Dinner had been lovely.
Francis had taken him to a nice restaurant that overlooked the water, where he had ordered real food that didn't come out of a can. They talked about Hoenn; places they had visited as children, foods and fashion they grew up enjoying, and Pokemon that were special, only to that area of the world.
Francis asked about his past, his plans for the future, his family, his friends, his contests. He was polite, he was refined, he was every single thing Arthur had wished Alfred was for the past three years he had known him. And yet...
Yet Arthur missed him. He missed eating beans cooked in tin over the fire, he missed Alfred's constant bragging and boasting, he missed hearing and rehearing the same stories of the same battles, he missed the way-too-loud laughter, the ridiculous hero complex that had almost killed them both on multiple occasions, the bright smiles, the even brighter eyes.
He missed his Alfred, and he felt like a fool for even trying to substitute him.
"Wouldn't you agree, mon cher?" Francis asked, pulling Arthur roughly from his thoughts.
The coordinator blushed, coughing into his hand to hide the fact he wasn't even remotely paying attention. "I'm sorry, what were you saying?" he tried pathetically.
Francis smiled knowingly. "You were lost thinking of something else?"
"What? Of course not!" he exclaimed, much too loudly. "What on earth else would I be thinking of? I've just had a wonderful dinner with wonderful company-"
"And yet you are still thinking of Monsieur Alfred?" Arthur choked as Francis smirked knowingly. "He must be something extraordinaire to be on your mind after a night like this, non?"
Arthur's face flushed, and he immediately turned it away. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Oh, I think you do, mon cher!" Francis sang, dancing around Arthur to get a better look at his face. "You are blushing!"
"I am not, bloody frog-face!"
Francis's grin only widened. "Ah, there is that Mossdeep charm I have tried so hard to forget!" Arthur's pout and blush deepened together. "Now, now, Arthur, I jest!" He threw a causal arm around his shoulders. "But honestly, how long have you and the young entraîneur been in amour?"
Arthur wiggled away from Francis with a quick elbow to his chest, and crossed his arms in a huff as soon as he was out of arm's reach. "No one is in amour with anyone," he snapped, letting the bitterness of this confession seep through despite his best efforts. Francis smiled sadly.
"Ah, so you believe it to be an unrequited affair, then?" he asked, keeping in step with Arthur, who had increased his walking speed ever so slightly since they reached this topic. "At least on the side of the young entraîneur?"
Arthur's face flushed even more violent red. "You have no idea what you're talking about."
Francis sighed. "I see. You know, you are surprisingly unobservant for a coordinator."
This got his attention. "And what is that supposed to mean?" he snapped.
"I was both a trainer and a coordinator before I inherited my gym," Francis explained. "I would travel the world according to the contest schedule, and if the town I was in so happened to have had a gym, then fantastique for me!" He closed his eyes, perhaps to help himself better remember the past. "It was then that I realized the differences between a coordinator and a trainer.
"A trainer, for instance, sees a Bubblebeam attack as simply that, an attack. It is released with the intent to harm its opponent, and once it has completed its task, it is forgotten about. A coordinator, however," he paused to make sure Arthur was paying attention, "sees a Bubblebeam as a thing of beauty, as well as a thing of battle. They are able to see beyond the surface of the attack, and see deeper; see what else it could be."
Arthur narrowed his eyes in confusion. "I don't under-"
"Trainers," Francis continued, a coy smile gracing his lips, "often struggle to notice the deeper meanings of things." He smirked. "But I believe, that if given enough time, even the densest trainer will notice the beauty they have been neglecting."
"Hello sir! What can I help you with today?"
Alfred smiled weakly at the resident Nurse Joy, popping each of his pokeballs off of his belt and placing them in the offered tray. "Just a check-up, ma'am," he said kindly. "Got a badge to win tomorrow, and I need the team in tip-top shape!"
Joy smiled in return, taking the pokeballs and nodding at Alfred politely. "I wish you the best of luck, then! Your pokemon will be ready at nine o'clock in the morning on the dot. Will you be staying with us tonight?"
"Great!" She pulled open a drawer, pulling out a small key attached to a plastic Chansey, printed with the number 231. "Here you are."
"Awesome- Oh, this room has two beds, right?"
Joy nodded. "Yes it does. Are you expecting company?"
Alfred chanced a glance at the wall clock; two hours until curfew. "No," he sighed. "I was just curious."
Once his pokemon had been taken care of, Alfred got himself a small dinner in the canteen, which he took out onto the center's balcony to eat. He ate in silence, trying, and failing, not to notice the other trainers and coordinators chatting and milling around him.
He wandered around the lobby for another half hour, trying to keep himself busy until curfew. He sent Mattie a message on his pokegear (he, ever so kindly, replied: "go to bed, you moron," the little dweeb), checked his inventory of potions and elixirs, and made a quick call to Professor Juniper to check on the pokemon he had with her. With one hour left until curfew, he finally decided to retire to his room.
Arthur was a smart guy, he would figure out how to find him.
The room was exactly like every other Pokemon Center he had spent the night in over the last nine years. A small window in one corner, a pair of bunk beds in the other, two dressers, and a tall floor lamp next to a watercolor painting of a stream.
The only thing missing was Arthur.
Without his pokemon and his best friend, Alfred couldn't help but feel lonely. He checked his pokegear quickly for the time, forty three minutes until curfew.
Arthur still had time to make it back.
Alfred just hoped he would.
"Well, thank you for a wonderful evening," Arthur said as they arrived at the door in which the rather irritated Nurse Joy had directed him. "Even if you almost got me locked out."
Francis laughed. "We were but two minutes late! Besides, you would have been welcomed to spend the night with moi-"
"I would rather eat a Grimer, but thank you for the offer, snail-breath." Arthur smirked and shook Francis's hand. "I will see you tomorrow at Alfred's match. A-and," he paused, glancing at Francis out of the corner of his eye, his hand on the door and a blush on his cheeks, "about what we discussed earlier...I hope you're right."
"I always am, mon ami," Francis replied. "Bonsoir!"
Arthur watched Francis's retreating figure down the hallway, and once he was out sight, he took a deep breath and braced himself once again on the doorknob. Hopefully, Alfred would be sleeping, Arthur wasn't sure if he would be able to face the boy at that moment. As carefully and quietly as he could, he pushed the door open and slipped inside.
"Have a good date?" No such luck.
Arthur sighed. Alfred had sounded upset, and after speaking to Francis, rightfully so. However, he still couldn't bring himself to accept that Alfred could possibly...that he might just...
"It wasn't a date," he said curtly, tossing his bag next to Alfred's on the dresser. "It was dinner." He glared at Alfred, who was reading a magazine on the top bunk.
"Dinner with the enemy," Alfred snapped. Arthur rolled his eyes.
"Oh, he's the enemy now? True, he's a bit of a tosser, but haven't you always been the one to defend your opponents in the past?" Alfred remained silent and ducked behind his magazine with a huff. Arthur rolled his eyes. "Such a child," he mumbled.
Without a word, he quickly changed into his pajamas and climbed into bed just as Alfred clicked off the lamp. Arthur hoped morning came soon. The sooner they left this bloody town the better.
Sooooo I lied, this is actually gonna be a three-parter. XD This is because I leave for Chicago on Thursday and I wouldn't have gotten this part AND the epic battle done before then, so I will give you this and write the last part during my vacation when I am dying without internet.
Poor Arthur and Alfred. Don't make Ash and Misty's mistakes you guys, BE SMARTER THAN THAT, YOU TWO. XD
Anyway, hope you enjoyed! Until next time!