Foreward: I do not own Pokemon. Another update, finally! Or at least, it finally let me update it! I had this done almost two weeks ago! Anyway, Heeeeerrreeee weeeee gooooo...
Edit: I've changed Whitlea to White. For the record, I know Touko and Hilda are the official names, respectively. However, Whitlea was at one point believed to be her official US name, which is why I was using it. (When I started this story, this is the name people thought she would have.) But, enough people had mentioned it, so I thought White would do - although it's not right, either. ^_^
No matter how many times White had crossed it, the view from the top of Skyarrow Bridge took her breath away. This particular morning in Summer, the glow of morning was just making its way onto the city's skyline. Beautiful as it was, she had pushed through the burning in her legs to cross it as quickly as possible.
Three days before, Bianca had informed her she had seen N in the city, standing by the fountain as she looked down from an observation deck. At first White didn't believe her—until Bianca remarked, "How many people have hair like that?" Just N, and Ghetsis—the latter of who wouldn't be idly standing in a crowd. Still, it took convincing, swearing on her friend's part for her to believe her. White had scoured Unova for months with no luck, and for him to show up as a random incident seemed almost unfair. But the look on Bianca's face had told her it was true.
At first, White wasn't sure if she should go try to find him, when faced with it all. When things seemed impossible, everything had been easier. If she found N, what would come of it? That thought had not yet crossed her mind. Maybe he didn't want to be found yet, or his journey had changed him so irrevocably that he wasn't the sweet boy she knew anymore. Deep down in her heart, knowing that N could be only a few hours away from her filled White with fear: even if she found him, it didn't mean he would feel the same about her.
And then there was the issue of the journey of her own. White was wild with excitement for her rematches. She couldn't give that up, even if N was around again. She had already wasted six months mourning his absence. She couldn't postpone her dreams now that he was back. Even if the league had changed his ideals, it didn't mean that he would approve of yet another quest for battle. If everything somehow managed to work out, there was still the immense task of finding the words for her feelings for him. White had never confessed to anyone before, much less been rejected.
Months ago, she had thought finding N would make her nothing but happy. Now, she was sad to find it only filled her with dread.
It was Cheren who had convinced her to go looking, in his own way, making a snide remark to the effect he hadn't imagined her giving up. White might taunt a Bouffalant to prove him wrong. Still, she cursed that fact as her thighs were already burning from cycling when she had reached Castelia. After all, the Sunday that lie ahead of her was going to be anything but lazy.
It was the last day before White was scheduled to leave for her trip. If she didn't discover him then, she wasn't ever going to.
The sun beat down on White's dark hair, freed from her cap for a moment as she adjusted her ponytail. A morning of running around in the heat and the wind had done nightmares to her appearance.
She had been up and down Mode Street, Northern, up skyscrapers and to every dock. No one had seen him, especially not White. A sour expression froze on her face even as she sat on the edge of the city's fountain, cooled by the mist. Castelia was huge. That was common sense, of course, but only now was White hit with the true enormity of that fact. She crossed her arms.
How could she possibly have hoped to encounter him here? N was probably long gone again by now, his appearance at the fountain a fleeting moment that was days past. White sighed, burying her hands in her pockets as she got up to check Castelia Street again. "As if it'll help…"
Nervousness aside, White couldn't deny how badly she wanted to see him.
She was rounding a corner when a voice cut through the crowd. "White! Hey, White, is that you?"
Her heart soured. No one knew she was in town! Heart two steps ahead of her mind, she whirled around, beaming. "N—"
"What was that? I can't hear you from over here!" A slim man came jogging over, grinning.
A weight clutched her stomach. "Oh. Burgh."
The gym leader's smile fell, upon her reaction. "Oh. White," he said, mocking her disappointed tone. "Nice to see you, too."
She shook her head. "I'm sorry. How are you?"
"Pretty well. I've been working on a new series of paintings lately, on dragon Pokémon. I was impressed with the work you and Drayden have been doing, so I thought I would combine that with stained-glass inspired watercolor and—White?"
White was staring at the ground, biting her lip, tears stinging the corners of her eyes. She didn't intend to look in such a state, although she definitely felt it. Her reaction to Burgh only made her feel stupid. What happened to the confident girl who had last walked into the city? She'd been replaced with an unsure shadow, bored of her accomplishments and yearning for a boy who probably didn't ever wonder about her. Pathetic. "I'm sorry, Burgh—I have to go."
He grabbed her shoulder when she turned. "White, wait up." Burgh hesitated. "I don't mean to intrude, but I heard you've been having a tough time lately. Want to get lunch?"
She barely knew Burgh, and he had noticed something had changed. White nodded, weakly. "All right."
The little café on Slim Street that Burgh had dragged her to was vastly different than she had expected. It was homey, with live music wafting through the air and sepia lighting. Immediately she felt a little better.
A few drinks of tea later, White was spilling the entire situation to the older trainer—her six month hiatus, the fear, the longing, everything, pride being toppled by her need for device.
Burgh's first response was just to shake his head and sigh. "I think we've all been there before."
White laughed. "So your first crush was on the leader of a crime organization who's taken to wandering the world on a legendary dragon that he beat the league champion with?"
"You know what I mean!" Burgh scowled. "I'm trying to be helpful."
She sunk in her seat a little. "Sorry," she said. "To be honest, I just want this whole situation to be over, for better or worse."
"I know what you mean," Burgh said. "You know, when I first became a gym leader, I was obsessed with Grimsley. Part of our test is to make a challenge against the elite four—it helps place us. I fought Caitlin first, but as soon as I got to him, I choked. I know it sounds silly, love at first sight and all, but I lost that day. It took me three months longer than it was supposed to for me to take my spot here at the gym just because I became so obsessed with beating him. It wasn't supposed to be hard—you'd know that I have the type advantage. But I'd built him up in my mind as smart, intelligent, and unbeatable. Towards the end I realized I was throwing the matches. As long as I didn't win, I could keep challenging him and seeing him."
"What happened?" White asked, voice soft.
"I went back, and I won. I think when I did he liked me more than before. Unfortunately, I went on to Shauntal, and when she congratulated me on beating her boyfriend… Well, you can imagine how that went."
Burgh waved his hand. "I'm over it, now. I knew all along there was no way he was interested in me. As soon as she said that, I could finally stop lying to myself. It was like waking up from a wonderful dream. Painful, but necessary."
White lowered her eyes. Was that all N was to become? A dream?
The waitress brought over their sandwiches and after taking the first bite of his, Burgh sensed that his words had discouraged her. "I don't mean to imply that you'll end up the same way. All I'm trying to say is, even if it's impossible, you'll move past it. Rejection won't kill you, so if you do find him, don't be too afraid to say anything! Whatever his answer is, you'll make it."
White smiled as she finished her tea. "Thanks." She paused to partake of her food. "But what should I say to him? I mean, I shouldn't just lead off with that, should I?" She asked, mouth still half full.
Burgh laughed. "Of course not!" White briefly interrupted him to commend him on his restaurant choice, then implored that he continue. "He's been away a long time. You guys probably have a lot to catch up on." His laugh came in time with the cowbells on the door ringing as someone entered. "I mean, I don't even know the guy and I wonder what he's been up to. So—"
White's eyes had been innocently wandering when the bells sounding drew her eyes to the door, and the world fell away. Burgh's voice went mute, the delicious, flaky bread turned to tasteless mush in her mouth. The man who had just entered strode up to the hostess, his signature almost-shyness emanating as he bent to talk to her, unaware of the havoc he was wreaking just a few tables over. Her mouth hung open.
"God damn it, White, you are flighty today. What in Arceus's name are you looking—" Burgh turned to look over his shoulder and the sight answered his own question. "Oh."
It was N.
Things came spinning into perspective for White so quickly her head throbbed. She yanked Burgh's head back around by his scarf and hissed, "Quick! What do I say?"
"I-I don't know, he's right over there—"
"Well you were telling me just a second ago! I don't know what I'm going to do, I have to… I mean, I've missed him so much, I don't want to go over there and say something stupid!"
"Just go say hi!"
"'Hi?' 'Hi?' After six months of misery I've got something better to say than 'Hi!' How about 'Where have you been, asshole?'"
"What? I don't think that's—"
"Of course it's not a good idea!" White covered her face with her hands. "I can't do it."
"What? You have to!" Burgh looked away from her when footsteps approached. White went pale, almost ducking under the table and knocking her bag over in the process.
It wasn't N, but a group of three girls. The one in front shimmied up to Burgh while her friends giggled. "Hey Burgh, um…" She held forward a small item. "Can I have your autograph?"
He dealt with them with the smiles and niceties second nature to a seasoned gym leader, but the girls' presence only irritated White: they obstructed her view of N completely. She craned her head to see around them, but to no avail. Her blood boiled with anger every second they lingered. Seeing him so close to her again made her heart flutter, and confirmed something she was already sure of:
She loved him.
As a reflex, her hand went for the cube, where it sat nestled in her bag. During the long months, it had been the only piece of him she had left. As soon as her fingers touched its metal, an idea struck her. The images came easily to her mind: After the girls cleared, she would stand, walk slowly over to him so he didn't notice. Tap him on the shoulder. Extend her hand, holding his cube, and say, barely higher than a whisper, "Excuse me, but I think you dropped this." N would smile, and say her name, and when he took it their fingers might brush just the slightest amount. White blushed in spite of herself.
Burgh signed three empty badge cases and sent the girls away as quickly as possible. "I'm sorry about that," He said, catching White's eye as they retreated. "You have any ideas?"
She nodded, and stood, ready to take her first step forward. But White remained, a hand lingering on the tabletop as a crestfallen look appeared on her face.
He was gone, as quick as he had come.
White's voice was loud enough that the neighboring tables turned to stare.
"No, this can't… What?" She clutched the edge of their seat to steady herself. It was all she could do not to scream or cry—maybe both.
"C-calm down! Um…" Burgh was out of his seat, flying over to the hostess, who he grabbed by the shoulders. After a few startled seconds, she said something and he returned. "He asked for directions."
"Where?" The millisecond before his response was torture. White had waited too long to lose him again.
"Liberty Pier. He asked for the quickest way to get there. He's probably trying for the next ferry, so—"
White didn't let him finished. She slapped a bill down on the table to cover her meal and was out the door before Burgh could tell her to hurry. He blinked in surprise a few times, smiled to himself and called after her. "Good luck!"
Normally, White liked to people watch, and relished walking in the city for its glimpses into the lives of the people she passed. She had to wonder how she appeared to them, as she sprinted down the crowed street, pushing her way ahead of the people before her. She didn't care at all, of course—a fact perfectly evident by the way she leapt over a sleeping Purrloin and nearly toppled a preschooler once the ferry came into view. It was 3:59; the boat would be departing any second. White leaned forward to rush herself on, panting but not caring as her legs screamed from exertion. She was so close. The attendant was in the middle of calling 'all aboard' when as she flashed her pass and dashed on board.
Somehow, she had made it.
White fell against a bench, reeling as the run caught up with her. It crossed her mind that wheezing and drooling wasn't the best new first impression to make, but that meant nothing if she didn't make the boat. After composing herself, she took a bottle of lemonade out of her bag and sipped it as the boat disembarked. The small ferry would be a lot easier to find him on—a thought that brought a long overdue smile to her face. White strolled in the cabin, sure he was just around the corner. The cube was already in her hand.
A few minutes of scanning the seats proved fruitless, and a line of worry creased her brow. She went up the roof seating, which was completely empty. The blood drained from her face. Was N still ashore?
White dashed down the steps, nearly crashing into a woman as she rounded the corner. She went below deck to cargo area. No one, except a worker, who shooed her away after she asked him if N had passed him three times. She trudged back up the stairs in disbelief, checking the main seating again. White knelt on the ground, going so far as to look under the benches. Not a trace of him.
The smile was gone as she headed up to the top again, practically dragging herself up by the railing. He had to be up there. It was impossible N hadn't made the ferry. She had—it was fate! Things were finally on her side again. But when the seats came into view, they were as empty as before.
White went to the edge of the observation deck, steadying herself against the railing, speechless. "He's… gone…"
The wail came of its own accord, one before she kicked the wall and one after. White drew in a shuddering breath and let out another cry, sinking down to the floor, one hand not enough to hold her up.
The cube brought her no comfort when the sun illuminated it in her hand. She held it up to look at it, sneering as if it were a person. "Why are you running from me? I just…" She bit her lip, a bit too sharply. The pain almost calmed her a little. Her Xtransceiver was beeping from a missed text, probably Burgh wondering how everything went. If she had made it. White laughed, bitterly. "Stupid thing!" In spite of her words, she was cradling it again.
'Burgh's right,' She thought, sighing as she appraised the object in her hands. It didn't belong to her. White drew in a sharp breath. 'And neither does N. He probably saw me chasing him. He must have ran.' The boat rocked beneath her, gently. 'This is all a dream.'
Her face was still wet with tears, but White exhaled and pulled herself back up. The ocean was beautiful, the buildings of Castelia growing taller as the ferry got farther away, perspective revealing the complex nature of the skyline. N was like that, too—the closer she got to him, the harder things were to understand. There were only feelings, her dream and confusion whirling together until she couldn't tell what was what. Moments before he arrived in the restaurant, she'd been terrified of all the complications he would bring. But once she saw his face…
White shook her head, slowly, as the realization came to her. She wouldn't see it again. N had moved on. A fresh tear made a hot streak down her cheek, only to instantly dry in the breeze. She had to move on, too. She took a minute to brace herself, knowing what she must do. White looked down at the cube in her hand again. The last piece of him she had.
She rose her arm to throw it into the ocean, hand high above her head with purpose. 'I have to wake up.'
On her first attempt, she faltered, a corner of it smacking against her thigh as she recalled it to her. But White took a deep breath. 'I'm strong enough on my own.' She lifted it high again, closing her eyes this time as she wound up. Just one more motion.
Her arm was about to fly forward when a hand clasped her elbow, muffling her toss into a weak release that sent the cube flopping to the ground rather than into oblivion. Irritated, she turned to look over her shoulder.
Her eyes were met with a familiar green twinkle, and a soft voice that she had longed to hear for what seemed like an eternity.
"N." She said, simply.
"You shouldn't throw away things that don't belong to you," N said, stepping forward to retrieve his trinket. He glanced up at her and smiled. "It's not nice."
Afterword: Haha, I feel a little wicked for having another cliffhanger. Still, hope you guys enjoyed it! Thank you so much for all your support so far. :) Not much else to say this week! -Bee :3