1. Infinity Versus
Beyond the barriers of the Pokemon Center, the city laid awake, exhausted.
May stretched out her body, extended her arms to the ceiling, to the roofs, and over the clouds. Tomorrow (she said) she'll continue on with the eight badges won. The step before the finality. Up the waterfall and down the road, she was ready.
But now, in limbo, at rest, May wondered if she really (ever was—is) ready. To face—
Here in Mossdeep City, there was no end or beginning, just the tenacious long and winding up and down pathway of infinity. Here, where May could barely keep her eyes open and too afraid to sleep, there is the sickly ill feel of loneliness creeping.
"May," someone said, someone who just walked in from the rain pouring outside. Someone, she hasn't seen in a while.
"No, it's just Steven."
And she smiled. Just Steven. "So, what are you doing here?"
"My house is here," he said and sat down next to her. The couch sagged when his weight fell, and May felt herself rising.
"But what are you doing here? I thought you were about to challenge the Elite Four and the Champion."
"I know. I just needed some time to think. I don't know if I can go through with this. Not yet, at least."
Not yet, she remembered. That was how everything went for her. Over her shoulder, she can see irony's laugh and hand coming down to hold her.
"Congratulations," they said, "You are now the new Champion."
And May smiled again. Grin and bare it, face in gauze and façade.
And Steven was rejoicing with them all too, forgetting that he was momentarily defeated (by a girl no taller than his chest), forgetting that it wasn't just him and her and them separated apart.
This was when, this was where—
Her victory and pyrrhic victory had no difference.
"It's cold outside, why don't you come in?"
She stepped in, over the threshold and jolt, warm and crackling the fire reached out to greet her. Winter was rare in Hoenn, and finding him above ground was rarer still.
"Oh, um, thank you."
"How have things been going? Life as the new Champion and all."
"Pretty well. I've been trying to follow a new Pokemon that's recently showed up. All I know is that it's red and it flies."
Steven nodded and grinned a bit (even if there was nothing funny about this). "Have you heard about the other one? It recently decided to perch on an old, abandoned building a few miles from Pacificlodge Town."
"No, I haven't," May answered, quiet and pensive.
"Maybe you should check it out. It's bound to be interesting."
Yeah, just like that. With him, it was always just like that. No questions asked and nothing gained, blatant and stark. Just like winter's rice.
Dear May crumbled the paper and uncrumbled and recrumbled it again. It was him and him through to leave without notice (a note and a snarl) and vanish.
The disappearing act of lies and promises never-fulfilled.
"Come on, Blaziken, there's nothing for us here."
And so, she left (with the Beldum inside).
Seven times two is fourteen.
Seven years passed and she's no longer fourteen and he's no longer twice her age.
Seven years passed and May had forgotten all about being a Champion. (And all the challengers and ex-challengers and triumphs she's had—all those moments she felt overwhelming in purgatory.)
Now and over, she traveled across the region, to mountains and rivers and back. And she'd found him again and again. And him, Steven Stone, had proven to be more elusive than Latias.
And today, on her twenty-first birthday, he surfaced for a moment and told her "congrats". That and only that, the mutual understanding they share. That it was the only remnant still extant and visible.
"Happy birthday, May!" her mother sang, beamed. Her little daughter all grown up.
"Twenty-one and I already feel so old!"
Old like the ocean, old like the earth. Like all the Pokemon she'd met and knew—knew their lingering traces and endless strength. Persistence in the making, commencement and conclusion concealed, congealed together.
And so, when he leaned over her shoulder and kissed her cheek, May didn't blush (not like she thought she would).
She merely smiled back and that was enough. That told how all histories must finish: with no regret and no looking back.
After everything had been done and said, after the celebrations and tears and hugs, May left for Sinnoh.
And Steven for Kanto.
They met again, but that was sometime later, when he returned to manage Devon Corp and her own daughter was starting out as a Trainer.