A/N: This story is a weird mix of the manga, anime, and my own personal perception of the characters. Just a warning. :P

I don't own pokemon. I just wanted to see what would happen if Brendan showed up in the anime. ;)

An Uninvited Visitor

It was just a cold. May felt it coming on as they traveled through Dewford town on their way to Slateport, but she kept quiet, not wanting to worry Ash and Brock. She was halfway pleased that Max had parted ways with them in Rustboro City, wanting to learn from the best Pokémon school in Hoenn. If he'd been there, he'd have noticed her condition right away and said something, which might have resulted in several days' delay on account of her.

They didn't have time to slow down now; Ash had a very important package that had to be delivered to Slateport as soon as possible. She wouldn't stop the progress they were making because her throat was a little sore.

Of course, breathing in the salty sea air didn't improve her condition, and by the time Slateport was in sight, she was exhausted. She stayed in her room on Mr. Briney's boat as Ash, Brock, and Pikachu drank in the sight of the harbor city on the water's horizon. When they reached land, she offered to grab a hotel room—Slateport had no gym, but none of them knew how long it would take to track down this Captain Stern fellow—while Ash busied himself with battling the people on the beach.

When she found a decent one, according to her Pokénav's guide to lodgings in Hoenn, she paid for two rooms (boys and girls), and immediately retired to hers for a nap. But first, she called Max to see how he was faring in Rustboro.

"Hello?" he answered the phone, and his expression brightened when he saw May on the other line. "Oh, hey, sis! Guess what?"

May felt relieved that he was all right. After all, he was a little young to be on his own, but when a friend offered to keep an eye on Max, May couldn't think of any decent reason for him not to stay. After all, it was much more dangerous traveling with Ash; he got them into all kinds of trouble.

"What?" she asked, fighting the urge to cough as the single syllable tickled her throat. She cleared it instead, then cringed slightly as the pain flared up. Max didn't notice.

"We learned today about legendary pokémon! And when the teacher got to Jirachi, I didn't even have to take notes, because I know everything about it!"

"That's great, Max," May smiled.

Now that his exciting news had been relayed, he actually focused on his sister. He frowned slightly, "Are you getting sick?" he inquired, brows furrowing behind his black glasses.

"No," May retorted, but she couldn't keep from coughing immediately after. As she cleared her throat, Max rolled his eyes.

"Sure you're not," he said. "You should call mom. She worries about us, you know."

"Yeah, yeah," May shrugged a shoulder. "I'll be fine. You can tell her next time you call, if you want, but I'll be better by tomorrow."

"If you say so," her brother shook his head, but in the background a loud bell rang, and he quickly stood. "Oh, I have to get going! Class is going to start again soon."

"Okay, have fun," May said as the screen went blank, and then the last of her strength drained. She closed the drapes and collapsed onto her bed, fully clothed and completely intending to meet up with Ash and Brock in an hour or so.

When she woke from a fitful sleep hours later, it was to someone pounding on her door. She opened a bleary eye and stared at the door for a minute, as if expecting it to just open under her gaze. It didn't, so she groaned and heaved herself from the bed, trying to look as awake as possible to greet Ash and Brock. But when she pulled the door open, she froze to the spot, staring in disbelief at the guy standing in the hallway of the hotel.

Brendan Birch quirked a grin at her, "You look like shit."

"Brendan?" she croaked, her voice dry from hours of sleep and the head cold she finally admitted to having.

"The one and only," he breezed past her, and she barely remembered enough to close the door behind him. He looked exactly as she recalled, even though it had probably been close to a year since she'd seen him last. He was still wearing that stupid white hat, although she'd never upgraded from her red bandana either, so she supposed she couldn't say anything. His dark eyes still appeared almost crimson in certain light, and he had dirt smudged on his left cheek. She faintly wondered how she'd ever thought Ash was cute, looking at him right now.

She'd stared too long, apparently, because Brendan struck a comical pose and winked at her, "I know, I didn't think it was possible to get even hotter either, and yet, here I am!"

"Why are you here?" she asked, her voice gravelly. She grabbed her water bottle from her backpack and sipped it, wincing as the warm liquid slid down her sore throat.

Brendan flopped down on the bed, shrugging out of his backpack as he studied her, "I got a phone call from my mom. Said you were in Slateport, and you were feeling under the weather. She asked me to stop by and check up on you."

"How did your mom know?" May frowned, even though her mind was already making the connection. May calls Max. Max calls their mother. Their mother phones Mrs. Birch. And Mrs. Birch contacts Brendan. May moved right along, not giving Brendan time to answer question she'd already figured out. "Where were you when she called?"

"Not far," he shrugged. "I was milling around Mauville, so I just hopped on my bike and came down on the bike path."

"Oh," May frowned slightly. "What's in Mauville?"

"The electric gym, for one," he stated, raising an eyebrow like she was an idiot or something. "And the game center there happens to be the best in Hoenn. I might have already blown some money playing the slots."

May snorted and sat down next to him, wishing she could breathe through her nose like normal. Brendan always had the most unique smell, a mix between a sterile lab and the wildest forest, and she always remembered home when he was around. "You shouldn't have come. You'll be behind days now."

"Behind on what?" Brendan glanced sideways at her, genuinely curious. "As far as I'm aware, there's no time restraint on a pokémon journey. It's what I love most about this lifestyle—I go where I want, when I want, and I never have to worry about being late."

May smiled slightly, "Well, sorry for putting you behind schedule anyway."

"Some things are more important," Brendan stated, his arm wrapping around her shoulders and pulling her closer to his body in a sort of half-hug.

They sat in silence for a few moments, before May said, "I don't even want to know how you found my hotel room."

"Abra is an amazing pokémon," he responded simply, and she didn't inquire further. He glanced around the room and frowned. "Don't you travel with two other guys? And where's Max?"

"We left him in Rustboro," May coughed into her arm, away from Brendan, and he absentmindedly rubbed her back as he glanced out the window in amusement.

"Finally got tired of carting him around, huh?" he joked.

She laughed hoarsely, "Something like that."

"And the other two?"

"Somewhere in Slateport, I assume. I'm surprised they didn't knock earlier; I've been asleep for a few hours," she glanced at the clock and frowned, debating on whether or not to give Ash a call. She wasn't worried—he tended to get this way when he found trainers to challenge—but usually Ash knew when to call it a day. She imagined Pikachu and the others were all battled out by now.

Brendan rolled his eyes, "Good to know they're taking care of you, May."

She bristled slightly, ready to refute (even if his sarcastic statement held some truth), but the tingle in her throat grew unbearable and she broke down coughing. Brendan frowned and took her water bottle, unscrewing the cap in an unsubtle attempt to remind her it was there. She took it from him and nearly chugged it in a desperate attempt to stop the ache in her throat. It didn't really work, but she stopped coughing, at least.

"I think you need sleep, and lots of it," Brendan said matter-of-factly once she'd discarded the empty bottle. Without waiting for her to reply, he pulled the covers of the bed back and pushed her down, tucking her in and ignoring her protests. Her face grew red from his actions, and to make matters worse, someone knocked on the door at that moment. Brendan caught her gaze and said, "Stay," before going to open the door.

May watched him grip the doorknob, thinking, Latios, my luck can't be so bad that this is Ash and Brock, and the first thing they see is him. But of course, her luck never really seemed to hold up, and when Brendan stepped aside to admit her two traveling companions, she groaned and buried her head under the covers of the bed.

"Who're you?" Ash said, folding his arms as he stared at Brendan in confusion. On his shoulder, Pikachu bristled at the unfamiliar man in May's room.

"Name's Brendan. May and I go way back," he winked, and May jolted out of the bed, desperate to do damage control.

"We're friends, that's all!" she cried. "Our parents knew each other, so we grew up together." She glared at Brock, who was grinning widely at the whole conversation. Ash tilted his head and looked back at Brendan, who still wore that arrogant smirk.

"Huh. Well, okay then. I'm Ash, and this is Brock. Nice to meet you," he held out his hand, which Brendan shook. It was all surprisingly civil, and May wasn't sure how long it would last. Ash and Brock could be pleasant, but Brendan tended to… well, he was never very nice when it came to meeting other men in May's life.

Luckily, Ash was oblivious as always. Even if Brock might have suspected something more between the two childhood friends, Ash accepted Brendan for who May said he was. And he didn't give time for Brendan to say something less than kind. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked between the two of them, "So, did you just drop by for a visit or something?"

"Or something," Brendan said. "I heard through the grapevine that May had a cold, so I thought I'd pop in and see how she was doing."

"You're getting sick?" Ash asked, apparently surprised. Sometimes she loved how unaware he was—it made hiding things like this rather easy.

May rubbed her forehead with a hand, trying to ignore the headache pounding behind her temples, "It's nothing serious. I'll survive. Brendan, you really didn't have to come all the way down here."

"But it's been so long, Skitty. If I don't make an appearance every once in a while, how will you know about my fantastic accomplishments?" he grinned widely at the use of his favorite nickname for her, as well as his egotistical comment.

Brock stifled a laugh, and May groaned and fell back against the pillow again. She really thought he'd forgotten about that damn nickname. Luckily, Ash wasn't fazed. He shrugged the shoulder that Pikachu wasn't sitting on and said, "Well, if you're sick, you should get some rest. Brock and I got a lead on Captain Stern, so we'll check it out tomorrow. Okay?"

"Sure," May waved a hand, dropping her forearm over her eyes. She was exhausted—this meeting would have drained her on a good day, and now she felt like she could sleep for a week. Thankfully, she heard the boys file out (amidst a chorus of "feel better!") and the door close, and she was cast in blissful silence. For a moment, she almost thought she'd be able to get that rest everyone kept talking about.

And then Brendan said, "You really should have gotten a room with two beds, but I guess we can make do with this. You don't kick, do you?"

May stared at him as he scooted up right against her and wondered just who would complain if she sent her Tropius to kick his ass.

The next morning, she woke up to the smell of eggs and bacon. Groggily, she lifted her head and came face to face with Brendan's Absol, sitting beside the bed and staring at her with its red eyes. She yelped and leapt back, then clutched her head as the vertigo hit, leaning heavily against the bed.

"Absol!" Brendan said sternly from the desk just feet away. "What did I say? You could stay out of the pokéball as long as you didn't bother May."

It struck May as amusing that her childhood friend was scolding the very pokémon of disaster in the same voice teachers reserved for troublesome students. She allowed herself a grin as she reached down and petted the pokémon. The Absol leaned into her hand, obviously pleased, and Brendan rolled his eyes.

"You're only encouraging it, you know," he said easily.

"What's for breakfast?" she asked, her voice raw. She coughed into her elbow and made a face as her sore throat flared up. Brendan stood and approached her, waving Absol away as he bent down to check her forehead. She blushed slightly at his proximity, but he didn't seem to notice.

"Your fever's not too bad, but I don't want to tempt it," he straightened and turned to the bedside table, where a mug of tea was waiting. He handed it to her, and she sat up in the bed to drink it. It was still warm, so he must have made it a little while ago. She sipped it without complaint; the warm liquid eased the ache in her throat, and when he gave her two small capsules, she downed them silently. He nodded resolutely when she'd finished. "There. Now, finish your tea, eat some eggs, and back to bed with you."

May scowled against the rim of her mug, "You're not my mother, last I checked."

"Then you haven't checked recently," he smirked and picked up a tray of food, putting it on May's lap for her to eat. "I spoke with your mother this morning, and she gave me full permission to do whatever is needed to get you over your cold."

May stared at him. She would have assumed he was kidding, but it would be just like him to call her mother and keep her informed. And she could picture the woman possibly tacking on some horrifying idea like—

"She also said that if I thought it would help, I should kiss you to make it better."

Well, like that. May glared at him—he was enjoying this way too much—and busied herself with picking at her eggs. She wasn't really hungry, but the food did smell good, and Brendan was watching her like a Swellow, so she took a few bites.

Brendan seemed to realize she wasn't going to say anything on that topic, so he dropped into the desk chair again and said, "So, what have you been up to this last year?"

"Nothing important," she took another sip of tea. "Ash has been challenging the gyms, so I've been training my pokémon along the way."

"Do you challenge the gyms too?"

May shook her head, "There's never time. Ash… well, he likes to make progress, I suppose." She noticed his dubious expression and hastened to reassure him. "It's not like I really want to anyway, though. The gym challenge, the Elite Four… that's not for me. I'm okay just trying to complete the pokédex your dad gave me."

Brendan frowned, "Once upon a time, you were the one who was into training pokémon for battle."

"Yeah, and all you wanted to do was sew outfits and make your pokémon look glamorous," May scoffed, taking the tray of half-eaten food off the bed and putting it on the nearby nightstand. "We all change, Brendan."

"Hey," he gestured to Absol and the red bandanna around the pokémon's neck, one he'd sewn years earlier. "They are glamorous." That drew a smirk out of May, and Brendan quirked his lips for a moment before sobering. "All I'm saying, May, is that you shouldn't settle for something less than what you've wanted all along."

"I'm not," she said, though even to her ears she sounded less than convinced. She liked Ash and Brock; they were some of the best friends she'd had, besides Brendan. She loved traveling with them, loved Ash's charisma and determination, Brock's dry sense of humor. But Brendan's words reminded her of the nights she'd sit up by the campfire after the boys had gone to sleep, and reminisce about a time when she knew she'd grow up to be the pokémon champion.

Thankfully, Brendan knew when to drop the subject. He ran a hand through his dark hair and said, "Either way, I think we need to hang out more often. I mean, this time, I was only one city away. What if we've been going like that the entire year, always just ahead of the other?"

May nodded, coughed into her elbow, and said, "It is a bit silly."

But she knew exactly why she'd never given her old friend a call.

He smiled at her and stood, taking the now-empty mug from her hands, "Okay, bedtime again." He pushed her back against the mattress. Absol took that as its cue to leap up and lay on top of the covers on May's right, providing a warm comfort that May snuggled up against. She was mid-yawn when she asked, "Wait, did Ash and Brock stop by?"

Brendan sighed impatiently, "Yeah, earlier this morning to see how you were doing. Then they ran off to find the good captain, so don't you worry your pretty little head about them."

She made a face at him, but he didn't see, too busy closing the heavy drapes of the hotel room. She closed her eyes obediently and shifted against the pillow. She heard him settle in the desk chair again and the sound of his pen against paper, and Absol's steady breathing, lulled her back to sleep.

Someone was nudging her shoulder. She mumbled, "Go 'way," and turned to the side, snuggling into the blankets. She was faintly aware of a huff, and then Absol all but pushed her off the bed. Sprawled half on the ground, she rubbed her head and looked up to see the pokémon staring down at her, "Hey, what gives?" she demanded. Her head throbbed, but her throat felt better, so she thanked Latias for the little blessings.

The pokémon looked pointedly at something above her, and May let her head tilt backwards to see Brendan, hunched over the desk, his head resting on his arms. He was asleep, she assumed, but she could see his face twisted in pain through the dim light of the digital clock. He twitched and muttered under his breath, obviously in the throes of a nightmare.

She righted herself and approached him, Absol all but forgotten as she set to waking her friend up. "Brendan!" she hissed. She coughed slightly, cleared her throat, and tried again. "Wake up!"

He shifted against his arms, but his brows were still furrowed. She couldn't tell what he was mumbling, though he was very fervent in his attempts to convey the words. She shook his shoulder, trying to snap him out of it, "Brendan!"

He bolted up so fast he nearly broke her nose. She recoiled, and a wave of dizziness hit her. Guess I'm not back up to par quite yet, she thought disdainfully, shaking her head to clear it. Her hand met the nearby wall in an attempt to stop her swaying, and she looked at Brendan again. He seemed obviously confused, but he was quickly acknowledging his surroundings.

"May?" he blinked blearily at her, face illuminated blue in the weak light of the clock. The dizziness had passed, but May took a step back and dropped onto the bed again anyway. She was still tired.

"You had a nightmare," she told him. Brendan frowned and glanced down at Absol, who nodded as if to confirm her words.

"Oh," he yawned and stretched his arms, wincing slightly. She doubted his sleeping position was comfortable on his back, but he didn't complain. "Sorry. That… that happens sometimes." He avoided her gaze, standing up to glance at the clock on the nightstand. It was about eight in the evening, and he apparently decided she'd slept enough, because he flicked the lamp on.

May blinked against the light, but she didn't take her eyes off him. When he didn't seem inclined to expand, she said, "How often is 'sometimes?'" She couldn't even remember the last time she'd had a nightmare.

He shrugged a shoulder and walked to the sliding glass door, pulling aside the drapes to study the city, "Your friends didn't stop by again. I wonder if they found that Stern guy." He mused aloud.

Absol gave May a look as if to say, don't let him get off that easily. She narrowed her eyes and pushed off the bed, walking up to him. He'd grown taller; not by a lot, but she did have to tilt her head a bit more to meet his gaze. His messy black hair fell over his forehead without his white hat to keep it back. He looked cute, except for the bags underneath his eyes. She wondered if they were a product of that night, or if he'd had them all along and she'd been too self-centered to notice.

"Brendan," she said firmly. He looked sideways at her, face unreadable. "How often?"

He hesitated, but finally admitted, "Maybe once or twice a month. Nothing serious."

"About what?"

This time, he stayed silent, looking back at the glowing nighttime lights of Slateport city. But her eyes drifted up to see the faint white lines on his forehead, nearly hidden by his hair—the scar from that night over a year ago. It was always hidden by that stupid hat of his, but now it was all she could see, a glaring beacon that had her heart clenching with guilt.

She reached up and pushed his hair aside, touching the scar with the smooth pads of her fingers, "This?" she said quietly.

He moved out of her reach, heading for the door of the hotel room. On the way, he grabbed his hat, setting it firmly on his head again, "I'm going out. You'd better try and get some more sleep." She couldn't see his expression, but his voice was carefully neutral.

"Brendan," May frowned, stepping towards him.

"I'll be back later," he said sharply, and without another word, he whisked out of the room, Absol at his heels. The door closed, and May was left alone, standing beside the window wondering what she could have done differently.

Brendan might have wanted her to go back to sleep, but May had spent an entire day in bed, and she wasn't one to waste any more than that on something as trivial as sleep. Plus, her thoughts were racing a mile a minute, and she knew she'd never get any shuteye that way. She stripped her clothes and hopped into the shower, running the last half hour over in her mind.

She was aptly annoyed. First, he barges into her life without warning, pretending like nothing's wrong, like it hadn't been an entire year since they'd spoken. He goes and meets her friends. He brings out Absol, just like old times. Then he just had to go and ruin it by pointing out the one part of her life she was less than satisfied with.

And now, to top it off, he reminds her of that night. He wasn't allowed to be scarred (emotionally, anyway) by that. She was the one who'd been traumatized, not him. It was all his fault she'd said what she had… all his fault.

By the time she stepped from the shower and threw on some clothes, she was furious. Not even taking the time to dry her hair properly, she vaulted out of the hotel room and stalked down the hallway to see if Ash and Brock were back from their search yet.

She only waited a few seconds after knocking before Ash opened the door, hair mussed from a long day. She could see Pikachu wearing his hat, perched on the end of his bed. He said, "Oh, May. Are you feeling better?"

"No," she said crossly, pushing past him to stand in the middle of his room. Brock was nowhere to be seen, but she could hear the shower running through the thin bathroom door and drew her own conclusion. Pikachu saw May and leapt off the bed, Ash's hat dropping to the floor as it bounded towards her.

"Pi Pikachu!"

She picked up the pokémon and took a deep breath, trying to release the frustration that had been building since Brendan had left, "I can't believe Brendan came all the way down here. It's like he just wanted to annoy me."

Ash blinked and took a seat at the edge of his bed. Since their hotel room had two twin beds, they didn't have a desk, so his pokédex and some food for Pikachu were strewn out on the bedspread. He cocked his head at her, "Isn't he your friend?"

May scowled and tightened her grip on Pikachu. The pokémon squirmed and leapt away from her, landing on the bed beside Ash. May ignored it and shook her head fiercely, "We were best friends! But an entire year goes by, and he never thinks to call?"

"Um…" Ash exchanged a glance with Pikachu, obviously unsure of what to say.

"It doesn't matter that I told him I never wanted to see him again," she said irately. "Boys need to realize that when a girl says that, we never actually mean it. We're really just waiting to see if you'll try even harder to get our forgiveness!"

May paused to take a breath, coughing once and clearing her throat, but when Ash stayed silent, she picked up her rant again, "I mean, really, how stupid did he have to be to face that damn Salamence without any pokémon? It's his—"

"He challenged a Salamence without pokémon?" Brock interrupted. The taller man was standing in the doorway of the bathroom. He'd already put his clothes on, but his hair was still dripping from the shower.

"What's a Salamence?" Ash asked aloud, already reaching for his pokédex. Brock ambled into the room, rubbing a towel over his hair, leaving the bathroom door open to let the hot air circulate.

"It's a dragon pokémon. They're pretty nasty in the wild, from what I've heard."

May unwillingly flashed back to that night, rain pouring so hard they could barely see, laughing as if it was all one giant adventure. She remembered it feeling like a dream, just the two of them alone in the world. Until that pokémon showed up and changed everything. She held back a shiver and distracted herself by walking to the sink and making a cup of tea with the nearby water pitcher.

She heard Ash's pokédex speaking in the mechanical voice, informing him all about Salamence and their presence in Hoenn. She clenched her hand tightly around the mug when it got to the part about the pokémon's tendency to rampage when angered. She forced herself to relax, and a minute later, Ash snapped the pokédex shut.

"Wow, I'm impressed," he said, shaking his head slightly as she turned around to rejoin the conversation. "I'm not sure I'd go up against that pokémon even if I had Pikachu with me." The mouse pokémon beside him said, "Chu!" in agreement.

May narrowed her eyes, "Don't be impressed. It was a stupid move that almost got him killed." Even now, she could recall the red blood dripping down his face, pooling as a dark stain in the grass. This time, she couldn't hold back her shudder.

The boys pretended not to notice.

"So what's the problem?" Brock asked. He'd missed the rant, apparently, only hearing the tail end of it.

"The problem is that he never called me," she said angrily. "After that night, he left to challenge the gyms, and he never called me."

Ash raised his eyebrows, "Why didn't you call him?"

She turned on him, and he flinched at her expression, "He's the one who ran off without even saying goodbye. I waited in Littleroot Town for weeks and he never came back. And now he shows up a year later acting as if nothing's wrong."

"Have you told him how you feel?" Brock said steadily, carefully. Pikachu nodded agreement.

May opened her mouth, ready to refute, but shut it almost immediately. She nodded slowly, clenching her fists, "You're right. Yeah, I need to go tell him. I need to tell that asshole that if he can't even pick up a phone and call, he has no right barging into my hotel room and playing nanny like that. He thinks he can be so carefree about the whole thing… I'll show him…" she broke off, muttering under her breath as she swiveled and stormed out of the room, leaving her mug on the counter while her friends exchanged perplexed glances.

She stopped in the hotel room to grab her pokéballs—she learned something from that night a year ago, at least—and paused when she noticed Brendan's backpack still on the desk. His pokéballs were clipped to the front, and she remembered what he'd said yesterday, about Abra. Decisively, she grabbed the balls and cycled through to find the psychic pokémon.

Once released, the Abra tilted its head at her, and she straightened, trying to keep the bitter tone out of her voice, "Listen, I need you to find Brendan for me. Can you do that?"

The pokémon stared at her for a moment, as if considering, and finally turned its head away, folding its arms. It clearly wouldn't listen to anyone but Brendan, which May should have known from the beginning. Any trainer worth his weight would make sure his pokémon only obeyed one person. Plus, she'd never met this pokémon before, so she couldn't even play the, "Come on, you remember me," card.

But she had no clue where Brendan would have run off to, and she'd never been to Slateport before, so she really didn't know her way around. She needed this pokémon to tell her where he was; if she waited for him to come back (assuming he did come back—she'd had too much experience in that area), she probably would lose her courage to confront him.

"Please, I really have to find him," she said, allowing some of her emotion to seep into her voice. She added a slight tremor, too, as if she was seriously worried. "He ran off, and I don't know where." She wasn't sure if you could even lie—well, omit the truth—to a psychic pokémon, but she tried anyway.

The Abra paused, looked back at her, and finally said, "Bra," in a low voice. It unfolded its arms, and in a minute, a mental picture formed in her mind, showing the beach. The waves were rough, and it was starting to rain, but May could see Brendan's white hat like a beacon. When the image cleared, she hastily thanked the pokémon and recalled it, dropping the pokéball by the others and racing to the balcony.

Just as in the vision, it was raining, but that didn't stop her from pulling out her Tropius's pokéball and releasing the pokémon. "Pilo! I need to get to the beach!"

"Tropius!" the pokémon called, flying close enough that May could hop onto the railing and leap onto its back. Once she was on, the pokémon turned and angled south. She might have never been to Slateport, but her father had, and Pilo clearly remembered where to go. She thanked Latias for the little things and held on tight, her hair whipping behind her as the rain soaked through her clothes.

The beach was in view minutes later, and she once again saw Brendan's unmistakable form, sitting on a vacated beach chair, watching the ocean. Absol was nowhere to be seen, but she remembered that there had only been five pokéballs in his backpack, so he must have grabbed the last one when she wasn't looking. Pilo landed about ten feet away, and May recalled him in a flash of red light.

Brendan sat up when she stormed towards him, "What are you doing out here?" he asked, his voice nearly drowned out by a clash of thunder from out towards the ocean. "It's pouring." His dark eyes narrowed in irritation, but she waved his comment off.

"Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?" she snapped.

"I did," he said, rising to match her tone. "I said that I'd be back later. I know you heard me."

"Not today! I'm talking about a year ago. You left without a word, and you never said goodbye!" she could feel hot tears welling up in her eyes, and she was glad it was raining, because the last thing she needed was to let Brendan see her cry.

He was silent for a minute, and the only sound was the crashing of the waves and the roar of thunder. They were alone; everyone else had retreated indoors for the storm, one minor thing she was grateful for. When Brendan looked up to meet her gaze, he was frowning, "You said you never wanted to see me again, so I disappeared. Just like you wanted."

"I never wanted that," she shouted, clenching her fists. "I was terrified, you moron! Terrified by how you didn't hesitate to leap in front of me, and how you kept brushing off your injury. I was the one who was supposed to get hit, not you!"

"You know I would never let that happen."

"Exactly! That's what scared me, Brendan. You get reckless around me—if we kept going like we were, one day you were going to get yourself killed 'keeping me safe,'" she emphasized the air quotes, reminding him of his exact words in the aftermath of a year ago. "I said those things because I thought it would be the safer option for both of us. I never actually expected you to listen!"

"You seemed pretty damn serious about it that night!" he yelled, moving closer to her. Thunder clamored louder now—the storm was approaching. She met him toe to toe, wishing she'd grow a few inches so he wasn't looking down at her in critical moments like these.

"But would it have been so hard to pick up a phone and call?" she snarled.

Instead of answering, Brendan crushed his lips against hers. Shocked, she didn't immediately pull back, and he took that as an excuse to deepen the kiss. One of his hands tangled in her hair, and the other wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer to him. Her arms moved on their own accord, reaching around his neck, and when they finally broke apart, they were panting for breath.

Now that he'd shut her up, he leaned down, resting his forehead against hers, "This year's been miserable. You don't know how many times I had your number dialed before I hung up the phone. I stopped by Littleroot a while back, but you were already gone." His voice was a deep whisper that sent chills down her body.

"I got tired of waiting," she said back, knowing that she should still be furious at him, but his kiss had wiped her emotions clean.

Thunder clapped again, and Brendan finally seemed to realize they were still standing out in the rain. He pulled back and frowned at her, "You shouldn't be out in this kind of weather. You couldn't have held onto that speech until I got back?" He pulled off his jacket and put it on her shoulders. It was soaked through, but she could feel his body heat on it, so she pulled it tighter around her.

"No," she said, coughing. He'd reminded her about the sore throat she'd all but forgotten in light of recent events. He wrapped an arm around her and angled her away from the beach, back towards the city.

"How did you find me, anyway?" he said.

May smiled and leaned a bit closer against him. It wasn't the most comfortable way to walk, especially across sand, but she felt better in that moment than she had in ages, "Abra is an amazing pokémon," she quoted.

He laughed.

Ash and Brock studied May carefully, and Ash's glance slid to Brendan, who was standing a few feet away packing his backpack. "Are you sure, May?" Ash said, meeting his friend's blue eyes again. Pikachu climbed to Ash's shoulder, expression sad as it considered May's words.

But she nodded resolutely, "Yeah, I am. I love traveling with you guys, but I think it's time I take up the gym challenge too. Brendan and I are going back to Rustboro to start from the beginning."

Brock unfolded his arms and smiled, "Well, that's something we can respect. Right, Ash?"

Ash smirked, "Sure."

"You guys will be one girl short now," May said, putting her hands on her hips. "Why don't you give Misty a call?" She remembered the day she'd found out about Ash's old flame, a gym leader from Kanto. Any crush she may have had on Ash had disappeared as she listened to him talk about Misty. She'd been disappointed then, but now, with Brendan at her side, she knew things happened for a reason.

Ash blushed a bit, rolling his eyes at Pikachu's gleeful cry and Brock's smug expression as he said, "Yeah. Maybe."

"I'm sure she'll just love to meet up with us," Brock said. Ash glared, though his cheeks were still tinged red. Brock ignored him with practiced ease.

Brendan joined the group, shouldering his backpack as Absol stepped up beside him. He pet his pokémon and turned to May, "You ready to head out, Skitty?"

"Don't call me that," she replied, but she had a smile on her face.

He shrugged in exasperation and turned to Ash and Brock. "Watch your backs, because once we get to the Pokémon League, we'll be your biggest challengers," he slung an arm around May and grinned.

Ash laughed, and May could have sworn she'd heard music strike up as she and Brendan started their journey.

Then again, maybe she still had that head cold.

A/N: Found this on my computer tonight and thought it'd be fun to post. Review? :)