|Look Only At Me
Author: Nanaki BH PM
Dent/Ash - Time and distance can make the heart grow fonder. Ash takes a trip back to Sanyou City for himself to see if that's true.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Drama - Cilan/Dento & Ash K./Satoshi - Words: 4,868 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 54 - Follows: 8 - Published: 01-23-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6679920
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Pokémon and all related characters and materials are property of Game Freak and Nintendo.
Notes: I tried to use as many English names as possible. I went with "Ash" instead of "Satoshi" on this because I'm assuming that Dent is still "Dent" in English.
Look Only At Me
By: Nanaki BH
It had been ages since he'd been to Sanyou City. Like all of the cities he had gone back to for visiting, he felt a shiver of anticipation creep into him; a bit of worry, a little bit of doubt. He still communicated frequently enough with Brock and Misty and felt like he always had an idea of what they were up to. However, not all gym leaders had the same kind of free time that they did. Well... Iris arguably did.
Dent was another story, though.
He used to exchange mail with him regularly, but after a while, the letters started to come slower and slower. Eventually, they just stopped entirely. Eight years passed. And nothing.
A week ago, he had sent out a letter. Specifically, he told him about the trip he was taking now across the regions to visit with all of the friends he had made in different places. He ignored to mention how he realized a few years after he left him in Sanyou that he had some kind of feelings for him. It was the distance from him that made him feel like he had made a mistake leaving him back there like that. It was their distance that made him realize how much he missed his cooking, his ridiculous way of speaking, his smile...
Especially now, he felt like there had to have been something wrong with him. He was standing outside of the gym, around nine o'clock at night with Pikachu perched sleepily on his shoulder, the building standing up tall in front of him looking suspiciously like any other building around. Except this place was a host club now.
Maybe he had been too young back then to realize that's what it always had been. What other kind of place invited girls in to be served personally by the handsome man of their choice? It was that sort of place more often than it was a gym even. He could vaguely recall the way all the girls in the place had turned to stare at him the first time he went in there and how he sat down and his ears had turned red.
Pikachu nudged him in the cheek with a soft paw and he looked back over his shoulder at him nervously.
"I'm alright, Pikachu. Uh..."
He didn't want to admit that he was nervous to enter a gym. Since when was that normal for him? It wouldn't be nice to make Pikachu worry about him for nothing. But he was certain that if he were to walk into a place like that by himself, all the girls in there would know exactly what he was there for. They wouldn't be wrong this time either.
Just like them, he wanted Dent's attention.
"Don't worry about it. It's just been a long time since we've seen Dent."
"Pika..." He didn't sound convinced at all. If Pikachu were a person, he would have been raising his eyebrows at him and crossing his arms like "I know you're not telling me something." but Ash just hoped that once they got inside, his insecurities would be put to rest. If he hadn't even walked into the place yet it was all just unsubstantial angsting. He had nothing to worry about yet. That he was aware of.
Steeling himself as best as he could, taking a deep breath of the thick summer air, he stepped forward and climbed the stairs, opened the door, and entered the gym.
It wasn't the gym itself, necessarily. It seemed that they still kept the actual "gym" portion hidden in the back. What he saw in front of him was considerably different from what he remembered from the last time he had visited, though. Now, the place was a much moodiest, more atmospheric place. The lights were dimmed and there were cozy booths now set up around the perimeter of the room and there were candles on each table, providing a sultry vibe to the place.
Ash imagined that the trainers who entered now had to be pretty intimidated by what they saw. Younger trainers like how he was back then might not be so much because they might not really get it. To them, it would probably look like a very fancy restaurant. But to Ash and other trainers his age, it probably felt like the host club that it was intended to be where handsome men put on the art of seduction for any girl who wanted to feel their attention.
While he waited at the entrance and looked around, he realized also that even the clientele had grown up. The girls at each of the tables were now young ladies, most of them about his age or a little younger or older. That was intimidating, to say the least. It really wasn't a place for guys to be in at all.
At a nearby table, Corn refilled a girl's glass of water with the kind of grace no human should be capable of. Pod lounged at a table with two other girls, chatting animatedly like they were his best friends. The candle at the table illuminated his face nicely and Ash was startled to realize how much he had grown into his looks. Even though he could only see Corn from his profile, he knew that he was also quite handsome now as well. It just figured, since they had all been so attractive, even back then.
They were making him feel positively plain in his vest and jeans. It was a fashion that he just refused to grow out of – it was the most comfortable for all the traveling he did, at least. He always wondered how Dent managed to stay looking so cool and refreshed walking around in his pressed shirt and slacks while they traversed all over Unova back then. By the time their journey ended, he barely even acquired a scuff on his shoes.
It looked like he hadn't changed at all.
Just now, he looked a little older, taller, cuter. While Pod and Corn continued to move around the room, he was stuck at a table with a girl, his elbow on the table, his cheek in his palm, looking at her like...
He must have forgotten all about me after all this time.
"Pika?" Again, Pikachu poked him in the cheek and drew his attention back to the person that was now standing in front of him.
"Welcome," Pod said, bowing his head slightly in greeting. "I'll seat you if you follow me this way, sir."
Ash's voice caught in his throat as he stammered to find his words. Thankfully, Pikachu was there to wave his little arms excitedly in the air, directing all of his attention towards Dent. Pod looked over to where he was waving and then it seemed like his memory clicked into place as Pod realized who it was he was trying to seat.
"Oh! You're...! You're that guy that Dent had left with that time!"
'That guy'? Ash wondered. Is that all I am? Don't tell me they don't even remember my name...
He put on a smirk and forced himself to laugh. "Yep! That'd be me. Sorry for stealing away one of your own gym leaders back then."
"Not at all," Pod said, smiling. "He came back to us as a much better leader. His time with you was very well-spent, to say the least. I'm sure he won't be busy for too much longer if you wanted to see him."
Just as he said, the girl at the table where Dent was at picked up her purse and situated it over one of her delicate shoulders. She pushed her long brown hair behind one of her ears and smiled at him affectionately, then helped the Minccino on the seat next to her up into her arms. With a few words that Ash couldn't hear, she departed from the table. Behind her, Dent stayed seated and gave a little wave that she wouldn't have been able to see.
She had a bright, pleased look on her face as she passed by Ash on her way out the door and it made something in Ash's chest twist in two.
"See? What'd I say? Looks like you can go on over to him now, if you'd like. Table's free!" Pod gestured broadly for him over to the table where Dent remained with a dreamy, distant look on his face. "I'm sure he'll be able to get you anything you want."
Thanking him, trying to keep the hesitant edge out of his voice, Ash moved over to Dent's table. He wasn't even halfway there before Dent noticed him and stood up in a flash, nearly knocking over his own chair. He looked... startled, to say the least. There had to be a reason their letters had stopped and Ash wondered if it was his fault somehow. Maybe he was doing something bad by showing up so suddenly.
He didn't let his feet stop, though. He kept walking until he reached the table. Acting like he was unaffected by Dent's completely stunned expression, he pulled back the chair the girl had sat in and plopped himself down.
Around him, he was sure that the chatter he heard from the female clientele had to do with the fact that there was a guy sitting at the table with Dent now. Some of them had to be pretty mad that he was getting his attention now – especially since some of them had been waiting and he had only just walked in. But Dent was taking his seat again, running a hand through his short green hair, restoring his calm expression and presence to the way it had to be.
I haven't heard his voice in so long. He still sounds the same.
"What's this? Are my eyes playing tricks on me? Don't tell me you're back for a rematch now!"
"Not at all, not at all," he assured him, waving his hands at him dismissively. Pikachu hopped down from his shoulder to sit in the seat next to him and looked up at him with that look again and he really wished he hadn't.
Dent went quiet for a split second. If he blinked he might have missed it, but once Ash noticed, it made him worry again. Dent was too good at making himself act bright and sunny. It was his job, though. And another part of his job was being able to read the connection between a trainer and their pokémon. There was no doubt that he knew what Pikachu was thinking, even though Ash didn't have a clue.
"It's good to see you again." Even though he said it with that smile, there was something in his eyes that worried him. Was he really being honest with him?
"Yeah. It's good to see you again, too. I gotta admit I," best just say it, "...got kind of worried when our letters to each other stopped. Did you get my letter to you this time?"
As soon as he said it, he felt like kicking himself. They had only just sat down with each other and he was already taking their conversation into such a depressing direction. He knew that it was affecting Dent by the way his eyes grew dark and looked down at his lap. It would be plain to anyone that he was suddenly feeling nervous with the way that he was fiddling with the edge of his apron. Around them, the gossiping grew a little louder and Ash was certain he heard things like 'Jerk!' and 'Who the heck is this guy?' and other voices that sounded out of concerned.
Dent looked up and attempted to bring it back again, but his smile looked a little wobbly on the corners. "A-about that..." He gazed down at his lap again. "I'm sorry. That was my fault."
"No, it's... fine." Ash didn't mean to make him look like that. He much preferred it when he was smiling and acting charming like he was used to. "I understand if you got too busy for it or something."
Although he was willing to make as many excuses for him as he could afford, it seemed like Dent didn't want him to give him the courtesy. He shook his head vigorously and looked at him in the eye. It looked like he was biting his cheek and his eyebrows were drawn a bit tightly. "It's not fine, really. I did it kind of abruptly. I just didn't want to bother you with the way I was feeling back then. I... was just kind of down, I guess. And then I never got the courage to send you another letter."
"W-what?" He didn't believe what he was hearing. "You? Down? I'm kind of surprised. I mean, you've got all this constant attention around here, how could you go wrong? You're feeling better now though, right? I mean... I hope you are."
He laughed lightly and let out a little sigh. "Yeah. I'm alright. Life as a gym leader is pretty nice right now and it's even better as a sommelier on the side. I get a lot of business around here."
At least when he talked about that he seemed a lot better. He had worked so hard to become an experienced sommelier on their travels and it was obvious that it was something that made him happy now. Ash still got the feeling that there was something aside from that making him act so anxiously, though.
"So what about me and Pikachu?" he asked, looking down at his partner. Pikachu looked up at his a little nervously with that look again, but he said pika anyway and rubbed at the back of his fuzzy neck.
Dent laughed, really laughed, and reached out to shake Pikachu's paw. "Been a while! You're still just as cute as I remember! Hmm..." Although he was smiling, his eyes still looked far-away. "You two, if you're still together, then I can't imagine a better pair. Pikachu has always loved you, Ash. I'd have to be blind if I couldn't see that he knows you better than anyone else."
"But?" Ash knew there was a 'but' in there with the way he had said it.
He shrugged. "I don't know. I can't speak for Pikachu, but it looks like he's worried about you. So?" He put his elbows on the table and put his chin against his fists like he had with that girl.
Darn it, Ash knew he was blushing.
"W-well... This is... That is to say..." He cleared his throat and looked down at Pikachu like he was going to suddenly be able to say something to help him out. Pikachu just gave his best version of a an exasperated sigh and slumped into his seat. Alright then.
"Seems like you two get along just as well as always, for real," he said gently.
Ash rolled his eyes, but couldn't help his smile. "Speaking of getting along well, that girl before..." He didn't know if he really wanted to head in this direction or not, but it was already out of his mouth before he even thought about it.
"Hm? Oh, yeah." Ash's heart beat harder in his chest suddenly until he could practically hear it pounding in his ears. "I was acting as a sommelier for that girl, too. She and her Minccino have a lot of work to do before they reach the level of partnership that you two are at, though. It's not all just about looks, you know! Some of those contest girls really don't get what it means to be partners."
Ash had to swallow to get his heart back down into his chest. It looked like he hadn't needed to worry after all. Was it okay for him to be worrying in the first place? About that? It wasn't any of his business whether she was someone to him or not, but. He felt so much better knowing she wasn't. Except maybe...
"Do you have a girlfriend, Dent?"
W-What am I doing?
Pikachu jerked his head suddenly to stare at him with widened eyes. Dent looked at Pikachu. Then at Ash.
For a moment, Dent just stammered until the words finally came to his lips.
"N-no... I don't."
"Oh. Right." Right? What's that supposed to mean? "I mean – alright. Uh. I mean, yeah, it's... not like I have a girlfriend either, so yeah." There, he thought. That was fixed sort of.
Except that didn't really fix anything. Now all he did was create a terribly awkward silence that weighed down the whole table. The girls around them were most definitely watching them. In fact, at this point, they were so engrossed in the story unfolding at their table that they didn't even seem to mind that he had taken Dent.
When he thought of it like that – that he "stole" Dent from them, he realized that maybe that was what he had really came there to do. Pikachu was the one who had been staring at him this whole time like he'd grown two heads, but what was really going on was that he was just concerned. He probably had the whole thing figured out way before he even let himself admit that yeah, he was kind of there so he could see if Dent liked him.
It was definitely selfish of him, but ever since he was little, he was like that, going after things that he wanted that seemed unrealistic and difficult for other people. Not that Dent was a pokémon or a badge, but...
"The thing is..." When he sunk down in his chair a little, his foot kicked against Dent's, but he didn't move away. It made Dent look up, though. And suddenly they were both in one of those intense stare-offs again. Ash cleared his throat. "Well, what I meant was... I haven't really had anybody around with me lately. I don't have a girlfriend and all my friends are from different places. They can't all stay with a guy from Pallet Town, you know?"
Dent nodded. "That makes sense. It seems a little lonely when you put it like that... But doesn't that also mean you have friends wherever you go? And you have Pikachu, too."
He smiled at Pikachu and he chaa'd cutely. Of course he couldn't forget about Pikachu.
"Well, yeah. You can put it like that, too. I'm always grateful to have all of my pokémon with me. I just can't always see all of my friends at once whenever I want to. That was sort of part of the reason why I came to see you anyway. I've been going around with Pikachu to see how everyone's been doing. It's been a really long time since I've seen certain people. Like, years."
"Yeah, years," Dent agreed. He'd moved his cheek over into just one palm and now Ash could tell that he'd become more relaxed. His shoulders were evened out and his expression was much gentler now. It seemed that once they got past the initial strain on their conversation, everything was fine again. Dent was still the same Dent.
Pikachu still didn't look entirely convinced, but once some more silence fell, he hopped up onto the table and tucked himself into the crook of Dent's arm, into the spot between shoulder and chest created by the way he was bent over the table. Smiling, he stroked a hand over Pikachu's back.
"Ash," he said. He sounded... fond?
Ash leaned forward to listen.
His fingers continued a delicate pattern down Pikachu's back, his fingernails scratching lightly into his lightning-yellow fur.
"You probably wouldn't be surprised if I said that I liked you, right?"
Ash could feel his face heating up. "N-no," he stammered embarrassingly. "I already knew that. We're friends, after a-"
"I don't mean like that. You know what I mean."
At a nearby table, the chatter started up again and spread out to other surrounding tables. Clearly, it wasn't going to be possible to misinterpret those words any further when it seemed like everyone else knew exactly what he was talking about as well. He was confessing to him. To all those girls, their gym leader, host, idol, and future husband was confessing to this random kid with the silly hat and the Pikachu.
He might've felt a little bad for them if he didn't already feel extremely pleased about it himself. Except, with the way he was unable to close his mouth and make his eyes blink, he was sure he wasn't looking anything but shocked. Because, despite what Dent had said – yeah, he was kind of surprised by it.
"S-Should I not have said that?" Dent asked, trying to laugh it off in that impossibly charming way he did when he made little blunders. It made Ash feel bad.
A girl finally stood straight up from the table next to them. "G-Go Dent!" she shouted, raising a fist in the air. After a moment's hesitation, her friend next to her stood up as well and repeated, "Go Dent!"
By the time that the whole place had nearly erupted into a cheering squad for Dent's romantic endeavors, his brothers had already started staring as well. They looked far less interested in the proceedings than Ash expected, maybe even unsurprised that it had come to such a thing. As the rallying got louder and as Ash got more sure that he was going to faint just from their volume, Dent finally waved a hand in the air and the restaurant drew quiet at once.
He put his cheek back in his palm.
"Sorry," he said.
"W-what are you saying sorry for? I, uh. I actually had no idea that you felt that way."
Dent shrugged. The pressure of the stares that surrounded them made Ash feel like anything else he said was going to be scrutinized to pieces by these women. If he wasn't careful, he might even be in danger once he stepped outside. He'd remind himself not to take any alleys later.
"Actually," Dent said, "that's the reason why I stopped returning your letters. I got nervous that my feelings would make things awkward for you. I didn't really understand it when I was younger and it's been a long time since then. I thought you must have changed by now. I had no idea what kind of person you might have turned into, so I thought it didn't matter how I felt back then, because time would have made the object of my affection into a different person." He brushed a hand lightly through his short hair and smiled. "You still have the same spicy flavor, though. Even Pikachu still doesn't know what to do with you."
Ash blinked, just letting it sink in.
"Sorry, I know that was a lot."
The quietness of the restaurant just made his mouth feel dry, even though he knew the words that he had to say.
It felt like the whole place was waiting with bated breath for what he was going to say, though. No pressure. Just a lifetime of shame.
"A-Ah, Dent, I... Uh... I, uh... I really..."
Pikachu was staring at him now, ready to just face-plant himself on the table to try to hide from his trainer and friend's completely undignified expression. By the way that he felt, Ash knew that he may as well have cartoon swirls appearing where his eyes should be.
Thankfully, Dent was a kind person who wasn't going to beleaguer an already tense and harrowing situation, so he waved a hand in front of Ash's face to get him to stop muttering to himself. Ash stopped embarrassingly abruptly in his stammering and looked down at his lap with a red face. He knew he was exceedingly good at making a fool out of himself quickly, but even he would admit that this was a new low for him.
"What are you saying sorry for?" he asked innocently with a tilt of his head. He had on that smile again that made Ash's heart tighten in that confusing happy-sad kind of way. "I'm a sommelier, you know. It's my job to read the relationship between a trainer and their pokémon. Part of that is knowing what the pokémon is thinking... but I also have to know how to tell what a person is thinking, too."
So that would explain the smile Dent had on. That would explain why Ash felt relieved by it.
He didn't have to say a word, after all. Not for now, at least. Not when there were so many people still watching them. Something like that could wait for after he'd spent a little more time in the city, catching up with all the things he had missed in his time away from him. He hadn't even realized how much he had missed him until the letters stopped. He still really didn't know until right now.
The laugh that passed by his lips was relieved and sentimental, fond and happy.
Pikachu picked himself up from his spot on the table against Dent and scrabbled his way across the table top back into Ash's lap and climbed him until he got back on his shoulder to give his head a big hug. Both of them laughed and it felt...
"This feels good again, huh?" Ash said.
"Yeah... It really does."
The girls in the room all sighed dreamily together and assumed starry-eyed faces. In the past, something like that would have completely weirded Ash out. Now, he was just glad that it probably meant that none of them were going to come find him with knives when he left. (At least he hoped there wasn't some girl in the corner pretending to be happy, sharpening her silverware in secret.)
Dent finally stood up from the table and pushed in his seat. He bent at the waist briefly and straightened with one arm bend in front of himself, the other behind his back. Looked like he had to go back to the host routine once he'd used up all of his time as Ash's table companion.
"Now is there anything I'll be able to get you tonight, my friend? Some lemonade, a soda? Anything for your fine Pikachu?"
"You sure the girls in here are okay with us now?" Ash asked with a laugh, rubbing the back of his head. Pikachu agreed with his skepticism with a long, "Piiiika."
He gave them both a wink. "Don't worry about them." Then returned to his waiter-act. "Lemonade? Soda? Anything?"
'Anything' just sounds so...
With red cheeks, Ash agreed to a lemonade and a small snack for Pikachu.
"Certainly." Bowing low first, Dent turned on his heel and headed back toward the kitchen. As he walked away, the eyes of all the girls followed him and Ash could imagine the tiny hearts swirling up from over their heads. It was a relief to know that he hadn't barged in and suddenly ruined anything. And if he weren't mistaken, even Dent's brothers looked like they were quietly smirking to themselves about the night's proceedings.
He chuckled low to himself and reached up to pet Pikachu on the head.
"I'm a real trouble to you sometimes, aren't I?" He just got another hug back.
The lemonade tasted better than any he'd ever had before and the few times Dent made a trip back over to his table were spent doing a little more catching up and flirting. It felt so strangely good to admittedly call it that in his head.
On his way out, much to his relief, he only received a few congratulations and zero death threats.
That was the second time he left Sanyou City gym feeling triumphant.