I’ve been thinking a lot about your drawings of the Pokemon professors lately. Particularly Professor Elm. He looked so sad and I was trying to figure out why.
Over the course of the last few days, in bits and pieces, I made a patchwork headcanon.
I always scoffed at the idea that Professor Elm would’ve been the first Professor to discover the fact that Pokemon laid eggs. Even though I’m fairly certain that Silver and Gold were the first games to implement eggs, the in-story ruckus made about it feels faintly absurd. It’s as if Pokemon /just/ started reproducing three years after the events of Red and Blue.
So then I figured, nah, what if. .
Professor Elm was a leading researcher on the discovery of genetics shaped by breeding. His theories and data were thoroughly researched. However, severely sleep deprivation, coupled with the fact that he was rushing his publication to meet a grant deadline, he ended up hastily titling his research “Discovery: Pokemon Laying Eggs.”
The science community would never let him live it down. What he meant to say was that he had made a discovery /in the field of/ Pokemon laying eggs. Across the Johto nation, he was ridiculed and mocked. The radio station had a blast ribbing him, referring to slips of the tongue as “making an Elm of yourself.”
Professor Elm packed himself away in layers of insulated self-loathing. He used to love traveling all over the region for research. Now, he practically lived at his lab. Even sunshine barely grazed him. He would devote the following year to the breeding of Starter Pokemon for aspiring trainers. It used to only be a set amount, and that was it. If you didn’t meet the deadline and there were no more starters out of the 9 available, you were out of luck.
Now, practically any young trainer could stroll in and pick out a partner. On the condition that they accept the responsibility of a Pokedex and collect data in his place.
A year and a half passed by in this manner.
It was Professor Birch who reached out. Just a brief, friendly e-mail at first—
"One time, I got chased all around a patch of grass by a wild Pokemon. That route was less than a minute from my lab, but I ran like a fool until a ten-year-old saved me with my own Pokemon. I was kinda sheepish about the incident for a while, but the exercise was pretty decent now that I think about it."
Professor Elm slowly warmed up to this new person. They would exchange a flurry of e-mails. The trust grew to the point where he would send his recent discoveries to Professor Birch (without titles, of course.)
Birch encouraged Elm to publish his work again. It was clearly quality material. Time to move on and help the world again.
Elm was anxious. It was commonly known that, among professors, research was given the most public attention if it came from:
1. Professors who are well-respected elders (ex. Professor Oak or Professor Rowan)
2. Professors who are conventionally attractive (Ex. Professor Ivy, Professor Juniper, Professor Sexyfrench Sycamore)
Elm didn’t fit into either definition. What’s worse, the sting of public humiliation still dogged his steps.
Birch took a picture of himself shrugging and attached it to his next e-mail. “I don’t qualify for either category. And sure, maybe my work tends to get passed over every now and then. But that’s our duty as researchers. To help even if there aren’t any eyes focused on us. Our colleagues rely on your work more than you think. Screw the public; Our community of scientists needs both of us.”
Elm takes a trip to visit Birch’s lab. It’s the first time he’s ventured more than five feet outside his lab during his self-imposed isolation. But it’s good to be away from the cobwebs of failure. He feels like he can finally breathe again when he steps into the Hoenn region.
They co-author papers. Most of the time, they’re out conducting field research together. And if Elm’s pulse becomes uncomfortably fast, every pinprick nerve urging him to flee back into the cold, sterile fortress of a laboratory, Birch wraps his large, steady hand around Elm’s shivery, clammy palm.
"I need you. What if some rabid Pokemon leaps out from the tall grass an ambushes me again? They won’t get us when we’re a pair," says Birch.
"Well— if it’s. . For your protection," stammers Elm.
He grips onto Birch’s fingers. They’re as solid as turnstile bars.
They push into the next route, wading through the tall grass.