Characters – Steven, Flannery (Candlestickshipping)
World – Game/Manga-ish
Note(s) – For the wonderful fugthimble! This is somewhat manga-ish because I mention Steven's Stone-Getter status quite regularly in this piece. For those who are unsure about what I'm saying, in the manga, Steven is a collector of evolution stones. Anyway, the main focus of this fic is also to bring the topic of 'unpopular' and 'uncommon' shippings into a fresher light.
Disclaimer – No pls

About Fire Stones, Everstones and Milestones.


They say Steven is reserved, passive and undaunted by anything. He is the Champion of the Elite Four, positioned on the pinnacle of Pokémon Trainers – placed on a pedestal, if you will. He waits in the final room in the Pokémon League, drumming his fingers together with long-trained calmness and composure. There is almost an air of confidence wafting in this arena of his, that his position will not be lost easily. But even with the majestic flow of the champion's cloak upon his shoulders, he still feels empty inside. Something is missing.

In contrast, Flannery is loud, forthcoming and uncertain about everything. She is a rookie gym leader of Hoenn, struggling to fulfil her grandfather's role – stumbling and groping about, to put it simply. She panics in one fogged and steamy room out of the dozen located in her newly acclaimed gym, wringing her fingers and hastily trying to piece together words to intimidate any potential challengers. She doesn't want to come off as weak to anyone. But even with the title of gym leader, she still feels doubt bubbling in her gut. Something is missing.

So no one knows why their personalities mesh together so well – opposites attract was too dull of an answer. So people begin to suspect and spy and whisper with hunched backs and lowered, secretive voices. Others listen in and agree and shake their heads with a sigh. Some say their first meeting is when Flannery walks up to him and flirts blindly, despite the fact that he came to conduct studies on the dormant volcano near Fallabor Town. Another group is convinced that Steven made the first move, tossing subtle hints at the gym leader as he paid a visit to the sand baths and the hot springs.

The story with the most backbone? It is that Steven chanced upon Flannery training rigorously in the highlands, and a friendship sparked from then on. Said friendship bloomed into infatuation as Steven took Flannery under his wing to train, and the girl helped the tense champion to loosen up with her fiery demeanour. But it sounds so completely innocent and normal; no one ever believes that side of the story, even when it comes from Phoebe's upturned mouth and Winona's frowning face.

When they begin to date, word spreads like wildfire – and rain never really falls to ease the uncontrollable, outreaching flames. People gossip about stories they hear from nowhere and spin out rumours from their own imaginations. Flannery stifles an amused chuckle when someone reports to her that Steven had only fallen for her magenta hair and shapely body. Steven suppresses a disbelieving smile when he overhears that the Fire-type gym leader was seducing him to procure a large supply of Fire Stones. They both shake their heads gently, in silent and patient understanding. They softly tell the person with a warm, rich tenor in their voice – "No, it's not like that."

When peers, friends and curious passer-bys approach them to ask how they managed to find love in such an unlikely and unflattering setting – a busy champion and an inexperienced gym leader in a region just recovering from a titanic battle between three legendary gods – Flannery blushes furiously as Steven summons up a benign smile. As the redhead fumbles to string coherent words together and tightens her hand around his arm, the grey-haired man remains obstinately quiet.

"They don't explain because there's no need to," Phoebe sings to anyone who is willing to listen.

Contrary to popular belief, Flannery gives Steven an Everstone first. The champion did not pass over any of his stones to the gym leader as she had expressed disinterest in using them. That is why his face is distinctly confused and surprised as he runs his hands over the smooth, plain rock and asks her why she has handed him a present out of the blue. Steven feels uncomfortable and rude to accept such a gift, but Flannery is already stepping in front of him and closing her hands around his, hugging the Everstone in-between their warm grip.

"I'm not really good with this kind of symbolic thing, but you're like this Everstone, see?" the young female begins to tell her boyfriend. "Grey, ordinary and quiet. Not like a Fire Stone, they shine too much; it seems like a faking act, and they catch a lot of unwanted attention." She sounds almost sheepish. "But despite all of that, you have this incredible, unspoken power that makes the Fire Stone pale in comparison. You make the Fire Stone feel humbled and lucky." Flannery finishes with a red tint to her cheeks. Steven grins, flashing his teeth earnestly as honest, joyful laughter escapes his mouth and he curls his fingers even more around her trembling hands.

"I happen to love Fire Stones," he says simply as he leans into her long, dazzling hair.

Not everyone can relate to him when he begins slinging around an Everstone on his belt. Some point out that it isn't an evolution stone, and that it isn't all that rare as compared to a list of other stones with unexplained, if magical, qualities. Steven would listen without arguing back, glad to be aware of another's opinion. But he never stops carrying that stone despite all the hype. And people get used to it, so they stop questioning.

He never stops holding Flannery's hand despite all that hype.

And people get used to it – they stop questioning.