"And…the coordinator accepting our prized Ribbon Cup, the best of the best…May of Hoenn!"
As the winner of the Johto Grand Festival literally ran up to the announcer and accepted her Ribbon Cup with undeniable joy on her face, the runner-up was watching from backstage.
He wasn't disappointed. He watched May's whole acceptance with a smile on his face, knowing that she well deserved it, but he did feel a little envious when she triumphantly lifted the Ribbon Cup over her head and waved to the audience. But amidst all the cheering and the confetti, when he saw the look of sheer happiness on her face, all he could think of was that it was always worth it to see her smile.
"Well, I guess that's that." He said to himself, and, burying his hands in his pockets, headed for the entrance.
He would have stayed to talk to her if either of them hadn't won. To him, it would have been a normal and balanced conversation between loser and loser. Since May won this time, he figured she needed some space because she probably felt so important right now…then again, she never bragged unless it was to make a cheap comeback at him after he would insult her jokingly.
And besides…in her celebrating her victory, she probably wouldn't even notice him.
And what if he tried to talk to her after he won the competition? If he would even as much as walk her way, holding the trophy she would immediately tell him to butt off, 'Whatever, you won the gig, so could you please try not to rub it in my face?'
"Well, I guess I'll see you whenever." He whispered as he turned to look back at the building where the contest was held. People were already starting to come out of it. Drew exhaled sharply through his nose and turned his back again to leave.
Once again, Drew's head spun around, but this time because of the voice of the person he had tried to avoid. When he saw her grinning at him, clutching the Ribbon Cup tightly, he mentally slapped himself and realized how stupid he was, for considering not saying goodbye to her.
"Oh, hi, May. I guess I should say congrats on winning."
After that, there was silence between them, whereas crowds around them were chatting animatedly about the event that had just occurred. A teenage boy even congratulated May on the win as he was passing by, but she didn't even seem to notice him. The winner and the runner-up just continued to stare at each other until their personal silence was broken by the brunette, who suddenly bit her lip and started to giggle.
"What's so funny?" Drew questioned, raising his eyebrows.
"I beat you." The tone of her voice was teasing.
"Yeah, well, it was just a coincidence, you know." Drew remarked, flicking his hair. "Your Beautifly just happened to dodge Butterfree's Psybeam because of a gust of wind."
"Coincidence? Coincidence, my foot! I won that battle, Drew, 'cause I was strong, and you know it. And I could actually see you cowering on the other side, you know. You should have seen your face!"
Crap. She did notice the beads of sweat forming on his forehead during that final round, when he was struggling to keep a clear head and think of a strategy to counterattack that goddamned Psychic attack of Beautifly's. It was too bad that May had already thought of using it once more to knock out Butterfree for good in that round. It was a pretty tough battle, he had to admit.
But, of course, he couldn't admit it to May.
"Pff. Whatever." He concluded, running his fingers along his bangs once again.
"But I gotta admit…" May said, "It was a hard match. Probably the hardest one I've ever had so far."
"Really? I'm honored about that."
May cocked an eyebrow at him and said, her voice skeptical, "Really?"
"Well, if it was tougher than that other battle with Harley, then I'm thinking I really should be proud."
The brunette rolled her eyes. "Harley? Puh-lease."
Drew suspected that she was mocking him. May battled her other rival in the semi-finals and he could make out the tension in her face when it looked as if she might lose.
"I take it that he isn't as strong as I am?"
"Maybe." May started to blink several times, and her eyes were darting in all directions, as if trying to find a way to distract herself from…something. Drew didn't know. He looked around the Festival Grounds himself and it was only now that he realized that the two of them were alone in front of the building with the sun beginning to set.
"But you know," she finally said. "Both of you guys were my rivals…and you did your thing. You changed a lot of stuff in my life, and I couldn't have made it this far without you."
The corners of Drew's mouth curved into a smile. "Thanks, May."
"You know, Ash was supposed to come and watch the Grand Festival, but he couldn't. It was too bad."
That name immediately set a pang of jealousy radiating throughout Drew's mind. Ash Ketchum, May's traveling partner, with that Pikachu of his. He and May had gone through all sorts of places together, met tons of people and Pokemon, and, most importantly, were with each other every day. Sure there was also her brother and that guy named Brock who can cook…but Ash was a different matter.
"Why couldn't he come?"
"On another journey. I ran into him while he was in Sinnoh, you know. He hasn't changed one bit!"
"Oh. That's great." He looked away from her. Then after a pause, "So, I guess you like him, huh?"
Drew did not expect May to laugh, but she did. He looked back to her in surprise and saw that she was really laughing. She had a hand on her mouth and another on her stomach, and she was in a misfit of giggling.
"No, I don't like him!" May replied after she calmed down. "He's honestly just a friend. Seriously, can't everyone see that? My Mom and Dad wanted me to go after him, too, and it took a lot of convincing to let them know that I wasn't interested."
Suddenly, it seemed as if a huge weight was lifted off Drew's shoulder.
"Yeah. You know, if it weren't for Ash in the first place, I would have just been traveling all my life without a care for my Pokemon or anything. You don't know how thankful I am that he changed how I felt about Pokemon."
"But you know, Drew…you changed me in some ways, too."
Drew felt his heart skip a beat. "How do you mean?"
May set down the Ribbon Cup on the ground before answering him. Her hands were now rested in front of her stomach, fingers tangling and untangling.
"I mean…you know how we've been rivals for so long, right? Always arguing and fighting and battling each other, trying to see who would come out on top…you would have thought I hated it. But I don't. It's motivated me, and it's made me a better person and a stronger coordinator. And, well…thank you for that."
"Is that it?"
Drew spotted a shade of red rise to her cheeks and noticed how she turned away when she realized it herself. But she couldn't stop it. She turned back to him and said, with a small smile on her face, and the blush still there:
"Well…there is this other thing…"
"What is it?"
May only turned redder and didn't speak. Drew took a step toward her and, acting on impulse, rested the palm of his hand on the side of her face.
"Come on, say it. You can tell me anything, you know."
May jerked her head up and stared at him with an expression that looked like confusion. Then her cheek lifted a little and she managed a small laugh.
"Since when were we that mutual?"
'Ah, what the hell!' Drew thought. 'Why'd I say that?'
"You know. Since we're friends and all, and friends tell each other stuff."
"Friends…" May murmured, her gaze drifting back down again.
"What is it?" Drew asked, trying to hide the disappointment he suddenly felt. "We're not still…just rivals to you, aren't we?"
"No, of course not! I just think…"
"You don't still hate me, do you?" Damn, did that just come out?
May looked up at him once more, her eyes now serious and looking at him with an expression he couldn't decipher.
"Of course not!" The tone of her voice made it obvious that she was telling him the truth. "Just because we were rivals doesn't mean I hate you. I mean, yeah, you were cocky and obnoxious and rude and a jerk and conceited-"
"Yeah, I think I get it." Smirking, Drew stopped her before her tone began to sound annoyed and any moment she would have lashed out at him, her mouth spilling an endless stream of different names in his face, but he wouldn't have stopped her. He would continue to let her fume until she was exhausted, her eyes digging into him murderously like daggers, her breath wheezing in and out from all her shouting, and, in turn, her shoulders and back tensing from the effort to at least breathe normally.
But she had always been pretty cute like that.
"So…you were going to say…"
"Oh!" The original topic of the conversation dawned on May and she found herself unable to speak again.
"Well…it's complicated…and it may come as a shock to you…" She began, looking away from him and fidgeting, as if that could help her with whatever she was about to do.
Drew's heart nearly stopped. Was she actually…?
"Okay, I'll just say it straight. Drew, I-"
"I'll go first." Drew interrupted. May looked at him in surprise, and in turn, he smiled at her. He could not believe that he was going to do this…but there was no turning back now. He had never felt so sure about anything else in his life. He had to say it. Now.
"You changed my life, too, May." He began, looking her straight in the eye. "I couldn't admit it before, but now I can say that you're the strongest rival I've ever had. And…I feel really great to have met you, even if it wasn't the best of meetings…" He recalled that Frisbee, the key to their contact. "And you changed me in ways that you don't know of, but for those changes, I'm grateful. I feel honored to have met you, May, and it's not only for the sake that I've become stronger because of you." Here, he took a deep breath, and finally said the thoughts that had been pushing through his mind.
"The truth is, May…I like you…I love you, and I could never imagine life if I had never met you."
He could feel his face begin to flush, and he thought, stupid, don't blush in front of her…but then he felt May's hand clasp his wrist gently and he looked back at her face. She was smiling.
"That's exactly what I wanted to tell you, too, Drew."
Then she kissed him then and there, her hand slowly sliding from his wrist to his hand, twining their fingers together. May felt Drew smile in their kiss, and that made her giggle as well. Drew's other hand grazed upon her shoulder for a while, and then it slid down her arm, and finally settled on her waist. May freed her one hand from its tangle with Drew's and she flung it and her other arm as well, around Drew's neck. When they separated, smiling and staring at each other, they leaned in for another long kiss. It was as if, for both of them, all those hidden and buried emotions of wanting to touch, to hold, to kiss each other for so long had suddenly burst and they were expressing it all in their very first kiss. Their tongues intertwined with each other and that only got them more excited. In their private joy all to their own, May accidentally knocked over the Ribbon Cup, but she didn't care, and neither did Drew. They ran their fingers through each other's hair, they continued to hold each other, and their lips didn't stop their gentle caress and motion.
After what seemed like forever, they finally broke off their kiss. Drew stared at May…she seemed so much more beautiful than ever before. When May raised her head and looked into his eyes, he was entranced once again by their crystal blueness. But when May leaned in and kissed him once more, it seemed like now he had everything he had ever wanted. And he couldn't even see her eyes.
This kiss was much shorter than the first, but it was amazing. Almost as amazing as the first. May spotted the trophy lying down helplessly on its side and straightened it up again. Only after that did she stop smiling and continued to look down on the ground. Drew lifted her chin and set their eyes to the same level of height.
"May?" He whispered.
"Yes?" May managed to breathe. Oh my God, his eyes are so amazing. Why have I never noticed it before?
"I'm glad that you became my rival."
May smiled and hugged him once more, resting her head on his chest.