AN: Really sorry for updating so late. This is a sort of filler-chapter, which means (GASP) that the story isn't over. I don't know how many times I've said that, but I don't want to end this.

Also, I'm not going to deal with the Team Plasma-business so much. They don't fit in this story.

Lastly, thank you all for reading this story. I'm glad if you liked it. Please tell me if there are any mistakes in this.


[4]

Does life change? Sometimes. It depends on what you do with it. You have options—it is up to you to use them.

Black knows what he has left behind but he also knows that it will remain there. Even though guilt is a guest that never leaves his side—feeling guilty is too easy sometimes—he understands that Skyla is not the one to wait for him to return.

Not in that way. It is still too new. She will not throw in the towel to her own dreams, that is not her style, it is not her.

He can't either, Black reasons for himself, watching the badge casket, noticing the seventh badge resting there, telling him that even if he feels something for Skyla, she can't be his whole life.

Love is not like that, not in his world. In his world, he has friends and doesn't know how he got them. His inability to be carefree makes him limited, and now he has started to understand how grateful he should be for what he has.

In fact, he could have none. He does not.

He has many.

—I—

Along Route 8, he gets a call from White.

She tells him where she is—the same route as him—and if he wants, could he wait for her?

He could.

White, Black reasons for himself when she finally arrives, is not someone that waits for the treasures, she grabs a map and searches for it herself. She is so independent, so strong, so willing, that he would be surprised if she couldn't beat the Elite Four.

"Hi," she greets before stopping in front of him, her massive ponytail pointing out from her head. It has been such a long time but she will always be the same.

Maybe that's the reason he likes her so much.

"Gosh, the road sure is muddy here," White says and lets a tiny laugh escape from her lips. "And I thought we could have a picnic or something. It has been far too long."

"I think a restaurant is a better idea," Black tells her and points ahead, at a small building crowded with fancy cars and green trees. "I don't know the quality of the food but—"

"C'mon," she smiles and gently hits him in the shoulder, "don't think too much. You don't have to."

No, he doesn't have to.

But he still does. It's hard to break a habit.

—I—

White has the unique ability to make a lunch last for hours and despite this being a regular occurrence it still manages to clearly surprise Black. While using her fork and knife to gesture, she tells him what she has been up to. He sighs a little in relief, she plays for safe, he can live with that. Listening is something he can, it's easy and often rather enjoyable—it's when the spotlight aims for him the car is starting to drive down the cliff.

Which, of course, is exactly what happens next.

He really shouldn't be surprised, this is White after all, this is how she is. That doesn't mean he doesn't wants a hole clawing up from the floor and eat him whole when she starts to use full force—aka questions—about his personal life.

"You know I'm not stupid, something has happen there in Mistralton," she grins and dips her spoon in the strawberry cake she has ordered for desert. She really has an addict to sweet things. "And I'm not going to let you escape from here without you telling me about it."

He coughs in his palm. "I—It's nothing."

She lifts the spoon. "I guess we will be sitting here for a while."

Sometimes, he wants to squish her under his shoe like an insect. "White…"

"Don't you think I know you? I know that you're not the most social type around. I know you haven't really had a real relationship with a girl—" Walking around the problem is not her style "—but that doesn't mean it will never happen. Tell me. I promise not to tease you."

Black lets two sugar cubes plop in his coffee in order to buy a little time for his answer. "That's not true, is it?"

"Touché. But tell me anyway."

On one side, he really doesn't want to tell her. On the other, though, he wonders why it feels so damn hard to gossip. It's not because he's a guy, there's more complicated than that. It's because who he is, his life has been a secret for mostly everyone, for being quiet and bland, he didn't need to take the punch from broken promises and jealously and social misunderstanding. But still, is that what he wants? He can't change himself, but he can change his dreams.

"Er, okay," he starts carefully and tries to look her in the eyes, "there's someone."

He still wonders how the hell White could see that so easily. Is it because she's his friend, or it is because girls can do that by habit?

It's probably the latter. He always blames the latter when he doesn't understand.

"Stop fooling around and get to the tasty stuff. Who is it?"

"Er, well—" Gosh, his cheeks are burning "—d-do you remember the gym-leader in Mistralton?"

Her lips curl into a naughty grin that makes him feel rather uncomfortable—if he isn't enough uncomfortable already. "So, Skyla, huh?"

"Yeah…"

"How did this happen?"

"Okay, if I should be honest, I don't really know," he tells her honestly. "God, this sounds so wrong, but it was Skyla that invited me to… different activities."

"And you liked it?"

"I guess I did. But it happened so fast… I don't know. How can I be certain?"

White digs up more fluffy cream on her spoon and brings it to her lips. "Want me to be honest with you?" Rather unnecessary question since she always is. "You can't."

He puts down the cup and can't prevent a high wave of disappointment from rising to his chest. "I can't."

If it is something that scares him, it's to be uncertain. Being uncertain means losing control and losing control means (in his world) falling to pieces.

He doesn't want to break.

"But hey," she continues with an assuring smile and tilts her head to the right, "that doesn't have to be a bad thing. I think… Black, I think you are too afraid of everything. It's hard for me to explain your personality for you but as far as I know, I think you're scared of people because you don't know how to handle them. You think you have to be a specific way in order to make them accept you. But that's not true. I like you, don't I, and I know you fairly well. Not everything about you but that is to be expected. Skyla likes you because you are you. You have friends and they are not going to leave you. Skyla isn't going to leave—"

"I left her," he says, soft like a whisper, "to continue my journey."

"That's not the same thing."

"It isn't?"

"No. Think, Black. It was not wrong of you to go. You want to do this journey, don't you?"

He merely nods, not wanting to spill out his idiotic doubts at the moment.

"See? And she understands this as well. What the hell is wrong, then?"

"I don't know, White, I'm so confused."

"It's okay, Black, it really is. Take your time. Don't stress too much. Remember, there's one thing you need to sort out."

"What?" he asks and watches her carefully lean over the table to get closer to him.

"Do you really like her or do you like what she did to you?"

—I—

After a long and warm goodbye hug and promises to keep track on their different progresses along the badge-run, she runs farther up the road and leaves him with his thoughts. In fact, despite probably not even being fully aware of it, White has said something that refuses to leave him alone.

Skyla. Does he like her. Likelike her?

Why aren't there any keys to these kinds of problems? He so wishes to know. He so needs to know.

There's no one he could ask. The only one that can know is him. It's his feelings and his alone. Skyla is his responsibility and he will do everything to try to do this right.

If only he knew how.

Instead of trying to get closer to a solution he ignores it altogether and presses down his doubts in the mud with his shoes.

—I—

The last gym-leader—Iris—is one tough nut to crack. Her biggest achievement in her battles is her ability to surprise her opponents. She uses different strategies that alone seems completely out of space but together, in reality, it's a link that she has been aware of all along. She is young but fully competent, just like Bianca told him once after she watched a battle Iris had with a Plasma grunt.

The thing is, this only wants him to win more.

At times he thinks this journey has been too easy for him. As long as he can remember, this has been no challenge. Sure, he lost, sure, he made mistakes, but it still followed a circular pattern that made it impossible for him to think of new strategies. His enthusiasm for this has never been as high as for his friends and it makes him sad, because, he wants to feel complete. He wants to have something. But now, as he sits here in the pokécenter and waits for Nurse Joy to come back with the status of his pokémon, he knows that the fault is his own.

He has prevented himself. He never listened to what he wanted and that's one reason why he today is so confused. Everything that came in his way was an obstacle. But that was before. He has to focus on the now.

On what he wants. And right now he wants two things.

The last badge and keep contact with Skyla. The last has not slipped his mind, he still thinks about her. He has to try. Not only for her but for him as well.

Black has to chase his dreams, not run away from them.

—I—

At last, he has the badge in his hands.

"Wow, you won at last," Iris says and giggles softly, crossing her thin, suntanned arms over her chest.

"You are strong," he says honestly, which surprises him, as compliments are not anything he is familiar to give (or receive.)

He has it now and it feels good. It actually feels good. It feels.

Somehow, Black loves to feel.

It is so foreign.

—I—

Black is nervous again. Very nervous. So nervous his blood coils inside him and heartbeat escalates in an irregular pace.

He is about to call Skyla. He knows he is the one to do it. She has always taken the lead, but in order for this to work, he has to be involved as much as she is.

That doesn't mean he can be calm about this. It is a little strange, acting like a schoolboy with a stupid crush, but like White told him over the phone yesterday—every pace in life is not positive. Live is not always jumping around on pink clouds, reality is harsh and brutal, although in the end, there's hope too.

Alright, let's do this.

First, he tries to call her home number. The signals seem to echo in an eternity, disappearing into thin air, but still no reply. Maybe she's still at work? Being a gym-leader does not give you much free-time to play with, he remembers Skyla mention one time.

Still, it feels a little wrong to bother her at work. Oh, come on, he scolds himself, you are trying to escape out of his spider's web, aren't you?

Too bad, Black, but that's not an option anymore.

He gulps for air a little while and tries to steady his irregular breathing before pressing down the number to Mistralton's gym. It takes about three seconds before he hears a burry voice in the other end.

"Mistralton's gym here. How can I help you?"

Er. Well. Ehm. "I would like to speak with the gym-leader, please," he manages to blur out before the nervousness started to fill him to the limit.

He can hear a sigh but chooses not to think about it. "Is it important?"

"Yes," he lies. "It is."

A pause. "Alright. Wait here a minute." How come some people sound so rude when they talk in a phone?

As he waits for Skyla to reply it feels like he's going to burn up from the inside.

He feels for her, oh, he does. Skyla doesn't leave him unaffected, he knows that now at least. Awesome.

Crack. A soft voice. "Hi. How can I help you?"

"Um, it's me…Black."

Silence. He can almost see her gulp. Then a, "oh, hi! God, I'm a little surprised! How are you?"

"I'm fine," he replies, not really in the mood for safely talk. "I have all the badges now," he tells her anyway, as that's probably something she wants to know.

"That's great! Not that I doubted you would. The only obstacle you had was yourself."

As always, she has found out the truth much faster than he had. "I guess. I know that myself know. But before I forget, how are you?"

"Oh, I'm good, thank you. A little busy. It's like every trainer in Unova chooses this week to challenge me, I swear. At this rate, I can start to bring my sleeping back here too."

"I don't bother you now?" he has to ask. He hates bothering people. Another flaw he has to work on.

"Not at all. I don't have any more challengers today."

"I see." Why is it so hard to keep a conversation afloat? What's wrong with him?

You can, you can, you can. "Black, can I say something? Please don't take it the wrong way, I don't mean anything negative with it, but I have to tell you that I didn't think you would call me."

"I can understand that," Black quickly says, because he really can.

Skyla laughs a little. "The whole time, it feels like I've forced you with my company. I know you say that isn't the case, but I don't know. I actually feel a little ashamed for what I did back then."

"Don't," he says, which actually both sounds and is the truth.

"Thank you, Black," she says and he can hear her smile. "I'm glad you called."

"I've learned… some things," he starts and twirls the cable around his finger. "That… ehm, I want to be your friend."

"Black?"

"And—" This is so hard to say "—I'm glad I meet you, because, you help me."

"Help you with what, Black?"

"I don't know. Accept myself. I never have."

"I know that," Skyla says softly and for some reason he wishes she was here. "But you don't have to worry. I can wait. You need your time to accept what we did. Maybe I need it too. I never really listened to you back then, didn't I? I'm sorry for that. I just thought that was what you needed and, well, that's a part of my personality. I don't think things through. Now, though, I know something—that you are willing to try for me."

He can't say a word.

"We can try," Skyla tells him. "Love is complicated and we can't be sure that this is love. But it can be, you know. Don't give up. This makes me happy. I like you."

"I l-like you too," he stutters, which isn't something he is used to say, not directly.

"Gosh, our conversations always sound so corny if you think about it. Heh. But anyways, one thing before I have to go; remember that time when I ask you where you did aim?"

"Yeah?"

"Silly, the sky is not high enough. You can get higher. Aim for the stars. Listen to yourself, I can't do that for you."

Listen to yourself.

What does he want?

Really want?

Does he want to be the champion of Unova? Not really. White wants that.

The thing is, Black thinks he already know what he really wants.

—I—

to be continued