Chapter 1

Cilan was un-strapping his belt on the waistband of his trousers when he heard the front door of his apartment open with a thump.

The small rented two-room apartment was furnished comfortably to his refined taste, with oak and mahogany furniture and large, polished mirrors. The rooms were noticeably highly arched, with huge French windows and a large, spacious feel. Whenever Cilan thought of the wonderful apartment he had landed, he felt a strong sense of smugness that always pervaded whenever he finished cooking a great, delectable dish.

Now as Cilan looked at the door of his room, his eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement, he wondered who it could be that was visiting him so late at night. It was already close to twelve, and he was preparing to sleep.

Footsteps thumped along the carpeted corridor.

"Pika! Pika-chu!" The yellow electric mouse pokemon emerged from the darkness.

"Hey, wait! Pikachu!" It wasn't long till the late-night intruder was revealed.

Ash, Cilan thought. Why is he here? He felt a mixed whirlwind of emotions that he always felt whenever he saw Ash. That pair of warm brown eyes in front of him again drew back the memory of when he had seen him last. A blazing sun against the backdrop of the ocean-always the premonition of goodbyes. He, Iris and Ash stood at the dock, while a great ferry ship was docked next to them, a thin line of smoke rising up the sky from its foghorn.

"I'm going back home for a while," Ash said, his voice unusually forlorn and quiet. There was some other emotion in his eyes that Cilan could not recognize as he looked up at him. "Me too," said Iris. "It's been too long a while."

Cilan did not quite know what to say. "I'm staying here for a while." He said at last. "Get an apartment, find a job." Although he missed home - a lot, actually - he felt that he had not yet completed his journey as a connoisseur, and he felt there was something more that he must discover before going home.

Now, as he looked at Ash, the face he had so longed to see, flushed against the darkness of the room, he could not suppress the longing that always rose up in him-eh? Flushed?

Ash's face was burning up. Could he have gotten a fever, or something? Cilan felt ill with worry. Ash almost never got sick, and when he did... Cilan tried to fix an easy smile on his face that was always characteristic of him.

"C-Cilan-" Ash's voice was choked.


Cilan was smiling at him in that way of his. He hardly changed at all. But what could he have expected, from so short a period of time?

"C-Could you get a shirt on, please?" He stole a look at Cilan's face, and saw, to his surprise, that he was blushing, just as he was. Ash tried to make his voice sound less forced. "Not that I feel weird...i-it's ok, we're both men right? And..." he gave a nervous laugh. It came out completely wrong! He looked nervously at Cilan. Cilan was still slightly red, and that smile was still on his face, but there was something very strained in his expression.

"Not to worry, Ash. It's fine." With that, he reached for the connoisseur shirt that lay on his bed. Ash turned away hurriedly.

It was something else altogether to watch him dress. Too intimate, he thought. He felt like he got a fever again. Then a loud sound of a stomach growling could be heard in the quiet of the room.

"Come on, I'll make you something to eat." Cilan spoke very softly.

A moment later, Ash was fixed at the dining table in the kitchen, while Cilan worked at the kitchen counter, stirring soup, making bread. One of the greatest things he loved about Cilan was his cooking. Now, seeing him dressed as he always was, brought back memories from before.

Cilan set the dishes in front of him. "There you go." He seated himself opposite Ash. As Ash dug into the scrumptious food Cilan had cooked for him, he could feel his steady gaze on him. God, I'm blushing again!

"Are you feeling hot, Ash?" Cilan's voice was always kind, loving and gentle. Yet, when he spoke just now, there was a tragic note in his voice. Strange.

"M-Must be the steam from the soup!" He almost squeaked. He tried to eat with more gusto. "Mh-hmm, this is good!" He forced as much enthusiasm he could into his voice.

"I'm glad you like it, Ash. I think I'll go to bed first. There's an empty room next to mine, you can use it. We'll talk tomorrow, ok?" His voice sounded unusually tired and sad.

"Wha-at? Cilan, are you feeling ok?" Was he sick? Or was it something he had said?

He was even more worried when Cilan did not reply. "Hey, Cilan, you know you can tell me anything you want, right?" He injected confidence into his voice. "If you're feeling down, you can always share your troubles with me. Wait - it's not about me coming here, is it?" He suddenly felt very worried.

Cilan gave a short laugh. "No, it's fine, Ash. I'm just feeling tired, that's all." He left the room.

Something's bothering him. But what is it? Ash tried to put it out of his mind as he wolfed down the food.

Cilan closed the door behind him, sagging against it. What could he have expected? He had felt a ray of hope when he saw Ash, that, coming here this late, it must mean that he shares his feelings? But he only got his heart shattered. Once again. "Not that I feel weird...i-it's ok, we're both men right? And..." What Ash said echoed once more in his head.

Foolish idiot, he said to himself. You shouldn't have gotten your hopes up. He never liked you that way. Feeling hopeful is just going to bring you down to disappointment. He balled his fists up. He never cried, but his heart felt incredibly heavy. Who knew he would fall for somebody like that? Somebody who can never tell what he really felt, somebody who will never return the slightest similar feelings...

When he first met Ash, he thought he was an incredibly foolish person. Setting up his pokemon against his opponents like that...Later, when Ash had beaten him, he could not suppress the shock, admiration and curiosity that he felt all at once for that black-haired boy.

Whenever he recalled that 'interview' after the battle, how Ash had desperately tried to get away from him when he made his advances, he felt ludicrous hatred for himself. He never felt anything for you. Don't be stupid. When he set on his journey, he had tried to keep his distance, sometimes getting hopeful despite himself-yet Ash had broken his heart countless times, always by a casual remark that he had given little thought to. Ash was that kind of person.

Cilan always thought he was straight. He never paid attention to all those fan girls, but there were crushes he had, of course, but only on girls. It never really worked out, though. He was always too shy to confess, too afraid of rejection. Yet Ash was the only person he had ever felt so strongly for. He was so innocent, so naive, always charging into things. And battles.

Cilan felt an urge to protect him from everything, he felt an overwhelming tenderness for Ash. It might have been brotherly love, except for the fact that he kept wondering what it would be like to kiss him, and that longing he always felt...

After they had parted, he had tried to keep Ash from his thoughts, but never succeeding. The more he tried to forget, or dull the memories, the more he would remember. He thought he would never see him again. And yet...there he was tonight. Only a week passed since he had last seen him. It brought his hopes up - and it was crushed down again. He had tried to ignore the feelings, but it never worked.