This is rated T for some mild profanity (nothing that would be bleeped out on TV), adult themes, and sensuality

There is a large amount of shoujo-ai and yuri content, so if you are offended by this, please turn away now. In the case that you DO enjoy shoujo-ai/yuri, I'd say you're in for quite a treat. ;-)

I accepted a request for a Glittershipping fic awhile back at SPPf, and after months of on-and-off writing and multiple revisions, it's finished. It's somewhat melodramatic, but I personally think it's a beautiful story. It's set in the game universe, which is great, since I was able to include Jun, who's a lot of fun to write. The main romance is between Dawn (Hikari) and Candice (Suzuna), although there is quite a bit of Twinleafshipping / Futabashipping, which is Jun x Dawn. Jun is the rival from DP (also known as Pearl) but I couldn't really find his "official" English name, so I went with his name from the Japanese version. I've put as much effort as I could into this piece, so please enjoy, and I would love it if you would share your opinions in the review section, and let me know of any grammar/factual mistakes I didn't catch. Remember, feedback is love.

This is essentially a oneshot, though I have some additional content I plan to upload, so please stay tuned!

All that Glitters...

A Glittershipping One-shot

"To love is so startling it leaves little time for anything else."

-Emily Dickinson

"O, wind, if winter comes, can spring be far behind?"

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

The snow was descending in sheets outside, looking like translucent lace curtains, edged oh-so daintily in pearls and perfectly cut diamonds. The white landscape beyond the fogged mirror seemed so dreamy, like something always sung about in Christmas ballads. The type of place one always imagined, always desired, but could nevfer quite achieve. And the ornate snowfall gave it all the appearance of a beautiful, voluptuous bride with her elaborate wedding veil being gingerly placed upon her head, smiling wistfully, sleepily awaiting her prince...

Dawn smiled wryly at herself, resting her chilled chin on the calloused palm of her hand. Was this all she ever thought about? Expensive jewels, romantic weddings? She was turning into a regular material girl...well, it certainly wasn't abnormal, seeing as she was a fourteen-year-old girl--didn't all adolescent girls constantly think of jewelery and marriage? She hardly knew what other teenage girls thought of, after spending the past few years traveling alone, only ever finding boys with whom to socialize. Not that that was (much of) a problem...

"Here's your cocoa, miss- piping hot, with cinnamon and whipped cream." The very pregnant barista look exhausted, and more than a little nauseas. Dawn hoped she hadn't suffered from morning sickness while preparing the beverage.

"Thank you kindly." Dawn gave a polite, obligatory nod and smile, and jumped from the barstool, waltzing over to the booth where her long-time companion Jun sat, twirling his caramel cappuccino around in its Styrofoam cup.

She sat down in the seat opposite him, slouching down and pressing her back forcefully into the seat, as though she were attempting to push all the icy cold out of her body.

"So, Jun," she began in a droll tone. "Tell me why we had to take the train all the way up from Twinleaf Town to Snowpoint City just to get some hot cocoa for my birthday?"

Jun leaned back and gave her a knowing smile. "Well, Dawn, I figured the best way to maximize your enjoyment of the hot cocoa was to bring you someplace so cold you'd really appreciate the warmth!"

He grinned exuberantly at this, but Dawn just gave him a dumbfounded look.

"In other words...you were too cheap to actually get me a decent present, so you bought me hot chocolate in a freezing place? Is that it, Jun?"

Jun's cherubic face fell at the sound of her words, and he pouted. "I'm so sorry Dawn," he replied. "Next year I'll be sure to not get you anything since my presents upset you so very much."

Dawn stuck her tongue out playfully at him, and drained the rest of her cocoa. She wasn't actually angry at Jun in the least- although she did think he was being cheap. That had just always been his way- when he wasn't able to get exactly what he wanted, he always figured out how to make what he had as wonderful as possible.

"You know, the only thing I don't want to improve in my life is my best friend," he had once said to her when they were children, attending the Seedling Nursery School of Twinleaf Town.

"Oh and who's that, Junie?" she'd tease back, and they'd both erupt into laughter. Those were lovely days, back before Dawn and Jun had gone their separate ways and headed out on very different journeys...they had been young, joyful, and she knew they both ached for the dear days of innocence and ignorance, and perhaps sitting in a quaint little coffee shop, drinking hot cocoa, and forgetting that life was terribly unfair brought back a little bit of the joy that comes from being young and dumb.

But, no matter how desperately they fought to keep it alive, the happiness couldn't stay alive forever. It slowly melted into mush, just like the snow outside when people walked through with their muddy shoes and dumped their coffee out. They both knew perfectly well that they were just (not particularly good) trainers, not heading off in any direction, and just sitting, waiting, and playing dumb. Or did their futures hold more than that? Her gaze fell to her now empty cup of hot chocolate, and, without any intention of her own, her hand grasped the lid and took it off. Weren't the remnants of tea leaves supposed to tell fortunes? Well, remnants of hot chocolate must count somewhat. But what exactly would she want to see in her fortune? Something bad, to make the present seem more palatable? Something good, so she'd have something to hope for, to look forward to? Or just the same-old, same-old, knowing there would be no change in her comfortable routine? But there was, as any practical person would have guessed, little more than a muddy puddle at the bottom of the cup. But, after further inspection, there was...still nothing. Dawn sighed in frustration, and rested her forehead against the coffee shop window, allowing the cold she'd forced out back into her body.

What's gotten into her? Jun wondered, peering into her cup, noticing a small shape of the cocoa remnant off to the side, away from the main puddle.

How peculiar, he mused. That little shape looks like a perfect heart!

--

The slender girl, whose childlike size contradicted the solemn wisdom-beyond-her-years look on her face, rushed through slush, careful not to dirty the satchel in her hands. She took the bag up by its sides and clutched it close to her chest, squinting through the flurry of snow. It was algid weather, no doubt. No-one in Snowmpoint City ever complained that Christmas wasn't adequately snowy.

Suddenly, a cherubi-red snowmobile sped by, sending swirls of hardened snow all over the young traveler. She attempted to shield her eyes from the tiny shards of ice, but she was still fiercely attacked by the stinging bite of the snow. She looked up just in time to see that, in said snowmobile, there sat a snooty looking woman, bundled up in chic coats and furs that by all means probably cost more than the vehicle itself. But the stuck-up woman wasn't the driver--it was a man, with dark greasy hair hair and a tattered coat- a taxi driver. Whenever the streets became snowbanked, as they often did, snowmobile taxis ran throughout the city, and drivers found it quite lucrative, as they could charge any price they liked, there being no-one else to whom hapless tourists could turn. The passenger in the car was most likely a visitor from Hearthome, the nearest cosmopolitan center of wealth, culture, and fashion. Or perhaps Jubilife, though the styles there were considerably more practical. She might not be Sinnohan at all, and came from Lilycove, or Goldenrod, or even Saffron. Foreigners never did seem to understand how stupid it was to take a holiday in Snowpoint during the winter months. Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn were quite a bit further south than Sinnoh, and the people there didn't understand the concept of freezing cold.

Oh well, at least it kept money in the pockets of the snowmobile drivers. They could use it, after all.

The girl took one hand from her satchel and softly touched one of her pleats of jet black hair, to ensure it was still intact after the bombardment of snow. Thankfully, it was, even though the turquoise ribbon was a little undone. But what did it hat/imatter, when she was just headed to the shabby little coffeeshop on the outskirts of town.

She continued strolling, not sauntering happily, but hardly moping. Just walking steadily toward her destination, hoping to get it all over and done with as soon as possible.

The thought crossed her mind to call over a snowmobile taxi, but she just as soon brushed it aside. She'd look ridiculous, a local, hiring a snowmobile, and, anyway, the prices were outrageous anymore. The drivers might just be getting a wee bit too full of themselves.

"Oh, here it is," she murmured to herself, recognizing the buzzing neon sign, even through the wall of falling snow. "Suzana's Coffee & Pastry Shop". She began to jog up toward the shop, grateful for a chance to get out of the cold and put something warm into her body.

Something, however, instantaneously froze her in her spot, and made her cheeks grow hot and her palms perspire in the bone-chilling temperatures.

"Oh my g- Candice is that you?" The tall and lean (but not overbearingly so) girl, with a silly-looking blonde boy in tow, was exitting the coffeeshop, and had recognized Candice at once.

"Well, whad'id you think, Dawn?" the boy teased. "I mean, we're in Snowpoint City, so is it really such a shocker to see the Snowpoint gymleader here?"

Dawn rolled her eyes at him and pushed him aside (not in an entirely rough or serious manner), running up to the spot on the sidewalk where Candice was glued, and not to mention trembling with anxiety.

"Wow!" Dawn exclaimed goodnaturedly, swinging her long, navy-blue hair behind her back.

That was odd- Candice had never really thought of her as having blue hair. It wasn't exactly common. Perhaps she was related to that famous coordinator with the cobalt-tinted hair? The coordinator (her name was Jo something or other) hadn't made television appearances as of late, but, come to think of it, Dawn did bear somewhat of a resemblance to her.

"It's been-what?-two years since I've been here?" Candice returned Dawn's remark with a bemused smile, unsure if she should shake Dawn's hand, or hug her, or what. Dawn tittered briefly and turned back to her male companion.

"Back when I was twelve-you were down in Sunyshore, right?-Professor Rowan sent me up to Snowpoint City, and you know how I hate the cold, Jun." Here she gave Jun a playfully reprimanding joke, as though they were sharing a joke or reference Candice wasn't in on. "But, anyway, I went to the gym, because I'd heard the leader here was an expert on ice pokemon, as well as being really nice. I got together with Candice, and told her about the information I was gathering, and she was so helpful- I never could have gotten my work down without her! Well, we stayed in touch via email, right, Candice?" Candice smiled uncertainly once again, nodding her head in quiet agreement.

"And you're just a sweety, it's so good to see you again!" Now Dawn hugged her- and tightly, too.

Despite the miserable weather, Dawn's cheeks were ruddy, and she herself was full of life. And Candice had, as you might say, warmed up to them.

She reluctantly pulled out of Dawn's embrace, and beamed (now more sincerely) graciously at both Dawn and Jun. She remembered what Dawn had told her about her journey- she and Jun had grown up in Twinleaf Town, both itching to explore the world, or at least to travel to a city that had buildings so tall that they required elevators. But Dawn had been more of the bookish variety than Jun, and loved investigating the diverse wildlife of Twinleaf's natural areas, while Jun spent hours on end watching and rewatching the televised battles of aspiring trainers pitted head-to-head in the pokemon league championship. Dawn agreed to travel around Sinnoh collecting pokemon and recording their data for Jun's grandfather, Professor Rowan, and Jun decided to take on the gym challenge and try for a shot at being the next Sinnoh battle champion. And so they split up, occassionally meeting up and relating their various adventures.

"Well, I-I have some work to do...training, cleaning the gym, y'know, the usual!" Candice forced the words out of her mouth, and they came out a stammered, scrambled mess. Beginning to blush in embarrassment, she zipped her coat up as high as possible, and scurried back down the sidewalk, until she was out of sight. Dawn and Jun looked on, extremely puzzled by this sudden revelation.

"Wow, she sure was jumpy," Jun finally commented, glancing over at Dawn. "And she didn't even stop to buy some cocoa at the coffeeshop!"

--

"So, what street is it again?"

"Alberta Avenue...I think..."

Dawn took of her left boot, and tried to shake the (now melted) snow out of it. Jun was jogging behind her, trying desperately to keep up. Dawn dryly noted the irony of this little spectacle- it had almost always been her jogging desperately after Jun, not the other way around...except, of course, when she was on a mission, and was filled with more vigor than one would ever think possible. Just like now...

Jun finally caught up with his companion, and nearly collapsed onto the forsty ground.

"Man," he panted, resting his hands on his knees. "You could put an Olympic runner to shame, you know that, Dawn?"

Dawn just rolled her eyes skyward once again, and went down to help Jun out.

"Maybe you're just a wimp, Juny," she teased, causing her friend to gag at the sound of his childish nickname.

"And maybe you're just a bit-" he cut himself off midsentence, as something off in the distance had caught his attention.

Dawn glared at him and snapped, "You are a wimp, Jun! You don't even have the guts to finish off a swear word!"

"Calm down, Dawn, I just saw something glinting off on the horizon, and...I dunno, I just got distracted."

Dawn sighed at him, but her face was softened now. "Typical male- you see something shiny, and everything else just goes out of your head."

She cleared her throat here. "Anyway, let's just keep walking, we're almost there...now that we're on Nova Scotia Boulevard, Alberta Avenue should just be a few blocks away..."

"What the hell- how do you know that?" Jun inquired astoundedly. "Are you, like, a super genius at maps or something?"

Dawn just laughed lightly and brushed Barry off.

"Jun, you know I'm not a super genius at anything- except maybe coordinating outfits," she replied. "It's just I've been around here before, and I know the way."

"Yeah, but two years ago," Jun responded incredulously. "Who remembers routes from that far back?"

Dawn feigned deafness and continued walking down the path, while Jun persisted his interrogation in vain. Dawn kept her mouth shut tight when she wanted, and lord knew she could be as stubborn as a sour-tempered Purugly.

Dawn had no inclination to let Jun know that her last visit to Snowpoint City had been considerably sooner than two years. It was true her last encounter with Candice had been two years prior, but she didn't feel like trying to explain her last trip, or how she'd followed the exact same route they were on now. Her happiness and anticipation were too high to go through that.

She heard Jun approach her from the side and chuckle.

"Geeze, Dawn, you're spacing out on me again...if you keep that up, you'll never beat me to Alberta Avenue!"

She stopped in her tracks to place her hands squarely on her hips and frown at him.

"Tell me, Jun, you don't have the slightest idea of where Alberta Avenue is, so how in hell do you intend to beat me there?"

"I'm just joking- sheesh, don't need to get so snappish."

Dawn was now ignoring him- and walking at a recognizable pace. Jun just smiled at her and shook his head; she was going through the quite mood swing today, but after forcing herself to act so calm, cool and nonchalant all these years, she'd probably earned it. And if he wanted to be a good friend, and demonstrate the affection he was unable to outright admit he felt for her, the least he could do was be supportive, and tolerant of her odd behavior today.

Dawn herself felt guilty and a bit ashamed for being so rude to Jun, after he'd bothered to go on this crazy chase with her, and done so with a smile. Jun was an inexorably jolly soul, and it lightened her...today, she felt cheerier and physically less heavy and ill than she had in ages. But seeing Candice again, and being able to talk, even for a moment, would bring more happiness than she could think possible. Jun and Dawn walked on in silence, but there was peace between them- as if an unspoken reconciliation had occurred, a telepathic apology. They were both content, serene, but even more aware, of each other and their surroundings.

Dawn looked up to the sign under which she'd just passed. The street signs here were much more elaborate and ornamental than the ones she'd seen when she'd been younger, in Twinleaf and Sandgem Town... the gold-colored pole stretched up elegantly before gently branching out into three or more platforms for the signs indicating the street name. The signs themselves were metal sheets, but had the color of ebony, and the frillous text was a pastel blue color.

Dawn rarely appreciated small details like the sign-posts in Snowpoint City, but when she was in a jovial mood such as the one she was in now, she couldn't help it. The small, pink flowers that stood resilient to the snow and sleet seemed more radiant than ever to her today, much like the slender willow trees drooping slightly under the weight of the thick ice.

"Wait, Dawn! There's an intersection here and the road going to the right is Alberta!"

Dawn realized she had gotten quite a ways ahead of Barry again, and she spun around to face him. His arm faced the direction of a long road, with a carefully landscaped median, and several large houses that, she imagined, belonged to very large, intimidating people...just as she'd (not particularly fondly) remembered Alberta Avenue.

"Jun!" she called back, swiveling around, her slick boots nearly costing her her balance in the moist snow. "We need to look for house number 77182- The first one I see up her is 77174..."

"And they get bigger as you go left down here, right?" Jun responded, running to catch up with her. "So it shouldn't be too far down."

Dawn nodded her head, her eyes shining brightly. Dawn's abrupt and extreme change for the better mystified Jun, but so long as this girl was happy, he was happy for her.

"So, let's get going!" she announced, doing a hundred-eighty-degree turn and strutting off down the avenue.

Jun chased after her, wondering if these sudden, Olympic-style lurches he kept running in order to keep up with Dawn were bad for his heart.

If an outside observer had suddenly spotted the schoolgirl walking down the street, they would doubtlessly assume she was some sort of athlete, a very talented athlete, being able to go at a startlingly face velocity just walking, and with no apparent exhaustion as a consequence. The odd thing is, the young girl was not an athlete, in any form. Her slim physique might throw one off, but she hardly ever exercised or did aerobics, and the only time she did situps or pushups or crunches was during the Imperial Fitness Test required in gradeschool, and she hadn't been in school for years.

So, one might think, the only plausible solution would be that this girl must desire, must want something so badly, with such intensity, that she gained superhuman strength and endurance- she must love something...and she was willing to sacrifice whatever necessary to visit with her beloved.

--

The young girl (fourteen...no, thirteen, perhaps?) stood in the bitter cold of the harsh town, made even more desolate by her tendency to exaggerate her situation when feeling lonely. She stood on the boundary between the commercial/industrial section and the quaint residential section. Fear and embarrassment surged up in her throat, and she felt unable to move a step forward. Her own anxiety held her captive, and before she could comprehend what was happening, she felt her legs move, running off in the opposite direction, her dark hair whipping around her shoulders, tears that rolled, then froze to her face. She ran faster, harder than she'd ever tried, till she again reached the train station, collapsed in a seat, and prayed that she could just get out as quickly as possible, before she brought any further humiliation upon herself.

The scene flashed across Dawn's mind, and she couldn't help blushing self-consciously at the recollection. What a stupid, shameful moment for her- if her mother had known, she'd be most exasperated, more so than even time Dawn had accidentally released her Shells as a child. Not that she wanted to recall that incident- her mother's frequent reminding her of that moment of foolishness had been more than enough for Dawn.

"Anyway," Jun began, creeping up to Dawn's side, now that she was walking at a halfway reasonable speed. "Who are we going to visit? It's not that I have a problem with surprises, I just don't wanna get their and find out the guy who lives in the house is a Houndoom breeder..."

"Jun I promise you there's no Houndoom breeders where we're headed- the most dangerous thing that could happen is if some kid gets a BB gun and shoots an icicle and it hits you in the eye." She looked over at Jun, who didn't appear to much amused. "Oh, c'mon grumpy-kins, lighten up...I know you loved that movie." But this did little to quell Jun's botheration, so she dropped the topic.

The two continued strolling, ever vigilant for the one mailbox reading 77182.

"77176, 77177...it's beginning to sound like one of those mantras," Barry muttered, but Dawn just shrugged her shoulders; the meaning behind this shrug was perhaps ambiguous, but Jun took it to mean she was so focused on her destination that his commentary was of little importance.Most of the houses had lush lawns of emerald green, and perfectly trimmed hedges and rose bushes lined the homes. Each one gave off an air of both beauty and austerity, art and conformity...that is, except for one house she saw further down, whose lawn was neither lush nor green, but it still seemed beautiful and enchanting, more so than the other homes. The lawn appeared to be a sand garden, that someone had obviously put a lot of effort into cleaning out the snow and crafting the curving lines and flow of the sand. It must have belonged to a true artist, or, at the very least, someone with a lot of time on his or her hands. As Dawn and Barry drew closer to this house, they gasped in unison of what they saw.

The sand was perfectly raked, and did not betray in the least that the snow was falling everywhere. Whoever landscaped the home must have spent continuous, tedious hours cleaning off the snow, and carefully placing the small plants and rocks seen here and there.

But it was not purely the sand that took their breath away, it was a tall, awe-inspiring ice sculpture. It seemed to be a maiden, or perhaps some sort of nymph or dyrad, not unlike a gardevoir, who stood erect, and wore a long, flowing gown that drooped off her shoulders and nearly covered her feet. Her expression was careless, so careless, in fact, she seemed almost haighty, not caring about the fact she was the center of attention, or that she would soon melt when spring arrived; she was there, that was that, and seemed to think that nothing could disturb her beauty or the graceful dance she was evidently in the middle of, what with her skyward-turned arms, outstretched leg. Ivy was growing up the other leg, and a yellow rose rested peacefully on her ear, adding a hint of homeyness to the sculpture, though Dawn had the impression that they'd been added by someone else once the artist had finished their job.

"Um...hello, I didn't know that you possessed the knowledge of how to get to my home."

Dawn and Barry spun around to see the source of the softspoken voice, and Dawn felt her stomach sink when she saw the black pigtails and golden-brown eyes, though she was already well aware of who it was.

She managed a smile, unsure of how exactly she felt right then, of what emotions were emerging from the depths. Candice didn't have an annoyed or angry expression, so it couldn't be fear...she wasn't exactly jubilant, either, so it wasn't joyful relief...the butterflies in the pit of her stomach still fluttered obstinately, so it wasn't just plain relief either...it was, as far as she knew, a strange, new, unnamed emotion, and, as such, she had no means of describing it.

"O-o-oh, we're at house 77182 now, aren't we?" Jun remarked. "Wow, Dawn, I was paying so much attention to that sculpture I hadn't even realized it!"

He didn't get a response- not that he was expecting one.

"Candice, you just can't get away from us, can you?" Dawn laughed, though they all knew her laughter was composed more of nervousness than merriment. Candice smiled slightly back, but it was difficult for Jun and Dawn to notice, since she stood on the sidewalk, and they stood in the dead center of her front lawn.

"I'm so sorry for being as terribly rude as I was earlier, Dawn." She could hear her voice crack, and feared that she might start crying in front of them, as she almost had earlier. "That was just awful of me- I got a little-erm-nervous, and just kind of panicked-not that I usually do that-and so I'd like to make it up you by-um...would you care to come inside? I was just making onigiri, and some soup, and with any luck some herbal tea-it helps to calm the nerves, you know..."

"Yeah, you could use that right about now," Jun muttered under his breath, but Dawn gestured for him to shut his trap.

"We'd love to," Dawn answered brightly. "I'm famished-and I'm certain Jun is too!-I haven't had anything today except for a cup of hot cocoa."

"Oh, well, all right, step right in, I left the door unlocked...there's really hardly any crime in this town, you know."

Dawn hurried right in, apparently antsy, and Candice sauntered after her, but Jun stood a moment outside, attempting to evaluate the girls. Dawn was giddy, but indeniably nervous, Candice seemed calm, but unusually shy and a bit scared. They were both being extremely odd...

"Oh, damn!" The expletive slipped out of his mouth, though discreetly enough so as not to attract unwanted attention. "How could I be so stupid?!" he whispered to himself, this time more deliberately than his prior utterance. "She has a crush on Candice-!"

"Jun!" Dawn yelled out from the threshold. "Are you coming in or not, you big dummy?"

Trying desperately to conceal his confusion, disappointment, anger, and dismay, he walked up to the house of the girl whom he had just discovered was the rival for his object of affection...but, if Dawn was attracted to Candice, would that mean that she couldn't be attracted to- he shook the thought out of his mind, but, nonetheless, his stomach sank even lower.

"Yeah, yeah, sure, Dawn." He forced a grin, even though he wanted to throw up. He'd just have to make himself walk in there, and sit, and eat (well, that part wouldn't be so bad...) and just deal with it.

In just a short ten minutes, they were all seated in the rather posh dining room, a feast in front of them on the crimson-clothed table. Well, if you considered a few heaping plates of stuffed rice balls and a large steaming pot of omni/i soup.

"Mm, looks good!" Dawn announced, placing one of the rice balls on her china plate. She wasn't letting her attention drift to Jun, who was sulking and would definitely bring her mood down. As often as Jun complained about iher/i eccentricism, he was being just as odd today, being bouncy, then suddenly all brooding.

"They're filled with dried tuna and salmon, and some have pickled vegetables," Candice explained when she saw Dawn taking a bite and then making a face. "Those are the traditional fillings. My mother was actually a Japanese emigrant...she taught my older sister and me the recipes, but not really the etiquette of serving them and putting out different courses- I'm afraid I have completely foreign mannerisms." She said this last part almost apologetically, as though saddened knowing that she was ignoring the culture of her heritage. "My sister, on the other hand-she's the gymleader of Celadon City-knows just about everything there is to know about Japan, and even started up a kind of traditional teahouse in the city. My mother lives with her, and is thrilled about her daughter's enthusiasm...they both love plants and grass-type pokemon so much, but I never had much of a passion for them, or for my sister's topiaries and flower arrangements, though they are quite beautiful..." She pulled herself to a stop, fearing that Dawn and Jun would be bored by her rambling discussion about something that they certainly cared nothing about. But she saw an intrigued expression on Dawn's face, and Jun didn't seem to mind at all (he was too focused on the bowl of sweet, thick potato soup).

"Go on, Candice," Dawn coaxed sweetly. "It really is interesting. Sometimes it's good for me to sit back and listen to someone besides myself speak."

Candice smiled back in relief, and spooned a bit of the imoni into her mouth. "I've always just loved ice, and mother could never see why, ice seemed so destructive to their beloved, delicate flowers...but there's nothing I enjoy more than ice carving, or training ice-types. That why left Celadon, and moved here, a town famous for its snow, and for its ice pokemon. Luckily I had an aunt here, but more often than not she leaves town and trusts the house with me."

"That would explain the meticulous-cared for sand garden outside," Jun put in, between his slurps of soup.

"Yes, that was my idea, but my aunt approved it before I started it," Candice replied, looking directly at Jun for the first time during their dinner. Jun was so startled by this, he nearly dropped the bowl of soup he held to his lips (nearly/i). Her expression was serene, pleasant, and a bit coy. Even though this girl was the cause of all his current misery and upset stomach, he couldn't help but let himself like her a little bit. He felt like he should/i hate her, but it wasn't really her fault- she hadn't forced Dawn to like her and not him. If he could just get over himself, maybe they could all be friends someday.

Now she was looking over at Dawn, though, and Jun felt his gut tighten. She had a look of...of bliss. Even though she'd seemed so quick to get away from Dawn earlier, she was now basking in the rich sunlight of her presence. Dawn didn't just fancy Candice- the feeling was mutual.

"Excuse me," he pardoned himself softly, rising from the table, and walking awkwardly off toward the restroom. He didn't want to sit there any longer- if he sat there any longer, he'd become physically ill. He just needed to get to the bathroom, and catch his breath, and regather what was left of his dignity and sanity.

"Jun..." Dawn realized the ever increasingly forlorn face he wore, and couldn't allow herself to ignore it any longer. But Jun walked straight past her- and it only made her feel even worse.

Once he'd left the room, Candice sprang up and offered to fetch the tea. Dawn nodded her head, her happiness evaporating as Jun's did.

Candice strolled through the dark-stained wood door connecting the dining room and kitchen, and Dawn's chin fell onto the palm of her hand- just as it had at the coffeeshop. Jun was all depressed now, and she could do nothing about it. At least Candice seemed to be happy...

"I'm back," Candice sang out, carrying a tray of tea cups and English biscuits. Dawn jumped up to help her, but her arms only got in the way, and the silver tray was sent into the air, steaming water and now smashed biscuits flying out over the Oriental carpet and splattering across the robin's eggs blue walls.

"Sh-" Amid st the sudden commotion and the huge mess, the near obscenity that suddenly popped up in the mix seemed almost humorous, and even for Dawn and Candice, it was impossible to determine who had uttered it, for both seemed to have lost control of themselves as they desperately tried to salvage the tea set.

Once everything was settled into one pile of cracked china ware and soggy cookies, both Dawn and Candice seemed to have calmed down, and were gathering paper towels to mop up the tea.

"I'm so sorry," Dawn began, placing a large balled piece of paper towel over one moist spot on the floor. "It's my fault- I got in the way, and lost balance..."

Candice shook her head, and shifted her gaze from the spot she was cleaning to Dawn's guilty-looking face. "It's fine, Dawn, it was an accident. Accidents happen, we're human, we slip up."

Dawn bobbed her head and used a fresh piece of a towel to wipe her runny nose. "I'll buy you a new set, Candice..."

Again, Candice shook her head in refusal. "Don't be ridiculous, Dawn, it's just as much my fault as yours- I told you my sister runs a teahouse in Celadon, I'll just call her up and ask her to ship me a new one- she and mother have dozens over there, I should think, and they're nicer than ones you'd find in a shop around here."

"All right," Dawn replied, allowing a little bit of her guilt to melt away. "If you insist...why don't I brew up a pot of coffee?"

"Oh, no, that's not necessary." Candice jumped up. Even though she didn't blame Dawn for the incident, she didn't want to risk another one happening.

"Relax, Candice," Dawn winked as she stepped into the kitchen. "I'll use styrofoam cups."

--

"I'm stepping out for a walk," Jun called in the direction of the dining hall as he walked through the foyer and front door. Judging by the excited chatter and giggles coming from the kitchen area, though, he doubted he was heard, or if he was heard, he was listened to. The spiteful cold outside offered little solace, but it was better than hearing Candice and Dawn gush about how wonderful the other one was. He shoved the door open despite the protests of the wind, and was quickly battered by shards of frozen rain and clumps of snow apparently angered by how audacious he was for stepping outside and disturbing them. He shut the door behind him, and put his arms in front of his face to shield himself from the onslaught. Maybe this wasn't better than hearing the two girls giggle over each other...

--

Inside the house, which was considerably warmer and brighter than the outside, Dawn continued grinding the coffee beans in the wall-mounted grater.

"The coffee'll be ready in just a minute!" she yelled to Candice, who was still picking pieces of ceramic out of the carpet. Dawn turned the crank of the grater furiously, till it seemed it might break off (though, luckily, it didn't).

"There," she said to no-one in particular, easing up on the crank. "That's all done! Now to put it all in the coffee maker!"

The soft whirring of the coffee machine seemed oddly soothing to Candice as she dumped the contents of her dustpan into the nearby trash can. She probably ought to check in on Dawn, and make sure she didn't start a fire (you probably couldn't start a fire with a coffee maker, but better safe than sorry) or anything.

"Dawn, everything all right in there?" She stepped onto the tiled floor, and was relieved to see that the room remained mainly unscathed, aside from some coffee grinding sprinkled liberally across the ivory-colored marble floors.

Dawn rolled her eyes skyward, and changed the settings of the coffee maker. "You can't even trust me with the coffee, can you?" She gazed out of the now ajar kitchen door, focusing on the hallway connecting the dining room with the bathroom and ground-floor guestrooms.

"What's up with Jun?" she asked Candice, and received a blank look in return. "He's been the bathroom an awfully long time..."

"I dunno," Candice shrugged it off. "He might have stepped out for a walk, or took himself on a self-led tour of the house."

Dawn turned from the appliance and stepped toward Candice. "Yeah, that'd be just like him," she laughed. She now glanced toward the stainless steel refrigerator, completely free of the corny magnets she was adjusted to seeing at her or Jun's homes.

"Do you have any cream- or sugar cubes?"

"I did," Candice responded, trying not to smile as she crossed her arms. "But it was lost in an unfortunate accident."

"Well, fine then. We'll just have café noir." After this last remark of Dawn's, Candice couldn't help but smile, and pulled herself up onto one of the granite counter tops to sit and observe Dawn preparing the hot beverages.

The large, velvetine-upholstered sofa in the foyer seemed the most welcoming piece of furniture in the house, if not the most attractive. Dawn felt it creak and it surrendered helplessly under her weight. As Candice sat down softly beside her, she couldn't help but notice how much slimmer Candice looked in comparison with herself- and that led her to wondering if Candice wasn't getting enough to eat- or if she was under too much stress.

She sipped the last of her black coffee, and placed the mug on the coffee table situated in front of the sofa. She had never liked bitter tastes, but the coffee was mellow (and weak) enough, and tasted fine without sugar or cream. The absence of the usual enhancers actually helped one to appreciate the flavor and subtleties of the drink- it might not have been as pleasant as coffee with several spoonfuls of sugar dumped into it, but it was considerably more interesting. Sitting quietly, being introspective might not have the simple pleasure of running around a mall, laughing loudly, and spending ungodly amounts of money without giving a damn, but it was much more fascinating as a scenario, and gave you the chance to think, and thought was something that many people anymore took for granted.

"You make a mean cup of coffee," Candice broke the silence, and Dawn jerked her head up. "Coffee isn't exactly my cup of tea-no pun intended-but when it's made by you, it tastes really nice." She shifted her position on the couch so she could look at Dawn, and she smiled at her. "Even if the recipe omits the usual staples of sugar and milk."

Dawn smiled back, though if Jun had said the same thing, she'd probably have lightly punched him in the arm. But she couldn't do that to Candice- aside from being worried that she'd break one of the gymleader's fragile bones, she hated thinking about causing any harm to Candice, even if it was only in jest. It was just...something so kind and beautiful didn't ideserve/i to be hurt in any way or form.

Candice looked over her mug, and saw Dawn's face, and noticed the glow, the liveliness it had to it. It was probably the caffeine, but Candice felt a little flutter of hope, somewhere deep in her, that she was the cause of it. Dawn laughed lightly, to fill the void left by the silence, and looked shyly to the side, pretending to examine a nearby shepherdess figurine. Feeling strangely disappointed, Candice followed her gaze, eyeing the silver chandalier, and the polished dark wood covering the foyer's wall. The anxiety was rising up in her throat, and her grip on the coffee cup tightened- they both felt the hesitation dripping away, being replaced by butteflies and knots in their stomachs. It was uncomfortable, but neither was about to step away now. It was an unspoken game of nerves, tension increasing, filling every corner of the room.

"You know," Dawn's words cut through the silence like a knife through a taut cord. "I..." her eyes were bright now, her lips stretched into a relaxed smile, as though she were unaware of the brief moment of awkward emotions that had occurred just seconds before. "I kind of...when we met before, a few years ago, I really thought you were just...really, really lovely, and a really good gymleader, and generally a sort of dulcet person." Her brilliant eyes peered unwaveringly into Candice's. She sucked in a deep breath, willing herself to be confident, to be unfaltering. Candice leaned a little bit back into the cushions of the sofa, taking a shaky breath, forcing herself to look straight at Dawn. She had no idea what else the girl was to say, but she was going to listen, whether it made her feel hurt, or stupid, or overjoyed. "And," Dawn continued, her eyes never shifting away from Candice. "I though you were very-er-cute." She seemed a little bit embarassed for saying this, and Candice stifled a giggle, careful to maintain an expression of seriousness. "I guess I developed...I guess I liked you." Candice let out an involuntary sound, a cross between a brief choke and a gasp. Her hands shook violently, and the coffee threaten to spill over onto the thick carpet and make an unforgiveable stain. Candice swung her head away, attempting to hide the redness of her cheeks, or the perspiration beading along her hairline. Dawn was startled by Candice's sudden consternation, and hastily tried to make amends.

"Oh, no, no, you have me wrong," she stammered out, lifting her hand toward Candice's shoulder, but not making contact. "I meant, in a platonic sort of way...just a little crush that wasn't really romantic- I-I just wanted to be friends, and you-...you were really great, and I wanted to be friends with you, that's all."

Candice placed her mug on the coffee table, generating a rather loud clunk of a noise, and backed slowly away. She felt her head swimming, her heart gasping for air, her eyes drowning. To see Dawn again- that should have been a wonderful opportunity, but it had turned rapidly into hell. Why? Why did the gods of love insist on this-- this emotional torture. This excrutiating roller coaster...what, hadn't "coming out" to her judgemental mother and sister been bad enough? Did she also have to live with the pain of her uncountable misfortunes in love, too? Oh, dear God, this headache...why couldn't her head just burst into a million pieces and get it over with?

The tears, apparently feeling some sort of mercy, subsided for a moment, and Dawn's face, trembling and seemingly gaunt in the unflattering light, became as clear as crystal. A look of terror seemed to manifest itself in her. Ah, didn't Dawn seem like the picture of the romanticly tragic heroine? The porcelain skin, the tears beading up in her eyes as wide as saucers...the torment of being trapped in a love triangle, when, in all likelihood, she cared for neither of the other people involved? That poor baby--being adored by multiple people must be so much worse than having your heart and head being torn and twisted apart in all these different directions. And, anyway, why should she be terrified? Candice wasn't one to lash out or be violent...besides, even if she wanted to, there was no way she could physically take Dawn down.

"I'm sorry...I'm really, really sorry!" Dawn choked unexpectantly, startling Candice out of her brief funk. "I've never been good with words, but I'm even worse when it comes to...to expressing my feelings."

Candice, who had begun to feel a not-quite-unpleasant warm sensation rising up through her chest blinked and looked at Dawn, trying to seem as polite and unfrazzled as possible. Dawn seemed like she was just as close to weeping as Candice had been just a moment before...well, maybe Candice had judged too quickly. Perhaps being trapped in a triangle with two people for whom you cared but didn't love was more agonizing than one would assume. It wasn't like Candice hadn't seen this type of mess before...she knew very well how all the tangled emotions and affections could wear someone unrelentingly down to their bones.

Through some small miracle, and a large amount of empathy, Candice smiled at Dawn and took a few small, quiet steps toward the young woman waiting silently at the couch.

Candice lifted her hand, and almost placed it softly on Dawn's cheek, but reconsidered, and hastily placed her hand at her side.

"Dawn, if you haven't been allowed to express yourself in the past...then you should do it now," Candice said, her tone low and quivering a bit. "It's not healthy. You have to, well, vent!"

Dawn looked up at Candice, and blinked her watery eyes. Candice continued to gaze earnestly at her, perhaps hoping to find some revelation within Dawn's vivid irises. Dawn bit her lower lip, trying to hold her ground in this staring contest of sorts, while slowly shaking her head.

"I can't do it, I just can't! I don't have anything to say that won't either sound vague or end up blowing up in my face."

Candice clenched her lower jaw firmly to the top, the universal sign of determination. She looked at Dawn with a fire in her eyes, a long dormant passion now raring back into action.

"I'm not going to judge you," she insisted, gripping the arm of Dawn's seat with fortitude. "You can't be afraid of other people's opinions. I've lived under the clouds of my family's criticism too long to let you do the same." Her eyes flashed, And Dawn felt an inkling of fear, even though she knew that Candice's anger was not directed at her. "Now tell me exactly whay's going through your head, Dawn! If you don't get this off your chest now, you'll just revert to being a doormat."

"I'm not a doormat!" Dawn exclaimed. The colors in her face were bright now, and Candice felt the conviction behind her declaration. "Do you want know what I'm thinking? I'm thinking that I'm so sick of people stamping labels on me! When I was in grammar school, I was the 'moron' who had no friends. When I got older, I was the weirdo bum who had no fashion taste. Then I was the slut, then the prude, then the lezzie, and the wannabe-emo, and then everyone thought I was a preppy bimbo, and then they all called me the stuck-up chick who didn't get along with the other kids! I want to just be me! When I walk down the street, I want people to go, 'Oh, hey, it's Dawn,' not, 'Oh, look, it's that loner chick who can't get a date.'"

Candice smiled reassuringly at Dawn, who was now close to foaming at the mouth.

"That's what I wanted to hear," Candice lilted softly. "I'm starting to see you, who you really are. You're a beautiful person, Dawn."

Dawn shook her head again and shut her eyes.

"This isn't who I am. That's just some old, pent-up resentment that took control for a moment. I'm not passionate, I'm not a fighter, I'm just a research aide who opens her big fat mouth at the wrong time."

"Don't say that!" Candice cried out, jumping back from Dawn. "You're such a wonderful person! How can you think you have no passion? I've seen it in your face since the day we met. That...spark, that spunk you have- I can tell your soul reaches to infinite depths--and I don't want to hear you call yourself 'just a research aide'!"

Dawn looked down at her feet and placed her fingers at the base of her throat, and gently tapped them, as though practicing playing a flute. Candice's insistence that she was deep was compelling enough, but...she should know herself much better than this acquaintance, shouldn't she?

"Do-do you really," she murmured, still fingering her kneck with her right hand, while her right right hand grasped a lock of her hair. "Do you really think that I'm wonderful? That I'm passionate?..and beautiful?"

Candice felt her cheeks burn when she realized she had referred to Dawn being beautiful, but she quickly regained composure and smiled confidently at Dawn.

"I mean it with all my heart, Dawn! People have trampled all over you just because you're different-and, believe me, they're always going to try to-but you still have to be that sweet, generous, and independent young woman I know you can be."

Dawn stood up from the sofa so her eyes were level with Candice's. She beamed at her consoler, even as a few tears escaped and slid down her cheeks.

"I won't let you down," she promised. "I want to be more frank...I want to be honest--with everyone. And I want to start with you."

Candice tittered lightly, in an almost nervous manner, and responded, "Why would you need to confess to me? There's no bad blood between us...besides we've had enough soulbearing for one day, right?"

"Candice, don't try to brush me off. You know there's something we've been skipping around all this time...you know there are issues to be covered."

Feeling her stomach sink and her palms ache as they sweat, Candice reluctantly nodded. If Dawn saw the apprehension in her eyes, she failed to acknowledge it.

The two looked at each other with solemnity, both fidgetting slightly, both awkwardly silent as they feared what the other might announce.

"Dawn-"

"Wait, Candice--"

Candice grimaced, and felt the tremors through her body intensifying. Dawn inhaled several breaths in rhythmic succession, an attempt at yoga-like relaxation. If she could somehow draw from this great inner strength she supposedly had, she might be able to get through this ordeal.

"Candice, you can go ahead," she offered, beginning to look at her feet again.

"Oh, all right." Candice shifted from one foot to the other, and blinked back tears of anxiety. The tension was becoming palpable, as though a taut rope had been strung between her and Dawn, and with each moment they pulled further apart and the rope threatened to snap.

Candice weaved the fingers of her left hand in and out of one of her braids, and had been gnawing at the side of her cheek to the point she tasted blood. Well, Dawn wanted to be more honest, more comfortable with her emotions, so Candice had to set a good example. She had to take the plunge, even if the waters into which she was delving were cold and treacherous.

"I'm cheating both of us out of truth." The words fell flatly out of Candice's mouth, surreally, like she was listening to someone else. "I'm just harming myself and deceiving you by keeping this up." She forced herself to look at Dawn unwaveringly at this point. "I can't help but be attracted to you, Dawn."

Candice didn't fight the urge to wince when she saw Dawn's fragile eyes transform into saucers, and her pouty mouth drop lower than she had previously thought physically possible. Frack it...what a way to screw up what could have been a lovely friendship! Admitting your damn sapphism to someone who, by all means, didn't reciprocate your desire, and probably wouldn't accept someone who was Like That (Oh! That coordinator's name was Johanna, wasn't it? Ah, and she was Dawn's mother. And she was very conservative, so Dawn must share her beliefs, right?). This was all a disaster, she should just crawl into a hole and let herself--

"Candice? You're weirding out on me again."

Candice's dismal thoughts were penetrated by the light chuckle and her eyes were occupied with the smile on Dawn's face. Oh, God, she was probably going to get laughed at brutally, and be mocked by everyone in the free world for the rest of her life.

Dawn's mouth remained smiling, but her eyes showed definite concern. As she flicked a strand of hair out of Candice's face, the bewildered young woman became acutely aware of how close their bodies were, how warm the air around Dawn seemed to be, how brightly pink her cheeks and lips were, how Dawn was eyeing the collar of her bluse.. They were way too close, and yet...not close enough.

"I don't know why you got so freaked out after you told how you felt," Dawn remarked, almost cooing. "I was about to tell you the same thing." Here, Dawn's eyes rose to Candice's face, and her smile widened as her eyes grew more serious.

Now it was the chance for Candice's eyes to become the size of the moon. She felt like she was gasping for air, but Dawn lifted a finger to Candice's mouth.

"Just inhale...and say nothing at all. There's no way you could say it better." Candice nodded her head obediently and allowed the numb sensation to overcome her. There was nothing she could say...nothing to think...nothing to make it more complete.

--

As their lips pressed together, and the sweat rolled freely down both parties' respective necks and backs, Dawn gasped a bit between osculations and said, in chunks, "You know--I came here--awhile back--after our first meeting--I realized for--the first time--I was in love." She stopped for a bit of rest and continued her address. "I was too stupid to fully realize how I felt after we first met, but...after a few months of mulling it over, and questioning myself, I concluded that I cared for you, differently than anyone before. I bought a train ticket, and I walked for hours through the streets until I came upon your house...I ran up, having prepared my little speech the days beforehand, and rang the doorbell. I had felt so confident, so full of...of love, but when I heard footsteps, any trace of courage dissolved, and I ran away, as fast as I possibly could. I've never been that terrified in my life...not even when I came face-to-face with a wild Typhlosion."

Candice stood there without saying a word, inwardly churning Dawn's words about. So, had Dawn inever/i been into boys? Was she the one who made her realize this part of herself? And...she'd been in love with her, those years ago, when she had thought Dawn was just humoring her. It was just too much--but Candice couldn't stop herself from drinking in more and more of this intoxicating feeling.

"I wish I'd known," Candice said softly, feeling her eyes sting and a lump form in her throat. "I wish...I just wish I'd looked out instead of just assuming it was a prank...if I had, I would've seen you running off, and I would have chased you. I would have caught you, and I wouldn't let you go, because I was in love, too!" Candice found herself gripping onto Dawn's arms, and Dawn following suit. The young woman in her arms, the beautiful, radiant thing clutching on as if she had been flung from the iTitanic/i and had just found the last lifepresever in the world, closed her eyes and let the familiar salty fluid congregate underneath her thick lashes. Candice leaned in, feeling fire, feeling serenity, feeling something indescribable, and, for the first time in her life, really, truly, passionately kissed someone.

Both girls were so completely intent on perfecting their action, they paid no heed to the sound of a door humbly swinging open.

"Oh, some great frickin' timing I have."

The pair of would-be lovebirds quickly and almost violently broke apart, their mortification being at a peak. Jun was frozen in confusion and shock at the threshold, and Candice tried to hide her face, while all Dawn could manage to do was gawk back at Jun.

They all felt trapped, like in a sort of time vortex, and no-one could determine if time was going by slower or faster than normal...all that was certain was that it wasn't normal.

"I didn't want you to find out like this!" Dawn blurted out, shattering the spell and causing Jun to start. Candice had fallen into a position on the floor not unsimilar to the one elementary schoolers assume during a tornado drill, and her flame couldn't help but be slightly embarassed by this unsightliness.

Jun gave her a half-hearted grin and waved his hand carelessly to indicate his lack of antipathy.

"No, I shouldn't have--I mean, I guess...I should've known, well, I have known, I just...I, um, didn't want to, you know, bring it up, and I, uh, a part of me didn't want to really believe it, I think..."

"Oh, Jun," Hikari said, much to his relief. Tears began to well up in the corners of her eyes, and she returned Jun's grin with a small but genuine smile. "You've always been so loyal, even when I end up in situations...oh, good lord, Candice! Get up, the building isn't going to collapse!" Candice, disheveled and abashed, rose from the carpet and crossed her arms, and was apparently unable or unwilling to look either Dawn or Jun in the face.

Dawn turned back to Jun, and he noticed the pained expression that occupied her face. He tried to compensate for this by smiling even wider, it failed to have the effect he'd intended.

"You were such a true friend, Jun," she began, stifling her desire to cry. "And you're still my best friend...I love you--but you're like my brother..." Jun just nodded his head and let her words sink in, as Dawn cringed and forced herself to continue. "I just want you to know...it really kills me to know I can't return the things you feel for me, because you're just so...so sincere and sweet! And don't forget that...I know people say this all the time, but this time, it's from the heart: you'll find someone someday and you're going to make them the happiest person in the world." She replaced the look of dolefulness on her face with one of exuberance, and Jun, for the first time in the past several hours, felt at ease.

Now assured of her longtime friend's comfort, Dawn glanced at Candice and inexplicably felt herself melt...it sounded corny, but it was true; she had never realized it before, when you just looked at someone, that someone with whom you had the real thing, that someone who had the perfect chemistry, your insides completely liquified. Needless to say, that sentiment only came to a person once in a full moon. Letting it slip out of one's fingers would be incredibly stupid--in fact, it was so ridiculously stupid, that the option of allowing it to happen should never even come up.

"Candice," her voice cracked slightly, and Candice looked up at Dawn, apprehension and anticipation mingling on her face, "I want you to come back with us to Twinleaf Town--you should meet my mother...I know she acts so conservative, but she's still my mom, and if she knows that I really love someone, then she'll be happy for us." Candice smiled in spite of herself and nodded in compliance with Dawn's request. Relieved that it had gone over so well, Dawn proceeded into new territory, "I can't let you slip away." She slipped in a sly wink. "Not like I did those years ago."

Hearing this, Jun rolled his eyes.

"It was two years ago...geeze, you make it sound like decades have passed. You're too dramatic sometimes."

Dawn glared at him, ensuring he would shut his mouth for several minutes at least, and Candice allowed herself to laugh as her disconcertment began to slip away.

"So," Jun continued, casually looking at his watch. "We'd better book it over to the train...it's leaving in fifteen minutes."

"Jun!" Dawn yelled out in anger, shoving him. "Why didn't you say so? We'll miss it!"

"I have a solution--it's called running," he responded dryly.

Dawn ignored his little snide remark and grabbed Candice's wrist as she walked briskly out of the parlor and through the front door. They had made it quite a ways down the sidewalk before Jun, running frantically, caught up with them.

"Thanks for being such a considerate friend!" he spat.

"You shouldn't have waited until the last minute to tell us about the train," Dawn rejoined cooly.

"Let's focus on getting to the depot!" Candice snapped, frightening the other two into a silent peace pact.

The group ran for what felt like hours, and, their legs burning vehemently and their eyes watering, they finally arrived at the depot.

"Here we are," Candice said softly, allowing the blocky letters on the sign in front of her sink in. Departures.

What did that promise? A new beginning? A chance to experience new things, happy things, for once? Her chance to be with someone who could very well be her soulmate?

"We made it on time," Dawn smiled, grasping Candice's shoulder. "Are you ready? Twinleaf's such a beautiful town--we'll have a really lovely time."

"The weather's very temperate this time of year," Jun added. "We can run around outside without coats, and the forests and gardens look amazing when it's warm."

"It's like spring," whispered Candice. "I can stand in the light, love can blossom..."

Dawn pecked her cheek and pulled her toward the platform.

"We'd better hurry--it's the last train of the day, so we don't want to miss our chance to get to Twinleaf."

Candice nodded, and, clutching her personal train pass, headed through the gate to board the train, her ticket out of the winterland, into the warmth and acceptance; into her spring.

-Fin-