Paul's sullenness persisted for several days. Dawn gave up on him as a bad job by Sunday afternoon, and began counting the hours to Wednesday morning. She spent several hours a day on the phone with May, figuring out the logistics of where they were going to stay while in Kanto and when they would be coming back and where they were going to eat and whatever else they could think of.

"Did Paul tell you if he's coming, yet?" May asked late Tuesday morning. Dawn had told her friend she'd inadvertently invited him on their trip. "I got three rooms. That's six people, so he can come if he wants."

"No, he hasn't," Dawn grumbled. "And I don't think I want him to. He's been horrible since Saturday."

"Wasn't that your meeting with the League?"

"His. His meeting."


"Yeah, it was," Dawn answered, stretching out on the couch. "He hasn't even talked to me since then. I dunno what I did wrong. I was polite, I didn't give anything away. If anything, if the League's mad at him it's his own damn fault. He acted like a petulant child that was put in time-out the whole day."

"Didn't you say the director guy was hitting on you?" May said slyly. "Maybe he's jealous."

"Yeah, right. Paul couldn't care less if Wallace himself was making a move on me," Dawn said dully. "It's not that. I dunno what his problem is."

"Dawn, you're a pretty girl," May said logically. "Paul would have to be an idiot to not notice that – and not want to take advantage of it."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dawn said indignantly.

"That came out wrong. I mean, he's not going to resist your charm forever," May amended. Dawn chuckled darkly.

"Yeah, he will."

"Fine, be Miss Negativity. But he's good-looking, you're good-looking. You're getting married, for Arceus' sake," May pointed out. "It's just a matter of time. Time and the right set of circumstances."

"Whatever, crazy. It'll never happen."

"Well, he needs to decide by tonight if he's coming."

Dawn hung up and curled up on the couch. They had a flight back planned for Sunday afternoon. She needed to pack for two days on a boat, a flight, a day in Saffron. Plus, she and her friends were going to go to a club in Saffron that Misty's sisters had designed. So she'd need dancing attire as well... And, of course, things to wear for a day of trying on wedding dresses. Dawn smiled to herself. She loved trying on dresses – and she'd been looking forward to this since she was little. A fairytale dress to go with the fairytale love story. Well, she frowned, it's not exactly the storybook love affair I always wanted. But I'm getting the perfect dress if it kills me.

She hauled herself off the couch and went to her room to pack. Dawn knew she wouldn't bring the dress back with her – it would need to be altered there – so she wouldn't need to account for a gigantic wedding dress when she picked the bags she would be packing.

Dawn skipped to the stereo and turned the volume up as loud as it would go.

- / - / - / -

Paul returned to the apartment at about one thirty that Tuesday afternoon. Loud music was blasting from the bedroom. The door was ajar, and he could hear Dawn singing loudly to the song that was playing.

And when you looked into my eyes, I felt a sudden sense of urgency

Fascination cast a spell and you became more than just a mystery

and I think about you all the time

Is this fate, is this my destiny?

Paul pushed the door open and saw a suitcase open on the bed, clothes flung unceremoniously into it, more littering the floor. He frowned, confused. Why is she packing?

He looked around the door, and say Dawn shoving dresses out of the way on hangers, appraising and rejecting each one.

"What are you doing?" Paul asked, bewildered. Dawn spared him a glance before going back to ravaging the closet.

Passion, desire so intense

I can't take anymore, because

I feel the magic all around you

It's bringing me to my knees, just like I wanna be

I've gotta be chained to you

"What are you doing?" Paul repeated, louder this time.

"Finally talking to me again, are we?" Dawn yelled over the music. Paul frowned and turned down the music.

"I wasn't not talking to you," Paul protested. "I just wasn't... talking to you."

"Well, that's a relief," Dawn mocked. "Turn my music back on."

"Where are you going?" Paul asked, gesturing at the colossal suitcase on the bed.

"I'm leaving you," Dawn said frankly, turning back to the dresses. Paul stared at her.

"You're... What?" he said stupidly.

"Ha. That was funny," Dawn snorted. "You know as well as I do that I can't leave you, stupid."

"That wasn't funny," Paul disagreed, folding his arms. Dawn rolled her eyes. "And you could leave, easy. No one's stopping you."

"No, I can't," Dawn sighed. She turned to face him. "But whatever. I've made my peace with it. I'm marrying your dumb ass, and that's that."


"No, in all seriousness, Paul? I'm actually okay with this, so long as you treat me like I'm a human that's worthy of respect, or at the very least civil treatment. Which I am. And for the most part, you've succeeded. And I mean what I said when we were leaving Lily of the Valley Island. You're getting to be.. more than tolerable – last few days notwithstanding – so this isn't the end of the world."

Paul cocked his head, processing what she'd said. Dawn watched him, wishing she could read his mind to know what he was thinking.

"Okay," Paul said finally. "I can't honestly say I'd do the same for you, though."

Dawn snorted. "One of the many things I like about you. Your sweet way of putting things. It warms my heart."

"I know, I'm a charmer. Really though, why are you packing?"

"I told you, I'm going to Kanto to get a wedding dress. I'll be back on Sunday. That's hardly enough time for you to starve yourself because you never learned to cook, so don't worry."

"Not that it's any of your business, but I can cook," Paul said idly. "And I thought I was invited on this trip."

"Yeah, but I never thought you'd actually want to go."

"Well, it's your lucky day. And the lucky day of whoever you're traveling with," Paul amended. "When do we leave?"

"You're not serious, are you?" Dawn asked, frowning at him.

"Sure. I'm sick of being cooped up in this tiny apartment."

"Don't be an ass."


"Well... Okay, then. We're leaving at six sharp tomorrow morning," Dawn shrugged. "Are you sure you want to? It's a five-day trip. That's a lot of... acting."

"Shouldn't be a problem," Paul said promptly. Dawn's mouth fell open in shock. Paul saw her looking and caught himself. He arched an eyebrow at her. "I'm a terrific actor, proven by our lunch with your mother. And, like you said – you rather like me, so it won't even be acting for you, will it?"

Paul ducked out of the way of the coat hanger Dawn chucked at him. "Don't press your luck, buddy. Saying you're tolerable and saying I like you are different, last I checked. And I'd get packing, were I you."

"Why? I'm not you, I don't need to appraise my entire wardrobe for less than a week. It'll take me five minutes to pack."

"That sounds like a challenge to me."

"It could be," Paul said. "What's the prize?"

"Well, I'd offer you my body, but I don't think you'd take that bait," Dawn mused. Paul raised his eyebrows.

"You sure about that?"

"I – uh – yeah, I'm sure," Dawn said, whipping around to hide the flush creeping up her face.

"Fine. If – and when – I do it, you can't force me to spend every second of this trip with you and your annoying friends."

"Good, we don't want you anyways," Dawn stuck her tongue out at him. "If you can't do it, you have to cater to my every whim on the trip – that includes putting on my suntan lotion, y'know."

"Oh, the horror."

"Time's a-tickin', mister."

- / - / - / -

The alarm blared loud at five thirty in the morning, and Dawn sprang out of bed.

"Ugh, why are you so awake?" Paul groaned as he shoved his head under his pillow. Dawn rolled her eyes and didn't bother answering – she was always energetic waking up for a trip. She skipped to the bathroom to take a shower.

Twenty minutes later, Dawn chucked a shoe at Paul – who was still curled under the blankets in bed – and screeched that if he didn't get up in two minutes, he was going to be left here. Paul rolled out of bed, not bothering to keep his curses to himself, and trudged to the closet to get changed.

"I heard that," Dawn snapped. She was dressed and ready to go, her two bags by the door. Paul stumbled out of the bedroom about a minute later, dressed (though his shirt was on backwards) and carrying his backpack. "That can't be all you're bringing."

"You watched me pack," Paul yawned. "It's all I need."

"Fine. We need to get downstairs, Leona and Zoey just got here," Dawn said, turning towards the door. "And your shirt's on backwards."

Paul glanced at his chest, and saw that his shirt was indeed on backwards. He shrugged and followed her towards the front door.

"Can you take one of my bags?" Dawn asked, continuing in the same breath, "Thanks."

Paul narrowed his eyes at her, but slung one of her enormous bags over his free shoulder. Dawn pushed the other out of the door with her foot and stood aside to let Paul leave the apartment. She pulled the door closed behind him and twisted the key in the lock.

Dawn hauled her remaining bag into her arms and walked slowly towards the stairs. Paul followed her, making sounds of impatience with his tongue every few seconds.

"Sweet Arceus, my grandmother can move faster than you," Paul grunted. He reached around her and tugged the bag out of her arms. "Go, maybe we'll get downstairs before the end of this month."

"Asshole," Dawn said, trying to hide her smile. Paul rolled his eyes at her and brushed past her on his way to the stairs.

Dawn followed him down the stairs, thinking about the next two days. The ship would dock at Vermillion City late tomorrow night. Between now and then, there were at least thirty-six hours of uninterrupted time with Paul and her friends – and worse, her mother. She and Paul could fool any of them easily for small amounts of time. But the constant scrutiny they'd get on a cruise ship?

"Hey, Paul?" Dawn asked anxiously before they exited the building. He grunted as a response. "Do you... D'you think we can really do this?"

"Do what?"

"Make them all think we're really.. in love. For this whole weekend."

He paused and faced her. "Do you think we can't?"

She bit her lip. "I don't know," she answered uncertainly. "I mean... It's five whole days of... Acting. That's a long time. And my mom's really perceptive..."

"Dawn," Paul said. She glanced at him, surprised by his use of her name. "Don't be an idiot."

She made a face.

"We're better than you think," he continued. "And if it'll make you feel better, I'll stay away from all of you for most of the trip. The cruise there will be the hardest part anyway. You'll be off doing wedding shit with them once we're there, and I'm not a part of that. So don't worry. It's just two days – not as bad as you're thinking."

"I guess you're right."

"Of course I am. And I can use training as an excuse on the ship," Paul added. "Your friend picked a very nice cruise liner – fully equipped battle dome."

"That almost sounded like a compliment."

"Almost," he said, something like a smile on his face. He pushed the door open, and held it so she could leave the building first. "But not quite."

- / - / - / -

An hour later, after the rushed introductions (Leona and Paul had never met), Zoey was speeding into Olympic Cruise Line's parking lot in Sunyshore City. In the semidarkness, Dawn could only make out a long line of people waiting to walk up the gangplank onto the luxurious ship.

"We're s'posed to meet May and my mom in front of the ticketing booth."

"Don't we have our tickets already?" Leona asked uneasily. Dawn smiled. Leona still got exceedingly anxious when traveling.

"No, May has them. Don't worry your pretty little head, Leona – they're all paid for and all that jazz."

"I wasn't worried, Dee-Dee," Leona snapped. Dawn rolled her eyes, and Zoey and Paul watched the exchange curiously.

Zoey pulled into a parking spot and Dawn instructed Paul to unload the luggage from the trunk. He threw her a dirty look when he knew the others weren't looking. She smiled innocently.

"I'll go find your mom," Leona volunteered. "I haven't seen her in so long."

"'Kay," Dawn said easily, scanning their surroundings. "I think the ticket booth is that way." She pointed at a little building near the ship.

"I'll call you when I find them."

Zoey was busy hiding important things in her car (like her stereo), and Paul approached Dawn.

"I'm not your servant," he complained.

"Sure you are – the deal was that if you couldn't pack in five minutes, you'd have to cater to my every whim on this trip," Dawn reminded him.

"It did take five minutes," he protested. She shook her head.

"Six minutes, twenty-four seconds," Dawn corrected him, grinning. "Thus: servant."

"You're trickier than I give you credit for," Paul noted, eying her speculatively.

"Get used to it – I'll be around for a while."

Zoey walked around to the back of the car then, clicking the automatic locks on the car keys. "C'mon, we're going to miss the boat."

Without waiting for Dawn to ask, Paul slung his own backpack over one shoulder, one of Dawn's bags over the other shoulder, and heaved her last bag into his arms. Zoey raised one eyebrow, impressed. Dawn turned away to hide her smirk as her friend grabbed her bag and followed after Paul.

"He's changed," Zoey murmured to Dawn as they walked towards the gangplank, her eyes on Paul's back in the semidarkness.

"Yeah," Dawn replied.

"And you're seriously not hitting that?" Zoey giggled. Dawn punched her arm, and Zoey snorted.

"Shut it, Zo," Dawn snapped. "That's none of your business."

"Since when are you so secretive, Dawn?" Zoey asked, sounding concerned. Dawn frowned at her, confused by the tone.

"I'm allowed to not share every detail of my life, Zoey."

"I know you are. But since when do you not share everything? It's not like you," Zoey said. "You used to tell me everything. But ever since Paul..."

"Look, Zoey," Dawn took a deep breath. "It's just something you'll have to make your peace with, okay? So I'm a more private person now. Big deal – I'm still me."

"I know, that – who else would take everyone she knows all the way to Kanto just to buy a wedding dress?" Zoey teased, dancing out of the reach of Dawn's hand, anticipating the smack to the arm Dawn had prepared.

"It's a free vacation!" Dawn laughed at her. "It's not like you're that put out."

"True," Zoey admitted, pausing when Dawn's phone rang.

"Hey, Leona," Dawn answered. "Where are you guys?"

"We just walked away from the ticketing booth," Leona said. Dawn noted that she sounded better – having her ticket must have eased her friend's travel anxiety. "Headed for the gangplank. Are you guys still at the car?"

"No, we're almost to the gangplank too. Hey, Paul, wait up – we're waiting for my mom and May and Leona," Dawn called ahead to him. He stopped automatically. "We're next to a big lamppost. Like right across the lawn from the gangplank."

"I don't see – oh, there you are," Leona's voice said before the line went dead.

"Dawn!" a familiar voice rang out behind her. Dawn spun to face her mother and two best friends advancing towards her.

"Hey, mom!" Dawn called, throwing herself into her mother's arms. Johanna laughed and squeezed her daughter.

"Hi, honey. I'd love to hug you and catch up out here, but I think we'd better get on the boat before it leaves without us."


May handed out the remaining three tickets to Dawn, Zoey, and Paul. "Now hurry up, I don't want to miss this cruise."

"Yeah, May, we all know how much you love luxury cruises," Zoey teased. May stuck her tongue out at Zoey and hoisted her bag into a more comfortable position on her shoulder.

The group made their way to the back of the queue and proceeded slowly up the gangplank onto the ship.

"Welcome, ladies," the overzealous host greeted them when they finally boarded. "Gentleman," he added drily, seeing Paul's scowl. "May I please see your tickets? Maurice will take your things to your rooms."

One by one, Johanna, Leona, May, Zoey, and Dawn handed over their tickets. Dawn snatched Paul's from him and handed it to the host along with her own. The man flicked through their tickets quickly, and pointed them in the direction of their rooms. Maurice and another man, Philip, took May's, Johanna's, Leona's, and Zoey's bags. Paul's glare kept them from insisting to take Dawn's bags from him.

The three rooms were all in the same corridor on the second floor of the ship.

"Here we are," Maurice announced, opening the first door with a flourish. Philip quietly opened a door across the hall as Maurice unlocked a second door beside the first. The two men placed the bags in the hallway and left, allowing the women to divvy up the rooms.

"Paul and Dawn, have that one," May bossed, pointing at the single door across the hall from the other two rooms. Dawn made a face at May's bossiness, but shrugged in acceptance.

"Yeah, 'cause no one wants to hear what they'll be up to at night," Leona giggled to Johanna. Johanna glanced at her daughter and smirked.

"True enough."

"Mother!" Dawn complained.

"I'll stay with Leona in this room," Johanna said, picking up her modest bag. "If that's alright with you, May, dear."

"Yes, yes, it's fine," May murmured. "So you and me in this one, Zoey."

"Fine with me."

"Okay, so we'll get our stuff settled then go watch the ship leave?" May suggested, her eyes shining.

"Sure, sure, May," Dawn smiled. May loved every cruise like each was her first. Johanna and Leona disappeared into their room, whispering. Dawn scowled after them as Zoey and May went to their room. She glanced for Paul, but he was already in their room. She followed him in and shut the door.

"Sorry about... What Leona said," Dawn mumbled. Paul didn't look up as he dropped Dawn's bags on the conspicuous double bed in the center of the room. "It's just... What she's like."

"What did you expect?" Paul asked. "We're engaged. Everyone assumes we're having sex."

Dawn wrinkled her nose. "But we're not."

"Believe me, I know that," Paul said. Dawn watched him, sure that he'd sounded disgruntled. "But you can't get upset at other people that think we are. It's what normal couples do."

"Not all of them," Dawn disagreed. Paul looked at her blankly. Dawn could feel the blood rushing to her face.

"You mean, you haven't ever –"

"Come on, you guys!" May snapped, banging impatiently on their door. "The ship's about to leave!"

Blushing furiously, Dawn wheeled and rushed to the door. "Okay, okay, we're coming. Don't have an aneurysm."

Paul watched Dawn hurry down the hall with her friends to where Johanna was waiting at the end of the hall, leaning over the railing. He stayed in the room. None of them would notice he wasn't with them; at least not for a few minutes.

Never. Well, that's surprising, Paul thought as he sat on the bed. To say the least.

- / - / - / -

"Where is that stupid fianceé of yours?" May whined several hours later. "He missed the ship leaving port. And he's missing exploring the ship now."

"What do you care? You saw the stupid ship leaving."

"Yeah, but this is a group trip," May said, folding her arms. "As in, we do stuff as a group."

Dawn rolled her eyes. "Give me a break, May. You don't really expect Paul to do the whole happy family thing, do you?"

"Yes, I do," May informed her. "I planned this trip, and I intend that everyone do what I want."

"Isn't this my wedding?"

"Not yet."

"Ugh, you're annoying. Why are you my best friend?" Dawn groaned. May poked her arm as they wandered around the ship a few steps behind the others.

"Because I'm amazing. No one else could have planned this trip on such short notice. No one else would help you plan this wedding. No one else would –"

"Okay, okay," Dawn snapped. "You're the best, does that make you happier?"

"Marginally," May allowed. "But I still want your dumb boyfriend to spend some time with us."

"May, you know why he won't," Dawn whispered. "It's hard enough that he's coming. You do remember you're the only one that knows, right? We have to make all of them" she nodded towards her mother and other two friends, "believe we're the happiest couple ever. And the less time he's around us, the easier that'll be."

"Not really," May responded, not bothering to keep her voice down. "The more time he's away from us, they'll think there's a problem."

"A problem with what, honey?" Johanna called back to May and Dawn. Dawn glowered at May, who smiled angelically.

"Nothing, mom," Dawn sighed. "May's just pissy because Paul's not with us, so not everything's going her way."

"Am not!"

"Are too."

"Am n –"

"This is a girl's trip," Leona pointed out. "Let him so what he wants – we need to talk about the dress, after all. He can't be around for that, unless we want him to find out about the dress before the wedding."

"Yeah, May," Dawn agreed eagerly. "So butt out. He'll have dinner with us and stuff. Plus, who wants him around when we're sunbathing, huh?"

"I wouldn't mind," Dawn heard her mother mutter to Leona, who tried unsuccessfully to hide her laughter.

"I heard that, mother."

"I like the idea of sunbathing," Zoey commented. "It's getting hot. Why don't we go change and sit in the sun?"

"And have a few drinks," May added, pleased. "With the cute cabana boys –"

"You're awful."


"Okay," Johanna interrupted Dawn's prepared comeback. "So let's go back to our rooms and get dressed for some sun?"

"Sounds good to me," Leona said as she began walking back towards their rooms.

The whole way back, Dawn and May annoyed the others with their arguments over whether or not the ship's waiters would consent to having a drink with them.

"Finally," Zoey mumbled when they got back to their hallway and darted into her room. Leona and Johanna returned to their rooms, their faces identical masks of relief to get away from May and Dawn's antics.

"You'll see," May warned as her parting words as she pulled the door to her room closed behind her. Dawn rolled her eyes and pushed her own door open. Paul wasn't there, as far as she could tell. She unzipped the darker pink duffel bag, remembering that she'd packed her boat attire there. She pulled out a deep blue bikini and shucked the simple pink dress she'd put on that morning.

She unhooked her bra and let it drop to the floor and snatched the haltered top of the bikini from the bed when she heard a door creak open.

"Stay where you are!" Dawn cried in a panicky voice.

"What?" she heard him question, his voice muffled by something. "Oh. Oh."

"Stay there!" she hissed.

Paul had emerged from the little room's bathroom, toweling his hair dry. Dawn's back was to him, and she was only wearing a pair of black panties. He watched her struggle to get the top of her bathing suit on as quickly as she could.

"You're getting it tangled in the back," Paul said, staring.

"Stop looking at me!" Dawn said shrilly.

"You need help. You'll look.. ridiculous going out like this." No you won't. Stay in what you were wearing when I first came in. That looked...

"Stay where you are, and stop looking at me," Dawn commanded.

"Well, what're you going to do when you leave this room?" Paul snapped. "You're wearing a goddamn bikini. Everyone else can look at you like this, just not me?"

"What do you care?" Dawn shot back.

"I'm just telling you you're being an idiot." Paul said, trying to control his voice.

"Whatever, Paul. Just get out so I can finish changing."

Paul stared at her naked back for another few seconds before turning and stomping out of the room and slamming the door behind him. Dawn squeezed her eyes shut in embarrassment. He just saw me... almost completely naked.

She tugged off her panties and pulled the bikini bottom on. She could tell Paul was right – the back of the bikini was twisted. She couldn't really fix it herself, though. She pushed her feet into a pair of sandals and grabbed one of the cruises' complimentary towels and left the room.

"That was quick, for you," Leona greeted her. She was the only one in the hall waiting, ready, in a jade green one-piece.

"You look pretty," Dawn complimented. Leona smiled in thanks. "Can you help me fix the back of my bathing suit?"

"What do you need my help for?" Leona asked, confused.

"The back got tangled when I was putting it on," Dawn explained. Dawn turned and Leona stepped forward to help fix the clasp on the halter.

"Couldn't Paul have helped you?" Leona asked quietly. Dawn stiffened for a second before forcing her muscles to relax.

"He wasn't there," Dawn lied easily. Leona dropped her hands, finished. "Thanks."

She turned to face her friend, and Leona looked confused and suspicious.

"Yes, he was," Leona disagreed. "I saw him leave."

"Did you?" Dawn said, trying to keep her voice even. "Well, he must have left while I was changing in the bathroom. I didn't see him."

"He looked angry."

"I... I wonder why. Maybe because he didn't know where we are?" Dawn invented.

"Dawn...," Leona began. She stopped when Zoey and May emerged from their room. "Hey, guys."

"Hi. I'm surprised Dawn's ready already," Zoey said teasingly. "We usually have to drag her out."

Dawn smiled nervously. May noticed this first and quickly stepped in. "Well, we still get to drag someone out – let's go get Johanna!"

Leona glanced at Dawn curiously again before allowing May to pull her to Johanna's door. Zoey and May banged on the door enthusiastically, calling Johanna out.

"Sorry, ladies," Johanna apologized when she stepped out, wearing a simple black bathing suit. "Takes me a bit longer now, you know. Age."

"Yeah, right," May snorted. "You're way too young to be using that one."

"C'mon, we want to get some good chaises together," Zoey said impatiently. She seized Leona's arm and pulled her down the hall. "Let's get going."

Johanna followed the girls, laughing. May hung back to walk with Dawn.

"What is it?" May demanded in a whisper.

"Leona.. knows something's up," Dawn responded, just as quietly. "I needed help fixing my top, and she asked why Paul didn't help me. I said it was because he wasn't there, but she saw Paul leave our room. So she knows I lied about that..."

"Why did you say he wasn't there?" May asked, confused.

"Because... Well, May, he almost saw me naked and I freaked out, and he stormed out. I didn't want to have to explain that."

"Oh," It was a mark of how seriously May was taking this that she didn't tease about Paul nearly seeing her naked, as she usually would have. "That is a problem."

"Tell me about it."

"Well, you need to let it go for now," May said decisively. "You'll tip everyone off if you act weird. You can think about what to tell Leona later."

"I'll try."

"I'll help you," May assured her. Dawn smiled at her gratefully. "Starting with now – we need to catch up with them. Let's go."

She grabbed Dawn's hand and pulled her up til they were just behind the others.

- / - / - / -

Paul stormed down the hallway and up two flights of stairs before he could start to calm himself down. She will wear that in public, but has a problem if I see her like that? What the hell is wrong with her?

He turned three random corners and found himself in front of a sign that indicated the battle arena was down the hall to his left. Paul glanced down the hall and saw a half dozen people flashing their trainer I.D.s to a door guard before being let in. A perfect time to train...

His mind wandered back to the room, back to where he'd seen her, wearing nothing but a pair of little black panties... She doesn't want me to see her like that? Tough shit. You wear that in public, anyone can look at you, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Paul turned resolutely around and walked back to the room. He wasn't going to train, not just yet. He was going to spend some quality time with his fianceé and her friends.

- / - / - / -

Dawn and her friends found a group of five comfortable chaises near the deep end of the top deck's pool. May insisted that the first thing they had to do was order drinks. She and Leona flirted with a passing waiter, who blushed and rushed to get the drinks they asked for. Dawn, Johanna, Zoey and Leona were happy with Margaritas, but May insisted on a Tequila Sunrise.

"They're not even that good," Dawn said, wrinkling her nose.

"Shut up, I'm on a cruise."

"Gotta give her that one," Zoey laughed. Dawn rolled her eyes.

"So – the dress," Johanna said, getting right to the heart of the trip. "I assume you know what you want, Dawn."

"Of course," Dawn flashed a smile, but paused as the waiter returned with their drinks. May thanked him warmly and said she'd call him if she needed anything else. Everyone rolled their eyes at her this time.

"Okay, a toast!" Zoey announced. "To Dawn and Paul, and their eternal happiness. Or something like that. And to May, for planning this fabulous trip for us!"

"I'll drink to that!" May laughed as they touched glasses. After they took their first sips, Johanna brought them back to order.

"Now, Dawn," she reminded her daughter. "The dress?"

"Okay," Dawn set down her drink dramatically. "So, I want it to be perfect, of course. But tasteful. And sort of old-fashioned. So, I was thinking, a ball gown cut for the dress of course, lace bodice, lots of tulle. Strapless sweetheart neckline, preferably – I could do a halter, too, though. Long veil. White. None of this new, weird, cream, ivory, pink crap. I want a white wedding dress. So. Yes. And although I love some of the newer designers, they all do corseted bodices. You know, where you can see through the lace to the skin. I think that looks tacky. So, nothing like that. I want a bodice, though. Nothing that balloons out just under the bust, that looks creepy. And the bodice should have beading, of course. Not too much, though, it'd clash with the lace."

There was a moment's silence, where everyone just stared at her.

"What?" Dawn asked defensively. "It's my wedding dress – did you think I wouldn't think about it?"

"Of course we thought you'd thought about it, dear, but not quite so much," Johanna said, taking a sip of her margarita. "That's quite a description. Doesn't really give much room for suggestions."

"Well, if you thought something'd look good on me, I'd try it on," Dawn amended. "But I know what I want, and I know how I want to look on my –"

"Shhh!" Leona hushed them suddenly. "He can't hear about it!"

Dawn looked at her, confused, but Leona's gaze was fixed on something behind her. She turned and saw what had caught Leona's attention. Paul was striding purposefully towards them, wearing dark grey swim shorts, a white towel hanging around his neck. His chest was bare. She glared at him.

"Hello," Paul said quietly when he reached them. "I hope I'm not interrupting?"

"Yes, you are," May snapped. "Go away."

Paul raised his eyebrows at her.

"Oh, don't mind May, Paul, dear," Johanna laughed. "She's just put out that you didn't go out to watch the ship set sail with all of us this morning."

"I am n –"

"I had to put Dawn's things away," Paul explained, shooting a nasty look at Dawn. She narrowed her eyes at him. "You saw how much she brought – it took much longer than I expected."

Zoey and Leona laughed. "Can we get you something to drink?" Zoey asked, flagging down the waiter that'd helped them earlier. He looked sourly at Paul.

"Can I get you something?"

"Yes," Paul said, locking eyes with Dawn as she lifted her margarita haughtily. "I'd like... Sex on the beach."

Dawn snorted into her drink, spilling it on the ground in front of her.

"And another margarita for the lady," Paul added, smirking. The waiter left quickly while Dawn wiped her mouth and the other women laughed at her.

"Dawn, you don't want sex on the beach as well?" Zoey laughed, clutching her sides.

"Shut up," Dawn muttered.

"Where did you go so fast earlier, Paul?" Leona asked, no longer laughing, looking at him seriously.

"When?" Paul asked, sensing danger.

"Just after our argument in our room," Dawn hinted. His brow furrowed. To the others, it looked as though the fight had upset him; but Dawn knew he was thinking fast.

"Well...," Paul began, sitting down on the edge of Dawn's chaise, "Dawn was upset that I told her I wanted to spend the day training – you know, in the ship's battle arena. She wanted me to stay with all of you, and get to know you better. I was... upset, and we both said some things..."

"I'm surprised you came up here, actually," Dawn murmured. Paul glanced at her, and she smiled her approval of his cover story. "I'd thought you'd want to prove a point and stay down there the whole cruise."

"No, I don't like having you mad at me," Paul said, shamelessly raking his eyes up and down her exposed body. She blushed and crossed her arms. His raised eyebrow told it was futile.

"Well, it's nice that you could join us," Johanna smiled as the waiter returned with Paul and Dawn's drinks. "And perhaps you could tell us a bit about the Pokémon you'll be using against Cynthia?"

"Ah," Paul glanced at Johanna. "No offense intended, but I can't share that. I don't want that getting anywhere, and we're in such a public place..."

"I understand," Johanna nodded. "So perhaps about your family?"

Paul's face darkened. "There's my brother, Reggie. You'll meet him before the wedding, I daresay."

Dawn looked at his expression, trying to hide her curiosity. Johanna didn't try to hide hers.

"He plans to help Dawn with the wedding as much as she'll allow," Paul continued. "So if you're helping, I'm sure you'll meet him soon."

Johanna still looked curious, but Paul's posture made it clear that he was uncomfortable with the subject.

"Leona," Johanna said, shifting her gaze to the girl beside her, "tell me, how is your mother? I haven't seen her in years."

"She's doing really well, Johanna."

"And the hot spring?"

"The resort's fantastic!" May inserted. "Arceus, it's the best feeling in the world. Dawn, have you thought about your honeymoon at all? Because I'd recommend Leona's parents' hot spring resort."

"I know it's great, I've been there," Dawn mumbled, embarrassed. "But I don't think Leona's parents' place is where I'd want to spend my honeymoon, you know? They've known me since I was a baby. Don't you think that'd be awkward?"

"They'd make sure it would be," Leona laughed, and Dawn joined her.

This inevitably led to a discussion of ideal honeymoon locations. Paul leaned back and picked something up off the ground beside Dawn's chair.

"Don't freak out," he whispered in her ear. She stiffened, and lost the thread of the conversation. "I'm just keeping up my end of the bet."

She felt his cold hands on her shoulders. When she realized what he was doing, she lifted her hair off of her back to allow him to spread sun block on her. May caught sight of this and shook her head, fighting a laugh. Johanna smiled indulgently at her daughter and her fianceé. Leona watched for a moment; she'd never seen Dawn like this. Zoey didn't notice.

Dawn acted nonchalant, but her nerves were on high alert. She felt his long fingers working the sunblock into her skin, felt his breath on her neck, felt every time he shifted his weight on the chaise. His hands rubbed the lotion lower and lower down her back, and she knew it wouldn't be long before he went too far.

"You know, Paul," she hissed, "I don't really think I need sunblock there."

He raised his hands innocently, and answered, "I'm just being thorough."

- / - / - / -

They sat, drank, and chatted by the pool until late evening. Their waiter friend has filled their drinks before they were empty – none of them had had an empty glass all day. It was getting dark now, the sun had just slipped past the horizon.

"Look," Zoey slurred, pointing. "A star."

"I'm cutting you off," May giggled.


"We should go and get some dinner," Leona suggested.

"That's a good idea," Johanna agreed, rising unsteadily to her feet. "We should change into something a bit more suitable and go to that lovely restaurant May was telling us about earlier."

"It's so good," May said, nodding. "Best food outside of that restaurant at Lake Valor."

"Okay," Dawn mumbled. "I like good food."

She swayed when she stood, and Paul took hold of her elbow to keep her steady. Zoey had more success standing, and eventually the group walked across the deck to the stairs. Paul stopped Dawn before they descended and told her to wait there for him. Dawn watched him walk to the bar, pulling his wallet out at he went. She tilted her head as she watched him. During the day, it had taken all of her brainpower to remind herself every several minutes that it would not look very good if she started tracing Paul's muscles with her fingertips. She hadn't gotten to look at his back.

He was almost slender; his muscles didn't make him look bulky – more lean.

Paul returned to her side a moment later. "C'mon. Put your weight on me, I think you'll fall if you walk on your own."

"You have back dimples," Dawn informed him as he walked her down the stairs.

"I have what?"

"Back dimples. They look very nice," Dawn assured him. "And your chest is nice, too."

"This sounds like you're calling me attractive," Paul pointed out. "Watch out."

"Well, it's not like you're hard to look at."

"Thank you," Paul said, steering her towards their room. "I think that would mean something if you hadn't spent the day drinking with your friends."

"I'll tell you again tomorrow, then," Dawn promised.

"Your friends are very loud," Paul commented. "Especially that ginger. The one with curly hair is quieter, though. And I can tell the one with the weird pigtails doesn't like me."

"Her name is Zoey," Dawn snapped, "Not 'that ginger.' And the one with the curly hair is Leona. And May doesn't have weird pigtails."

"You're right," Paul agreed. "They're awful. Does she really think that looks good?"

"You're mean. May is very pretty."

Paul didn't answer.

"And you shouldn't be mean to my friends," Dawn pouted. "That will really make them not like you."

"They can't hear me, can they?" Paul said, a challenge in his voice. Dawn said nothing, stumped by his logic.

"This isn't fair," Dawn whined. "It doesn't count as winning if I'm inebriated."

"I'm impressed you even can articulate the word at this point," Paul acknowledged, pushing open a door, one had still firmly around Dawn's waist. "We're back at the room. Do you need me to pick out what you'll wear?"

"No, you'd pick something terrible."

"I was under the impression that you didn't own anything terrible."

"I don't," Dawn said, pushing away from his constricting arm. She tottered to the bed and pulled out a dark blue dress the color of her bathing suit. She yanked it over her head, not bothering to change. This didn't escape Paul's notice.

"You aren't going to change?"

"Why, want a repeat of this afternoon?" Dawn giggled, watching as Paul buttoned a dark shirt over his naked chest.

"You're more drunk than I thought," Paul said drily. "Come on, let's get some food in you so you can think straight again."

He pulled her through the door to their cabin where everyone was waiting for them.

"The restaurant's on the floor just below the deck," May announced. "Shall we?"

"I hope you made reservations," Paul muttered. "This is big ship, everyone's going to want to eat there."

"Of course I did," May said smugly. "I'm not an idiot."

"Could have fooled me," Paul said so quietly no one but Dawn could hear him. She snickered into her hand as they followed her friends up towards the restaurant.

- / - / - / -

At eleven-thirty, the group left the ship's luxury restaurant and walked back down to their rooms. The younger women were no longer intoxicated, but Johanna had had a bit more than her fair share. She stumbled into her room without saying goodnight.

"I'll look after her, Dee-Dee, don't worry," Leona promised. She kissed her friend's cheek and waved to the others. "G'night."

"'Night, Leona," they called as she slipped into her room and shut the door.

"See you two in the morning," May yawned, pulling Zoey into their room. Zoey winked at Dawn and wagged her eyebrows suggestively. Dawn made a face as her as their door closed.

"C'mon," Dawn said, pushing their door open.

"Glad to see you're feeling better," Paul said as she shoved her bags off the bed and onto the floor.

"I wasn't that bad."

"Sure you were. You basically offered to take your clothes off for me. Ow," he complained when Dawn's sandal connected with his head.

"I did not."

"Whatever you say, princess. But I'd go easy on the alcohol next time," he warned, rolling over. "I might not be so lenient next time."

"Meaning?" Dawn asked as she skipped into the bathroom to change.

"Well, I don't usually take it lightly when women offer to get naked for me," Paul said to the far wall. "So if you offer again, I'll let you. Drunk or not."

"You're a pig."

"Right," he snorted. "You can parade around in what you call a swim suit – you couldn't go in water in that thing, it'd probably melt – in front of all the men in the world, but you get all modest when it's your fianceé. And I'm the pig?"

"That isn't fair, Paul. You know as well as I do that we're not for real."

"Yes, we are. You've got my ring on your finger. And even if you don't like me, you're going to be my wife," Paul said darkly. "And I don't much like it that my wife-to-be will show off her body to everyone but me. Not just that – don't like it that you will show off your body to anyone – even if I was included. Don't you think you should have some modesty?"

"I don't belong to you," Dawn snapped, coming out of the bathroom.

"I believe the ring you're wearing says otherwise."

"Don't be so medieval."

"I'm serious," Paul said. He rolled over and looked at her.

"Why do you care?"

"How do you think it would look if my wife runs around in something like that?" Paul asked. That wasn't why it bothered him, but it was a reason he thought she'd take more seriously.

"They're pajamas."

"You know what I mean," he groaned. "Like that thing you were wearing earlier."


"Fine," Paul agreed.

"Go to sleep," Dawn ordered, turning off the light.

- / - / - / -

When Paul woke up the next morning, Dawn was gone. He ground his teeth in annoyance as last night's conversation filled his mind. He stood and walked sleepily to the bathroom and pushed it open. There was a note on the mirror from Dawn.

We'll be talking wedding all day. Go train, it's fine.

"Don't tell me what to do," Paul grumbled at the note.

He showered quickly in the ship's tiny shower stall and dressed quickly in black pants and a long sleeved black shirt. He shoved his feet into socks and then his shoes.

Paul had no desire to train that day, but he really did need to. So he snatched up his backpack with his Pokéballs and stalked down the hall towards the battle arena.

- / - / - / -

"We'll be in Vermillion in a few hours," May said ruefully, staring over the railing at the approaching shore. "It feels like we just got on."

"We were here all day yesterday," Zoey called from her spot by the pool.

"I'm bored," Leona complained. "There's nothing to do."

"Why don't you go to the battle arena, then?" May suggested. "Paul will entertain you, I'm sure."

"I don't want to."

"Then shut it, you're ruining my fun."

"Calm down, you guys," Dawn snapped, looking up from the table she and Johanna were still sitting. "If you want something to do, Lee, come over here and help me and mom budget the wedding."

"Arceus, no."

"Then follow Zoey's lead and swim and take a nap," Dawn suggested, turning back to the scribbled paper on the table.

"Attention, passengers," a crackled voice came from the speakers. "We will be docking at Vermillion City in about forty-five minutes. Please make sure your possessions are gathered, and I hope you enjoyed your time with us."

"Only forty-five minutes?" May shrieked. "I thought we had time!"

"Go clean up your stuff in our room," Zoey ordered. "It's a mess. It'll take you at least a half hour."

May left, and Zoey followed not long after.

"She'll need help," Zoey explained as she left.

"I should go get ready to go, too," Leona said, gathering up her towel and sunscreen. "See you soon."

"'Bye," Dawn called after her.

"Dawn," Johanna said in a low voice. "This wedding is going to be expensive. And it's just going to get more so the longer you wait."

"I know that," Dawn sighed. "What do you think?"

"You'll have the dress," Johanna said contemplatively. "Alterations will take a few months, of course..."

"I know."

"Why wait until May?" Johanna asked, leaning back in her chair. "What's so special about then?"

"Nothing. I just wanted time to make it beautiful."

"It will be, Dawn," Johanna assured her. "But –"

"I'll figure it out," Dawn said, pushing away from the table. "Maybe January."

"Okay, Dawn. You know I want to help you pay for this –"

"Don't be crazy, mom. I have money," Dawn protested. "More than I use. You know that."

"I will help, with something. It's my job as your mom," Johanna joked, slinging an arm around Dawn's shoulders. They walked across the deck and back to their rooms.

"I've got to find Paul," Dawn excused herself at her mother's door. "I'll meet you back here in a few, okay?"

"Love you, sweetie."

"You too, mom."

Dawn hurried toward the battle arena, sure that Paul would ignore the intercom message. She arrived near the end of a battle. Paul and and older woman were battling; Paul using his Froslass, the woman using a Jynx. Paul clearly had the upper hand.

"Finish this – Ominous Wind," Paul called, almost lazily.

"Jynx, use Fake Out!" the woman yelled, her voice heavily accented.

Froslass was quicker, and Ominous Wind dealt the final blow.

"Thank you, Jynx," the woman murmured as she recalled the Pokémon. "You're quite skilled, young man."

Paul nodded and extended his hand to shake hers.

"I wish you luck in your upcoming battle," she continued. "She's very talented."

"Yes, I know."

They exchanged a few more words, and Paul saw Dawn waiting beside the door.


"We have to get ready to go. The ship's about the dock," Dawn stated. "And that was a nice battle. Your Froslass is amazing."

"I trained her well," Paul mused. Dawn rolled her eyes.

"Whatever, let's just go."

- / - / - / -

An hour or so later, Paul and Dawn, Zoey, Leona, May, and Johanna were all unloaded and May was on the phone with Misty, trying to describe their location.

"Oh hey!" a voice called from the street. They turned to see a girl with short red hair waving at them.

"Hi," May and Dawn greeted her together. The girls embraced awkwardly, and Dawn introduced her friends, mother, and fianceé.

"Nice to meet you all," Misty said. "I'm Misty."

"How do you know each other?" Johanna asked.

"Um," Dawn said.

"Friend of a friend," Misty supplied. "So... Shall we?"

The group shuffled after her.

"So, um, I don't have a car big enough for all of us," Misty said. "So I had a friend come and drive, too..."

She pointed at two cars parked illegally. The first was clearly her own; a small blue four door. The second was a rusty red truck. A man with messy black hair leaned against it, a Pikachu perched on the edge of the truck bed.

"Hey, there, Dawn,"Ash called, grinning. "It's been a while."

"Ash!" Dawn squealed, launching herself into his arms. He hugged her, laughing.

"Hey, May!" he hugged the brunette next, just as enthusiastically. "Hey, Zoey, Leona. Hi, Johanna."

He politely hugged the latter three before turning to Paul. "Hello, Paul."

"Ash," Paul nodded. He was thankful for Dawn's bags; he wouldn't be subjected to a hug, or even a handshake. Ash eyed his old rival speculatively, his dark brown eyes noting the bags in his arms and his proximity to Dawn.

"You've changed," Ash admitted. Then he burst out laughing. "Man, she has got you whipped!"

Paul narrowed his eyes.

"Whipped or not, I can still sweep the floor with you in a battle."

"Okay, okay, okay," Dawn intervened. "Let's just go."

"Well, Johanna, May, Leona, Zoey – you can ride with me," Misty suggested. "I think it best to keep the boys together, don't you?"

May laughed. "Not those two boys. Poor Dawn."

"It's fine," Dawn grimaced. "The hotel's not far, right?"

"'Bout a half hour into Saffron," Ash corrected her. "Then, with the city traffic? It'll be at least forty-five minutes."

"Oh, goody."

"I'll behave myself, Dawn, I promise," Ash said innocently. Misty smacked the back of his head playfully.

"See you soon."

Ash helped the women load their bags into Misty's car while May and Dawn said their hellos to Pikachu. Paul swung Dawn's bag into the truck bed along with his own backpack, pulling a tarp over them and securing them.

"Ready?" Ash asked as Misty drove away. Dawn shook her head.

"Oh, come on, I'm a great driver, Dawn!"

Paul snorted loudly. "That I doubt."

Ash ignored the jibe and held the passenger door open for Dawn. "He'll have to sit in the back."

"Ash, come on," Dawn protested.

"What? My truck has a back seat," Ash said, pointing. "He'll just have to climb over you. Sure you're used to that, now, aren't you?"

Grumbling, Paul crawled over the seat into the back before Dawn got in. Ash hopped in the driver's side and cranked the engine to life.

"Arceus, we're going to break down on he side of a road," Paul groaned.

"Don't hate the truck," Ash said cheerfully. "C'mon, little buddy, we're going!"

Pikachu slid in Dawn's open window and sat on her lap. Paul wrinkled his nose.

"Mind if I turn on the radio?" Ash said, turning the dial on as he asked. An old country song crackled through the speakers. "So, how've you been, Dawn?"

"Great," Dawn shrugged. "Same old, same old."

"Yeah right. 'Same old, same old' doesn't cover getting engaged to a psycho."

"She's not engaged to you," Paul spat.

"Touchy, touchy," Ash laughed. "You really want that kind of energy around the kids?"

"Cut it out, Ash," Dawn said, poking his arm. "Let's talk about you, huh? Pokémon Master yet?"

Ash made a face, and Paul smirked.

- / - / - / -

An hour later, they pulled into the posh hotel's parking lot. Paul looked smug at ever scathing glare thrown at Ash's truck; no car in this parking lot was near this old. Ash seemed oblivious as he pulled into an open parking space.

"Let's go in, shall we?" Ash suggested as he killed the engine. He slouched around to open Dawn's door for her. She smiled as he helped her out. Paul's face was dark when he exited the truck. "You'll get her stuff, right, Paul?"

Ash threw his arm around Dawn and steered her towards the hotel lobby. Paul snatched up the bags and followed. His eyes were fixed on Ash's arm; How mad would she get if I removed his arm, really? He doesn't really need it...

They met the others just outside the door. A bellhop whisked the bags away from Paul onto a luggage cart. Paul knew he couldn't watch Ash's arm for another minute without making his fantasy a reality, so he stalked past him into the lobby.

"Monsieur, welcome to the Raphael," the concierge inside welcomed Paul. "How can I be of help?"

Fortunately, May had followed him inside. "Sir, I have a reservation for four rooms," she answered, smiling dazzlingly at the concierge. He smiled back at her.


Paul stopped listening and looked at the paintings on the walls without seeing them. He could hear Ash laughing outside, and it grated his already worn nerves. Was his arm still on Dawn? He had to look...

Fortunately, they'd just entered the lobby. Ash's arm was still around Dawn. The two men made eye contact and Ash raised his eyebrows at Paul's expression. Paul approached them before he could put his actions into thought.

"Get your hands off her," he hissed. Dawn looked at him with wide eyes.

"Calm down –" Ash sneered, stopping when Paul flicked his arm off of Dawn. "Are you serious?"

"Dead serious."

"Paul," Dawn murmured, "it's not a problem."

"I disagree."

"Let me show you to your rooms," the concierge interrupted, coughing in embarrassment. Paul glanced around and saw that everyone in the lobby had watched their unpleasant exchange. He secured his arm around Dawn's waist and followed him.

"What the hell was that?" Dawn snapped.

"He gets on my nerves."

"You didn't have to make a scene."

"He didn't listen, that isn't my fault," Paul said indifferently. Dawn glared at him, but he ignored her.

- / - / - / -

After everyone was settled in their rooms, they met in the lobby for a very uncomfortable dinner in the hotel's restaurant. Ash continued to stare at Paul like he was a madman. Dawn heard her mother and Leona whispering that is was nice that Paul was so protective of her. Misty and Zoey both seemed wary, but said nothing. May caught Dawn's eye and gave her a look that said I told you so. Dawn ignored them all.

May insisted they all go to sleep early, as their appointment the next morning was at nine o' clock exactly, and it was a good fifteen minute walk from the hotel. Dawn bade the others good night. Paul said nothing, nodding at Johanna and Leona, who'd both made an effort to say good night to him.

"Arceus, Paul," Dawn complained as he unlocked the door to their room. "You're doing a hell of a job acting like –"

"You didn't tell me he would be here."

"I didn't know he would," Dawn snapped. "Or I would have, believe me. Anything to avoid this again."

"Again?" Paul asked, confused.

"You've already treated me like a pariah," she reminded him, crossing her arms and leaning against the wall. "Even in the past week. It's not something I enjoy."

"I'm not treating you like a pariah," Paul shrugged. "Ash doesn't act right. I'm not going to lie down and take that."

"He didn't even do anything, for crying out loud!"

"Yes, he did."

"Big deal, he put his arm around me. That's what friends do!" Dawn said, clearly exasperated. Paul said nothing, just pulled out a pair of tattered sweat pants that he wore to bed.

"So you're saying you never did that with Diana?" Dawn asked. Paul whirled around and glared at her. Okay, so bringing up Paul's ex-girlfriend was probably a bad idea.

"You want to convince me that you and him are just friends, and you bring up the last girl I loved to do that?" Paul snarled. "You think that'll make me think he doesn't think about you – that you don't think about him?"

Okay, so it was a very bad idea.

"Sorry," Dawn rushed, holding her hands up. "I didn't mean that."

"Sure you didn't," Paul snapped, stalking past her into the bathroom. He slammed the door furiously, and she heard the shower running.


Paul inhaled the scalding steam of the shower, hoping it would calm him down. It wasn't working.

So, she thinks her relationship with Ash, Paul's lip curled involuntarily at the name, is analogous to mine with Diana.

To be fair, he'd never actually said he'd loved Diana. Not until tonight. Not to Diana, not to Dawn, not really even to himself. But to hear her say she considered that boy to be... Anything, that was unbearable.


Why should it matter to him what she thought, who she liked? She was just a pawn. He was just using her to get to be Champion. He winced slightly.

She's just a girl. Just a stupid girl who's only good for one thing. Paul thought angrily. She can make me Champion.

So why did he care what she thought? Why had he wanted to rip Ash's arms off for just touching her? Why did it incense him to know that she would show herself to countless people in a barely-there bikini, but not him? Why did he spend time with her, even when he didn't have to – like the first day on the ship?

It had gone past the point where he could pretend to himself that she meant nothing. He'd promised himself a long time ago that he wasn't going to lie to himself about anything. She was something. But only something, now. He didn't have to let it go farther. She didn't have to be more than... that.

I don't think I can make her mean less. But I can stop her from meaning more, Paul told himself firmly.

He turned off the water when he realized it was painful to have scalding water pounding down his back. He dried himself off – incompletely – and yanked on the ratty sweat pants. Paul looked at the mirror, coated in fug from the hot water, for several minutes before going back into the room.

"I'm sorry for saying that," Dawn said softly. His eyes found her immediately. She was sitting in the middle of the bed, legs crossed pretzel-style under hear. She looked sad.

Who am I kidding? I can't stop anything. She already means more.

"It's okay," Paul said robotically.

"But it's not," she disagreed. "I was trying to make you mad. I'm sorry it worked."

"Okay, it's not then. But forget about it. I'm over it."

His voice sounded wrong to him.

"If you say so...," Dawn crawled off the bed and grabbed some clothes from on top of an open bag and walked towards him. No, Paul corrected, she's walking to the bathroom, not me. She paused, and mumbled again, "I'm sorry."

She darted into the bathroom, and he heard her turn on the shower as well. Paul lay down, dumbfounded, and lay awake in the dark, listening to the water run. He pretended to be asleep when she came and got into bed, but he didn't fall asleep until after four in the morning.

- / - / - / -

Dawn had set her alarm for seven-thirty in the morning. She didn't need to wash her hair – she'd done that last night – but she wanted to straighten her hair. It was always a mess when she went to sleep with her hair wet. She turned the alarm off the second it went off, so as not to wake Paul. Dawn glanced at him. He looked exhausted.

As Dawn straightened her hair, she tried not to think about what she'd said to him last night. Moreover, what he'd said.

He'd loved this.. Diana person, apparently. That was interesting. He'd said before that he'd left because he was afraid of falling in love with her. Well, to be fair, that didn't mean he hadn't already fallen for her. He was just afraid of it.

Stop it, Dawn reprimanded herself. It's not your business. You're not her.

She forced herself to think about her dress, and it took over her brain quickly. She couldn't quite wrap her head around it – I'm trying on wedding dresses today!

After her hair was acceptable, she brushed on mascara, unconcerned about anything else. She'd brought what she was wearing that day into the bathroom with her; she pulled on a pair of spanx and hooked on a strapless bra. Over these, she pulled on a comfortable pair of jeans – she wouldn't be wearing them for long, after all – and a simple white v-neck. The clock on the bathroom wall said that it was eight-twenty; May was adamant about leaving at eight-thirty. Dawn groaned and left the bathroom.

"You were up early," Paul noted. Dawn spun to face him, looking apologetic. He was laying in their bed, sheets covering him up to the waist. His hair was a disaster.

"I'm sorry I woke you up," Dawn apologized. "You looked so tired, I wanted to let you sleep."

"When are you leaving?" he asked, totally ignoring her.

"I have to be downstairs in ten minutes."

"I'll go with you," Paul decided, flinging the sheets off of him.

"You can't come dress shopping with me," Dawn objected. "You're not allowed to see the dress til I'm walking down the aisle."

"I didn't say go shopping with you," he snorted, looking disgusted by the idea of being in a store with you. "I said I'd go downstairs with you. I didn't get any training done on the way here."

"Okay, then," Dawn allowed. "Hurry, though. I don't want to see May in a hissy fit today."

"I wouldn't either," Paul muttered, pulling a long sleeved purple shirt over his head, which made his hair, at least, look less stupid. He looked at her expectantly when his head emerged.


"I'm not wearing boxers under these," Paul said pointedly, plucking at his sweats.

"Oh," Dawn blushed. "Well, I'll – I'll just wait outside."

She left the room, shaking her head. Paul joined her in the hall just a minute later, having yanked on a pair of old blue jeans and brushed his teeth. Silently, they walked down the hall to the elevators.

"I hope you find the dress today," Paul offered awkwardly as they descended. Dawn looked at him, surprised.

"Thank you," she said. "I hope I do too."

"I'll want you to okay what I'm wearing," he continued. "After, I mean. And whatever Reggie should wear. He'll be my best man."

"Okay," Dawn agreed. "Do you have a preference?"

Paul was quiet until the elevator doors opened, revealing May, Zoey, Johanna, Leona, Misty, and Ash. Dawn assumed his silence meant he didn't care.

"Green," he said suddenly. Dawn looked at him curiously, but he didn't elaborate.

"Morning," Dawn sang towards her friends.

"You're almost late," May informed her. "We should go, it's good to be early."

"Okay, okay, May," Zoey said, rolling her eyes, "we know you want to get going. She's been down here since eight," she added for Dawn and Paul's benefit.

"We should get going, though," Johanna inserted. "It's always better to be early, rather than late."

"Where are you going, Ash?" Dawn asked as they exited the hotel and walked in the direction May led.

"To train somewhere," he shrugged. "There's nothing better to do in this boring town."

"Town?" Misty snorted. "You're from a town. This is a city – and it's the farthest thing from boring."

"Yeah, right," Ash muttered, kicking a pebble into the street.

"I'll prove it to you," Misty challenged. "How about we go to my sisters' club tonight? You're sure to find something interesting to do there."

"Or someone," May mumbled, punching the button to allow them to cross the street. Leona laughed.

"Clubs are stupid," Zoey complained. "You just drink and get boys grinding all over you."

"What's wrong with that?" Leona laughed. "I like boys."

"Wow, look at that car!" May gasped, pointing at a bright red convertible as it passed.

"Damn," Leona murmured. "Take me for a ride, baby."

Ash scowled at the women. "Girls don't like boys," Ash disagreed grumpily. "Girls like cars and money."

"And the girls with the bodies like boys with Ferraris," Paul murmured unexpectedly.

"We see eye to eye for once," Ash laughed. Paul nodded appreciatively.

"That was a nice car, though. Very fast."

"Of course that's what you'd care about," Dawn rolled her eyes. Paul said nothing.

"So, tonight?" Misty pressed. "I did promise the visitors a night on the town. What better way to do it than Sensational Sister style?"

"I'll pass, but thank you," Johanna said.

"I'm in," May called from ahead of them. "We'll need alcohol after a day with Dawn trying on dresses."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dawn asked indignantly. Leona laughed at her.

"I'll go too," Leona added. "It'll be nice to get out for a while."

"Get out for a while? You're on a vacation," Ash commented, earning him an elbow in the ribs from Dawn.

"I'll go if everyone's going," Zoey said, sounding put-upon.

"I'll go," Dawn shrugged. "I'd like to see the famous Pure Instinct."

"What's that?" Paul asked under his breath.

"The name of the club Misty's sisters own," Dawn answered. "You don't have to go."

"I'll meet you there," Paul offered. "What time do you think you'll go?"

"Probably around ten-thirty," Misty responded, having overheard his question. "A little early, I'll admit, but Daisy'll want us to get the full tour by her."

"I'll meet you there around eleven, then," Paul decided. "I hate guided tours."

"Okay," Dawn said, sounding surprised. He smirked at her tone.

"I guess I have no choice, then," Ash grumbled.

"I hope you guys are done talking about tonight, because the focus of today is right up there!" May announced dramatically, pointing at a colossal building a street away. The front windows were filled with sleek gowns. Dawn squealed in excitement.

"This is where I leave you," Paul said, pulling her to a stop. As they needed to cross one final street that was currently impossible to cross due to traffic, everyone else stopped as well. Paul noticed this and gave Dawn a meaningful look before kissing her nose. "I hope you find the perfect dress today."

"Thanks," Dawn said, blushing. "I hope you... Do well at training today."

"Thank you," he smirked at her pause, guessing she had been trying to remember what he'd said he would do today.

"Hey, Paul!" Ash crowed as they crossed the last street and approached Kleinfeld's. "Want to battle today?"

Paul sighed. "Not really."

"Oh, c'mon!" Ash whined as all the women but Dawn pushed their way into the boutique. Dawn gave Paul a look of understanding.

"Hope to see you in one piece after a day with him," Dawn whispered in his ear. She squeezed his arm before following her friends into Kleinfeld's. Paul felt something flare inside him. Joke or not, she wanted to see him later. He rolled his eyes and agreed to battle Ash.

- / - / - / -

"Welcome to Kleinfeld Bridal," a pleasant woman greeted them when they approached the seating area. "Whose is this bridal party?"

"Mine," Dawn announced. "Dawn."

"Ah, yes," the woman noted, leafing through a stack of papers on her desk. "You're Sarah's nine o' clock appointment. She'll be with you shortly. If you wouldn't mind waiting..."

"I'm so excited!" Dawn grinned, sitting in the nearest armchair. Johanna smiled indulgently at her daughter. "I still can't believe I'm really trying on wedding dresses today!"

"Thought the day would never come," Zoey said drily. Dawn kicked her chair. Zoey frowned.

"Don't ruin this for me," Dawn warned.

"I can't wait to see the monster you pick out," Leona giggled. "It's going to be crazy, Dee-Dee. So pretty."

"Hi, Dawn?"

Everyone shifted to face the voice. A pretty woman with long black hair stood in the doorway to the gallery. She was wearing a simple black dress and a professional smile.

"That's me," Dawn said, standing. She offered her hand.

"I'm Sarah."

"It's so nice to meet you," Dawn said sincerely. She turned slightly, and pointed each out as she called their names. "These are Johanna, my mom; May, my maid of honor; and my bridesmaids, Leona, Zoey, and Misty."

"Pleasure to meet you all," Sarah smiled. "So, if I can just show you to a dressing room..."

They followed Sarah through the gallery. Dawn's eyes raked the displays, looking for dresses she wanted to try on. Leona pointed out a few that she thought would look pretty on Dawn. Zoey and May chattered quietly, pointing out dresses they liked for themselves. Johanna and Misty followed silently, seeming awed by the gallery's grandeur.

"In here," Sarah said, pointing. They filed in silently and took their seats. "So, when's the big day?"

"Um," Dawn said brilliantly, exchanging a glance with her mother. "May twenty-first."

"Ah, it's beautiful that time of year," Sarah commented. "So what are we thinking of, dress wise? How do you want to look on your wedding day?"

"Like a princess," Dawn gushed. "I want a ball gown, for sure. I really like lace, I think it's beautiful. Nothing where you can see through the bodice."

"Okay, okay," Sarah nodded. "And do you have a price point? Any number you'd like to stay under...?"

"I'm buying the dress," Johanna spoke before Dawn could. "And as long as we keep it under ten thousand, I'll be happy."


"This is my contribution to the wedding, sweetie," Johanna said, patting her daughter's hand. "Let me do what I can for you."

"Okay, so ten?" Sarah verified. Johanna nodded.

"Um," Zoey interjected. "We – me and May, I mean – saw a dress we think would be pretty in the gallery. Do you think she could try that on, too?"

"We'll see, when we go to look for dresses," Sarah agreed, standing up. "Shall we?"

The women filed out of the small room and accompanied Sarah to the gallery first, so that May and Zoey could show her the dress they'd liked. Dawn was skeptical – she didn't really like mermaid cuts – but agreed to try it on for them. Leona pointed out a dress that Dawn had actually noticed as they'd passed through before. She told Sarah she liked Leona's dress, and Sarah made a note on a pad of paper. Everyone but Dawn and Sarah returned to the dressing room. Sarah led Dawn to the cavernous stockroom, and Dawn picked out a dress she liked while Sarah found the two dresses Dawn's friends had liked (the samples had been on mannequins). Dawn looked at Sarah questioningly when she returned with three dresses in garment bags, but Sarah merely smiled and took Dawn's choice.

When they returned to the dressing room, Dawn's friends and mother were instructed to sit outside while Dawn changed. With the audience gone, Dawn breathed a sigh of relief.

"How are you?" Sarah asked kindly.

"I'm okay. It's just overwhelming," Dawn explained. "I love them all, of course, but it was a long trip all the way from Sinnoh to gt here."

"This dress must be important to you," Sarah guessed as Dawn shucked her clothes. Dawn nodded absently. "Which dress would you like to start with?"

"The one Leona picked out front," Dawn decided. She'd liked that one as well, after all.

Sarah quickly helped her into the ball gown, and Dawn admired her reflection.

"Wow, is that me?" she laughed. Sarah laughed with her and asked if she wanted to show the others. Dawn nodded fervently.

"Oh, Dawn!" Johanna and Leona gasped together when Dawn emerged from the dressing room. May cooed, and Zoey looked appraising. Misty's head was tilted as she watched Dawn walk in. Dawn faced the mirror and really looked at her reflection.

The dress had was strapless, with a sweetheart neckline. The fabric folded gently towards her left hip. There was a beaded waist where Dawn's waist naturally was, and the skirt billowed out just enough to be noticeable, with a beautiful layer of lace that fell subtly past the rest of the skirt. The train was about two feet long, and the lace covering trailed another six inches.

"Dee-Dee, you're beautiful!"

Dawn smiled at Leona. "Good pick, Lee. It's amazing."

"I'm not in love with the top," Zoey muttered. "I mean, the neckline's nice, but the way the top kind of all goes toward your hip? It's a little weird."

"Yeah," May nodded in agreement. Leona looked annoyed. "But it's not that bad. I mean, it's not like that's what everyone would be looking at, saying 'ew, why did she get that dress.' It's just different."

"I think it's a beautiful dress," Misty offered.

"I agree with Misty," Johanna began.

"I hear a 'but' coming, mother."

"But," Johanna said, smiling, "I really think I'll cry when I see you in your dress. It's gorgeous, of course, and you're gorgeous in it, but I don't think it's your dress."

"I think you're right, mom," Dawn agreed. Leona made a face. "It's pretty, but it's not me."

"So this one's a no?" Sarah asked. Dawn shook her head, and Sarah led her back into the dressing room. It was easier getting out of the dress than it had been getting into it, and she was into the next dress, the mystery dress Sarah had brought with her, in about fifteen minutes. Dawn ducked out to show her friends before looking at herself.

This dress was stunning. Much narrower, and a mermaid cut (imagine that, Dawn thought), this dress was every bit as old fashioned as Dawn had envisioned. A sweetheart neckline that was covered in lace. The sturdy material of the dress, she felt, left her back completely bare; however, a 'jacket' of sorts, constructed entirely of flowery lace, created a careful web covering her back and shoulders.

"Oh, wow," Dawn breathed. "This is..."

"Dawn, did you pick this one?" May asked, sounding stunned. Dawn shook her head.

"I did," Sarah said, a bit smugly. "When Dawn said she wanted lace, I immediately thought of this dress."

"Dawn," Zoey announced, "You look like a queen in this dress."

Misty smiled, Leona nodded fervently, and Johanna smiled up at her daughter. There were no tears in her eyes. Dawn chuckled.

"I love this one," Dawn stated, "but I don't think it's the one yet, you know? It's a contender – I've never felt this beautiful – but I want to try on a few more."

Sarah nodded dutifully and helped her into the next dress, the one Dawn had picked for herself. She glanced in the mirror briefly before leaving, and wrinkled her nose. Sarah saw that and asked if she was ready to go out.

"I guess."

Dawn strode out and stood on the small podium and announced, "I don't like it."

"It's not the prettiest," Leona acknowledged. Zoey nodded, trying to stay quiet.

"It makes you look fat," May said bluntly. Sarah shot her a look, but Dawn laughed.

It was strapless, with a very beaded bodice. The skirt ballooned out at her hips, and there was light beading on the lower half of the skirt. Dawn shook her head immediately, and turned to go back to the dressing room. Once she was back in, Johanna asked Sarah in an undertone if she could run and grab a dress that she'd seen before. Sarah nodded before following Dawn in to help her get the dress off.

Next was May and Zoey's dress. It was much tighter, and it took a good ten minutes for Sarah to get it on. At one point, there had been a light knock on the door and Sarah had answered it and accepted a dress from whoever was at the door.

When Dawn emerged, she looked uncomfortable. Zoey and May ignored this, however, and squealed their delight over the dress. Leona raised her eyebrows, and Johanna frowned. Misty actually wrinkled her nose.

It was constructed of champagne-colored satin, had a sweetheart neckline, and was nondescript until the bottom, where there was a bit of lace decorating the hem. The back had a big bow, whose ribbons trailed to the backs of Dawn's knees.

"Dawn, you're gorgeous!" May cried.

"I don't like it," Dawn shook her head.

"Are you blind?" Zoey asked incredulously.

"I don't like it," Dawn repeated. Leona shook her head.

"She doesn't have the same taste as you," Leona said. "When you get married, you wear it."

"It looks stupid on her," Misty said, crossing her arms. Dawn laughed at Misty's bluntness, and May and Zoey bristled at her.

Dawn went back to the dressing room, ignoring the angry mutterings of May and Zoey (fortunately now directed at Misty).

"So," Sarah said, shutting the door behind them, "I have one more dress before we go hunting for more."

"Okay," Dawn sighed.

Sarah helped her into the last dress, and insisted that Dawn keep her eyes closed. She led her out to the podium, and Dawn heard the gasps of her friends.

"Closed, closed, closed," Sarah insisted. "Little step up onto the podium – now turn – a little bit more. There, perfect. Okay, look at yourself."

Dawn peeked through her eyelashes before her eyes flew open. "Oh... Arceus," she breathed, staring at the dress.

It was sensational. Strapless, with a sweetheart neckline. Just under the neckline, there was a delicate v of crystalline beading before it was overtaken by criss-crossing draped white fabric; at Dawn's waist, it tapered out in clouds of tulle. The very top layer of tulle glittered subtly.

"Dawn, you're a princess," Leona whispered.

"Oh, Dawn," May mumbled. She didn't seem able to articulate any other words.

"You're hot," Zoey supplied. The five young women along with Sarah laughed. Misty just smiled again. Dawn could feel that her eyes were wet, but she sought her mother's face.

There were tears streaming down Johanna's face.

"Oh, honey," Johanna sniffed. "You're the most beautiful girl in the world."

"I don't ever want to take it off," Dawn announced, drawing more laughter from her friends.

"Is this your dress?" Sarah asked.

"Yes," Dawn answered, wiping her eyes. "This is definitely my dress."

Her friends burst into applause while she hugged Sarah.

"Wait – who actually picked this dress?" May asked. Sarah smiled and pointed at Johanna.

"Mama, this was you?" Dawn asked, her mouth falling open.

"Mother knows best, Dawn," Johanna said wryly. "And since I'm paying – I thought I should get you in my choice. Icing on the cake that you picked it."

- / - / - / -

Dawn's measurements took much longer than anticipated – her mother and friends had wandered the store, making mental notes for when they got married. When Dawn emerged from alterations, it was well past two o' clock.

"C'mon, I'm starving," May grumbled. "We won't get into anywhere good for at least an hour. Cities suck."

"There's a nice Italian place not too far from here," Misty said. "It's not usually too crowded."

"You don't even live here, how do you know?" Zoey asked.

"My sisters live here almost full-time. They tell me things."

The women went to lunch, and continued to gush about Dawn's dress. Dawn noticed that Misty seemed more than reserved, so when the redhead got up to go to the bathrooms, Dawn followed her.

"Misty," Dawn began as soon as the bathroom door swung shut behind them, "what's wrong? Something's been off all day."

Misty let out her breath in a gust.

"Look, I really appreciate that you wanted me to come, and so flattered that you wanted me as a bridesmaid," Misty paused to rub her eyes. "And I don't want this to come off wrong, really. But I just... I don't know you. I'm uncomfortable with being your bridesmaid when I don't know anything about you. And you don't know anything about me, though that's less relevant when it's your wedding. So – though I appreciate your asking me, and I think you're a really sweet girl, I don't want to be in your wedding."

"Okay," Dawn said. "That is more than fair. You don't have to be a bridesmaid. I just... Didn't want to offend you, I guess."

"Thanks," Misty said, looking happier. "That makes me feel better. I'll be less awkward for the rest of the day."

"Deal," Dawn smiled and returned to the table. Misty joined her a few minutes later, and, as promised, was more animated than she'd been all trip.

- / - / - / -

"Whaddya think the girls are doing?" Ash asked Paul again. Paul closed his eyes and prayed to a deity he did not believe in for strength not to kill his fianceé's friend. That was probably a bad idea.

"It's seven o' clock now. They probably are eating."

"I missed dinner? Aw, man!" Ash groaned. They were walking to the Pokémon center after a long day of rigorous battling. True to his word, Paul could still sweep the floor with Ash in a battle.

"Eat something when you go back."

"Don't you mean when we go back?" Ash asked, confused.

"No. You're dropping off your pathetic excused for Pokémon at the center and going back to the hotel," Paul corrected maliciously. Ash opened his mouth, but Paul cut him off. "I have no intention of stopping my training for the day now. I don't have plans until eleven."

"Fine," Ash snapped. "I have no idea why she's marrying you. You're still a pig."

"So I've been told," Paul snorted.

- / - / - / -

"Come on, Dee-Dee," Leona whined through her door. "We want to go! And I know you're dressed, you showed us your dress an hour ago."

"I'm coming, Leona," Dawn called. "Don't worry, we'll get our guided tour and free drink."

It was ten-fifteen when Dawn threw a final glance at herself in the mirror. She was wearing a loose-fitting bright pink dress. Simple but eye-catching – her favorite.

"Okay, let's go!" Dawn howled, grabbing Leona's hand and racing to join their friends elevators.

"You're a knockout, girl," Leona giggled. "If you weren't engaged already, I'd say the way you look now's enough to make a man get on one knee."

"Or two," Zoey said lewdly from behind them, "if you know what I mean."

"You're gross," Dawn laughed. "We make a pretty bunch, don't you think?"

"Of course – now enough small talk," May said impatiently. "I want to get drunk and dance!"

"You're headed for the perfect place for that," Misty said drily. Dawn flashed Misty a grin, which was tentatively returned.

They reached the lobby, where Ash was waiting for them. "You girls look amazing," he called. "Let's hit it, okay?"

- / - / - / -

Paul stepped cautiously inside the front doors of Pure Instinct, and was overwhelmed by the onslaught of smells that hit him. Sweat, alcohol, and some other smell he couldn't quite place saturated the air. It was impossibly dark. He could make out the shape of tables on the level he was on. There was a dance floor sunk into the ground, with a neon bar on the far wall. Strobe lights gave the room an ethereal quality, illuminating the mass of dancing bodies on the floor in front of him. He wrinkled his nose. He would definitely need a drink to tolerate tonight. A girl with long blonde hair shoved past him and ran outside. He could hear her vomiting wetly on the sidewalk outside. Several drinks, then.

He made his way to the bar. He was supposed to meet Dawn and her friends here, but he doubted they would miss him. Paul didn't think they liked him, much, and to be frank, he didn't like any of them. He'd been very civil to them, though. He was rather proud that he hadn't made many snide comments about them within their hearing.

The bartender was a tall man with dark hair that kept falling in his face. Paul glanced down the bar, trying to see if anything looked appealing. It didn't.

"Can I get you something?" the bartender said in a low voice. Were he female or gay, Paul was sure he would find this man's voice very attractive, he thought vaguely.

"Yeah... Shot of Jack Daniels, shot of Jäger, shot of Cuervo," Paul muttered. He needed it strong if he was expected to make it through this night.

"Control-Alt.-Delete," the bartender grinned. Paul was dimly surprised that the man knew the name of the drink. Paul paid while the bartender poured the shots and pushed them across the bar to him. "Good luck then, my man."

Paul downed the three shots one after another and made a face. The price one pays, Paul thought wryly. He hated the taste of Jäger, but it – along with the other two – got the job done, and quick. He drummed his fingers on the bar, and turned to look around for Dawn. He'd said he would be here at eleven. It was eleven thirty now.

Dawn felt that fifth shot of tequila. It was hot in her head and she could feel it pounding in her blood. Oh, it was probably not a good idea to take that last shot. She moved her hips quicker in time with the music, letting her head sway with them. It felt nice. Maybe the strobe lights were making her head move slower. Where was Paul? He said he'd be here. The music was loud, and she let the tequila guide her body's movements.

"Let's go to the bar," May yelled in her ear over the music. Dawn shook her head and tried to get lost in the dancing again. "Dawn, let's go."

Dawn felt May tug her arm and she followed her friend away from the dancers. "Why did we go?" Dawn whined.

"Because, you should have seen the way that guy was looking at you," May giggled. "I thought he was going to pounce any second."

Dawn twisted and tried to go back to the dance. "Was he cute?"

"Dawn, you're engaged," May said. Dawn registered, somehow, that it was interesting how May could sound disapproving now when she couldn't sober.

"My fianceé doesn't love me," Dawn laughed. She doubled over laughing so hard. "He doesn't even like me, May! Hahaha, isn't that funny?"

"Not really," May said, trying to pull Dawn up. "Besides, he does like you."

"Nuh-uh," Dawn wheezed through her laughter. "He doesn't, May! He thinks I'm an annoying little girl, haha. I like him though, haha. I do. Haha, I do, I have to say that at the wedding. Isn't that funny?"

"You like him? Why've you been saying you don't?"

"Of course I like him, May!" Dawn said, seeming offended. "He's really nice to me sometimes, when no one else is around. And I have to say I don't like him 'cause he hates me, and we're just getting married 'cause we have to. Plus, we sleep together every night."

"You and I both know it's just sleeping, Dawn."

"So what. I like him, May –" Dawn slurred.

"That's good, Dawn," May whispered, "because he's coming over here now."

"He came?" Dawn squealed.

"Please don't say anything stupid to him, Dawn."

"Shh, it's Paul!" Dawn squeaked, dissolving into laughter again. She was unaware of May and Paul having a conversation above her head until a new hand took hers. She knew instinctively that it was Paul's. She let him pull her up and hold her steady.

"I'll look after her," Paul said smoothly. "Don't worry, May."

"You know her name?" Dawn whispered loudly. She heard him laugh. Well, felt him laugh, really.

"What do you want to do?" he murmured against her ear. She shivered.

"I want to dance," she said breathlessly. Paul wrapped an arm around her waist and led her to the packed dance floor. She started moving in time with the beat immediately, and he could feel the bass pulsing through the floor in his head, his bones, in his heart. The drinks and the music were energizing him; he could feel his skin tingling. He watched Dawn dance, watched her hips as they ground out the rhythm to a song he didn't know, couldn't even hear any more – there was nothing anymore but the pulse of the base and Dawn's hips as she danced.

She glanced up and saw Paul and she smiled at him. Not in a way she's ever smiled at him before. It's... sexy, and seductive. He smiles back lazily, and her arms shoot out of nowhere and land on his hips. She pulls him forward and he stumbled blindly, feeling their bodies collide. Her hands slid to his wrists and she wrapped his hands around her body, letting them rest on her lower back. Very low on her lower back. One of her bare legs is trapped between his thighs. He is acutely, painfully aware of that leg, aware of every little move it makes. Dawn pushed herself closer to him; he can feel the heat of her breasts through his shirt. His breathing hitched and came in harder, faster breaths. Blood pounded in his ears, and the alcohol made him bold.

Paul snaked his hands down lower, and Dawn gasped and pushed her leg hard into his erection. He moaned and dropped his head onto her shoulder, the feeling making him feel dizzy. It was all he could do to stay standing. He felt her lips on his neck and groaned again. Encouraged, Dawn traced circles on his neck with her tongue, moving slowly up towards his jawline. She moved her leg against the hardness pressed against it and heard him moan again.


He raises his head and looks at her, lust clear in his gaze. He's surprised to see it reflected in hers. She raised up on to her tiptoes, her leg dragging agonizingly against him, and kissed him. His head was spinning as he kissed her back. She flicked her tongue against her lower lip, and he sighed and opened his mouth. He felt her hot tongue slip inside his mouth. He sucked hard, and felt her moan.

The song changed, and the beat of this song was faster. Paul didn't hear the change, but Dawn's dancing changed. She didn't mean for it to; she wasn't hearing the music anymore, but her hips were wired to the music – their speed changed with the pulsing bass. Her thigh moved more quickly, the friction harder and faster against his erection than before. He released her mouth, too focused on the feeling to think of anything else.

"Oh, fuck," he moaned against her ear. She stood on her toes again, this time to reach his ear; she nipped his ear gently and sucked on the soft skin just below his ear lobe.

"Yes," Dawn moaned in his ear, "let's."

- / - / - / - / - / -

A/N: I know, I'm horrible, it's been 80 billion years. I'd cite school as my excuse, but it's not. It's all Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Rooney Mara in the American version of the movie is the new love of my life. BUT this chapter was nice and long and ended so nicely, don't you think? Muahaha.

Oh, and also, Paul can "sweep the floor" with Ash in a battle because I pretend the Pokémon League in Sinnoh never happened. Lolz. Ash could never beat Paul. End of story.

I have links to all of the dresses Dawn tried on, for visuals. Let me know if you want to see them... Or when it's not the middle of the night, I'll figure out how to put them in here... Maybe...