Another Gracefulshipping piece from me. It is pretty self-explanatory, and very intense. I hope you all enjoy, and please, leave a review!

Words: 1401
Characters: Wallace, Winona
Time: Anytime after their relationship ended, but before the events in the manga.
Genre: Romance/Angst

Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to whoever actually owns the characters. Not me.

The typically harsh sound of a door slamming didn't even faze the man reclining lazily in the alleyway behind the world-famous building where the gym leaders of Hoenn met at least once every year. This year's gathering was over, the man knew, and everyone else was socializing the night away. He didn't feel in the mood, though. He'd sat through the mandatory part of the meeting and figured that his presence was not required for anything more. Slipping a hand into his pocket, the man pulled out a pack of cigarettes and bent to light one. He breathed in deeply, letting the smoke sting and burn, but he didn't cough. He let it scratch his throat until it was raw. Exhaling slowly, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the dirty wall behind him, for once not caring if his azure hair and expensive hat were going to get filthy or not. His clothes – especially his pants – were already beyond redemption.

But the closed-off alley was too good of a hideout to pass up. Anything was better than being inside. He needed this space, once a year, to think. The area was narrow and closed off by tall, barred gates. A thin strip of clear blue sky was visible between the two buildings that surrounded the near-empty path. And, despite the dirt, it didn't smell too horrible, for there were no trash bins or cardboard boxes that people used as toilets. Taking another drag at his cigarette, the man prided himself on getting into the alley – it had, after all, been a bit of a struggle to climb the gates. But with his Pokémon's help, he had managed it. Now, however, he was alone.

The door that had slammed was the same door he'd exited the building through about half an hour ago. It was beyond the gate, but in clear view of where he was sitting. He ignored the noise at first. But when loud, angry footsteps grew nearer and nearer, he turned his head only to see the one person who he wished would never glimpse him acting this way. It was a woman, tall and self-assured, standing with her back very straight, her long, lavender hair blowing gracefully in the slight wind. Her clothes, so drastically different than his own, were simple – jeans and a long, tunic-style shirt that was easy to move in. She wore her training goggles around her neck. Almost anyone could recognize her just by those goggles. But the man in the alley noticed not her attire, but her posture; he saw how tensely she was standing. For a moment, she looked as though she were about to sigh, release the tension in her body, close her eyes, and rest.

And then she caught sight of him. Her eyes flashed as if someone had just waved a bright, glaring light in front of her. With an expression as sharp as daggers, she whirled over to the gates, crossed her arms, and glared at him. "You're a fool, Wallace," she said. "That's a foul habit to get in to."

"It's not a habit," said Wallace. He twirled the cigarette idly between his fingers. "Once a year. That's all."

"And you just happened to choose today? Is this where you've been this whole time?"

"Winona, you know very well that I was present and engaged in all parts of the meeting that it was mandatory for me to be so. The rest is my own time."

For a moment, Winona looked as though she were about to attack him again with her vicious, ruthless words. She was far too skilled with her tongue, as he knew only too well. Smirking at himself, Wallace stood and glided over to the bars, wrapping his fists around them and leaning forward. His softly smoking cigarette was still clinched between two of his fingers.

But Winona didn't flinch at his sudden proximity. If anything, it felt as if she somehow came closer, her hands clasped on to the bars right below his. She stood poised and still, the wind blowing her hair forward so light strands brushed against Wallace's cheeks. Their faces were scant inches apart. Wallace felt her breaths tickle on his skin, and he knew she could feel his, too, by the way her nose wrinkled at the smoke. Her eyes narrowed, yet she didn't move away. "What is it, Wallace?" she said icily. "Are you bitter? Jealous? Why do you do this?"

"The same reason you do," he shot back. "What made you come out here? Perhaps you realize that these days – these meetings – remind me of the one thing I lost that causes me the most pain and remorse. Perhaps you can allow me to avoid that hell as much as possible. If, however, you require my presence, I will be there. I won't let my emotions and personal life stand in the way of what is required of me."

"The one thing you lost?" repeated Winona, her tone scathing and cold. "Spoiled, aren't you? You're even more of a goddamn fool than I thought. You lose the fame and prestige of the supervisor's position, and even with all the renown you already claim, you still regard it as the one regret of your life?"

The tense silence that stretched between them didn't feel anything like quiet. Wallace was highly aware of his hands touching both cool metal and Winona's warm fingers. He heard almost a ringing in his ears as he glared at her, too angry to be kind, but too intoxicated by her closeness, the scent of her hair as it blew over his face, and the fierceness in her familiar eyes to be cruel. He let the cigarette in his hand burn ever lower, the smoke rising in a delicate spiral between their mirrored faces.

"It wasn't the position I lost," he hissed. He tossed the cigarette to the ground at their feet, close enough that he could still smother it with his heel. "It was you, Winona. It was always you."

The shock on her face was as clear as the bright, cloudless sky above them. If there had been a way for him to walk away, to leave her with just his words and her thoughts, Wallace would have done so, but they were both trapped by the metal gates. So he remained there, silent and enduring. He half-expected her to slap him across the face. But with her face so close to his own, all he could think about was the taste of her lips – the lips that he hadn't felt for so long, yet remembered so well.

It was only when he looked at her eyes that Wallace remembered the distance that had stretched between them. No matter how fast he ran, he could never catch her; the space kept growing ever longer. Standing there – frozen – Wallace thought there was a second when she, too, might have stopped moving. Her face softened, her eyes cooled, her fingers loosened around the bars.

But the second passed before he had time to close the gap. She didn't slap him, spit at him, and – though he hadn't expected her to do so – she didn't kiss him. Winona simply turned and left, flying through the door she'd so recently passed through. This time he flinched when the door was slammed. It made a sound like a gunshot in his head, resonating around as if she had slammed a hundred hard metal doors rather one weak wooden one. Wallace considering climbing over the gates, chasing after her, forcing her to see sense. But she was too detached, too unattainable, too far gone. It was no use.

Taking a few steps back, Wallace leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. He didn't pull out another cigarette. The one he'd finished was still smoldering, crushed on the ground on her side of the fence. With a final sigh of exhaustion, Wallace slid back down to the ground and stayed there until the evening was truly over. Like every year, he could only hope that the time would come when he didn't need to have even that one cigarette.