Always Here

Volkner sat silently on a large boulder that rested on the beach located in his hometown, Sunyshore. He gazed across the dark ocean, which shimmered under the full moon's light, at the Pokémon League. It looked particularly intimidating tonight, as it was shrouded in a thick fog. It made him smile to look at the looming building, though. It reminded him of his good friend, Dawn, who was now Champion of Sinnoh. It also reminded him of his other good friend, Flint, who was one of the Elite 4.

He lay back on the rock and stared up at the stars. They seemed to swirl above his head, mesmerizing him with their intricate patterns. The beautiful sky, paired with the soothing sound of the shallow waves lapping against the shore, were enough to make the eighth Gym Leader slowly doze off.

~~'~~

"Excuse me, mister, but are you alright?" A sweet voice like chiming bells seeped into his peaceful slumber. Volkner could feel the sun burning on his eyelids as he cracked them open, careful to shield them from the light.

The first thing he saw was a pair of big, shining brown eyes staring down at him. There was concern written all over them. The russet brown eyes were set on the face of a girl. A pretty girl. Her features seemed childishly cute, but there was also maturity and wisdom in those features. Her soft pink lips parted, beginning to form words again.

"You okay?" she repeated, in a softer voice.

"Yeah, I'm good." Volkner sat up, and the girl leaned back to give him room. He studied her for a moment, then gave her a puzzled look. "I don't think we've met before. I'm Volkner, the Shining, Shocking Star of Sunyshore," he grinned. "I'm the eighth Gym Leader of Sinnoh, and I specialize in Electric-types."

The girl smiled sweetly. "My name is Jasmine. I hail from Olivine, Johto, where I am the Steel-type Gym Leader. I'm known as the Steel-Clad Defense Girl."

"How come I haven't heard about you before?"

"I only recently became Gym Leader. I took over from my father a little over a year ago."

"Ah, that might explain it," Volkner responded, still grinning. "I guess I should get going, though. I can't leave the Gym unattended to for too long."

"Alright, Volkner," Jasmine's voice chimed as she held out her hand. Volkner extended his own hand and shook it with hers. "It was a pleasure meeting you! See you later!"

With that, Volkner hopped off his bolder, waved a final goodbye, and headed back to his Gym. He didn't think he'd see Jasmine again – at least, not for a long time. He was wrong.

~~'~~

Volkner strolled down to the beach, intent on relaxing on top of his bolder. It was another perfectly sunny day in Sunyshore, and he felt like getting some Vitamin D. As he approached the beach, he saw a familiar figure standing on the sand, facing towards the ocean. A familiar feminine figure.

He broke into a run. "Hey, Jasmine!" he called.

The figure turned around, and, surely enough, was Jasmine. She was a bit startled by the young man hurtling full-speed ahead towards her, and cringed as he halted right in front of her, spewing sand at her dress.

"Oh, uh, sorry," he said, guilt darkening in his deep blue eyes.

Jasmine quickly brushed off her dress with her hands. "No, no, it's alright. No harm done, see," she spun around, displaying her nearly spotless dress.

"Well, I'm glad I didn't ruin it," he smiled apologetically.

Jasmine shook her head. "I know you didn't mean it. So... you train Electric-type Pokémon, hmm?" They began walking closer to the water.

"Yes. What's up?"

"Oh, it's nothing. I was just remembering a friend of mine back in Olivine. A Pokémon, actually. An Electric-type Pokémon." She grinned. The smile on Volkner's face grew wider.

"Oh?"

"It's an Ampharos. Have you heard about those Pokémon? They're native to Johto." "She turned to face him as they stood at the edge of the water.

"I've read about them. I think some of my challengers have had them, too."

"Alright," she giggled. "This Ampharos is very special to me. He is actually the light in the lighthouse back in—"

"You have a lighthouse in Olivine!" Volkner's eyes widened with excitement.

"Why, yes..." Jasmine was puzzled by his outburst.

"That's cool! I guess you haven't seen the lighthouse here in Sunyshore yet, then...," a sly smile spread across his face.

It was Jasmine's turn to light up with excitement. "You have a lighthouse in Sunyshore!"

Volkner laughed. "Yeah, and I'm in charge of taking care of it."

"What a coincidence. I tend to the lighthouse back home."

"In that case, it would be an honour for you to come and check up on my lighthouse."

"Oh, I couldn't." But Volkner's smile was too contagious and the idea was too tempting. Before she knew it, she and Volkner were racing towards the lighthouse on the solar panel walkways that never failed to amaze her.

~~'~~

Jasmine patted the wall inside the lighthouse. "I've never seen a lighthouse in such good shape! Except mine, of course," she winked.

"I'm glad you approve," he gave her a sideways look. Jasmine felt her heart flutter. Volkner was awfully kind and good-looking... but she'd just met him. It was still a bit early for feelings like that, she decided.

Together, they walked down the stairs to the room where tourists were usually found looking through binoculars at the Pokémon League in the distance. The room was empty at the moment, though.

"How clever," Jasmine commented, "to use the lighthouse as a place for tourists to look out at the scenery. Back home, my lighthouse is used as a training-ground for daring Trainers."

Volkner chuckled. "Do you have a problem with them training in your lighthouse?"

"Oh, goodness no. I'm glad people have found a good use for the old thing. I just think your idea is a very good one, too."

"That's good," he responded in a low, thoughtful voice. Jasmine felt the flutter in her chest again, but did her best to ignore it.

"D-do you... I mean would you..." she stuttered, trying to get a hold of herself.

"Mind if you checked out the binoculars? Of course not," he grinned. He handed her a coin. "Here, it's on me."

She bowed her head, eyes glowing. "Thank you."

Jasmine hurried over to one of the binoculars and slid the coin into the slot on it. She heard a clunk sound, and she looked through the glass. She saw a magnificent building covered in a light mist. It was high up on a cliff on the other side of the stretch of ocean off the coast of Sunyshore. It appeared only to be reachable by the waterfall cascading down in front of it.

"Woooow! What's that building?"

"That would be Sinnoh's Pokémon League. Pretty cool, huh?"

"It's beautiful," she breathed. Volkner walked to her side and pushed the binoculars a bit to the left.

"There's my Gym," he said quietly. He guided the binoculars down just a little. "That's the Sunyshore Market." Next he pointed the binoculars nearly straight-ahead. "See that rock right there? That's the Pokémon Rock. It's a famous landmark here."

"It... kinda looks like a Munchlax sitting in the water."

"Exactly," he grinned. He slowly pushed the binoculars to the left, so that Jasmine got a view of the whole city. "Beautiful, isn't it? I love my city."

"I really like the solar panel walkways. It's really clever."

"I'm glad you approve." Jasmine looked up at him. His eyes were sparkling.

"You didn't..."

"I did. I designed the solar panel walkways. We certainly get enough sunshine around here, and it makes getting around the city much more convenient and exciting." He smirked deviously.

"You're just full of brilliant ideas, aren't you?"

"I have a lot of spare time. Up until I met a really good friend of mine, battling had become boring for me. I hardly got any challengers, and those I did get were hardly worth my time," Volkner shrugged. "I was so bored, I started redesigning my gym and city."

"Who's this friend of yours, Volkner?" Jasmine had her typical sweet smile plastered on her face, but Volkner thought he saw a hint of jealousy flash in her pretty brown eyes. He must be seeing things.

"Her name's Dawn. She's now the Champion of Sinnoh. She gave me a truly shocking battle. Battling her was... thrilling, even though I lost every time I challenged her." He was gazing at nothing in particular, eyes deep with reminiscence.

"That's really cool, Volkner!" Jasmine looked genuinely happy, but Volkner could have sworn he'd seen it again. That flash of jealousy.

He thought for a second, then said, "She's more like a little sister to me than anything else, though."

This time relief materialized in her eyes. This made Volkner curious, but he let it go for now. He looked out the large window in front of him and put his hand on the binoculars Jasmine had been using, leaning against it. He heard Jasmine take in a sharp breath.

He had accidentally put his hand on top of hers.

He quickly pulled his hand back. "I'm sorry, Jasmine. It was an accident." He tried to say it smoothly and coolly, but in reality, his own heart had jumped at the touch, as well. What was that all about?

"No, no, it's fine," she said quickly. "No need to apologize." She looked out the window, almost in a panic. "It's getting rather dark out, Volkner. I should get back to my hotel room."

He gave her a sad smile. "It's alright. Go get your rest."

"Bye, Volkner," she whispered as she bustled out of the room, leaving Volkner by himself, leaning against the binoculars and gazing out the window.

~~'~~

Jasmine stood at the beach at the northernmost point of Sunyshore, where she'd first met Volkner. Instead of going back to the Suny Days Hotel, like she'd told him she would, she'd ended up here. She stared across the ocean at the Sinnoh Pokémon League. It was a lovely building that she admired, but it wasn't what was on her mind at the moment.

She'd just met him. Volkner, the Shining, Shocking Star of Sunyshore. Already, she was flustered by his presence and broke down under his touch. This was bad. It was asking for heartbreak. It's never a good sign when you barely know a person and you're already falling for them.

Or maybe it was good. Volkner was so nice and friendly towards her. She felt safe and comfortable just being around him. And... he was definitely a gorgeous boy. His spiky blond hair looked so touchable. His taste in clothing was... attractive, in an inexplicable way. The deep pools of cobalt blue that were his eyes... they mesmerized her. Entranced her. So serious and thoughtful, yet so mischievous and compassionate at the same time. And, dare she think about it, his lips. They looked so... nice, and—a-and... kissable.

She shivered and shook her head, escaping those thoughts. She'd never felt this way for a boy before. Was it dangerous to feel this way about Volkner so early on? Should she try to avoid him for the rest of her vacation? Or should she give in to the feeling and hang around him all the time? Maybe he feels the same?

She sighed. She was getting nowhere like this. Her eyes fell once again on the Pokémon League. Where Dawn most likely was. Dawn. She didn't like Dawn. She didn't know her, but she didn't like her. She was in the way of her getting to Volkner.

Or maybe she wasn't. Volkner had said Dawn was only a sister to him. Maybe she was being unfair to Dawn. No, not maybe. She was being unfair to Dawn. Dawn seemed like an amazing Trainer from Volkner's description, and Volkner really admired her, so she must be a good person, too. Jasmine couldn't let jealousy poison her. She took a deep breath, a small smile working its way onto her lips, lifted her head with confidence, and walked in the direction of the Suny Days Hotel.

~~'~~

"Ancient Power, Togekiss!" the challenger called.

"Dodge it and use Thunder Punch!" Volkner shouted to his Electivire.

The Togekiss dove towards the ground and swooped back up, dragging a hunk of floor up with it using telekinesis. It hurled the piece of floor at Electivire. Electivire jumped on top of the flying hunk of floor, then used it to propel him forward as he lunged at the Togekiss, nailing it in the stomach with a crackling Thunder Punch. The Togekiss flew back at the impact, slammed into a wall, and fell to the ground, out cold.

"Togekiss!" The challenger cried in defeat.

The referee lifted the flag on Volkner's side. "The challenger's Togekiss is unable to battle. Gym Leader Volkner wins!"

The challenger returned his fainted Pokémon, shook hands with Volkner, and left the Gym.

Volkner sighed and turned to look at the hole in the floor. "Renovation time," he chuckled to himself. Then he heard soft clapping.

He looked up to see Jasmine in the stands, a shy smile on her face, quietly celebrating his victory.

"Great job out there, Volkner," she said, just loud enough for him to hear.

Volkner gave her a puzzled look. Something about her didn't seem right. He ran to the stands, hopping over a row of seats, and sat beside Jasmine.

"What's wrong?" he asked her. He reached for her hand, but stopped, remembering what had happened last time.

"N-n-n-nothing," she stuttered. Volkner had sat down uncomfortably close to her, and she could feel her cheeks heat up in response.

"It doesn't look like nothing." He finally dared to take her hand, holding it gently in his. He noticed her reaction.

"I-It's okay, V-Volkner, don't w-worry." She looked at their hands. It fed her will to do what she did next.

Jasmine suddenly wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face into his chest. Volkner was shocked silent, his body stiffened by her electric touch. He quickly softened, though, returning the hug and resting his chin on top of her head.

"I'm here for you, Jasmine. I'm always here for you." She could hear the smile in his voice.

She hugged him extra tight for a moment, then released him. She looked searchingly into his incredible cobalt eyes and said, "I know."

~~'~~

Jasmine sat in her hotel room, reading a book. She was really enjoying the novel, and was deeply engrossed in it. She almost didn't notice the knock at her door.

"O-oh! Come in!" she called.

Volkner opened the door, poking his head in. "Hey, Jasmine!"

"Hello, Volkner," she smiled. "What brings you here?"

"You, actually," he replied honestly, making Jasmine's heart splutter. "I was wondering if you wanted to come check out the Sunyshore Market with me."

"Oh, I'd love to," she grinned. "Just a moment!"

Volkner watched with amusement as Jasmine dashed over to a mirror, running a hand through her hair, scanning her face, and spinning around to get a good look at her clothing. When her appearance passed her inspection, she walked over to him and gave him a nervous smile. "I'm ready."

~~'~~

Side-by-side, they walked through the market, stopping here and there to look at, and occasionally buy, something being displayed.

"Fresh berries! 20 Pokés a-piece," one shopkeeper called.

"Come check out these fashionable seals! Arrange them on your favourite Pokemon's PokéBall to enhance their beauty and awesomeness," another shopkeeper advertised.

"There's so much to look at! This place is huge," beamed Jasmine.

"Yeah, I love this place." Volkner had a bit of a faraway look in his eyes, which Jasmine now knew was a look he had when he was recalling fond memories.

"Hey! Look at that!" She pointed towards a stand selling Pokémon plush dolls. She ran over to the stand, Volkner in tow.

Volkner watched as Jasmine looked at the plushies with the enthusiasm of a child, every once in a while picking up one of the fuzzy dolls and hugging it to her chest. Remembering something she'd told him not long after they'd met, he turned to the shopkeeper.

"Do you happen to sell Ampharos plushies here?" He was careful to keep his voice low.

"Gym Leader Volkner! What a pleasant surprise! Lemme see what we have," the shopkeeper replied, walking behind a pile of boxes. Volkner glanced at Jasmine. She hadn't even noticed that he'd been talking with the shopkeeper.

"You're in luck," the shopkeeper said, walking back to the counter with an adorable little Ampharos plushie, "I have just one left."

"How much?"

"1000 Pokés."

Volkner was just pulling out his wallet when the shopkeeper nudged him and chuckled. "This doesn't happen to be for that lovely young lady over there, does it?" He bent his head in Jasmine's direction. "Gym Leader Jasmine of Johto, if I'm not mistaken. I've heard she loves Ampharos," he grinned kindly.

Volkner felt his cheeks grow warm. "Heh. Yeah, it's for her."

"Half-price, then, for young love."

"Hey, thanks, man!" He gave him a glowing smile. "But, we're not lov—"

"Say no more, son, it's alright," the shopkeeper said as Volkner handed him the money, exchanging it for the doll. "You might be surprised at how your heart works, though."

Volkner nodded, slightly unconvinced. "Thanks again for your generosity."

"Think nothing of it, son. Good luck," he grinned.

Volkner walked over to Jasmine, holding the plushie behind his back. She had her back turned, examining a Mawile plushie. He bent down, putting his mouth next to her ear.

"Hey, Jasmine," he breathed.

Jasmine's body went rigid, her face burning up. She swallowed, trying desperately to compose herself, as she turned to face Volkner.

"W-what's up, V-Volkner?"

"I have something special for you." He pulled the Ampharos plush doll out from behind his back, presenting it to her.

Jasmine gasped, carefully picking up the doll. "For... me?"

"Yup," he grinned.

"Omigosh," Jasmine beamed, "this is the most beautiful gift I've ever received! Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Before she could give it a second thought, she laced her hands behind his neck and pulled him into a honey-sweet kiss that set off fireworks in both their minds.

When she realized what she'd done, she pulled away quickly, her face Cheri Berry red.

"U-um, s-s-s-so s-sorry," whimpered Jasmine. "Uh, I really should get going. Thank you for the present, Volkner! It was very thoughtful!" And with that, she rushed off.

"What'd I tell you, son?" the very entertained shopkeeper said from the counter. Volkner was too dazed to respond.

~~'~~

Volkner looked out the window of his Gym and saw Jasmine sitting on his boulder on the beach. She slouched, her legs bent up in front of her, and her arms thrown around them.

He hurried down to the beach and went up to his occupied boulder. "I do believe you're sitting in my spot," he teased, making Jasmine jump a bit with surprise at his sudden appearance.

"Oh, my apologies, Volkner," she uttered, almost silently. She began to dismount the rock, but Volkner stopped her.

"No, no, it's alright. I don't mind," he insisted. Jasmine just sighed and pushed herself back on top of the boulder. Volkner hopped up and perched himself beside her. "Okay, what's wrong?"

"I-I'm... I'm leaving to go back to Olivine tomorrow...," she murmured, a tear slipping down her cheek. "I don't want to leave. I... don't want to say goodbye to you."

"Aw, Jasmine...," he sighed. He latched an arm around her waist, pulled her closer to him, and wiped away her tear with his thumb. "I'm always here for you. I promise, no matter where you are, I'll be with you in your heart." He kissed her forehead, and held her in his comforting arms.

They remained that way for a long time.

~~'~~

"The ship to Olivine, Johto has arrived at the dock!" a voice declared over the intercom.

Volkner and Jasmine stood hand-in-hand on the dock, watching the huge vessel slow to a stop in front of them. Jasmine turned to Volkner, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Goodbye, Volkner," she sobbed.

Volkner touched her cheek, then pulled her into a bear hug.

"It's not goodbye, Jasmine. I promise I'll see you again soon."

"How can you promise that?"

Volkner pulled back to look at her. Her cheeks stained with tears, her eyes, usually glowing, dark and gloomy, and her lips, almost always stretched into a sweet smile, were turned upside-down. It was painful to see her this way.

"I just can," he murmured. He leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers. He pulled her towards him a bit to deepen the kiss. He put all his warmth, love, and comfort into it.

When he released her from the kiss, she staggered back a step, utterly dazzled.

"See you later, Jasmine," he whispered in her ear.

A small, sweet smile turned up the corners of her mouth. "See you later, Volkner."

She waved to him one more time just before boarding the ship. That was the last time either of them saw one another.

~~'Several Months Later'~~

"Typhlosion," the challenger shouted, "let's finish this with Flamethrower!"

"Dig, Steelix!"

But it was too late. Before Jasmine's Steelix could get below ground, it was blasted with the other Pokémon's fiery attack. Steelix crumbled to the ground and fainted.

The referee lifted the flag on the challenger's side. "Gym Leader Jasmine's Steelix is unable to battle. Challenger Lyra wins!"

"Oh, my poor Steelix," Jasmine groaned as she returned the exhausted steel snake to its PokéBall. "Um... Lyra, right?"

The challenger nodded. "Yup."

"...Well done... you are a better Trainer than me, in both skill and kindness. In accordance with League rules, I confer upon you this Badge." Jasmine presented the pig-tailed, mushroom-hatted girl with the Mineral Badge, pressing it into the palm of her hand.

After hearing Jasmine's explanation for the Badge, the determined girl left the Gym and headed for Mahogany Town, intent on battling her next Gym Leader, Pryce, and not at all expecting what she would find upon entering the small town.

But that's a different story.

Jasmine watched the girl walk out the door. Suddenly, she heard clapping.

Tears broke free of her eyes as she stared at a certain blue-eyed, blond-haired boy, who was clapping enthusiastically in the stands.

"That must have been a pretty thrilling battle. That girl—Lyra—had the same fire as Dawn. I could sense her power. You did amazing, Jasmine. You were shocking!"

Volkner barely got a chance to blink before Jasmine was on top of him, her arms squeezing him tightly to her.

"Oh, Volkner! My dear, beloved Volkner! I missed you so much!"

"I told you it wasn't goodbye, Jasmine," he murmured, caressing away her tears. "I told you I'd always be here for you."

~~'FIN'~~