Breathing the Air


She lingered at the spot for some time, her eyes watching him turn around and go. She smiled to herself, even if her heart ached a little, for it did not want him to go just yet. She hoped he would turn around his face and smile at her, but at the same time, she was a little scared of him seeing her in her dreamy state.

And as if he could read her mind, he looked back, a smile on his face and waived one more time in greeting. She absentmindedly waived back, a far-away expression on her face, and it seemed he knew what an effect he had on her for he smirked and went through his hair. Once he made his way towards the Pokemon Centre, May finally relaxed.

The green-haired boy always made her a little tense.

She sighed like a love-sick girl that she was and sat down on the bench behind her. They were once again competing against each other and she had seen him for the first time after three months. She had no idea what they had been talking about right now, but she did not really care. She was happy to have seen him.

She did not know if what she felt for him was extreme gratitude or romantic feelings. He had saved her life three months ago. Her life and her brother's. The two of them had been captured by the other Team Rocket, but the situation had gone wrong and both of them stayed trapped in a cave without Pokemon, a ticking bomb next to them.

How Drew found them; how he even knew they were there, May will never know. She did not really remember what happened. She had had a concussion and an open wound. She was barely awake. Then he came flying in on his Pokemon, getting the siblings out of there and saving their Pokemon. He brought them all into a Pokemon centre where they treated May's wounds, and took care of their Pokemon. When she woke up, her parents, her brother and Drew were watching over her.

She was grateful to her frienemy and she thanked him. Since then, she felt more than just friendship feelings for him. She had felt them before, but not once had she been so aware of them like now. And that made her confused. She did not know if she felt like this because he had saved her, or if this was real.

Was she in love with him? She did not know. It felt like it, but could be just a crush. Who knew… She did not go back to the Pokemon centre as he did; she just came from there and was about to go on to another city. If she knew he was coming, she would have stayed. She wanted to go after him, but he did not invite her back with him, so it would have been strange if she suddenly appeared in the Pokemon Centre again.

She finally made her way over the field. She was traveling alone this time and even though it made her feel lonely at times, she was ok with it. She needed solitude. She needed to do something by herself; depend on herself. It made her thoughts a little more clear.

The sun was setting as she stopped under a tree above the city and prepared her sleeping bag. There was no need for a fire, because it was warm outside and the wind was gentle. It was a wonderful place. The branches above her head danced in the wind and rustled in a soft melody. May sat down on her sleeping bag and leaned her back on the tree trunk. She watched the illuminated city far down the hill and admired the golden colours of the orange sun.

She let out her Pokemon for some time and together they enjoyed the evening meal. She could not help herself but think about him that evening. His eyes, his smile, and his voice. He had that deep boyish voice that caused shivers run down her spine and there was nothing she could do about it. She imagined he would come here, sit down next to her, and take her hand, telling her that what she saw three months ago, after she came out of the hospital had just been a joke.

He did not come, of course. Nor did he ever tell her it had been a joke because he had not noticed her that time. He did not even know she knew. If there was anything to know – many traveling trainers simply needed some fun and relaxation, and something like that was not really a big deal.

But of course it was for her. Because she thought… She hoped, maybe instead of searching for fun elsewhere, he could have simply gone for her. However, it seemed he found her fun to tease, but not good enough to be with in a more than just friendly way.

May closed her eyes and grimaced at the memory of three months ago. She had just been released from the hospital and went searching through the Pokemon Centre for Drew to give him proper thanks and maybe ask him out. Instead of just finding Drew by himself in the lobby later that evening, she found him with a girl. They fell asleep together, while watching TV, a blanket thrown over their shoulders. Their heads were leaning against each other and the scene seemed so intimate that May turned around with a sour expression on her face and avoided the guy for three whole months.

She knew she was behaving like a silly girl. The two of them might have simply fallen asleep, coincidentally next to each other. But of course, with Drew's nasty attitude and reputation, she did not think a coincidence was possible. He snuggling with a girl would be perfectly normal. If they did more than just snuggle, she really really did not want to know.

May sighed into the night and lied down to sleep.

If the boy noticed she was avoiding him, he did not show it. Or mentioned it. So it did not really matter. Should not really matter.

The next morning, May made her way towards another city. She only had her Delcatty out of the Pokeball as they travelled. Since she travelled alone, nothing big really happened. She battled new Pokemon, caught a few, and travelled from town to town. Team Rocket had not been around for a long time and she was glad for that. She really did not want any bad stress on her shoulders.

She was mostly silent during her traveling, not that she really had anyone to talk to. She sometimes talked with her family or friends via phone and sometimes she met new people who she spent her time with, but that was about it.

It was not as if she were heart-broken; she had no reason to be; it was most probably all in her head. What turned her into a pathetic loner was the fact that in all these three months, almost four all right, he had never questioned her avoidance. Not once. It was as if he did not even notice she was always somewhere else. Even yesterday, as they met after so much time, he behaved like he usually did. Teased her, smirked at her, and walked away as if knowing he had her wrapped around his pinkie finger.

May sighed again. She really needed to get out of this funk. It was stupid and childish and it was affecting her career. She would get rid of her girly feelings for the bad boy and move on. She was still young and had no idea about the world of romance and adulthood, and she still had time to learn. No need to mop around because of her strongest crush until now.

''Dammit…'' she whispered and noticed the next town in front of her. She smiled to herself and hurried up. Once she reached the centre, she sighed in content – there were so many people and so many Pokemon and she felt alive again.

She walked into a bakery to buy herself bred roll. As she paid and turned around to walk out, already munching at her bred roll, she almost bumped into the one she was avoiding. She gulped down the piece of bred she was just munching; her eyes wide and shocked, and almost spluttered his name. ''W-what are you doing here? Weren't you- Yesterday you were still-''

''Good afternoon to you too, May.'' He rolled his eyes and flicked his hair.

May blinked, her shoulders falling at his indifference. ''Um… Hey. You're a quick traveller.'' She replied weakly. ''Didn't you stay at the Pokemon Centre yesterday?'' she asked. He shrugged. ''Yeah, I flew with one of my Pokemon here to catch the next match.'' He replied while waiting for his order.

May smiled sheepishly and subtly moved towards the exit. She had to go as fast as possible. ''Ah, that's nice. All right then, I'm off. I have to do some training today.''

She was about to rush out, when he stopped her. ''Why the rush, May?'' he strangely stressed her name as if he were annoyed, but he still wore a smirk on his face. ''Come, let's have lunch together and then we could battle.'' He suggested, holding her bewildered stare.

May knew she was digging her own grave, but she could not be that rude just because her ego was bruised. She nodded carefully. ''All right then.''

He smiled suddenly, but turned around to pay for his bred rolls. He bought quite a few. May's heart beat a little faster once he looked at her again and they walked outside. They sat down at a table at the nearby picnic spot and May took out a plastic bottle out of her rucksack – it was a soup she cooked for breakfast and did not eat it all.

She offered the soup to him, but he had his own.

Heh… Talk about same habits.

''So you're going to battle at this contest?'' he asked and she nodded. ''Yeah, seems an interesting one.''

''No nervous breakdown like usually.'' He teased and she smiled softly. ''I'm quite good. I take it as a challenge.''

They were silent for a few moments, May eating her soup, and lost in her thoughts of how to get away from here. She did not feel uncomfortable; she simply did not want to be near him right now.

''All right, now tell me what the hell your problem is.'' Drew suddenly demanded and May looked at him in shock, her hear beating faster. She put her spoon down and gulped.

''W-what do you mean?'' she asked, suddenly very nervous.

''What do I mean?'' his eyes were boring into hers as he stared at her in anger. ''May, you've been traveling alone since that incident a few months ago; you rarely talk to anyone; and I can't lose the feeling that you've somehow started avoiding people, including me. Yesterday was the first time I saw you since I don't know when, and when I thought you might show up at the Pokemon Centre, you up and disappear to the next town.'' He talked a little louder, but still controlled; however, annoyance was as obvious as the sun above them. ''What's going on, May Mapple?'' he finally demanded and stared her down.

She could not believe what she was hearing. She could not believe… ''But I just got out of that Pokemon Centre yesterday – I couldn't just walk back in.''

''So you decided to sleep outside, just like that?''

''Yeah… Well… I wanted to get here as quick as possible, and it was nice outside…''

''Why are you avoiding everyone?''

''I'm not avoiding anyone. I'm talking to everyone over phone.'' This time she got a little annoyed. What was his problem?

''Ok then, why the hell are you avoiding me?'' he finally got to his point, and May closed her mouth. Then she defended herself. ''I'm not… avoiding you… Arceus, Drew…''

He raised his brow, his eyes dangerously glaring at her. ''Your lying is like watching you swim on land.''

May blinked and almost laughed, but caught herself the last moment. She sighed. She had been so silly. Of course, everyone would notice her odd behaviour. They were her friends, even Drew. She made up this story in her head to have a reason to behave like a spoiled brat and made everyone angry at her. But come on… She was allowed to feel a little angry and sad after seeing her crush snuggling with another girl.

''Since you came out of the hospital, you're practically running away. I haven't seen you for months, and the last time I saw you before yesterday was in the hospital bed. What is it, May? Are you traumatized? You need to talk to someone if that's the problem.''

May went through her hair nervously, her hand slightly shaking. He noticed. Yes, she was traumatized. Getting trapped, hit, and thrown into a cave without an exit does that to you. She often had nightmares about it. And it seemed a good idea to have some time for herself without others having to watch her struggle. And seeing her crush like that seemed a good enough excuse to do that.

''You didn't look that concerned about me yesterday.'' She muttered.

''That's because I thought you'd come to the Pokemon Centre after me. How was I supposed to know you were again on your way to god knew where.'' He almost yelled, but tried to control his anger.

May clenched her fists, not sure what to do. She just wanted to be that old, cheery May again, but it seemed so hard to be like that again. ''I'm… all right, Drew… I'm sorry for making you worry. I just… feel kind of lost…'' she whispered and stared into nothing in front of her. Drew's anger eased visibly, and he put his hand on her shoulder.

''May, you know we are friends. I'm sure you don't really want to talk about what's bothering you, but you bottling up all that shit is not healthy. Wherever I went these past months, I could not find you. And when I ask around, people tell me, you were already gone to another town. It was like you were rushing from one point to another just to…''

May looked away for a second, Drew staring at her desperately. They were both silent for some time. Drew struggled to be patient, but it was also hard for him. May finally looked at him, her expression tired. ''I'm sorry. I wanted to invite you out as a thank you for saving me that last time, but then… I just… I just needed… air… and space… And I-''

Drew took her hand and squeezed it.

It really had nothing to do with seeing Drew and a girl together on the couch, May finally admitted to herself. She knew her friend was not a player, a show-off yes, but not a player. And he more often than not showed her he considered her more than a friend. She just used what she had seen as an excuse to run away and not face her actual problems.

She was claustrophobic, and she feared raised hands. She was afraid of too many people squeezing her in a crowd, and she had awful nightmares of that incident that made her wake up in the middle of the night with a scream. She did not want her friends see her like that. She wanted to get over this by herself and prove she was strong.

Only, she was not that strong.

Her hands were shaking and she looked away again.

''I really have a problem with myself. I don't want to bother you with it.'' She told him, but he only pulled her closer and hugged her. May has never been hugged by him, and this made her flinch a little, not expecting it. She relaxed a moment later and let him comfort her.

''May… You're one of my closest friends – I could actually say that next to a rival, you're my best friend, and I'd listen to anything you'd have to say.''

May nodded, finally understanding. The fact that he considers her a best friend moved her so much that her eyes got teary. She looked up at him with glassy eyes and smiled. ''You're my best friend too, Drew. I'm sorry I pushed you away.''

He looked at her oddly, a strange far-away expression on his face, and hugged her one more time. May blushed a little, and had a feeling he wanted to do more than just hugging her. ''Drew?''

''Hush. Stay still and let me hug you. You're rarely this touchy-feely.''

''Really?''

''Yeah… You don't usually hug people like that.''

''But I'm quite an open person.''

''Lucky for me not that open as many others.''

''Why lucky?''

He pulled away slightly and rolled his eyes at her. ''I think both of us know I have a crush on you, so of course I'm lucky.'' He laughed when he watched her blush furiously. She stuttered something and hid her face into his chest.

''Don't you just say this like that, you…''

''Why not? I know it, you know it – what's there to hide?''

''Well… I don't know… I haven't said anything back… So it's unfair.''

''But I know you're mad for me, so there's nothing to worry about.''

''You know?'' she looked up again in awe, her eyes sparkling and her cheeks redder than before. Drew chuckled and pulled her closer.

''Oh, May… You really are something… You're like an open book. It's impossible for me not to know what you feel about me.''

The girl groaned and showed him lightly his shoulder.

''So what made you run away that time? I mean, yeah… You were stressed and all, but you disappeared like something kicked you.''

May felt embarrassed and shrugged her shoulders. ''I just… I saw you… guys… everyone so ok and all right, and I wasn't and so… I just kind of… grabbed my things and got the hell away.'' She told him a version of the truth, but it would do, she decided.

He nodded, accepting it. ''All right. First we'll find a doctor you could talk to in order to get better. We can't let you walk around depressed like that. And then we're going to go eat that dinner you promised me. Or lunch, I don't really care.''

''Uh… Ok…'' she stuttered surprised and let him hug her more.

Ah… This really felt better than being all alone….