I never liked Zoey. She always struck me as kind of bitchy, honestly. Anyway, I hope you like this, and if you want to help bright a person's day (i.e. mine), consider leaving me a review. Thanks!

"Why are you even with him?" Zoey asked doubtfully, eyeing Paul from across the room. Dawn sighed. Zoey had never been a big fan of Paul. She didn't trust him, and she didn't think Dawn should either.

"It's complicated, Zoey," Dawn said, wondering how she could possibly explain the attraction she felt for Paul.

"It doesn't have to be," Zoey replied. "Dump him and get on with your life. You can do so much better."

Dawn tried not to snap at her rival. "I like him," she growled.

"Why?" Zoey snorted. "I mean, sure, he's hot and all, but he's sooo miserable. You're a little bubble of sunshine, and he's like your own personal thunder cloud."

Deep breaths, Dawn told herself. She glanced over at Paul to steady herself. He glanced up from his phone and short her a brief smile, barely a twitch of his lips. To anyone else, affection from Paul was nonexistent. But with Dawn, it always seemed as if he was giving her small, secret smiles, just enough to let her know that he was thinking about her.

"Hello? Dawn?" Zoey poked Dawn in the shoulder, bringing her back to reality.

"Hmm?" Dawn asked, taking a sip of her soda. Technically, this was supposed to be a Halloween party, but as the night wore on, more and more couples had disappeared. Ash and Misty, Solidad and Lance, May and Drew . . . Dawn smiled, thinking about her best friend's new relationship. May had been ecstatic when she called Dawn, speaking so fast that Dawn had needed her to repeat her story three times before she understood that Drew had kissed her.

Zoey, of course, full heartedly approved of May's relationship. Secretly, Dawn suspected Zoey was a fangirl. She certainly knew a lot about Drew's career, and she definitely respected him as a coordinator.

"If you zone out one more time," Zoey warned, her eyes flashing in annoyance.

"Zoey?"

"What?"

"Please shut up."

Silence. Zoey stared at Dawn, hurt filling her eyes until Dawn couldn't take it anymore.

"I'm sorry, I just . . . you have to stop bashing Paul. He likes me, okay? I like him. And I know he seems surly and miserable and mean to you, but he's not like that with me. He's different."

Zoey just stared at Dawn, her expression hard to read. Finally, she said, "Alright, Dawn. I won't say anything else. I just think that you'd be happier with someone who's a little more . . . upbeat."

"Maybe I don't want upbeat," Dawn grumbled. "Maybe I want surly and taciturn and—"

"Ruggedly handsome?" Paul supplied. Dawn jumped slightly. She hadn't even realized he'd come up behind her. Zoey glared at him as he slid an arm around Dawn's waist and kissed her.

"I'll be in the kitchen if you need me," Zoey sniffed, muttering under her breath as she walked away. Dawn watched her go, then giggled.

"She really doesn't like me," Paul said.

"Nope. You're my own personal storm cloud, apparently."

Paul seemed to consider this. "I can live with that. Hey, come upstairs with me."

Dawn smiled coyly. "Why?"

Paul snorted. "To play checkers. Why do you think?"

Solidad's house was huge, with probably a dozen guest rooms, but so far, every room Paul and Dawn had tried had been occupied.

"I think you have too many friends," Paul grumbled.

Dawn just smiled. "Try that one," she suggested, pointing to a door at the end of the hall. Paul knocked lightly, and when there was no response, he cracked the door open.

"Haha, victory," he muttered, pulling Dawn inside and shutting the door. Dawn felt a shiver run up her spine as she heard the lock click.

"Should I be worried?" she asked playfully.

Paul's face was suddenly very close, his lips barely an inch from hers.

"I would be," he chuckled, kissing her.

Dawn let her fingers run up and down Paul's arms, marveling at how soft his skin felt. His thumbs were tracing circles along her waist, and every time his hands brushed her skin, Dawn felt a buzz of energy race up her spine.

She pulled him back onto the bed, letting him fall on top of her. He let his lips travel up her jaw, just brushing her ear before returning to her mouth. Dawn moaned and deepened the kiss, letting her tongue brush lightly against his lips. Paul grunted softly and pulled away. Dawn noticed that they were both breathing heavily, and she could feel her heart hammering in her chest.

They had made out before, sure, but something felt different tonight. For once, it wasn't enough, to just lie there in the darkness and kiss. For the first time in her life, Dawn wanted more.

"Paul, I . . ." Dawn trailed off, unsure how to continue. Paul sighed softly.

"It wasn't you. I just . . . I guess I'm still a little skeptical."

Dawn raised an eyebrow, but realized he couldn't see it in the dark. "Skeptical?"

"Yeah. Sometimes I still can't believe that you're here . . . with me."

"Oh." Dawn didn't really have a reply. Of course she was here with him. She'd had a crush on him since she was like, ten years old. Dawn suddenly wanted to take Paul by the shoulders and shake him. Boys were so dense.

"I'm sorry," Paul said, starting to stand up. "This was a mistake."

"What?" Dawn leapt off the bed, dismay shooting through her.

"Zoey was right. You do deserve better," Paul said bitterly.

"How much of that conversation did you hear?" Dawn demanded.

Paul shrugged. "All of it. Zoey's not exactly the quietest girl around."

Dawn forced herself to take several deep breaths. If Zoey walked into the room at that very moment, Dawn doubted that she would have the self-control to refrain from strangling her. She walked over to Paul and slid her arms around his waist. He tried to shrug her off, but Dawn refused to let go.

"Listen to me. I don't care what Zoey says. She doesn't know you, not like I do," Dawn whispered. Paul flinched.

"But I know me," he replied hoarsely. "And I know that I'm not good for you."

"Paul—"

"I'm sorry," he said curtly, pushing her away. He left the room, the door hanging open behind him. Dawn went and sat on the bed, shock creeping through her like ice. She didn't know how long she sat there, frost spreading through her veins, rain sliding down her cheeks, but eventually, time began to start back up again.

"Dawn? What's wrong?" Zoey was poking her head into the room, concern written all over her face. "You both disappeared, and I was worried—"

Dawn snapped. She flew across the room and slapped Zoey across the face, her hand stinging from the blow.

"You bitch!" Dawn hissed, tears streaming down her face. "He just broke up with me, because he thinks I deserve better. He heard you, and he's gone, and you . . . you," Dawn literally choked on her own rage, her throat closing up as her eyes stung with tears.

Zoey held a hand to her face, her eyes filled with shock and pain. Finally, her face settled into a mask of remorse.

"Dawn, I'm sorry, I didn't think . . ."

"No, Zoey, you didn't. You didn't think at all," Dawn whispered, suddenly exhausted. "I'm going home now."

And without another word, she left.

The October chill cut through Dawn's jacket like a knife, leaving behind little warmth. Which wasn't unusual, considering how the last year of her life had gone. Dawn had felt cold on the inside for a long time, and not just because of Paul. She hadn't spoken to Zoey since that night, unable to forgive her friend for her careless words. Dawn's friendships with May and Solidad had also become strained. It was simply too painful to watch them with Drew or Lance. Dawn tried not to begrudge her friends' their happiness, but honestly, it was hard.

Bitterness had been twisting at Dawn's soul for months, and although she tried to keep up her bubbly, sunshiny front, it was all too easy for the storm clouds to leak in. And, speaking of storm clouds, the sky above her split open, heavy rain droplets splattering against the pavement as lightning streaked across the sky.

"A little late in the year for a thunderstorm," Dawn muttered, pulling her hood over her head. She was currently in Mauville City, looking to complete her third Hoenn circuit. She'd come close in the last Grand Festival, and she hoped that this year would finally be the year she won it all.

If there had been one good thing that came from that horrible Halloween party, it had been the improvement in Dawn's coordinating skills. Her pain had given her a darker edge to her appeals, an edge that served to highlight the beautiful aspects of her pokémon more thoroughly. She already had three ribbons, and the Grand Festival wasn't for another four months.

The wing began to pick up, the rain stinging painfully against Dawn's face. She kept moving for a little while, trying to make it back to the poke center. But then her pace began to slow, until finally, she stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. Dawn pulled her hood down and tilted her face to the sky, letting the rain beat against her face.

I'm done hiding from the storms, Dawn thought, letting her legs fold under her. She didn't know how long she knelt there, letting the rain pour over her body, but there came a moment when she felt something change. A bolt of lightning sizzled overhead, and suddenly it was coming straight towards Dawn.

Oh, great, Dawn thought, although later she wasn't sure how she'd had the time. I get fried by a massive lightning bolt. I'm sure Zoey will love the irony with that one.

Fortunately for Dawn, something redirected the lightning, sending it crashing into a nearby tree. Dawn squinted through the rain, trying to see what had intervened on her behalf. An Electivire stomped out of the gloom, it's yellow and black body sparking from all the water.

"Return," a gruff voice said, and the pokémon disappeared in a flash of red light. Dawn felt her stomach twist itself into knots, her heart lurching erratically, as if trying to find somewhere to hide. She knew that voice.

"Paul?" Dawn asked quietly, her eyes trained on the blurry figure in front of her. Paul stepped close enough for Dawn to focus on him, his dark gray eyes reflecting the flashing lightning in the sky.

"What are you doing, Dawn?" Paul asked angrily, reaching down to pull her to her feet. Dawn didn't resist, but she didn't give him any help either.

"I was just . . . enjoying the weather," she replied casually.

"The weather?" Paul echoed incredulously. He pointed to the sky. "There's lightning, Dawn. You almost got killed. If Zoey hadn't called me and—"

"What's Zoey got to do with this?" Dawn asked sharply. Paul sighed.

"She was worried about you. She's in town, you know, but she didn't want to let you know. She saw you go out earlier, and when you hadn't come back by the time the storm started, she told me."

"It was none of her business," Dawn said coldly. "And it's not any of yours either. You made that quite clear."

Paul didn't respond, just stared at her through the rain. Finally, he said, "Let's go back to the poke center."

"No," Dawn said stubbornly. "I like storms."

Paul rolled his eyes. "You're terrified of thunder. You said it makes you think the world's coming to an end."

"That was before," Dawn replied tersely. "Now it reminds me that the world's still here."

Paul had no response to that one. "You're coming back to the poke center," he said firmly.

"Make me."

Paul shrugged. "Alright," he said, and then he lifted her over his shoulder.

"Put me down!" Dawn tried to struggle, but Paul was stronger than her. She finally gave up and laid there limply, tears and rain streaming down her face.

"Just leave me alone, Paul," Dawn whispered. "Please."

"After I make sure you're okay, I'll leave and you'll never see me again," Paul promised.

"Fine."

In Dawn's room, she sat on the bed stiffly, bundled up under three heavy blankets, her hair wrapped in a towel, and her feet trapped inside fluffy little prisons called slippers. From his perch at the foot of her bed, Paul thrust a bowl of chicken noodle soup in front of her face, waving it menacingly.

"Eat, or I'll feed you myself," he said warningly.

Dawn sniffed. "I don't really like chicken noodle," she said disdainfully. Paul just rolled his eyes.

"You love chicken noodle. It's probably taking every last shred of hatred you have for me to keep you from wolfing down this entire thing."

Dawn stared at him balefully but didn't move. Paul sighed. "Have it your way."

The first spoonful came dangerously close to Dawn's mouth, passing right under her nose and making her stomach grumble. She bit her tongue and turned her head away.

"You're so stubborn," Paul snapped, shoving the spoon back into the bowl. "You're going to make yourself sick."

"Why do you even care?" Dawn demanded.

"I don't want you dead!" Paul shouted. "I love you, if you died, I—" He broke off, realizing what he'd said.

Dawn just stared out the window at the rain beating against the glass.

"Dawn, look at me," Paul pleaded, and there was such pain in his voice that Dawn turned to meet his gaze.

"I never cared what Zoey, or anyone else thought," she whispered. "I loved you. Why couldn't that have been enough?"

"I felt so guilty," Paul whispered. "I didn't feel like I deserved you. And I definitely didn't think you deserved being stuck with me."

"I was never 'stuck' with you, Paul," Dawn said angrily. "I chose to be with you because I was in love with you. I loved you, dammit, and you left me."

"Don't you think I regretted it?" Paul yelled. "Every day, it took everything I had not to track you down and fling myself at your feet. I wanted to beg you to take me back, promise that I'd walk though fire if you'd just forgive me."

"Then why didn't you?" Dawn asked, tears threatening to choke her again.

"Because I was afraid," Paul replied hoarsely. "And stuck in a particularly bad bout of self-loathing."

"Join the club," Dawn muttered, crossing her arms.

Paul snorted. "How could you hate yourself? That's like hating the sun."

"Will people stop comparing me to the freaking sun?" Dawn yelled. "I'm not a fiery ball of death, okay? Because that's what the sun is! I'm just a girl who got dumped by her boyfriend because his head was too far up his ass to realize that she was madly in love with him!"

Dawn had actually shocked Paul into silence. His mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. Dawn sighed and buried her face in her hands.

"This last year, I've felt more like a thunderstorm than a sunny day," she whispered. Dawn felt Paul move slightly, shifting closer to her.

"Well, someone said, 'If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm,'" Paul said.

Dawn peered up at him through her fingers. "Oh, so now you spout off random quotes like some inspirational speaker?"

"Dawn, please. No one's ever accused me of being inspirational."

"You inspired me," Dawn said softly. "Every day. You were what I thought of when I wanted to give in, when I wanted to take the easy way out. You made me work harder than I've ever worked before."

Paul stared at her, his gray eyes so intense that Dawn felt her breath catch in her throat. She leaned forward, cupping his face in her hands.

"I love you," she whispered. "I never stopped."

And then they were kissing, so fiercely Dawn thought her heart might actually burst into flames. She broke away and buried her face in his chest, sobs wracking her body. She felt Paul shuddering too, although his hold on her never loosened.

They curled up together on the bed, breathing in the familiar smell of each other. Dawn felt warmth spreading through her, melting the ice that had been in her veins since last fall. She smiled into Paul's chest, listening to the comforting sound of his heartbeat.

"Paul?"

"Hmm?"

"Promise me you won't be that stupid ever again."

Paul chuckled lightly. "I promise."

Dawn sighed in contentment and closed her eyes. "Maybe I'll call Zoey tomorrow. I guess I have to forgive her now."

Still chuckling, Paul brushed a strand of hair out of Dawn's face. "I love you."

"I love you, too."