AN: It's been a while since I uploaded anything here, so I apologise in advance for any formatting errors!
Anyway, I've pretty much been obsessing over PSMD ever since I finished it for the first time back in April. Leafdad fics make me happy, so I decided to contribute one of my little one-shots to the tiny fandom. It's the only one I've completed so far, I think. I wrote it a month or two ago, so there are a few weird things in there - I wasn't at all familiar with the contents of Nuzleaf's house at the time, and incorrectly assumed there were way more crates than there really are, for example - and the ending's kind of abrupt, but I like it, so I'm sharing it.
The fic's meaningless fluff, and takes place the day after Hero tells their classmates about their being human. I've pushed the Nectar Meadow incident back a few days to make space for a weekend.
Come morning, I was slowly prodded awake by the clanking of wooden crockery outside my room. I shifted in my straw bed, stretching my legs and hugging my arms to myself. Warm sunlight tickled my cheek. I frowned at the window, taking in the sky outside, which was just a touch brighter than usual at this time of day.
…Was Nuzleaf late getting up? I thought to myself. My heart raced. Was I going to be late for school?
Then it hit me. It was the weekend; Mr Farfetch'd had mentioned that in class yesterday. I had two days off of school.
I stared out of the window, processing that thought. What was I to do all day? Apart from that first day where I'd gone to Drilbur Coal Mine with Edward, I'd spent my afternoons either going through lessons with Nuzleaf, drawing, practicing writing, or helping Nuleaf dust or prepare for dinner. I couldn't do that all day – I'd go mad!
A head poked itself through the doorway, distracting me. "Good morning, friend!" said Nuzleaf's chipper voice. "Will you be wantin' juice or milk with your breakfast today? Or are you gonna settle for good old water?"
I twisted in bed and looked at him, blinking to get my eyes to focus. "What are we having?"
"Berries," he said, simply. "Same as the last times you asked."
"Water, please." I'd learned my lesson after the first morning; don't have berry juice with berries. It just doesn't work.
He snickered. "I reckoned as much. Take your time gettin' up… although your water may just disappear if you take too long!"
I gave him a thumbs up. Once he was gone, I pushed myself onto my elbows and stared across the room with bleary eyes. I wondered if sleep was supposed to be so un-refreshing, or if there was just something wrong with me. Everyone else in the village certainly seemed to have no problems getting up in the morning.
Still, dwelling on that would give me nothing but a headache. I got out of bed and stumbled into the front room, where Nuzleaf was dividing berries between two bowls. On the floor.
He really needed a table.
"Good morning again!" said Nuzleaf. He tossed a rawst berry into his mouth. "Got some newbies for you to try today," he said, pointing at two conspicuously different berries in each bowl. One appeared to be three pink, curved fingers attached together at one end by a sticky, yellow stem. The other was a cluster of deep purple balls.
I eyed the newcomers dubiously.
"No need to look at 'em like they spat on your mother, now," said Nuzleaf. "I do believe you'll like 'em. Pangoro grows these in her orchard, but they grow much slower than your oran or pecha berries, so consider them a treat."
I had no idea who this Pangoro was, but I decided to take Nuzleaf's word for it. I accepted the bowl (wooden, again) of water offered to me and perched myself on the floor opposite him. I picked up the pink and yellow fruit by one of the pink bits and dangled it in front of my face. The two other pink bits bounced a little in mid-air, looking as though they might snap from the stem, but miraculously enough didn't.
"That one's a nanab." I jumped at Nuzleaf's voice. His lips were curled slightly, as if he was holding back a laugh. "I reckon the flavour's a tad mild, but they've got a nice, creamy texture to 'em."
To prove his point, he plopped an entire nanab berry in his mouth. He then took a bite out of a pecha like nothing had happened.
Hesitantly, I followed his lead and took a nibble out of one of the pink bits. It was soft, and yielded like foam between my lips (if you could even call them lips). A smooth, faintly sweet flavour melted in my mouth. It reminded me of brown and a soft yellow colour, but for the life of me I couldn't get a grip on the thought.
"Oh? Looks like I was right," said Nuzleaf, smirking. I smiled shyly under the scrutiny. "I'll be fixin' to get a few more of them nanabs next time, I reckon!"
Once Nuzleaf had turned back to his own berries (of which there were barely any left, somehow, despite his bowl being at least ten times the size of mine), I refocused on the nanab, and my other berries. My stomach growled. I finished the pink bit I'd bitten out of, savouring the taste, and then set it aside for later.
We ate in silence for a while. By the time Nuzleaf was finished, I wasn't even half done.
Nuzleaf downed his bowl of milk, wiped his lips with his arm, and then eyed my bowl. "I reckon you're the slowest eater I've ever met," he commented.
I felt a stab of hurt. The other kids at school had commented on that too.
"…Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you," he continued. "If you want to enjoy your food, then I'll do nothin' to stop you."
I plastered a smile on my face. I refused to meet his eye, and instead returned to my pecha berry. Somehow, it tasted drier than it had before.
Nuzleaf got up and washed his bowls, leaving me with my berries. It didn't take him long. Once he was done, he went over to the crates by the wall and started shifting them about. He would glance at the sides, occasionally muttering something to himself, and rearrange them into stacks. I tried to make out what he was looking for on them, but couldn't quite make it out. There seemed to be some sort of writing on some of them.
I wondered what was in all those crates. I knew he stored food in them, but those couldn't all be food crates, surely? I knew from experience that the ones by the other wall were all food crates. Perhaps he stored other things in them, too, and the writing said what was in them.
I was about to ask him when he looked at the side of a crate and paled. I made out a quiet "Dagnabbit!" before he threw its lid open. A heavy, rotting smell wafted over.
"Phoo-ey!" yelled Nuzleaf. "I reckon I done left these a bit long!"
"You think?" I snarked.
He glanced over at me. "Ah, sorry. You're still eating. I didn't realise they'd be this bad, I promise." He slammed the crate's lid closed and shoved it against the wall. The stench didn't ease.
"What were you looking for, anyway?" I asked him, trying not to breathe too deeply.
"Hm? Ah, I was still feelin' a little peckish and fancied myself a chestnut. I reckon I've lost my appetite now, though."
The glare he shot the crate made me smile, for what little that word meant for me. As a treecko, my mouth was pretty solid. While I could stretch the corners slightly, the rest it could do was open and close. I imagined I must seem quite cold.
Nuzleaf returned the crates to the wall, apparently paying no mind to their ordering. He got to his feet and stretched. "Well, that'll be a mess I can deal with later. For now…" He glanced at me. "Er… I guess I oughta open the windows."
I chewed on an oran berry as he unlatched the front window. Fresh air breezed its way in, relieving my nostrils somewhat. When I took another bite out of the oran, a bit of flavour seemed to have returned to it.
"So, it's the weekend, I reckon," Nuzleaf commented as he continued opening the windows. "I suppose you'll be wantin' to play with some of your pals from school, so I reckon I won't make you work too much more on your writing and the like."
My heart dropped at his words. I opened my mouth to correct him, but found no sound would leave my throat.
"…I do believe some of the kids like to play by the tree on the hill in the mornings. I never paid them no mind, myself. But I reckon your pals will have told you where to find them, right?"
I bit my tongue, unable to voice the truth. My mostly-gone oran berry weighed heavily in my palm, its sticky juices slowly leaking onto my fingers.
"…You all right, kid?"
"Yeah," I told him. I cringed at how hollow the word sounded.
Nuzleaf had paused by the entrance to my room, frowning at me. "You don't seem it to me. Did somethin' happen between you kids yesterday? Are you not feelin' well?"
I bit down hard on my tongue, tasting blood. I had to tell him. Anything else would be an obvious falsehood by this point. But how could I tell him when just thinking about it made me clam up so?
I averted my gaze. "I… I…" My throat closed up.
Nuzleaf left the doorway to sit down before me, where he had been only a few minutes ago. I stared at his bare feet, unable to face whatever I might find in his eyes. He didn't speak right away. When he did, his voice was unusually quiet. "Lorna, I do believe you told me none of the other kids were pickin' on you. Is that not so?"
I startled at his words. "What? No—I mean, they're not—not as such, that is—"
"Slow down, kid." With the way he was frowning, I couldn't tell whether he was worried or disappointed in me. "I reckon we should start from the beginning. You went out playin' with Charmander after your first day of school, yes?"
"I noticed you haven't done so since I got back. Did somethin' happen between the two of you?"
I nodded again.
"Did you have a fight?"
I hesitated. "Not exactly… He kind of, er… asked me if he was annoying, and… I tried to explain why everyone was so upset with him, and then…"
"…he took it the wrong way?"
"Yeah. We haven't really spoken since then."
Nuzleaf hummed in thought, lacing his fingers together in his lap. "That isn't your only problem though. I reckon you wouldn't be so torn up if somethin' else hadn't happened."
I stared at him.
"You're not so hard to read right now, I'm afraid, friend," said Nuzleaf. "I reckon you might as well have said out loud that someone at school is bein' mean to you." He paused. "Actually, you sorta did, in a fashion."
I returned my oran berry to the bowl, mind racing. So much had happened since Nuzleaf had had to leave in the night. How was I supposed to get yesterday's conflict across without making him think there was some kind of bullying going on?
The memory of Pancham's smug face flashed across my mind's eye. With some reluctance, I realised that yes, he was purposefully being mean. He was trying to bring me down – all because I'd threatened him in the 'guts' department. I hadn't even meant to, it had just kind of… happened.
"Listen, Lorna," said Nuzleaf. "I know I haven't exactly been… particularly exemplary when it comes to takin' care of you." He rubbed his neck. "I reckon I'm rather ashamed of that. But I reckon we don't know how long you're gonna be here. Could be a few more days… could be the rest of your life. So I want you to have as good a time as possible while you can. And if you're not havin' that, then, well… like I said the other night, I feel mighty bad about it."
Tears pricked my eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."
"Wha-?" He stared at me for a moment. "Whoa, kid! This ain't about me! Now it's true that I'm sad you're havin' a bad time here… but I don't care about that. I want to help you."
And then it burst like a dam. I told Nuzleaf everything – the way Pancham and Shelmet had pressured Goomy into going into the Foreboding Forest, and then pressured myself into breaking into the Drilburs' coal mine. I told him about the mess that had been the field trips, my falling out with Edward, and finally, the events at school yesterday.
Nuzleaf listened in silence the whole time, nodding occasionally, expression thoughtful.
"I know I shouldn't have told them I'm human," I told him. "But I didn't want to lie, and I felt bad only telling them half the truth. I didn't think Pancham would turn everyone against me with it."
After I finished, silence fell between us. I pulled on my fingers as Nuzleaf idly tapped his on his knee. Finally, he sat up straight and looked me in the eye.
"I reckon I can't blame you for telling 'em about that," he began. "It's only natural to want to share your feelings with others. I should have realised before that you needed someone to talk to about it. I reckon… I'm sorry for that."
I squirmed. "'S not your fault," I mumbled.
"Perhaps not, but I sure ain't blameless." He paused. "As for gettin' your school pals back on your side, I reckon all you can do is wait for a chance to prove to 'em that you're no liar. When you find it, seize it, and I reckon everything will be all right. So you keep on the lookout, you hear?"
"As for me… well… I can have a word with Pancham's mother if you want. It may just make things worse, though."
I considered for a moment, and knew right away what was right. "I want to try by myself first," I told him. "I want to prove to them that I'm not a liar. I don't know how… but I want to try."
A smile split Nuzleaf's face, lightening his solemn features. "You reckon? I'm mighty glad to hear that! Hopefully, next weekend you'll be out there with the other kids, playin'…" He trailed off. "Well, I'll be. What do you kids play?"
I couldn't help it – I smiled.
Nuzleaf glanced at the window. "Well, I'll be needin' to chop some wood this morning. Roselia's wantin' some new logs to frame her garden with, so that's a bit of extra work for me. But if you want, you can come with."
Some of my tension melted away. "Yes, please."
"All right. I reckon you could probably help out a bit, too, at least with the small logs. Be a learnin' experience for you."
I nodded. Suddenly, I remembered my breakfast, and felt my face heat. The dried juice on my hand suddenly felt a hundred times stickier.
Nuzleaf noticed my embarrassment. He chuckled. "Well, you finish off your berries," he said. "I'll go get my equipment ready. I'll pack a snack for us, too, while I'm at it."
"Berries?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
"Got it in one!"
I smiled. Living with Nuzleaf certainly had its quirks… and I would probably get bored of berries very, very soon… but I couldn't think of anyone I'd rather live with. A thought crossed my mind. "Hey, Nuzleaf," I called out, looking over to where he was fiddling with a strange backpack-esque thing. "Why do you believe me? You know, about being a human and all."
He blinked. "Well, I thought it was mighty obvious, but now that I look back, you wouldn't realise that, would you?" He smiled at me. "I reckon you're the only treecko your age that doesn't know they can walk on walls."
A pin dropped. "I can what now?!"