Disclaimer: I do not, of course, own Pokemon or any of the characters herein, unless you count that Chirutarisu I've caught in Emerald, but I doubt you will.
Author's Notes: There's little fan fiction about the MikuNagi coupling, and that's probably because so little is known of their past relationship that one can hardly make a story about a new relationship if they don't know the terms of the previous one. So I've given it my best shot after being incensed on this couple by my beta-reader and colleague. Hopefully what I've written won't interfere with the facts and you'll enjoy it.
Thanks: The only other input I had on this was from my Partner-In-Crime, ChibiSecchan, better known here as Chou Nuriko. Not only did she introduce me to the couple, and keep me inspired during its writing, she was key in keeping them in character and suggesting things to. If this story does not suit your fancy, I very much suggest keeping an eye on the couple, as you can expect some great things from my Partner-In-Crime in the future dealing with them.
For the ever-necessary job of beta-reading, I offer my most gracious thanks to Neechan for once more reading through it all meticulously and picking out my (glaringly large) errors. You pointed out SO much that needed improvement, and it would have been a grievous action to post this without your edits. Thank you!
As a final note, this fic is using the JAPANESE names. It was suggested that be changed, but doing so would present a few problems that will be fixed for the next fic. It will use the English names to avoid confusion with the majority of reads.
Breeze of Prelude
"Nagi, would you mind staying for a moment after the meeting? There's something that's been brought to my attention that I need to speak with you about." His words were those of the Pokemon League Champion, but his tone was that of a friend.
Across the long table, the violet-haired Gym Leader in question blinked, wondering briefly he had found out that had managed to slip past her, the Supervisor of the Hoenn Gym Leaders. Generally, she reported to him rather than the other way around. Maybe something from higher in the government... "Certainly."
She tapped at the keyboard of her laptop, noting down the final subject brought up in the monthly meeting, the rather repetitive topic of the number of League authorized Pokemon a Trainer is allowed to employ in the field. Once more the topic had been brought to the attention of the Gym Leaders and the Champion. Had the Leaders decided the change from 6 to 10 Pokemon per Trainer to be a good idea, it would have been passed on to the Elite Four, the Champion presiding over that meeting as well. As usual, it had been shot down relatively quickly. 27 times exactly, Nagi thought to herself as she made note of it once more, linking it within the database to the other cases involving it that had been brought up.
It wasn't necessary to keep such detailed notes of the tedious inner workings of the Pokemon League, but it was a way for her to force herself to pay attention, keep her awake, and made her look more deserving of her command position, a position she'd rather like to keep. As Touki, the final straggler, left the room, politely closing the door behind him, Nagi closed the League's databases and powered the mobile unit down.
She pushed her chair in and started back toward Mikuri's seat, arranged at the far end of the table. As she neared, he ceased his shuffling and rearranging of papers and stood as well, smiling at her, a smile that she recognized from ages past as being a genuine one, not the forced one that usually adorned his features. "What's on your mind, Mikuri?" she asked, perching herself on the edge of the table comfortably.
"Well, I noticed that it's currently 7:15 already, and that even flying, you won't be back to Hiwamaki until well after 8:30. I thought it only proper to see if you'd like to eat before you leave, rather than once you return." The smile he wore was certainly a hopeful one, she noticed. Much to her chagrin, she felt herself flush and looked down at the ground in what she hoped looked like thought, her hair falling down across her face.
"I don't know...I have several things to attend to at the Gym once I get back, and I'm not sure they can wait..." Despite her best attempts, there was still a hint of hesitation in her voice, and she knew before she had finished speaking that it would work against her.
Mikuri shook his head, that smile of assured victory still playing across his face. "That's all the more reason to stay and eat before you return to Hiwamaki. With all those things that need to be accomplished, you'll end up finally getting food at 2100 or likely later." She remained silent, and Mikuri knew that he had all but had it assured now.
"It's really not healthy to eat that late, you know. It makes it very difficult to do one's job when one's hungry and tired..."
Nagi silently cursed his logic and her own desire to stay for dinner and grit her teeth before replying. "That's true. I suppose I will stay for dinner then." She looked up at him and smiled, slightly flushed. "Thank you."
Mikuri nodded his acknowledgment and pushed his own chair in, a sign that they were done in the room, and plucked his royal blue jacket from the back of it, slipping it easily over his shoulders. As he arranged the papers he'd been shuffling and filed them in the appropriate folders, Nagi grabbed her own rather heavier jacket and aviator's goggles from her chair and went to stand by the door.
Dinner? It's been so long since just the two of us have had dinner alone... She sighed, watching him intently. No, it's nothing more than friendly concern... She bit her lip as she realized that the thought of going out to dinner with him still made her heart-beat quicken, her breathing grow shallower, and her thoughts race. Why can't I get over him like I should?
It had been some time since their previous relationship had been broken up, and both had vowed to the other that friendship would be an adequate status for them. Since the beginning, Mikuri had failed terribly at doing so but managed to not bother her with his pining. Several of their mutually close friends seemed to sense something between the two, but whether because Nagi couldn't or wouldn't see the small signs he displayed, she was certain he had forgotten her in that regard. He thought, as did she, that she would see him only as a friend from then on. For a while, she thought that she just might be able to separate thoughts of him and thoughts of romance, but when he had succeeded Adan as the Leader of Rune City Gym and she began to see him once more on a regular basis, it became more and more difficult.
Her mind and her own stubbornness contributed to the fact that she had not yet let it be known, not even suspected, among the others that they had previously had a relationship. She'd managed to keep her mind on her job and her duty despite his nearness through shear will power and an inability to admit the truth to herself. Chirutarisu, if anyone, knew the level of her emotional unrest. She, of course, would never tell anyone, especially not the azure-haired man that was the cause.
She found it infinitely frustrating that she was so torn between her convictions and the suave League Champion. At the time, it had been the right thing to do, separating. Now, and ever since then, she had been tortured with wanting to go back to him. She vaguely wondered if it was perhaps because she had too much pride to admit she was wrong. Am I really just being stubborn?
The Hiwamaki City Gym Leader blinked in surprise when Mikuri seemed to appear before her, one eyebrow cocked in a questioning manner at the thoughtful expression she wore. "Is something wrong, Nagi?"
"Wha? Er, no, nothing's wrong, Mikuri." She cursed herself silently for both the surprised stutter and the instantly flaring blush that came of having the object of her musings suddenly so close. The illogical fear that he knew what she had been thinking leapt to mind and she quashed it as quickly as she could, knowing it wasn't possible.
The walk through the corridors of the provided League building was a seemingly long and certainly quiet one, both Leader and Champion rather deep in thought. Normally such a meeting of the Gym Leaders would have been held in the designated main office at Nagi's native Hiwamaki City, but due to a particularly strong storm several weeks prior, it was out of commission as the League worked to repair it. The reflective mood was effectively dashed away when Mikuri stepped forward and pushed the glass door open, leading them outside. A strong gust of icy wind wound its way into the hall, stirring their clothes and sending Nagi's hair flipping about in Mikuri's face as she walked through, pulling her coat tightly about herself.
Mikuri stepped out after her and happily allowed the wind to close the generally heavy door for him. "It was supposed to be a stormy night," he muttered into the collar of his jacket, "but this is a little more than they forecasted..."
Nagi nodded in silent agreement, casting a worried eye at the sky. She didn't care much about most forms of precipitation, but if the wind got much worse, getting back to Hiwamaki would be rather more difficult than usual, and certainly unsafe. One hand drifted to the Pokeball in the inside pocket of her coat, patting it both for her own comfort and Chirutarisu's.
"Mikuri, while we're eating, is there someplace I can let Chirutarisu out? She gets agitated when there're storms, and she prefers not to be in her Pokeball to begin with..." Before Chirutarisu had evolved, when Nagi had first been instated as Hiwamaki's Gym Leader, she had been made to fight a trainer during a rather strong storm. She had lost the match due to the intensity of the winds, and a combination of lighting and a Pikachu's Thunderbolt. Since then, the flying type had had an intense fear of storms.
"Preferably," her voice quieted despite the din of the weather, "would she be able to eat with me?" She looked up at Mikuri and held the hair out of her eyes, too proud to plead, but her eyes asking him with much more power than he could refuse.
We'll have to do something other than I'd planned, but "Sure," he stated with a casual smile, seeming to give it little thought. "I was planning on this nice bay-side restaurant, but I'm afraid they don't like to have Pokemon running about." Admittedly, he also was not fond of their head chef, but had decided before-hand that he wouldn't mind putting up with the boastful man for a night for Nagi's sake. Her love of fresh lobster was, to him at least, well known, and he had planned from the start to give her the chance to order that.
"Would my home be an acceptable place, Nagi?" Mentally, he prepared himself for her to turn down the offer suddenly, intimidated by his request that they "go to his place." He let out a soft relieved sigh when she nodded her approval, smiling slightly.
"Thank you, Mikuri." The wind flared again, pulling her hair from her hold, and she let it do as it pleased, deciding she likely wouldn't be able to do much good against it. The azure-haired man turned around, heading the other direction, and she turned as well, allowing him to lead the way. It had been a rather long time since she'd been in his home. It's just for dinner, just so I don't have to wait too long to eat, she told herself as they walked. Mikuri was, and always had been, a man of his word. If he'd agreed with her that things were over, they were surely over.
"Do you mind if we stop by a little store I know before we head to the house?" he asked over his shoulder, the wind carrying his words to her quickly. "I'm afraid I don't have very much variety stocked back in the freezer." She nodded quickly, once more brushing her hair from her eyes in an attempt to keep her gaze on Mikuri.
"Yeah, that's fine." She fell silent for a moment, contemplatively, then frowned slightly as she felt a drop of water hit her nose. For several seconds she felt nothing more, and just as her hope that it was a fluke began to gain strength, another hit her cheek. More followed until a steady, though very light, sprinkle began to fall.
"Oh this is just perfect," she muttered dryly, glaring rather darkly at the pavement as dots of water began to connect on it. Mikuri walked ahead of her, hardly noticing the rain at all, accustomed as he was to being splashed with much more water than this. The Pokemon he trained were primarily aquatic, and he found himself in and around water a great deal more than most people. A little bit of rain barely merited his attention.
"What's wrong, Nagi?" he cast over his shoulder, his eyes on the lights of a particular building a block or so ahead of them. He could see people moving about inside and he thanked his lucky stars that it was a day they were open. Depending on how much they brought in on a given day they were either open or closed. It was something they were totally unable to schedule and, more than once, Mikuri had had an urge to have some fish or another, only to be disappointed with a "Closed" sign in the main window.
The flying type Trainer withheld the urge to poke him to bring his attention back around to her and instead cleared her throat, hoping that would be enough to draw his attention. "Just this blasted rain. Terrible end to an otherwise okay day."
He nodded and looked back at her, cracking a small grin. "It's not too bad. I'm rather fond of it." He took on a mock thoughtful face. "But then, I don't have to fly in it..."
Nagi shot him a faux glare then turned her gaze to Rune City's unique bay. The surface of the water was in a state of low-key turmoil, churning slightly, small waves crashing against the base of the city at regular intervals. I don't know how he can stand to be in the water as much as he is. It's amazing he's not bothered by storms and things. She sighed, the sound masked by the wind. We really are pretty different, he and I...
She jumped when she felt his hand on her shoulder, and looked up into his clear blue eyes, smiling down at her. "This is the store." He turned his gaze skyward and cocked a half-grin. "Come on in. I'm afraid I can't let you follow me, but feel free to pick up a few things you'd like to have with the main course." The woman pulled her jacket tighter around her as the wind gusted and frowned curiously.
"Why can't I follow you?"
"Because the main course is a surprise, of course." His voice nearly deadpanned, as if it were the most obvious thing the world, and she flushed slightly at having not guessed.
Mikuri smiled in secret, tucking his chin into the collar of his jacket. I'd forgotten how adorable she looked when she was embarrassed. He pulled the door open easily, noting the sound of a bell ringing to notify the staff of their arrival. He motioned his capped companion into the store before him, ignoring the customary, though less than enthusiastic, greeting from the cashier.
Still smiling to himself, Mikuri immediately headed towards the back of the establishment, passing up the normal sets of meat and heading directly for the "Employees Only" door near the freezers. As if he owned the place, he pushed the door open and strode in, looking around for the butcher who owed him what he hoped was favor enough for two very fresh lobsters.
"'Ey, can't ya read? It says 'employees only,' and you ain't no employee, son!" A voice boomed from behind him, nearly sending him into a rack of duck. The voice laughed, echoing through the cold room and reached out to steady Mikuri as he teetered beside a particularly large water fowl.
"Yes, I saw that, my friend." He grinned at him and made sure his footing was steady. "I thought I'd be more like you and disregard the rules this time though." Somehow managing not to look arrogant, Mikuri brushed the bits of meat from his dark blue jacket from where the man had grabbed him. Since he had been apprenticed by Adan, his appearance had become important, though he managed not to become narcissistic. Before the man could reply with another reverberatingly loud comment, Mikuri looked up at him, his expression serious.
"I'm actually here to call in on a few debts, Jonathan."
"Oh, is 'at so? Well then, if ya put it 'at way, what can I do for ya, Mikuri?" The man, burly and large enough to fit his voice with a beard to rival Tessen's, rolled his sleeves up and shoved the rather large cleaver into a pouch on his smock. The taller man peered over the butcher's shoulder at several tanks situated in the back.
"I'm really hoping you have two very nice lobsters running around in those tanks, to be blunt," he stated with a slightly apologetic grin. Lobster, particularly good ones, were notoriously expensive. "The fatter, the better."
Jonathan made a face of disappointment and snapped two rather meaty fingers. "I was afraid you'd say jus' 'at. An' here I 'appened to get three jus' like that in this mornin'..." Mikuri laughed and followed his friend as he ambled between the racks of meat towards the water-filled tanks. Milling about within the water were probably a total of fifty bright red lobsters, each crawling on top of the others, their claws rubber banded shut.
"'Ow do you intend to get 'em home, exactly?"
Mikuri blinked, having not considered that dilemma, then looked about the area for some kind of waterproof container. His gaze landed on a small set of very thick plastic bags and he grimaced but saw nothing better. That's gonna look rather conspicuous... He shrugged and picked them up, walking back over to Jonathan with his practiced smile. "In these, I think." The stocky fellow turned around and eyed the bags Mikuri held appraisingly, then shrugged.
"'At oughta work okay." The League Champion handed them quickly to him, watching interestedly as he worked a rather large pair of tongs around a lobster situated near the bottom of the tank and, with a labored grunt, pulled it out of the water, other lobsters dropping off it back into the tank.
It squirmed in a feisty manner before Jonathan dropped it into the first of the clear plastic bags, tail first, and employed a large cup in filling the bag with water. He sealed it with some kind of iron, melting the top of the bag close, and handed it carelessly to Mikuri. The azure-haired man nearly dropped the slightly squirming creature, barely managing to grab onto the top of the bag before it hit the floor and splattered.
He repeated the process, mulling over which of the lobsters to snag, and finally dropped another bag into Mikuri's now more prepared hands. "'Ere ya go, Mikuri." He frowned at the big crustaceans, almost feeling the profit drip out of his wallet. "I hope you enjoy 'em as much as the next payin' customer would."
Chuckling to himself, the jacketed man nodded another thank you and grabbed a brown paper bag from an overhanging shelf and plopping both lobsters into it. "I think this will be enough to make up for my recovery of your boat. Thank you, Jonathan."
The large man waved off the thanks and motioned Mikuri out of the cold room. "Now get on with ya, go buy somethin', why don't you?" Laughing, the Champion complied and stepped out of the lightweight swinging door back into the store proper.
He shifted the bag in his arms and gazed about the store, easily spotting the tips of Nagi's distinctive hair style and the gleam of the goggles perched atop her head. His gaze rose to the sign above the end of the aisle and he couldn't help but chuckle. "Snacks; why am I not surprised?" He could only define her love of chocolate as irresistibly cute. Smiling to himself, he made a note to pick some up before leaving.
Rather than immediately draw attention to himself and his rather large packages, Mikuri stepped quickly up the counter, making sure that he was out of Nagi's line of sight, and sat the bag on the counter. "I thought I'd let you know that I was given permission to take these, free of charge."
The cashier, a young man probably just out of high school, looked rather nonplussed and nodded. "Sure, whatever, man." Mikuri frowned as he turned back around towards the aisles.
"I guess good help really is hard to find these days," he muttered as he once more shifted the paper bag, wishing that it had a handle decently strong enough for him to use. He strolled into the rather short aisle that held the store's small supply of alcohol. It was, after all, not a large establishment. Alcohol, on a normal basis, was something that both he and his violet-haired companion avoided.
This, Mikuri decided as he eyed the bottles nearest the front of the store, is something of a special occasion. He reached out and tilted a bottle of white wine back so he could better read the label and smiled. A quick glance at the nearby bottles cemented his decision and he lifted the bottle wholly off the shelf.
"And just who is that for?"
Mikuri whirled about, barely managing to reclaim the bottle that seemed to have leapt from his grip. "Nagi!" She stood before him, her hands crossed across her chest, and a rather expectant look on her face. He drew a deep breath and reasserted his well practiced calm air. How in the world does she do that... Trying to maintain his little remaining dignity despite his uncontrollable sheepish grin, he cleared his throat and held the bottle out. "For you and I, naturally."
Nagi tapped her fingers against her arm and raised an eyebrow. "Uh-huh. Well, don't expect me to drink any of it." She picked up a small stack of foods she'd sat on the shelf beside her and turned around dismissively. "I don't touch the stuff." Her opinion on the subject was stronger than even Mikuri knew, and she didn't plan on changing it for anyone.
Although slightly puzzled by Nagi's absolute abstinence, Mikuri shrugged and placed the bottle back on the shelf, an almost forlorn expression on his face. His eyes focused on the woman he was accompanying, he hurried to stand in line with the azure-haired Leader, peering curiously at what she held in her arms. "Your tastes haven't changed much, have they, Nagi?"
She turned around and looked up at him, frowning at the ambiguity of his words, then followed his gaze to the food in her arms. "Oh, you mean this?" He nodded.
"Nah, it's basically the same," she cocked a small grin and held up a clear bag containing celery stalks. "I suppose you have the same distaste for most of this?"
Mikuri recoiled in a much exaggerated fashion from the greenery, provoking a laugh from the violet-haired woman, much to his delight. "You dare to use my money to buy celery?"
Nagi frowned and shifted her weight. "Your money? I'm the one paying for this stuff if I'm picking it out. It's not your- hey!" Mikuri reached out and methodically began plucking items from her arms, setting them between himself and the paper bag securely.
"And now I've picked them out, so there's no problem with me paying," he stated with, Nagi had to admit, a rather charming smile. Before she could manage a response, Mikuri nodded at the cashier's call for the next customer and stepped around her easily, dropping the vegetables, soup broth, and bananas onto the counter gently so as not to bruise the softer items.
"Now that's not fair, Mikuri," Nagi protested, peering around him as the cashier rang up the foods, totaling their cost. "You're already providing the main course, and these are things you probably won't be interested in..." she trailed off when it became obvious that the taller man was paying her no attention in the least and sighed, fixing a bemused glare on him. He doesn't have to do this...
Mikuri dutifully counted out the few bills the small amount of food came to and gave them to the inattentive attendant, smiling down at his companion as he waited for the food to be deposited into some sort of bag.
"It's just fine, Nagi. As long as you're letting me fix dinner for you, allow me the pleasure of doing the entire thing."
His words, genuine as they were, would have melted Nagi's resistance, and likely her heart, years ago, but she had since hardened it, trying to ease her fruitless hopes of picking up where they'd left off. She didn't notice her eyes closing, nor that she swayed slightly, drawn to the soft-spoken man at her side until the cash register dinged as its door popped open, her eyes snapping open as well. Mikuri was looking down at her with a perplexed light in his eyes, and the attendant was holding the Champion's change out to him with a dull expression, his eyes focused vaguely on the beautiful Leader.
She blushed slightly, recognizing finally that she had yet to respond. Damn, I must look like such a fool...He'd hate me if he knew I was still...pining for him. She cleared her throat and averted her gaze to the candy bars under the counter. "J-just this once, Mikuri. My salary has allowances for food, you know." She silently cursed her unsteady voice chewed at her lower lip nervously, regretting her momentary lack of control immensely.
Distracted somewhat, Mikuri took the proffered change and slipped it into a pocket of his jacket. With dexterous ease, he slipped the rather light bags around one of his wrists, resettling the still-secret lobsters in his arms. Nagi's gaze was still focused away from his, and he couldn't help a small smile, despite her obvious distress. It's been too long since I've seen that blush. He reached out and hesitantly touched her arm, drawing her attention.
"If you can't think of anything else you'd like for supper, then we're ready to go." Her stormy violet eyes locked with his once more, and she was silent for a moment, then nodded. He smiled down at her for another second, then turned on his heel and strode towards the exit. Thanking his years with Adan for his balance, he struck out with one foot and pushed the door open, leaning against it to hold it open for his companion. She nodded at him in thanks and started out the door before his voice stopped her. "Don't you want to fasten your coat back up? It seems the wind and rain have gotten a little stronger."
She blinked and nodded, surprised that her thoughts had taken her so far from her present situation that she would forget the entire reason she was shopping with the League Champion. "Thanks," she muttered quietly, working quickly to zip her coat against the wind that was already winding its way into the shop through the open door.
They exited quickly back onto the sidewalk, Nagi instinctively standing behind and to Mikuri's left, using him as a buffer between her and the wind. They walked in mutually contemplative silence for a few long moments, just listening to the rain and their own wishes and denials that things were different. Nagi, knowing that from their angle and the presence of the mysteriously large grocery bag. that Mikuri couldn't see her, decided to indulge herself. Warnings raced through her mind not to, that getting closer to him would only mean more pain when she had to pull back away, but his presence and the circumstances were enough to override her mind. Her eyes half-closed in something near contentment, she quickened her pace and stepped closer to Mikuri.
It's been a while since I've been this close to him and not been pestering him to sign something, she thought with a content smile. It had also been rather a long while since they had been alone. The presence of Ruby and Sapphire, although it had reignited the emotion she had thought that she'd managed to quell for Mikuri, had afforded them little time for enjoyable company, and stress levels had been high enough regardless of her returning emotions, making managing her unrequited pining at the time difficult.
Her thoughts drifted momentarily to the young couple, and a wistful sigh escaped her lips, blessedly unnoticed by her companion. It occurred to her that she was to meet with Sapphire the next day, and she was hit with the obvious realization that her time with Mikuri, however much she enjoyed it, was quite finite.
I shouldn't've accepted his offer; I should've just gone home...I'm only going to feel worse after this. There were times she marveled at her own emotional weakness, and she knew that in retrospect, her decision to have dinner with him would be a major point at which to marvel.
As long as I don't say anything that might ruin our friendship...it'll be okay, she assured herself, knowing full well that keeping their friendship would do nothing to still the ache that was beginning to return to her heart.
She didn't notice until Mikuri stopped walking and she very nearly plowed into him that a rather comfortable, warm, and most importantly, dry car was rolling along slowly beside them. With a barely audible mechanical whir, the driver's tinted window lowered slightly. Two middle-aged eyes beneath gray brows peered out at them, one hand raised to shield him from the rain that attempted to make its way into the vehicle.
"Awfully nasty night for a walk, isn't it, folks?" By the slightly hopeful tone in his voice and the emblem on the side of the vehicle, Mikuri decided easily that he was a cabby, no doubt looking for a little more business before heading to his own home for the night.
Mikuri, after a moments' consideration, nodded at the man, smiling. "It is a bit unpleasant for a walk, isn't it?" Nagi nodded in agreement silently from behind him, greatly appreciating that he seemed willing to take a taxi.
"Well," the driver glanced anxiously out the windshield, then back at the two League officials, "I was on my way home, but I think I've got time for one more stop. We seem to be headed the same direction." He smiled, showing off a set of remarkably near-perfect teeth for a man his age. "And I couldn't let a nice couple like yourselves walk too far in this downpour."
Nagi turned a distinctive shade of red, thankful that she was still standing behind Mikuri and that the wind was blowing her long hair across her face, obscuring most of it.
"We very much appreciate your generosity, sir," Mikuri broke in. Hiwamaki Gym's Leader cast a confused glance up at the taller man, but just as he could not see her face, nor could she see his. "We probably have another 45 minutes if we walk," he elaborated. Due to the storm, Nagi couldn't quite tell what the odd note she heard in his voice was.
"Then go ahead and hop in, folks. I can have you back in 15," the driver stated, still smiling kindly as he rolled the window back up.
Mikuri stepped closer to the curb and, balancing the groceries precariously, pulled the door open. He didn't move to get in and Nagi immediately darted forward and slid across the seat, wincing as her coat squeaked on the back of the seat. Something soft and slightly squishy blocked her from sitting on the far side of the vehicle.
"Um...sir, there's something back here." The League Champion poked his head into the car as the driver turned around in his seat, frowning.
"Gonbe, get up here. You know you stay with me in the front seat." The dark furred Pokemon, much like its evolution, Snorlax, remained asleep, blissfully ignorant of his companion. He called again to no effect, then looked apologetically at his violet-eyed passenger. "I'm awfully sorry. I don't think he's gonna wake up until afternoon tomorrow or so..."
Nagi waved her hand dismissively and patted the all-but comatose Pokemon on the head and smiled at the driver. "No, that's fine. I don't mind, really." She looked closer at it, interest sparkling in her eyes. "I've never seen one before, actually."
Shrugging, Mikuri decided neither the Pokemon nor Trainer were moving. With a grunt, he sat down heavily on the seat, the bag of vegetable nearly escaping from the larger lobster bag. Stretching to the point of pain, he pulled the door shut and sighed in comfort. "Nice and dry..."
After a moment, as the feeling that he didn't realize he had lost returned to his legs, he realized that due to the rather cramped spaces in the back seat, his and Nagi's shoulders and legs were touching. Since he was used to cold water, it would probably be longer before Nagi noticed, but when she did...he sighed under cover of the softly playing radio. She probably won't like this... It wasn't a particularly intimate sort of touch by any means, but it certainly set his heart to racing, and unless he applied all of his skills at masking himself learned through years with Adan, he worried that she would see his delight at being so close, and become angry.
They drove in silence for several moments, Nagi examining the Gonbe beside her with interest befitting a Gym Leader. As the heaters of the car began to take effect and she regained feeling in her arms then legs, she noticed immediately that she and Mikuri were actually touching. The question of whether it had been the environment or the contact that had warmed her briefly made its way into her thoughts, but she brushed it away and suppressed the corresponding blush.
I wonder if he's noticed. Or even if he cares... She bit her lower lip and focused her attention all the more intently on Gonbe, both concentrating on and trying to ignore the closeness of the man beside her.
Silence continued for a moment before the driver looked back into his rearview mirror, gaze focused on Mikuri. "Where're we going exactly, sir?"
It took a moment for the azure-haired man to realize that it was he that was being spoken to, and with a blink, his eyes locked with the driver's. "Er...you know the League's housing district? Champion's Chateau, please."
The man's eyes widened and he unconsciously slowed the vehicle as he became less and less intent on the road and more on his passenger. "I knew you looked familiar!" His voice rose in excitement, and Mikuri couldn't help but cringe.
Here I was hoping this guy was different... For various reasons, chief of which being his rank within the League, he was forced to deal with droves of fans. Though he did indeed enjoy the attention, being something of a show off, it could become tiring rather easily. Tonight, however, things other than pleasing Pokemon League fans were on his mind, and he would much rather not deal with it.
"If you don't mind, actually, we're in something of a hurry, sir..." As polite as possible, Mikuri flicked his eyes to the road and put just the right emphasis to indicate he didn't like where the conversation was going. The driver nodded and, after another quick, slightly awed, glance, he turned his eyes back to the road and accelerated.
"The missus is never gonna believe this," he muttered happily to himself. After all, who expected the Pokemon League Champion to stoop to the point of taking a taxi to get home?
Mikuri looked at Nagi from the corner of his eye, then when he saw that she was safely turned away from him, he allowed his gaze to fall completely onto her. Her wet hair was hanging around her face like a violet veil, keeping him from seeing her beauty in its entirety. He wanted to reach out and brush the dripping locks from before her eyes, but despite how close they sat, he was sure that she was too far from him to be reach her in such a way.
They arrived shortly at the spacious grounds set aside for the Pokemon League Champion, each of the passengers involved deeply with thoughts of the other. The lights, as one may expect, were out and the large building struck an imposing silhouette against the backdrop of the waterfall in the distance. Although ornately constructed, it was not outlandish and wasteful of resources. Though delighting in elegance and extravagance, Mikuri was a well known supporter of conservation, and had made certain the Champion's residence complied with his morals.
The driver, jaw open somewhat in awe, pulled through the circular driveway so the vehicle was idling in front of the large double-doors at front. Nagi, although she had never been to the Champion's Chateau before, didn't allow her surprise at its size and magnificence to show, hardly sparing it a glance. Rather, she patted the cabby's Gonbe as a parting gesture and shooed Mikuri out the door. "Come on, let's get in there before it starts raining harder."
He nodded and pushed the door open. Making sure that the groceries were firmly placed so as not to be blown to the ground by the wind, he leapt out of the cab, stopping just beneath the overhang before the door. Nagi followed him, her step rather lighter, unencumbered as she was.
Having not taken such public transportation before, she shut the door with little thought and started toward Mikuri. She stopped short when, from behind his half-rolled down door, the driver coughed in a polite attempt to draw attention.
Crap...he wants to be paid, doesn't he? She turned back, smiling guiltily at him, and withdrew a card from her coat pocket. "Do you take La Rousseau Platinum?" she asked, holding out the rather shiny credit card.
He shook his head, his eyes apologetic. "No, I'm afraid I can only accept cash, miss."
Nagi chewed on her lower lip and pocketed the card. I didn't really intend on having to pay for anything while I was here... She searched her coat and, as she expected, found no cash. "Um, I'm afraid I don't-"
"My back pocket, Nagi," Mikuri interjected, stepping closer, still facing the doors to his home. "I've got cash in my wallet. Just pay him what he needs out of it."
The Leader turned a shade to match the brake lights on the taxi and spluttered quiet objections, freezing at the thought of reaching into the man's back pocket. I-it's not like I haven't... she turned redder still and shook her head defiantly, drops of water flying from the ends of her loose strands of hair.
Her hand shaking slightly with both anticipation and hesitation, she slipped her small hand around his jacket and into the back pocket of his slacks. Immediately, she touched upon a piece of what felt like extremely fine leather, and she pulled it out quickly.
Still red, she turned to the driver who merely explained that an even 10 would be sufficient. She slipped a bill out of the tri-fold wallet and into the driver's hand. He thanked her with a toothy grin, easily seeing the blush on her cheeks as she refolded the Champion's wallet, paying no attention to the amount of money it contained. "Have a nice night, folks," he waved as he accelerated, not noticing Gonbe rolling about in the back seat as he turned in the drive.
Still slightly out of it, Nagi waved back dully, then turned back to Mikuri, finding that he had already proceeded to the door and was once more uncomfortably shifting the bags around in his arms, trying to decide if he could risk freeing a hand to unlock it. The violet-haired woman chuckled quietly, bemused, as she walked quickly up the steps, holding tight to his wallet.
"Nagi, I hate to ask you, but could you get the keys out of my pocket and unlock the door? It's the key with the blue base..." He frowned down at her in an "it can't be helped," sort of way and half-shrugged, trying not to upset the bags of food further. As it was, the balance of the celery was already precarious, though he didn't much care what happened to it. Her eyes widened and she swallowed nervously.
"T-the keys?" He nodded, and had she been flying, she would have begun a downward spiral. This isn't happening...this is too...it just can't be happening...
A darker shade of red than an apple, she stepped up beside the Champion and very hesitantly sat her hand lightly on his hip, just above the opening to his pocket. Her heart beat was accelerating, and she gulped down her nervousness again before beginning to slip her hand into his pocket.
His voice immediately halted her movements, and her eyes jerked up to meet his. "Uh...I meant my jacket pocket, actually," he stated, amusement flickering like a candle flame in his eyes.
Nagi turned a shade of red that was sent even Mikuri into chuckles when combined with her apologetic stutterings. W-what am I doing? I can't believe I did that...I just assumed he meant... Wishing she weren't even there, the Leader dug around in his right jacket pocket, clenching her hand painfully around the bits of metal.
Avoiding the gaze of the azure-eyed man at her side, she shakily fit the key he had described to her into the lock mechanism, turning it as quickly as she could and pushing one of the heavy doors open. "Thank you, Nagi," Mikuri stated softly as he walked past her into the foyer. The sudden presence of movement alerted the interior sensors that somebody was home, and all throughout the house, lights flickered into evidence.
Without bothering to shed his dripping jacket, Mikuri strode quickly through the house, ahead of even the automatically activated lights. As her host disappeared into the lessening darkness, Nagi closed the door behind her and looked about curiously. She had been in Mikuri's previous home on several little known occasions, and his new one certainly held the same touch as his first. Light blue and white accented the walls. The carpet was a beautifully clean cream color, unmarred by mud or any other less than desirable substance. Murals of the previous Pokemon League Champions adorned the walls of the foyer, each lit by a small lighting unit below the painting.
The newest, a grand painting of Mikuri himself, sat directly across from the door, a red velvet curtain hanging decoratively around it. She stepped closer to the wall and began removing her shoes out of habit. After she placed them beside the door and stood back up, level with the portrait, a small smile crossed her face, and her right hand rose to the painting, alighting briefly on his painted cheek.
She jerked her hand away as she heard the true version of the artistically rendered man call out curiously for her. Her face, beginning to return to its normal color, resumed the sakura blush of moments ago and she hurried out into the living room, gazing around for where Mikuri's voice might have come from. "You realize I have no clue where you are, right?"
His following chuckle did little to help her locate him. She rolled her eyes and carefully traversed the plush carpet, trying in vain not to let her jacket drip on the floor. There hadn't appeared to have been a closet or coat-rack to deposit it at. She poked her head into a doorway and smiled in relief as she found the bathroom. Committing its location to memory, she walked a little ways further down the wall and looked into the next doorway.
The glare of fluorescent lighting on linoleum greeted her, and according to the smell of citrus cleaning agents, she decided she had found the kitchen. "Oh, there you are," Mikuri stated benignly from beside her, out of her line of sight. He stepped out from behind a large cabinet, several bowls and pans in his hands.
Nagi raised a hand to her chest, glaring at him in mock anger and surprise. "So help me, the next time you scare me like that..." She let the threat hang in the air, and after a moment, both laughed lightly.
Mikuri sat the various containers on one of the counters and picked up his rather soaked jacket from the back of a stool at the bar. "Would you like me to take your coat, Nagi?"
She nodded hurriedly and dug through her pocket, pulling Chirutarisu's Pokeball out before shrugging out of the now heavy with water coat.
"Thank you." She looked down at herself as he took her coat and hung it over his arm atop his own. Much to her dismay, her pants were as soaked as her coat, not that it was surprising. She noticed after a quick glance that her host's were as well,
The violet-haired young woman looked up at him, catching his eye again, and blushed slightly at seeing that just as she had been watching him, he had been watching her. "Would you like me to take your flight cap and goggles as well?"
She slipped the dark blue material from her head, releasing yet more of her violet hair. As she dropped the cap thankfully into Mikuri's waiting hand, she flicked a few newly loose stands of hair from before her eyes. "Thank you."
He jerked his head towards the living room as he strode out the doorway, indicating for her to follow him. She followed him, trying to avoid watching him, instead looking at the walls and the floor with forced curiosity. He stopped briefly and Nagi looked up at him. He gestured at a stairway she hadn't noticed initially due to its angle from the entrance. "There's a rather nice bath annexed off of my room if you'd like to take one before supper." He smiled apologetically. "I'm afraid it may take a little while."
Nagi nodded, then stopped, frowning slightly. "No, I can't. I don't have any extra clothes to change into." And a bath sounds SO nice too... She smiled kindly at him. "Thank you anyway tho-"
"I'll find something of mine you can wear then," Mikuri stated easily, already going through his stock of extra sweatpants and t-shirts, trying to remember if there were any that might fit her smaller figure.
The woman shook her head, laughing slightly "No, I can't do that either. People would get the wrong idea when I go back to Hiwamaki tonight." Mentally, she sighed. Yeah, the wrong idea...
Sensing her change of mood, Mikuri cocked his head curiously, but brushed past her and tugged on one of the cords holding the heavy royal blue curtains closed. They slid noisily open, and light flashed through the room, seeming to be timed perfectly with the point Mikuri wished to make. "You haven't been hearing the thunder?"
Sure enough, lightning flashed across the sky once more, burning a temporary line across Nagi's sight. She became suddenly aware of thunder rumbling in the distance and the sound of rain drumming steadily against the window, giving evidence to just how deep in thought she had been.
"I...I guess I haven't." She frowned into the rainy night sky, crossing her arms across her chest. After a moment of silence, she became more aware of his presence beside her. He seemed to be waiting, hesitating on something.
She looked up at him, and as she had expected, his face displayed a great deal of hesitation, wondering if what he was doing was permissible. "If you'd like, you may stay here for the night, Nagi." Before she could respond, he raised his hands in a defensive manner of sorts, "but I'd understand if you'd rather not. I won't have you flying in that, but I'll pay for a hotel if you'd rather..."
Although a blush rose on her face, Nagi bit her lip again, nervously. He doesn't want me here...that's why he's so hesitant. Her heart beat increased despite her knowing that he meant absolutely nothing by the gesture. He even made sure to say he'd buy me a hotel room... She opened her mouth to decline, sure that it was what he would want, but it seemed as if her heart leapt into her throat, and she stumbled over the words. "I...I'm fine here, Mikuri..."
Mikuri was hard put to contain a blink of surprise. He had been certain that she would decline the offer, perhaps angrily, sensing his happiness at the chance to be with her a little while longer. He didn't allow himself to look any deeper into it than absolutely logical. He already knew the pain of real separation from her, and he'd be a fool to instigate such a thing again by thinking she perhaps wanted to stay. Such was ridiculous, he decided.
"I'll make sure the guest bedroom is up to standards then and lay something for you to wear out," he stated after a moment to recover from his delighted surprise. She nodded and smiled somewhat hesitantly at him.
"Thanks, Mikuri." Nagi grinned, her normal, more extroverted, attitude coming back to the surface after being suppressed by her impossible pinings.
"But first," he laughed and moved back towards the foyer, "I'm going to put these up so they'll stop dripping all over the carpet." Quickly, he disappeared into the foyer and was immediately followed by the soft creaking of a hinge, probably a doorway.
Where was there a door? I didn't see even the outline of one! Nagi thought incredulously, a small smile on her face at the uniqueness of the Champion. He reappeared soon after and motioned for her to follow him. The two made their way slowly up the stairs, Mikuri pointing out the various tapestries that decorated the walls, explaining their significance in the cultured tone of his that so resembled that of a professors. As usual, Nagi was entranced, nodding when he finished a summary of one, not paying much attention to what was actually said.
He stopped at the first landing they came to and started down the hallway to the left, stopping at the first door they came to. He twisted the handle and, to a small amount of surprise on his part, it opened. "Here you are. This is the guest room." He swept his arm around, indicating the room in its entirety. "I hope it's okay."
Nagi smiled and nodded quickly. "It's very nice, thank you," she stated, walking past him into the middle of the room to get a better look at it. The walls were a light gold in color with rustic wooden furniture to match. The bed, an expansive one by any means, was set against the far wall, red satin curtains pulled in around it, sealing its interior from the rest of the room. A dresser, a desk, and an entertainment center took up most of the rest of the walls in the room quite sufficiently, leaving enough room so as not to make it seem distastefully crowded.
She walked across the room and pulled aside the thick red curtains obscuring the bed and smiled happily. As childishly as any ten year old, she fell onto the golden surface, bouncing slightly. Nagi lay there silently for a moment and sighed, chuckling. "I'm never leaving here again." She turned her face to look at Mikuri. "It's so soft!"
"Is it?" He chuckled, flipping the lights on within the bed. "I've never slept in it, so I'm afraid I really wouldn't know." Mikuri waited for a moment for his very willing companion to respond, and when she merely sighed contentedly, he smiled and bowed at the waist exaggeratedly. "You can go ahead and release Chirutarisu if you wish. She's welcome anywhere in the house."
"Thank you, Mikuri," Nagi said genuinely, searching her pocket for the sphere that held her dearest friend.
Mikuri stepped backward, out of the room, pulling the door along behind him. "The bathroom is just here across the hallway. I'll have something for you to wear laid out shortly," stated the azure-haired man as the door clicked into the latch.
Nagi rolled over onto her back and stared up at the top of the decorative bed. I could get used to this, she thought, vaguely entertaining ideas of usurping the throne of Champion from the elegant water user. Just as she dismissed said idea, a suspiciously strong voice pointed out that there other ways to staying the Champion's Chateau. Despite no-one being present, she found an uncharacteristic bright red blush spread across her face and dismissed the thought before it could take root and hurt her when logic made clear it wouldn't happen.
Waiting for her face to regain its normal color, Nagi expanded the Pokeball, then, with a final click of the single button, released her only constantly present Pokemon in a flare of pure light, almost as if mocking the novae of stars. She smiled as the blue and white bird materialized in the middle of the room, making a musical cry in elation of being freed. The elegant bird went to the side of the bed immediately, folding her cloud-like wings around her and resting her head on Nagi's knee.
The emotion present on the Gym Leader's face was difficult to name. "Why do I do this to myself, Chiru-chan?" she asked quietly, reaching down to stroke the area directly between Chirutarisu's eyes.
Chirutarisu crooned, leaning into the touch happily. Fluttering her wings slightly, she floated up to sit with her trainer on the bed, depressed somewhat at being unable to break the woman's very odd mood. Rarely was she so quiet and thoughtful as her Pokemon found her now.
Humming absently to himself, Mikuri pulled a pair of sweatpants from a hangar that had been lurking rather deep in his second closet. They seemed in good condition, and he nodded in satisfaction, placing the hangar back on the rack and tossing the pants onto his bed. Like in Nagi's room, his bed sat in the middle of the expansive area, although his was surrounded with luxurious blue curtains with a matching comforter. The layout was generally the same, though a second desk and more comfortable chair sat nearer his bed, usually where he would fill out the paperwork he chose to take home. Although said paperwork covered the area of desktop, there was a single part cleaned off near his bed, and in the middle of the paper-less area was a single picture frame. Encased within its wooden frame, carved from a tree near Hiwamaki City, was a picture of him and the Hiwamaki City Gym Leader, her in his arms, overlooking Route 120 from the rope and wood porch in front of her house.
Mikuri turned back to the closet and pulled a light blue t-shirt from another hanger at the opposite end of the rack and threw it across his arm. He closed the door and grabbed the pair of pants before heading hurriedly out of his plush room and across the hallway, depositing the impromptu outfit on the gold inlaid sink. The azure-haired man poked his head into the bath itself and glanced around to make sure all the proper toiletries were present, and with a satisfied nod and a glance at his watch, he all but dashed out of the restroom and down the stairway, his long legs allowing him to take them three at a time.
As he crossed the expansive living room, he snatched one of his sleek new portable phones from its cradle beside the couch dialing without bothering to glance at the display. To Mikuri's relief, as he rounded the doorway to the kitchen, the ringing ceased and was replaced by a blessedly familiar voice."
"Hello?" Fuen City's Gym Leader's rather energetic voice held a definitely curious note. It was most irregular for the Pokemon League Champion to make a call to an associate at this time of night.
"Asuna?" The question was unnecessary, merely a reflex. "I'm in something of a...tough situation," he chuckled absently as he bustled about, unpacking the groceries and stuffing the more delicate items into his rather sparsely populated refrigerator. It was rare of him to fix his own supper, and as such he kept little not-prepared food on hand.
He could nearly hear her grin over the phone line. "What's up, Champion?"
"I, uh, need some cooking advice..." he said, ignoring her obviously sarcastic use of his title as he bent over and pulled a rather large pot from within a cabinet beneath his sink, wincing as the rest of the cooking vessels clanged loudly as they resettled.
"You need cooking advice? What's the recipe?" Before he could answer, she piped up again. "And if I might, why is it that you're the one who's doing the cooking anyway?"
Mikuri stared around at the counters, dismayed at the number of different things he'd sat out, knowing that there would be more to follow as he found out from her what would really be necessary to do what he wanted. "Nagi and I were going to out to eat before she headed back to Hiwamaki, but it ended up we're eating at my place and I'm cooking, of course." He paused, knowing it was better to let the young woman get the exertion out of her system before trying to continue.
"Oooh, you and Nagi-san at your place? Alone? Did you tell her you still-"
"No, it's just the way things ended up," he broke in hastily, flushing at her insinuation, knowing that she realized it would have that effect. He began again before she could taunt further, wanting to get it over with. It wasn't that he dislike the red-head, quite the opposite, but she had a dangerous interest in his relationship with the young girl's superior. Already, he could hear her mannerism changing to fit the new topic. "Anyway, I need to know how to cook a lobster. Er, two lobsters, actually."
There was a pause on the other end of the line. "Lobster? You have...never cooked a crustacean before?"
"Yes," he hissed into the phone, seeing more clearly the trouble he had landed himself in.
Though Asuna tried to muffle it, Mikuri could hear her laughing into the phone. As was completely abnormal for the disciplined man, he began drumming his fingers on the countertop impatiently. Nagi is the only one who can get me this worked up... he thought ruefully, glaring at the lobster that seemed to glare back at him defiantly.
After a moment, Asuna's voice went back to its normal level and she cleared her throat. "I should probably tell Nagi-san just how sweet you are...Maybe she'd rethink things and-"
"Only if you want her to know about last year's Christmas Party when you "borrowed" her favorite dress," Mikuri stated, his voice full of glee at the power he knew the statement would have.
A moment's hesitation later, Asuna spoke up again. "Okay, what you need to do is get yourself a thermador, first of all..."
Mikuri leaned against the counter, propping his elbows tiredly on the counter. "A what?" This is going to be a long night, I can see it already...
With an embarrassed blush covering more than just her face, Nagi slipped the plain blue t-shirt her Champion had picked out for her over her head, her skin tingling at the feel of one of his shirts against her skin, almost as if it were he himself. She both regretted and was glad that she had not, of course, brought an extra bra with her, though she hoped desperately it would not be a future source of amusement. As a safety precaution, she double-checked the tightness of the drawstrings on her sweatpants, then dumped her rather soggy clothes into the basket waiting outside the bathroom door.
A glance into her room solidified her suspicion that, as Mikuri had granted permission, Chirutarisu had set out to explore the household. Although she was tempted to do the same, an oddly familiar, and particularly inviting, smell from the first floor drew her along by her nose to the stairwell. She grinned softly down the stairs and, as she'd often seen in movies, lay one hand lightly on the railing and started down the stairs. It had been a long time since she'd acted out any of her childhood princess fantasies, but in a house fit for a castle and the man who could be her only knight, they came to mind once more, casting a warm, nostalgic aura about her.
Still walking with deliberate grace, she crossed the living room, delighting in the feel of the soft and springy carpet beneath her bare feet. Having nothing to hold onto, she instead wrapped her arms around her chest, sliding her hands along her bare arms in an attempt to warm them. "Mikuri, is it okay if I start a fire?" she asked as she stuck her head into the kitchen.
The very amusing sight of the Champion of the Hoenn Pokemon League wearing an apron and two oven mitts greeted her, and he immediately spread his arms out before the stove and rushed toward her, obscuring her view as best he could. "Hey now, you're not allowed in here yet; it's a surprise," he stated, his voice a little excited as he pushed her gently back into the living room, being sure to stand firmly in the doorway.
Nagi stood on her tiptoes in an attempt to see over him and into the steamy other room, raising an eyebrow suspiciously. "Oh is that so? You trying to poison me or something, Mikuri?"
"Yes, and if you see which part of the meal it is, you won't eat it," he replied instantly, a grin on his countenance. He pushed her lightly again with his covered hands, this time toward the fire place. "If you want to, go ahead and start a fire. I don't usually, but then I usually don't have company either."
She nodded, chuckling quietly to herself, and gave up trying to peek into the kitchen, instead turning and striding toward the enormous brick construct that lay against the wall perpendicular to the kitchen. Beside the wide hearth was a finely woven basket nearly as long as her forearm containing perfectly cut hunks of wood, all of which Wallace himself had cut, though she wasn't aware of it. After a glance at the fireplace itself, Nagi plucked three logs from the basket and arranged them atop each other in the brick confines.
Standing on her tiptoes, she examined the top of the mantle for a second, finding the long matches that Mikuri still used, despite how outdated they were. She struck one of the thin bits of wood along the blue edge of the box, and with an odd snap, the end of it burst into dark blue flame for an instant before turning to the customary mixture of yellow and orange.
She jumped in surprise slightly at the speed the flame seemed to burn down the length of the match and thrust it into the pile of wood, realizing slightly too late that with no accelerant, it would likely not catch. Mentally cursing her lack of forethought, she reached into the box to pull out another match when the fireplace burst to life. With a cry, she jumped back with wide eyes, stumbling against a seemingly newly constructed wall behind her.
Soft chuckling caught her attention even as mittened hands landed on her shoulders, pushing her back into a standing position. "You seemed to have forgot to turn the gas on," Mikuri stated easily from behind her, pointing at a small digital control crafted so as to be nearly invisible against the wall. She'd assumed he'd returned to the kitchen, but again he defied her expectations. He stepped back to it and clicked it off, seeing as the logs had caught and the accelerant was no longer necessary.
"How was I supposed to know it was there?" She pointed at it with a rueful smile. "You can hardly see that thing! Besides," she crossed her arms and looked back to the fire playfully, "whatever it is that you use for fuel should catch immediately. Only the best for the Champion," Nagi wheedled, knowing that while Mikuri enjoyed the finer things in life, he wasn't one to debate on fire wood for quality.
"I'm afraid my fire's a little harder to light than most," he said, completely intending the ironically incorrect double meaning.
If the violet-haired Gym Leader noticed it, she didn't let on, instead peering around him into the kitchen. "You sure you can stay out here this long? Somethin' might burn..." Mikuri shook his head but turned slightly to return to the kitchen nonetheless.
"No, nothing will burn, but I probably should return to it." He looked back at her from the doorway. "I suspect it will be ready in around half an hour. Please make yourself comfortable, Nagi," he smiled at her, motioning towards the rather plush furniture situated about the spacious room.
With a nod and a small smile, the blue clothed woman waited until Mikuri had disappeared back into the kitchen before starting towards one of the several couches arranged throughout the room. She stopped in front of the largest of three, running a hand along the arm rest, her eyes widening in surprise at exactly how soft the leather was. Although her salary was certainly not a low one, she wasn't the type to spend it on luxuries such as leather furniture or other amenities of high class. With a very contented sigh at such rare pleasure, she allowed herself to fall onto the piece of furniture, grinning as the air rushed out of the soft cushions.
Nagi lay quietly for a moment, looking into the dark crevice between the lower and back cushions. With a contented sigh, she scooted up along the couch until she could swing her legs up, then stretched with a yawn, her toes brushing against one arm of the couch, her hands playing along the opposite arm. As she pulled her arms back, Nagi captured the pillow and pulled it down under her head. To her surprise, her heart rate increased and she looked closer at the pillow. Shortly, she put it to her face and inhaled.
It smells like him... Nagi noticed, a small smile spreading across her face. The violet-haired woman pulled the suspiciously big pillow into a hug, bringing her face closer to its familiar smelling surface. It had been years since she'd been able to enjoy his scent without worry of being noticed. It's not quite the same, she thought, pulling the pillow yet closer, but it's more than I thought I could hope for. Wrapped in thoughts and dreams of the man with whom she'd wasted her chance, Nagi drifted into a peaceful slumber.
Cursing quietly to himself, Mikuri hopped over to the counter, one foot raised off the ground. "Can't hold anything with these damn mitts," he muttered as he propped himself against the surface, slipping the cumbersome glove-like things from his hands to more easily massage his throbbing left foot, casting a glare at the emptied thermador that lay innocently on the floor. As his foot's pained cries quieted, he snatched the device from the floor and dumped it into the sink, resolving to do the dishes the following morning.
The tall man wandered to the microwave and pulled the glass measuring cup of seasoned liquid butter from it, separating it into two smaller glass dishes, setting those beside the smattering of plates on the counter beside the sink. With a self-conscious air, he checked the arrangement of the salad, then the placement of the lobster, and nodded in acceptance. "Done!"
As a finishing touch, he pulled two of his best goblets from the overhanging rack and sat them lightly beside the two largest of the plates and stepped up again to the refrigerator. He peered inside and moved bottle of condiments about, searching into the back of the construct for a drink he'd remembered and that Nagi would have nothing against drinking. With a grin, he pulled a bottle of apple cider from the far left corner of the expansive cooling unit.
Pouring an equal amount into each glass, Mikuri slid it back into place and closed the door, a small satisfied smile on his lips. The Hoenn Champion picked up the two largest plates, the ones with the now cherry-red lobsters on them, and managed to loop a finger each around the stems of the goblets. Holding the lot carefully, he walked into the living room and blinked in surprise.
"Where did she..." he muttered quietly, looking around for any sign of the woman whom he'd allowed to slip from his grasp. Mikuri walked further into the living room and smiled to himself when he saw her stretched out on the couch, completely asleep, her arms wrapped around one of his larger pillows. "Nagi..." His smile became sad, and he walked closer, setting the two plates and the glasses on the coffee table in the center of the room lightly so that they made not a sound in the otherwise silent room.
The fire crackling behind him, Mikuri knelt at the side of the couch, his presence still unknown to the Gym Leader. His hand found its way to her hair, and with a touch so light it wouldn't have stirred a butterfly, he stroked the silky soft strands, his heart quaking in pain throughout. It had been so long since he'd been allowed to watch her sleep like this, to stroke her hair like this, and it had been so long since he'd experienced a pain so deep, so cutting. As much as he hated the cliché of it, Mikuri found himself wishing with his very life that he could stay like this, at her side, for eternity.
Knowing it was best to stop himself before he became too lost in his emotions, Mikuri stood back up with a sigh, and laid his hand on her the woman's shoulder, shaking it gently. "The food is done, Nagi," the blue-eyed man stated quietly, smiling down at her.
Nagi frowned and muttered something before opening her eyes reluctantly. Her sleep-hazed eyes locked with his, and she smiled a wide slow grin. "What're you doin' here?" Her speech was slightly slurred. Just as Mikuri remembered, she was a slow one to wake up.
"Well I live here," her responded with a chuckle, stepped back slightly so she could better see her surroundings. With a slightly puzzled frown, she sat up and gazed around curiously, finally beginning to remember where she was.
"Oh! Mikuri, I'm sorry, I just felt all warm and all after my shower, and I laid down, and..." she trailed off with a blush, fighting to smooth her hair, mussed from being wet and having been laid on when she slept.
Mikuri broke into true laughter as her efforts only managed to make it stand on end on her left side even worse, completely broken out of its normal wing-like arrangement. She shot him a playful glare and crossed her arms over her chest, staring at the other side of the room momentarily. Her gaze was quickly drawn to the coffee table beside the Champion though, and her eyes widened. "You made lobster?"
"It would appear so," he chuckled as he bent and pulled the coffee table closer to the couch that Nagi sat at. "If it's alright with you, I thought we'd eat in here rather than bothering to set the dining room table." He made it a habit not to use the enormous table given him in the proper dining room. It became depressing to have only one or two places filled and 18 left open. It was something that could easily make one feel alone.
"Yeah, that's fine," Nagi answered distractedly, her surprised gaze still on the bright red lobsters before her. Since when could he cook? In all the time they'd been together previously, he'd never been much of a chef. Even thinking of both Mikuri and food brought back memories of a terribly failed cake he'd attempted to make for her on her birthday. The image of him pulling the smoking cinder from her oven still brought a chuckle from her and a jokingly put-out frown from him.
As Nagi contemplated the lobsters, Mikuri made his way quickly back to the kitchen, stacking the dishes of drawn butter onto the smaller salad plates and heading back for the living room, flipping the kitchen light off with his elbow. He swept around the side of the table and deposited one plate and dish before Nagi, the other he sat at the end of the table perpendicular to hers. With a small grunt, he pulled a rather plush armchair that he favored up to the end of the table and collapsed into it with a grin.
While Nagi scooted closer to the edge of the couch, arranging the plates, dish, and glass around herself and pulling the silverware from the side of the dishes where Mikuri had left them, he pulled his own plate of lobster down within easy reach. He watched as Nagi took to expertly pulling the lobster from its shell, cutting at it with one of the knives Mikuri had left her.
She dipped her first piece of the pure white meat into the gold liquid butter and carefully popped it into her mouth so as not to get any butter on either the couch or her borrowed clothes. "Is it alright?" Mikuri questioned as she chewed at it thoughtfully.
Nagi grinned and swallowed it, nodding vigorously. "It's very good, Mikuri. I had no idea you'd been trying to improve your cooking lately." The soft meat from the tale of the lobster all but melted in her mouth, much to her delight. She'd been prepared to smile and tell him that it was good whether it was or was not. She was genuinely surprised that it was not only edible, but delicious.
Mikuri smiled and sent a silent prayer of thanks to the red-haired girl in Fuen City, vowing to himself that he'd think more about what to get her for her birthday this year rather than the usual stuffed animal he'd been getting her for the past several years. "I consider myself to be a fast learner when I put my mind to it," he replied simply, beginning to pry his own, rather more stubborn, lobster from its shell.
Their dinner time conversation slowed to quiet as they moved from the lobster to their salad, only interrupted when Nagi quietly asked if Mikuri kept dressing on hand. Nearly an hour and a half later, Mikuri sat back and swirled the remains of his cider about in his glass thoughtfully before downing it in a single gulp. The tall man lowered his glass to sit on the arm of his chair and watched Nagi finish her own drink, a small smile on his face at seeing her simply enjoying the meal he'd prepared for her, despite injury to his foot.
She peered over her near empty glass, feeling his eyes on her, and looked around suspiciously, quelling a blush. "Is something wrong?"
"No, there's nothing wrong," Mikuri stated calmly, almost uncaring that she had found him watching her. If necessary, he figured that he could pass it off as merely staring blankly in thought.
Nagi turned a faint shade of pink and sunk slightly lower into the cushions of the couch, confused as to whether she wanted to escape his gaze, or revel in it. She absently pushed back her plates to the center of the table, trying to avoid catching Mikuri's gaze, although she very much wanted to. The room was silent but for the dieing crackling of the now nearly out fire, most of the logs having been reduced to mere embers. The atmosphere, as both observed, was a sleepy one, and when Nagi yawned, it hardly seemed out of place in the heavy air.
Mikuri looked up above the fireplace at the rather large pendulum clock he'd hung there when he moved in. "It's nearly 2300, Nagi." He looked back down at her. "Would you like to call it a night, or is there anything else you wish to do?"
Shaking her head, Nagi stood up and hoped it didn't seem rude to eat, then immediately go to bed. The emotional exertion of the day had been rather taxing on her, added to the effect of large meals to make one sleepy.
"I think I'm just gonna go to bed, actually." Her voice was quieter than usual, a sign of her reluctance that Mikuri, rather used to her mannerisms, picked up on quickly.
"That's fine. You remember where your room is, yes?" She nodded, and he stood, stretching slightly. "In that case, I'll begin putting the dishes in the kitchen and lock the house down. I'd escort you, but I'm sure it's not necessary."
She winced, misunderstanding his meaning as him being reluctant to go with her to her room. With a sullen nod, she stood up and brushed off her sweatpants needlessly. "Thank you for the wonderful meal, Mikuri. It's been forever since I've had lobster."
The Pokemon League Champion chuckled to himself as he began stacking the plates atop each other to make the carrying easier. "It was my pleasure. I believe the last time I know of us having lobster was...our last date, I believe. We went to that beautiful little place in Tokusane..."
Their gazes locked for an instant, and then instantly diverted to opposite corners of the room, each blushing at his mention of the last time they dated, evidence that such things were indeed foremost in their thoughts. "Y-yeah, that's the last time I remember us having lobster," Nagi confirmed hesitantly, cursing the break in her voice.
Mikuri was quiet for a moment, standing somewhat awkwardly over the table, regretting that he had brought up the subject. He abruptly cleared his throat, and Nagi's gaze napped back up to him. "Well...good night, Nagi. I hope you sleep well. And please, if you see Chirutarisu, please give her my regards as well."
She nodded and waved slightly at him, forcing a grin in the suddenly uncomfortable atmosphere. "I will. Thank you very much for letting me stay with you tonight, Mikuri. And for making such a delicious supper." She rubbed the back of her neck in uncharacteristic sheepishness. "I'm gonna have to carry more than just credit from now on, particularly if it looks like it might storm."
The Champion merely smiled and bowed at the waist, sweeping his arm around majestically. "It was my pleasure, again, Nagi. You're welcome in my house at any time." If only she knew... Again, a silence fell over the room for a moment until Nagi, with a slightly uncomfortable look around, waved again and started for the stairway. Mikuri followed her with his gaze, feeling every step she took away from him like a stab to the heart.
Outside the Chateau of the Pokemon League Champion, as time rolled on towards morning, the storm that had swept in late that evening strengthened in intensity, seeming to draw upon the power of the Legendaries as it had once before in the past. Lightning struck with terrifying repetition, creating a show of lights yet to be rivaled by either human or Pokemon through technology or attack. Thunder broke with the sound of continents rending, nearly as often as lightning arced through the sky. The winds howled with a ferocity that would send even one such as Rayquaza hurtling toward the ground within seconds.
Due to the nature of its location, Rune City was both sheltered from such storms, and the most dangerous place to be during them. The walls of its crater home protected it from the terrible power of the outer edges of the storm, but as soon as the eye was within the city, those same protective walls contained the storm, worsening it exponentially within the city.
Not more than three hours after the Chateau of the Champion had been darkened for sleeping, the eye of the storm hovered in the center of Rune City, directing its full wrath upon its occupants. Within the golden room that Mikuri had shown Nagi to, Chirutarisu, beside Nagi on the bed, didn't sleep. Her eyes were trained on the window, and with each flash of light and roar of thunder, she cringed, fluttering her cloud-like wings in agitation. Had it not been for her Trainer and friend laying beside her, the dragon-bird would have already made her way deep into the basement of the house, where instinct told her it was safest.
Instinct was growing stronger however, and thus was the royal blue bird's fear. A bolt of lightning struck just outside the window. An instant later, much to Chirutarisu's surprise, a second crack sounded, that of something great being torn to shreds. As the Gym Leader's mightiest Pokemon watched, the far window and surrounding wall bulged inwards as if in slow motion, then imploded, half of a tree blasting through the construction into the room. Before the glass had yet reached the floor, Chirutarisu, chirping a call of warning, was at the head of the bed, wings extended protectively over Nagi.
Winds swept through the room, sending the curtains about the bed whipping and snapping violently. The violet-haired woman sat up instantly in bed, her usual slowness at waking dissipated entirely at the panicked cry of her dearest friend and the sound of the tree crashing through her bedroom window. She wrapped her arms around Chirutarisu's long neck, hugging her close to calm the both of them. For several seconds, Nagi sat in some disbelief, staring at the damaged portion of the room and at the rain that poured in through the new opening.
As realization set in, she stroked the two long feathers atop her friends head, cooing softly to comfort her, knowing that the bird's heart was beating at least as fast as her own. Muttering to herself about her luck with storms, Nagi gently pushed the bird off of her, swinging her legs out of bed and sliding into her slippers. "Come with me, Chiru-chan," she said, shouting above the roar of the storm. Damn I hate storms... She wouldn't admit it, but they were among the things that, when this near them, frightened her more than most things.
Complying instantly, she fluttered off the bed and fell into step behind her Trainer, glancing anxiously at the tree that leaned against the inner wall. As the violet-haired Gym Leader reached her door, it swung open quickly, nearly hitting the woman, to admit Mikuri.
"What's going on in here?" He shouted, observing the damage with wide eyes, then immediately looking down at the half-panicked woman and her Pokemon. "Are you alright?"
With a sigh of relief, Nagi rushed up to him, drawing close as he encircled her shoulders with one arm protectively, draping his hastily thrown on bathrobe around her.
"Yes...nothing happened to me or Chiru-chan." She gulped and forced her still-accelerated heart to slow. "We were just...surprised." The woman offered him a grin despite the situation, showing that in all situations, she held her confidence and strength.
Mikuri merely looked at her for a moment, perplexed by her mix of fear and self-control, and nodded, pulling her out of the room. He held the door against the wind long enough for the Pokemon that followed her to exit to the hallway as well, then with some difficulty shut and locked her door. The three stood in silence in the hallway, looking at each other.
"You look like hell," Mikuri said after a moment, his face straight.
"Oh, shut up," the woman responded, laying one hand on Chirutarisu's head, her other clasping the Champion's bathrobe tighter around her. Mikuri allowed himself a small smile at her expected fiery response, shaking his head. "What're you smiling about? That tree could've hit me!"
The Champion knew by her tone that she didn't intend it harshly, rather she had fallen without thought into their playful banter of years ago. "The windswept look suits you beautifully, Nagi." Although he was smiling still, he was quite serious. It wasn't until he had said it that he thought to hope she wouldn't catch it.
Nagi fell quiet however, averting her gaze to Chirutarisu instead, her mussed hair hiding her flushed face. "I-is there someplace else we can sleep, Mikuri?" she asked after a moment's hesitation, reluctant to allow her broken voice to be heard.
"Well..." he stepped backwards a step to lean against the bathroom door, considering the rest of the house. He had, surprisingly, only one guest room as he had changed the other into a billiards room. Although the couch was likely suitable, he wouldn't force a guest, and one whom he was in love with no less, to sleep on the couch. "There is one more room. If I take one of the living room couches, you may use my room, if you find that suitable."
Immediately, she looked up at him and shook her head. "No! I couldn't take your bed and let you sleep on the couch. I'll take the couch, you keep your bed." She contained a sigh with some difficulty. Her heart rate had returned to normal after the surprise she'd felt at the entrance of the tree, and now it had soared once more. Mikuri raised his hands and shook his head.
"No, I won't have you sleeping on a couch, especially on a night as cruel as this." He offered no alternative, much to Nagi's chagrin.
She was quiet for a moment. An idea had burst to the forefront of her thoughts, an idea that she wished more than anything would make itself known, but would hurt her more than little else were it denied. "Perhaps...perhaps you wouldn't mind if I just...shared half of the bed..."
Unbeknownst to Hiwamaki's Gym Leader, Mikuri's silence was not one of thought, but one of disbelief. She's been direct in the past, but this... He gulped and simply continued to gaze at her. "You wouldn't...have a problem with that? You know I wouldn't think...you can trust me. You may have the bed in its entirety if you wish..."
Nagi was silent, debating whether his words implied that he would rather her sleeping the bed alone, or with him. She clenched her fist beside her where he couldn't see. Just this once, I'm gonna do I want to do...I want to be near him one more time. She gulped, already debating her decision. Then...then I'll fade into memory if that's what he wants... "I...I don't mind sharing the bed, if it's with you, Mikuri." She wanted desperately to tell him it was because she loved him, but she held her tongue.
"If that is what you're comfortable with, I don't mind, Nagi." In a cruel mimicry of the woman's thoughts, he wanted to tell her didn't mind because he loved her, because he wanted to be near her again, even if just once.
He smiled at her again, this one a sad smile. "Which side of the bed would you prefer?"
"Um...I don't have a preference, really. The right side, I guess." Already, her heart was thundering, her mind wondering if she had heard happiness in his words of acceptance. It told her she couldn't have, but her heart wouldn't release the hope.
With a nod, he gestured her and Chirutarisu down the hallway. "The right side it is then." They walked in awkward silence down the hallway, the blue bird behind them, frowning.
The bird-like Pokemon could sense emotions among the two humans, these two in particular for all the time they had spent with each other in the past. It was confounding why they were acting so desperately against their feelings. She cocked her head at the tall man who she had come to know as Nagi's possible mate, and blinked in confusion. The energy he was putting off was definitely one that screamed he was attracted to her Trainer, and Nagi was putting off the same energy, as well as the same barely held restraint.
From past experiences, she knew that if the tall man would hold Nagi, both would feel better. She also knew that Nagi seemed to want that very much, judging by the odd tensing of her muscles in Mikuri's direction. With a shrug of her wings, Chirutarisu decided they were merely being stupid humans and crooned in contentment at being in a dry area.
Mikuri, still contemplatively silent, pulled his door open for Nagi and her Pokemon. Not meeting his gaze, she stepped quickly into the room, seeming hesitant to go near the bed just yet. Chirutarisu had no problem taking to the soft, warm, and most importantly, dry surface, and fluttered up to the foot of the bed, immediately burying her face in her fluffy wings.
The Champion decided Nagi might mistake him if he encouraged her to get into bed, and thus walked to the other edge in silence, not even looking at the violet-haired Leader. With a tired groan, both of mental, emotional, and physical weariness, Mikuri lowered himself into the bed and swung his legs up and under his blankets and comforter. In what he thought to be the polite decision, he rolled over onto his right side so his back was to the other side of the bed.
He ached to roll back over when he felt, after several moments' hesitation, the other side of the bed tilt down. Mikuri clutched at the sheets to stop himself from reaching out to her, damning his impulses, knowing she was only there because she trusted him. The knowledge that his entire being was working against her wishes and his own promise ate at him. If I'm really this weak...I should stay away from her from now on...
Beside him, more to the middle of the bed, Nagi lay with the covers drawn up to her chin, her eyes open and trained blankly on the canopy of the bed. She had thought the chances of such an arrangement occurring again had been nonexistent. Even when they had been a couple, they had only shared a bed on two occasions, both occurrences brought a blush to her face so fiery that she was glad for an instant that Mikuri was not facing her.
The very fact of his positioning seemed, to her, to prove exactly how unwelcome she was in the capacity of one who would normally be as close to him as this. Not only was he as far physically from her as possible, he refused to face her. She could see his shoulders and neck were tensed, a sign of being on alert of her, and she suppressed a sigh only for the sake of not bothering him.
I've gone too far...Dammit, I'm so selfish! She pulled the blankets higher about her face, dabbing at her eyes to rid herself of the tears she had assured herself she would not allow.
He agreed long ago that it would be best for us not to be together, that we weren't right, and I keep...hoping, and praying for it. I'm so selfish... She sniffled, hoping it would draw neither his attention nor Chirutarisu's and nodded to herself, having arrived at a decision, though a hard one.
I have to apologize to him. For thinking the way I have been, for holding onto him like this. She straightened her t-shirt self-consciously, unwilling to show weakness as she always was. Strength and beauty were reputed to be combined perfectly within her, and she told herself that even before the one man who could make her knees weak and her head light, she had to remain strong.
Nagi lay silently in the bed for several minutes, listening to the sounds of the three of them breathing, trying to work up the courage to confess her weakness to the Pokemon League Champion. Finally, she cleared her throat and turned slightly to look at him, her sight limited to the back of his head.
Beside her, he turned his head a little bit, looking over his shoulder. "Yes, Nagi? Is there something I can do for you?"
"No, not really..." She looked back at the foot of the bed, ashamed to even look him in the eye. "I just...I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry." The words, had it not been completely silent at the time, devoid even of the nearly constant thunder outside, would have gone unheard, so quiet were they.
He blinked, then turned over onto his back so he could more easily look at her. What Mikuri saw surprised him rather greatly. Her eyes were slightly puffy, telltale signs that she had been holding back tears at the least, her eyes were avoiding him completely, and her face held a worried cast to it.
He had never in the course of their relationship seen the woman before him cry, not even when they had broken up. That seemed logical, of course, as she had been the one to suggest it she had already resolved herself to it. Now more than ever, he longed to reach out and stroke her cheek, to ease whatever imagined wrong she had committed. "Sorry for what? You've done nothing..."
Nagi shook her head and looked at him, her eyes locking with his. "I have. When I said we should break up years ago, we both agreed to move on and...forget each other in that sense." She drew a deep breath and cleared her throat again. "I...I have not done that, I can not do that...I do not want to..."
"Even though I know you do not want me at your side like that anymore," she continued quickly, trying to at least explain herself properly before him, "I just could not help but accept your offer for supper, then to stay, and now...now I've even somehow gotten into your bed..." Normally the comment would have raised a blush on even her face, but she was too serious, too solemn and self-contemptuous, to allow it. "I'm sorry I was too weak to stop myself, and for taking advantage of you like this..."
She slid over the mattress slowly, her head bowed, and softly placed one hand on his shoulder. "Just...please let me stay like this, just for tonight. I think...just once more, and I promise I'll leave you alone, let the memories you're done with die..."
Silence ensued, interrupted only by the ever-present call of the storm rattling the windows. Chirutarisu's head snapped up in both surprise and annoyance at being awoken when Mikuri's booming laughter broke the painful quiet. Unable to stop herself, Nagi looked up at him, tears appearing at the corners of her eyes instantly.
H-he's laughing at me? I...I thought he might be angry, but this...this is worse... She formed the hand on his shoulder into a fist, and with an angry sob, landed it upon his shoulder much harder than before, hitting him repeatedly. "Dammit, don't laugh at me! I told you I'm too weak to forget...I'm too weak to stop...to stop loving you! And you laugh, you bastard!"
She had been prepared for, and even accepted that he would be angry with her, but to have him laugh in her face at her emotions, at a facet of her personality she could not control, hurt more than anything else he had done had, or anything he could do. She opened her mouth to curse him for making such mockery of her weakness, of her feelings for him, but was silenced at the same time as his laughing was.
Mikuri's lips and hers met before she could continue to berate him in her misunderstanding. It was not a soft kiss, nor was it a gentle kiss. It was a kiss of passion contained for years on end, of unbridled affection for the woman who had not released his heart even after he had agreed, for her sake, to end their previous relationship.
None but Chirutarisu were aware of how long it had lasted. To the two of them it seemed an insufficient eternity, and to the majestic blue Pokemon, it was long enough for her to lose interest, merely glad that her beloved Trainer had ceased yelling and crying, and that Mikuri's emotions seemed to be lighter and happier than she'd sensed in a great while.
Eventually, Mikuri pulled back slightly, flicking his tongue once over his love's soft lips in parting, and smiled down at her.
"I'm not laughing at you, Nagi...I'm laughing at us. At both of us." He smiled wider at her look of utter confusion and leaned in to kiss her, softly this time, once more. "Since the time we agreed that things should be over, they haven't been for me. I declined the job of Champion initially to stay with you, closer to you. I've made every effort I can to be able to see you, to hear you, to be near you since then..."
"Because of that time," he said, his voice quieting with the weight of his statement, "I think I love you more now than ever in the past. You're a stronger woman than any I've seen, you have a voice to call the birds from the sky, and your beauty makes me resent all the trainers who come merely to battle you for fear one of them will...take my place."
He cleared his throat, hoping not to choke up at such a crucial moment. If he didn't explain things properly, his only chance could be lost for eternity. "I've been afraid of the exact same thing you have been. I wanted to tell you so many times, but I was afraid you'd only hate me for bringing back what I thought you wished to forget." His eyes grew softer as he looked into hers, and his face came nearer still to hers, their lips brushing together just barely. "But you were stronger than I."
Nagi, helpless under the thrall that he was able to cast upon her opened her mouth to reply and could only mumble his name, her voice hopelessly lost. He smiled down at her again, seeing beauty even in her stunned silence. So many things were flashing through her mind, so many emotions, surprise, happiness, confusion, hope, and most strongly, love. Of all the outcomes she had predicted, thought about, planned on, the situation presented her had never entered her thoughts.
He hushed her with another small kiss, then another, trailing down along her jaw line, stopping at her ear and heading lower, his lips as feathers on her neck. She wrapped her arms around him, drawing him close to her in a hug that stated better than words would ever be able that she wouldn't let him go, wouldn't release him the way she had before.
The Champion held her closely, resting his chin lightly on her shoulder, and stroked at her violet locks of hair as he had long ago. "Nagi..." his voice was low, choked with emotion and hope. "Will you...will you let me try once more, to love you? I want just one more chance to be with you, to see if I can make things work..."
She was quiet for a moment, and the aqua-haired man feared he had misread her, destroying what he had longed so long for. Then, "Yes, Mikuri. Please...and let me do the same, I beg you..."
The storm, the room, even the cloud-winged Pokemon at the foot of the bed, dissolved into nothingness for the two Trainers. As tears of pure happiness and relief flowed onto the cloth of Mikuri's shirt, Nagi sent a silent prayer of thanks to whatever power had lent itself to her and allowed her one final attempt at acceptance with the man who had held her attention since they had met.
He held her as tightly as she did he, vowing to never again allow himself to give her cause to cry, to nurture and protect the rare gift he had been lucky enough to find. The gift of true, requited love that he thought he had lost forever. Wrapped in the arms of the person to whom they felt the deepest connection with, the person they longed to be with more than any other, both Champion and Leader fell slowly into a sleep that would seem as a new beginning at the next day's dawn.
Author's Notes: This is my first Pokemon fic of any kind, and I REALLY hope you enjoyed it. As I started writing it, I began to really love both of the characters, and I hope I've stayed true to them in my portrayal. If the reviews are positive enough, I think I'll continue this. This is a couple that deserves much more attention than they've got, and I'm more than happy to give it to them, assuming you, the readers, enjoy it. So please, PLEASE, read and review as critically as possible. I thank you.