Author's Note: Here's a sad little one-shot about AlexandrianShipping, or Volkner & Jasmine. Enjoy!

Message in a Bottle

The letter arrives in late July, on a warm evening. She is sitting on the docks - feet dangling loosely into the water, the setting sun far enough to turn the clouds a sharp cutting contrast between pink and navy - when a strange foreign bird lights on a nearby post.

It is rolled into a scroll and tied with a melon-orange ribbon. The ribbon matches the color of the small baubles in her hair, so she ties it around her wrist, smiling slightly in remembrance.

A breeze from the sea splashes her face with a cool mist as she reads the letter in the dying half-light of dusk. It is informative, mostly. It speaks of triumphs far away, in a place called 'Sinnoh'. He is surprisingly detailed, especially when describing his emotions. Even in the days when they had traveled together, he always pretended not to care about anything or anyone. She supposes he is a poet at heart, underneath his emotionless mask.

He says he is happy where he is, which makes her a bit melancholy. His language stings in its impersonality. She tries not to let it affect her.

The letter is flattened and slipped into a folder on the shelf above her little coal stove. Then she sits down at the vanity and composes a reply.

When the messenger bird returns to its master, the man is standing in a lighthouse. It has been two years, two long years since he last saw her face or her pretty brown hair. Traveling alone was both efficient and heartbreaking, and it has made him a quiet, lonely man with a single purpose.

It is his first time in Sunyshore City, and the ocean makes him nostalgic, thinking of carnivals and laughter and sharing cotton candy.

She loved the sea, he remembers.

The letter she has sent in reply is folded and neatly slipped into an envelope. The stationary is much nicer than his notebook paper novels. It smells of salt and sand and sweat. He imagines her as he remembers her, strong, solid, brave, with a laugh that could make a child jealous.

But her words are soft and passive, like a mouse in winter. Perhaps leaving her behind was not so good for her after all. Not that he'd had a choice.

The words speak of memory and nostalgia. 'Remember visiting the National Park together?' she has written. 'I still have the piece of petrified wood you found me.' His eyes linger on the word 'together'.

Too long. Far too long.

The letter is folded again and carefully placed in the section for 'key items' in his backpack.

His reply arrives in Olivine City nearly a month later, and October is rolling in like the tide. The sea is unaffected by autumn, mostly. She feels its bone-aching chill when she has nightmares, though.

She is slightly relieved that his letter is less clipped than before. However, she has mixed feelings when she reads that he is often lonely, and she feels bad after.

The next day, after a reply comes flowing out of her, she holds his first and latest letters up against the sunlight. In his two years of penning notes to her, he's changed from using a boyish scrawl to a slightly lazy script that borders on illegible. He's grown up, she thinks.

She isn't sure what to think of that.

He is in the middle of signing a paper when the Wingull returns, a letter in its beak. He stops immediately, desperate for some foothold of reality.

Her words are still fluffy and docile, with some sadness in the mix. He hopes that she isn't suffering because of him; he doubts it too.

Before he pens his reply, he glances uneasily at the printed release form on his desk. One signature. One signature, and he will be the new Gym Leader of Sunyshore City.

He would drop it all for her, of course. But that would be unreasonable and foolish. He signs the paper before he can change his mind again.

The letter he writes back to her does not mention the Gym, only unimportant drivel.

When he sees her on television later that week, introduced as the 'Gym Leader of Olivine City', he realizes how stupid he's become.

She's hurt when his letter says nothing about his new Gym Leader position. She congratulates him anyway.

She feels herself pulling away, to avoid getting her heart broken. She's in it too deep, though, and it's like drowning in her beloved sea.

The rest of her letter is polite and that's all; she does not mention their shared history. She does add the bit about the headstrong boy with the backwards baseball cap and Quilava, who had fetched medicine for Amphy and then crushed her in battle. After all, the kid had reminded her of him.

It's a bit of a last resort, she supposes, when she adds a charm necklace. Just a souvenir, like those sold at carnivals and docks. But she thinks it's beautiful, and the crystalline pendant matches his eyes.

As she watches the Wingull fly away, she hopes that she hasn't made a huge mistake.

He wears her necklace when he receives it, unquestioningly.

It occurs to him that he's been foolish, not telling her his most important news. He apologizes profusely, hoping that she'll understand. He remembers Amphy, he tells her. He even recalls how happy she had been, catching such a cute Pokemon. Those had been the good days, of laughter and dreams and long summer nights spent catching fireflies.

He pours his heart into that letter. It's practically a confession, he realizes in dismay when he's finished it, but he rolls it up and sends it anyway. 'Perhaps it's better this way,' he thinks.

The letter never arrives in Olivine. Another carrier bird, lost at sea.

When he doesn't receive a reply, he throws himself into hard work. The Gym is remodeled and renovated. He hires more trainers. He works his Pokemons' levels higher and higher like a madman.

He is growing bored, he realizes after ten months of silence. He has grown too strong for anyone who challenges him. And he is not allowed to divert any more of Sunyshore's electricity to his Gym, for risk of causing more power outages than he already does.

He stares across the ocean, wondering if she thought of him when she saw it too. He makes a decision, there on that windswept platform. If his next challenger doesn't remind him why he made this choice, why he decided that staying here would be better than being with her, then he will resign and travel to her and ask for… what? Forgiveness? An explanation?

He watches a girl with dark hair and a small dress approach the Gym doors, and both apprehension and anticipation fill his face before he can cover them over once more with his usual mask. And as he walks back to the place where he will fight this girl, he thinks that the kid doesn't know how important she is.

It is with gloomy acceptance that she perceives the lack of response. However, summer turns Olivine City crisp and crackling, unwillingly reminding her of him.

So she takes a few weeks off and does on vacation to Sunyshore City.

She finds herself surprised by the power lines, the Gym that positively outshines the sun in the sky. It's his handiwork, too; she can tell because she remembers the way he always liked the color scheme of yellow and blue. Perhaps he's just been distracted all this time, by all the flashing lights.

She feels out of place. Her 'new dress' that was purchased for this reunion looks old-fashioned compared to the skin-tight blouses and skirts that the other girls wear.

Perhaps that's what's been distracting him.

She stops by the Gym, heart racing. She is told that he's in the middle of a battle, and that she can wait a few minutes for him to finish. She takes it as a sign of fate, thanks his secretary, and leaves.

Until night falls, she stands on the beach. The sand is different here; it doesn't smell like home. The water is cold, even during the summer. She debates for a long time whether or not to go back and try again later or the next day. 'No,' she eventually decides. 'He doesn't love me. He never did.'

She spends the rest of her vacation competing in Pokemon Contests. Then she goes home.

Few things can cheer him up these days. Fighting and training and drinking a nice shot of vodka or two. He's taken to wandering the Battle Frontier, usually alone.

He is suffocating, he knows. He can only hide from his feeling when there is work to be done, and there is never enough work to do.

When he is especially desperate, he takes the box with all of her letters to the top of the lighthouse and reads every one, tracing his favorite words with his pointer finger. He knows it is obsessive, but he doesn't care anymore.

He learns that he really (secretly) hates the way that technology is ruining romanticism, making words cheap and love too easy. He hates seeing the new teenage girls in their miniskirts, using their Pokegears to call and text friends. Duplicity is all too simple, and often receives no punishment. Perhaps this revelation means he's getting old.

He knows now that it's too late for him. She's gone.

She spends all her time in the lighthouse. At night, she stares as far as she can to the dark horizon and pretends that she can see the bright electric light of the place where he is.

She's weak, she decides. She's not a very good fighter, and she falls prey too easily to love. It's been four years, after all, ad he's still the only one who's ever danced with her, the only one who's kissed her, the only one who's lost a battle to her on purpose. She fools herself into thinking that it'll get better, that time cures all wounds, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Life is leaving her behind, she realizes. Everyone else is moving forward, and she's still trapped in a past that can never be.

She resists throwing all of his letters off the docks, if only so that she can read his signature over and over.

Instead, she writes him a final letter. She tells him everything. And when it is done, she ties it with the faded orange ribbon from before (still tied about her wrist), slips all five pages of it into a glass bottle, and throws it as far as she can into the crashing waves.

She knows it'll never arrive at its destination. She knows he's never coming back. But it can't hurt to pretend.

Sometimes he has his Electrovire short-circuit the entire city's power supply on purpose, just so he can see the stars.

On those nights, he lays on the lighthouse deck, wearing a black t-shirt and a blue pendant charm around his neck. He watches the night sky wink at him, as though telling him that it'll all work out in the end.

He smiles slightly and whispers to nothing, "I hope you understand, I'm sorry…"