Well, it's been a week since summer has started, and having spent 50+ hours of said summer on Pokémon Pearl, I wanted to write something Pokémon 8D I always found the idea of Volkner and Jasmine cute, and my imagination took hold and came up with this. Partly inspired by Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities because we had to read that in English. Mainly the part where Lucie stood on the dirty street every day just so Darnay could see her from her cell window O: My second somewhat angsty fic, even though I'm normally a comedy writer owo;; But I am thoroughly surprised at how perverted Flint can be xD;

This turned out longer than I had originally expected, but enjoy nonetheless!

To Be Strong

He wasn't sure when she had come to the Sunshine City, the girl in the white sundress. In fact, he hadn't noticed her at first, he had been far too busy, absorbed in the gym renovations due to the lack of anything else to do. But her constant presence overlooking the ocean made him think it was a natural occurrence. It seemed like she would never leave.

Yes, that day, he remembered it quite clearly. It was a few days after renovating the Gym, he, the Sunyshore City gym leader, had been wandering aimlessly around the area. Navigating through the various traps he had set to confuse rookie trainers, that's when a speck outside caught his eye. Stepping backwards, he peered outside the window on the east side of the gym. And that was when he saw her, hands behind her back and brown hair blowing slightly in the breeze while overlooking the vast expanse of ocean leading to Victory Road. He couldn't help but wonder what her purpose was. Finding serenity in a calm setting such as the sea was only a temporary distraction. Everyone had to abandon that dreamlike state at some point and face their individual, inevitable problems eventually. It was a fact of life.

He was about to turn and resume his previous activities until an arm made its way onto his shoulder. He frowned in annoyance. It could only be…

"What'cha lookin' at, Volkie?" The man with the ridiculous hairdo asked, attempting to get his buddy to open up a bit. Hopefully, he'd get more than a one-word answer. He watched the blonde frown at the nickname as he smirked.

"Flint, get your elbow off me." Volkner said, eyeing his longtime friend with a gaze that screamed death. The Elite Four member happily obliged.

"But you didn't answer my question!" The redhead replied, pushing the gym leader to the side as he plastered his nose up against the window. His eyebrows raised in response to what he saw.

"Jasmine, eh?" He said slyly, making his way over and nudging the stiff blonde in the ribs. "Volkner, I had no idea!"

"It's not like that." The younger of the two spoke, showing no emotion whatsoever. But there was one thing he was slightly curious about, and it wouldn't hurt to ask. "You know her?"

"Well duh," Flint replied. "I have to know the gym leaders from all the regions."

"She's from Olivine City then." The blonde mused. "I've heard Olivine is quite like Sunyshore, although it's located in Johto."

"Sure…" The older man said, disappointed by his friend's sheer disinterest in the matter, even if he hadn't meant to change the subject. If it was between a nice place to visit and a good woman, to hell with vacation spots, he'd take the latter any day!

"You know," the third of the Elite Four said, trying to find a way to delve back into conversation before it sunk into awkward silence, "I wonder what she's doing here. I mean, Shinnoh's a long way from Johto…"

Volkner dismissed the thought with a small shrug. "It's not my business." He said simply, before trying to get to what he had left unfinished earlier. To his dismay, the redhead caught up quite quickly.

"Well, why don't you ask?" He suggested, poking him in an attempt to convince him. "I mean, it wouldn't hurt?"

"I'll pass, thanks." The blue-clad gym leader replied while Flint stood seemingly annoyed. If not even women sparked this guy's interest, then there was definitely something wrong.

"But Jasmine's a nice girl, a real sweetheart in fact." He added, trying to get his unobtainable interest. "Oh yeah, pretty face, nice legs, a reasonable T&A department-"

"I could care less." Volkner replied, heading up the stairs to continue what he left unfinished, a speechless Flint standing there like a complete moron.

"Hey, wait a sec!" The fire Pokémon expert called after his mind registered he was now alone, bounding up the steps as well. Volkner didn't bother waiting, as he could see a hint of red in the corner of his eye already.

"All I'm saying is," Flint began, leaping onto one of the moving yellow platforms. "Maybe…finding a girl would do you some good."

At this, Volkner turned to face his friend with a rare smirk plastered on his face as the platform came to a stop. "What, you mean make me a skirt-chaser like you?"

"Please," the redhead responded with a grin of his own, basking in all his non-existent glory. "You could never pull this perfection off."

"Whatever." The electric Pokémon trainer said before retreating to his steel platform at the end of the gym. "It's not gonna happen anytime soon."

"Hey," Flint shrugged before turning to leave. "Who knows, you might find something there. Something special."

"Oh, and have you found this so-called something yet?" He questioned, the faint remnants of a smile tugging on the corners of his lips.

"Not yet," The Elite Four member said, scratching the large mass that was his hair sheepishly, "But I'm close. I can feel it!"

"And how many female gym leaders have you dated?" Volkner asked, still doubtful of his friend's words.

Flint began to count on his fingers, but lost his concentration due to a chuckle being emitted from the blonde's mouth. His fists clenched in frustration. "Hey, it doesn't matter, alright! Me and Clair are doing great!"

"Even though Lance kicks your sorry ass every chance he gets?" The Sunyshore gym leader asked smugly, watching the redhead burst a vein.

"Hey, shut up!" He yelled at the top of the concrete stairs. "And not if I kiss up to Cynthia! We all know she wears the pants in that relationship."

He began to walk, until he remembered one detail he wanted to share. "Oh, and for the record, I haven't gone out with Jasmine yet." Flint said with a wink before putting his hands in his pockets and making his way towards the gym exit. But at least he had confirmed something; the glint in Volkner's eyes at that moment, it was still there. There was still something alive in that hollow shell, lusting for competition.

'Now how to get it back fully…' He thought, lips pursed as his hand made contact with the cool metal of the door as he pushed it open. Sunlight immediately flooded the first level of the gym as he stepped outside. 'What happened to you, Volkner?'

It was two weeks to that day, and she was there again. He didn't know exactly how or why he began to observe her. Her air of mystery might have been what drew him to that window on a daily basis, watching her from mid-day until she set off at sundown. Once in a while, she would bring out one of her Pokémon to train, other times, she just stood admiring the sea, as she did the first day he saw her. It wasn't stalking, as one of the lowly trainers in the gym had called it before getting pummeled by Raichu. Having next to no challengers left the Sunyshore gym leader with plenty of free time, and this was just how he chose to spend it. There was nothing wrong with that.

By now, he knew all of her moods. If she was training one of her Pokémon such as her Steelix or Scizor, she was focused and determined. At the end of training, when she rewarded her Pokémon with a Poffin, she was nurturing and kind. If she sat alone, back to one of the boulders near the shore, she was lonely. If her hands were close to her heart as her fingers overlapped slightly while she looked to the distance, she was thinking. And if her hands were behind her back as she stared aimlessly into the sky, she was homesick. But although he knew of her different personalities, there was still one thing that remained unknown, the same thing he had wondered when he had first noticed her standing there. 'Why is she here?'

He had wondered about it for a while. She was always alone, which made him think she didn't know anyone in the area. There was never a day she ceased to come to the tiny stretch of coastline below the cliff the gym was positioned on. So what was her reason for staying? What could she possibly be looking for?

But he hated how he felt watching as much as he wanted to know.

It was an emotion unfamiliar to the taciturn gym leader, he couldn't place it. It was a mess of emotions, curiosity, uncertainty, hate, and want? He couldn't quite place it.

That's why his sheer determination to lay these mysteries to rest forced him to approach her that day.

It was a sudden impulse, and he didn't bother to stop it. For the first time in quite a while, Volkner found himself making his way down the cliff and towards the beach. The surroundings were a complete blur, the townspeople, the marketplace, the hovering solar panel pathways above, none of that mattered. There was only one thing in the blonde's mind as his black boots made their was across the pavement and touched the soft sand, and that was her. The answers to the questions he had would be revealed if he confronted her.

The gym leader wasn't sure what he was going to say however, as the salty sea air reached his nose. But whatever the case, he had to say something to quell these newfound emotions running through his mind like a heard of wild Tauros.

She must have sensed his presence, as she turned her head just slightly to acknowledge him. Before he could say a word, she let out some of her own.

"What does it take to become truly strong?" She said to the wind, though her melodic voice was carried to the blonde's ears as well. He stopped dead in his tracks, the only noise coming from the incoming waves scraping against the sand, creating traces of seafoam.

"…It's different for everyone." He finally responded, watching the waves crash upon the rockier part of the shoreline. The wind tearing across the area at that moment was refreshing. It had been a while since he had stepped outside the gym walls.

She turned her body fully this time in order to face him, her hair and sundress whipping away in the breeze. "What is it that makes you strong? You're the gym leader, are you not?" the citizen of Johto asked.

This made Volkner think as he was absorbed into her sapphire eyes. What was it that made him strong? Of course, his skill as a trainer got him to the top, but that was only a part of it. Was he as a person considered strong?

"Strength isn't measured solely by your skill in battle," the blonde replied, never losing her gaze. "The strength of your heart must also be taken into consideration."

The brunette smiled at this, stepping tentatively closer to the male. "But you never answered my question." She reminded him.

"That's because I'm not sure." He answered truthfully as a flock of Wingull flew by. "I don't consider myself strong anymore. I was once…but it's gone now."

"Is there any way to regain what was lost?" The girl asked, concern in her eyes as she stepped even closer. He turned away at the gesture.

"I don't know." He whispered. "I used to live for the thrill of battle, but that doesn't seem to be enough anymore."

Why was he doing this was what his brain was asking. Never once had he opened up to a complete stranger. Volkner was used to putting a steel wall around himself, never letting anyone in, but why did he for once find it so easy to speak his mind to this woman? Why did he feel as if he could trust her?

"As there are many ways for strength to be measured," she began, entwining her fingers once more. "There are many reasons for one to be strong."

He turned to her once more, only to find the pigtailed girl to be gazing at the ocean again, thinking. "You just need to find another one, another reason to stand up and fight for what you believe in, to become the person you once were."

Her words of wisdom sank in as the man clad in blue stood there. Another reason besides battle? What other reason could there possibly be?

He asked this to himself as the sun began to dip down and disappear into the horizon. She would be leaving soon.

"And what about you?" He asked, his words being filtered through all the other noise. "You're Olivine City's gym leader, correct? What is it that makes you strong?"

Her hands shifted positions and laid behind her now at the mention of her hometown. She smiled sadly, "That's what I came here to find, and I won't leave until I do."

The city streetlights began to glow one by one, the buildings followed. It wouldn't be long until dusk fell upon the area, the city lights illuminating the sky in a beautiful frenzy of colors. Volkner reminded himself he needed to return to the gym soon, although he was somewhat reluctant to do so.

Just before the sun disappeared completely, the brunette walked up to him with a shy smile as she extended her hand. "Jasmine." She said, waiting for him to return the gesture.

Hesitantly, he extended his hand as well, his fingers wrapping loosely around her considerably slimmer ones. "Volkner." He replied as they shook hands.

"We'll look together." She declared, catching him off guard as she tightened her grip. At that moment, he knew that something had formed between them. An unbreakable bond of trust, and maybe something more. And for once, as the top of the sun slowly descended under the sparkling water, Volkner was convinced that he had done something right for once.

"I'd like that."

As the days passed, Volkner found himself spending more and more time at the small beach area where she constantly was. As the two of them talked, he discovered more and more facts about her. Her favorite place in the entire world was the Olivine lighthouse, she preferred vanilla ice cream over chocolate, she couldn't cut the nails on her right hand correctly with her left, and she found the Olivine gym somewhat lonely, her Pokémon kept her company most of the time. But although he knew these facts, he still hadn't unraveled the mystery that was her existence. Why was he drawn to her? He wanted to know, but he was afraid that if he found out, that unknown feeling would be gone.

'Maybe it's better this way.' He thought to himself, as he and the brunette stood side-by-side, watching the incoming tide. Lost in thought, he was surprised when she suddenly sprang forward, tossing her sandals behind her, and ran into the water. She turned back and waved to him, the water level close to the bottom of her knees.

The gym leader shook his head, he wasn't in the proper attire for such a thing. "Your dress is going to get wet." He warned her, although she ignored this.

"But it's lovely out here." Jasmine said, stretching her arms above her head in the sunlight. He stepped as far as his boots would allow him without getting them wet, wondering how childish she was, dancing in the shallow water. He felt his heart beat a little faster, what was this?

"You know what I want to do more than anything?" She asked him as he shied away from the incoming water. He shook his head again.

"Well," She began, tilting her head to the sky in her homesick look. "I want one of those beautiful beach weddings when I'm older."

He didn't know exactly where this was going, but chose to listen anyway, absorbing her words.

"When I was younger," She told him. "I was taking a walk with my father on the beach. It was a hot, sunny day, and we were going to go for a swim."

The Johto gym leader smiled at the fond memory. "Along the way, we saw a wedding taking place. The bride had just begun to walk down the aisle. I never thought much of fashion or looks when I was a girl, but…"

She turned to face him once more, "At that moment, I longed to look as beautiful as she did. One day…"

'But you already are.' Was what he was tempted to say, but something more important caught his attention just then…

"Jasmine!" He yelled, but it was already too late. The girl froze in terror as she saw a great wall of water, a slightly large wave coming her way. She let out a small yelp as the water engulfed her.

Suddenly, his clothes getting wet didn't matter so much anymore, as he ran towards where she had once stood. "Jasmine!" He called out again, trying to find her figure as the blue receded back into the ocean. A melodic laugh caught his attention, as he headed towards where it had came from. There, he found Jasmine, soaking wet and fallen on her bottom, laughing. "Are you alright?" He asked in concern.

She nodded as she brought a hand up to her lips in an attempt to stifle her laughter. "I'm fine, it's just," Another fit of giggles left her mouth, "That was so fun!"

The blonde gave her an odd look, not knowing what she was talking about, and extended his hand to help her up. She took it, but in the process, Volkner noticed another large wave coming in. Eyes wide, he scooped her up in his arms hastily, bridal-style, and ran as fast as he could manage back to the beach.

Breathing heavily, he set the brunette down gently onto the sand. "Don't…do that again." He managed to let out.

"I won't." She said with a smile, putting her sandals back on. It was then that Volkner noticed a very important fact as he looked at the sopping girl:

Her dress was white.

Turning as red as a tomato, the blonde removed his blue jacket, revealing the black T-shirt underneath, and handed it to her. "Here." He said, averting his eyes.

"Oh!" She exclaimed, turning a brilliant shade of crimson herself, clearly ashamed. "T-thank you." She said, taking it graciously as she let it drape over her shoulders.

Afterwards, the two made their way to one of the boulders embedded forever in the sand. They rested their backs against these, trying to dry off.

"It's too big." She commented, raising one of her arms. Her fingertips were barely visible, being hidden by the end of the sleeve. He didn't comment, but gave her a glance of acknowledgement.

They sat there for a while, none of them saying a word. The amount of time that had passed was unknown, but the sun was once again beginning to set. Jasmine was the one to break the silence.

"What if…the thing that makes you strong makes you weak as well?" She asked.

"Then you have to abolish the weakness." He replied, watching her out of the corner of his eye. "Take advantage of the strength, the weakness will only get in the way."

"I see." She mused, pulling the opening of his jacket closer. It was getting cold.

Another minute or so passed before she stood up. "I should go." She said as the turned to leave. He got up as well, having to reason to stay if she wasn't there.

"Do you want this back?" She asked, beginning to slip her arms out of the sleeves of his jacket. He shook his head to stop her.

"Keep it. It's getting cold. I have more at the gym." Volkner said, dusting himself off.

"Thank you." She said, before setting off in the direction of the city. He watched her leave as a knot twisted in his stomach. There was something he had noticed just then, and he longed to know why it was so. He decided to go to the lighthouse instead of the gym that night, the question in his mind as he walked.

'Why was there sadness in her eyes?'

"The Beacon badge, you've earned it." He said, flicking the rather significant piece of metal to the young trainer he had met at the lighthouse the day before. They were ecstatic, placing the badge in the respective space in their badge case before running off in victory. Volkner couldn't help but grin, even though he had lost. The trainer had fought magnificently, and had brought back his fighting spirit that he had lost. Now he needed to become stronger, to accomplish this new goal. But before that, he had to tell her. He had to tell Jasmine.

A jump in his step, he followed the solar panels to the beach. It would be perfect. She would be there as always, he would announce the news, Jasmine would congratulate him, and they would spend the day there together, just the two of them. Volkner was practically power-walking down the steps into town, flashing a brilliant smile to the townsfolk. Some of the girls swooned, some of the men looked at him as if he was mental, but none of that mattered. All he wanted to was to see her.

"Jasmine!" He called, reaching their spot. The waves were coming in and the sun shined brightly above, reflecting majestically in the water. It was beautiful. But amongst the beauty of the day, there was something amiss. Something that made the blonde's heart sink.

She wasn't there.

'Where could she have gone?' Volkner asked himself as he wandered through Sunyshore, thoughts racing. The smile he had worn just a moment before had been replaced with an expression of worry. He had asked everyone and none of them had apparently seen a brunette with small pigtails coming out of the top of her head today. It was odd, he was so used to her presence, and now that she was gone, his mind was a complete wreck.

"Hey, Volkie! What have you been up to?" A voice said, making the blonde whip around. It was none other than Flint, just coming down from the suspended paths above the city. He approached him, red hair attracting the attention of various passersby.

"Flint!" Volkner exclaimed. "Where's Jasmine? Have you seen her?" He asked in a bit of a hurry. Flint looked at him as if he was crazy.

"Whoa, whoa!" He said, a bit confused. "Why? And I heard that trainer from Twinleaf brought you back! I knew that kid had some potential."

"Yeah," The gym leader said swiftly, trying to get back to the subject at hand. "But have you seen her? I need to talk to her-"

"Oh now you're trying to do something." The redhead interrupted, shaking his head in disapproval. "Well, I'd be behind you all the way, but it's too late for that now."

"What do you mean?" Volkner asked, desperate for an answer.

"Sorry to say this, but," Flint began, trying to find the right words to say. "I saw her earlier at the harbor. She's going back to Olivine."

"What!" He asked in disbelief. She couldn't leave! He didn't want to go back into seclusion at the gym, he didn't want to come to their spot alone. No, he wanted to spend his time with a girl whose fingernails on her right hand were jagged and uneven, who liked vanilla ice cream better than chocolate, who dreamed of a beach wedding by the lighthouse. He wanted to spend time with her.

And that was when he had a revelation, he finally found out what it is that drew him to her.

"Yeah, I know." Flint continued. "I told her it was a shame, that if she would've waited a little longer, I could have introduced her to you. And I made sure to put in good word about you-"

And then, Flint realized that he was talking to himself. Volkner was long gone, his blonde hair poking out slightly from the solar panel pathway railing while running in the direction of the harbor.

"So he's found it, huh?" The redhead muttered with a smirk. "If that idiot messes up, I'm gonna-"

A young boy with his mother interrupted his thoughts. The boy pointing to his massive, red hairdo.

"Look, mommy! A clown!"

'Please don't let it be too late.' Volkner said to himself as he reached the harbor. He stopped at the ticket booth, the mad inside of it recognizing him immediately.

"Hey, Volkner!" He said, the speaker magnifying his voice. "What can I do for you today?"

"When's the ship for Olivine City leaving?" He asked. "I'm in a hurry."

The man flipped through the schedule in front of him before finding the correct time. "It leaves at 11:00."

Volkner rolled up his sleeve in order to access his Pokétch. It read 10:45.'Shoot!' He thought.

"Where is it?" He asked. The man pointed to one of the many ships sitting in the water.

"To the left, the Lapras sign means you're there." He replied.

"Thanks." The blonde said earnestly before taking off again. The man could only stare in confusion as he watched the city's gym leader bound off to the docks.

'Gyarados, Octillery, Poliwhirl, Marill…' He said to himself as he saw the different signs with their respective water Pokémon. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally found the sign with the Lapras on it. Volkner turned the corner and searched for the familiar pigtails. The dock was almost deserted, but soon he knew why. They were in the process of boarding the passengers.

'Is she on the ship already?' He wondered. For if she was, he would have to go back to the entrance and buy a ticket in order to get on, and he didn't have that kind of time.

It was then in his frustration that he saw her. Alone, as she had been before, clutching her ticket in one hand while overlooking her belongings. Most noticeably though, she was thinking. He saw her reach out for her suitcase, only to pull her hand back to its former position. Was she hesitant to leave?

"Jasmine!" He called out, approaching her. At the sound of her name being called, her blue eyes locked with his own in an expression of shock.

"Volkner…?" She said, looking seemingly happy to see him. But then, something must have struck her, as her expression shifted to an unreadable one. "What…are you doing here?"

"I had to se you." He admitted, now standing directly in front of her. "Why are you leaving?"

She flinched at his words, as if they had cut through her heart like a razor. "…I'm doing what you said. I'm abandoning my weakness." She said, averting eye contact.

"What do you mean?" He asked. The look of hurt in her eyes from that day seemed to return as he waited for her to speak.

"Volkner," She started, trying to figure out exactly what to say. "I can't stay here. I have my own responsibility as a gym leader in Olivine and…"

He could have sworn her eyes were glazed over, trying to hold back the tears that were starting to form.

"I have to leave. My weakness is here. And even though I can also consider it as a source of my strength," the brunette paused, biting her lip. "Maybe it would be best if I just…left it behind. If it causes me this much pain, I should just abandon it altogether…"

"Whatever it is, I'll find a way to fix it." He declared, "Anything, Jasmine, if it will get you to stay, I'll do it. I promise!"

"That's the problem," She whispered, blinking rapidly to try and keep the tears from spilling, "You can't change…who you are."

"What?" He asked blankly. What did she mean by that?

"I found my strength in you." She smiled slightly at this before choosing to continue. "I wanted to help you find your light. And those will remain some of my fondest memories. But…"

The brunette's eyes shifted to the concrete below her feet. "But I couldn't help but feel like what I was doing didn't help you at all. And that's where…I found my weakness."

She smiled in spite of herself. "I couldn't help you. And that's what I wanted the most."

"That's not true." Volkner said. Now, it was Jasmine's turn to listen.

"Jasmine, you're one of the best things to ever happen to me." He began, smiling inwardly at the faint blush creeping upon her cheeks. "And I don't think I would have managed without you."

"You broke through my armor and got to my emotions. You taught me how to live again." The blonde began to blush himself at the things he was saying. "And I can't thank you enough for that."

"You're only saying that…" The pigtailed girl said quietly, breaking their gaze once more.

"No I'm not." The Sunyshore gym leader replied, unfazed. "I came looking for you today, because I wanted to answer the question you first asked me." She remained quiet, listening to his words.

He took a deep breath before continuing. "At first, I thought that thrill of battle had come back after I had been defeated, but I realized it was something more than that."

She waited for his answer, arms hanging limply at her sides. In the background, all the other passengers had already boarded, but that didn't matter to her.

"My source of strength is you. And I don't want to go back to being that emotionless shell I was before I met you. I love you, Jasmine."

She gasped as Volkner brought his hand to her face, tilted her chin upwards, and pressed his lips against her own. All of a sudden, nothing mattered anymore. The ship, the waves, her luggage, all of that was a blur. She wrapped her arms around the blonde's neck and pulled him closer. In Jasmine's mind, it was just the two of them, and that was all that mattered.

They broke apart, both equally red, as they stood not knowing what to say next. Looking down once more, Jasmine looked in confusion at her empty palm, only to see something fluttering away in the breeze.

"My ticket…" She breathed. Volkner looked to the sea and saw a tiny slip of paper, now too far to reach, hit the surface of the water. The two of them stared blankly for a bit, before exploding into a fit of laughter.

Jasmine loved how his laugh sounded. It was pure, untainted. And she decided she would love to hear it more often.

"I guess…I could stay a bit longer." The brunette said, standing by his side as they watched the ships depart underneath the brilliant afternoon sun.

"I'd like that."

Gahh, I HATE writing endings. I always think I make them a bit rushed. Well, there's my first Pokémon fic for you. I hope you liked it! Now you know what to do, the box in the bottom-left corner is right there. Don't tell me you can't see it ;D