Christmas this year in Kalos was a very white one. Drifts were blown up several feet, and the refuse from pathways cleared piled up even higher, reminiscent of mountain ranges. Winter had come unexpectedly fast and with unheard-of amounts of precipitation. The news was calling it a new record in Kalos' history. Many towns had been snowed in, and the League had shut down for the holidays both for celebration, and to aid those unable to dig their way out. Kalos had no formal military, so the League played the part of National Guard when it was needed.
While outdoors the winds howled and stirred up snow, the inside of the Lumiose Labs building was quite warm and welcoming. Pokémon were scattered around the third-floor flat where Augustine lived; some slept contently by the radiators while others played a game of tag in the hallway.
She glanced away from the TV set for a moment and gazed over the arm of the sofa, into the basket beside it. Pinkie and Pomme were curled around each other, snoozing. Pinkie purred softly in her sleep, her ribbon-feelers coiled loosely around the other Eevee as a sign of trust and affection. Pomme's midnight-blue eyes opened after a moment, perhaps sensing a watcher, and glanced up at her. His ears perked in question. She smiled benevolently at them and reached down to stroke the top of his head, earning a happy whine. Behind her came the soft padding of socked feet on hardwood.
"Your chocolat, mademoiselle~"
Augustine offered her one of the two mugs in hand before rejoining her on the sofa.
"Have I missed a lot?"
"Oh, they just wrapped up dinner, and she went dancing with Jack. Her fiancée is… not taking it very well. Now her mom is giving her hell and telling her not to screw up her engagement with the rich jerk."
"Then I have missed a lot."
"Want a pastry?"
The platter on the coffee table was given some consideration, and he reached forward to select an almond crescent half robed in chocolate. She reached for a slice of banana bread.
"Mmh! Your maman makes the most perfect cookies, cheri."
"Careful, they're addictive~"
They snacked in silence, observing the movie as it unfolded. A glance at the platter several minutes later revealed a significant loss of almond cookie stock, and a number of jam-filled ones. She smiled into her mug of hot chocolate.
As the couple on the ship's bow embraced, Augustine sighed, turning her attention. His eyes were riveted to the screen, his mug halfway to his mouth seemingly forgotten. The couple on screen stopped talking and the music rose in volume; a glance told her they were kissing. Turning her gaze back to Augustine, she watched the corner of his mouth curl gently into a smile.
"Are you sure you haven't seen this movie before?" He shook his head.
"Non, I would have remembered a scene this lovely."
She chuckled at that. Augustine, she had learned, was a romantic and in love with love itself. He was bashful of the verbal confession itself, and so relied on countless little gestures to say what he was too shy to express otherwise. Since moving to Lumiose for school, she had come home to her own flat to a half-dozen offerings of flowers, each with a short phrase. Sometimes it was poetry, other times just a voice to his thoughts. Sometimes he merely left a card in her mailbox, or a ribbon-wrapped box with a trinket that meant something to them and all of nothing to anyone else.
"You are staring, ma belle."
"I like what I'm looking at." She chuckled and reached up to tap the tuft of hair that was his ponytail. "You look really cute with this. How come you don't wear it more often?"
"Because it makes me look, as you said, cute." He glanced away from the TV and cocked an eyebrow at her. "Head researchers of labs are not meant to be cute."
"So you wear it only for me, then?"
He began to smile and finally laughed outright.
"Oui, d'accord. I wear it for you. Because you think it is cute."
She grinned, satisfied with that reasoning. Another quick sip of her drink, and then the cup was set down on the table and she drew her legs up.
"Scootch over, I wanna cuddle."
He shifted further back on his seat and held the cup aloft, away from their antics so as to avoid an unpleasant shower. She crawled into his lap, carefully settled her weight, and draped her legs over his thighs. His arm on the armrest provided just enough support for her shoulders as he inadvertently cradled her against him. A few adjustments to ease sweatpants and button-down shifted taut, and she quieted again.
He sipped from his mug just over her head, then leaned forward to place it on the table. The movement rolled them both a little, and pressed his chest against hers tightly enough to be uncomfortable, but then he leaned back, empty handed and settled again. His arm draped around her middle, and his fingers found the hem of her shirt to idle with.
"Oh, I like this part~"
"Is she giving him the necklace?"
She held very still and quiet, a mischievous smile playing on her lips as the scene progressed. The fingers toying with her shirt stilled and she glanced up; sure enough, Augustine was watching intently.
"Put your arm back-"
"Tell me when it looks right?"
"Right, now… head down and eyes on me."
She was more interested in the abject fascination playing out on his face than the movie; the faint flutter of his lashes as his eyes moved over the screen; the unconscious swallow and parting of lips; the way he finally licked his lips and seemed to come back to himself as the scene changed.
"C'était exquis. Like an old Kalosian histoire d'amour."
"You read romance novels?"
He glanced down at her.
"What? Of course not, they are completely unrealistic."
"Then you've read enough to know the difference?"
"Unfortunately schools have reading list requirements."
"Uh-huh." She grinned teasingly. "Don't worry, I won't tell."
"Who would believe you?" His own smile was playful, if not a touch predatory.
"I'm the Champion. Who wouldn't?"
"I would deny it to my very last breath."
"Lotta good that'd do. 'Everyone! Augustine Sycamore reads romance novels! And he loves rom-coms and mushy love scenes, too! What a perv!'"
Her last words ended in a shriek as he assaulted her ribs and tickled her into submission. His laughter rose as hers dwindled into breathy chuckles and she gave him a weak slap on the knee.
"That's playing dirty!"
"All is fair in the game of love and war."
A low growl turned their heads to the other end of the sofa. Pomme was up and stretching, and Pinkie was gingerly climbing out of the basket. Their Trainers' courting antics had proven too boisterous and the pair were leaving to find somewhere quieter to nap.
"Aw, I'm sorry, Pinks."
*Do not be sorry. You and Professor are doing your mating dance. It is only right to give you space.* The Sylveon perked her ears and stretched. *May we get some Puffs? I am hungry again.*
"Sure, they're on the kitchen counter. Help yourself, sweetie."
As the two Eevees departed, she smiled after them.
"Isn't it adorable how they became a couple after we did?"
"Your Pinkie seems to eat a lot lately. Is she well?"
"Pomme didn't tell you?"
"Tell me what?"
She sighed and shook her head.
"Don't worry, it's nothing bad. You'll find out soon enough."
His brow furrowed in thought, and she could all but see the gears in his head turning. After a moment, his expression lightened and, incredulous, he glanced over the back of the sofa towards the general direction of the kitchen. A grin lit his face.
"How wonderful that will be!" He hugged her tight and laughed. "I wish you had told me sooner."
"You would have begun to notice in another week or two. Don't worry, she's in good health."
She chuckled and felt him squeeze her again, giddy at this new development. It was no secret that Pokémon were his first and true love, and each one he raised, bred, or studied was given the same care as any parent would a child. It sparked a thought, a hesitant notion that wanted to be asked aloud. She bit her lip and reached up to pluck at his shirt, a nervous gesture.
"Do you think we would ever…?"
His smile softened and he brushed her hair back.
"Petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid."
"Little by little, the bird makes his nest?"
"It means all in good time."
"But… but do you think…?"
"I think many things, but I act upon only a few. Who can say what will be? We have each other; isn't that enough for now?"
Augustine kissed her forehead and smiled.
"Three might be nice, someday." Another kiss. "For now, I want to keep you all to myself."
He watched the tension drain from her and was relieved it was the answer she wanted. A tilt of her face brought her lips nearer, and he indulged. That first kiss was forgiveness and a promise, a toast to things yet to come, and yet he kept drinking.
"Augustine," she whispered against his mouth. "You draw, don't you?"
"Would you draw me sometime? With my championship medal?"
Her fingers plucked at his shirt again, and he felt a devilish smile cross his face.
"I want you to draw me like one of your Kalosian girls."
"Mon plaisir, but I fear I may not do you justice."
"Do you need some time to warm up?"
She shifted and suggestively tilted her body closer to him. The oversized shirt she'd borrowed off him still showed a good deal of collar and upper chest.
"I think I do. Sketching plants and Pokémon is not the same as the human body."
He brushed his lips over hers, barely there. The hand at her waist found the gape in the fabric and slipped underneath.
"A woman's curves are too beautiful not to draw properly. I believe some figure drawing would be a perfect warm up."
As he spoke, she felt his fingertips tracing the curves of her body under the shirt as if he were sketching her with touch. She pulled his head down and claimed his mouth, her hands only releasing him to help undo the buttons down her front. The movie murmured distantly, forgotten in the wake of his caresses that were not long after followed by kisses. Her gasps and giggles were briefly interrupted by the struggle to divest him of his own shirt.
"I think we may have to postpone the ending of this film," Augustine chuckled as he disentangled their bodies and got up off the sofa. He offered her a hand up.
"Monsieur, you seem a capable artist, but I don't want mere sketches."
"Then come into my studio and let me give you a masterpiece."
Their laughter was the only sound in the apartment before the bedroom door closed behind them.
"Please, ma belle, you're distracting me."
"But you look so handsome when you're concentrating."
"Shhh~ Tilt your head again."
It took another half hour before he set down his pencils and called her over to give her critique. She slipped on his shirt –now highly rumpled- and got off the bed.
"Let's see, let's see~" she sang and allowed him to pull her into his lap. The medal around her neck was cold where it hung against her belly, and she immediately moved it to the exterior of the shirt.
"I pray you do not dislike it."
Augustine meekly offered the portrait and buried his face against her neck, breathing in the scent of sex that still clung to her skin. His concept had been to recreate the expression she had worn when receiving her medal the first time; happy, tired, content, victorious. After they'd collapsed panting atop the bed, three out of four had seemed all but handed to him. The sense of pride had been easy to dredge up, and it shone vividly in her eyes, in the intensity of her stare back at him that had more than once made him uncomfortable for all the right reasons as he lovingly sketched every line of her body. Victory had come and gone, and it would never return in exactly that shade, but pride… Pride was what she had gained. Pride was a girl having become a woman; a weak, weepy Trainer having become the heroine of a nation and the strongest Champion the League had seen in generations.
Her tone was flat. Flat and betraying nothing. She was trying to spare his feelings. It was an awful piece, and he regretted ever agreeing to-
"I look really hot."
Oh. Well, then.
"Am I really that muscular?"
"You are fit and healthy."
"I never thought of it that way… But still, I'm really tank for a girl."
"You are beautiful," he added, kissing her with each affirmation. "And womanly, and powerful, and sexy."
Staring at the likeness of herself on the sheet of paper, she wanted to believe him. He'd posed her on her back, slightly propped up against the pillows. Her leg cocked just so tilted her hips to hide her more vulnerable parts. One hand idly toyed with the edge of the medal resting against her ribs, the other thrown back over her head with abandon. Her hair was a tousled, tangled mess from their earlier lovemaking, and hung haphazardly around her face and over her shoulders, barely disguising her breasts. Her skin had been shaded so as to capture the flush of heat and sheen of sweat that bathed her. Her lips were beestung and her eyes intense and piercing.
Overall it gave her an air of equal parts luxury, debauchery, and power. She wondered if this was what he truly saw when he looked at her; a beautiful, confident, deadly warrior. A champion. And yet for her hardness, he knew how to soften and smooth her into something warm, pliant, and willing.
She set the drawing down on the nightstand and turned to stroke his hair back for it had fallen free of its tail. She kissed him.
"Thank you. It's wonderful, and I love it. You have a great talent, Augustine. You really do."
"Merci bien. Your praise is the highest."
"You don't ever say the words, but I think I know you love me."
"À chaque inspiration et chaque battement de mon coeur, ma flamme."
She smiled and touched their foreheads together, fingertips stroking his face.
"I'm curious; why 'ma flamme'? I'm not on fire."
"You may not be, but you give me a great fire in here." Her hand was grasped, kissed, and placed against his bare chest. "I believe there is an expression that likens a lover to a little flame."
Her smile returned, and with it, a warm blush to her cheeks. Fingers teased lightly over his chest. Likewise, his own fingers were wandering up her flank.
"Of all your little nicknames, you say it the least, but I think it means the most. Your flame, your lover… Even then, you were saying you-"
Augustine kissed her sweetly, letting the rest of her words go unsaid.
"Yes. Even then. All this time."
"But… but I was sixteen."
"Were you not a woman?"
"But in my old home, sixteen is still a teenager."
"In Kalos, sixteen is a woman." He smiled and kissed her cheek, her jaw, her throat. "Grown or not, you still believed yourself a child. I would not have destroyed that illusion for my own sake. You know I am no villain."
She smiled and laughed softly. She had grown so much since moving to Kalos. Her old life seemed like a dream, a life lived by a completely different person she'd known so long ago and had forgotten.
"Was it hard to wait?"
"Oui. Et non." He brushed her hair back over her shoulder, kissed her neck again and softened his voice. "Can you truly appreciate a rose before she is fully bloomed? You cannot. But you know the day will come, and so you wait and protect her and allow her to grow as she will."
"Have I been… worth the wait?"
"Il n'est jamais venu à moi que vous ne seriez pas."
Augustine's hands reached up to graze her chest and she watched him pluck up the ribbon drawn taut with the medal's weight hanging from it. It was lifted off and set atop the drawing on the nightstand, revealing the gape of skin between the two halves of his shirt on her frame. Head bowed and kissed between her breasts as her arms encircled his shoulders.
The shadows on the walls danced as they retreated to the bed again, intent upon each other.
He knew how to engrave upon her flesh the words he couldn't say, and yet had been saying all along.