Seven. The Kiss That Preceded The Confession
The Blackthorn City Pokémon Center's cafeteria was buzzing with gossip and excited chatter the morning following the Johto Grand Festival. Excitement, of course, always lingered at the end of the festival with the rise of a new Top Coordinator, but this time around was extra special for obvious reasons.
Conversations hushed once Drew entered the room, however, and all eyes fell on him. He ignored their rude stares (though he definitely noticed them and was terribly annoyed; he realized this must of been what May felt like in the weeks following her near-drowing). He brushed through the crowd, passed by the the wondering whispers of where May was and questions of why they weren't at the closing ceremonies last night, and seated himself at the table where both Harley and Solidad were situated.
"Lovely morning," Drew greeted, his voice dripping heavily with sarcasm. He then shot a rather nasty glare at the other cafeteria patrons, and they resumed their normal activities, though many continued to steal quick glances at the trio.
Harley paused just long enough to look up from the magazine he was reading and ask mockingly, "So where's your girlfriend?"
Drew narrowed his eyes. The older coordinator was gloating, and as much as Drew hated to admit it, he had every right to do so. Harley had been teasing him about May for a very long time, and Drew had always managed to disregard his obnoxious remarks. With the passing of yesterday's events, however, he had little power to fight back.
"She's not my girlfriend," Drew retorted.
This time, Solidad was the one to speak up. She lowered her coffee mug from her lips and asked in an incredulous voice, "I'm sorry, are you really stubborn enough to deny-"
"-You didn't let me finish, Solidad," Drew defended calmly. "She's not my girlfriend, yet."
"Still need to seal the deal?" Harley asked haughtily. "I thought you would've taken care of that by now."
Drew's lips tightened.
"I would have, but May and I were kind of torn apart by reporters after we went backstage," he explained.
"Can you blame them?" Solidad asked with an amused smile, leaning her chin onto the palm of her hand. "It's not every day that rivals throw themselves at each other after a big battle."
Drew looked a little put-off by Solidad's observation that he and May had "thrown themselves at each other."
"Yeah..." He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. Solidad raised her eyebrows.
"Having some regrets?" she asked. Drew lowered his hand.
"Well, I could do without the attention," he grumbled, shooting another glare at the nosy patrons, "but I can handle it. May's the one I'm worried about. She flipped when that story about her near-drowning came out last month."
"That so?" Harley asked. Drew nodded. Harley continued, "Well, I'm sure she'll love this then." He closed his magazine—the latest issue of Coordinator's Weekly—and slid it across the table toward Drew. The young coordinator's face paled slightly upon seeing the cover: an excellent shot of his and May's rather famous on-stage kiss with the headline "Rivals?" emblazoned in big, bold letters at the top.
"I think your definition of love is skewed," Drew coughed as he flipped the magazine open to read the story. "Arceus, I really screwed up. May's going to be furious. She's already embarrassed; she's been hiding out in her room since yesterday."
"She kissed you back," Solidad pointed out. Drew stopped and slowly brought his eyes up to hers, staring.
"What?" Solidad asked. Drew sighed and shook his head.
"This is so uncomfortable for me on so many levels," he moaned. "I can't believe I'm actually discussing this with you two."
"Hunny, you opened yourself up for discussion on a national level when you planted one on your rival in front of the cameras," Harley reminded. Drew glowered at him while Solidad suppressed a chuckle.
"He has an excellent point there, Drew," she said. "You kind of brought this upon yourself."
"Yeah, I know," the young coordinator admitted begrudgingly. He paused before adding in an uncharacteristically wistful tone, "It's just... I don't know, when we were there at center stage together and she was smiling and looking at me like..." He stopped short, unwilling to divulge any more details about that moment lest he say something too personal.
"... I just wasn't thinking straight," Drew concluded. Solidad watched him carefully as he said this, and once he'd finished, she pushed her drink away and folded her arms.
"My apologies, I know you hate hearing advice from others," she prefaced, "but if you're really worried about May and want to correct the situation, the first thing you should do is go talk to her. It's only causing more gossip that you two aren't together right now. If people see you and May out and about, they'll eventually grow used to the idea of you two being a couple and leave you alone. That's what you want, isn't it?"
Solidad continued, "Then I would suggest that you head upstairs to her room and do it now. Actually, if you could get her out of her room to do it, that would be even better."
"And give Coordinator's Weekly more DAML fodder? No thanks," Drew replied, flicking his hair. Solidad's calm expression contorted into one of confusion.
"DAML?" she inquired.
"That's what they're calling it now," Harley explained, snatching the magazine out of Drew's reach and pointing to a text box at the bottom of the page. "It stands for Drew and May Love." Solidad blinked before she started laughing.
"Mew," she swore aloud.
"It's not funny, Solidad," Drew growled.
"It's a little funny," she refuted. Drew let out a hissing sigh and Solidad calmed down before continuing, "OK, I get it, I'm sorry."
"You're not sorry," Drew protested.
"You're right, I'm not," Solidad humored. "Anyway... It's all about that concept of desensitizing people. Yes, if you and May go out in public, it'll get a lot of coverage. But that's the consequence of kissing her in front of thousands of people. It's like I said, though, people will eventually stop caring if you're not afraid to hide the fact that, yes, you two are indeed dating. Now's an excellent opportunity. The spotlight's on you as the new Top Coordinator anyway, so take advantage of it while you can."
Drew was silent for a moment, considering her proposition.
"All right, I'll do it if May's willing," he finally gave in.
"Good. And..." She smiled again, though this time she looked rather sly. "... If you're ready, a little walk through the park tonight might be the perfect chance to tell May you love her. It's quite the romantic atmosphere for a girl her age."
Drew flushed pink, but said, "Solidad, I've only kissed her once."
"I think you and I both know that's a lie," she responded smoothly. Now Drew was red, and Harley was smirking again.
"I'll see you guys around," he spat out in anger and embarrassment, rising to his feet before making a hasty exit.
Once he had disappeared, Harley burst out laughing. Solidad joined in with a couple of chuckles of her own.
"Arceus, I don't think I've ever seen that kid blush like that!" he exclaimed, grinning.
"I know." Solidad hid a widening smile with her hand. "I kind of feel bad. I normally don't give Drew trouble like this. I'll have to apologize later."
"Oh, don't apologize," Harley said, waving his hand dismissively. "I don't feel sorry for him at all. It's his own fault he and May are in this mess."
"May's not entirely blameless either, but yes, Drew probably should have waited until they were alone," Solidad corrected. "I'm just curious to see how they'll dig themselves out of it... Drew's dealt with unwanted attention before, but not quite on this level. And now he has May to think about, too."
"Well, I'm sure whatever happens, we'll read about it in next week's issue," Harley said, tapping on his copy of Coordinator's Weekly.
"Or we could just get May to tell us first-hand."
May was mortified. No, she was more than mortified. There was no word in the English language to describe how utterly embarrassed she was.
She had been locked up in her room in the Pokémon Center since the end of the Grand Festival. The reason: Every time she tried to leave, she was swamped by hordes of reporters demanding to know about the nature of her and rival Drew Hayden's relationship. May always dodged the question with a simple, "No comment," but the attention was nevertheless overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that May had no choice but to stay in her room until the excitement died down.
Yet, even in the confines of the small bedroom, May wasn't safe from attention. Her Pokénav had been flooded with countless phone calls and text messages from family ("Oh May, why didn't you tell me you and Drew were dating? I always knew there was something going on between you two!" her mother cooed during their video conversation. Max simply sent her message saying, "Gross." May had yet to hear from her father, but according to Caroline, he was coping well with it. May seriously doubted that), friends (Misty sent her a text message reading, "So who's your new green-haired boyfriend?" while Dawn screamed gleefully into the receiver when May picked up. Ash rambled mostly about what a great battle it was, without ever mentioning the kiss. May was sort of thankful for that. Brock made May promise to never let Drew treat her badly, and then lamented about how he couldn't get a girlfriend. Zoey had sent several teasing messages, but wished her well nevertheless), and former competition ("I'm so happy for you and Mr. Drew!" Brianna said, though May detected a hint of sadness in her voice. May had also heard from Kelly, Timmy, Savannah, and Grace, among many others).
May, of course, had to explain to all these people that she and Drew weren't together yet, to which nearly all expressed utter disbelief.
"Seriously, how can you two not be dating after that?" Dawn had asked.
"It's not that we aren't ever going to be together," May explained. "It's just, well, we haven't gotten a chance to talk to each other about it yet. We got separated backstage, and I haven't left my room since yesterday evening. It'll happen ... eventually, I think."
"Well, you should probably start talking," Dawn laughed. "Coordinator's Weekly printed a special issue this morning. You're on the front cover again."
After their conversation ended, May sent her Skitty with a pouch of money and a note to retrieve the newest issue of the magazine. Aside from how completely humiliating it was for May to see herself and Drew pressed up against one another on one of Pokémon world's most popular magazines, she felt terribly guilty. Her and Drew's unexpected on-stage intimacy had completely overshadowed the fact he won the Grand Festival and was the Johto region's newest Top Coordinator. May read through the article multiple times (it wasn't as if she had much else to do), and his victory had only been mentioned in passing once.
May sighed and cast the magazine off to the side before falling back on her bed.
What a mess. She really wished she could just call Drew right now and talk to him, but she was at such a loss of what to say or do, she backed out every time she was about to dial his number. She hoped Drew would be the one to reach out and get in contact with her, but he had yet to do so. May was beginning to worry she was wrong and that he wasn't truly interested in her.
In a moment of weakness, with all the pressure she was under with her and Drew's blossoming romance, May suddenly found herself blinking back hot tears. She rolled over to her side and let them slip down her face, not bothering to brush them away. She couldn't deny it any longer: She had fallen in love with her rival. Her arrogant, jerk-faced rival. She could hardly believe it, but it was actually to the point where the thought of not being with him tore her apart.
Maybe the best thing to do was to sleep it off. If there was one thing she was good at, it was sleeping. She didn't even have to be tired; she could just close her eyes, push out invading thoughts, and lose touch with reality.
Which is exactly what she did.
She woke up far later than she expected. She glanced out her window to see that the sky was a couple of shades darker than it was that morning. Not quite enough to be nighttime, but the sun had nevertheless disappeared out of immediate sight.
May then noticed the rose on her table, with a little note tied to its thornless stem. She lost her breath for a moment. This was the reach for communication she had been hoping for. She careless ripped the note off and read it to herself:
"Call me when you wake up."
It wasn't signed, but its sender was obvious. If not for the rose, she would've recognized the author from the unmistakable scrawl of messy cursive. May scrambled for her Pokénav and, gathering up all her courage, dialed his number the umpteenth time that day and pressed "send."
It didn't take long for Drew to pick up, but before she could even wedge in a greeting, he said, "May, just open your door. Oh, wait, nevermind. It isn't locked."
Her bedroom door then swung open, and there he stood, his own Pokénav in hand. He flicked on the light switch and ended the call, dropping the device into his back pocket. May did the same.
"How did you know it was unlocked?" she asked, a little incredulous. Talk about quick delivery.
"Well, that rose didn't get here by itself," he smirked. "I would've given it to you while you were conscious, but I couldn't wake you up."
Suddenly feeling a little more playful and confident, May quipped, "Why? Is my sleeping form too beautiful to disturb?" He scoffed.
"Don't flatter yourself, May," he replied. "I literally couldn't wake you up. You were out. So long, in fact, that I was just on my way back to see whether you were still sleeping or if you were just ignoring me."
She laughed nervously and looked down at her feet, shuffling them around uncomfortably.
"I was... I was actually worried you were ignoring me," she confessed quietly. Drew's expression turned somber and her approached her cautiously, brushing his hand down her cheek. May looked back up at him and smiled shyly. There was a part of her that honestly couldn't believe what was happening right now. That she was here, that she felt this way about someone who took immense pleasure in mercilessly teasing her (and probably still did).
"You'd seriously think that after everything that's happened?" he asked gently, though still a manner that was very Drew-like. "We're a trending topic on every major social media network and search engine right now."
"Really?" May forced a laugh. She'd actually been avoiding the Internet today for fear of what she could find.
"Turns out that we're a really big deal." Drew dropped his hand to flick his hair. "I mean, I've always been a big deal, but this is new."
"Well, no one ever expected that the ever-elusive Drew Hayden would actually..." Her voice trailed off and her cheeks turned pink. She was unsure of how to finish that statement without risking getting hurt. She wanted to say "love someone," but she feared that may just be wishful thinking.
"... Right," Drew agreed. He paused before asking, "Would you like to go for a walk?" May's head snapped up.
"A walk?" she inquired.
"Yeah, you know, moving your feet from place to place, viewing the scenery, enjoying your company," Drew prattled, smirking.
"Thank you, I know what a walk is," May grumbled. "It's just... There's people out there."
"A shocking observation, May," he rolled his eyes. "I know there's the cliché that when you're with that one person you just can't get enough of—in other words, me—you tend to forget there are other people in the world, but this is taking it a bit far, don't you think?"
"And you adore me for it."
"Unfortunately." May sighed. "You know I'm talking about the press." Drew's smirk lessened.
"Yeah... Well, Solidad seems to be under the impression that if we're open about our... relationship," Drew said the word carefully, "then they'll eventually get bored and move on."
"That," May paused, choosing her words carefully, "actually makes sense. OK." Drew's eyebrows shot up; he hadn't expected her to agree so easily. He was thinking he was going to have to coax her into it, tell her that the Meowth was already out of the bag so they might as well not hide it anymore.
"All right then," he said, resolved. His hand reached for hers, and their fingers gently laced through one another, forming a tight lock. He lead her to the door and shut off the light once again. May's breath caught in her throat when she realized that she and Drew would actually be out in public, holding hands, as if they were an item.
Weren't they, though?
She supposed that would be something they would talk about on their little walk.
The stares they received were unbearable. People stopped on the street to look at them, and whisper and giggle to their friends. A few even whipped out their cameras to snap a photo or two, which undoubtedly would either be posted online or submitted to Coordinator's Weekly for a chance at monetary compensation.
Sensing her discomfort, Drew leaned in and, pressing his lips gently against her upper jawline, murmured, "Just ignore them, May." She felt like her skin was burning in the place where he had touched her. As much as she despised all this unwanted attention, this was what ultimately made it worth it: him. Just having him. The thought was strange, but it made her fuzzy inside.
"Can we... Can we stop for a moment?" she asked breathlessly after he pulled away. "Just for a moment. So we can sit down."
"Sure," he agreed.
They sat on the edge of a public water fountain. Night had finally fallen, and the sky had turned pitch-black, but the pair wasn't without sight. Aqua lights in the fountain gave the water an ominous blue and purple illumination, which made for an undeniably romantic atmosphere. May couldn't help but suspect that perhaps Drew, who still had his hand wrapped around hers, had planned this moment. It seemed silly, perhaps even a little cheesy, but she ate that sort of thing up, and he knew it.
"May, before you say anything..." He was being completely genuine with her right then, and she could tell. It was sort of nerve-wracking. "... I wanted to apologize for yesterday."
"Apologize?" she posed the question carefully. She hated to think that perhaps he was going to say that it was a mistake, that it was all a mistake. She suddenly found her own fears ironic: several months ago, she wanted to pass off their first kiss as a mistake. Now she dreaded the thought.
"Yes," Drew affirmed. "I know you really hate this attention. I'm not exactly a fan myself, but I'm the cause of it all so I can't complain. I know 'sorry' doesn't even cover it in this situation. I messed up, and I dragged you into it."
"You're actually admitting to making a mistake?" she jested.
"They're few and far between, but yes, they do happen," he said. "Even I'm not perfect." May couldn't help but grin. Oh, but he was perfect. OK, no he wasn't. But he was perfect in the sense that she didn't want a single thing about him to change. Cockiness and all. His flaws were a part of his appeal.
"As much as I appreciate your apology, I can't accept it," she began calmly, "because I'm just as much at fault as you are."
"I was the one who kissed you," he reminded.
"If you hadn't, I probably would have," May protested, recalling her own thoughts after their handshake. She'd wanted him to kiss her; at the time, she didn't care that they had a live audience of ten-thousand people. He just happened to be the one to lose control of his emotions first.
"That so?" He had moved in a little closer to her, which she was very welcoming of.
"More than likely," she replied. She bravely tilted her head up and kissed him to prove her point. She wanted him to understand that, despite her distaste for the unwanted stares and gossiping of others, it was worth it. More importantly, she wanted him to understand that he had become much more than just a rival to her since their first romantic encounter in Ecruteak City. She could only plead to Arceus that he felt the same. He apparently did, as she felt his hand distinctly tighten around hers with pleasure the moment her lips touched his.
"So where does this put us?" Drew asked, being the first to break away. May tilted her head.
"What do you mean?" she asked. He dropped her hand for a brief moment.
"Well, let's see, you an I have kissed each other one, two, three, four, five, six times—seven if you count the time I resuscitated you, though I don't because you were unconscious and I was merely trying to save your life—and yet I have no idea where we stand. I've been trying to figure that out for several months now." He paused before adding, "Do you remember what I said after the Ecruteak Contest? About that first kiss throwing me off my game? I wasn't lying. I have to admit, May, you're the first person I've ever met who can do that."
"Not even Solidad?"
"Solidad's tricky, but she and you are on different planes of existence," he explained. "She's a fantastic rival and friend, and you are, too, but at the same time you're ... the girl I'm in love with."
May swore her heart stopped, even if for just a second. Because, holy Mew, did Drew actually just say that? She was tempted to pinch herself, just to check whether she was dreaming or not.
"I-" Her words died off, and it seemed as though her voice disappeared. Which was fine, actually, because Drew apparently had more to say. His hand reconnected with hers, and he made absolutely sure he had her eyes on his before he spoke again.
"May, I love you," he said in the most grave tone possible. "I don't how or when or why I fell for a girl as dense as you are, but I did. And, I know it's messy business being in love with your rival. I mean, for Arceus' sake, we've gone viral on PokéTube. And there's probably someone in the bushes recording this conversation right now. But I'm willing to deal with all of that if means being with you."
"I-" Once again, May's word fell short. She, however, had to bite down a grin that was prepared to spread across her face. "I'm sorry, this is just really..." She took in a deep breath. "I love you, too. And I'm willing to put up with all those things as well."
"So... We are now officially together?' Drew asked, just for his own clarification. May smiled and nodded coyly.
"All right," he began, straightening up as he spoke, though he was smiling too, almost as if he was relieved. "I suppose we should set some ground rules then."
"Ground rules?" May asked, sounding a little suspicious.
"You may be my girlfriend now, but you're still my rival and I will still greatly enjoy repeatedly defeating you and your Pokémon in battle like how I did yesterday," he explained. May resisted the urge to roll her eyes. What else did she expect though? Drew would still be the same old stuck-up Drew, even if they had just professed their love for one another.
He went on, "If we're really going to do this, we need to agree that when it comes to contests and battling, we're just rivals, nothing more. I won't ever go easy on you, and you won't ever go easy on me, despite whatever... feelings we may have."
"I think that's fair," May agreed. "And what about outside of contests and battling?" Drew smile turned into a smirk and he flicked his hair again.
"That," he began, "is our personal life and we are free to do whatever we please." May could hardly contain the silly grin that was spreading across her face.
"Excellent," she said, inclining her head toward him once again. He gladly closed the space between them, leading into their first kiss as an actual couple. It didn't have the chance to last long, however, before two very familiar faces came by to so kindly interrupt them.
"Well, lookie here," Harley mocked, "our little Drewsie and May are all grown up and in a real relationship." The pair of young coordinators hastily pulled away from each other. Drew appeared rather irked while May was looking down at her feet, embarrassed they had been caught.
"A little privacy would be appreciated, Harley." Drew's arm wrapped his arm around May's waist protectively, pulling her closer to him.
"Oh, it's not like it's anything we haven't seen before," Harley teased.
"Come on, Harley, let them be," Solidad admonished, folding her arms. "By the way, congratulations you two."
"T-Thanks Solidad," May stammered. What else was she supposed to say? "Um... How did you guys know we were here?"
The pink-haired coordinator shrugged.
"There were a couple of photographers stalking around the area. Harley and I figured something was up."
"Photographers," May repeated aloud, casting a careful glance at Drew.
"We were on our way to get some food, if you're interested in coming along," Harley offered. "Another family outing!"
Drew, who had noticed May's pleading gaze, sighed and said, "Well, I suppose it wouldn't hurt." He stood up along with May, their hands interlocking once again as they set off with their fellow coordinators. Harley wriggled an eyebrow at Solidad, who let out a small chuckle in response.
"Oh!" the purple-haired man exclaimed suddenly, as if he'd just remembered something. "I suppose now that the festival's over, we can start discussing where we're headed for the next coordinating season! I'm thinking Sinnoh."
"For the Super Contests?" May inquired. "You know you have to dress up for those, right?"
"Girl, you know I'm all about dressing up!" Harley sassed.
"We noticed," Drew droned, which elicited a quiet laugh out of May.
"I think Sinnoh sounds interesting," Solidad said wistfully. "To be honest, I've been interested in trying out a Super Contest since we watched May perform in the Wallace Cup."
"Exactly," Harley agreed. "They just have so much more pizzazz and drama! And we're going to need a lot of more drama to fill in the space that used to be the will-they-or-will-they-not aspect of the May and Drew show."
May let out a nervous laugh and Drew groaned, irked by Harley's usual annoying remarks. Solidad, meanwhile, smiled knowingly when she saw Drew's grip on May's hand visibly tighten. As his thumb began to affectionately run over each of her fingers individually, she began to wonder: just how many kisses had lead up to that big one at the Grand Festival yesterday?
She'd have to finagle that information out of one of them, later.
A/N: You guys are literally the best. Thank you so much for your sweet words and critical reviews, which are my drive to continue writing. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
There is no sequel in the works for this. An epilogue is possible if I can manage to develop something. However, the end of this story means I get to put special focus on something big I've been working on for a while now. And, of course, I'm always open for requests if you'd like to send me a PM. I will write nearly anything that isn't AU or smut, so don't be afraid to ask!
Once again, thank you for all your support!