Trigger. For Ikarishipping Day 2012.
"When it rains, it pours and opens doors / That flood the floors we thought would always keep us safe and dry."
When I Look To The Sky, Train.
Dawn loved the smell of rain. She always knew when a storm was coming because of the pungent aroma that rose out of the earth prior to its arrival. She really had no way of describing it; it was sweet and fresh, but unlike anything she had ever encountered in her young life.
The rain itself ... She could do without that.
"Piplup!" the penguin-like Pokémon whined when Dawn accidentally kicked up a splash of muddy water that dirtied his blue feathers.
"Sorry!" Dawn apologized sheepishly. She quickly retrieved his Pokéball out of her bag. "Piplup, return!"
When she woke up that morning, nearly 14 hours earlier, and saw the dark gray clouds hanging in the sky and breathed in the sweet petrichor, she felt refreshed and excited. OK, so she didn't mind a little light rainfall. The summer monsoon was always warmly welcomed here in Sinnoh; it usually provided a much-needed a break from the blistering heat.
Not this time around.
The rain was pouring and it was cold. The rainfall was so heavy, in fact, that she would barely be able to see her hand if she were to hold it in front of her face. The temperature of the water was worse, though. It had an icy sting each time a droplet collided with her bare skin, and she was aware that if she didn't get out of this storm soon, she would get sick.
Then, she saw it.
The faint, red glow of the giant P in the distance: the Pokémon Center.
Dawn grinned. This particular center, she knew, was very much out of the way. There were no town or cities around for miles, which was exactly why this center was built—to care for trainers and Pokémon who required assistance, but were too far away from civilization to get the help they needed.
The young coordinator entered the center sopping wet. The blast of conditioned air sent a violent chill up through her body, and she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering. She stepped out of the puddle that had formed at her feet and approached the front counter, looking for Nurse Joy.
The kindly woman was nowhere in sight, however. The desk was unmanned. Dawn furrowed her eyebrows and, clutching the edge of the yellow counter, called out a tepid, "Hello?"
"Save your breath, she's not here."
Dawn's grip instinctively tightened. That voice. She recognized that voice. Turning on her heel, she saw him leaning up against a green sofa near the lobby's fireplace, his arms folded and his expression as stoic as ever. A white towel was slung around his shoulders, and his damp mauve-colored hair hung limply near his face. It seemed that he also had been caught in the middle of the storm.
"Paul?" she inquired, puzzled. It had been months since she had last seen him, much less talked to him (not that they talked much anyway). She mentally did the math in her head ... three months. It has been three months since the Lily of the Valley Conference.
"Where is she, then?" she asked when he initially didn't reply. He shrugged.
"She headed out about 30 minutes ago or so. Some kind of emergency. She asked me to keep watch over the place."
"And you agreed?"
He raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. That was the funny this about him. If he didn't like a question or didn't feel like answering it, he didn't dignify with it a response. As a result, Dawn had received many empty silences in the limited conversation they'd held.
Dawn exhaled, a little frustrated, and shifted her weight over to her left hip.
"Well, if you're in charge, can you give me a key to a room?"
She blinked and straightened up once again.
"Full?" she asked, a little weakly.
"Newsflash: Most trainers don't like camping out in the rain. And this is a small center, so vacancy filled up fast," he grumbled. "I'm not exactly happy about it either, but it is what it is, so don't complain."
"Wait, so you don't have a room either?"
"-You're free to sleep in the lobby." He gestured to the circle of couches behind him, which, Dawn realized, had been set up with pillows and blankets.
"Oh..." Her voice trailed off and her gaze became unfocused as she drowned in her own thoughts. Great, she thought. So she was stuck in this lobby tonight with Paul. Although, she had to admit, he was being fairly civil despite his usual standoffish attitude. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all...
Paul, meanwhile, kept his hard gaze fixated on her. She was soaked to the bone, and dripping water everywhere. Her blue hair clung to her skin, which was a shade paler than usual, and she looked downright commiserable with the way she was shivering from the cold. He sighed and snatched another white towel from a nearby stack and tossed it toward her. She snapped back into reality in just enough time to catch it.
"Take it, you look pathetic," he remarked gruffly. She looked a little put-off by his statement.
"Thanks," she mumbled insincerely. She removed her hat and placed it on the counter before wrapping the towel around her head and attempting to shake out the water.
"So where's Ash and that other guy?" Paul asked, shoving his hands into his pockets.
"Brock, you mean?"
"I don't concern myself with names."
"Yeah, I know," she frowned, remembering the incident at the Oreburgh Gym. "I'm travelling by myself right now. Ash is currently challenging the Unova League, and Brock's back home in Pewter City, studying to become a Pokémon doctor."
"Hn." He remained expressionless, but Dawn wondered if maybe he was disappointed and had wanted a rematch against Ash. Once she had sufficiently dried herself off, she set the towel aside and meandered over the fireplace, bending down to check it out. She was delighted to see a couple of unused logs of wood in there.
"Do you know where any matches are? I'm freezing!" she exclaimed, glancing back at him.
"No." He didn't even turn his head.
Dawn pressed her lips together in thought. Then:
"Oh! I know!" She reached into her bag and picked out the Pokéball containing Quilava.
"Quilava, use Ember," she ordered kindly after calling him out. The fire-type obeyed and, within a few seconds, the fireplace was roaring with heat. Dawn smiled, thanked her Pokémon for his services, and returned him into his Pokéball. She then stretched out her arms behind her, quite pleased with herself.
"Ah, this is nice," she hummed, content. "Come, sit." She patted the place on the rug beside her.
His eyes flicked over to hers.
"Well, you aren't just going to stand all night, are you?"
He sat down on the sofa, which seemed to satisfy her enough to shut up for a few minutes and enjoy the warmth of the fiery glow. The silence might have lasted longer if the lights had not suddenly turned off, leaving the only source of illumination to the fireplace.
"Hey!" Dawn leapt to her feet. "What's going on?
"Calm down," Paul growled. "Lights automatically switch off at 10:30 p.m."
"Oh... It's already that late? I guess I should probably be going to bed soon."
She awkwardly settled herself on the couch adjacent to his, unfolding the blanket and fluffing the pillow. She then reached into her bag, searching for her pajamas, which she could change into in the bathroom. She scowled, however, when she found that her night clothing, along with many of her other possessions, had been drenched by the rain. Fantastic, she thought bitterly.
Deciding it would be better to sleep in her only slightly damp everyday outfit compared to her soaked pajamas, she pulled the blanket over her and rolled toward the cushions.
"Good night," she mumbled. Although it should have come as no surprise, Dawn was annoyed when he said nothing in response. She turned her head to look at him. Though the room was dark, she could clearly see the firm features of his face highlighted by the fire. His chin was resting on the open palm of his hand and he was staring straight ahead, a distant look in his dark eyes. He was clearly somewhere else at that moment.
"Aren't you going to sleep, too?" she asked.
"Not tired," he replied plainly.
"Well..." She brought herself to a sitting position, pulling her knees close to her under her blanket. "... Do you want to talk? Whenever Ash or I couldn't sleep, we would just chat for a little while until we got drowsy."
"Is that all you say? 'No' to this, 'no' to that?"
"You're insufferable," she declared.
"You're the one who tried talking to me," he reminded.
Dawn pursed her lips, annoyed that he had a point. Unable to conjure up a comeback, she laid back down and tried to go to sleep. Infuriatingly, she found that she was now wide awake. Attempting to converse with Paul's jerkish self had gotten her adrenaline running. The tricky part was, she knew she would only be sleepy again if she talked herself tired. Which required him.
She sat up once again and Paul's upper lip twitched. Dawn racked her brain for possible topics. The purple-haired trainer wasn't really one for small talk. Actually, it would have been more accurate to say that he wasn't one for talking at all. If she wanted to get him to speak up, she'd have to pick a conversation-starter that was both relevant and interesting to him.
"Did you battle Brandon?" she finally asked. She was quite proud that she had managed to come up with that one.
A crooked sort of smile formed on her lips. Well, at least it was a different answer than "no."
"Did you win?"
New goal: Get him to speak more than one word.
"Hey, that's great," she congratulated, her smile widening. "So, where are you headed to next?"
"I don't know."
Newer goal: Get him to say more than one sentence.
"Yeah," Dawn nodded understandingly, sounding a little solemn. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do next either. I'm thinking about going to Hoenn and trying out the contests there. It's the region where contesting originated from, and it's apparently a lot more toned down there than the Super Contests here in Sinnoh."
"You're a coordinator?"
Dawn was a little caught off-guard by this question. She knew it made sense that he wouldn't know; it's not like she or Ash or Brock ever told him. What surprised her was the tiny inkling of genuine interest sprinkled in his voice.
"Well... yes." She didn't know what else to say. Their gazes connected for a very brief moment.
"That's... interesting," he commented. She knitted her eyebrows together, feeling irritation simmer under her skin.
"Interesting? What do you mean interesting?" she demanded, preparing herself to defend her career choice if necessary. She was half-expecting him to sneer and tell her that coordinating was a stupid trainer class for sub-par trainers and their weak Pokémon, but he surprised her.
"Don't read into it that much," he scoffed. He clearly wasn't going to elaborate any further, which succeeded only in making Dawn curious rather than angry. She wasn't sure how to ask him to give a better explanation of himself though, so she just sat quietly, wondering if maybe it would have been better if she had just kept her mouth shut and forced herself to sleep.
"Hoenn's a good region, though," he said suddenly, dragging Dawn out of her little bubble and back into the conversation. She was honestly surprised he had been the one to initiate. That was usually her job.
"Is it, now?" she asked, after finding her words again. He nodded.
"Lots of different Pokémon," he said, "and sight-seeing, if you're into that sort of thing."
Dawn tilted her head. "Well, maybe I'll have to go now that I have your recommendation."
"Hm," he grunted in response, rolling his eyes. "Right."
"No, seriously," she teased, smiling. "You've done lots of traveling. I've never been outside of Sinnoh. Your opinion matters to me."
There was a curious flash in his gray eyes, and Dawn worried if she had something wrong. He looked at her with an odd expression, and the edges around his stony irises softened. Dawn then realized that perhaps she had actually said something completely right.
"...I'm going to bed now." He slid under the sheets of his makeshift bed, turning away from her. Dawn laid down too, and though he couldn't see it, she was wearing just about the biggest victorious smile there ever was.
"See? Talking to someone does help you go to sleep," she gloated.
She was unperturbed.
"Goodnight," she repeated, sounding a little more upbeat than before. Instead of silence, she got another grunt. Well, that was better than nothing, right?
Sleep came a lot easier for her this time around. Dawn felt herself slowly lose touch with reality and fall into a pleasanter world where rainstorms never forced her into strange situations with confusing, jerk-faced rivals. In the physical sense, this manifested itself as an even rise and fall of the chest and light breathing that was overshadowed by the crackle of the fire.
Once he was positive she was asleep, Paul turned toward her, observing the phenomenon.
"Goodnight," he said quietly, though his voice was still rough and throaty, "and thank you."
Dawn wasn't surprised when she woke up the next morning and found that he had already left. He was constantly on the move, and it seemed that he always had somewhere important to be. She glanced at the sofa on which he had slept on to see that he had neatly folded up his bed sheets and placed his pillow on top of them. It was as if he was never even there.
"Good to see you're awake." Dawn looked up to see that Nurse Joy had approached. "I'm terribly sorry we ran out of rooms yesterday and that you had to sleep out here. There's a complimentary breakfast in the cafeteria if you're interested."
"It was no problem," Dawn assured her, sitting up and stretching. "Did everything go OK yesterday? I heard there was an emergency."
"Oh yes, everything is quite all right now," Nurse Joy nodded.
"Good, glad to hear it."
Nurse Joy bowed her head slightly before she turned to leave and attend to her patients. Yet, Dawn felt compelled to stop her and ask:
"Wait," she implored. The nurse turned to face her once again.
"I'm sorry for keeping you, but there was someone else here last night," she explained, feeling a little shy about the fact that she was even bringing it up. "I was just wondering... Did you see him this morning?"
"As a matter of fact, I did," Nurse Joy said with a polite smile, "and he wanted me to deliver you a message if you asked."
"If I asked ... ?" Dawn's face contorted in confusion.
"Yes," she affirmed. "'Good luck in Hoenn.' That's what he said."
Dawn reeled back slightly in surprise.
Why ... ? 'Good luck in Hoenn?'
She couldn't assemble her thoughts together, which was silly. She tried to convince herself that it really wasn't that big of a deal. It was just a bit of a nice, albeit odd, gesture coming from someone who was usually anything but nice.
"I see..." Dawn mumbled. "Thank you."
Although, if it was just a nice gesture, her inner thoughts told her... then why was she blushing?
A/N: I found out today is Ikarishipping day and felt like I needed to make at least a small contribution. This is that. Hope you enjoyed and, as always, reviews are greatly appreciated.