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.
On a clear and mild night with the stars and a crescent moon shining brightly in the sky, Dawn sat quietly at a small table on the balcony of her hotel room that overlooked Lake Valor. Four days had passed since the opening round of the Sinnoh Grand Festival. In that time, Dawn had defeated Ursula, Jessilina and two others in contest battles to earn herself a spot in the final round. Tomorrow, she would square off against her friend, Zoey, for the title of Top Coordinator.
Dawn was feeling plenty nervous about what was unquestionably the most important contest battle of her budding career, but the upcoming match wasn't the only thing on her mind at the moment. "I wonder what she's doing right now," she voiced her thoughts as she stared up at the moon.
Feeling the night's gentle breeze through her pink pajamas, Dawn ran the tip of her finger along the headset J had given her which sat in her lap. The day of the Grand Festival's opening round was also the last time she had spoken to the notorious Pokemon hunter.
Dawn's realization four days ago that she was in love with J had been a difficult thing to accept. After all, this wasn't exactly the type of person she ever imagined she would fall for. No, this was J. Not only was she another female, she was also someone who was at the opposite end of the spectrum from Dawn as far as morals were concerned.
Still, Dawn couldn't deny how she felt. She'd felt it when J had caught her after she'd fallen from Team Rocket's balloon. She'd felt it when J had shown her around Balladia Garden. She'd felt it when J had sent her flowers after her performance the other day.
Dawn wanted to see J again. She wanted to be near her. She wanted to touch her, and to feel J's touch in return.
At the same time, however, Dawn felt extremely torn about it all. She couldn't help feeling like she was in the wrong for having such affection for a person that captured and sold Pokemon for a living. Even as recently as the last time they'd spoken, J had insinuated that she would be busy over the next few days. Dawn could only imagine that meant J was off on one of her jobs again, finding yet more Pokemon to poach. The young coordinator didn't like thinking about it, but it wasn't something she could easily get out of her mind.
"I don't know what's right and what isn't anymore," Dawn said, sighing to herself. "But...it's been four days now. I wish I could at least talk to her before tomorrow."
"That could be arranged."
Dawn nearly fell out of her chair as a voice came from the headset in her lap. "Wahh! W-wait, is that...?" she spoke, hurrying to put the headset on. Dawn immediately brightened up as she saw a small window on the device displaying the live image of a familiar, silver-haired woman. "J!"
"Sorry I took so long," J apologized. The joyful look on Dawn's face right now was something she'd been looking forward to seeing again. "How have you fared at the Grand Festival?"
"Awesome!" Dawn excitedly informed her. "I made it all the way to tomorrow's final round."
"You reached the finals?" J asked, sounding impressed. "You know, I'm not all that surprised. Well done."
"Thank you," Dawn smiled.
"Is your next opponent strong?"
"Mhmm, she's really amazing. It's going to be tough for me to beat her."
Thinking she had heard a twinge of self-doubt in the girl's answer, J felt a need to do something about it. "You can win, Dawn," she assured her. "Give it everything you've got. I want you to be holding that winner's trophy the next time I see you."
Dawn really didn't feel she was lacking in confidence, but she still appreciated the boost in morale. "I promise I'll do everything I can to make sure that happens," she happily replied. "Hey, speaking of tomorrow, are you going to come watch me?"
It wasn't a great feeling for J to deliver the bad news the last time Dawn had asked about her presence at the contest, but this time J had a more favorable response for her. "Dawn, I wouldn't miss it for the world."
"Y-you mean you'll be there?"
"Sure, I don't see why not."
Dawn couldn't hide her elation at the news. "Wow, that's so great! I'll really have to put on a show then," she giggled. Her eyes closing all of a sudden, Dawn reached up to cover her mouth as she let out a hefty yawn. "Oh, gosh, is it already getting late?"
"Go get some rest. You'll be needing your energy tomorrow," J insisted. She hadn't gotten to talk to Dawn for very long, but there would be plenty of time for chat after the girl's Grand Festival commitments were behind her.
"Yeah, you're right," Dawn agreed. "Hey, J?"
"What is it?" J asked her.
Dawn looked as though she wanted to say something. After some hesitation, however, she quickly shook her head. "It's...it's nothing. Goodnight!"
Before J could speak again, Dawn removed the headset and set it back in her lap. "I couldn't say it," the girl thought to herself.
"Oh, there you are."
Dawn jumped in her seat as she suddenly heard someone speaking out behind her. Doing her best to conceal the headset, she looked back over her shoulder to see Brock standing in the balcony doorway. "B-Brock! Hey!"
"Yeah..." Brock quirked an eyebrow at his friend, sensing something odd about her. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine! Totally fine. Just thinking about tomorrow and all," Dawn replied with a nervous chuckle.
Dawn's answer didn't sound the most convincing, but Brock didn't feel a need to question her any further. "All right, just making sure," he brushed the topic aside. "Anyway, I was going to say that you should probably get some rest."
"Yep, you read my mind. I'm going to bed in just a minute."
"Sounds like a plan."
Brock closed the balcony door and went back inside, leaving Dawn to breathe a huge sigh of relief. "That was a close one!"
Meanwhile, back at her private room within her base, J took off her own headset, staring at it for a moment as she pondered the last bit of her conversation with Dawn. The girl had wanted to tell her something, but what was it? It most likely wasn't urgent, J figured. Probably something that she could inquire about another day. But...not knowing for sure was bothering her. Really bothering her.
Elsewhere, inside the control center of J's base, a lone crewman sat not-so-attentively in front of a series of monitors. The general quietness of the day coupled with his unusually low energy level was causing the man to have a difficult time keeping his eyes open. "Come on, just one more hour," he mumbled to himself.
The self-encouragement, as it turned out, wasn't of great help. Within minutes, the crewman's eyes were closed and his body was beginning to slump down in his chair. That problem would be quickly taken care of, however, as the sound of one of the doors sliding open followed by an assertive female voice speaking out roused the man from his slumber.
"I'm going out for a bit. Close the doors behind me."
Startled, the crewman pushed himself back to an upright seated position and swiveled his chair around just in time to see his Commander, J, walking by. Unfortunately for him, he was still presenting the look of someone who had just woken up, and that look wasn't missed by his boss.
"Were you asleep just now?" J shot her subordinate a furious glare.
"N-no, sir! Of course not!" the man panicked. "I-I was just-"
"Tell me the order I just gave you!" J demanded of him.
Because he was so out of it at the time, the crewman truly had no idea what J had commanded him to do. "I-...I'm afraid I didn't catch it, sir!" he admitted, standing up from his seat and hanging his head in shame.
Wearing an unnerving scowl, J stormed over to the man and got right up in his face. "Do you know what my greatest pet peeve is?" she asked, to which her crew member anxiously shook his head. "People who slack off on the job! And I certainly hope you aren't guilty of this, because I assure you that any subordinate of mine doing such a thing will be kissing their position on my crew goodbye! Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir! Understood, sir!" the crewman answered without hesitation.
Her point made, J slowly backed away from the man. "As I said the first time, I am going out for a bit. Close the doors behind me."
J made her way out of the bunker and took off aboard her Salamence, after which the rattled crewman used the controls to shut the doors at the base's entrance before flopping back down into his seat. "Man, that was awful. If we weren't so short-handed, she wouldn't have thought twice about cutting me loose," he groaned. "Now I'll have to work extra hard to repair my image. That's just great. I'm such an idiot!"
Despite the harrowing run-in with his Commander, the crewman still felt that uncomfortable sensation of sleep trying to overtake him. He had roughly an hour remaining on his shift, and that was a big problem. If he was found to be sleeping when J returned or when the next individual showed up to watch over the control center, it would take a miracle for him to retain his position on the crew.
While the man was trying any little thing he could to keep himself awake, he heard the sound of one of the control center's doors opening once again. He knew it couldn't be J, and he didn't imagine anyone else from the crew would be coming here at this time of day, so whoever had opened the door was initially a mystery to him. As it so happened, the visitor wasn't a member of the crew at all, but rather one of the new recruits.
"Good evening, sir," Solana greeted her superior as she entered the room.
"Oh, it's you," the dreary crewman halfheartedly replied. "What are you doing here?"
Solana, who had been eavesdropping on the conversation between the crewman and J, figured to use what she had heard to her advantage. "Well, if I may be blunt, sir, you look exhausted," she said to him. "It's really no surprise considering how hard you've been working lately. So, I was wondering if I could take over for you here. I'd really like to get some extra experience under my belt, and I believe you could use the rest."
"Is that so? That's a good attitude to have! You're a real go-getter," the established crew member laughed. The more he thought about it, the more this seemed like a blessing for him. This way he wouldn't be caught sleeping on the job again. And if anything were to go wrong, he could simply pass it off as trying to give a recruit some extra training. "Okay, why not? There's only an hour left in my shift anyway."
"Thank you so much, sir! I appreciate it," Solana enthusiastically expressed her gratitude.
"Sure thing. You've been working with these controls for a few days now, so it should be fine. Just don't screw anything up. Oh, and if Commander J returns, be sure to let her back in. She'll raise hell if you don't."
Some small chatter later, the tired crewman exited the control center and headed for his room to get some much-needed shuteye.
Everything had gone according to Solana's plan. Now the sole individual with the base's controls at her fingertips, the undercover Pokemon Ranger brought her wristwatch up by her mouth and pressed a button on its side. "This is Pokemon Ranger Solana," she spoke into the device. "Stand by to commence Operation Sunset."
As the night wore on, Ash, Dawn and Brock were all sleeping comfortably in their hotel room. Since the room only had two beds, Ash and Brock, along with Pikachu, had been sharing one during their stay there. Dawn and Piplup were usually occupying the other bed, which was the one closest to the balcony. On this night, however, Dawn had the entire bed to herself since Piplup had managed to roll itself off and down onto the floor where it simply continued its slumber on the room's carpet.
Typically, there wasn't much that would awaken Dawn on any given night. Ash's snoring had proven to be a nuisance when she first started traveling with the boys, but it was something she became accustomed to over time. Tonight, though, an out-of-place element would enter the room in the form of a cool breeze. There shouldn't have been such a thing inside with the doors to the balcony closed, so when the breeze carried over to Dawn's bed and brushed against her exposed hand, the resulting feeling was enough to coerce her eyes open. "Mmm?"
Not sure why she had awakened, Dawn rolled over to her other side, her only intent that of going back to sleep. But, as she noticed someone sitting at the edge of her bed and a pair of blue eyes looking down upon her, those plans changed.
Dawn, her eyes shooting open, gasped with surprise. Hoping to keep the young girl quiet, the visitor placed a finger over her lips and lightly shushed her before she could make any further noise. Dawn had the time to get a better look at who was sitting beside her now, and, as that person's identity became clear to her, she found that she had nothing to worry about. The individual who had entered the room was the one and only Pokemon Hunter J, the entire front side of her body basked in the moonlight coming in from the glass on the balcony doors.
After having let out that gasp just now, Dawn quickly placed her own hands over her mouth, worried that she may have inadvertently awakened her friends. She peeked over at the other bed, carefully checking for any sign of movement.
"Don't worry, they're still out," J softly spoke. "I'm amazed you can sleep with the mouthy one snoring like that."
"J...what are you doing here?" Dawn asked her in an equally low tone, still trying to shake off the cobwebs from her slumber. "And while we're at it, how did you know which room I was in?"
"From the tracking device in the headset I gave you," J casually pointed out, not seeming to care whether that little detail was kept a secret or not.
Dawn wondered why she hadn't suspected such a thing about the headset sooner. "That...answers a lot, actually," she thought. Now she understood how J had known that she was at a Pokemon Center back when she first received what turned out to be the invitation to go to Balladia Garden.
"And as for why I'm here, I just wanted to see you in person before your big match tomorrow," J explained. "That, and because it seemed like you wanted to tell me something earlier."
Recalling their conversation of a few hours prior, Dawn started to blush as she realized what J was talking about.
"May I ask what it was?" J directed a sly smile her way.
Trying to hide her embarrassment, Dawn averted her eyes from the woman. "Oh, that? Well...umm..."
"Go ahead. Whatever it is, I won't be upset," J assured her.
"No, it's not like that. It's just..." Dawn paused momentarily. She shyly pulled her blanket up to cover the lower part of her face. "I was going to say that I...missed seeing you."
Those words went straight to J's heart. She opened her mouth to respond, but nothing came out as, for a rare moment, she found herself speechless. When in her life had anyone ever told her that they'd missed her? Try as she might, she couldn't think of a single instance before now. This had to be the first time she'd ever heard something like that come out of someone's mouth. It was...a nice thing to hear. It truly was.
Once she had given everything a moment to sink in, J reached forward and gently brushed the hair away from Dawn's face, showing the girl perhaps the warmest expression she had ever unveiled to anyone in her turbulent life. "I missed seeing you, too."
"More than you'll ever know."
Knowing that J had missed her, too, left Dawn feeling positively blissful inside.
The content look on J's face would quickly fade, though. She didn't look upset, but rather as if she had something on her mind. "Dawn," she addressed the girl, sounding uncharacteristically apprehensive, "...do you remember when you asked about my past as we were leaving Balladia Garden?"
Of course, Dawn remembered. There was no way she could forget. "Yeah, I remember," she said. "You got kind of mad and told me you didn't want to talk about it."
J slowly turned toward the balcony doors and leaned back, placing both of her palms against the mattress to keep herself propped up. "It isn't a pleasant story," she offered a warning before speaking any further. "Do you still want to hear it?"
Dawn could tell from the tone of her voice just how serious J was about this. She had said before that she would listen if J ever wanted to talk about it, and this appeared to be that time. Thus, Dawn sat up in her bed and gave the woman her answer. "Only if you're ready to tell me, J."
Though she would have to delve into some memories she wasn't fond of, J finally felt willing to let Dawn in on her tale. "I was...very young when my parents passed away," she began on a somber note. "After that happened, all I had left was Bagon, and all it had was me. Everything we knew in Veilstone City...we had to leave it all behind. All of it."
"So...where did you go?" Dawn asked her.
"I was sent to live with an aunt and uncle of mine in a nearby town," J answered. A bitter look came over her. "If I'd known how they were, I never would have gone there to begin with. They were snobbish people who looked down on me and treated me like a burden from the moment I arrived there, and that wasn't even the worst part. The worst part...was that they wouldn't allow any Pokemon into their home."
"What? So, Bagon..."
"I kept Bagon there without them knowing for as long as I could. They eventually found out, though, and demanded I get rid of it. But, I wasn't about to abandon it like that. Bagon was more important to me than anything those awful people could ever offer. So, even though I had no place else to go, I took Bagon, walked out of that house and never looked back."
Dawn was amazed to hear of J going to such an extreme to actually help a Pokemon. It was a complete contradiction to the attitude the woman presently carried with her as a Pokemon hunter.
"Of course, I had no idea what kind of situation I'd gotten us into," J went on, pain evident in her eyes as thoughts of the past came back to her. "We struggled horribly on our own, feeding off of food scraps or stealing to fill our stomachs during the day, then sleeping out in the cold at night. It was a hell no little girl should ever have to endure, but we somehow survived it. Then, one day, an old man with an affinity for making glass sculptures saw us and took us into his home out of pity."
"Glass sculptures?" Dawn blinked. She had a feeling that she remembered part of a story that went something like this. "Oh, then he was..."
J lightly nodded her head. "That's right, the creator of Balladia Garden," she confirmed. "He was always busy working on something. Bagon and I had nothing better to do, so we would sit and watch, listening to him ramble on about this and that. He would make occasional trips out to the site where the garden was being built to deliver more of his completed work, and that was how I got to see it for the first time. We were taken care of by that old man, and I'm sure he didn't mind us being there, but...after a while, I began feeling guilty and didn't want Bagon and myself to be a nuisance to him. So, we left and went off on our own again. It was only about a week later that it happened. Bagon and I were wandering through a forest, just trying to find some berries to eat, when we ran into a pair of Pokemon poachers."
"Poachers? You still have Salamence, though, so they must not have taken Bagon from you, right?" Dawn inquired.
"Oh, they tried, but Bagon defeated both of their Pokemon by itself," J replied, managing a smile. Whether then or now, she always felt pride in how strong her Pokemon were. "After the battle was over, they could see how tired and malnourished I was, so they took advantage of it. They asked me to use Bagon to help them catch a wild Pokemon in exchange for some of their rations. We needed the food, so I agreed to it. Bagon and I took down a Chimchar the poachers were after, and in the end they asked me to help them with more jobs. Of course, I accepted the offer. Who in my position would ever turn down regular meals and a warm place to sleep? Well, I suppose we had that at the old man's place, too, but now we were actually earning what we got."
Dawn was starting to understand just how J had grown into her profession. Back when the woman had claimed that she did what she did for her very survival, she wasn't kidding.
"I ended up staying with those poachers until I was your age," J continued. "Bagon evolved into Shelgon, and then into Salamence. At that point, I'd become good enough at the job that I had gained a reputation, and I was recruited by a larger ring of poachers offering me higher-paying jobs. By the time I'd reached my teenage years, my skills and reputation were enough that I didn't need to work for others any longer. I took some of the other poachers that were loyal to me and formed my own crew where I was the boss. The rest...you can probably put together without me saying. That's all there is to it. Now you know."
Her story at an end, J waited for some sort of response from Dawn. She'd never mentioned any of these things to anyone before, so she had no idea what to expect. At first, all she got was silence from the girl. Then, she began to feel the weight shifting on the mattress. Dawn was moving, but with what purpose? J wouldn't have to wonder for long. Soon enough, she felt a pair of arms wrap around her shoulders from behind. She could feel the warmth of Dawn's body against her back, the softness of Dawn's hair falling over her neck, and the heat of the girl's breath against her cheek.
"You were right...when you said I was naive," Dawn spoke, her voice filled with remorse. "I had no idea things were so rough for you. I'm so sorry, J."
Closing her eyes as she savored the heartfelt embrace, J reached up and placed her hand over Dawn's. "Back then, I never thought about right and wrong. I was just trying to survive and take care of Salamence, but capturing and selling Pokemon ended up becoming my life. It was all I cared about for the longest time."
Suddenly, without warning, J broke free of Dawn's grasp and gave her a gentle push, catching the girl by surprise. As Dawn fell back to the mattress, J moved over top of her, staring down into the young coordinator's uncertain eyes with a look of pure adoration.
"It was all I cared about...until I met you," J told the girl, cupping Dawn's cheek with one hand. "You've changed me, Dawn. For the first time in my life, you've made me desire...something more."
As she lay flat on her back, Dawn noticed that J's face was slowly coming closer to her own. "W-wait...is she...?" Dawn thought to herself, her heart starting to race. Though she'd never experienced it before, she felt fairly certain that J's actions right now could only be leading to one thing. "She's...she's going to kiss me! Wh-wh-wh-what should I do?"
All at once, Dawn's conflicting feelings began waging war with one another. While part of her wanted to just close her eyes and accept what was to come, another part reminded her of all of the Pokemon that had suffered at the hands of the notorious criminal over the years. J had explained the circumstances under which she fell into that path in life, but did that make all of it acceptable?
J was lowering herself closer and closer. Dawn had no choice but to make a decision that would inevitably affect the future of her relationship with the woman...and so she did.
J batted her eyes several times, clearly confused as she looked down upon the girl. Dawn had slapped both of her hands over J's lips to stop her from doing what she'd intended.
"I can't!" Dawn told her, almost at the point of tears. "I just...can't."
After witnessing Dawn's emotional reaction, J gradually backed away from her. In truth, she wasn't especially surprised by what Dawn had done. Disappointed, but understanding, she moved back to the edge of the bed where she sat quietly for a moment before speaking. "It's fine," she said, though her expression suggested otherwise. "What I've done to Pokemon throughout my life isn't something a kindhearted person like you can easily forgive. I get that."
Seeing how dejected J now appeared made all of this that much more difficult for Dawn. "I'm sorry, J," she apologized.
"There's no need to be," J was quick to try to put the girl's mind at ease. An idea coming to mind, she reached up to her left ear and began fiddling with something. Then, grasping an object in her hand, she held her arm out toward Dawn. "Here."
Dawn turned her palm upward and felt something small drop into it. That something was the lone silver earring J had been wearing. "An earring?" she blinked. "What's this for?"
"I'd like you to hold onto that during your match tomorrow," J urged her. "Think of it as a reminder."
"A...reminder? Of what?"
"That I believe in you."
Despite the uncomfortable turn her conversation with J had taken, hearing those reassuring words brought a smile back to Dawn's face. "Thank you. I'll definitely hold onto it," she said, clasping the earring in her hand.
With that, J had done everything she'd set out to do tonight, and so she pushed herself up off the bed and to her feet. "I'll be going, then. You should get some sleep," she suggested, stepping toward the balcony doors.
"Yeah, I know," Dawn told her. "See you tomorrow, J. I'll be sure to look for you in the crowd."
J pushed open the door and placed one foot out on the balcony. After that first step, however, she abruptly came to a stop.
"J? What is it?" Dawn asked, not sure why the woman was hesitating.
There was something more J wanted to get off of her chest, but, in the end, she stopped herself from doing so. Instead, she simply looked back over her shoulder and offered the girl some brief, parting words. "Nothing. Sleep well, Dawn."
The Pokemon hunter closed the door behind her before leaping over the balcony's railing, where Salamence was waiting below to fly her back to their base.
After J had gone, Dawn, still sitting up in bed, took the hand containing the earring she'd been given and held it close to her heart. "J..."
The sound of a blanket drawing her attention all of a sudden, Dawn whisked her head around to look back toward the other bed in the room. What she saw at that moment took all of her excitement over tomorrow's big match, and, in an instant, replaced it with fear over what might yet happen tonight.
With Ash's snoring still rumbling in the background, an awake and alert Brock pulled away his sheets and took a seat at the edge of his bed. After taking some time to think to himself, he finally looked up at his friend, an unusually serious expression on his face. "Dawn, we need to talk."
It was nearly two o' clock in the morning by the time J arrived back at her base. She knew such a late return was unavoidable if she were to fly all the way out to Lake Valor to see Dawn, but something as minor as that wasn't about to stop her from making the trip. Not everything had gone as she'd hoped this time around, but, at the very least, she was able to see just where the relationship between herself and Dawn stood.
Once they had landed next to the base's entrance, J put Salamence back into its pokeball and walked up to the blast doors. Seconds later, the doors were opened by someone within. There wasn't anything out of the ordinary about it. Somehow, though, J felt something was out of place. Having put her headset on earlier to navigate her way back after leaving Lake Valor, she reactivated it and did a thermal scan on the surrounding area. Aside from some of the usual wild Pokemon, however, there were no abnormal heat signatures to speak of.
J still felt tense for some reason, but there didn't appear to be anything to be concerned about. After switching her headset off again, she proceeded to enter the base. She started down the flight of stairs that led further inside, listening as the blast doors at the entrance closed behind her. Another door that allowed access to one of the bunker's main corridors waited at the bottom. Just as she had always done, J punched in the code to open it and headed inside.
That was when something unexpected happened. After J had walked past the door, it slammed shut behind her, emitting a beeping noise indicating that it had been locked. A small, red light on the door's control panel confirmed that it was no longer useable. Someone had sealed it from within the base's control center.
The sound of numerous footsteps quickly filled the corridor. Looking to her left, then to her right, J watched as a combined force of two dozen police officers and Pokemon Rangers closed in on her from both sides and formed lines that spanned the corridor's entire width. On one side was Officer Jenny. On the other was Pokemon Ranger Solana. Each was joined on their respective squads by two Rangers and nine officers, all with battle-ready Pokemon at their sides.
Their trap now sprung, Officer Jenny, along with her Arcanine, stepped forward. "Pokemon Hunter J, there is nowhere for you to run! You are under arrest for the crime of Pokemon poaching!"
End of Chapter 8