i remember when you walked through that door
sat down in that chair
the times that we shared
but you've been here

He seeks her out in the café as soon as he's through the door; she's a photon contained in a jar, ricocheting off the edges and glowing brighter than what the enclosure allows. A true shining beauty, he thinks, and he's grateful that at least that has managed to stay the same.

He doesn't have to come close to her to know that she's different now. Her image is a perfect color copy of the photoshopped pictures that litter tabloids, though she's notably that more real than she is in the pictures. Her face is scrubbed clean of porcelain-colored paint, excess oils and dyes, save for a little black eyeliner. Her hair is on the complete opposite side of the spectrum, glossy and dark. (He doesn't think it suits her.) He notices that her lips are lighter now, glossed over with light pink rather than the sharp red he was used to.

Her fingernails match her lips, but he could be imagining that. She would always fight to keep her nails authentic and bare - something about the plastic covers made her uncomfortable. They tap a rhythm against an ebony pokégear (she wouldn't be caught dead wearing an Xtransceiver - not that it wouldn't slip off her thin wrist if she had).

He approaches her, taking his time, and she's already staring at him when he reaches her table.

"Black," she greets him, and it's not particularly cordial or distant. She doesn't say his name as slow and lazy and she used to.

"Hey," the brunet says, lamely, though he adds a rushed "how are you?" as not to seem as abrasive as he felt.

"Good, the new gym is looking great. The photos too." Elesa's answer is rehearsed, and though this is a given, he plays along. Like nothing ever happened.

"Good, that's good."

She pushes stray sugar into a line on the table."How have you been doing?" Some of the saccharine sticks to her fingertips, and she flings it off and onto the floor. "Find what you were looking for?"

Black shrugs. "He beat me here."

"I'm glad you thought it was worth it."

"I never said that it was." He's shocked by the sudden turn of the conversation, though he had expected it. She was never one to beat around the bush.

She ignores him, and the tune emanating from her headphones shifts to a rap, and after a couple of measures, he realizes that it's not in English. "You know you could have stayed - fixed the region on your own. You were golden, Black."

"I can't talk to pokémon."

"Yeah, but if there was one thing that Champion Black taught anyone, it was that there was more to communicating with pokémon than just talking." She's disappointed, though she puts effort into sounding blasé.

"I was just a kid," he mumbles. "I still am."

It's there that he wants to recoil, because he knows that his words are truer than anything he's said in the past two years. He's only heard mentions of his friends - muttered coos exchanged between gaggles of teenage girls in the passing and digital notices displayed in rest houses. Whatever little bits of information he could find he took in, and he's finally placed the final piece in the puzzle: his friends grew up.

He didn't.

Elesa continues to look up at him, expecting both the world and absolutely nothing. Black gives her an apology.

"I'm sorry," he says. He doesn't whisper it but instead says it rather firmly, making sure to connect his eyes with hers. They are too blue and too bright - they clash against his mud-brown.

She smiles, and though it's friendly, it's unforgiving. His toes curl. She nods. "I knew you would be."

Screams fill his thoughts and pleas of 'if you knew, then why didn't you warn me?'repeat like a mantra. He doesn't voice a thing of what he thinks, because he knows that she did warn him and that he was stupid and stubborn enough to ignore her. He bites the inside of his cheeks, frustrated, and lets her watch him.

He wants to repeat himself and apologize, again and again, until she takes his hand and lets him muss her hair with his lips and return things to the way they once were.

He doesn't. He knows it's pointless.

Instead, they make more small talk. He learns that she has taken to relaxing in the café because she's waiting for Burgh and no, he's not late, if that's what he was thinking, and that they've recently been working together for a promotion for the newly renovated art museum in Castelia, and yeah, the tabloids may be exaggerating a little when they say that she privately models nude for him.

Black tells her about some of the amazing things he's seen in Johto and of the advanced technology in Hoenn and how he broke his Xtransceiver only three days into his journey and how no one had any advice for him other than to buy a new one.

He tries to mention that his number is still the same but he places it awkwardly in the middle of his story. Elesa notices but doesn't say anything, just nodding and sipping her coffee.

Soon enough, they run out of things to talk about. He shuffles his weight from foot to foot, heel to toe, and shoves his hands in his pockets. The silence is uncomfortable.

"Well, I better get going." He's friendly with Burgh, and though their reunion would be a welcomed one, he doesn't want to crash their date - or "meeting", as Elesa had put it. He knows that she would understand that he's not avoiding Burgh. He has stayed past his time.

"Good luck," she says, and she sounds sincere. He's not sure what she's wishing him luck on.

"Same to you." He smiles, eyes peering from under the brim of his hat, and she's surprised at the familiarity of the gesture. She doesn't show it.

Black steps away from the table, striding over to the counter to order a hot lemon tea to go, as he had originally intended to. He thinks he feels her eyes boring into the back of his head, but he knows that they're not. He can hear her fingers beating out in time to a new song.

He pays for the drink and leaves. He doesn't look back.

A/N: It sounds like dirt and the characterization is really wacky, but I'm done staring at it and something really needed to go up on this account.

Critiques encouraged! I will smooch your face if you can help me improve!

Song cred: Café by BIGBANG. Not the cleanest insert, I know.