AN: A little belated Valentine's Day ficclet for two of my favorite characters and to break back into the world of fanfiction after a many many many year hiatus. Thanks to Izzyaro for giving me the last push to get this done and published.
For all the Beauty in the World
An exasperated sigh caused Wallace's head to poke up in interest over the top of his book.
A quick glance from Steven as he hung up his PokeNav told Wallace he had been caught peeking.
"That went well, hmm?"
Luckily Steven didn't comment on his nosiness and chose to indulge the conversation starter instead.
"My father is insufferable."
Gently closing the tome, Wallace tried to relieve the palpable tension emanating from his long-time friend.
"Oh come on now, he can't be that bad. It's obvious he cares about you."
Hands fluttering to massage a tense brow, Steven offered another sideways glance, this time one laced with enough animosity to convey the incredulity of it all.
"I can only tell him to stop so many times… Why can't he just give up on doing this to me?"
Wallace knew this was a tired tradition between Steven and his father, but he had never been privy to exactly what the source of all the stress was.
"Darling, you're going to have to elaborate. What is he doing?"
At this point, Steven had taken to collapsing in one of the kitchen chairs with his head buried in the crook of one arm in exasperation, voice muffled but not enough to hide his frustration.
"He won't stop trying to get me to court this girl or that girl. Some daughter of a Sinnohan diplomat. A different daughter of one of his old business partners. The nice girl who cut his hair at the salon."
Finally rolling his head to the side, Steven met Wallace's unwavering gaze.
"It's exhausting. Why can't my father just leave the subject alone?"
Not one to take sides so easily, Wallace placed a thoughtful hand to his chin.
"Well, you're what, twenty five now? I'm sure when he was your age he had his mind more on the future…"
Steven groaned and buried his head in his hands once again.
"Not you too, Wallace."
Hands up in defense, Wallace realized that facts might work better to convince his friend than blind conjecture.
"I mean, women are practically throwing themselves at you, I'd be a little surprised if one of them didn't make some sort of lasting impression. Perhaps he's trying to help you meet someone new? I know you're not the most social person on the planet."
His patience finally worn through, Steven bolted from his chair and slammed a palm down on the table.
"I'm not interested in any of that!"
The outburst seemed to startle both occupants of the room.
Immediately Steven flushed in embarrassment, his eyes finding a corner of the room not occupied by the Master Coordinator.
"I – I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have lost my temper."
Wallace could only blink in surprise. If something meant so much to cause Steven Stone to break that pristine façade he always wore, it was important enough for him to press the issue further. He was across the room and grasping Steven's shoulders before the other man could move.
The sound of his name brought his ice blue eyes to meet the concerned expression in front of him. Searching, he remained silent and bade Wallace to continue.
"What do you mean you're not interested in all that?"
And with that, the stoic Stone was back in control. He would supply an obvious answer to an easy question.
"It's just as I said, no hidden meanings. I'm simply not interested. Why would I waste my time with something that doesn't interest me?"
Now it was Wallace's turn to search the expression of the man before him. A simple disinterest did not prompt his friend to drive his fist into the tabletop.
"Interested in what?"
Prying the answer out was proving to be most difficult, as Steven averted his gaze once more, face impassive. Wallace would have to prod further.
At this Steven's eyes snapped back to Wallace, startled, accusatory, and was that hurt? Backpedaling, Wallace rattled through the logic of his initial guess.
"We've been friends for so long, and I mean, you've known my orientation for years now, and there's absolutely no stigma that hangs over me for it. I'm sure your father would underst –"
"Wallace, it's not that."
His eyes were averted once more; this time nestled within a brow furrowed in concentration. If the strange reaction caught Wallace's eye, he didn't mention it.
"Well I'm not guessing again, and I'm not letting you waltz your way out of here without a proper answer. Something has my best friend wound up and ready to snap, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let it keep eating away at you like this."
The vague threat did not garner a reaction from Steven as his eyes still continued their search of the floor for words that would not form.
"I – I don't know how to describe it. It's…"
Seeing the normally confident and composed heir slip into a realm of uncertainty left Wallace stranded in unfamiliar waters. Confusion was now creeping its way across his features too, but in the end compassion won out.
"Steven, if it were easy, it wouldn't be such a source of turmoil, now would it? No need to give me the shorthand version, I've got all the time in the world."
A brief silence feel between them and Wallace took the opportunity to seat himself in the chair opposite his friend. Steven remained standing, and when Wallace had settled, he opened with a question.
"When you see someone attractive, how do you feel?"
Clearly expecting something else, Wallace blinked in surprise.
He was cut off by a shake of Steven's head and a slight smile that bordered too close to a grimace for Wallace's taste.
"You don't have to answer. Just keep that feeling in mind. What I'm about to say may begin to wax poetic, but I trust you of all people to know what I'm trying to convey. So please, just bear with me on this."
Silently nodding, Wallace fixed a calm gaze upon his friend, no longer searching, simply waiting. Steven drew a deep breath before speaking.
"Man or woman, it doesn't matter. To me, everyone is equally beautiful. But people are not precious stones. They want more than to be looked at and admired. There is a physical need, a desire. Wallace, I can't offer any of that. That desire? I just don't have it. It's not like I haven't tried, because who wouldn't want to be intimate with their partner? Well, I found the answer to a question I assumed was rhetorical. The answer is me, Wallace.
"I know what it means to love; it's not that I lack the emotion. I love my father. I love my friends. I love my pokemon. Wallace, I love you too. But it's not fair of me to use that word with someone when it's nothing more than a platonic feeling.
"I'm not straight, I'm not gay, I'm not bi. I'm just… nothing.
"Without a doubt there is a certain bravery in sharing your preference with the world. Wallace, I admire you for that quality. But how do you explain that your preference is no one? Does the world understand a thought so abstract? I'm afraid I lack the courage to find an answer to that question."
By the time he had finished, Steven's quaking hands had found their way to grip the nearest chair backrest. Too fixated on his own white knuckles, he failed to notice the rustle of fabric as Wallace silently rounded the table and enveloped him in a warm embrace.
Without lingering, Wallace pulled back to meet his friend's sullen gaze.
"Steven Stone, no matter how you choose to love, you are not alone."
With barely a breath, Steven's eyes widened, startled by the conviction in Wallace's voice.
"You are also more courageous than you think. Just because you haven't announced it to the world doesn't mean it took any less courage to proclaim your feelings aloud. I am honored that you have placed your trust in the bonds of our friendship."
"I mean you did basically threaten it out of me –"
Wallace's embellished bow faltered and he quickly stood upright, fixing his cap.
"Ahh, let's not ruin the moment shall we! Besides, it was merely gentle coercion."
A small chuckle escaped from the absurdity of the Coordinator's antics. For all of his theatrics, there was no doubting the sincerity of Wallace's words. Steven's spirits lifted under his friend's warm smile. Before he could speak, Wallace spun on his heel so they were face to face once more.
"Do you trust me?"
Amusement quickly turned to perplexity.
"I'm sorry, I don't follow."
"I can get your father to back off with the set ups."
"No, no, absolutely not! If anyone should tell my father about this, it should be me."
Wallace fluttered a hand across his breast in feigned offense.
"I would never betray you Steven. I have a plan that will work without revealing the true reason. This I can promise you."
Hesitating only a moment longer, Steven nodded.
"Just please, be tactful."
The sincerity returned to Wallace's voice.
"Don't worry. He won't bring it up again."
"Thanks Dad, I love you too."
Wallace was once again peeking over the edge of his novel when Steven's PokeNav clicked off. This time, he watched unabashedly. Steven shook his head and smiled.
"What did you say to him? It's been nearly two weeks and he hasn't tried to slip a potential date into the conversation in the slightest."
Wallace only grinned in return and turned an imaginary lock across his lips.
"I'll never tell, darling. All you need to know is I didn't break our promise."
Still shaking his head in disbelief, Steven plopped unceremoniously onto the couch next to Wallace.
"I guess I can only offer you my most sincere thanks. I really do mean that, thank you for being there for me that night."
The book long since discarded, Wallace shifted to fold Steven's hands in his own.
"You don't have to thank me, Steven. There is too much beauty in this world to not be free to love however the heart desires."
And that is when Steven decided that Wallace was the most beautiful person he had ever known.
AN: Thank you for reading. Feedback is always welcome.