's hair back to the other leader's contented sighs before catching a glimpse of something unusual from the corner of his eye. He turned it upwards to see what appeared to be a glowing hairline fracture in the sky, a tiny jagged line with no connection to anything else. He at first assumed it was a glitch in the screen on his glasses, so he turned them off and removed them from his face, but the crack remained.

"What the fuck is that? Spark, are you seeing this?" He pointed towards the unidentified object.

Spark squinted his eyes at it. "Huh. Weird. Maybe it's a shooting star? I'm not going to ask for anything; I already got my wish. I have everything I want right here. Best birthday I've had in years."

"Bro, that's so corny!" Arlo ruffled his hair again. "And...a shooting star? In broad daylight? That's not moving?"

"I've got nothing."

"Wait, what was that about it being your birthday? Oh, fuck, I'm sure you texted me about this and I forgot and didn't get you anything."

"It's okay. I don't really expect to get anything. Hey, you taking me to dinner last week was more than the other leaders usually do. We're usually working because it falls right during the start of Go Fest season every year."

"This is unacceptable." Arlo assumed his Pokestop takeover position and most pretentious tone of voice. "It is beneath me to not partake in some form of festivities for my boyfriend, whom I love."

He broke the turgid posturing for a bit when he realized that a grunt was watching from the bushes and barely suppressing laughter. He aimed a withering glare at them for being away from their Pokestop duties before returning his attention to Spark. At least they couldn't spread anything except gossip without it getting to the admins that they were shirking their duties.

"Wow. Still feels weird to say the L-word. Maybe I should get that checked out. Anyway, by all the greatness of Team GO Rocket and every unholy thing, we are going to the Sleepless Bakery tonight, we are getting some cupcakes, and it is going to be absolutely. Fucking. Adorable. We are to be the best couple in this or any world and crush all who stand in our way. Do I make myself clear?"

"I can't tell if you're asking me to go on a date with you or help you take over the world, but yes, sir. So, I'm about ready to skip town if you are. I told the others I might be leaving early and really, they don't need all 3 of us here save to do the setup so we're ready for tomorrow. Where did y'all end up parking?"

"Uh, actually at the strip mall where we dropped you off. We circled the lot, like, 3 times but couldn't get anyone to move. That is one downside of the windowless van. It's rather bulky and Sierra adamantly refuses to park next to anyone."

"I must admit that isn't an issue I would have thought of with the standard creepy van, but it makes sense. Anyway, we've done events at this park before. There's a walking trail just down the hill that connects to the road. If we take that, we can get back to the strip mall and be unlikely to pass by any other trainers."

"Great. I've kinda had my fill of Pokestop duty. If one more Trainer calls me 'ma'am', I'm setting them on fire."

Spark patted Arlo's shoulder. "Let me know if you'd need my help disposing of any bodies. I have Pokemon that could use more variety in their diets."

"You know, I saw a saying once. A friend will help you plot the murder, but a true friend, or love interest or whatever, will help you hide the body."

Once the couple returned to the strip mall parking lot, they waited by the podiatrist's office. Arlo texted the other Go Rocket leaders to go pick them up and once the windowless van arrived, Cliff started heartily laughing at him.

"So, how did things go with you and your boyfriend?"

Arlo's face flushed and he avoided eye contact by hastily directing Spark to the trunk to get strapped back in. "Who told?"

Sierra smirked. "Please. It's all the grunts are talking about. I think what you actually did while you were hanging out being sickeningly cute might have gotten distorted in transmission, though. Please don't tell me you went for a roll in the Gracidea field with all of the Shaymin and Spark's coworkers watching."

"Well, we didn't, but now I totally want to. Minus the other team leaders watching part. Candela would never let me live it down and I think Blanche might just take recordings and analyze them to assess my fitness as a mate. How about it, Spark?"

"It's a nice image, but some of the oils in Gracidea flowers are known to irritate human skin. Learned that from Blanche. We'd be itching for days afterwards in very uncomfortable places."

"I really need to get Blanche's number from you. They seem cool."

The rest of the drive back to Team GO Rocket's menacing building in the woods passed without incident and with the air conditioning at full blast. Everyone was too tired from the day's events to engage in snarking back and forth at each other. Well, they weren't, but Arlo had figured out based on Spark's tactics that if he made his best attempt at responding to snide comments with absolute sincerity, or just started talking about how cute his boyfriend was, they'd be too exasperated at his decidedly non-evil behavior to fight back. It was the ultimate weapon. And maybe if he joked about it enough, saying the L-word would stop feeling weird when he wasn't using it to posture. It worked for self-deprecating humor, right?

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