Capture the Heart
Author's note: This story is a continuation based on the Pokemon: Diamond & Pearl anime, starting from after the episode "The Battle Finale of Legend!".
Disclaimer: Pokemon is not my idea and I don't own it or any of the characters, obviously.
A/N: After a little over two years, we've finally reached the end of the story. Before we begin, I have a need in my heart to thank everyone that's been following along and anyone who commented on the story along the way. You guys inspired me and really helped to keep me going on this thing, so thank you.
I wasn't exactly sure where I was going with this story after the first chapter, or even if I would go anywhere with it. I ended up continuing on, though, and I'm really glad I did, because this has been a fun adventure for me over the last two years. I know it's a little tough to keep J in-character in this type of story, but I hope I was able to do it within reason, and I hope everyone enjoyed the ride as much as I did.
The door is always open for me to write some extra chapters following up on this story, or maybe a prequel dealing with J's early life that led to her becoming a Pokemon hunter, or even another Dawn/J story altogether, but for now this is the end. So, with all that said, enjoy the final installment of "Capture the Heart."
The sun rose slowly over the Hoenn horizon, pouring its light little by little into the window of a secluded house that overlooked the sea. Inside a room on the second floor of that house, two girls remained peacefully asleep. With time, though, the sunlight would win out and convince one of them to awaken. And so, as often was the case, Dawn was the first to stir.
"Mmm..." the young girl moaned, flipping over onto her stomach. As her eyes fluttered open, the first thing she would notice was that her head was resting on the strap of the sleeveless, white tee covering the shoulder of her partner. Dawn arched her head and carefully studied the way the still slumbering woman's silver locks of hair fell over her eyelids and were strewn about her pillow. This was the disheveled morning appearance of the once feared Pokemon Hunter J, and Dawn loved knowing that she was the only one in the whole world who got to see it.
After the years they'd spent apart, few things made Dawn as happy as waking up every morning and seeing J laying there next to her. The notorious woman had been through a lot in those four years she spent on her own. J's escape from her base, which Dawn had asked about once they'd been reunited, wasn't nearly as complicated as the Pokemon coordinator imagined. As it turned out, there was actually a tunnel constructed underneath J's personal chamber within the base. It was designed as a last-ditch escape route should catastrophe befall the complex, and it undoubtedly served its purpose in the end. Despite her weakened state that day, J was able to descend the ladder to the bottom of the tunnel and follow it out, even as the ground shook from the explosions detonating far above her. Once she made it to the end, she pushed open the door to a secret exit that had been blocked from sight by tall grass and moss, and she crawled out into an area of the forest where no police officers or Pokemon Rangers were around to detect her presence.
The real trouble for J came in finding someone to operate on her badly broken ankle, and then the three months of self-designed rehabilitation that followed. She had been productive in those three months, though, planning precisely how she would deal with the security protecting the estates of her former clients in order to reclaim the Pokemon she had once sold to them, and all the while doing everything in her power to help her body heal more quickly.
J was always thinking of Dawn, hoping that the mission she was about to undertake would erase all reservations the girl had about being with her. She had said it best the last night she'd seen Dawn before her base had been taken over: it wasn't so easy for a kindhearted person like Dawn to forgive her for all she'd done to Pokemon throughout her life. J was going to try to make up for it, though. If it meant even a chance of being able to be with that girl who had stolen her heart, she would do whatever it took. And she did.
Leaning over by the sleeping woman's face, Dawn gave her a light peck on the cheek. "Good morning," she blissfully whispered to her. The pajama-clad girl hopped out of bed and headed downstairs to take her early bath—the beginning of a busy day ahead.
Dawn had the time of her life throughout the vacation that she and J had departed on several months earlier. Naturally, their first stop was Balladia Garden. After all, J had said she would bring Dawn back there one day to see everything she hadn't gotten to see during their first visit. Once that promise had been fulfilled, it seemed like they traveled everywhere over the following months. From Wailmer Island and Camerupt Mountain in Hoenn to the Mistralton Tower and the Sword of the Vale in Unova, and then from Blue Moon Falls and Silver Town in Johto to Rota and the Tree of Beginning in Kanto, they had witnessed some absolutely amazing things together.
Eventually, although traveling around the world was immensely fun for her, Dawn decided that she was ready to get back to normal life, and J was in full compliance with her wishes. Dawn wasn't going to leave J's side, though. She didn't ever want to leave her again, and that was how they came to live at this out-of-the-way house that sat on the peninsula south of Lilycove City in the Hoenn region. The home—two stories high and painted white with navy blue window shutters—had been where J lived while starting her new profession as a bounty hunter the previous year. It was a cozy place—not too big, but spacious enough for both of their needs. J had, of course, installed all sorts of security measures around the property. She insisted that she was only being cautious, but Dawn sometimes wondered if the woman was slightly paranoid—not that she could blame her after the sort of life J had lived.
For Dawn's needs, there was a large desk at the side of the living room with a perfect window view of the sea in front of it—an ideal spot to sketch her Pokemon clothing designs. Her Ribbon Cup from the Sinnoh Grand Festival was proudly displayed atop a mantle along the same wall. There was also plenty of grassland outside where she and her Pokemon could train for upcoming contests. Dawn already had one contest ribbon, and she had every intention of entering the Hoenn Grand Festival again as soon as she accumulated five.
Once she was finished with her bath, Dawn—who had slipped on a pink bathrobe—was ready to cook up some breakfast. Her wet hair tied up in a towel, she walked past her desk in the living room and headed for the kitchen.
Dawn jumped back as she nearly walked into a squirming mass of white thread hanging from the kitchen ceiling. "Wh-what the-?" she stammered. Given that there was a blue forehead and a pair of very annoyed looking eyes sticking out from the bottom of the thread, it didn't take long to understand what was going on here. Apparently, one of J's more mischievous Pokemon had been having some fun with Piplup. "Ariados..." Dawn grumbled. Sharing in Piplup's annoyance, she tore her Pokemon down from the ceiling and began pulling Ariados' threads away from it.
"Piplup pii piplup pip piplup!"
"I know, Piplup, I-"
"Pii piplup pip pipluuuup!"
"Okay, just calm down for a-"
"PIPLUP PIIIII PIPLUP PIP!"
"I swear, I'll talk to J about it again, okay?"
It was then that the offending Pokemon reappeared as Ariados skittered in front of the doorway leading back into the living room. "Ariaa!" it wiggled its front legs in the air, almost seeming to be laughing at Piplup's misfortune.
"Piiii piplup pip pipluuuuup!" Dawn's small Pokemon immediately leaped down from her hands and gave chase to the creature. Ariados must have been enjoying itself, because this was becoming a more frequent occurrence around the household.
Both Pokemon soon disappeared into another room, and Dawn could only rub her head at the whole thing. "Everything was so nice and quiet, too...eep!"
The Top Coordinator was startled when a pair of arms suddenly wrapped themselves around her waist from behind. "Morning," a woman's voice said, and the younger girl felt someone's lips kissing her on the ear.
"J! You scared me," Dawn laughed at first, but quickly remembered what had just happened with Piplup. "Hey, we need to talk about Ariados...again...ah!" she tried to say, but J's lips kissing their way down her neck were proving to be very distracting. "I-it's still...hey, stop! That tickles!"
"Was Ariados...*kiss*...being bad again?" J asked, starting to make her way across Dawn's shoulder now. "It does...*kiss*...like its pranks. I'll...*kiss*...talk to it...*kiss*...later."
"Be serious about it this time!" the girl from Twinleaf Town tried to be strict. She couldn't stop herself from giggling at J's antics, though. "Jeez, go take your bath! I need to make us some breakfast!"
"Mmm, I suppose. I do love that cooking of yours," J finally relented in her playful assault. Dawn had it easy with Brock around while traveling through Sinnoh, but once she left for Hoenn for the first time, she had to learn to cook for herself. Over four years of practice and helpful tips from her mother later, she was more than capable with fire and a skillet at her disposal. "You need to go to Lilycove City today, right?"
Reminded of her plans for the day, Dawn gave an affirming nod. "Yeah, I finally finished those Kirlia outfit designs, so I want to get them back there right away. I can't wait to see what everyone thinks!"
"I'm sure you'll be praised to no end," the bounty hunter gave her one last smooch on the cheek, then let go of the girl as she headed off to take her bath. "I may have some work of my own to do there."
While J took her leave, Dawn started to worry over that last thing she had mentioned. It always made her nervous whenever J went out on a job. The woman had apparently never run into any dire problems while capturing wanted criminals in the region, but that didn't quell Dawn's concerns much. It was such an unpredictable job and these criminals were desperate to avoid being caught, so who knew what they would do to preserve their freedom?
Several hours later, Dawn and J were aboard their ship and nearing Lilycove City.
Dawn's attire wasn't a far cry from what she'd liked to wear in years prior. A button-up white blouse with its sleeves rolled up to her elbows hung down over her light yellow skirt. A white pair of boots were her footwear of choice, and, of course, her favorite stocking cap adorned her head. The only piece of jewelry she wore was the silver earring J had given her years earlier. Dawn had offered to return it once its original owner had come back to her, but J insisted that she keep it. The young girl had always treasured the item because it belonged to J, but now that the woman had given it to her, she had a whole new reason to cherish it.
J certainly wasn't dressed for style, looking very casual in white sneakers, dark blue jeans, and a white tank top with a gray jacket over it that looked as though it were the upper half of a jogging suit. The ability to not stand out was going to be key while tracking her target for the day, hence the simple clothing.
The ship they were flying on was the same one that J had used for the last few years, but it wasn't anywhere near as grand as the one she had initially paid Dr. Whittaker to build after her first ship had exploded beneath the depths of Lake Valor. Once she made the decision to end her Pokemon poaching days, J had quietly gotten in contact with the mechanical engineer and altered her order, requesting instead a much smaller ship that could be flown by a single individual. The cockpit seated two, while the rest of the craft was spacious enough to serve as a comfortable home away from home, as it had during J's recent vacation with Dawn. It didn't come without its share of toys, either. The craft had the same stealth capability as her last ship, and she almost always used it—even as they were flying at this very moment. On-board weapons and engine boosters for a quick escape were only a couple of the additional features that were included in the package.
Since J no longer had a crew, she would perform all of the ship's maintenance herself. Sometimes the tasks could be quite extensive, taking a number of hours over a series of days. J would start working on something late in the morning, and then come back to the house in the evening covered in grease from the machine parts. Sometimes when Dawn was looking to take a break from her own projects, she would park herself next to a window or go sit outside and just watch the silver-haired woman tinker away on that ship of hers. Seeing J so focused on something made Dawn happy for some reason, and it inspired her to keep working hard on everything she was doing as well.
Lilycove City was in plain view now, and J landed the ship in one of her usual spots outside the city limits. It was close enough that they could get into the city on foot without a long walk, yet far enough out of the way that no one would see the craft.
Once Dawn had unloaded her bicycle from inside the ship and slipped on her backpack, she was ready to head into town. "Promise me you'll be careful?" she implored the bounty hunter.
"Come on, you know there's no criminal out there that's scarier than I am," J took pride in her belief.
"Maybe, but it's still dangerous," Dawn continued to fret.
Rolling her eyes, J gently tipped the girl's chin upward and planted a quick kiss on her lips. "I promise I'll be careful," she said, conceding to the request. "I'll meet you back here at 5 o' clock."
Dawn wasn't sure how sincere the promise was, but judging by the way she was blushing, she definitely liked how J had gone about giving it. "Okay," she said with a smile. Piplup took its place in the bike's basket, and Dawn started off toward the road that led into Lilycove City. "I'll see you in a bit! Love you!"
Love you. J never got tired of hearing those two words. She watched until Dawn disappeared from sight, then grabbed a couple items of her own from within the ship: the same long, black wig that she had worn to the opening round of Dawn's first Grand Festival once upon a time, and a pair of sunglasses with a little bit of helpful technology built into them. Once they were both on properly, she re-activated the ship's camouflage mode and began to head down the same track Dawn had used.
Blending in seamlessly with the population of Lilycove City, J would spend hours wandering the bustling area. If she wasn't walking, she was seated on a bench somewhere, simply observing the many passersby. Her information led her to believe that her target would appear in this city today. It was just a matter of having a little luck on her side and being able to pick that person out of the crowd.
The middle of the afternoon had rolled around now. J had just finished scouting one location and was passing by the Lilycove Department Store when she caught sight of an awfully suspicious character. He was a gruff looking man with a lot of facial hair, cheap shades, and a worn down cap, and the metal briefcase he carried in one hand only made him more suspicious. Needless to say, J began tailing him with the utmost care.
"Come on, turn this way..." the silver-haired hunter quietly beckoned, still separated from the man by three other pedestrians. Not even a minute later, J's wish was answered. The man looked back over his shoulder, and the cross hairs on the lenses of J's sunglasses locked onto his face. The high-tech accessory then ran the man's facial profile through a database. The check completed, and the result was a favorable one. His name, Angelo Cesaro, popped up next to him in J's field of view, along with his bounty's status: active. He was wanted on numerous counts of larceny and Pokemon poaching, and a couple of assault charges to boot.
J continued to follow him, first past the entrance to the harbor, and then into a park that sat next to the museum. In the midst of his walk, Cesaro stopped at a drinking fountain to grab a bit of water, and that was when J made her move. She walked ahead and right on past him, but not before discreetly placing a tracking device on his belt. It was barely the size of a pea, and likely something her target wouldn't notice until it was too late. J started down another one of the park's paths and got out of view, then watched as Cesaro proceeded onward.
The setup was completed with flawless execution. Now it was time for J to return to her ship for some special gear.
Angelo Cesaro would return to his vehicle—a dark green, off-road 4x4 with an open roof—and take the western exit out of Lilycove City, ripping off what turned out to be a fake beard and mustache once nobody else was within view. He then picked up a portable communicator from between the front seats, punched in some keys, and raised the device to his mouth. "It's me. I've got the package," he relayed the good news to his client. "I'll be there in an hour. Have my money ready."
No sooner had Cesaro put down the communicator when a beam of orange energy slammed into the right side of his vehicle, tipping it over and sending its driver flying. The 4x4 rolled three times, finally coming to rest with its wheels sticking straight up into the air. Cesaro—his cap falling off the moment he hit the ground—collected enough dirt and blades of grass in his shaggy, dark hair and clothing that he was covered in it by the time he slid to a stop.
"Ughhh," the wanted criminal groaned. He had no idea what had just hit him. Once he looked up to the sky, however, everything became very clear. Hovering above him were a Salamence and its rider—an individual whose identity was shielded by the helmet they wore. "You...you're that bounty hunter, aren't you?" Cesaro snarled up at his attacker. "Don't you know you're supposed to give a warning shot first?"
"Sorry, you must be confusing me with a police officer. I'm not bound by any code of conduct," J was glad to point out. Her voice was altered to sound male by a device built into her helmet—just one more way to throw off anyone suspicious about who she may really be. She had on the same outfit as when she appeared before Dawn on one of Lake Valor's piers several months ago—an ensemble not differing greatly from what she had worn when she was a Pokemon hunter—but there was a key change to it from before: the colors. What once was all black was now white with deep blue stripes running down the sides and splitting into V's at the ends of her pants and the sleeves of her coat. Even her helmet had been painted in the new colors and fixed with a blue visor. It was a fresh look to reflect the newly found light that Dawn had brought into her life. "Well?" she eyed her prey closely. "Are you going to put up a struggle, or should I just take you in right now?"
Gritting his teeth, Cesaro reached for a pokeball—a clear indication that he had opted for the former of J's options. "Dustox, get that basta-!"
"Salamence, Dragon Pulse!" J wasted no time commanding her winged Pokemon.
Cesaro's Dustox hadn't even materialized from its pokeball when the turquoise glow of energy began to build in Salamence's mouth. By the time the bug Pokemon had appeared, the Dragon Pulse had already been fired. "Dustox, look out!" the criminal warned, but it was far too late. Salamence's attack crashed into Dustox before it even had the time to realize it was coming. After the resulting blast, the smaller Pokemon was left laying unconscious in a crater in the ground.
Cesaro stood gawking, stunned at the incredibly quick defeat of his Dustox.
"Anything else you'd like to try? Some weapons perhaps?" J suggested, almost as if she were teasing him.
"Why, you...!" Cesaro fumed. He did have a weapon or two with him. Unfortunately, they were thrown from the vehicle just as he was. That didn't stop him from scampering around in search of them, though. "Come on! Where did they go? Over here? No. Here! No..."
J was quickly growing tired of watching her target make a clown of himself. Reaching over her shoulder, she grabbed a large, black gun that had been strapped to her back—one that had become a favorite of hers ever since the invasion of her base. "You know what? Forget it," she declared, grabbing Cesaro's attention as she aimed the gun at him. With a loud bang, the gun fired a gray, metallic net that wrapped itself around the wanted man and threw him to the ground.
Cesaro tried to free himself, but it was no easy task. "Damn you!" he hissed as J and Salamence landed nearby. "Let me...out of this...thing...!"
Irritated with the man, J planted the heel of her boot against his forehead and knocked him flat on his back. "Worthless!" she snapped at him. "Of all the scum that I've caught, you have got to be the biggest joke of them all! How are my Pokemon supposed to get any exercise when you're so incompetent that you can't even put up a decent fight against me?"
"Sh-shut up!" the humiliated criminal tried to sit up again, only to have another boot from J knock him back down. "That hurts, dammit! I'm gonna get you for this! I swear, I wi-YEARRRRGH!"
Right in the middle of Cesaro's tirade, the electric current of J's special net kicked in, sending a wave of agonizing voltage through his body. As with all of its other victims, the pain from the net was too much to take. Cesaro passed out, bringing J's latest capture to a close.
J nudged him with her boot a few times to make sure he was really out. "These chases have been getting easier lately. That may have been the easiest one yet," she looked to Salamence, actually disappointed by the lack of excitement. "Maybe we should have let his Dustox try an attack or two."
Feeling as let down as its trainer, Salamence growled in agreement.
"Something to think about for next time, I suppose," J shrugged. "Now then, let's go claim our reward."
One of the buildings along the northern edge of Lilycove City was its police station. The city's chief of police was...seasoned, to put it politely, and probably a couple of years away from retirement at most. He had long since gone bald on the top of his head, while any hair he had left was of a very light gray color. His mustache, which definitely hadn't been in style for around 40 years, poked out so far on either side of his face that it was impossible not to be the first thing anyone noticed about him. He was a clever man, though, and he'd done an effective job of running the police force that had kept the area safe during his long tenure.
On this afternoon, the chief was in his office with the door closed, slowly thumbing through the performance records of a new transfer to his precinct. "It seems you were quite the standout officer while tracking down this...Pokemon Hunter J, but I see you've had some problems in recent years," he began looking through a particularly unflattering part of the report. "Excessive use of force, failure to comply with a superior's orders, general lack of discipline...do you have anything to say about this, Officer Jenny?"
With her Arcanine sitting at her side, Jenny was standing at attention in front of the chief's desk. There wasn't any issue with her body language, but there was a certain look in her eyes that hadn't been there even a few months ago. Jenny looked...tired. Physically, she was in great shape. It was her mentality that had seen better days. "No, sir. I have no excuse," she answered the older man.
"No excuse, eh? Well, I do appreciate your honesty," the chief said, closing the file on his desk. "Tell me, why did you request to transfer here?"
"I thought a fresh start in a new place would do me some good, sir," Jenny told him. There was a sadness to her voice as she said those words. She just couldn't handle being in the Sinnoh region anymore. Everything reminded her of better times when she had a sense of purpose in chasing down J. By transferring to the Hoenn region, Jenny hoped to leave the past behind and start anew. For the sake of her career, it was the best option available to her.
"Hmm...you may be right," the chief seemed to agree. "Well then, Officer Jenny, as of this moment, you are hereby a member of the Lilycove City police force. Given your recent history, however, I hope you'll understand if I keep you under close supervision for the time being."
Jenny raised one hand up and saluted her new chief. "Of course, sir." It was embarrassing. The proud Officer Jenny, being spoken to as if she were a troublemaker. Considering her performance on the job during her last few months in Sinnoh, though, it was hard to argue otherwise.
"Chief!" another officer of the precinct suddenly burst into the office. "It's that bounty hunter, he's here again!"
"Ohh, he's brought another one for us, has he?" the gray-haired man chuckled to himself.
Though she wasn't familiar with the one they were talking about, Jenny was certainly intrigued. "Bounty hunter?"
"Yes, he's quite impressive," the chief rose from his chair. "Come along. You can get a look at him for yourself."
By the time the police chief and Officer Jenny had gotten outside, the rest of the officers present at their station had already gathered for the transaction. J had dismounted from Salamence, and she had Cesaro—who was conscious, but groggy—handcuffed behind his back and seated on the street. Despite how much J's effectiveness in capturing wanted criminals made the regular police force look less skilled by comparison, the officers acted more like her fan club whenever they got to see her. It was simply hard not to admire the woman—or, as everyone assumed thanks to J's helmet purposely deepening her voice, the man.
The chief stepped forth and approached J, but Jenny didn't follow. The female officer had stopped in her tracks the instant she laid eyes on the bounty hunter. He had a Salamence. And his outfit...sure, it wasn't the same color, and there were some other differences as well, but...the similarities were striking. It couldn't possibly be...could it?
"I see you've come with a gift," the chief, hands folded behind his back, addressed the bounty hunter.
"Angelo Cesaro," J identified the criminal in her altered voice. She placed her foot against the briefcase Cesaro had been carrying, which was sitting on the ground in front of her, and slid it over to one of the onlooking officers. "He was carrying this. I'm sure you'll find something interesting inside."
"Ahh, we've been looking for this man. I'm sure what's in that case will be interesting, indeed," the chief nodded to a pair of his officers, each of whom took Cesaro by an arm and led him into the station. Another followed them with the man's briefcase in hand. "You have our thanks, as always. Will it be the usual bank account?"
"If you please."
"Understood. I'll see to it that his bounty is paid out to you by the end of the day."
One thing remained the same whether J was hunting down Pokemon or criminals: she loved to hear that she was getting paid. "A pleasure doing business with you." And with that, her tasks in Lilycove City had concluded. "If you'll excuse me..."
J wouldn't be able to make her exit so smoothly, though. As soon as she turned around, she found herself face-to-face with none other than Officer Jenny. At some point during the exchange, the policewoman had positioned herself directly between the bounty hunter and Salamence, and she didn't look very intent on moving aside.
Jenny glared into the visor of J's helmet with an intensity that she hadn't displayed for quite some time. This person...she had to know who it was. "Do you ride that Salamence?" she asked the mysterious individual.
"That's right," J answered her. She was keeping her cool perfectly despite the tense atmosphere. "What of it?"
Now the female officer had to think. What did she hope to accomplish with this confrontation? Sure, their voice sounded male, so it wasn't likely. But if this bounty hunter was really her, did Jenny want to expose their true identity to the police chief and everyone else? Or...did she just want to know for herself?
"It's awfully rare to see someone who does that," Officer Jenny spoke, sharply eying the one standing before her. "Actually, I only know of one other person."
"Really? I suppose I should take that as a compliment, then," J responded—an answer that was of no help to Jenny. The silver-haired woman looked back over her shoulder at the old man behind her. "This one is energetic, Chief. Where did you find her?"
"The Sinnoh region. I fear she may be a bit too energetic for her own good, though," the police chief gave his newest officer a stern look. "I'll ask that you stand down, Officer Jenny. That person is no concern of ours."
J wore a smirk underneath her helmet as she looked back to Jenny, who was biting down on her bottom lip. "So he says," the bounty hunter added, just to rub it in.
It took an immense amount of restraint for Jenny to keep herself in check. She wanted nothing more than to rip that helmet off of this person's head and put an end to the mystery, but doing so could end up killing her career as a policewoman. No matter the result, it just wouldn't be worth the price she would have to pay.
Brushing past the frustrated officer, J hopped up onto Salamence's back. Before she took off, however, she had a few choice words for Officer Jenny. "I look forward to working with you in cleaning up the Hoenn region," she said, glancing back one last time at her righteous rival, "...Jen."
Salamence lifted into the sky and flew off with its master, and down below, Jenny's face had lit up. There was only one person that called her by that name. Just one.
The police chief, who was watching his newest subordinate from behind, noticed that she appeared to be laughing. "Are you alright, Officer Jenny?"
Jenny raised her head, looking on as the bounty hunter vanished behind the Lilycove City skyline. That something she'd lost a few years ago...it was back. "You know something, Chief," she grinned excitedly, "...I think we're going to like it here."
With evening nearing in the Lilycove City area, Dawn was seated against a tree with Piplup in her lap near J's camouflaged ship.
The Top Coordinator's day had gone well, but, as always seemed to be the case, she would often find herself distracted and hoping that J hadn't gotten herself hurt. She really did believe in the strength of the bounty hunter and her Pokemon. It was just difficult to keep herself from thinking that something might go wrong. She didn't even want to imagine what it would be like to lose J again.
Starting to bob her right foot up and down out of anxiousness, Dawn peeked at her Poketch just in time to see the digits display that it was 5 o' clock—the exact time J had said they would meet at. "Okay, relax, Dawn. No need to worry," the girl tried to calm herself. "Remember what J said. There's no criminal scarier than her..."
"And I meant it," a familiar female voice spoke from next to the tree.
Inwardly, Dawn breathed a sigh of relief as she looked up and saw a woman carrying a helmet in one hand. "Hey!" she greeted J with a big smile. "I, uh...I wasn't worried or anything! I knew you'd be okay."
"Of course you did," J, her voice dripping with sarcasm, held her free hand out to help the girl to her feet. "The job wasn't any trouble. I didn't even have to break a sweat on this one."
"Really? Maybe you're getting too good for them," Dawn giggled.
"I was already too good for these knuckleheads," J corrected her. After turning off the ship's camouflage, she tossed her helmet inside, then helped Dawn to load up her bike and backpack as well. "So? How were your designs received?"
"Oh, they really liked them! They said I did a really great job at bringing out Kirlia's natural beauty."
"Another success, then. Congratulations. You're going to be awfully famous one of these days, you know. Though, you sort of are already, Miss Top Coordinator."
"Oh, stop. I'm not that famous."
"Really? For someone that isn't famous, you certainly receive a lot of interview requests."
"...Okay, maybe I'm a little famous."
The two girls shared a good laugh as they closed up the back of their ship and prepared to leave.
"That should do it. Ready to head home?" J asked.
Dawn was all set to go, but there was one thing she wanted to do first. "A-Actually, before we go..." she said, looking slightly nervous as she reached into her skirt pocket. She took into her hand a very small, white box with a yellow ribbon tied into a bow atop it, and held the container out to J. "Here. I got this for you."
"For...me?" J batted her eyes at the gift. Even though it was Dawn presenting it to her, she was still surprised by the gesture. After all, it was no exaggeration that J was so young the last time she'd received a gift that she didn't even have a clear memory of it.
Dawn nodded emphatically, eager for the woman to see what she'd gotten her. "Come on, open it!"
The bounty hunter reached out and took the small box from Dawn's hand. Slowly, she untied the ribbon and lifted off the top to see what lay inside.
It was a singular earring. A sapphire earring. Small, circular, not very flashy. It was practically the same size and design as the silver one that had adorned Dawn's ear for the past few years.
"I figured by the one you used to wear that you'd like something simple," Dawn pointed to the silver accessory in question. "I've been wearing your earring for a long time now, so I got one to give to you, too."
J didn't speak right away. She just stared down at the present in her hand, admiring it. It had the same color as the eyes of the girl who had given it to her.
"Do you not like it?" Dawn asked, starting to worry about the silence.
It just wouldn't do to have the girl getting the wrong impression like that. Carefully, J lifted the earring out of the box and held it out to the Top Coordinator. "Would you...put it on for me?"
"Huh? Oh, sure..." Dawn took the item from her. The taller woman leaned down, and Dawn gently fastened the earring onto her right ear lobe. "There, how's that?"
Reaching up by her ear, J brushed her fingertips against her new gift. It was amazing. Somehow, she just kept falling further and further in love with this girl. Dawn was just that special.
The bounty hunter wrapped her arms around Dawn and pulled her into a tight embrace. "I love it. Thank you," she said, nuzzling her cheek against the girl's hair. "I'm going to wear it every day, no matter what."
That silenced any questions Dawn had about J's feelings toward her gift. She really liked it, and that made Dawn happy. The girl tilted her head up, her eyes locked with those of the silver-haired hunter, and soon their lips met. One last show of affection before the ride back.
After returning home and finishing off a simple dinner, Dawn and J had enough time to head outside and enjoy the sunset from the comfort of their hammock before the sky grew dark.
Nearby, Salamence was grabbing a quick nap in the grass while Piplup, miffed by Ariados' playfulness for a second time today, was off chasing the trickster Pokemon again. J still needed to have that talk with Ariados as per Dawn's request, but it could wait until later. After a day out and about, all she wanted right now was to lay down next to Dawn, relax, and play with her new earring. She really did love her new gift. She loved the way it looked. She loved the way it felt. Most of all, however, she loved that it was Dawn who had given it to her.
Though she hated to ruin the tranquility of this moment, there was a new development that J felt she should let Dawn in on before it became a problem. "I ran into someone I knew today," she said, speaking, of course, of Officer Jenny.
"Someone you knew?" Dawn quirked an eyebrow at the woman. Now this was different. She had always thought of J as more of a loner. Who in the world did she know in Lilycove City? "Like...a friend?"
It was awkward for J to even try to relate Jenny to that term. "Not exactly. If I know her, she may try to track me down."
Now the Top Coordinator was starting to wonder if this was something serious. "Oh. Are we-"
"We'll be okay," the silver-haired hunter quickly answered the question she knew was coming. "If she ever finds us, I'll handle it. I sort of owe her, actually."
"Unfortunately. I'll have to tell you about it sometime."
"Hmm...this sounds interesting. Can you tell me now?"
It was an unexpected thing that J had brought up, but her insistence that it wouldn't be a problem was enough to put Dawn's mind at ease. There was, however, something that the girl from Twinleaf Town wanted to bring up as well.
"I...I want to tell Mom about us."
That declaration was enough to get J to bolt upright into a seated position. "You're not serious...!"
"I am!" Dawn exclaimed, sitting up beside her. "J, you and Mom are the two most important people to me. I don't like having to hide our relationship from her every time we get the chance to talk."
J couldn't help cringing at the very idea of what Dawn was suggesting. "I understand that, but...what am I supposed to say to Johanna? 'Oh, nice to see you. Sorry for my rudeness the last time we met. By the way, I'm infatuated with your daughter, and we're living together!' That is really not something I'd..."
In the midst of her explanation as to why this was a bad idea, J abruptly stopped as she found herself the recipient of an effective pout from Dawn. "You're giving me that look again," she narrowed her eyes at the girl. It really was an impressive expression; equal parts adorable and annoying.
"Pleeeease? Do it for me?" Dawn begged, further deepening that lovable look of hers.
J slapped a hand over her face. She could swear she'd faced off with legendary Pokemon that were easier to deal with than this. Finally, with a resounding sigh, she flopped back against the hammock. "The next time you have a few days free, we will take a trip to the Sinnoh region and tell Johanna in person."
"R-...really? You mean it?"
"Yes, I mean it."
"Oh my gosh, thank you!" Dawn wrapped J in an appreciative hug. "I'm serious, you have no idea how much that means to me."
"Honestly, the things I do for you," the bounty hunter shook her head, draping one arm over Dawn's back. She was already starting to dread that trip to Sinnoh. "I can't even imagine how your mother is going to react."
"It'll be fine. Don't worry," Dawn assured the nervous woman. "Mom is super nice. She'll understand, I'm sure of it!"
Seeing the girl in her arm smiling up at her helped J to relax again. There was no point in fretting over it, she realized. Besides, it wasn't her style. They would just tell Johanna about them, and whatever happened, happened.
"You're right. I'm sure it'll be fine," J conceded. She pulled Dawn closer to her, and the two of them stared up at the orange and red hues in the sky as the sun continued to fade beneath the horizon. "Everything's going to be just fine."
...or at least it was, but I've since added some extra chapters, so proceed onward!