Chapter 7: The Contest Ribbon

May found herself staring into a mirror nervously. She was in the Slateport City contest hall using one of the dressing rooms designed specifically for coordinators. She had on her normal attire, but had put on a little makeup to bring out her facial features and combed her hair.

"While it's most important for the Pokémon to show their true beauty, a trainer must also be looking at his or her best during a contest," Harley had told her and Ash. "Which means you should be putting on makeup."

The girl had cringed at the statement. "M-makeup?" May asked, not liking what Harley had said.

"Mhmm, you're a girl, so you should be fine," the man assured her. "Mascara and eye liner allow the judges and audience to see your face clearly, even from far away."

It was just another annoyance caused by the dumb contest Ash wanted her to participate in. Despite that, she was looking forward to working with Skitty and seeing how the hard training they had done would pay off, as much as she didn't want to admit it. Nonetheless, she was extremely nervous.

There was a knock at the door, causing the girl to jump slightly with a start. "C-come in," she stammered, turning her gaze down away from the mirror.

Ash peeked into the room, making sure May was decent before stepping in, an excited smile plastered across his face. Pikachu was on the trainer's shoulder, as usual. "Do you think you're ready to compete?" Ash asked, stepping across the room and laying a hand on May's shoulder.

The young girl shrugged silently. "I'm feeling a bit nervous," she admitted, clutching her stomach. "I'm feeling Butterfrees in my belly." She looked up at the boy with worried eyes.

Ash's eyes brightened upon seeing May look at him. "Hey, you look great with the makeup on," he complimented her, hoping to make her feel better. The girl blushed in embarrassment and turned away from him.

"T-thanks," she stuttered.

"I'm sure you'll do great," Ash told her, leaning against the wall and sliding down into a sitting position. As he made himself comfortable on the ground, Pikachu hopped off his shoulder and snuggled into his lap. "And even if you don't, who cares, right? As long as you do your best, I'll be proud."

May smiled slightly at his encouraging words. "Thanks, Ash," she murmured quietly.

There was a brief moment of silence while Ash scratched Pikachu behind the ears and May stared at her reflection. She wasn't used to seeing her face covered in makeup.

"When I was young, Mom would put makeup on me for fun and to make me look pretty," she said with a small smile, but it quickly faded away. "When Dad took me away, I never used it. Before today, I haven't used makeup since I was with my mom."

Ash stopped scratching Pikachu and looked up at May. Her mother really loved her, unlike Norman, he thought, which brought up a question. "Now that you're not with your dad anymore, why not return to your mom?"

May stood up from the desk she had been sitting at, before looking down at Ash for a minute sadly. She began to make her way to the door, wordlessly grasping the knob and opening the door to leave.

"Wait! If you don't want to talk about it, we can talk about something else!" Ash said quickly, holding out his hand in her direction. May sighed and leaned her head against the door.

"You deserve to know," she admitted quietly. She let go of the door and walked over to Ash and Pikachu, sitting down next to them on the ground.

"I've done terrible things since my father took me away from home," she said, her head bowed and her hair blocking out her eyes. "I'm afraid my mom won't be able to accept me anymore because of what I've become..."

Ash didn't know what to say, he looked down at Pikachu, who was watching May sadly as she spoke.

The girl held her hand up before clenching her fist. "It's so unfair," she said, her body shaking a little. "Why'd Dad have to come in and ruin my life?"

Ash laid a hand on the girl's shoulder, seeing she was on the verge of tears. "Hey, hey, don't cry," he told her, squeezing her shoulder slightly. "You'll mess up your makeup."

May chuckled slightly scooting a little closer to Ash. "Yeah," she said, suppressing the urge to rub her watering eyes and rather blinked away the tears.

Ash smiled and gave her an encouraging pat. "You've got a contest to look forward to, try not to think about these things right now," he told her. "You ready to get out there and kick some butt?"

May sniffed as she recovered from her small wave of emotions and smiled. "Yeah."

May's training with Skitty and Harley paid off. She made it past the appeals round and into the battle rounds. The screen hanging over the large battlefield where the appeals had taken place randomly scrolled through images of the trainers who made it through into the second round.

May image stopped beside the image of a young boy who had green hair and a small smirk on his face.

"Drew, huh?" Ash thought aloud as he saw the name of the coordinator under the picture. He sat in the stands with the rest of the crowd, watching the contest taking place before him while slowly stroking Pikachu's fur. "He sure seems confident."

The break between the appeals round and the first battle round was long, so Ash and Pikachu headed down to where all the coordinators were waiting patiently for the event to continue. He found May sitting in the corner, away from the other coordinators, with Skitty resting in her lap.

May looked up as Ash walked over to her and smiled. "Hey, great job in the appeals round," he complimented her. "You and Skitty both did great!"

"Pi pikachu!" Pikachu chirped in agreement.

May's smile widened and she turned her gaze back down to Skitty. "Thanks, guys," she said, a blush of embarrassment plastered across her face.

Ash sat down beside her, crossing his legs and setting Pikachu down in his lap. "Are you ready for the next round?" The boy asked.

May nodded, causing her hair to bounce. "Yeah," she told him. "Once Skitty's rested enough, we'll be ready to battle that Drew guy!"

"Oh, so you're my opponent."

Ash and May both looked up to see a male trainer standing before them. He had his hands in his pockets and was virtually emitting confidence. The young man flicked his green hair from his face and looked down with a smirk. "A newbie, huh? What a shame. I was hoping for a little more of a challenge," he said, removing his left hand from his pocket and placing it on his hip. "At least try to put up a little bit of a fight for me, will ya?"

Ash growled slightly and stood up. "Hey! Don't speak to May that way!" Ash exclaimed angrily.

"May, hm?" Drew asked, turning his gaze down on the brunette sitting on the ground. His eyes fell on Skitty, who was paying no heed to the conversation. He snorted and smirked. "You're gonna battle me with that?"

May was at a loss for words. She had nothing she could say in her own defense. "W-well," was all she could manage to sputter out.

Drew just chuckled and shook his head. "Whatever," he said, turning to leave. "When our battle comes, I'll make it quick and painless."

Drew glanced back at the two trainers. May had her gaze glued to the ground while Ash glared at Drew. "Hmph, you're welcome."

And with that, he strolled away, leaving May and Ash alone with their Pokémon. Ash turned to May, who was visibly upset. "Hey, don't worry," Ash said, clenching his fist. "You're gonna beat that jerk! You just got to be confident."

"But... Drew seemed really confident," May murmured, not looking up at Ash. "He's also probably really experienced."

Ash crouched down beside her and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Well you're not exactly inexperienced, either," he told her. "You had all that training with Harley yesterday. I know you can beat Drew."

May took and deep breath and closed her eyes. "I... I hope you're right."

Unfortunately the battle didn't go well for May. Drew's Roselia was easily able to over power Skitty, and it wasn't long before the battle was over.

Ash slumped in his seat upon seeing that Drew had won. He let out a sigh and ran his hand through his hair. "Well, she tried her best," Ash said, putting on a smile. "I guess that's what really matters."

He watched as May sadly returned Skitty and walked off the battle field as the crowd cheered for Drew. He stood up and hurried out of the bleachers and into the coordinator room.

He entered to see May was once again sitting in the corner, a tired Skitty resting in her lap. Neither of them looked happy. Ash stepped over to them and sat down on the ground close by. "Hey, great job out there," he said comfortingly.

May, who had her gaze locked on the ground, shrugged, not saying a word.

"You tried your best," Ash told her. "And you did great for your first time."

May sniffed and wiped her nose with the back of her hand. "I didn't want to win that stupid contest anyway," she said, clenching her fist. "What a waste of time."

"Aw come on, you know that's not true," Ash said, scooting closer to her. He sat directly in front of her. Both of them sat cross leg and where close enough that their knees were touching. "Contests strengthen your bond with your Pokémon."

"Pi!" Pikachu agreed.

May turned her head away from Ash. "T-that's not important," she told him, shaking her head.

"But it is," Ash protested, laying a hand on May's shoulder. "A strong bond with your Pokémon is more important than any valuable you could ever steal." He smiled and looked at Pikachu. "I wouldn't trade my bond with Pikachu for anything in the world!"

Pikachu chirped happily and nuzzled Ash's cheek with his. May watched as Ash and Pikachu laughed together, looking down at Skitty, who was napping in her lap. She sighed and slowly began to stroke her fur, causing the cat-like Pokémon to purr. "It's not about the ribbon?" she asked quietly.

Despite her low tone, Ash still heard her. "Yeah, contests aren't just about ribbons, and gym battles aren't just about badges. It's about strengthening your bond with you Pokémon and growing stronger with them," Ash said with a grin. "Ribbons and badges are solid objects you use to remember the tough battles you faced to grow with your Pokémon."

May finally looked at Ash fully, revealing a tear running down her cheek. The young boy smiled sadly at her and wiped away her tear with his thumb. "Let's go watch the rest of the contest together," he suggested, standing up from his sitting position. "Maybe we'll learn a few things." He held out a hand for May to take. The girl looked up at him before smiling a little and taking his hand. He pulled her to her feet. May held onto him with one hand while Skitty rested in her arms.

Together they left the coordinator room and walked back into the auditorium, finding empty seats and sitting down to watch the rest of the contest. Drew won the following rounds and claimed the ever-coveted Slateport ribbon. Seeing that the contest was over, Ash was ready to leave, but May wanted to go down to the battlefield and talk to Drew. As the crowd headed towards the exits of the contest hall, May fought against the flow of people as she made her way down the stairs to the battle field where Drew was shaking hands with various people who were congratulating him on his victory.

May stepped up to Drew with her hands behind her back and Skitty on her shoulder similar to how Pikachu would be on Ash's shoulder. The green haired trainer quickly noticed her and turned his attention to her. "Hey, Drew," May said sheepishly. She then took a deep breath and clenched her eyes shut, sticking her hand out stiffly for a handshake. "Congratulations on winning."

Drew looked at May, and down at her hand, and back at May. "Uh, gee, thanks," he said, taking her gloved hand and shaking it. May opened an eye and peeked at Drew before releasing the deep breath she had been holding.

"Ugh, that was worse than I thought it would be," May said, letting go of Drew's hand and brushing her hand on her pants.

Drew twitched. "What-!?" The trainer exclaimed, a vein popping from his head. He quickly collected himself and smirked, brushing his hair from his face. "Well, whatever. I won the contest. I couldn't care less about what you have to say." With that, Drew spun around on his heel and walked away. He walked through the coordinator room and into the hall, entering his dressing room and closing the door behind him. "Who does she think she is?" Drew grumbled, leaning against the door. "Well it doesn't matter. I won the contest and am one ribbon closer to the Grand Festival."

He reached down into his pocket to pull out his ribbon, but froze upon feeling the pocket was empty. "Wait… Where's my ribbon!?"

May happily fiddled with the ribbon in her hands, rubbing her thumb on the shiny metal and gently playing with the fabric with her fingers. "Isn't it pretty, Skitty?" She asked her pink Pokémon.

"Nyaa!" Skitty said happily, a grin stretched across her face.

"Hmm, I know Ash said it's not about the ribbon, but it's so pretty!" May said, smiling at her reflection in the golden tinted metal. "Maybe it would make a nice hair clip. Just a little glue and-"

"Oh, there you are, May," she could hear Ash say. The girl jumped at the voice and quickly stuffed the ribbon in her pocket.

"Oh, hey," she replied, putting on a cheeky grin and skipping over to him. "I'm hungry, let's go get something to eat!" She hurriedly grabbed his arm and dragged the surprised trainer out of the building, wanting to put some distance between herself and Drew.

"Uhh, so where do you want to eat?" Ash asked as he was pulled out onto the sidewalk.

May tapped her chin with her finger. "Hm, something on the other side of the city," she said.

Ash raised a brow. "What? Why?" He asked.

May stiffened for a moment, her gaze turned up towards the sky as she tried to come up with a better reason than the one she didn't want to tell Ash. "Um... Er... Because... There's a restaurant over there that I really like," May said.

"What restaurant?" Ash asked.

"Um..." May murmured. Her face brightened with an idea. "It's a cool little restaurant my mom took me to every time we came to Slateport."

"Okay, cool," Ash said with a smile.

After a long walk right across Slateport City, Ash and May arrived at the restaurant she had been talking about. It was a small tropical looking place that overlooked the beach. May's eyes sparkled as memories began to flow through her mind. "It hasn't changed a bit," she said softly, holding her hand up to her heart.

Ash smiled at the girl before proceeding up the creaky wooden steps. May snapped out of her thoughts and followed Ash up the steps and into the small building. They got a waitress to lead them back outside and to a table, giving them the perfect view of the beach.

"Wow... It's been so long..." May said, looking around as memories of the familiar place flowed through her mind. "So many memories..."

Ash placed Pikachu down on the table and smiled at May, picking up one of the menus the waitress had given them. "Did you come here often as a kid?" He asked.

May picked up her menu and smiled at him. "Whenever Mom would take me to Slateport City, we'd always come here for lunch," she explained. "It was her favorite place to eat."

The girl's smile grew as she turned to look at the beach. "And once we were done we would go straight to the beach and play," she said, her eyes watering slightly. "Those were the days."

Ash, who was listening while reading through the menu, shivered slightly as the ocean breeze blew past. "Sounds like the perfect day," he told her.

May nodded. "It wasn't a complete trip to Slateport City if we didn't eat here and go to the beach," she said cheerfully.

Ash looked up from his menu. "Then let's go to the beach after this," he said with a grin.

May looked at him with surprise. "Huh?" She grunted as she raised a brow.

Ash chuckled. "Why not? The point of coming here was to avoid Norman, but nobody said we couldn't have a good time."

May blinked a few times. "Well... If it's okay with you," she murmured.

Ash laughed. "Of course it's okay. I love the beach," he said. "After this, we'll go to the beach. Deal?"

May smiled and nodded. "De-"


The two trainers jumped at the sight of two policemen who were pointing at May. The girl's eyes widened and she attempted to get up from her seat and jump off the outdoor patio surrounding the restaurant, but was out sped by one of the officers and was held down. The girl screamed and struggled as she tried to escape the man's grasp.

"Ash! Help me!" May cried out, but the surprised boy only watched in confusion.

As the officer that caught her held her down, the other officer began to pat her pockets. He reached in and pulled out the Slateport Ribbon from May's pocket. Ash's eyes widened as he saw the object.

"May... Did you...?" He murmured, leaning forward to get a better view.

"Is this the ribbon, sir?" One of the officers asked, holding out the ribbon.

A familiar green haired coordinator walked up onto the patio with his hands in his pocket. Drew looked at the ribbon in the man's hand before nodding and taking it. "This is the one," he confirmed with a nod. "Thank you, officer."

"May..." Ash said sadly.

"Ash, I'm sorry!" May cried, once again trying to pull from the officer's grip. The man held on tightly though, making sure she wasn't going anywhere. The other pulled out a pair of handcuffs and clamped them on May's wrist. Upon feeling the cold metal on her skin, May realized fighting was futile and gave up resisting.

"Oh Ash..." May whimpered, tears running down her eyes. "I'm sorry... I'm so, so sorry."

Ash watched in silence as the two officers took May away off the patio.

"Such a shame," Drew sighed, sticking his ribbon in his ribbon case. Ash was about to angrily tell the coordinator to shut up, but the green haired trainer spoke up again. "She was really good in that last contest considering she was a newbie. She had so much potential."

Drew turned to Ash, letting another sigh escape his mouth. "I hope you don't hold this against me. I just wanted my ribbon back," Drew said.

Ash sighed and bowed his head. "No... I understand," he murmured, resting his elbows on the table.

After a few moments of silence, Drew left the patio and disappeared from sight.

May sat curled up in the cold corner of a small cell in the police station. Her arms were wrapped around her legs and her face was buried in her knees. Her pockets had been empty and her fanny pack had been taken away from her, meaning she no longer had her Pokémon with her.

She could only wonder what the police would do to the Pokémon. Send them into the wild? Keep them in a cell like her? Give them to another trainer? What if the trainer was mean and abused them? May would have never imagined at the start of her journey that she'd become so concerned about her Pokémon. Thanks to Ash, she had become quite attached to them.

She lifted her head from its place planted in her legs and glanced out the cell, seeing the cell across her was holding a hairy man in ragged and torn up clothes. He didn't appear sober.

Oh, I shouldn't be locked up like him! May thought, clenching her eyes shut and once again hiding her face in her legs. Why'd I have to succumb into temptation and take that dumb ribbon!?

Despite how much she had always tried to deny it, she knew this day would come, the day of her capture. She wasn't one to look ahead into the future though and lived in the moment, which she had always known would be her downfall.

She sat up straight as she realized something. Oh no! May thought. They have my fanny pack! Which means they could find the-!

Her thoughts were cut off though when she heard an ever so familiar voice conversing with another not so familiar voice.

May looked up once again to see Ash and one of the officers step up to the cell. The girl had never been so happy to see the boy.

"Ash! I'm so sorry about this!" May said, quickly getting up and running up to the iron bars. Tears once again flowed down her cheeks as she gripped the cold metal. "Please take care of Torchic, Mudkip, and Skitty for me! They don't deserve this!"

"Calm down, lady. That's not going to be a problem," the officer said, pulling out some keys.

May looked at him and raised a brow. "W-what?" She stammered.

"Your friend here is bailing you out," the man said, using the keys to unlock the cell and open it for May.

May simply stood before the open door in surprise, her bottom lip quivering. "I can be bailed?" She asked.

"Sure, there's already enough crime in this city," the man said, twirling the keys around in circles on his index finger. "We don't have room in our cells for children like you."

The girl turned to Ash, who was grinning, slowly stepping out of the cell and towards him. "But... Why?" She asked. The bail had to have taken a toll on Ash's wallet.

The boy shrugged with a smile. "Well, I promised you we'd go to the beach so-" he was cut short as May lunged forward and embraced him. Ash yelped and stumbled backwards a few steps before catching his footing. After standing still for a few moments, he reached over and returned May's embrace.

"Thank you," May said. Her voice was muffled because her face was buried in Ash's jacket.

"Hey, no problem," he told her, patting her back. "It wasn't a very expensive bail anyways."

The two let go of each other and May took a step back, wiping her watering eyes with her arm. With that, the officer led May and Ash away from the cells and back to the front office, where May's stuff was returned to her.

She sighed and relief and held up one of her Pokéballs, rubbing it against her cheek with a smile. "It's so good to see you again."

May found herself sitting in the warm sand, the ocean displayed before her. Ash sat next to her, drawing in the sand with his index finger. The two had changed into their swimsuits and their Pokémon were cheerfully running around the beach playing.

"It's been a long day," May said, flopping down on her back and spreading her arms out. "It feels good to just lie here and let your worries blow away with the wind."

Ash smiled and nodded in agreement lying down on the sand beside her. "Hm, yeah," he murmured, resting his head in his hands and closing his eyes.

May looked at Ash for a moment before scooting closer to the boy. She couldn't remember the last time she had such a great friend, or a friend at all, for that matter. She was constantly on the move with her father, so she never had the chance to become friends with someone.

Besides, she was a thief. She emitted an aura that made people uncomfortable because of her misdeeds. Most of the time, people tried to steer clear of her. But Ash was different, not only did he become her friend, but he made an effort to be the best friend he could possibly be, despite May's bad habits.

If she could ever change her ways, she would do it for Ash.

Ash's eyes opened and he looked to his left to see May's gaze locked on him. He blinked silently a few times before sitting up. May sat up as well, crossing her legs to be in a more comfortable position.

"I... I can't thank you enough for bailing me out," May said, scratching the back of her neck sheepishly. "I really thought that was the end of the road for me."

Ash chuckled and dusted some of the sand off his back. "I told you it's no big deal," he said. "Just refrain from stealing anything else."

May nodded, putting on a confident smile. "I'll do my best," she said, watching as Corphish and Mudkip ran past them.

He's done so much for me. He's made so many sacrifices, she thought as they quietly sat on the beach. I hope I can return the favor someday.

May yawned, finding herself exhausted from the day's events. She stretched and leaned on Ash tiredly, blinking several times as her eyelids grew heavier and heavier.

"Hey, I was thinking," Ash said, letting May lean on him. "We could go back to that restaurant for dinner, being that lunch was cut a bit short."

May sat up straight and looked at him with a smile. "Yeah, that sounds good," she agreed.

After washing the sand off themselves at the public showers, Ash and May once again found themselves sitting on the patio of the restaurant, at the same table they had right before May had been.

"Well, hopefully we aren't interrupted this time," May said, placing her fanny pack on the table.

"Pika," Pikachu agreed from Ash's shoulder.

Ash chuckled and picked up his menu. "So now that we've done all there is to do in Slateport, I figured we'd head over to Mauville Town," the trainer said as he studied the menu. "There's a gym there and a contest taking place soon."

"That is... If you want to do contests," Ash said, looking up at May.

The girl looked at him for a moment before smiling. "Yeah, why not? If it strengthens my bond with my Pokémon," she said. "Plus the ribbons are really pretty too."

There was a loud thumping noise heard on the restaurant's patio as a tall man wearing a hooded jacket sped across. He dashed by Ash and May's table, snatching up the fanny pack May had left lying there.

The girl's eyes widened as she saw the thief run off with her stuff. "Hey!" May exclaimed. "He just took my fanny pack!" The girl stood up from the table as she saw the man getting away. "That has my Pokémon in it!"

Will this villainess thief be able to get away? Will May be able to get her Pokémon back? And will the irony of the situation teach her a lesson? Find out next episode of The Bad Habit!

Sorry for the wait, I had theater this semester and it sucked up a lot of my time. But the play is finished, so I should have more time to write.

Until next time

The Shiny Gengar