Genre: Character Study, Drama, Friendship, Romance
Warnings: Sexual tension
Summary: Brendan/May. Brendan's always had a touch of claustrophobia, but May's comforting presence is the last thing he needs right now.
Disclaimer: Pokémon isn't mine.
Author'sNotes: First published 16 Oct 2010. I spent all summer by the ocean, so this is the second of three fics that revolve around water/beaches. (The first was Nest.) Written for roadtoviridian LJ's kink meme. The prompt was "Something's not right here." In the RP, May has the vestiges of a childhood crush on Brendan, and Brendan is gay, which added some...difficulty.
Brendan is studying the behavior of a newly discovered pokémon species. His research has taken him to a remote island with a small research cabin, a rocky shore, and not much else. He's accompanied by four other scientists, mostly friends of his father's.
Right now, he should be in the old, tarnished research submarine—Swampert has been particularly useful on this mission—but instead he's in the lab organizing the data they've collected so far. They're using a program his father wrote, so naturally Brendan is the most familiar with it. That's the only reason he has stayed behind today, he thinks. He's excited to be in the field, and excited by their findings. Though he has spent most of his life traipsing the wide Hoenn wilderness and sleeping under the stars, he can handle two months of cramped quarters.
He's gotten this far, at least.
Outside, a storm is raging, and it rattles the windows even through the closed shutters. Brendan leans back in his chair and takes off his glasses with a sigh. They settle on the table with a soft click as he reaches up to rub the bridge of his nose. Lines of file names race up the screen as they're sorted and archived; his mind buzzes with information. He hasn't been sleeping well here, and he could use another cup of coffee. As he gets to his feet and wanders to the kitchen, someone begins to bang on the door, barely audible over a fresh peal of thunder.
They must be back early, Brendan thinks, relieved and concerned all at once—they're doing dangerous work here. But when he opens the door, May breezes past him, dripping puddles in her wake.
"Hi, Jason!" she says without looking at him, scanning the small room with what seems like satisfaction. "It's been a while, hasn't it? Looks like nothing's changed around here! How's your research—"
"—May?" he interrupts before she can get any further. She whirls at the familiar voice.
"Brendan? But—but I thought you were—" Brendan shakes his head, giving her a confused little smile.
May stares at him for another moment before she beams. In two bounds she's crossed the room to sweep him up in a soggy hug. "Well, it's great to see you!" she says.
Brendan would normally hug her back, but she's pinned his arms to his sides. "Good to see you too, May," he says instead.
She steps back and laughs at the wet patches on his clothes. "Guess I better get cleaned up," she says. "Can I use your shower?"
He nods. "I'll get some towels." She follows him into the linen closet and chatters while he digs for supplies.
"You've still got another month out here, right?"
His "Yes" is muffled.
"Is Jason still here?"
He comes up with two towels and hands her one. "Yeah. He's the team leader."
"So he got the grant? That's wonderful!"
May heads towards the bathroom. Brendan gently dabs at the splotches on the shirt, and then decides that it will be easier to just change his clothing.
"I'm making coffee," he says. "Do you want anything?"
"Yeah, thanks!" she calls back. The shower turns on with a harsh shriek.
When she comes out of the bathroom ten minutes later, she finds Brendan sitting again at the computer, a cup of coffee at his lips and a science journal in his hands. A mug of peach tea steams on the table.
"Thanks," she says, leaning over his shoulder to grab her cup. The movement presses her close against him, but he tries to ignore it, and the fact that she's only wearing a towel, and the knowledge that he really shouldn't turn his head right now. She feels wrong, anyway, he tells himself, so it doesn't mean anything.
"What are you doing?" she asks, staring at the screen.
Before he can tell her to put on some clothes, the door slams open and the rest of the scientists march inside. Brendan jerks away from her, and May straightens. "Hello, Jason!" she calls again, this time to the man leading the party.
"May?" he says, shaking his wet hair out of his eyes. His eyes move from the young woman, who's smiling, to Brendan, who has turned away to hide a furious blush. "What's going on?" he says in a lower tone.
"I was just in the area and thought I'd pay you a visit," May says, moving away from her friend. "I just took a shower—I'll be right back," she says with a tiny smile, then disappears down the side hallway.
"Excuse me," Brendan mutters to the rest of the team, whose expressions range from confused to suspicious, before he runs after her. May is looking quizzically into each room. "In here," he hisses, his fingers closing around her wrist. He drags her into his room and slams the door behind him.
"Are you all right?" she asks. Brendan is leaning against the door, his head tilted back as he takes a deep breath.
He shakes his head before he moves to his suitcase. Quickly, he tosses clothing at her: pants (without the additional shorts), an extra shirt, and—after a moment of hesitation—boxers. It's not like she hasn't worn his before. Behind him, he hears the snap of cloth as she catches them out of the air.
"May," he says once he's zipped his suitcase closed again, "You really need to stop—" he turns to find her turned away from him and the towel pooled around her feet. His eyes move from her narrow waist to the flare of her hips and are already on her long, muscled legs before he catches himself.
"What?" she asks, not turning around. "It's not like you care."
She's right, he thinks as he stares at her calves. He doesn't.
"So. Childhood friends," Jason says. May is busy introducing herself to the other researchers, and the whisper that she's the Hoenn champion follows in her wake.
Brendan has known Jason since before he was born. He's the youngest person on the team by at least twenty years, but he tells himself he belongs here on his own merits—eventually, he'll believe it.
He's on his third cup of coffee, but he's still exhausted. There's just something about this place. The storms are incessant, the lab and the submarine are stifling, and he's not used to living with strangers. He's not comfortable here, he thinks. It feels like the others are always on top of him. They're nothing like May.
Then he blinks.
"You're a lucky man," he hears Jason say. His eyes flick up to the other man's wide, knowing grin, and he frowns.
"It's not like that," he says. "We're just friends."
"For now, eh?"
"Just friends," Brendan says firmly, tiredly.
May offers to start dinner and passes them on the way to the kitchen. A smile for Jason, a touch on the shoulder for Brendan, and she's gone. Jason's eyes gleam with amusement.
"She fancies you," Jason says. "Trust me; I know these things." He claps Brendan on the shoulder and gets to his feet. "You're not going to let a girl like her get away, are you? Besides—you work too hard, lad. A romance will do you good."
Brendan sighs and turns to watch the rain pour in wavering sheets down the windowpane.
They're in the middle of dinner when the power goes out. Brendan immediately leaps to his feet, his chair screeching loudly in the darkness as it skids back, and runs for the computer.
He sags with relief when he sees that the generator has kicked in as it should. Their data is safe. Then, from behind him, he smells cedar and wildflowers. "Is everything all right?" May asks quietly.
"Fine," he says. "The computer's still running."
There's the strike of a match, and the flaring light makes her look like a stranger. Then it settles, and it's just May again, smiling. "Of course it works, worrywart," she says fondly. "You set it up."
Her cheeks are round and soft in the match's glow. Brendan's fingers twitch before he wordlessly turns away.
Everyone decides to turn in early, so they take their candles, exchange quiet good nights, and filter to their bedrooms. Jason gives Brendan a hearty wink as he passes; his stomach knots.
He isn't surprised to find May in his bed. She's still wearing his shirt, but the pants he lent her are neatly folded on top of his suitcase.
"Oh, get in here," she says when she sees his hesitation. She folds back the blanket for him and snuggles close when he gets in.
"Just like old times, right?" May whispers in his ear. Her shape is wrong, but her skin is smooth and warm, and that isn't wrong enough.
He throws the sheets off.
"Brendan?" she sits up immediately. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he says, sitting hunched over on the edge of the bed. His fingers rest lightly on his temples. He hears rustling as she moves; a moment later, her hands cover his, and lightly callused fingertips move in slow circles. Brendan's eyes close despite himself.
Her hands slide down the sides of his face, tickling his ears and the short hairs at the base of his neck. "You're all knots, sweetheart," she says quietly, resting her hands on his shoulders. "What's wrong?" When she presses her palms hard against his skin and begins to knead, he shivers.
"Nothing," he repeats, feeling his body sway in time with the movement of her hands. "I'm just tired."
"You've been drinking coffee all day," she says. "That's not like you. Not sleeping well?"
"Not really," he mumbles.
May hums sympathetically and waits. For a long moment, he doesn't speak, and they just listen to the howl of the storm outside.
"There's a lot riding on this research," he says at last. "If we can pin down the Pokémon's sleeping and feeding patterns, it'll be a huge breakthrough." After another moment, he quietly adds, "We only have one more week before we have to begin working on our other projects."
"Well, a lot can happen in seven days," she says. "And you've gathered a lot of information already, haven't you? Just keep your chin up." At that, she takes his jaw in one hand and turns it towards her; he can just barely see the blue of her eyes in the dim light. "You're doing everything you can. You'll get it done."
The rain thrums softly on the roof. Brendan stares at her, almost expressionless. The young woman's lips quirk into a smile. She's familiar and comforting—the only thing that is in this dark, weather-beaten place.
May is his best friend.
He leans forward.
May is cedar and wildflowers, long legs and soft, warm skin.
Brendan buries his face in her neck and settles his hands on her waist. His fingers trail up her sides, feeling the swell of her breasts under his old, thin shirt.
She clutches at him in surprise, and he stops.
Outside, a wave breaks across the rocks.
His hands drop to the bed. May is still tense, waiting to see his next move, but the moment is gone. Brendan sags against her and she relaxes, wrapping him in a hug and settling back against the wall. "I'm sorry," he whispers.
May looks off into the distance above his head, thinking, before a gusty sigh blows from her lips. She gives him a quick squeeze and drops a kiss onto his hair.
"It'll be okay," she tells him. When he doesn't move, she pushes and pulls until they're both lying on the bed, her chin resting on top of his head. Brendan is the one who snuggles closer this time, and she lets him.
"I don't like it here," he whispers, and then feels ridiculous for doing so. The candle gutters in a sudden draft.
Her hands run down his back. "You've never been good in cramped places," she says softly. "But you'll be home soon."
His room in Petalburg isn't large, but he keeps his window open and his curtains drawn. It smells like sunshine and, occasionally, like cedar.
May holds him until his eyes close and sleep drags him under.
She leaves the next day. "I'm visiting the Pokémon League," she says. "This was just a quick stop, really."
The others don't try to stop her; it's not like the storm is going to let up, so there's no reason for her to wait. "I'll see you soon," she says, giving Jason a hug and Brendan a quick peck on the cheek. Her hands don't linger like they did yesterday, and when the older scientist gives him a piercing look, Brendan looks away.
"Safe trip," the young man tells her. She gives him a little smile before stepping out into the storm.
They never speak of it again.