~*Catching Up To You*~
"I'll be back before you even miss me!" Brendan said with a smile just for her. Time passed.
Part Two: Something to Say
Tropius's broad, leaf-like wings churned the air as she descended towards the Pokémon Center of Pacifidlog Town. May had been afraid that she would end up missing the Mirage Festival due to the Contest that she just had to enter in order to pass on to the Super-Rank, but luckily, thanks to her Pokémon's exertions; she had made it early the second day.
The 6'07" dinosaur landed heavily, causing the wooden logs of the floating village to creak in protest. There weren't many civilians up and about at this time, but she imagined the ones that were were probably either on Mirage Island or out at sea to catch fish.
May dismounted, stretching cramped muscles, resting one hand fondly on her Tropius's long neck. A spicy-sweet smell always lingered around her Pokémon, and she assumed it had something to do with the fruits that grew around her neck twice a year. They were in season now, orange and bright, swinging idly from side to side every time Tropius moved.
Wow, this place is beautiful!
The flight from Slateport City to Pacifidlog had caused Trainer and Pokémon to pass over the swift moving currents of the Route that separated the two settlements. In the dawn's light, the shifting sea had transformed the multicolored radiance into a display that rivaled the supposed magnificence of Ho-oh. Gold, tangerine, and scarlet had rippled along at a startling speed beneath their feet, and even Tropius had circled twice, closer and closer, just to see.
Of course, the moment had been broken by a Wailmer that thought it amusing to spray them both from its blowhole, but despite that, it had still been positively enchanting.
(Just like the flash of Tropius's Magical Leaf as she caught that same Wailmer before it vanished back into the waves.)
"You must be exhausted," May crooned soothingly as she wrapped her arms fondly around Tropius. "Do you want to go back into your Pokéball, or would you rather we visit the Center?"
The dinosaur did neither. Instead, she settled down, stretching out beside the nearby Center, wings spread wide to absorb the maximum amount of the sun's strengthening glow. The Fruit Pokémon laid her head on May's lap and promptly closed her eyes.
Remembering that her Tropius got stronger in sunlight, she decided that she would be fair and wait until her Pokémon felt better. It was the least she could do after getting the great beast to fly for half a night whilst carrying her.
Humming a wordless song, the brown-haired girl, clad all in green, let her mind wander, remembering the steps in her life she had taken so far. Helping her father, sure…but recently, she had gotten into Contests and started training Pokémon again. There wasn't a day that didn't go by when she didn't think about Brendan.
She hadn't heard from him in two and a half years, since for some reason he wasn't answering her e-mails and she had no other way to reach him. The impulsive, forgetful boy had written back once with a short letter explaining that he was sorry it took him so long to answer, and he wasn't doing it on purpose, so apologies again and sorry sorry sorry!
He's an idiot, May fumed, her fingers scratching her Tropius's scaly brown skin. The dinosaur snorted in delight. If I never see him again, it'll be too soon.
Ten minutes had passed, and Tropius was looking far better. Her eyes were open again and fixed on something to the right of May, unblinking, clearly amused. The girl laughed, tickling her underneath the chin. "What're you looking at?"
"Me, I imagine. Heya May."
And just like that someone's shoulder brushed her own, and someone's warm breath was sliding down her skin, and that awfully familiar voice was casually happy in her ears. A lightning bolt tail cracked like a whip, and turning, May saw his Raichu crouching near him.
"Br…Brendan…" She whispered, her heart running a marathon in her chest. This couldn't be, it simply could not be. Had her thoughts summoned him or something? "You're back."
I don't know if I'm happy or…angry. I just…heh…he's finally home.
His eyes were different, darker but brighter than before; changed by experiences she would never truly know. A smile turned up his lips, a genuine one, and one of his gloved hands rested on his Raichu as he sat cross-legged beside her.
So nonchalant! How can he be like that?
"I'm back," Brendan agreed without argument. "Tropius is looking well, and so are you."
Silence. She wasn't sure how to answer him, so she didn't. Relief at his reappearance was combating her anger, like her own personal Kyogre and Groudon battle.
"…I met Steven," he continued after she offered no response. "Again. And he said he got a real challenge from you, but didn't say who won…did you…?"
"I lost. Barely. Sceptile got to his Metagross before he finally…" May trailed off, trying to decide which tone to use. In the end, she settled on nothing. None. It was far simpler that way.
"Next time you'll win, without a doubt." And the conviction in his sapphire eyes said he believed his own words.
How can he be so supportive, and yet…?
"You didn't write."
A shadow dropped over his gaze, hiding his emotions from her view. His movements ceased, the gentle stroking of his Raichu coming to a sudden halt.
"You said you would." Fury appeared to be winning.
"…I…I know I did. But…I'm sorry." Brendan turned his head away, staring off into the sunrise.
"Sorry? You're sorry? It's as if you think saying 'I'm sorry' will make up for all of those phone calls you never gave, all of those e-mails you never answered." Her pale gaze settled on his wrist, where his Pokégear was visible on his right arm, strapped tight. "Doesn't that have a phone? You have time to call others for rematches but you can't spare five minutes out of your day to tell me how you are? I was worried sick!"
"I'm so sorry."
"Then look at me and say that to my face," May challenged. Her fingernails were digging into her palm painfully as she clenched her fists, trembling thanks to the depths of her emotions.
I had no idea whether you were alive or…
Tropius huffed, raising her head and glaring daggers at Brendan. His Raichu didn't even come to his defense, just sitting there with rumpled fur and blazing black eyes, fixed accusingly on his Trainer, and clearly everyone was asking the boy why? Why did you leave us?
I know Brendan so well that my own Pokémon are attached to him. They'd just as soon listen to him as they would me. I know the Natures and favorite Pokéblock colors of all his Pokémon…does he?
"May…" Brendan slowly pivoted to face her, his blue stare downcast, unblinking and unsure. "Please don't think I was trying to avoid you on purpose. I just get so caught up—"
"Answer me. Straight. Did you think of me at all?"
"Of course!" He bristled slightly, and his Raichu scoffed in support of his master this time.
"Why didn't you write then, or contact me at all, anywhere in two and a half years?"
When he failed to reply, May stood and stomped in high bad temper to the edge of the Center's log platform. Her Tropius heaved herself to her feet and followed, wings unfolding oh so gracefully.
I can't believe this! He won't answer me at all! I thought we were friends.
She stepped up onto her Tropius's back. "Go to Mirage Island, please, and then I swear you can rest for as long as you want."
Sensing her Trainer's distress, and rejuvenated by the continuously rising sun, the Pokémon decided she could fly the short distance if it meant they could both escape Hoenn's Champion and all of his empty apologies.
We'll be friends again when he can finally answer my—
"May, wait! Please, I mean this isn't easy for me!"
"For you? Maybe I'll ignore you for three years and see how you like it!" She snapped, turning her back as Tropius prepared for liftoff.
"Raichu, no, don't try and Shock Wave Tropius. May, just…stop!" Brendan lunged forward and grabbed her arm, and she tried to tug herself free, but he held on. His blue eyes burned with something like desperation.
May lifted her chin and waited for him to say something whist her Pokémon growled in warning. Raichu arched his back and hissed, sparks popping from his yellow cheeks.
Brendan's hand slid down her arm so that his fingers could entwine with her own. "I'm sorry. And I guess…" He shook his head slowly. "I guess I've never written or anything because I'm in denial. So much has changed, you know? I keep thinking to myself that no one will ever go anywhere or end up different so long as I don't acknowledge them. It's like I'm hoping that Hoenn will stand still for me so I can go traveling and still return to my home, exactly the same. Being famous is so strange, and it's made everyone here react differently to me. I'm not so well known in Kanto or Johto so I went there to be normal, to train again and win and lose…"
She felt sympathy flash briefly in her heart, but she thought he still didn't quite deserve it.
"Sometimes I feel proud to be Hoenn's Champion. Other times, I just want to be regular again so I won't have to face my dad at my house, face his rigid stare, and realize that I'm higher ranking than my own father. Face you or Wally and know that I left you all behind. I know that I should be sitting in my personalized room in Ever Grande, waiting to battle Trainers, but staying in one place for very long just isn't me. I'm not Lance, I'm not Red, I'm not Silver, and I'm not Ethan or Lyra. I guess I'm Steven." Brendan looked like he was going to stop, and May was surprised enough since he had never spilled his feelings out like this before, for her to see and examine and pick apart.
She was beginning to understand, but at the same time, she was still frustrated with him. "How are you Steven?" The girl prompted. She moved around so he was completely in her sight, and Tropius slid her elongated neck to the side so she could blink thoughtfully at Raichu and his Trainer.
Running a nervous hand through his hair, Brendan murmured, "Steven gave his Champion status to Wallace, but only after I gave it to him. For some reason, we both still get seen as Hoenn's Champion despite the fact that Wallace is now. It's like we'll never be normal again, and we can't, since an Elite Four victory doesn't occur every single day. I'm just running away I guess, running to escape all of these whispers that following me saying, 'That's the kid that defeated Teams Aqua and Magma! He saved Hoenn!' or, 'That's the kid that defeated Kyogre, Groudon, Rayquaza…that's the kid that defeated Steven!' Most people don't run from fame. I do. Guess I'm a coward, and because of that, I…am so sorry, May, for all that it's worth."
"Brendan…" She dropped off of her Tropius, taking his other hand in hers and smiling. "Why didn't you say so earlier? Change is a part of life; you just have to pray that it's good. Hoenn is always changing, even right this second, but I promise that I'll tell you whenever something momentous happens to me." May lifted her gaze to find his, and she was startled by the brightness of his eyes. "What about you?" She said softly.
"Okay. I promise. For real this time."
"That's all I can ask for." May wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly, and she found herself wondering how he had gotten so tall. She only reached his shoulders now, and once upon a time, they had been the same exact height. "Welcome home."
She didn't know how long she stood there in his embrace, but Brendan pulled away at last and coughed in one gloved hand, a blush dusting the bridge of his nose. "So…let's get to Mirage Island before it's gone for good. Is your overgrown lizard ready for a quick flight?"
Tropius snorted in Brendan's face with enough force to cause his bangs to ruffle.
"Okay, okay. Sheesh. Go, Skarmory!" The Premier Ball spun crazily before releasing the great Flying and Steel type. The aforementioned metallic bird spread his grand, razor-edged wings and cried out to the heavens. Raichu was put back in his Pokéball, and Brendan took his customary place between his Pokémon's shoulder blades.
May got back on Tropius, and as he took off into the sky, she turned her eyes back onto Brendan.
He's still just so…silly.
The ground dropped away from them at a startling speed, and Tropius set off. The leaf-like wings she boasted beat the air powerfully, generating bursts of invisible currents that buffeted Skarmory a little. With a screech of irritation, the bird moved to the right a bit and stayed just a little beneath the dinosaur, gliding along effortlessly.
The ocean and the sky appeared almost exactly the same, both a creamy yellow by now that was gradually morphing into an intense shade of azure that promised a warm, pleasant day. A school of Wailmers sprayed jets of salty water from their heads, and sunlight caught the glimmering bodies of Tentacool floating on top of the sea. Swimmers below them, heading for Mirage Island no doubt, waved up occasionally as they passed.
A cawing cloud of Wingulls hurriedly moved to get out of Skarmory's way, since Tropius was a vegetarian and was unlikely to hurt them unless they bothered her. The same couldn't be said for the partially Steel-type bird.
She understood the joy of the Bird Catchers that littered the earth and sky of the rainy forest near Lilycove. May infinitely preferred Flying over Surfing, no matter how fast her Gorebyss could shred through the tides.
This is only rivaled by Diving, I think.
The girl peeked down at Brendan, just beneath her, and found herself studying every tiny detail about him. He was at such an angle that his face was partially visible, lustrous in the growing light, a pleased smile turning up both corners of his lips just a little. His Skarmory's silver feathers had caught the sun's rays and appeared to be made out of fire.
It seemed, for all the world, that he was riding on a phoenix.
May's breath lodged in her throat, and she sighed, leaning forward and resting her head on Tropius's neck. The dinosaur blinked at her inquisitively before continuing ever onward.
Brendan's Pokémon was intelligent enough not to get too close to Tropius, lest the gale generated by her wings' downbeats knock him off course. They drifted higher, passing the clouds and hanging there in the void between earth and sky.
"That's Mirage Island down there," Brendan exclaimed, seeming very pleased indeed.
May looked down and realized he was right. The trees and bushes waved in the breeze, and she imagined Wynauts nibbling the Liechi berries—which had to be their lone food source—in the rising light. Tropius and Skarmory circled twice before proceeding to dip down towards the ground. They landed in an obscure, hidden meadow at the combined orders of their Trainers, their wings kicking up dust.
After they had dismounted, the pair left their Pokémon out and started wandering along the shore. A few Wynauts scrambled away, but even more simply stayed where they were and watched the chatting friends with an interested gaze.
She was surprised by how easily he fit back in. Just like that. Brendan had been gone for years and now that he had returned, May found that there was still room for him in the puzzle of her life. Nothing had replaced the void, even after…
His eyes rested on her, she could feel it, and it made her feel nervous and her skin felt hot. Just to distract herself, the girl released her trusty Sceptile from his Pokéball, and he emerged in a burst of green stars and leaves.
"Whoa," Brendan remarked, taking a step back. "That's quite a Ball Capsule!" He gave her a crooked smile and May grinned, taking her Pokémon's face in both of her hands and nuzzling him affectionately.
"Sceptile is the best at Contests, yes he is," she crooned. The great Grass-type whirred something happily in response.
The boy also let his Swampert out, and Sceptile (presumably) struck up a conversation with the Water/Ground-type, falling into step a few paces behind their Trainers. Overhead, Tropius and Skarmory circled them, playing what looked like Tag in the air.
A silence settled between the two humans, though their Pokémon were certainly far from quiet. May bit her lip and wondered why she didn't have anything to say to him, despite how much time had passed.
"May," began Brendan slowly, his eyes downcast. "Do you think…I mean, do you really forgive me?"
"Of course." She shrugged. "What's past is past. Just don't ever do that again, do you understand me?"
He laughed a little uneasily, rubbing the back of his head. "Crystal clear," he responded, tone wry.
They ended up entering the woods, pointing the Wynauts out to each other if they were doing something particularly interesting. Brendan remarked casually, "Want to battle?"
She paused, one hand on her Sceptile's arm. "Don't you know how to have fun without violence?"
At her teasing reply, he bristled, though mostly in jest. "Fine, fine. It's all I've been doing for a while."
May put her hand out and rested it on his shoulder, squeezing him reassuringly. "Then take a break, Champion," she encouraged. "There's plenty of time for fighting if that's what you really want."
He chuckled and asked her, "Say, why do you always have a grip on your Sceptile?"
Puzzled, the girl noticed that this was indeed the truth. The Grass-type was standing beside her with his tawny gaze slanted as always, as if he was watching out for danger. "I dunno."
Brendan said nothing more on the matter, and the duo settled down at the base of a tall pine tree. It offered them a majestic view of the sea, and the ocean was positively breathtaking at the moment as twilight fell and dusted the world with soft lavender and oranges. Had they really been walking for that long? A few of the wild Wynauts were even swimming in the water, creating multicolored splashes that glittered in the semidarkness.
Tropius flopped over nearby, her long neck coiled up and tucked under her leafy wings. Skarmory had bunkered down just to the right of the mighty dinosaur, using his sharp beak to clean his metallic feathers. Sceptile sprang up into the branches directly overhead whilst Swampert plunked himself in a hollow between some upraised roots.
Their serenity and comfort was reassuring. Their Pokémon were as familiar with them as they were with each other. May readjusted her bandanna and slumped back with a sigh. "I hope Mirage Island won't disappear with us on it."
"Hmm, I can think of worse fates. We have food, our Pokémon, and each other."
May twirled a clump of needles around in her fingers, inhaling deeply so that her nose was filled with the fresh, clean scent of pine. "We'd get tired of one another eventually. I mean, you're a forgetful jerk."
Brendan acknowledged this with a dip of his head, smirking. "That's true."
She craned her head up and watched her beloved Sceptile prance about in a tree, balancing easily on the limbs, slender feet clasping the bark effortlessly. "Remember when we first met?"
"I walked straight into your room."
"I know. I mean who does that? Didn't even knock!"
"Your mom said I could," he pointed out. Shrugging at that, May brought her attention back towards her friend as he went on. "See? I'm not a forgetful jerk. Just a jerk."
She tossed a hand. "So I was wrong about that part. You're still a huge jerk and have been since forever." Playfully, she flung a handful of pine needles at him and he spluttered in shock as they hit his face.
Rubbing the offending shrubbery away, the boy scowled. "Well you're a judgmental nuisance."
"Fair enough." May could tell that she had startled him, and she giggled, lying down on her back and folding her arms behind her head. Sighing, she closed her eyes and turned onto her side.
"Are you tired?" Brendan inquired, sprinkling her hair with pine needles. She wasn't really bothered, merely murmuring an affirmative. "We haven't even done anything," he noted, and she didn't look up because she knew he had one of his grins on his face.
"I know. Weird, right? Maybe I'm just tired mentally. But I'll need to go get those Liechi berries…Hey, Sceptile!"
A reptilian head poked itself out of the upper canopy.
"Would you mind going to collect some Liechi berries? If you do I promise I'll make you the best Pokéblocks ever."
The Pokémon appeared to consider this for a few seconds, and then he whistled cheerfully and bolted off. A few seconds passed, and not long after the less spry Swampert lumbered after him. Tropius just repositioned her neck to better catch the dying rays of the sun while Skarmory squawked irritably.
May closed her eyes again, and then to her curious pleasure, Brendan started combing his fingers through her brown hair. "What are you doing?" She queried interestedly.
"Getting those needles out."
She watched as a few of the thin leaves landed in front of her. "Alright." Absently, she brushed the grass and thought back over the years to everything that had happened. A thought occurred to her at that moment, a thought that made her mouth become dry and her eyes sting. The strength of the emotion hit her so hard that for a few seconds, she didn't breathe.
Sitting up, she knocked his hand away and faced Brendan with narrowed eyes.
"Uh oh. Am I still in trouble?" He hunched his shoulders, a sheepish smile on his face.
"Remember what you said when you left?"
"…I'll be back?" Her mood swing from tranquility to restrained anger was freaking him out.
"Close. Try again."
His gaze darkened as he struggled through his haze of memories back to that point in time, back to Littleroot Town years past. "…I…I'm sorry, I don't remember what I said exactly."
May crossed her arms and exhaled slowly. "You said…you'd be back before I missed you. I missed you as soon as you left."
Understanding dawned upon his face, and Brendan grimaced. "Oh…"
"So you're still a forgetful jerk," she sniffed irritably, blinking hard. To her immense annoyance, he just chuckled. "What's so funny?" She demanded.
Brendan shuffled closer to her, leaning forward slightly with a toothy smile. "You haven't changed a bit! Guess I didn't need to worry about that."
"Hmph. Well, you're gonna start worrying about something in a minute if you don't stop laughing." However, unheeding of her warning, he went on snickering. May smacked him on the arm, but he didn't seem to mind. Giving up, she fell flat onto the grass again and stared up at the rapidly darkening sky. "Jerk."
"I know." Brendan stayed upright, lifting his eyes to follow the direction of hers. "What're you looking at?"
"Clouds? Birds? I'm not sure myself." May brushed her fingers along her other four Pokéballs that still housed their occupants.
She had an inkling—an inkling that said he was thinking hard. Brendan wasn't an especially pensive person, his actions usually coming off as spontaneous. He didn't really have a plan or anything whenever he ran to go save the world from gangs, besides the infamous "make it up as I go along" strategy. So, obviously, his silence intrigued her.
May let it go on regardless.
As she had predicted, Brendan brought it up after several minutes had crawled by. Now, the sun was all but gone, and the world was a dimmer place. (That is, until the moon soared upward and the stars arrived to fill the shadows.)
"I was thinking…Thinking of staying here for a while. Maybe I'll challenge Wallace and regain my Champion title."
"Most people," she disagreed. "Still consider you the Champion because you gave Wallace his new position."
"Doesn't matter. I think I can beat him again, do you?"
"I don't doubt it."
"So…um…I'll be staying here," he repeated, his tone unsure. She eyed him inquisitively from her spot on the ground. Naturally, he evaded her gaze.
"That's good. We can catch up. You, Wally, and I."
"Yeah…" Brendan moved to lie down beside her, their shoulders lightly brushing. He mimicked her relaxed posture—oblivious to the slight blush on her face—nonchalant as you please.
Opting to lighten the mood, May grinned. "You? Having a plan? How unusual!"
"I always have a plan," he objected, opening one eye lazily.
"Right. You didn't really have one when you rushed to fight your father."
"But I still won, didn't I?"
"Barely. You'll make a plan but never check to see if the variables that execute it are intact. Or even make any sense."
To her surprise, he fell silent.
"Check and mate," declared the girl haughtily. She let her lids fall closed and decided that was that.
"You're right." His tone had changed considerably, becoming quieter. "I always know what to do but I don't bother checking to see if the outcome is realistic. I'm just a 'wing it' kind of guy." A pause, and then unexpectedly she gasped as he shifted his position and placed both of his hands on either side so that he loomed over her. May saw him smirking like he had only done once before, when he had won their first ever battle.
Her nails dug into the grass and she resisted the urge to call her Tropius. The Grass/Flying-type was watching them with mild curiosity, the same went for Skarmory. Her face was burning. "Brendan…?"
His eyes narrowed, and still he smiled with a devilish joy. Hesitation briefly ghosted across his features before he murmured in her ear, "Do you still want me to wing it?"
Something about his voice made her almost shiver. Did she? Didn't she? What could possibly happen out here in the wilds of Mirage Island? "Er…yes?"
Gradually, in an almost teasing fashion, he tilted forward until only an inch separate their lips. Their eyes locked, and she knew he was asking for permission. Was this okay? Would she be mad at him if he…?
In response to his wordless question, she pulled him down and closed the distance between them. Fireworks went up in her stomach and her heart thudded madly against her ribcage. He had to feel it, because she could feel his going just as fast.
She was a little reassured.
Then, before she knew it, she had her fingers tangled in his dyed white hair and she couldn't help but think what a silly hair style. But it was Brendan, inexplicably Brendan, and she'd have it no other way. She felt the touch of his fingers—five warm points—on the side of her face, trailing down to her neck. How ironic, he made her feel like she was on fire, but he had a Swampert, not a…
(Grass-types were weak to Fire anyway, weren't they?)
His eyes weren't closed, and neither were hers, and it wasn't until he pulled back to study her reaction did she noticed their rather…compromising position. May would've jumped away, in a normal circumstance, but that was kind of impossible to do on the ground with Brendan's arms on either side of her.
Two heartbeats later, he scrambled away and coughed, face so red that she wanted to giggle. Maybe she did. Everything was a dreamy blur at the moment. May had never been one to dream of romance, but as far as first kisses went, she thought it was rather spectacular.
They both stuttered something at once, blushed harder, and fell silent.
Sceptile returned with an armful of Liechi berries, as did Swampert. Judging by the stains on the Pokémon's mouths, they had practically stuffed themselves before hand. They exchanged confused glances before settling down beside their frozen, shell-shocked Trainers.
Bringing a hand to her mouth, May murmured, "I didn't know you felt that way."
"You were on my mind a lot," was the simple response. Brendan patted the Water-type's finned head, and his general composure returned without much difficulty.
Taking a deep breath to calm her fluttering heart, May gave one of her biggest smiles yet. "Are you going to say it, or do I need to?"
He arched his brows. "What do you mean?" His tone dripped faux innocence.
A helpless laugh escaped her and she threw her arms around her old friend. "I love you, you jerk."
He embraced her tightly, grinning all the while. "Love you too."
Author's Note: Ah, this moved far too quickly and for that I sincerely apologize. However, I hoped you enjoyed the story regardless. I wrote this with some kind of stomach flu, so forgive the randomness. Thanks for reading!
Review, if you will.