Capture the Heart
by rkOujirou

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.

Chapter 7

"We didn't miss anything, did we?"

"Nah, I think we made it in time."

"Nice! Let's hurry and find a good spot."

The time of the Sinnoh Grand Festival was finally at hand as thousands of spectators poured into the large venue at the edge of Lake Valor. Three stages set up on the floor of the building—one red, one blue, and the other green—would soon play host to 108 Pokemon coordinators trying to impress the judges enough for they and their Pokemon to advance to the second round of the competition.

Among those many coordinators, one in particular was currently peeking out from behind the curtain of the green stage. Clad in a dress of a light yellow color, Dawn, whose styled hair was tied behind her head with a sizable pink ribbon, smiled once she spotted her friends sitting in the front row of the crowd. "They sure got some good seats."

After returning from Balladia Garden yesterday, Dawn was fully expecting to be questioned by her traveling mates regarding where she'd been. Surprisingly, though, Ash and Brock were rather quiet about it. Once Dawn reached the Pokemon Center, the boys simply welcomed her back and suggested they all start heading for the lakeside resort. Why they weren't more curious of her whereabouts was a mystery to Dawn, but she was thankful things had turned out that way. For obvious reasons, the question of how she'd spent her time away wasn't something she would've been eager to explain.

Now that she knew where her friends were, Dawn turned her attention to searching for another individual. Specifically, she wanted to know if the person that had taken her on that unexpected trip yesterday, the person she'd later invited to come here today, had been able to make it.

"J," Dawn spoke the woman's name, scouring the crowd for any sign of the Pokemon hunter, "...I...don't see her."

Dawn was well aware that not being able to spot J just yet didn't necessarily mean she wasn't there. The number of people in attendance was staggering, and many more were still filing into the venue and trying to find seats. It would be easy to miss one individual out of that bunch.

For now, however, figuring out whether or not J had shown up would have to wait. With the time for her opening round performance nearing, Dawn needed to focus on that and that alone. And so, letting the curtain fall back into place, the young coordinator started making her way back to the locker room.

"I really don't know why I want her to watch me so badly," Dawn folded her arms as she walked, still not quite understanding how she felt about the woman. "But...somehow, I definitely think she'll be here."

Elsewhere in the Sinnoh region, three regular members of J's crew were sitting around inside the control center of their base. While two of the men chatted with one another, the third quietly read through a collection of notes attached to a clipboard.

"Man, I'm still beat," one of the men spoke. "Commander J sure was in a hurry to get that job done today."

"Yeah, you don't see her rush a job like that too often," his fellow crewman concurred.

"And then she goes off to deliver the goods by herself? It's not like her, man."

"Hmm...maybe she felt like letting us head back early to give us some extra rest since we've been working so hard lately."

"Hah! That's a good one. She'd never be that considerate!"

The conversation would come to a pause when the two crewmen heard one of the doors to the room slide open. Looking toward the open door, the men watched as Pokemon Ranger Solana and the two other recruits, all three showing clear signs of fatigue, appeared from out of the corridor and fell in line.

After checking his watch, the crewman who'd been sifting through his notes stood up to address the three. "Good, you're on time. Feeling tired yet?"

"No, sir!" the recruits responded in unison. They knew they couldn't allow themselves to show any weakness.

"I should hope not. Any member of this crew could do what you've done so far with ease," the man told them. "Listen up! I'm sure you're all eager to participate in the jobs we do, but not a single person goes out into the field without knowing how every facet of our operation works. That's why, once your initiation is complete, all of you are going to be serving a great deal of time looking after the operations of this base before you're allowed to head out on jobs with the rest of us. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir!"

"By Commander J's orders, you'll all begin training today in learning how to work the controls in this room. Remember that something as simple as adjusting one of the cameras outside or sending a message to all personnel within the base at once can mean the difference in keeping a minor problem from becoming something serious."

Though she was exhausted from the labor she'd had to endure since the beginning of her initiation, Solana now had a certain gleam in her eye. "Finally!" she wearily thought. "This is exactly what I've been waiting for."

"And next on the green stage, please welcome Dawn from Twinleaf Town!"

Back at Lake Valor, a round of applause erupted from the crowd as the green curtain opened and Dawn stepped out onto the stage. Ursula, Jessilina, Nando and Zoey had all impressed with their performances so far, while Kenny, Dawn's childhood friend, fell victim to a miscue that was sure to hurt his chances to advance. Despite witnessing what had happened to Kenny, Dawn was all smiles as her excitement for this special moment kept her focused.

With Dawn's performance about to begin, a certain someone in the audience devoted her full attention to the stage below. Standing by one of the exits behind even the furthest back of seats was a woman dressed in a long, white trench coat. Wearing a pair of fake glasses and a wig of black hair that ran all the way down to her waistline, she had waited through all of the previous performances just to see the one that was about to take place.

That woman was an incognito Pokemon Hunter J.

A high-profile event such as the Grand Festival always had a large police presence, hence why J had chosen to alter her appearance before she arrived. It was a little extra trouble to go through, but she felt compelled to come after Dawn had extended the invitation to her yesterday. After all, this was a chance to see the girl performing her greatest passion in life. As Dawn had suggested, if J wanted to know more about her, this was the place to be.

"There she is," J softly spoke. "I'm here, Dawn. Show me what it is that drives you."

Out on the stage, Dawn's Cyndaquil and Bunneary emerged from their pokeballs along with a large, blue ribbon that exploded into a shower of sparkles courtesy of the ball capsules and seals Dawn had used. The flashy start made an excellent opening impression on both fans and judges alike.

For her first move, Dawn had Bunneary use its Ice Beam to create a frozen roller coaster. That was then followed up by Cyndaquil using its Flame Wheel to carve out a track on the ice, which Bunneary had a blast sliding along behind the fire-type Pokemon. It was a cute sight that the audience absolutely adored.

As J watched from the crowd, she could see just how much fun Dawn was having with her performance, and how much fun her Pokemon were having as well. "She looks so happy to be out there," J noticed. "And her isn't like the others. Rather than a feat of skill that an audience only sees and appreciates, it's a performance that draws them in and allows them to have fun along with her. I see. So this is Dawn's style."

Brock, Ash, Pikachu and Piplup cheered on from the front row as Dawn began the finale of her routine, having Bunneary use Ice Beam and Cyndaquil use Smoke Screen simultaneously. The Pokemon soon disappeared within the cloud of smoke, and that prompted some unsure looks from everyone watching.

Concealing her Pokemon was a mistake that had cost Dawn in the past, but this time she would make it work to her advantage. The smoke was blown away by flames that appeared as wings coming out of Cyndaquil's body, unveiling a pokeball made of ice with Bunneary encased inside. As Dawn's performance came to an end, the light from Cyndaquil's flames illuminated the ice and created a beautiful blue glow for all to see.

The fans roared with approval at the job the coordinator and her Pokemon had done, and the judges sounded impressed as well.

Hearing the audience's extremely positive reaction from all around the venue, a slight smirk crossed J's face as she turned to leave. "Johanna's daughter, indeed. She'll have no problem advancing with that showing," she predicted with confidence. "Now then, how should I congratulate her?"

After the results of the appeal round had been announced, Dawn went to change back into her regular clothes in the locker room. She couldn't have been happier that both she and Zoey had done well enough to advance to the next round, but Kenny not making the cut was tough to see. It was a harsh reminder of just how much one mistake could cost someone no matter how much preparation they'd put in.

Once she was all dressed, Dawn stepped outside to join Ash, Brock and Zoey.

"There's our other second-rounder," Brock greeted her.

"Hey, Dawn. Still feeling the rush like I am?" Zoey grinned.

"Oh my gosh, yes!" Dawn shared a laugh with the other girl. "I wish the butterflies would calm down, but I'm just so excited right now."

"I know how that feels. Whether it's for contests or battles, there's nothing like competing on the biggest stages," Ash spoke from experience.

Dawn nodded her head in agreement. "Definitely! There's no feeling like it in the world."

"Excuse me!"

Everyone in the group took notice as a uniformed employee of the venue, carrying what appeared to be a bouquet of sunflowers, came up to them. "You're Dawn, right?" the man asked.

"Y-yes, that's me," Dawn blinked.

"Here you are," the employee handed her the flowers. "I was asked to deliver these to you."

Dawn couldn't have looked any more confused than she did right at that moment. "Huh? For me?" she began to blush. This was definitely new territory for her. She'd never received anything like this after a contest before. "Wow, they're so pretty! But...who would send me flowers?"

The employee gestured toward a piece of paper that sat within the bouquet. "They didn't say, but I think that card may hold the answer. Good luck tomorrow!"

"Oh, th-thank you," Dawn uttered a nervous laugh as the man left to return to his regular job duties.

"Well, well. Somebody's got an admirer," Zoey teased her friend, giving her a light nudge with her elbow.

"What? Oh, no, I'm sure it's not like that," Dawn tried to downplay the gift's significance.

"That sure was cool of someone to send ya those," Ash said.

"Yeah, looks like your performance earned you a fan," Brock chuckled. "Why not check the card to see who they're from?"

Dawn could see that everyone was interested in the identity of the sender, and she was certainly curious herself. Thus, careful not to damage the flowers, she pulled out the small, white card and read it.

You were magnificent. - J

Upon first reading the note, Dawn could only stand there with her mouth hanging open. She read it a second time, then a third, just to make sure she hadn't gotten it wrong.

Dawn wasn't imagining things. It really did say what she had thought it said, and with that realization, her lips curved upward into a warm smile. "J...she really came to watch me," she thought. Her initial surprise turning to happiness, Dawn clutched the dozen sunflowers close to her chest and leaned down to take in some of their fragrance. It was only when she glanced up and saw the sly looks her friends were shooting her way that she became aware of what she'd just been doing.

"Hmm, I think they're from someone you know," Zoey poked fun at her friend again.

Not wanting to let the truth be known, Dawn fumbled around for an explanation. "Uh, n-no, they're...umm-"

"I understand!" Brock suddenly shouted, an epiphany having dawned on him. "I've seen that look of yours before, Dawn!"

Somehow, Dawn didn't like where this was going one bit. " have?" she asked nervously.

"There's no doubt about it!" Brock emphatically pointed a finger toward her. "The coloring of your cheeks, the dreamy look in your's the unmistakable look of someone in love!"

Both Zoey and Dawn herself stood shocked at the allegation. Ash, on the other hand, didn't quite grasp the magnitude of it.

"So...Dawn's in love?" Ash scratched his head.

"Are you really, Dawn?" Zoey inquired, her interest greatly piqued.

For Dawn, this whole thing was starting to go way overboard. "No! No, no, no, no, no! It's not like that!" she adamantly denied the assessment. "Look, there's no way I'd be in-"

Dawn stopped in mid-sentence, and, ever so slowly, a blank look spread across her face. She knew she'd been having trouble getting J off of her mind for a while now. In fact, ever since the day she'd fallen from Team Rocket's balloon and J had saved her—no, maybe even before that—a part of Dawn had always been wishing to see the woman again. That urge had only grown stronger as a result of their trip to Balladia Garden yesterday, to the point that Dawn had actually invited J to come watch her perform today. Now, for her to feel so much joy that J had not only shown up, but even sent her congratulatory flowers...

Dawn's face was burning red with embarrassment. She couldn't be here with her friends right now. She needed to get away, fast. "I-...I need to go!" she told the others, and with that she abruptly ran off down the hallway toward one of the building's exits.

"H-hey, Dawn...!" Zoey tried to stop her, but to no avail.

"Mmm...coming to grips with love can be difficult," Brock stated, convinced that he knew exactly what Dawn was going through.

Standing beside the others, Ash still looked completely lost. "Yeah...I don't get it. What's the big deal about being in love?"

Zoey just stared at the dense trainer in disbelief. "Are you serious?" she muttered.

Meanwhile, still holding the flowers close to her body, Dawn rushed out of the venue and ran along the outside of it, just trying to find someplace with as few bystanders as possible. Given that the competition for the day had ended a good while ago, there weren't many stragglers left around the building, and that made it easier for Dawn to find a suitable spot. Once she was the only person within hearing distance of where she stood, the overwhelmed girl fell back against the wall.

Dawn felt like her head was spinning. Her cheeks were still flushed, and her heart was beating rapidly as the scent of the sunflowers wafted by her nose. The rise in her heart rate was partly due to her sprint a moment ago, but was more a result of the very idea that had caused her to hurry away from her friends in the first place.

"This can't be right! This...this just can't..." an exasperated Dawn thought to herself. "How did...when did I really in-!"

"Good, I see that man did what I asked of him," a female voice spoke all of a sudden, interrupting Dawn's train of thought.

Dawn was so distracted that she hadn't even noticed the unfamiliar woman approaching her. Now that she was aware of her presence, Dawn took a closer look at the dark-haired individual. "Umm...were you talking to me?" the puzzled girl asked.

Amused by the question, the woman smiled a bit as she removed the fake pair of glasses she'd been wearing. "I suppose if even you don't recognize me, that would mean my disguise is a success."

The woman's voice was ringing a bell with Dawn, and, as she stared up into her light blue eyes, she soon realized just who it was that she was speaking with. "J?" she gasped.

"It wasn't easy to make the time, but I'm glad I came to watch you today. I got to see something interesting," J told her, reaching out and lightly brushing her hand against the young girl's cheek. "I thought sunflowers would suit your personality. Always warm, bright. Always bringing out the best in those around you."

Dawn felt her heart jump within her chest. She opened her mouth, trying to speak, but the feeling of J's warm touch on her face left her tongue-tied. That silence, however, gave the Pokemon hunter the wrong impression.

"You didn't care for the flowers?" J retracted her hand, raising an eyebrow.

"N-no, that's not it! I love the flowers!" Dawn finally managed to talk.

"What is it then?" J asked her.

Sensing the blood rushing to her cheeks again, Dawn held up the bouquet and hid the lower part of her face behind it. "It''s nothing," she claimed. "Thank you...for coming to watch me today. And for the flowers."

J gave the girl a suspicious look. "You're not telling me something," she insisted. "You've had quite the day, though, so maybe I'll let it go just this once."

"I'm not hiding anything from you! Really!" Dawn tried to put the woman's mind at ease. She didn't know how well it worked, if at all, but there was no way she could tell J the real reason she was acting strangely. "So, anyway...the battle rounds start tomorrow. Are"

The hopeful look in Dawn's eyes wasn't lost on J. Unfortunately, it only made her situation more difficult to explain. "I was able to find time today, but I'm afraid it won't be possible over the next couple of days. I'm sorry," she apologized.

"Oh. Well, that's okay. I figured I might as well ask, but...if you have to go...hunt Pokemon..." Dawn sighed, her voice dripping with both disappointment and disdain over J's work.

After she'd said that, Dawn expected the woman to vigorously defend her profession as she'd done in the past. J, however, was oddly silent on the subject this time around.

"Dawn," the silver-haired hunter spoke, "...the next time I contact you, I want to hear that you advanced through every round that I missed. Understand?"

Able to tell that this was J's way of motivating her, Dawn allowed a smile to return to her face. "No need to worry. I'll do my best."

"I know you will," J contently replied. "I'll talk to you soon."

Their conversation over for now, J headed off in search of a more concealed area where she could fly away on her Salamence without drawing any attention.

"Yeah. Bye," Dawn said in a voice so soft that it was nearly inaudible. While she watched J leave, she let herself slide downward until she was sitting with her back against the wall, still holding the sunflowers close to her heart. "I'm...I'm in love...with a Pokemon hunter."

End of Chapter 7