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Valerie's Admirer (complete)

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by CrazyRabidPony, Oct 23, 2014.

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  1. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Valerie's Admirer
    Written By:​
    Mr. Ben​
    Rated PG-13 for mature humor in future chapters​
    Chapter One: An Awkward Proposal

    Laverre, a quaint and cozy city encompassed by forest and nestled between the marshlands and Kalos' largest supplier of Poke' Balls. One could say the place was akin to a town found in a fairytale, with it's rustic homes and beauteous landscape. Not to mention it was the home to the local Gym run by Valerie, the trainer of Fairy-type Pokémon.

    It was a quiet day, the city's café quite empty, save for its employees and few customers and their Pokémon companions. It was a small shop, though its menu held a wide variety of coffees and baked goods, and one side of the room had board games set up for use. One table set near the middle of the room was occupied by Dragon-type Pokémon while their trainer was scanning the menu from his position at the counter and took up an idle chatter with the owner.

    A Goomy, sitting right on top of the table, stared at the far wall with a vacant smile and occasionally blinked her beady black eyes. A Shelgon was resting on her belly, currently sulking over the recent loss at the aforementioned Gym while a Dratini was coiled up on top of her large, armored back. A Fraxure, who was now bored of just standing by the table, decided to wander over to his trainer's side with a sigh.

    The owner of the party of four was a young man of twenty-two years. By looking at him, one could tell he was the type who trained his body as well as his Pokémon. He often lifted weights and hit the treadmill to keep a fit and masculine appearance. He was a brunette, his hair slightly long and scruffy. A patch of stubble was noticeable on his chin, marking the beginnings of a goatee. He wore a clean white wife beater underneath a blue denim vest and donned cargo shorts with a monochromatic camouflage pattern, along with a belt that held his Balls.

    Jackson was his name. He was an average man, though his love for Pokémon ran deeper than most. Despite his rugged and mannish exterior, he was very sweet and tender-hearted. He was confident on the battlefield almost to the point of obnoxiousness... but the last couple of battles with a certain Gym Leader had left him... nervous. At a loss for words. His Pokémon had never seen him like this before. It wasn't like him to get flustered during a battle.

    Graciously accepting his latte with a "thank you", Jackson turned around to head back to the table with his Fraxure at his heels. He didn't make it back though. Halfway there, he dropped his cup, the lid popping off upon impact with the floor and spilling the steaming contents upon the tiled floor. Unintentionally attaining the attention of his Pokémon, his bright blue eyes were glued upon what had caused such a reaction.

    A young woman, with obsidian black hair that cascaded down her back had entered the room, with purple eyes that displayed a deep-seated kindness, and wore upon her a customized pink dress that was reminiscent of an Audino and high stilettos that made her appear taller than she actually was. It was Valerie, the Gym Leader--and at her side, was her Sylveon.

    Realizing his blunder, Jackson rushed to grab two handfuls of napkins and dropped to his knees in front of the hot puddle to clean it up. Pressing the napkins in the middle of the puddle, the liquid was quickly absorbed through every layer and was soon reminded that he had ordered a hot drink. Flinching upon being seared, Fraxure brought a clawed hand to his face, closing his eyes to shake his head slowly with a sigh. With haste, the man retrieved more napkins to finish up the job, watching as Valerie made her way to the counter to order an iced coffee.

    A small smile tipped his lips as Sylveon nuzzled his trainer's leg, causing the dark-haired women to reach down to stroke his ear. Jackson had always been drawn to people who possessed tight bonds with their Pokémon. He had observed during all four battles with her that she definitely loved hers. How she commanded them with such politeness and praised them when her fairies crushed his dragons. His admiration for her had grown after every defeat. Yet, underneath that delicate demeanor he sensed much inner strength, and the fact that he knew so little about her shrouded her in an aura of mystery, creating a yearn to get to know her better.

    Receiving a slap in the back of the head by the irritated Fraxure, he tore his eyes from her, he resumed cleaning up, his Pokémon riddled with confusion. However, Dratini's eyes lit up in realization and a smirk spread across his maw. Despite being in his base form, he was actually Jackson's first Pokémon. Naturally, being so close to the man, it didn't take him long to figure out the man was attracted to the woman. He also picked up his crippling shyness and came to the conclusion that he wasn't going to make the first move.

    As Jackson gathered up the pile of soaked napkins and left to dispose of them, Dratini seized this as an opportunity to break the ice for him. Sliding off of Shelgon's back, he slithered up to the woman, saying his name in order to grab her attention.

    With a confused blink, Valerie lowered her gaze to the serpentine Pokémon and offered a gentle smile.

    "Oh! Why, hello there little one." Crouching down and positioning herself onto her knees, she set down her iced coffee and smoothed out any creases in her dress before extending her hand to scratch him underneath his chin. "You're a cute little Dratini."

    Dratini closed his eyes and cooed as he leaned into the scratches. His voice reaching the ears of his trainer, Jackson slowly turned around after dropping the last of the napkins into the trash bin, his eyes widening at what they beheld. He quickly surmised that his Pokémon had figured out that he liked that woman and was making an attempt to help him. He considered just sitting at his table and waiting for Dratini to come back to him, but he didn't want to disappoint his Pokémon. Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat, he nervously made his way over.

    'Just keep it cool, Jackson,' he mentally mused. 'You got this.'

    Catching him out of the corner of her eye, Valerie turned her head to the young man with a soft smile.

    "Hello. Is this your Dratini, good sir? He's quite a beautiful specimen," she said, stroking her fingers across one of the Pokémon's ear frills and down his neck and back, admiring his bright eyes and glossy scales that indicated excellent health.

    Dratini blushed lightly at the compliment and let out a happy squeal. Glancing up at Jackson, he shot him an approving expression. He definitely liked this human.

    'Calm down,' he thought, forcing a nervous smile, as his mind raced for something to say. 'You weren't THIS nervous when you were at the Gym. Just pretend you're in the Gym!'

    Pushing down his nervousness and putting on a more confident mask, he opened his mouth to voice the first thing that popped into his head.

    "I challenge you to a battle!" Jackson subsequently mentally kicked himself. 'Dammit! Not THAT!'

    Valerie's smile faltered at this sudden exclamation, but only briefly.

    "A battle? My, my, you must be really confident in your skills." She paused to glance at each of his Pokémon. "Especially if you're a Dragon trainer."

    "Uhhh..." The man's mask diminished. "I actually... battled you before... Four times."

    Grasping her iced coffee and standing straight up, Valerie's mind traced back to her past opponents. Upon recognition, she brought her free hand upon her forehead.

    "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I have so many challengers their faces begin to blend together after a while. Yes, I remember you now. You're Jackson, aren't you? Four matches, all of them failure. Quite miserably, at that."

    Despite the embarrassed pink that bloomed upon his cheeks, Jackson's eyes flickered with excitement. She actually remembered him! Remembered his name!

    "Y... yeah..."

    "I assume the stakes are the same as usual, then?" she questioned, though she assumed she already knew the answer.

    "Actually... uh... I would..." He gave pause for a moment as nervousness gripped him harder. "I'd... like to make a... a, uh... suggestion... of some sort... thing."

    Fraxure shook his head while Shelgon rolled her eyes.

    "If... I, um... win using... one Pokémon... you... eh..." Jackson trailed off, then continued to talk after an encouraging nudge from Dratini. "Uh... go on... a... erm... date?"

    Having not been expecting that, she blinked in mild surprise, then giggled, as if in great amusement.

    "A date? ... You're adorable." She knew she had her share of admirers, especially during her stint as a model back in Johto, but she figured anyone who was this adorably awkward and had the courage to ask her out was worth giving a shot. "You don't have to challenge me just to ask that. But, I accept your challenge, nevertheless. Though, are you sure you just want to use ONE Pokémon?"

    Jackson's eyes snapped wide open in bewilderment.

    "Seriously? Uh... well... uh... maybe... two."

    Valerie giggled a second time.

    "Hmm. So then. Laverre Gym. Whenever you're ready."

    "Y-yeah... S... see you then..." The man sidestepped back to his table, groping the air in the vicinity of his chair and ended up tripping over it. "Gah!

    Valerie, watching, expressed concern at first, wondering if he had hurt himself. Seeing that he was just fine, couldn't help but let out a laugh, shaking her head as she exited the establishment, her Sylveon plodding beside her.

    Jackson laid there on his back, his legs draped over the seat of the chair with a wide grin plastered upon his face. He had a battle he needed to prepare for. But, if he used any of his dragons, the results would be the same. He knew what he had to do.

    He had to get a new Pokémon, and he knew just the one he wanted.
  2. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Two: The Rematch

    Two weeks passed since Jackson had challenged Valerie to another battle. He spent his time diligently training the newest member of his team when he wasn't at work. The first thing he did upon acquiring his new Pokémon was effort value train it via the super training method. The young man allowed the creature rest before they worked on leveling up, taking great care not to exhaust it.

    As the final day of the second week elapsed, he made his way to the Gym, clutching the Premier Ball that contained his trained and rested Pokémon in his hand, as if he was in danger of losing it at any moment. He only held onto the Ball tighter as he went through the warp panels that activated a mild motion sickness. Teleporting from room to room, he had caught the smirks of furisode-cloaked girls he passed as he staggered dizzily towards the next panel. Judging by their expressions, he figured that they remembered him, and had prejudged the outcome of the upcoming rematch.

    Upon entering the final room, he wavered on his feet and waited for the dizzy spell to dissipate.

    "I... I'm here!"

    A smile of recognition pulled at Valerie's lips upon the young man's arrival. She had wondered what was keeping him after the first few days, but figured he either had taken the time to train or something personal had come up. Dipping into a quick bow, she went into her standard introduction.

    "If it isn't a young trainer. So, you've flown all the way through my Gym, fluttering down to me on a fortunate wind."

    She didn't bother finishing, knowing he had heard her speech before.

    "Eh... sorry it... took so long..." Jackson apologized as he stepped forth, the remnants of his lightheadedness fading. "I... was training... a new Pokémon... One that's NOT a... a dragon."

    Tossing the Premier Ball up in the air, it cracked open and released a stream of red light that materialized into an Aron. The small Pokémon blinked up at his trainer and let out a happy cry, running up to him and taking the man's shoelace into his mouth playfully.

    "A-Aron!" the man sputtered as embarrassment washed over him.

    The woman giggled in delight at the small Pokémon's antics. She always loved watching Pokémon act so playful, whether it be with their trainer or other Pokémon.

    "A Steel type? You're not the only one who has tried that tactic."

    "Aron! It's not time to play!" Jackson sighed, still reeling in the discomfiture, as Aron left his shoe alone and shifted his attention to Valerie. "Uh... I'm... sure I'm not... Let's... begin the battle, then."

    "Are you sure this Pokémon is what you wish to battle with? He looks more ready to play than anything." She shook her head upon receiving a nod from the man and fished out one of her Poke' Balls. "Very well then. Come on out, Mawile!"

    Hurling the Poke' Ball, the said Mawile was released.

    "All right, Aron! Uh, let's do this! Iron Defense!" the young man commanded with belying currents of nervousness due to the presence of the Gym Leader.

    Nodding in acknowledgement, the already highly defensive Pokémon's steel hide glowed with a metallic shine to sharply increase his defense.

    "Go, Mawile. Light up the beautiful battlefield with Fire Fang!" Valerie instructed.

    Mawile let out a cry, rushing to meet her opponent. Her wide jaws split open to attack, fangs engulfed in flames. Aron took the attack, his Rock typing canceling out the weakness to Fire. Due to his natural high defense and the increase from Iron Defense, he took little damage.

    Jackson's shock from just learning the Mawile knew such an attack caused him to hesitate, and he was grateful he didn't choose a Steel type with a secondary typing that resisted Fire. Otherwise, he would've been in trouble.

    "O-okay, Aron... Mud Slap!"

    Yelling out his name, carrying it out on a lengthy note, Aron sent a wave of mud at Mawile. An expression of shock flickered over Valerie's visage, then quickly recalled Aron's secondary type. She mentally admonished herself for forgetting that it's other type was Rock, thinking that it was part Ground. But, it was part of the pressures that weighed down upon a trainer during battle.

    As the Mud Slap not only did double damage, but partially obscured her Pokémon, and she called out to her.

    "Go, precious! Use your Power-Up Punch!"

    The Steel-and-Fairy type whirled around, her fist glowing as she swung it at Aron. Jackson clenched his fists as the attack delivered quadruple damage. Like a defensive champ, Aron hung on well and waited for directions.

    "Aron, Iron Head!"

    Releasing another cry, the small Pokémon charged ahead, crashing into his opponent's abdomen. Being Steel type herself, Mawile took the standard amount of damage, but tottered aback, stunned and her eyes spinning.

    "All right!" Wide grin spawning upon his features, he threw his fist forward to order another attack. He wasn't going to give Mawile a chance to recover. "Hit her with another Mud Slap!"

    Mawile cried out in protest as she received several globs of mud right in her eyes. At her trainer's command, she raised her arm to bring down a Brick Break, though she couldn't aim as she couldn't see. Lowering his rounded head, Aron charged forth, intending on using a second Iron Head.

    Gasping lightly, Valerie waited until the Aron was in proximity before shouting out her next command.

    "Mawile, to your left! Brick Break!"

    Mawile shifted to the left, preparing to swing, but the Aron smashed into her and sent her flying into one of the walls with enough power to leave a sizable hole with spider web-like cracks spouting from the edges. Dropping to the floor and pulling herself up, she was subsequently struck with a Metal Claw, Aron's attack power rising one stage.

    Valerie glowered, balling up her hands underneath her sleeves.

    "Mawile, retaliate! Use your Iron Head, too!"

    The Mawile dropped her true head, her large set of jaws gleaming and swinging out in a wide, wild, three-hundred sixty degree spin. Aron took it, their metal hides colliding with a loud CLANG. The built-up momentum sent the Steel-and-Rock type flying and rolling across the floor. Pushing himself up, he shook his head with a groan.

    "Come on, Aron!" Jackson encouraged, his brows sinking as his amplified determination caused his nervousness to wilt. "One more Metal Claw!"

    Emitting a high-pitched roar, Aron galloped towards Mawile and raked his paw across her chest, the other creature exhuming a pained cry--that last finger flick to the forehead being the straw that broke the Camerupt's back. Stumbling, Mawile collapsed on the floor in a defeated heap.

    "Yeeeaaah! Good job, Aron!" Jackson praised his victorious Pokémon, then shot Valerie a smirk with newfound confidence now that her most physically defensive Pokémon was down.

    Valerie stood there as she processed what just happened. Raising a covered hand to her chin, her befuddlement formed into a smile.

    "My... That was... quite the exhilarating battle." Her smile faltered only the tiniest of degrees. "Hmm. Congratulations."

    The young man's smile stretched wider.

    "Th... thank you... Go ahead and... send out the next."

    At this, Valerie's smile completely faltered, but her expression retained pleasantness.

    "Oh. Well, I'm afraid that's not quite possible. You see, I assumed you still planned on using one Pokémon..."

    Jackson paused, his own smile fading. True, he did plan on using one Pokémon, mostly to impress her, but now he got the feeling that wouldn't be happening.

    "Y... yeah."

    "I only prepared one Pokémon for battle," she informed.

    "Uh... Ooooh. All right." The man's grin returned, his eyes twinkling. "So, we win!"

    Releasing a euphoric cheer, he hefted up his one-hundred thirty-two pound Pokémon in his strong arms. Holding Aron in an embrace, he turned his gaze back to Valerie, his nervousness returning with full force.

    "So, uh... about... that... date?"

    Valerie giggled lightly, holding up Mawile's Poke' Ball to recall it.

    "You didn't have to challenge me to ask me out, my young trainer."

    Jackson set Aron back on the floor, the small Pokémon nuzzling the man's leg.

    "Uh... yeah. You... did say that before... Will... you... go on a date?"

    The woman nodded once. This man obviously worked hard for this win and he seemed nice enough. Therefore, she saw no reason not to allow him a date with her.

    "Of course I will."

    A wide berth plastered itself on Jackson's face, his eyes lighting up as he was filled to the brim with bliss.

    "Awesome! How... does dinner sound?"

    "Dinner sounds fine," she replied, internally amused by his obvious exhilaration. She was rewarded with another comical display of enthusiasm as she witnessed the man leap once.

    "When do you get off?" he questioned, his anticipation palpable.

    "The Gym remains open until six this evening. I'll be done taking challengers by then."

    "A-all right, I'll... pick you up then!" He dropped his vision to Aron. "C'mon, Aron. You definitely deserve a reward for your effort!"

    Receiving a pleased utterance from his Pokémon, Jackson took one last look at Valerie before turning to leave, promptly tripping thanks to the loose shoelace.

    Chapter Three: A Not-So-Good Start

    Jackson felt nothing could damper his elation. Right after leaving the Gym, he took a trip to one of the nearby stores that specifically sold products for Pokémon and purchased a toy of Aron's choice. Usually, when he went to one of these stores, he would wander around and browse, but the imminent date with Valerie prevented him from doing so.

    As soon as he entered his home, he made a beeline for the shower--even though, he had taken one that morning. He took extra time to make sure he was clean, and even brushed his teeth five times and rinsed it out with mouthwash between brushes. After that, he gave the black motorcycle bearing decorative flames a good wash, polishing it to a reflective sheen.

    As the time drew closer to six o' clock, the young man retrieved a second helmet from his closet, sliding the strap over one of the handlebars to let it hang while he mounted the vehicle and put on his own. Revving up the engine, he took off.

    The loud and obnoxious rumbling of the motorcycle's engine alerted Valerie as Jackson pulled up in front of the Gym. Bringing a foot to the ground to hold it up while it remained in place, he turned his attention to the woman, a large smile taking up his countenance.

    "H-hey, Valerie... I'm here... Right on time."

    She said nothing at first as her eyes traced the motorcycle. Bringing a covered hand to her mouth, she lightly pursed her lips. She wasn't generally one for motorcycles. She saw no beauty in such a device--thinking them loud, wasteful, and fairly ugly.

    Jackson was confused as to why she didn't respond, that, and the look on her face only managed to magnify his puzzlement.

    "... Uh... ready to go?"

    Valerie stepped closer, her purple orbs scanning the vehicle once more before lifting them to meet his gaze.

    "... You came on that?"

    It was more of a statement than an actual question, making it quite apparent that she wasn't impressed at all.

    "Well... yeah..." He dropped his eyes to the helmet dangling from the handlebar and removed it. "It gets me around fast and it's not a fuel guzzler."

    Still, Valerie wasn't impressed.

    "Still. A beast of this caliber creates exhaust, and noise. It disrupts tranquility and Pokémon's sensitive hearing." She paused for a moment to fold her hands in front of her, looking displeased. "Don't you know things like this are harmful to the planet?"

    Jackson just stared at her for several quiet moments, his nervousness increasing. He certainly hadn't thought of that simply because it was never brought up around him. People he shared company with never thought twice about using a fuel-powered vehicle.

    "... I guess... I... didn't... think... about that... My Pokémon... don't mind it."

    The woman exhumed a sigh, her facial features softening.

    "... I'm sorry, but motorcycles... never impressed me. I'm not one for... machines."

    "Eh... it's all right." Jackson's smile returned, though at a fraction of the size it had been when he had arrived, and extended the helmet for her to take. "Uh... hopefully, I will end up impressing you tonight."

    Accepting the helmet and slipping it on, she climbed aboard. Feeling the thing vibrate beneath her, she sighed. Once they parked into a space, she removed the helmet and got to work fixing her hair as she and Jackson dismounted. The both of them stepped into what appeared to be a nineteen fifties-style restaurant with polished black and white tiled floors and the daily specials displayed on a nearby chalkboard. They were quickly escorted to the dining area consisting of two lines of booths with a speckled marble table and faux leather seating.

    As they were led to one of the booths and given a pair of colorful plastic bound menus, they had noticed that several customers had their Pokémon out. Once their escort left to fetch a waiter, Jackson didn't hesitate releasing his companions. The Pokémon stretch and yawn in contentment, with the exception of Goomy and Aron, the small Steel type holding an Igglybuff plush in his mouth with an expression of bliss.

    Shifting in the seat and re-adjusting her dress, she smiled upon spotting the fluffy, pink object in Aron's mouth.

    "Did you just get that for him?"

    Jackson smirked and leaned back to sink against the back support of his seat.

    "Yeah... He really likes it. He hasn't put it down since I gave it to him." He let out a chuckle as the small Pokémon squeaked the toy between his jaws, then returned his attention to Valerie. "Aren't... you... going to let out your Pokémon?"

    Smile stretching a tiny bit, she reached into her dress for Mawile's Poke' Ball and let the creature out. Despite looking a little tired, the Pokémon was none the worse for wear. Aron, turning to Mawile, smiles as he toddles over to her. Squeaking the toy in his mouth, he leaned in and raised his head as an invitation for her to take it. The fellow Steel-type blinked in surprise at the offer, then accepted it with a smile, giving the plush a squeak between her hands.

    The humans noticed this, another chuckle exiting Jackson.

    "Heh... I guess I won't... have to worry about Aron hogging toys."

    "I suppose so." The woman removed her eyes from the Pokémon. "... So you caught that... specifically to battle me?"

    The young man blushed, sliding a hand over the back of his neck.

    "Um... Yeah... I'm glad I did... He's... definitely a keeper."

    Valerie reached down to caress the small Pokémon's face and scratch him underneath his chin. Upon receiving the attention, Aron murred and nuzzled her hand.

    "He certainly is a very cute one."

    "Th-thanks." Jackson rested his arms against the table, resting some of his upper body's weight upon the surface. "Um... Mawile is a pretty cool Pokémon. Eh... All of your Pokémon are."

    Valerie giggled, taking her hand away from Aron.

    "Thank you. Mime is quite the mimic, and Sylveon is very much the lover." The woman then transferred her hand to smooth it over Mawile's head. "Mawile here is my beautiful little princess, especially since... well..." She chucked again. "That's my little secret."

    Withdrawing her hand, the sleeve slid down to partially and briefly expose what appeared to be a Mega Ring. Jackson smirked, having caught a glimpse.

    "Why didn't you use it... during our battle?"

    Confusion painted itself across her face, apparently not having noticed that he had saw what she had been hiding underneath her sleeve.

    "Oh? Use what, my young trainer?"

    "Uh... I saw the Mega Ring," Jackson clarified. "Why didn't you Mega Evolve Mawile?"

    "Well, that wouldn't be fair for a Gym Battle, wouldn't it? I suppose I could have. But, you've challenged me four times beforehand. I wanted to make it a little more even."

    Jackson's expression softened to convey his gratification.

    "... Thanks. I guess if you had Mega Evolved Mawile, Aron wouldn't have... been able to... get past her defense."

    "You could say I felt pity for you," she continued. "After all, you're rather cute."

    The man's eyes widened and a bright pink blush saturated his cheeks.

    "... Th... th-thanks... You... um... you're... um, cute, too." Hearing Dratini and Goomy giggle, his blush deepened. "But... I... I, uh... I'm sure you get... compliments all the time. I mean... how couldn't you? Y... you're so... you're Pokémon are so gorgeous."

    His eyes snapped open wider at this slip-up.

    "I mean YOU'RE gorgeous!" He bit his lower lip, noticing that his Pokémon were staring at him. "I... I g-guess your Pokémon are gorgeous, too, but th-that's different!"

    Valerie couldn't help but giggle more, finding his embarrassment endearing.

    "Of course, my young trainer--I used to be a model when I lived in Johto."

    Jackson didn't know this. Then again, he wasn't the type of person who actively read information about celebrities.

    "You're from Johto? Heh... That's pretty cool. I'm actually from Blackthorn City."

    "Blackthorn? That doesn't surprise me, considering the dragons. You're training to be a Dragon Master, aren't you?" A second long pause elapsed. "I'm from Ecruteak, myself."

    "I... wanted to... eh... be a Gym Leader when... I was a kid. But... I'm not really training to be a Dragon Master. I got a job here in town and I train my Pokémon on the side."

    "A Gym Leader?" The young woman chuckled, dropping her gaze to the menu. "Kalos doesn't have a Dragon Gym. I'm sure Drasna would be pleased to see somebody start one."

    Also turning his attention to the menu, he eyed a particularly prominent photograph of a steak, baked potato, and a bed of mixed vegetables.

    "I'm pretty content with my job."

    A man with a pair of dress pants, a light blue button up shirt, and a black vest with long lavender hair pulled back into a ponytail approached with a bright smile stamped upon his face.

    "Good evening, dears, how are you doing?" he greeted in a light, slight singsong intonation, directing his attention to Jackson, who's face lit up in recognition. "Especially you, Dizzy."

    Jackson's face flushed again.


    Valerie turned a soft, yet puzzled, smile to Jackson.

    "You work here, too?"

    "Uh... I work at Dizzy's... That family restaurant slash playground place... I'm... um... the... entertainment," he revealed with a larger dosage of discomfiture.

    Jerry chuckled, a cheeky smirk tugging at his lips.

    "He's the one who dresses up in the Dizzy the Spinda costume."

    In response, Jackson lifted up the menu to hide his face. The young woman, however, beamed, quite pleased with this revelation.

    "That cute family restaurant? My Pokémon and I love that place. I never suspected that was you in the costume." She went quiet for a few seconds, tracing a finger along the table. "Tell me... do you like dressing up?"

    Jackson slowly lowered the menu, uncertain how to respond to the fact that she wasn't put off by the fact that he dressed up like a giant Spinda as entertainment for a living. He was also baffled by her question, glancing up at Jerry, uncomfortable with answering truthfully in front of his friend.

    "Uh... eh... heh... um..."

    Jerry chuckled, reading the younger man's face.

    "I'll come back later."

    With that, he turned and left them. Once he was out of Jackson's line of vision, he turned to Valerie.

    "... The costume... is comfortable... And... the kids and Pokémon love it." He swallowed, and continued. "And, um... I have a few more costumes at home..."

    Valerie leaned in slightly, her eyes alight with interest. So he did like to dress up.

    "Really? Which ones? You don't exactly strike me as the type of person to do Pokémon cosplay."

    "Uh... I got a Charizard, Dragonite... and a... Pikachu."

    This information caused Valerie's grin to broaden.

    "How sweet! I have a number of costumes as well. Clefairy, Clefable, Togetic..."

    Jackson felt more at ease now that the two of them found some common ground other than Pokémon.

    "Yeah? All fairies, I assume?"

    "Most of them," she replied. "Predominately Fairy and Normal types."

    He nodded.

    "The high-quality costumes are so expensive. That's... why I own only three. There's even scales on the fabric of my Charizard and Dragonite costumes."

    Valerie was definitely intrigued. She could understand why he didn't own as many as her. Well-made costumes were indeed expensive, and the fact that she was a Gym Leader gave her a generous enough pay to afford them all.

    "I would like to see them one day, if you would indulge my curiosity."

    Jackson's eyes practically twinkled.

    "Sure! W... would you... like to... come back to my place after dinner?"

    Valerie turned her head to the side, still keeping her eyes on him, and arched a brow with a playful smirk.

    "Inviting me over already? But we barely know each other."

    This caused Jackson to succumb to nervousness yet again.

    "... H-hanging out... is... how people get to know each other."

    Just then, the familiar waiter returned, notepad and pen in hand and at the ready. Jackson wondered if it was wrong of him to invite Valerie to his place this soon. She did say she was interested in seeing his costumes, after all.

    "Decided on what to drink?" he asked in a cheerful voice, complete with a smile that practically brightened up the room.

    "Y... yeah... The usual," Jackson answered. Sometimes, he felt a little envious of Jerry's peppiness. He seemed to always carry a veil of jollity, even in the early mornings when other people were still waking up and silently wishing they were still back at home in the comfort of their beds.

    "I'll just have water, please. Even now, I still need to retain my girlish figure," Valerie followed.

    "Right away, ma'am!" Scribbling down their choice of drinks, the lavender-haired man shifted his gaze to Jackson. "Role play night still on for Saturday?"

    A new layer of embarrassment descended upon the young brunette, keeping his eyes on Valerie, watching for any indication of disapproval. So far, he couldn't spot anything. Saying nothing, he nodded.

    "Alrighty then! I'll bring the beers!"

    Again, Jerry left them.

    Chapter Four: Conflicting Moralities

    Roleplay night... So, this young man played some sort of roleplay? That certainly was unexpected, Valerie thought to herself as she focused an intrigued stare at Jackson.

    "Roleplay night?" she ventured, a light smile playing at her lips.

    Jackson chuckled nervously. He was sorely tempted to retreat behind the menu again, but he left it flat on the table.

    "Some... friends and I... gather... at my place to... play some roleplay games."

    The young woman crossed her arms in front of her and leaned in with augmented curiosity.

    "Indeed? Tell me more."

    Jackson's starch tension lessened, relieved she didn't react negatively or give any implication that she thought of him as a nerd. As far from it as he appeared.

    "It's really fun... We drink, snack... joke around... It gets pretty crazy."

    "What all do you roleplay? I've done some things like that, to an extent," she informed him. "I often pretend that I'm a Pokémon myself--I wish I could be a Pokémon."

    At this response, Jackson was far more relaxed--to the extent to where it was noticeable by another person.

    "Games. We're starting a new one this Saturday. Knights of Sinnoh." The man gave pause, his smile extending. "I... actually... sometimes have dreams where... I'm a Pokémon."

    By the way Valerie's smile lightened, she appeared just as interested in this.

    "Oooh? Which one, if I might ask? Or is there no specific Pokémon you dream of?"

    "Different kinds. I've been a Tyranitar roaming mountains and caves, a little Caterpie crawling around grass and trees, a Pidgeot flying in the sky."

    Valerie sat back, keeping her hands folded on the table.

    "How lovely. It doesn't surprise me, really. You look like someone who'd be a Pokémon." She briefly gave a tilt of her head. "Though I can't think of any one in particular."

    Jackson seemed to entertain the idea, wearing an amused smirk.

    "Heh... I... do have some games where... you get to be a... Pokémon character."

    Valerie nodded once, as an idea spawned in her head.

    "This... roleplay night of yours. Is it invite only, or can anybody join?"

    "Do... you want to join?" he queried with a surprised blink.

    "I would... like to at least sit in on a game," she replied. "If you would have me."

    It was then Jackson donned his widest smile yet. He never would have anticipated something like this. For a date that didn't start off that well, it was certainly turning out better.

    "I'm sure the others would love to have you!"

    He averted his attention to the drinks that were set down in front of them. He hadn't even noticed Jerry approaching. Straws dropping next to the glasses, he turned a smile to their waiter.

    "What can I get you two to eat?" he asked, pressing the point of his pen on the notepad.

    "Steak," Jackson instantly replied, his voice laced with eagerness for a slab of the tender, juicy meat. "Medium rare."

    Valerie's smile dropped at the young man's choice, but she opened her mouth to voice her decision.

    "I'll have the penne with a small salad, please."

    "Right away, dears," Jerry trilled, slipping away his pen and spun around on his heel to get their orders in.

    "S... so... um..." Jackson began as he turned his head to face Valerie. "Wanna come back to my place and... see those... costumes?"

    The woman's smile drooped even further.

    "I... suppose."

    Latching onto the non-committal intonation in her voice, it became his turn for his smile to fade. What did he do this time?

    "You know... if... you don't want to... it's okay."

    Dratini lifted his gaze to Valerie, frowning at her intonation. Putting on a smile, he let out an encouraging cry. In response, she glanced down at him and reached down to stroke his head with a sigh. She couldn't be TOO angry with Jackson's deciding to eat meat. Most Pokémon were carnivores or omnivores, and she loved them just the same.

    NOW Jackson was suspecting that he had done something to upset her.

    "... Hey... what's wrong?"

    "I... don't particularly care for people that eat meat."

    Hit with this, Jackson mentally slapped himself for disconcerting her again. Just when it was beginning to go well. Why did wooing a woman have to be so complicated?

    "O-oh... uh... Tell you what..." He had to choose his words carefully, he thought. "This'll be the... only time I eat meat in front of you."

    Valerie forced a smile, running her fingers over Dratini's ear frill.

    "It's fine. I just have to remember that there are Pokémon that need to eat it for a living. Most of them can't quite... reason like we do." She sighed. "I can't stomach the thought of eating something that was once alive."

    Fraxure turned a soft glare to the woman, his expression exhibiting his mild offense. This did not fail to escape her notice.

    "I take it your Fraxure doesn't believe me when I say I'm a vegetarian."

    Jackson directed his attention to the mentioned Pokémon to read his face.

    "I think... he has the idea... that... you think eating meat... is wrong."

    Valerie tore her gaze away from Fraxure to lock eyes with the man across from her.

    "And you mean to tell me that such a way of thinking isn't? People can survive just as well consuming plant life as they do animal life. Have you ever stopped to think about how the spirit of those passed on might feel about their body being consumed? How would YOU feel if you existed as... as mere FOOD? Wouldn't that be the ultimate disrespect?"

    This Jackson had never thought about, considering Valerie was the first actual vegetarian he met. He had been raised by a family who loved to eat meat and saw no fault in consuming it. His father had always said that if they weren't meant to eat meat, then they wouldn't be able to properly digest it.

    "I... um... I actually didn't... But... I wouldn't really care what happens to my body after I died. I would be feeding someone... Helping them continue to live. I wouldn't feel disrespected."

    Valerie went quiet for a moment.

    "I suppose you have a point." She exhaled on a sigh. "I always found the act of eating what used to be a creature repulsive. What was once... like us. It had thoughts, a mind, feelings, emotions. It's akin to eating another person, almost, to me."

    Fraxure crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head in disagreement. Jackson, catching this out of the corner of his eye, brought his hand to his head to pat him.

    "Come on, Fraxure... She can feel that way if she wants." Retracting his hand, he looked to Valerie. "You know... plants are living organisms, too."

    "Well, yes, but they are not thinking, feeling creatures, are they...? Discounting the Pokémon, of course."

    No, they weren't. Plants held no mind to possess such qualities of consciousness or emotions. However, who was to say they didn't have a soul. This thought reminded Jackson of an article he had read a couple of years ago.

    "I read an article about some scientists discovering that plants might have souls."

    Valerie arched a brow as inquisitiveness inscribed itself upon her features.

    "I've never heard of such a thing."

    Jackson nodded once.

    "A strange light leaving dying plants was caught on camera several times."

    "I've read something slightly similar," she said. "How cut grass leaves off a scent--that chemical is actually them crying out in distress."

    "Plants don't have a nervous system though," he reminded. "Nature is... cruel... There's no way... to avoid creatures getting hurt, even... if there were no humans involved."

    Valerie sighed again and compressed her lips.

    "I don't like seeing people eat meat. Is that really so wrong?"

    "No, it's not... I promise I won't eat meat in front of you after today," Just then, an even better alternative popped into his head. "Or... actually, I'll get something else. For you."

    She shook her head and leaned in to reach across the table.

    "No, you don't have to. I can't ask you to do that for my sake."

    "I don't mind. Really, I don't," Jackson insisted, putting on a smile. "I can have my steak to go."

    Valerie couldn't help but feel a bit... touched that he would do this for her. While she dreaded watching people eat meat, she didn't want to deny him a meal he was looking forward to. Biting her lower lip, she glanced off.

    "If you insist. You don't have to do it, my young trainer."

    Hearing the rattling of dishes, Jackson averted his gaze and spotted Jerry approaching them with their food. As the plates were set down, the young man politely thanked him.

    "Thanks. Hey, Jerry? Can I get a box for this meal and have the egg sandwich, on sourdough?"

    The older man appeared confused, knowing that Jackson always looked forward to consuming a steak dinner, but he didn't question it. Nodding with a smile, he left to do just that.

    Valerie appeared grateful, though she still felt guilt, a smile tipping her lips as she rested her hand upon Jackson's.

    "... Thank you. I'm sorry if I sounded selfish."

    Jackson's face flushed, his stomach tripping in his abdomen at the physical contact.

    "Uh... eh, d-don't... w-worry about it... It's... f-fine."

    He didn't say anything else after that. He didn't know what to say. That simple touch to his hand left him speechless. Perhaps this date will turn out fine, after all.

    Chapter Five: Costume Play

    Meal paid for and Pokémon withdrawn--making sure to leave a generous tip for his friend--, Jackson escorted Valerie back to his motorcycle. His boxed and bagged steak hanging from the handlebar, he and his date made their way to their next destination.

    The exterior of Jackson's home matched the others in the neighborhood, with the only differences being the garden hose coiled up by the house and the stone birdbath standing in the middle of the lawn, a decorative Dratini coiled around the stand holding up the actual bath.

    Unlike the almost vacant exterior and front yard, the interior of the home was lavishly bedecked by paintings of dragons--both Pokémon and non-Pokémon--and swords and even a set of chain mail armor that were possibly hundreds of years old restored to their former glory. Along the walls were also shelves holding detailed dragon statues, a lot of them quite majestic and fierce with a couple bearing a glittery finish on the scales. There were bookshelves sitting side-by-side on the wall in the back of the living room behind the couch full of roleplay games, fantasy and adventure novels, along with comic books and mangas. Some of these items were vintage and kept in excellent condition thanks to gentle handling and care. By the television set was another bookshelf stuffed with movies and anime.

    Upon entering the house, Valerie was quite taken aback at the quaint charm of the vintage décor. Her jaw partially dropped at the paintings, old swords, and the chain mail. Reaching up, she very carefully drew her fingers along them.

    "This reminds me of the Battle Chateau."

    Coming to a stop, the young man let out his Pokémon and turned to her with a wide grin.

    "I... actually never been there," he confessed, gesturing with a tilt of his head for her to follow him. "So! Costumes! I keep them in my room."

    "I'm a Marchioness, myself," she informed with a light chuckle, moving to follow him down a hall where more wall art was displayed.

    She was led into a room that was just as decorated as the living room, the walls home to paintings, a CostumeCon poster depicting people in various Pokémon costumes clustered together in one crowd and a DragonCon poster with every single discovered Dragon-type Pokémon amassed. The bed was draped with a large and thick comforter with the image of a Dragonite rising out of the ocean and an old Dratini plush with a prominent stitch located on the side. Right next to it was a nightstand with a lamp sitting on top of it and one of his comic books with a bookmark jutting out from between two pages. On one side of the bedroom, next to a dresser, was a bench press and a set of dumbbells.

    "A Marchioness? That's awesome!"

    Pulling open the closet doors, he pulled out the Charizard costume first. It, like the others were bodysuits, bulk added and sculpted into the creature's actual figure with a detachable head.

    "Oooh..." Valerie stepped forward, reaching out to touch the scales sewn into the costume, appearing very much impressed. "Oh, yes, there are ranks at the Chateau. A trainer starts as a Baron or Baroness, move up to a Viscount or Viscountess, then to an Earl or Countess. From there, they join the ranks of nobility by becoming a Marquis or Marchioness, then a Duke or Duchess. The topmost trainers are Grand Dukes and Duchesses."

    "Nice... Maybe... I should go there sometime..." He looked down at the costume, then brought his eyes back up to her. "Want... to see what it looks like on me?"

    The young woman's smile extended.

    "Yes, of course."

    Beaming, Jackson made an excited dash to the restroom to change. Re-entering the room sideways as to not to disturb the wings, he stood before the doorway and uttered a dead-on impression of a Charizard. Like his other costumes--and the Spinda he wore at work--it was restricting due to the bulk, but he was used to it.

    Arching her brows with a light gasp of feigned horror, she brought a hand to her mouth, a grin gracing her lips.

    "Oh, my! How frightening!"

    Smirking from underneath the costume, Jackson slowly stomped closer with his clawed hands extended in front of him, releasing a deep, playful growl from deep within his throat.

    Giggling, the woman moved to meet him halfway.

    "Oooh? What are you going to do with those big claws, hmmm?"

    Pausing to contemplate for a moment, he brings his hands to her abdomen to tickle her with another playful growl.

    In response, Valerie squeaked and began laughing, partially shielding herself with her arms and long sleeves.

    "That tickles! Hahahaha!"

    Chuckling in his Charizard voice, he ceased tickling her and gently and bashfully took her hands in his. Valerie wasn't the only one surprised by this. For some reason he didn't even know, he felt more confident in costume. Quickly releasing her hands, he removed the head of his costume to gaze down into her eyes with a blush.

    Lowering her gaze, she chuckled softly.

    "You look dashing in that costume," she said, eyeing it over. "It doesn't really look very heavy, either."

    The man's blush deepened.

    "I-I do, huh? It... it isn't... I guess 'cause I work out." He flexed his arm once, though nothing would be noticeable thanks to the costume, then dropped it at his side. "... Is... your outfit heavy?"

    She nodded once.

    "Hmm. Thirty-three pounds."

    Jackson blinked, a look of unexpected surprise stamping itself upon his face.

    "And you wear that ALL day? Dang! You must be strong."

    Valerie giggled again, a wider smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.

    "I'm stronger than I look., believe me."

    "Heh... I believe it. You work out often, too, I'm guessing?"

    "I do quite a bit of squats, curl-ups, and weight training," she replied. "I often do it with my Pokémon--after all, training the body is important along with training one's Pokémon."

    Looking quite impressed, the man nodded in agreement.

    "Yeah, that's true. Uh... so..." He trailed of as Dratini slithered into the room, slipping between his feet and nuzzling his head against Valerie's leg. "Hehe... Dratini really likes you..."

    Valerie smiled gently down at the small dragon.

    "He certainly does." She let out another giggle. "He's very adorable. It seems like Fraxure is the one that doesn't care for me."

    "Nah." Jackson dismissively waved his hand. "It was just that meat discussion that put him off. I know my Pokémon."

    "Really?" she questioned, still retaining her smile. "Because I wouldn't be surprised if your Pokémon didn't like me because of my... preferences."

    "Fraxure isn't like that," Jackson assured. "Shelgon probably won't like you at first. She, uh... tends to hold grudges against those who beat her."

    "The same Shelgon that Sylveon handily beat?" she ventured, figuring she already knew the answer but wanted to be sure.

    "The very same." His ears catching footsteps, he turns around to spot Shelgon entering the room. "Hey, baby."

    Shelgon regarded her trainer with affection, then glared up at Valerie. The woman just gave him a warm smile, bending over to extend her hand to her, but not touch her.

    "Such a sweetie."

    Continuing to glower, Shelgon averted her gaze. Smile fading into disproval, Jackson shook his head.

    "Come on, Shelgon. Be polite. She's a guest."

    Sighing, Shelgon turned back to Valerie and reluctantly sniffed her hand. Chuckling softly, stroking her body a couple of times before kneeling down and leaning in to plant o kiss on the top of her back. The Dragon-type scrunched up her eyes at the physical contact, not really liking it, but allowed it.

    "She's adorable. All of your Pokémon are."

    Leaning away from Shelgon, she scooped up Dratini in her arms and pushed herself back up into a standing position. Dratini sank in the woman's arms and nuzzled into her neck with a soft coo.

    Smile returning, Jackson reached back to rub the back of his neck.

    "... Thanks. So are... your Pokémon."

    Valerie smiled with a nod in acknowledgement.

    "You said you had other costumes besides this one?"


    Slipping the head back on, he walked over to his closet to pull out the Dragonite and Pikachu costumes, placing them and them down on the bed for her to view. The women looked them over, but her eyes were predominately on the Pikachu.

    "This Pikachu one here looks pretty cute..."

    "You wanna see me in that, don't you?"

    She turned her attention to him with a smirk, and even sending him a wink.

    "I wouldn't mind. I believe I have a Dedenne costume at home."

    Blushing harder underneath his costume, Jackson picked up the Pikachu costume and went back to the restroom. Upon returning, carrying the Charizard in his short arms, he did his best impression of the Pokémon he was dressed as.

    Eyes lighting up and smile broadening in delight, Valerie emitted a squeal.

    "Awww! You're so cute! How precious!"

    His cheeks growing hotter, Jackson quickly waddled over to the closet to hang the Charizard back up and toddled up to her. Shifting Dratini into one arm, Valerie brought her hand to the large head of the Pikachu costume to pet it.

    "I prefer beautiful things, but you are just too cute!"

    The young man's face was practically burning, and was thankful she couldn't see how flustered he was, but by the tone of his voice, it was distinguishable.

    "Th-thanks. Eheh..."

    Taking notice of the flustered note in his voice, she leaned in slightly.

    "Hmm. You like that, don't you?" she asked with a shred of teasing, caressing his cheek and chin.

    Though he couldn't feel her hand, he could see her arm, and he knew exactly what she was doing. Stunned, and too flustered to form a complete sentence, stammers incoherence, growing more embarrassed the more nonsense he utters.

    Retracting her hand, Valerie took a step back.

    "You're adorable, stammering like that. I take it you're not used to women complimenting you?"

    "N-not... that... often," he managed to say.

    She nodded in comprehension.

    "I understand. You don't often go out on dates, do you?"

    "No. I don't," the young man confessed. "I... really appreciate you... going out with me."

    "Well, I noticed you were quite interested in me," she stated, smoothing her hand over Dratini's head. "I suspected you were, but until you challenged me and said the stakes were one date..."

    She giggled, not bothering to finish. He knew what happened.

    "Heh... I guess... that was a bit... much."

    "Again, you didn't need to put that as the stake. You could've just asked me," she reminded him.

    "I'll... um, keep that in mind... Would... you like... to... go out again sometime?"

    Taking her hand away from Dratini's head, she tapped her chin, as if in contemplation, but she already had her answer.


    Jackson placed his costumed hands on his cheeks, filling with excited anticipation.

    "Y... you might? You'd consider it?"

    Beaming with eyes alight, Dratini gave Valerie an encouraging squeal. She, however, didn't need it, and reacted with a teasing smile.

    "I didn't say no, did I?"

    Jackson couldn't help but leap once, unable contain himself.

    "Awesome! When would... you like... to go?"

    The young woman found his enthusiasm amusing, her smile stretching a bit wider.

    "... How does Friday sound? Before game night?"

    "Yeah, sure!"

    Jackson could hardly believe it. The date didn't turn out to be a disaster after all! She must have had a good time with him if she was willing to go out with him again. As he calmed a small dosage, ideas already formed inside his head.

    Chapter Six: The Second Date

    Jackson had waited with heightened anticipation for the rest of the week. Every morning after waking up, he never failed to cast his eyes to the circled day on his calendar whenever he passed it. He was feeling especially energetic when Friday arrived. It had been a sunny day throughout--it was as if nature was setting up the perfect weather for him, and he greatly appreciated it.

    The young man rode up by the Gym, nervous and excited. He could hardly wait to see her reaction to what he had set up for her.

    "H... hey, Valerie! Ready to go?"

    Valerie had chosen to wear a secondary costume this time. Aside from her usual outfit that was redolent of an Audino, and her others, she managed to find her old Dedenne costume. It, however, was small on her, reminding her of how long it had been since she had last worn it, and spent her spare time during the week making an entirely new one from scratch.

    She was donning a cream bodice with a yellowish-tan dress and black leggings that went up to her thighs. The dress was split down the middle on both sides to show off her stockings, and her sleeves flowed past her hands. Her hair had been styled in two circular loops similar to Dedenne ears, and the bun in the back was held in place by sticks that suggested whiskers. On her cheeks were patches of red blush that appeared similar to the Pokémon's cheek pouches.


    The woman nodded as she approached him. As she did, the young man's eyes traveled up and down her form, taking in her appearance in detail.

    "Awesome outfit! You... did a great job!" With a wide grin, he extended one of the helmets to her. "We got... a bit of a ride ahead of us. I... um... have something set up."

    Valerie bit her lower lip. She still didn't like the motorcycle, and the helmet she knew would completely mess up her hairdo. Sighing a bit, and placing the helmet on, she slid on behind him, slipping her arms around Jackson's waist. As the engine was revved up, they were off.

    Jackson took them all the way out of the city, out into the eastern route where the landscape was populated by grass, trees, flowers, and a nearby river. Coming to a stop, he gestured to a picnic he had set up, his Pokémon guarding it. There was a large basket and cooler set in the middle of a blanket with bowls of food for Pokémon surrounding it, the actual blanket sprinkled with rose petals.

    "H... here we are."

    A soft gasp emanated from Valerie as she absorbed the scenery of the natural environment--the green grasses, the vibrant flowers, the sparkling blue waters... Of course, she had seen things like this before, but the beauty of nature never failed to take her breath away.

    "Oh... wow. Jackson, this... this is amazing."

    Jackson grinned, waiting for her to dismount before he did so, and pulled off his helmet.

    "I... thought you would like something like this."

    Valerie removed her helmet--indeed, her hairstyle was ruined by it, needing to take out the pins holding the bun in place, and the loops that were squashed needed to be let down as well.

    "This place is beautiful."

    "I, um... even brought... food for... your Pokémon, too. If... you want them to join us," he said, nodding to the extra three bowls.

    Reaching into her dress, Valerie released her Pokémon. Sylveon smiled, purring as he plod towards Shelgon while Mawile and Mr. Mime positioned themselves at the food bowls. Shelgon glared at the Fairy Eeveelution and took a step back. Sylveon retained his grin, raising a paw as if greeting an old friend, before hopping up onto the dragon's back and curling up on his belly to rest.

    As the woman took her seat, Jackson knelt by the basket to fish out fruit salad, potato salad, and grilled cheese sandwiches filled with three different kinds of cheeses and tomatoes. Finally, he reached into the cooler to pull out two cold bottles of lemonade. Offering her one of them with a bashful smile, a tinge of pink dusted over his face. He wondered if the rose petals were too much, but he decided not to focus on that now.

    Valerie smiled as she accepted the bottle. It WAS a bit much, especially the rose petals, but she didn't want to say anything to embarrass him right at the moment.

    "You... certainly went all out for this, hmm?"

    Jackson's blush deepened a little bit and he popped the metal cap off where it was promptly fed to Aron.

    "I-I... wanted to... make sure... you... um..." He trailed off, averting his gaze to Shelgon and Sylveon. "... It... looked good."

    She nodded, twisting off the cap to take a delicate sip.

    "Ah. Well, it DOES look good... The... rose petals are a little much. But I love it!"

    Jackson shifted his gaze to her, a slightly wider smile pulling at the corners of his lips.

    "... I-I... I'm glad to... hear that."

    Lifting his free hand, he brought it to the back of his neck to rub it. He went silent, uncertain of what to say, before his attention was stolen by Aron as the small Pokémon ran up to Mawile and nudged her, the Igglybuff plush in his mouth. Mawile smiled, sitting herself down beside him. The man let out a huff of a chuckle as Aron squeaked the toy and rubbed up against the female's side. In response, she extended her hand to pet the Steel-and-Ground Pokémon's head. Aron let out a muffled coo and stood up on his hind legs to playfully bat at Mawile's hand. As he shifted on his hind feet, the weight of his large round head caused him to lose his balance and topple over onto his side. He immediately rolled onto his stomach and pushed himself onto his feet with a happy expression.

    Jackson had to admire that Aron didn't appear embarrassed after performing such a blunder, silently wishing he possessed such a quality.

    "Pokémon are incredible... Whenever I mess up... I always feel embarrassed, but... Aron just acted like nothing happened... I don't think I ever met a person like that."

    He smirked as Aron sprinted over and positioned himself between the two humans, pressing his head against Valerie's arm. The young woman smiled, stroking his head.

    "We all make mistakes. The best thing to do is not to dwell on those mistakes, but, like Aron just did, to simply roll over and shrug it off. There is nothing you can do about it."

    "Yeah... but, it's hard sometimes. Especially when... I end up looking like an idiot."

    Aron held still as Valerie pet his head, squeaking the plush between his jaws. After a few moments, he unexpectedly whirled around and dashed back to Mawile, playfully hopping around her in order to encourage her to get up and chase him. Giggling, Mawile pushed herself off the ground to do just that, despite the heavy set of jaws atop her head.

    "Heh... He sure has a lot of energy," Jackson amusedly remarked.

    "I almost wonder what he'll be like as a Lairon."

    Jackson's smile faltered a bit. He knew a Pokémon's personality had the possibility of changing after it evolved. While part of him was eager for Aron to evolve into a larger, stronger Pokémon, he had grown attached to his character.

    "... Did... Sylveon change after he evolved?"

    Valerie shook her head.

    "Not really. He's still the same sweetheart he's always been." As she turned her attention to the mentioned Pokémon, she caught him utilizing his ribbon-like appendages to tickle Shelgon's back. "Well, he did become a bit of a prankster."

    Eyes snapping wide open at the sudden touches, Shelgon rolled her eyes up to Sylveon. The fairy may not have gotten the reaction he wanted considering the shortage of nerves in the Dragon-type's shell, feeling about as much as a human would if something touched their fingernail.

    Valerie nodded.

    "I understand. I wouldn't want my Pokémon to evolve against their will. Sylveon was quite happy to, though."

    The man nodded, the bowl of potato salad reminding him that he still had yet to dish out the food. Pulling off the lids of the containers and retrieving plates and plastic silverware, he dished out a helping of the salads first.

    "It... really bothers me when... trainers evolve their Pokémon without... even thinking about whether they want to or not."

    "Hmmm, I know. It's quite distressing, really." She sighed. "I dislike trainers who think of their Pokémon as merely... tools. Or machines incapable of thought or emotion."

    "I've seen it happen too many times."

    He unwrapped one of the sandwiches and added it to her plate. Valerie nodded again and accepted the plate and a fork.

    "It's disappointing, isn't it?"

    She shook her head.

    "Yeah... it is," he said as he proceeded to serve himself, his eyes sliding over to Shelgon as she rolled over onto her side to allow Sylveon to fall right off. "Shelgon, that wasn't nice."

    Valerie turned her head to the Pokémon. Sylveon didn't seem to mind, and simply nuzzled against the Dragon-type and rested against her again.

    "Sylveon has no hard feelings."

    The man frowned gently, shooting his disapproval at Shelgon as their gazes met. The dragon sighed and allowed Sylveon to nuzzle and rest on her side.

    "Yeah, but... that still wasn't nice. Even if she's still holding a grudge."

    The woman smiled lightly.

    "She'll get over it. Besides, I think Sylveon likes her!"

    Sylveon shifted his head to lick Shelgon's side once and purred softly as he laid his head back down. Observing his behavior, Jackson couldn't help but chuckle, his smile coming back.

    "It looks like it." He laughed again as Shelgon scrunched up the muscles in her face and wiggled her legs a couple of times. "Shelgon will get used to him."

    Chapter Seven: Love War

    Jackson tore his eyes from Valerie upon feeling Dratini's smooth scales slide across his legs. Smiling up at the woman next to his trainer, the snakelike Pokémon coiled up in her lap. She took another bite of her fruit and placed the fork down on her plate before lowering her hand to stroke the Dratini's head once, then offered him a plump strawberry. Eyes lighting up with a wide grin pulling at his maw, Dratini accepted the fruit. Closing his eyes, he chewed slowly, savoring it.

    The man ripped a bite from his sandwich as he watched the interaction between Valerie and his Pokémon, feeling his affection for her increase.

    "... You're... really good with Pokémon."

    Valerie turned a smile to him.

    "I've always loved Pokémon, more than even being a fashion model. I love them so much, that... well... I actually wish I were a Pokémon."

    "Heh. I remember you saying something like that on our first date..." He was about to add something else, when his attention was averted when he heard a rustling in some nearby bushes. Seconds later, a Buizel emerged and cautiously approached, his eyes on the fruit salad the humans possessed. "Hey there, little guy."

    The woman smiled warmly at the small orange-pelted weasel.

    "Oh, hello, little darling." With a soft giggle, she picked up a chunk of fruit between her fingers and proffered it to the Pokémon. "Are you hungry?"

    Buizel beamed and toddled up to her and proceeded to wolf down the piece of fruit, juice coating his paws and the circumference of his mouth. Chuckling, Jackson scooped up a little potato salad on his fork and offered the Water-type a bite. Nose twitching, Buizel leaned in to lick it off. To his surprise, he found that the glob was quite delicious, and let out a satisfied cry.

    Valerie broke out into a wide grin, following it with a giggle.

    "You are so adorable! It's too bad you're not a Fairy-type, I'd probably capture you."

    As Buizel licked his lips and paws clean, Jackson brought his hand to the Pokémon's head to scratch him gently.

    "It never hurts to have variety, but I can understand wanting to stick to one type."

    "I'm still surprised you caught Aron," she said, resuming petting Dratini. "I would've thought you would've stayed with Dragon-types. Did you really only catch the Aron just to battle me?"

    The man blushed and nodded. While she did ask this question before, he figured she just wanted to be certain.

    "I wanted... to beat you in a battle..." And while he had asked this before, he still wanted confirmation. "Would... you even date someone who... can't defeat you?"

    Valerie laughed.

    "Of course I would! Haven't I told you that all you needed was to ASK? Worst I could have said was no!"

    "Well, yeah, but... I have met women who won't date guys who can't beat them," Jackson stated.

    She nodded in acknowledgement.

    "Ah, yes, I understand. The so-called 'Red Sonja' types..." She sighed. "It's all well and good to be independent, but I don't see why anyone should need to be BEATEN in order to be dated..."

    "I'm glad you're not like that..." He slid his hand down Buizel's head and positioned his fingers at the back of his neck to scratch him there. "Or the type who... might frown upon the... roleplay gaming... the comic books... and the fact that I dress up as a giant Spinda for a living. That... really means a lot to me."

    "Now why would I frown upon something like that?" The woman chuckled, scratching the back of one of Dratini's ear frills. "People should be allowed to do what they like, so long as it's not illegal."

    Eating the rest of his food and setting his empty plate down and letting Buizel lick it, Jackson reached over to pet Dratini, the dragon melting in the woman's lap.

    "A lot of people find it... nerdy."

    Valerie shrugged, smoothing her hand down Dratini's long body.

    "There's nothing wrong with nerdy. In fact, I find it appealing, to a degree."

    Jackson blushed softly, astounded by this new information.

    "Y-you do, huh?"

    Valerie nodded in confirmation.

    "Hmmm. You're cute, you know. Dressing up. Playing tabletop games."

    The man's blush deepened, and it darkened into a shade of scarlet as his hand unintentionally brushed over hers as he pat Dratini.

    "I... I find... the way you... love Pokémon very a-attractive. And... how great of a battler you are."

    Valerie was silent for a couple of seconds. Taking note of his blushing, she gave him an encouraging smile.

    "Thank you, Jackson."

    Jackson bashfully removed his hand from hers and slid it off of Dratini.

    "It... wasn't your pretty face that... drew me to you."

    This drew a mild pink blush out of Valerie.

    "You're sweet, Jackson. Really."

    The young man's face flushed heavily, stammering incoherently for a moment, before closing his mouth. Balling up his hands at his sides to support some of his weight on them and glancing off as he was hit with a bout of shyness, he watched Buizel run off to sniff Shelgon and Sylveon.

    "S-so are... y-you."

    Valerie followed his line of vision, focusing on Buizel.

    "... Do you think that's a wild Buizel, or do you think it might belong to somebody?"

    He observed the Pokémon's mannerisms, noticing that he was not fully trusting, and acting a little skittish. Both of his tails were stiff and he supported himself mostly on his toes, as if ready to run off in case the Pokémon in front of him weren't friendly.

    "I... I would... guess wild."

    "I would suppose so as well. It doesn't look like it's used to being around humans, or human-trained Pokémon. I've never seen wild Buizel around here! Wild Floatzel, yes, but never the unevolved form." The woman sighed as she pulled out one of her memories. "I think the last Buizel I seen was owned by this young man. He and his girlfriend were traveling Kalos together. I don't remember the man much, but his girlfriend was very bubbly. Very sweet girl... and she had a shiny Totodile that was the Buizel's mate. They were such a cute couple."

    "Maybe... it's... just wild offspring... that hadn't evolved yet."

    Jackson chuckled as Aron, still running from Mawile, bounded right up to Buizel from behind and came to a halt and nudged his back to gain his attention. Whirling around, Buizel's alerted attention died down at the sight of the Steel-type and smiled. The Water Pokémon then joined in the game of tag.

    "I suppose."

    Valerie's eyes shimmered, scanning Buizel up and down the sleek Pokémon's coat. It was quite beautiful, and she idly wondered if she could create another costume based off of it. Her mind reflected on Jackson's words, and she fingered an empty Poke' Ball in her dress.

    Buizel spent several more minutes before a series of splashes originating from the river caught his attention--as well as the curiosity of the other Pokémon. Even Jackson and Valerie invested a glance.

    Several yards up the river was a horde of Floatzel, four males surrounding a single female. Hearts spawning in Buizel's eyes at the sight of the elegant female, he made a mad dash to the water and dove in to join the males... only to soon find himself sent flying to shore by one of the males.

    Watching this unfold, the humans scrambled to their feet and precipitated themselves to Buizel's sides. Before either of them could question him if he was all right, the Pokémon pulled himself to his feet. With a determined scowl, he dove back into the water. This second attempt at catching the female's attention resulted in the same outcome as before.

    The young man bit his lower lip in concern as Valerie turned to him with the same expression.

    "This is foolish. That poor Buizel is going to get himself hurt at this rate!"

    Jackson gritted his teeth, his mind racing for a solution. Removing his shoes, socks, vest, and wife beater, he raced into the water. He knew this was stupid, but the need to help that Buizel compelled him to swim towards the little Pokémon. Alarmed, the Pokémon gathered at the shore, Shelgon rolling back onto her feet and causing Sylveon to fall off again--though, this time she didn't do it out of irritation. Sylveon, previously sleeping, was startled awake as he fell off. He lifted his head in confusion, but soon came to the realization of what was going on. Tromping up to the shoreline, Valerie watched with wide eyes, wondering what Jackson was doing. Mawile, at Aron's side, glanced over at her trainer with an expression of befuddlement and concern.

    As Buizel was sent hurtling back by a Double Hit from a male, Jackson inhaled deeply and held his breath as he dove underwater. Pumping his arms and legs, he made his way to the bruised weasel and scooped him up in one arm. Surfacing, he stole a glance over his shoulder to check on the horde, only to find that the enraged males had decided to follow. Eyes snapping open wide, he held Buizel closer to protect him.

    Searing with rage, Shelgon stepped closer to the river. Filling her lungs to the brim, she exhaled a Dragonbreath at the Floatzel closest to his trainer. At the same time, Dratini dove into the water, summoning his inner power to aim an Aqua Jet at another Floatzel. Valerie didn't even need to command Sylveon to jump into the water. He did that on his own merit, charging up a Moonblast.

    "Sylveon, aim for the left one! It's closer!"

    Struck by the attacks, the trio of Floatzel were thrown back, the one hit by Sylveon's Moonblast sustaining the most damage. Another one leaped out of the water, and Dratini narrowed his eyes and focused a Thunder Wave. The Floatzel clenched his eyes shut, falling on top of Jackson, paralyzed. Fortunately, the young man was only stunned from the impact momentarily and resurfaced, continuing his way towards shore.

    While Fraxure charged into the water with Goomy stuck fast to his head, both Pokémon unleashed a double Dragon Pulse at two of the quickly recovering Floatzel, taking them out.

    Aron, not knowing what to do, stood at Mawile's side with a whimper. Mawile, too, wanted to help, but knowing she would sink like a rock if she had, stroked Aron's head to try and becalm him. Sylveon paddled over to Jackson to assist him and Buizel ashore, allowing his Pokémon to provide them cover. Staggering into shallow water, he stroked his free hand over the Fairy-type's head, breathing out a "thank you". Though they were at a safe distance, he still held Buizel close in his arm, out of fear that he might get beat up even more if he dared to let him go.

    Panting lightly, he turned around, seeing that his Pokémon had everything taken care of. Dratini had the paralyzed Floatzel constricted in a Wrap and the other Floatzel--the one Sylveon had attacked earlier--hurled himself out of the water with intentions on finishing off Buizel.

    Fraxure, spinning around in the water until his back was facing that particular Pokémon, swung his head back to catapult Goomy towards him. Antennae crackling with electrical currents, zapped Floatzel with a Thunderbolt. Fur singed in a few areas and eyes rolling, Floatzel dropped back into the water, finished.

    Valerie sighed in relief as the Floatzel dropped. Knowing Buizel was safe now, she stepped into the shallow water to meet Jackson, placing a hand on his back to help him out of the water.

    "Are you all right?"

    Sighing and nodding, he allowed himself to be assisted to shore.

    "I'm... fine... Thanks," he answered, to Valerie's relief.

    The Floatzel in Dratini's coils grunted as he struggled. Cloaking his body with water, he performed an Aqua Jet, rocketing out of the dragon's hold. Soaring through the air, he landed back into the water with a tremendous splash that gained the humans' attention. Observing now that he was unchallenged, smirked and directed himself to the concerned female.

    Face scrunching up with a jealous anger, Buizel squirmed and slipped out of Jackson's arm, landing on his feet.


    Valerie gasped lightly. Mawile stepped forward to challenge Floatzel, only to stop as her trainer touched her large set of jaws. Blinking, the Pokémon stared up at her, who shook her head.

    Buizel unleashed a challenging cry to the male Floatzel. Annoyed, the larger Water-type stopped and turned. The female rested a paw on his shoulder, but he brushed it off. His nerves still felt the lingering numbness left by the Thunder Wave and he was low on health, but he wasn't going to ignore the challenge. With an accepting growl, he rushed forward with intentions on finishing Buizel off with a Double Hit.

    Gnashing his teeth, Buizel left the shore to meet his opponent, his body a blur of orange as he struck first with a Quick Attack.

    "You can do it, Buizel!" Valerie cheered, clapping her hands together. Mawile let out a cry of encouragement while Sylveon and Mr. Mime watched with interest on the sidelines.

    "Keep it up!" Jackson followed. "You can beat him!"

    Ears twitching, a smirk pulled at Buizel's maw from the support. As his raging opponent snarled, the small weasel took the Double Hit and went crashing into the water, only to resurface. Both Pokémon pierced each other with determined glares, barely hanging onto consciousness.

    This was it. Whoever hit their foe first would be the winner.

    Both Pokémon covering themselves with water as they prepared an Aqua Jet, launched themselves at each other, crashing with a burst of water.

    The two of them went flying back underwater, but it was only Buizel who came back up as the victor. The effects of paralysis had slowed Floatzel down enough to ensure him to strike first.

    Entire face aglow, Jackson pumped his fist into the air with a cheer, his Pokémon following suit. Even Valerie's Pokémon joined in, the woman herself jumping, popping a foot as she did so.

    The female Floatzel swam over to her little champion with a pleased smile. Drawing her tongue over his head, Buizel blushed softly and leaned in to nuzzle her.
  3. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Eight: Roleplay Night

    Saturday evening rolled in and Jackson was more excited for roleplay night than ever. He had made sure the house was spotless and he had the coffee table set up in front of the couch, along with the faux leather chairs pushed up against the table's left and right sides. His excitement mounted as time passed. Running into the kitchen, he filled up a large bowl with potato chips and set it down beside the chosen game, which was resting right in the middle of the table.

    As a knocking at the door filled his ears, he rushed to answer it. He smiled at the sight of the first of his friends, then again when a third arrived.

    Valerie transported herself to Jackson's house via bike. Since this was a casual get-together, she decided on casual wear, donning a pair of stylish jean shorts, blouse, and flip-flops. Rolling up to his house, she breaks by the entrance and props the bike up against the house. Stepping up to the front door, she rapped her knuckles against the door.

    Heart beating faster, Jackson made another run to the door, much to the amusement of his friends, who were seated. Throwing open the door, his face lit up at the sight of the young woman.

    "... H-hey!"

    He wanted to say something else, but he was unable to come up with anything at the moment. That, and his friends were snickering amongst each other.

    The young woman smiled in greeting.

    "Hello, Jackson. How are you this evening?"

    "Uh, g-great! H-how... are you?"

    "I'm doing wonderfully. Have you been looking forward to tonight?" she questioned, though she was certain she knew the answer.

    "Of course I have!" he answered a little too enthusiastically. Calming himself somewhat, he stepped aside. "C-come on in!"

    Valerie had not at all been put off by his enthusiasm, but was entertained by it. Passing him with gratification gracing her visage, her attention jumped to the people seated in the living room.

    "Good evening. How are you all?"

    The trio of people regarded her with disbelief at first that the Gym Leader was actually in their presence and would be joining them, then their expressions shifted into ones of conviviality.

    Sitting in the chair on the right was a hefty middle-aged man with dirty blonde shoulder length hair with a dark blue bandana covering the top of his head and a horseshoe mustache. He wore a black shirt that bore a Marowak skull and crossbones and a pair of old jeans torn at one knee. His arms were decorated with various tattoos, one of them depicting a Seviper coiled around the left arm with the head hidden underneath his sleeve.

    Across from him was a woman in her mid-twenties, holding an Espurr in her lap. She was a brunette with her hair pulled back and weaved into a braid that reached all the way down her back. Her outfit was a light blue hoodie with a white silhouette of a Poke' Ball embroidered on the front and a pair of leggings with the pattern of a starry sky and a swirling galaxy here and there.

    On one side of the couch was a tall and skinny black-haired man around the girl's age. His clothing was nothing more than a pair of jeans and a dark grey shirt.

    "No way!" the young man exclaimed, resting his arm on top of the couch's back support. "You weren't kidding when you said you got Valerie!"

    The girl chuckled, smoothing her fingers through the fur on Espurr's head.

    "To answer your question, we're pretty darn good!"

    Retaining her smile, Valerie made her way to the other end of the couch, leaving the middle clear for Jackson.

    "Wonderful! I'm glad to hear that. I'm doing well myself." She paused to survey the coffee table, her eyes primarily on the game. "... So, I've never been to one of these."

    Following her, Jackson took his seat.

    "It's easy... Um... so, this is Gray." Jackson gestured to the man beside him, who gave the young woman a wink with a couple of clicks with his tongue. "That's Tatiana." He nodded to the woman, who nodded with a friendly smile. "And..." He looked to the older man. "That's Manson."

    "They call me 'Manly' for short," Manson informed.

    "All that's missing is... Jerry."

    As if on cue, there was a final knock on the door and Jackson pushed himself off the couch to answer it. After that, there was an awkward silence before Tatiana decided to be the one to break the ice.

    "Soooo... how did you and Jackson meet?"

    Valerie lifted her fingers to run them through her long hair.

    "Well, Jackson kept challenging me for Gym battles. He challenged me four times before he won on the fifth attempt. Then he asked me out on a date, and, well, I suppose the rest is history."

    "It was you he had that date with on Friday!" said Gray.

    Valerie nodded once.

    "It was, yes."

    Jackson returned and sat back down again. Jerry, donning a pair of khakis and a sweater, set down the six pack he was carrying in one hand upon the coffee table and unfolded the chair he had been holding in the other. Sitting down, he greeted Valerie with a warm smile.

    "Hello, there, Valerie. It's so nice of you to join us."

    The woman's smile extended a little.

    "Jackson did invite me over and I couldn't refuse such a polite offer," she stated, turning her vision to the man.

    Jackson blushed softly and caught one of the bottles tossed to him between his hands. Not recognizing the brand, he turned the bottle around in his hand and scanned the label.

    "Hipster brand ale?"

    Manson arched a brow and reached over to pick up a bottle himself.

    "Never should've had you pick up the beers, you fruit loop."

    Jerry let out a laugh and pulled another out of the pack.

    "Toss one over!" said Gray, readying his hands to catch a bottle. "I'm all for trying new beers!"

    After Gray was given a beer, Tatiana was the next to receive one. Valerie observed as caps were twisted off, her smile slowly drooping into a soft, passable frown. Taking one for himself, Jerry turned to his Jynx, the Pokémon holding two more six packs underneath her arms.

    "Put those in the fridge, will you, Minaj?" he politely requested. "Thank you, dear."

    Nodding with a wide smile, the Psychic-and-Ice type complied, heading into the kitchen. After the beers were stored away in the refrigerator, she directed herself to the backyard where Jackson's Pokémon, as well as others, were playing.

    Jerry was about to hand one to Valerie, but paused upon analyzing her expression.

    "Judging by the look of your face I'm guessing you don't want one?"

    The woman glanced off.

    "I... don't drink. I'm sorry."

    Jackson responded with an understanding smile, twisting off the cap and dropping it down on the coffee table, intending on saving the caps to feed to Aron later.

    "That's all right... You don't have to." Bringing the bottle to his lips, he took an experimental sip. "Hm!"

    "This IS pretty good," Gray approved. "Like drinking a cup of coffee... but with alcohol."

    "It has a nice vanilla coffee flavor with a rich caramel aftertaste," Tatiana observed and took a longer drink.

    "Not really my type of beer, but it's not bad. But I'm sure you picked this because of the name," Manson deduced.

    With a playful smirk, Jerry nodded.

    "You got me."

    "Why don't... we get started on creating our characters?" Jackson suggested. Setting down his beer, he opened up the box to reveal a booklet, a stack of character sheets, and a twenty-sided die. Passing out character sheets and pens, he pulled out the booklet and die. "Who wants to go first?"

    Grinning with anticipation, Gray put down his beer.

    "I'll go!"

    Nodding, he rolled the die and opened up the booklet to scan the list of classes.

    "Your character is... a thief."

    Chuckling, satisfied, Gray proceeded to fill in his character sheet.

    "Sweet. I'll be Shady... Slippers. I steal the hearts of the ladies, then their stuff."

    Smirking, Tatiana leaned over to playfully punch him in the shoulder.

    "You're terrible."

    Valerie did not look approving at the fact that the group was drinking alcohol, but she would not press it. She didn't like people eating meat in front of her, and she felt almost as strongly against alcohol as she did meat. However, she wasn't going to make herself a nuisance in someone else's house.

    "What abilities and weapons do I get?" Gray questioned, his eyes focusing on the blank sections on the character sheet.

    Jackson quickly read the thief's description.

    "Increased stealth and a dagger. You also have to come up with a motto."

    "A... motto," Gray repeated, casting his eyes to the space underneath the name and class of his character.

    "Yeah, a sort of personal code you live by."

    "Hmm... My motto is... 'Everything in your pants is mine'," Gray said in personal amusement as he wrote it down.

    Jackson and Valerie stared at him while Tatiana and Manson laughed, Jerry uttering only a chuckle. Moving onto Tatiana, Jackson rolled the die and consulted the booklet.

    "Tatiana, you're a bard. You have charisma and a drum."

    Smirking, she nodded. One arm wrapped around her Espurr, she held her close as she leaned over to write on her character sheet in order to prevent the feline from sliding off her lap.

    "My name is going to be... Lard Tard the bard... I come from a long line of Tards."

    Now this earned a laugh from Jackson, Jerry, Gray, and Manson, and a grin from Valerie.

    "We have a thief and a bard. Hmmm." Valerie rubbed her chin, sat back, and turned to Jackson. "What would you imagine my character would be?"

    Smiling, the man blushed softly.

    "You... would... definitely be a princess..."

    "You would say that," Gray uttered, taking another swallow of his beer.

    "A princess?" Valerie parroted with a giggle. "I mean, what class? Or is that a class on its own?"

    Jackson referred to the various classes in the booklet again.

    "Princess is in here. Maybe you'll get it."

    "Oh?" The young woman looked intrigued. "What types of abilities and feats do I get for that class? I thought princesses are usually NPC's? I... don't really know much about tabletop gaming."

    "A princess has charm and charisma. No weapons," he said.

    "That's okay," Tatiana assured. "A princess can just charm her way out of a dangerous situation."

    Rolling the die to determine Valerie's class, his smile faded a bit at the result.

    "Oh... You didn't get princess... You got guard. Eheh..."

    "Sorry, dear. It just wasn't meant to be," said Jerry.

    "At least you get strength and a sword," commented Jackson.

    "You get to kick ass!" Manson reassured excitedly.

    Valerie wasn't disappointed in the least.

    "Oh! That's perfectly fine! So... you don't actually get to choose your class, it's pre-determined by die roll."

    "Just like in real life," stated Gray. "You don't choose what class you're born into. Arceus rolls the die."

    "But we can change our destiny. That's why our characters are going adventuring," Jackson followed. "So, um, what will your motto be?"

    The Gym Leader rolled her eyes up in contemplation for a moment.

    "Hmmm. I don't really know... All for one and one for all?"

    Jackson smirked in approval.

    "Works for me."

    "I was thinking 'You will always be in my heart, my sweet potato cart'," Tatiana piped up, Jackson, Gray, and Jerry being the only ones acting as if that wasn't anything unusual.

    "What?" Manson pressed, arching a brow.

    "My character is a little crazy. Especially for potatoes," she clarified, a look of acceptance etching itself onto Manson's face. "Insanity actually runs in the family! Just like naming members of the family words that rhyme! Because we're all bards."

    "What were your parents' names?" Jerry questioned, amused at this concept.

    "Mom changed her name to Card once she married my dad. Dad's name was... Haaaard."

    Gray and Manson erupted in raucous laughter.

    "I bet he was hard for your mom!" Manson laughed.

    "He was hard for a lot of things," Tatiana giggled.

    Valerie let out a brief chuckle. Shaking her head, she shifted her attention to Jackson, crossing her arms.

    "I bet nights are always like this, hm?"

    Chuckling, Jackson nodded.

    "Just wait until we actually get the game started!" said Gray, coming off the heels of laughter.
  4. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Nine: Tabletop Insanity

    Clutching the twenty-sided die in his hand, Jackson turned his attention to Jerry, the older man smirking as he awaited the roll to determine the class of his character. Rolling the die, the young man's eyes went to the booklet.

    "You're a bartender, Jerry. You have wisdom and a crossbow."

    Tatiana let out a giggle.

    "How appropriate."

    "Even in game, I'm still the beer slave. That's my motto," said Jerry, giving the man across from him a quick wink as he filled in his character sheet.

    "All right! My turn!" Manson excitedly cried out.

    Nodding once, Jackson gave the die a roll and scanned the booklet. As his eyes fell upon the result, his face scrunched up as he attempted to hold in a laugh; a snort managing to make its way out of him.

    "What?" Manson implored.

    Relaxing his facial muscles, the young man allowed himself to laugh.

    "C'mon, man!" Gray urged. "What'd he get?"

    "Hahaha... P... hehe... princess...!" he managed to say through his laughter.

    "What??" the large man incredulously exclaimed.

    Jerry, Tatiana, and Gray joined Jackson while Manson just stared in disbelief, obviously not having expected him to receive such a class. With an accepting sigh, he began to fill out his character sheet.

    "Princess Manson, hm? And I'm the guard. This will certainly be an interesting twist," said Valerie as she raised her arm with her fist clenched as if she were hefting a sword. "I, Captain Valerie, promise to protect you with my life."

    Manson grunted in irritation.

    "Princess Manly is goin' out to kick ass so she doesn't have to marry that wimpy prince the King and Queen set her up with."

    "But Princess Manson would still need some semblance of needing a guard, right? Even if she's out to prove herself and not marry a prince?" the Fairy-type trainer questioned and emitted a soft giggle.

    "There's just no man manly enough for her." Manson then turned his gaze to Jerry. "Especially Jerry."

    "That's Jacques De' Foir," Jerry playfully retorted.

    Valerie released another laugh and clapped her hands together.

    "I'm certainly looking forward to this campaign."

    Nodding in agreement, Jackson gave the die one more roll in order to set up his character.

    "I'm a farmer," he announced and subsequently scribbled down his information--sans the motto, as he was trying to think it up.

    "Simple farm boy, living the country life, I see," said Valerie.

    Giving a nod, he glanced back at the print on the page.

    "Looks like I have... extra health and an ability called Nurture, which can help heal, but I got no weapon."

    "I suppose that makes you the team medic, then? I also suppose we'll be relying on you for food, as well."

    Jackson turned to her with a smirk.

    "I'm not letting anyone eat me."

    The woman shook her head with a brief giggle.

    "No, silly. I mean we'll be relying on your skills."

    "Heh... I know... There's kind of a running joke where the others... eat me," Jackson relayed. "It's happened a lot in past games."

    "Awww... No barbecue Jackson," Gray whined good-humouredly.

    "What's your motto?" Tatiana queried and took another swallow of her beer.

    "Um..." He thought for a moment, but the oven timer disrupted his thoughts and pulled his attention into the direction of the kitchen. "Brownies are done!"

    Smirking, Manson leaned over and extended his arm to snatch Jackson's character sheet and scribble down the younger man's last words while he was temporarily distracted. Returning his attention back to the group, he let out a "Hey!" and took his sheet back. Skimming Manson's handwriting, he chuckled.

    "Guess my motto is 'Brownies are done!'." Picking up the booklet, he flipped to the beginning and began to summarize the prologue. "Okay... We live in a world set in medieval times where monsters run amok. Our characters are setting out on our own adventures, needing to face these dangers as we do so. If we want, we can even join forces and travel together."

    "As princess, I refuse to travel with a filthy farmer," said Manson as he grinned jokingly.

    "You might have to, if your guard believes it's in your best interest."

    Valerie nodded in agreement.

    "It would probably be best to do so to... avoid suspicion, Your Highness. After all, a traveling princess might fetch quite a hefty bounty. Especially, if you left home against your parents' will."

    "Oh, fine," Manson relented. "But just this one time."

    "I'm hanging out at Jerry's tavern," said Gray, directing a smile at the lavender-haired man.

    "What can I get for you, sir?" Jerry inquired.

    "How about some more ale?" he requested, setting down his empty bottle.

    "Certainly." Handing him the last of the six pack, Jerry got up and traversed to the kitchen to retrieve one of the others from the refrigerator. Once he returned he was met with a mischievous grin from Gray.

    "And I ain't paying."

    "I get out my crossbow and hold it up to your face," said Jerry, making motions as if he were getting out a crossbow and pointing it at Gray.

    Putting down his beer, Gray held up his hands defensively.

    "Can't I just do you a favor?"

    Putting on a suggestive smirk, Jerry waggled his brows a couple of times.

    "Oh, I'm sure there's something you can do for me."

    "I think I would rather pay," Gray snickered and took a swig of his drink. "I hand you the money."

    "Awwww... I was hoping you would put up a fight."

    Chuckling, Jackson scanned the various storylines. Randomly choosing one, he opened his mouth to speak so they could begin.

    "An orc bursts into the tavern."

    "Princess Manly, what are you doing here??" Tatiana squealed.

    Jackson belted out a laugh.

    "It's not the princess."

    "I guess I'm with the princess then?" Valerie looked over to Manson. "I suppose I'm accompanying him. Or her?"

    "I'm a princess, so I'm a lady," the portly man elucidated.

    "The fairest in the land," stated Jerry.

    "I try to sneak past the orc with my awesome stealth!" piped up Gray.

    "Okay, since you have above average stealth, you have to roll a seven or higher to succeed," Jackson explained as he handed over the die.

    "Okay!" Gray rolled the die, but he came up short, the side displaying the four facing up. "Damn!"

    "The orc notices you."

    "Then I attempt to shoot it in the eye," Jerry spoke up, the die being passed to him.

    "Roll a ten or higher," said Jackson.

    Rolling it, the man successfully rolled a perfect twenty.

    "Wow... that orc is DEAD!"

    "Another victory for Jacques!" Jerry cried out, positioning his fists at his hips and proudly puffing out his chest.

    "I come in and walk over the orc," said Tatiana.

    "Guard," Manson addressed Valerie. "I wanna go to the tavern and see how commoners socialize."

    Smiling, she nodded.

    "Of course, m'lady." The woman turned to Jackson. "I walk with the princess, my sword sheathed but one hand on the hilt, just in case anybody tries to attack us."

    "I scoff at everyone else like a spoiled brat."

    "You two arrive at the tavern," said Jackson.

    "Another orc!" Gray exclaimed, pointing an index finger at Manson, who feigned an enraged gasp in response.

    "How DARE you!"

    Holding in a laugh, Valerie shifted her gaze to Manson.

    "Your Highness, please, calm yourself. We don't wish to attract attention to ourselves. I take a seat near the bar, my sword still at the ready."

    "Heh. All right," Jackson chuckled. "I enter and notice the orc, but I brush it off since things like this happen all the time."

    "Of course," Tatiana giggled, then turned to Jerry. "Ale, please? I'll pay you with special favors."

    "I would take special favors from ladies," Gray piped up.

    "I would be more than happy," Jerry commented, happily handing over a new bottle of Hipster ale.

    Gray's eyes then jumped to Valerie.

    "I notice Valerie's character and I walk up to her."

    "I scoff again," stated Manson.

    Valerie smiled softly and nodded once in acknowledgement.

    "I notice Gray's character and give a small, cordial smile, but I stay on my guard. I'm not particularly trusting of outsiders."

    "Hey, baby, can I buy you a drink?"

    "Looks like I'm getting more special favors," Jerry sang, earning a snicker from Tatiana.

    Valerie shook her head.

    "I politely, but firmly decline, but I also request a drink from the bartender, and lift up a bag of coins to emphasize I'm willing to pay."

    "I will accept payment in coins, too," said the man across from her.

    "I try to charm Tatiana's character instead," said Gray as he turned his head to the other woman.


    "Roll a ten or higher," Jackson instructed.

    Rolling the die, Gray let out a jovial "Yes!" as he made a successful roll. However, Tatiana wasn't going to give her friend the satisfaction of charming her character, formulating an idea.

    "It has no effect because my character is married. To her potato cart."

    "Oh, come on!"

    Amused, Jackson chuckled.

    "I sit down near Princess Manly and Valerie's character and mind my own business."

    Deciding to liven up the scene, Manson decided to be the next to perform an action.

    "Guard, kick that farmer in the balls! He's bothering me!"

    As Valerie was given the die, she exhumed a sigh.

    "As much as I detest it, I comply with my liege's orders."

    Dropping the die, the object prominently exhibited the number eighteen.

    "And that is a hard kick that has me on the floor in agony." His eyes met Valerie's. "Why, guard, why?"

    "I'm sorry, my good sir, but you were bothering my..." She gave pause, about to say 'escort'. "... My charge. I am bound to her by my oath to carry out whatever task she states for me."

    "I didn't even do anything." Despite the situation his character was in, Jackson was greatly amused by it. "We should be kicking dangerous monsters, not each other."

    "I extend my hand down to Jackson's character to help him up and sit back down to enjoy my drink."

    "I accept her help and sit down."

    "Good job, guard," Manson praised. "Later, we'll leave and settle down in a new village far away so I don't have to marry that stupid prince."

    Seeing this as an opportunity to move the game along, Jackson seized it and spoke up.

    "Oh? You're leaving the village? So am I. There are monsters plaguing the lands and I wish to slay them and bring peace."

    "Really?" Gray followed, also seeing it. "I want to search for riches."

    "I want to get away from my crazy family," Tatiana contributed.

    "So you can go off and be crazy on your own," said Jerry.


    Valerie blinked, eyes going from person to person.

    "I have taken a vow to serve the princess unless released from my duties or until my dying breath. Whichever comes first. I am to protect and serve her as my solemn duty, come hell or high water."

    Jackson was very pleased. Valerie was adapting to this gaming setup quite naturally.
  5. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Ten: In-Game Attraction

    The game had been temporarily paused for a couple of minutes as Jackson got up to fetch Valerie a glass of ice water. Sitting back down and placing the glass on the coffee table, the young man smirked over at Manson.

    "Would you like some additional protection?"

    "I don't like him, guard," Manson immediately said, looking Jackson up and down as if examining him. "He's covered in dirt and sweat."

    "All from a hard day's work," Jackson responded, sinking into the couch's back support with a calm smile.

    Valerie followed Manson's example and scanned the man next to her, pursing her lips.

    "At least he's not covered in anything worse, my liege. Besides, the monsters roaming these areas have been tougher than anything we faced. I fear they are going to get nothing but stronger from here on out. I think we can use all the help we can get."

    "Okay," the large man caved in, then added, "They can eat him."

    Jackson chuckled in amusement.

    "I would appreciate some respect."

    "Respect? What's that?"

    "I'm pretty good at kicking things, too," Tatiana cut in. "Why don't I come along?"

    "If ladies are going, so am I," Gray joined.

    "And I need to keep an eye on him," Jerry spoke up, nodding in Gray's direction. "He owes me special favors."

    Valerie opened her mouth to say something, but closed it as a thought dawned upon her.

    "Wait a moment. I forgot to ask--is my character a man, or a woman? There are female guards, yes?"

    "My character thought you were a lady," Gray answered.

    "Princess Manly would only have a female companion," stated the portly man with a dose of finality.

    With that answered, Valerie nodded once.

    "I wanted to make sure. In that case, yes, I don't mind having male companions, but I must stress--for the safety of my charge--that we sleep separately from the men. I do have a tent for the princess and I to share, but just for the two of us."

    "That's fine," said Jackson.

    "I sleep in my potato cart," piped Tatiana, moving her fingers to scratch at her Espurr's chest.

    "Very well then. So long as we have the sleeping arrangements settled."

    Manson took a cursory glance at each of the other men in the group.

    "If any of you men cross any lines, my guard will smash your face."

    "Oh, you don't have to worry about that from me," said Jerry, then nodded over to Jackson. "Or farmer Jackson."

    "I'm a good boy," came the younger man's response, putting on his most innocent smile.

    A few more minutes elapsed then the group's attention was averted as Fraxure, garbed in a poofy chef hat and an apron, walked into the room with a plate of fresh brownies.

    A wide smile played at the Pokémon's trainer's face at the sight of the treats.

    "Thanks, Fraxure! Those look delicious!"

    Valerie had to admit that the sight was unusual, but the dragon certainly looked adorable in the garments he was wearing. Not to mention he was carrying a plate of brownies. Pokémon were commonly trained to fetch things for trainers, but did he actually make these?

    "Did Fraxure make those, Jackson?"

    "He sure did! Fraxure's a great baker!" he answered with a great deal of pride, causing a flattered blush to touch the Pokémon's cheeks.

    As Fraxure came up to Valerie's side of the couch to offer her a brownie, the woman brushed her hand over his snout.

    "So cute and talented!" she praised and leaned in to plant a kiss on his nose.

    Fraxure's blush deepened. Allowing each human to take a brownie, he set the plate down in front of the chips before running off, presumably to play with the other Pokémon.

    "You know... Valerie, if you want to let your Pokémon out, you can. The others... are playing in the backyard," Jackson offered and took a bite out of his brownie.

    "All right. Thank you, Jackson."

    Standing, she departed the room and found her way to the backyard where the rest of them were. Getting out her Poke' Balls, she released Mawile, Mr. Mime, and Sylveon. Upon being released, the Eeveelution immediately scampered up to Shelgon to nuzzle her while Mawile tottered towards Aron. Shelgon blinked in mild surprise and sighed, allowing the attention. Aron was absolutely delighted to see Mawile, rubbing his head into her abdomen.

    Among the Pokémon were two that didn't belong to Jackson or Valerie. A Furfrou and a Marowak, judging by the Seviper tattoo that matched Manson's, belonged to the middle-aged man. Sylveon and Mr. Mime smiled in a friendly manner, but Mawile seemed to be a little intimidated by the Marowak. He still seemed friendly enough and waved a greeting. Nodding to the three newcomers, the Ground-type resumed playing with Fraxure and Dratini. Curious, Furfrou stepped closer to sniff Mr. Mime. The fairy blinked, before waving one of her large hands and proceeded to mime as if she were trapped in an invisible box. Tilting his head in confusion, the canine lifted a paw to bat at the invisible box, only to find nothing.

    After getting a good look at each of the Pokémon, Valerie turned around to head back to her seat. The Furfrou, more interested in the new human, followed her.

    "Did you get a look at Marowak's tat?" Manson queried as the young woman sat down.

    "I did! I have to admit, I wasn't expecting to see a tattooed Pokémon."

    "I run a tattoo parlor," the man revealed. "Recently got into makin' tats for Pokémon, and Marowak was more than happy to get one."

    "I see." Valerie bit into her brownie, chewed, and swallowed before speaking again. "I never heard of Pokémon getting tattoos before."

    "Neither have I. The business is good. People come by from other towns just to get their Pokémon tattooed," he said, smirking as his wife's Furfrou slipped past Gray to climb into Jackson's lap.

    Grinning, Jackson stuffed the rest of his brownie into his mouth and slid an arm around the Pokémon. He took note of the extra softness, coming to the conclusion that he had been very recently bathed.

    "My character tries to charm Valerie's again," said Gray and rolled the die, coming up short on a nine. "Usually I'm so good with the ladies."

    Tatiana giggled and consumed the remains of her brownie.

    "Today just isn't your day."

    "Princess Manly wants to go adventuring now," Manson spoke up, taking a couple of chips from the bowl.

    "I have a Tauros and a herd of Miltank to ride on," Jackson suggested.

    "Princess Manly ain't riding on a Miltank."

    "I head to the stables to steal Ponyta for the rest of us." Rolling the die, Gray beamed at the high number. "About time."

    "You succeed, but I don't approve of stealing," said Jackson and took another bite of his brownie.

    "I'm too busy playing my drum to care," said Tatiana.

    A frown pulled down at Valerie's lips.

    "I scold Gray, admonishing him for his actions. I check my purse to see how much gold I have. How much are the Ponyta?"

    Gray let out a huff of a chuckle.

    "I already stole them, but I'll take the gold."

    "I keep my gold, and decide to keep a very close watch on our party's thief. I do not trust his being around the princess."

    "I mount one of the Ponyta," said Manson.

    "I hitch one up to my potato cart and climb in and continue playing my drum," Tatiana followed.

    "I choose to go back to my farm to get my Tauros," said Jackson and finished the last of his treat.

    Valerie let out a sigh.

    "I reluctantly get on the same Ponyta as the princess, sitting behind her so I can keep her safe on horseback."

    There was a brief pause as the others waited for Jerry to respond, but the man was busy finishing his beer. Setting down the bottle, he spoke up.

    "I also get on a Ponyta."

    "We ride off." Reaching for the booklet, he thumbed through it to continue where he left off. "And we come across a horde of goblins, their leader armed with a mace."

    "This should be easy," Gray proclaimed with a mischievous glimmer in his eyes. "Just ask her out on a date and she should go away!"

    This little quip resulted in a laugh from Manson, Jerry, and Tatiana. Jackson smiled, entertained by the joke.

    "That's usually what happens. That's why my character isn't married."

    He gave the die a roll, the result being a one.

    "Oooooooh! Shot down!" Gray laughed.

    "And kicked in the balls!" Manson added.

    Even Valerie let out a short laugh at the outcome.

    "Oh, goodness. I actually take pity on Jackson's character, although I have to admit that was funny to watch."

    "It's not funny to my character." Jackson chuckled, scratching the patch of fur behind one of Furfrou's ears. "He's in pain."

    "Hit him in the nads again!" Manson commanded, trying his best not to snicker. "The princess doesn't want the farmer reproducing!"

    The woman gave pause.

    "I... actually do not listen. While I am bound to my princess, I am not one for needless cruelty. I extend my hand down to the farmer.

    A gentle smile played at Jackson's lips, his fingertips moving down to the back of Furfrou's neck.

    "I accept the assistance and I'm grateful I'll still get to have children."

    She slid one of her hands over her abdomen, keeping her soft eyes on the man next to her.

    "I smile at him and mount my Ponyta. I think he looks cute."

    Jackson blushed, the others pinning him and Valerie with knowing smirks.

    "D... does she? Heh... The farmer... thinks... the guard is... very beautiful..."

    "Ooooooo!" came Tatiana's voice.

    Now it was Valerie's turn to blush.

    "It's too bad I took a vow of celibacy so long as I remain in my liege's service."

    "A vow of what now?" Gray questioned, arching his brow in confusion.

    "Celibacy. It means I cannot take a husband or engage in... sexual practices while under the service of my princess."

    "What did you make a vow like that for?" the black-haired man inquired.

    "Because she's a strong, independent woman who don't need no man," said Tatiana with a rhythmic wave of her finger.

    The other woman shook her head.

    "The vow is required to become part of the princess' guard. I wanted nothing more than to serve my princess. After all, she saved me from a life of destitution and poverty. I swore to protect her until my dying breath."

    "That is quite a heavy back story for a game," said Jerry.

    "Part of me has always dreamed of perhaps starting a family one day. It was a dream of mine before serving the princess. Though I know she would likely not release me from my duty."

    "I miiiiight, if I saw you unfit to serve me," said Manson with a cheeky grin.

    Valerie giggled.

    "I would never break my vow of loyalty to you, my liege. You can rest assured I will always protect you."

    "You can do hugs and kisses, right?" Tatiana questioned with a wink directed at her.

    Again, Jackson blushed.

    "I said I took a vow of celibacy. Not a vow against affection," Valerie replied, turning a wink of her own at Jackson, causing him to blush even deeper.

    Manson uttered a chuckle.

    "I want you to bathe yourself after every time you touch that filthy farmer."

    Valerie rolled her eyes, but retained her smile.

    "Yes, my liege. Of course, my liege."

    "Can I watch?" Gray requested, subsequently getting smacked in the back of the head by Tatiana.

    "Bad thief. No treats for you."

    "We still have a horde of goblins to take care of," Manson reminded.

    "They're done politely waiting and one swings a club at Gray," said Jackson, blush still staining his cheeks.

    "I try to dodge," the man replied, rolling another success.

    "I take my sword and lop it towards one of the goblins. I also check to see which one of them is the leader," said Valerie with a quick glare at Gray as the die was handed to her.

    "The leader takes damage."

    "I want the leader's mace," said Tatiana. "All I have is a drum."

    "That's better than what I've got," Manson declared, taking another brownie from the stack. "I got nothing."

    "You have your good looks and charisma. And your giant delicate fists."

    "I openly challenge the leader to one-on-one honorable combat, and raise my sword and step forward," Valerie continued.

    As Manson was given the die, he thought for a moment on how he should retaliate.

    "I get in on the action. I get off my Ponyta and take off my shoe and hit a goblin in the head with it."

    He lets out a grunt upon rolling a mere five.

    "The goblin is annoyed," said Jackson, smirk pulling at his mouth.

    Valerie giggled at the mental imagery and the die was handed to her, as the other players were temporarily busy either eating or drinking. Besides, they didn't mind their newest addition having extra turns while they ate and drank. It would get the game going faster.

    "I dodge and thrust my sword in a stab at the leader."

    She grinned upon rolling a thirteen.

    "And you beat her! Are you going to choose to search your enemy?" Jackson asked. "You can take her mace, if you want."

    The woman nodded.

    "I go ahead and reach down to take the mace."

    "Don't mess with her, goblins!" Tatiana cried out. "She's got mace!"

    "Yeah! The more painful kind!" Gray tacked on.

    Jackson chuckled.

    "Another goblin attempts to take a swing at Valerie's character while mine tries to charge at another while riding on my Tauros." Taking the die from Valerie, he rolled a fourteen. "And he's trampled and I get a club!"

    Finished with his second brownie, Jerry was given the die next.

    "I shoot at a goblin," he said, grinning as he made a successful roll.

    "I want to take a stab with my dagger," Gray declared, frowning as he rolled a failure. "I'm really off my game today."

    "What are the penalties for double-wielding?" Valerie questioned, turning her attention to Jackson. "Is the mace one-handed or two-handed?"

    "It's a one-handed weapon," he responded. "So you get to roll twice for both of your weapons."

    She nodded in affirmation.

    "I swing once with my new mace and swing again with my sword."

    After she rolled twice, the man smirked.

    "Double kill."

    "Our guard is fantastic!" Jerry complimented with a wide berth.

    Even Valerie looked a bit surprised at her luck.

    "I call my order for the rest of the goblins to stand down and leave, unless they want to be slaughtered like their comrades." She paused to roll again. "I roll for intimidation."

    The die landed on sixteen.

    "They don't need to be told twice. They run off!" Jackson claimed.

    Manson let out one more chuckle.

    "And one goblin even trips over his panties."
  6. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Eleven: The Surprise Visit

    Two hours elapsed and the game's fellowship traveled quite a ways in the first evening, encountering various monsters and acquiring new weapons and items from their kills. By then, everyone--sans Valerie--had gotten three beers into their systems and they were beginning to get a little rowdy. Manson, Gray, and even Tatiana developed foul mouths, throwing obscenities and colorful insults at each other. None of them took any offense though. They were comfortable and close enough to call each other something foul in a playful manner, and even laugh at it.

    Valerie couldn't help but frown at the insults and obscenities that were slung around, but said nothing about it. She wasn't close to these people as Jackson was to them, and tried not to get involved with any of the insulting.

    A short while later, Espurr let out a yawn--as did several of the other Pokémon, who had made their way into the house around an hour ago--, signaling that it was getting late for them.

    "It's been fun, but I need to get going," said Tatiana, stretching out her arms and curling them back around the feline.

    "Mhm... It's been a fun evening." Jerry placed his hands upon his lower back and released some tension stored away as he turned his attention to Valerie. "Thank you so much for joining us."

    Manson nodded and jerked his neck with a resounding pop.

    "Wouldn't mind havin' ya again."

    "Yeah, same here!" Gray agreed.

    A smile graced the black-haired woman's face.

    "Hmm. So, do we meet here every week?" she inquired.

    "Every Saturday," Jackson affirmed with a nod.

    "I just wondered. I wasn't sure if you meet at every one else's house or if this was a regular meeting place."

    "It's always here. Each week, someone brings the beer." Jackson paused as he remembered what she said earlier. "But... we can have something different for you."

    The young woman's smile pulled wider.

    "I would... I would love that."

    Another blush dusted over his cheeks.

    "What... what would you like me to have here for you?"

    She averted her gaze briefly.

    "Oh, I don't have any real preferences. Anything non-alcoholic would suit me just fine."

    "I'll get something good for you."

    Getting up, Gray walked around the couch and made his way to the door to leave for the night. As he pulled the door open, an expression of surprise stole over his face, then was quickly replaced with amusement. Shifting to Jackson's direction, he called over to the man to attain his attention.

    "Hey, Jackson! There's a crazy old lady here to see you!"

    There was an immediate laugh from what sounded like a middle-aged woman that Jackson was familiarized with. The addressed man's eyes snapped open wide in surprise in response, springing out of his seat and standing straight up.


    Everyone else remaining, too, turned their attention towards the doorway, as they--with the exception of Valerie--recognized the voice, their faces lighting up.

    "Oh? Your mother...?" Valerie parroted, pushing herself off of the couch with an investigative stare at the doorway.

    "Hahahaha! Juliana's here?" Getting up, Manson pulled two Poke' Balls out of his pants pocket to withdraw his Marowak and his wife's Furfrou before making his way to the door. Spotting a woman that resembled Jackson, wearing dark blue capris, a white tank top, and a yellow sweater with the sleeves tied firmly around her waist, a wide, welcoming smile spread across his face. "Julie! It's been a while!"

    Holding her Espurr close, Tatiana leaped from her seat as Jerry collected his Jynx and folded up the chair he had brought, the both of them heading over to meet the woman.

    "Hey, Julie!" Tatiana greeted cheerfully. "What brings you here?"

    "Hello, Juliana," said Jerry in his own usual joviality. "Looking lovely as ever."

    "Hi, everyone!" the woman replied with energetic enthusiasm, her and the Kangaskhan sporting broad grins. "I thought I'd come from Blackthorn for a surprise visit."

    "Well, I'm surprised," piped Jackson as he approached the doorway. "Hi, Mom."

    Coming up from behind the man, Valerie stopped at his side to fixate her gaze upon the older woman.

    "Hello... Juliana? My name is Valerie."

    Juliana switched her vision to the woman beside her son.

    "Hello, there." There was a brief pause as she studied her facial features and recognition reached her. "THE Valerie? The Gym Leader? My! Keeping my son out of trouble?"

    Valerie nodded once, fleetingly distracted as Juliana and Kangaskhan stepped aside to let Jackson's friends outside, Tatiana deciding to stick around for a little longer.

    "Indeed, miss. And, yes, he's been... pleasant to be around." She emitted a short giggle. "I never thought I would be meeting you so soon."

    "Well, here I am!" she said, spreading her arms out as if presenting herself for the first time. Dropping her arms to her sides, she turned to her son. "And I have something for you, Jackson."

    The man's face morphed into an expression of intrigue. Turning around, Juliana bent over and buried her hands into her Kangaskhan's pouch. Fumbling around in the space next to the baby, she pulled out a Pokémon egg. Turning back around, she held out the object to Jackson.

    "Happy birthday!"

    "Birthday?" Chuckling, Jackson reached out to accept it, cradling it in his arms. "My birthday's not until five months."

    "Happy EARLY birthday!"

    "Someone's gonna be a daddy," Tatiana said with a smirk, then finally decided to take her leave.

    Blinking, Valerie stepped closer to get a better look at the egg.

    "Is... is that a Kangaskhan egg, Miss Juliana?"

    The older woman giggled.

    "Oh, no. It's something entirely different, but I'll leave that a surprise."

    "Yeah? Gonna keep me in suspense until it hatches?" Jackson pressed with a playful grin directed at his mother.

    "I am."

    "Well, if you need any help hatching the egg, I'll certainly be glad to offer my assistance," Valerie proposed.

    "I'm sure he's capable of handling it himself," said Juliana. "He has quite a connection with Pokémon."

    Shifting her eyes to the other woman, Valerie nodded in confirmation.

    "I've no doubt of that. He looks like he has a special affinity for them. His Pokémon love him very much."

    Stomping over, Kangaskhan sidled up to Jackson's other side and wrapped her arms around his waist to pick him up in a side hug, causing a few audible cracks and a groan to originate from the man.

    "Kangaskhan missed you, sweetie!" Juliana squealed, bliss emanating from her. "Do you have anything to say to her?"

    "... My... spine..."

    Valerie winced as the cracks reached her ears.

    "Are you all right, Jackson?" she questioned, appearing incredibly concerned.

    "I'm... fine. Don't worry." Putting on a reassuring and strained grin, he tilted his head up to the Pokémon. "Nice to see you, too, Kangaskhan."

    Kangaskhan said her name with a wide berth lighting up her visage, and let him down. Relieved, Valerie lifted a hand to run it down Jackson's arm.

    "Good. I was worried for a moment."

    Hugging the egg a little tighter, Jackson blushed softly at the touch and turned to Valerie with an affectionate smile. Noticing the look on her son's face, a knowing smirk stretched across Juliana's face.

    "Somebody has a crush."

    Jackson's blush deepened, his smile fading with embarrassment.


    Going pink in the cheeks, Valerie turned away, brushing a hand over the back of her neck.

    "Oh! I knew it!" Juliana exclaimed with a laugh.

    Confused, Valerie returned her attention back to the elder woman.

    "Knew... what?"

    "My son has a crush. He cannot hide anything from me."

    Valerie's blush returned.

    "Erm... Well..."

    "Oh, all right, we won't talk about it." She went quiet as Jackson exhumed a relieved sigh, then spoke again. "I was thinking about going shopping tomorrow at Courmarine City. Would you like to come along, Valerie? Have a little girl time? And I suppose we can bring Jackson." She leaned in to whisper. "And maybe actually get him in some stylish clothes."

    This proposition came so unexpected, that Valerie was uncertain of what to say. She just met this woman, and yet, she was inviting her to go shopping with her. She couldn't help but feel touched.

    "Oh? Um, all right. That sounds lovely!" she accepted, smile tipping her lips. "Thank you, Miss Juliana."

    "A visit to Courmarine sounds fun," said Jackson.

    Even though he found the idea of following woman around for hours scouring clothes boring, he was looking forward to spending time with his mother and Valerie. It was a perfect opportunity to get closer to her and get her further acquainted with the other woman, certain that she would just love her.

    Not to mention that he had always loved the oceanic atmosphere. A beautiful ocean view was an ideal romantic setup.
  7. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Twelve: A Day Out in Courmarine City

    The trio exited the cab to be welcomed by the salty air permeating Courmarine City. Immediately, Juliana released her Kangaskhan and Jigglypuff, both Pokémon stretching and yawning as if waking up from a lengthy slumber. Jackson, choosing to keep his Pokémon in their Balls, greeted them with a warm smile. Pausing, he dropped his eyes to the egg in his arms as he felt movement originating from beneath the shell. Valerie chose to let out Sylveon, who stretched out and nuzzled his trainer's leg. Purring softly, he moved over to Juliana to rub up against the woman's legs in a friendly gesture.

    Lowering her gaze to Sylveon, Juliana beamed, bringing a hand to the Pokémon's head right before he went back to Valerie.

    "What a pretty fairy you are! Yes, you are!" she squealed, then took notice of Jackson out of the corner of her eye and arched a brow with a knowing smile. "Feeling the baby move?"

    Lifting his eyes to meet his mother's, Jackson nodded with a soft smile.

    "You should have seen him last night," Juliana said as her attention jumped to Valerie. This instantly grabbed Jackson's full attention, the young man tensing up with a blush in predetermined embarrassment. "He was asleep holding the egg in his arms and his Pokémon were curled up around him. It was an absolutely adorable sight!"

    The man's blush deepened while Valerie emitted a chuckle.

    "I can imagine. Sylveon often curls up next to me in bed."

    "My Jigglypuff always sleeps in bed with me and my husband, even though he doesn't like it."

    The pink-furred balloon Pokémon closed her eyes with a happy expression as she vocalized a couple of syllables.

    "I can understand why." Valerie chuckled. "I wouldn't really like any Pokémon sleeping in the same bed with me and my spouse... Erm, if... I were married."

    Jackson stared at the woman in confusion, not really understanding the issue.

    "Why not?"

    The Gym Leader turned to him.

    "Well, my bed would just be for me and my husband, right? I wouldn't mind getting a smaller, separate bed for my Pokémon."

    He could understand this, but he would rather be surrounded by Pokémon.

    "I just figured sharing a bed with my wife and Pokémon would... mean... more snuggling," he rationalized.

    "I suppose it depends on the Pokémon sharing the bed with you," Valerie said, the mental image of sharing a bed with a Sandslash making her slightly wince.

    "Would you mind sharing a bed with my Pokémon?" he questioned, his blush returning upon realizing the implication. "I-I mean... uh..."

    Julie giggled in amusement while Valerie merely retained her calm smile.

    "I suppose I wouldn't mind. That Dratini of yours is incredibly cute."

    Jackson was quite pleased with this.

    "He loves to cuddle."

    "Mhm. He's a sweetheart," Juliana agreed. "You can tell a lot about someone by the personalities of their Pokémon. I'm sure meeting Jackson's Pokémon has said a few things about him."

    Giving Valerie a wink, she proceeded to head off into a direction, the younger woman following suit and joining her side with Jackson and the Pokémon at their heels.

    Valerie chuckled and nodded.

    "They have. They've shown me that Jackson is a very caring individual."

    Jackson blushed and averted his eyes, but thankfully was alerted by Jigglypuff of a crack in the sidewalk before he could trip.

    The group entered a few clothing stores, scouring the inventory. On a few occasions, Juliana requested the opinion of Valerie on several outfits she had picked out. The Fairy-type trainer was more than happy to utilize her fashion expertise. Explaining to the elder woman that she was once a model, she dispensed tips and pointers on what colors looked best, how some colors blended and complimented each other, even modeling new outfits herself.

    After choosing a pair of black dress pants and a white button-up shirt from the men's section, Juliana draped them over her son's shoulder and snatched the egg from his arms.

    "Valerie, sweetie, why don't you fit Jackson into those clothes?"

    Jackson had been mildly disoriented as his mother suddenly and unexpectedly draped clothing on his shoulder and took his egg, then asked Valerie to escort him to a fitting room.


    Nodding and taking the clothing to fold them over her arm, she grasped onto Jackson's hand with her free hand. Turning into the direction of the fitting rooms, she glanced over her shoulder to smile at the man.

    "Well? Shall we try on a new outfit?"

    "Uh, sure," he replied, pink dusting over his cheeks and his stomach flopping at the fact that she was holding his hand.

    Cradling the egg, Juliana sent the pair a wink as they turned to her one last time, causing the both of them to blush--predominately Jackson. Swallowing hard, the young man followed Valerie to the changing station.

    "Um... sorry Mom has been... teasing you... Us," Jackson apologized as Valerie let go of his hand.

    She shook her head, showing that she wasn't at all bothered.

    "It's fine. My mother likely would have done the same had she been here with us."

    Jackson exhaled on a sigh, briefly running his fingers over the back of his neck.

    "Yeah. She's... just excited... seeing me with a woman."

    Valerie put on a slightly playful smile, handing over the articles of clothing.

    "Hoping for someone to take care of you?"

    The blush re-appeared on Jackson's face.

    "And... having me take care of someone... And grandchildren."

    Her smile broadened.

    "Ooooh, I would love children," she said, following it with a giggle.

    "Heh. Yeah, I love kids. I entertain them for a living, so... I think I'd be a good dad."

    The woman went a little pink in her cheeks.

    "The way you treat your Pokémon? I would like to think you would, too."

    "For now, my Pokémon... are my kids." Jackson gave pause, then spoke again. "That's not weird, is it?"

    She shook her head.

    "No, not at all. I view my Pokémon the same way... People... Pokémon... we're all one and the same."

    "It seems that way, doesn't it? I mean, Fraxure likes to watch cooking shows and cook and bake. Goomy likes to draw. Heck, even Dratini won a few games of poker when we played."

    A look of bemusement stole over Valerie's face.

    "Really? Huh! I never thought he would have been able to do that... Lack of hands and all."

    "He uses his tail and mouth," Jackson clarified, slipping into one of the changing rooms. He remains in there only long enough to change into the dress pants and shirt. He felt a little out of place in the clothing, considering what he was used to wearing. "H... how do I look?"

    Looking him over, her face was tinged with a light shade of pink.

    "You look rather handsome, actually. Get a blazer and a tie on you, and you'll look like you're ready for a business meeting."

    Beaming, another blush bloomed upon Jackson's cheeks.

    "H-handsome, huh? Heh... Thanks..."

    The man received a confirming nod from the young woman.

    "Hmm. Quite handsome."

    He felt ecstatic to hear this--that she actually found him handsome.

    "I... think I'll get this, then."

    After visiting one final store, the group gathered at one of the restaurants located along the seashore, managing to acquire a table along the railing separating them from the ocean. All of the Pokémon had been let out to eat their fill and quench their thirst along with the humans. By the time Jackson was halfway finished with his pasta, the collective chatter of a nearby assembling of people reached his ears, clamoring and leaning over the railing. Following their line of vision, he spotted a pod of Lapras in the distance.

    Valerie and Juliana, too, were pleasantly surprised to see an entire horde of the transport Pokémon, gliding over the waves, diving, and breaching. It was truly a magnificent sight to behold.

    Gasping in awe with wide eyes, Valerie brought a hand to her mouth, transfixed by the beasts.

    "Oh... wow...! How beautiful!"

    With the egg now safely secured within Kangaskhan's pouch with her baby, Jackson cupped his hands on both sides of his mouth and let out a Lapras call, causing the Lapras to turn their heads into his direction. He had the ability to imitate many Pokémon, but it had taken many years of practice to perfect. The large male in the front, presumably the leader, even returned the call, which the man responded to.

    Valerie whipped her head between him and the Lapras with bewilderment, rather impressed. The people close by, who had invested their curiosity, even seemed impressed--at least intrigued--by the exchange.

    After a few more calls, the leader began to direct the pod closer. Grinning, the man pushed himself out of his chair. Removing his vest, wife beater, shoes, and socks, he climbed over the railing and dove right into the water, his mother just sitting there with a calm smile, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
  8. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Thirteen: A Majestic Experience

    Surfacing and taking in a gulp of air, Jackson proceeded to swim ahead to meet the wild Pokémon. His attention was on the leader in front; there was no way he was going to touch the other members of his pod without his approval. As the two met, the man tread the water, directing a wide smile up at the Lapras to show he meant no harm and waited for the marine mammal to make the first move.

    A time period of a few minutes elapsed when Lapras lowered his head to curiously sniff the human. Detecting no danger from him, he smiled and permitted Jackson to run his hand over his nose.

    Valerie's smile broke out into a broader grin, looking VERY impressed. Crossing one hand over the other, as she watched with a wistful expression. He really did have a way with Pokémon, she surmised.

    The man continued to coast his hand up and down the slick, rubbery skin of Lapras' head before the large Pokémon rose his head to signal to the others that he was safe. At this gesture, more Lapras glided closer and were subsequently given attention by the human. Even a baby was allowed near him, and even more surprising, he was allowed to touch the young one.

    By now, there was a crowed amassed along the shore, snapping photos and recording videos with their phones. Valerie, raising her hand, brought it to her mouth as she turned to Juliana.

    "Goodness! This is amazing! He's... he's incredible."

    Juliana observed her son with a tranquil, yet proud smile.

    "He is, isn't he? He has always been like this, even as a young boy. His first Pokémon wasn't even given to him, nor was he loaned a Pokémon to help him catch it. He befriended his Dratini and it wanted to be his."

    The Fairy-type trainer adopted a look of bewilderment.

    "Really! He has never told me about that at all!"

    The older woman turned a smirk to Valerie.

    "Well, he probably would have eventually."

    Jackson climbed upon the Lapras leader's back and rested himself there on his knees, placing a hand on the back of the creature's neck to help support himself. With a wide berth, he turned his attention to Valerie and his mother. Raising an arm, Juliana waved. With a chuckle, he waved back, then shifted back to Lapras and whispered to him.

    "Lapras? See that woman up there in the pink, with the long black hair? I... well... Mind swimming up to her and the woman next to her?" He paused as he noticed the Pokémon looked apprehensive. "You see... I really like her." He paused again with a soft blush, the Lapras smiling in amusement. "And... you know how it is when you like a female."

    Indeed, Lapras knew how it was. He knew all too well. Turning his gaze over his shoulder, he emitted a loving croon to the largest female, who returned it zealously. Caving in, he began to lead the group towards the two women.

    Valerie's eyes went round as the horde made their way over. Glancing briefly over at Juliana, she returned her line of sight to Jackson and the Lapras he was riding on, heart tripping in her chest. Lapras did more than just approach--he extended his head to the railing. Sliding out of her seat, Juliana reached over to touch the Pokémon's head, looking positively thrilled. The Gym Leader, too, moved closer to pet his head--caressing his cheek and chin with a warm smile. Heart beating a little faster, she sighed softly and gazed into his gentle and intelligent eyes.

    "Such a beautiful creature," said Valerie.

    "Yeah... he really is," Jackson agreed.

    The Lapras closed his eyes partially and held still, feeling the man climb up his neck and hold onto his spiral ears. Holding himself there, Jackson stared up at Valerie, his cheeks flushing lightly. The woman herself, tore her attention from the Lapras and shifted her attention to the man, the corners of her mouth extending into a larger smile.

    "You are amazing, you know that?"

    Jackson smiled sheepishly, his blush deepening.

    "She's right, you know," Juliana chuckled as she sat back down.

    "Um... uh. I... uh..."

    He trailed off, unable to even say anything more as he locked eyes with Valerie, his heart picking up speed. The woman went quiet for a few seconds. Looking down at her clothes, a simple pair of jean shorts, a pink blouse, and flip-flops, she then lifted her eyes back to Lapras.

    "Would... would it be possible to fit another person on your back, Lapras?"

    Stomach jumping, Jackson released Lapras' ears and landed back on the Pokémon's back to sit back down.

    "How about it, Lapras?"

    Sensing the man really wanted the woman to join them, he nodded. Beaming, Valerie leaned forward to plant a kiss on the creature's cheek, before hopping the railing to join Jackson on Lapras' back. Sitting in a sidesaddle position, she slid both of her arms around him. Jackson locked up and relaxed. As Lapras turned around and swam further out, he rotated halfway so his side was facing her and slipped an arm around her waist with a shy smile. The young woman tilted her head back to meet his gaze, her cheeks dusting over with a light pink.

    "This is amazing. Thank you, Jackson."

    Chest swelling with a glowing warmth, he turned himself fully to her and positioned himself onto his knees. She was so beautiful, he thought to himself--the setting sun bathing everything, including her, in its warm colors.

    "... L... Lapras... is... the one who... sh-should... be thanked."

    Valerie reached over to stroke the beast's neck.

    "Thank you, Lapras."

    Lapras glanced back at the humans to smile at them in acknowledgement, then directed his attention back to his pod.

    Jackson kept his eyes on her. Judging by the sudden warmth and intensity in his chest that exceeded mere infatuation, he was starting to suspect if NOW he was beginning to fall in love with her.

    Valerie sighed, leaning her head against Jackson's shoulder. Closing her eyes halfway, she inhaled the salty air encompassing them, sinking into his embrace with a peaceful expression upon her face. Heart hammering against his ribcage, he tightened his hold a little bit and rested his chin on top of her cranium with a serene smile. Shutting his eyes with a blissful sigh, he was now certain that he was in love.

    Valerie couldn't help but doze off while in Jackson's arms. Her breath soft, her fingers curled over his skin. The man let out another ecstatic sigh as the two of them sat there on the Lapras. As the calf drifted closer, he snapped to attention.


    Her eyes slowly opened with a sleepy smile.

    "Hmm? Yes, Jackson?"

    "Look," he replied, gesturing to the baby Lapras with a nod of his head.

    Following his line of vision, she released a gasp and clapped her hands together with a squeal.

    "Oh! How sweet! A baby Lapras!"

    The man couldn't help but feel a wave of euphoria at her excitement.

    "Wanna touch it?" he offered. "I was allowed to pet it."

    She nodded and extended her hand out to it--gently, almost gingerly, not wishing to intimidate it. The little one didn't flinch, not the least bit frightened. In fact, it squealed and flapped its front flippers playfully.

    "It's all right," Jackson reassured her. "It's not afraid."

    Valerie's grin extended even further, leaning farther--but let out a cry the instant she slipped off the adult's back and landed into the water. She surfaced, wiping the salty liquid from her eyes. Nonplussed, she lurched forward to the baby Lapras to throw her arms around its neck in a hug.

    Jackson had been about to ask if she was all right with an expression of concern, but seeing that she was fine, a smile broke out on his visage.

    "Hehe." Sliding off of and plunging into the water, he swam over to rub a hand against the baby's slippery neck. "Cuddly, huh?"

    The woman nodded in agreement. Unfurling her arms from the creature's neck, she gave it a few rubs on the chest and climbed onto its back.

    "Very cuddly."

    The baby squealed and whistled, reaching back to playfully nudge the woman in the cheek then nip Jackson on the shoulder.

    "Hey!" he chuckled. The nip left a red mark, but it didn't draw any blood or cause any damage to his skin. Sweeping a hand back, he swung it back around to send a splash at the Pokémon.

    Whistling in delight, Lapras swung its head to splash him back. Laughing, Valerie nuzzled it in the neck as she observed it and Jackson play together. Bringing her fingers to her lips, she couldn't help but admire him all over again. Recovering from the splash, Jackson sent another at the calf. As he turned his back to the Pokémon to shield his face from another incoming splash, he noticed that the crowd had grown significantly.

    "I guess people don't see things like this every day."

    Her eyes rolling towards the crowd, she shook her head.

    "No. Lapras are really, really rare. To see an entire pod out here like this..."

    Turning back around to face her, he drifted closer and curled his arm around the Lapras' neck.

    "... This turned out to be an amazing day..."

    "Indeed, this has proven to be quite memorable!" She briefly giggled. "Thank you, Jackson."

    "Heh... Mom did suggest the trip... But... you're welcome, Valerie."

    Valerie glanced off for a moment.

    "Well, I mean, if it wasn't for you calling the Lapras over... This is so amazing! I never would have dreamed of anything like this."

    Jackson furled his other arm around the baby Lapras to issue him a slightly tighter hug.

    "If you continue... hanging around with me, things like this will... happen again."

    "Really?" The woman placed a hand on her cheek. "Hmm. I look forward to everything."

    Jackson's cheeks were tinged with pink yet again.

    "This isn't the first time I played with wild Pokémon."

    "Juliana mentioned something like that to me. And I should have guessed when you helped that Buizel out last week. You really DO have a way with Pokémon."

    "She... mentioned Dratini, didn't she?"

    Valerie nodded.

    "Yes, she did." Her smile faltered only a little. "I'm sorry, Jackson."

    Jackson was met with confusion at Valerie's apology.

    "Sorry for what?"

    "I didn't think that you would be really appreciative of your mother telling me something YOU didn't."

    The man smiled gently.

    "I'm sure I would've brought it up sometime."

    "I probably should have asked. Still, though..."

    She paused to reach out and brush her fingers over his cheek. Blush darkening, Jackson stared up at her in surprise at the touch, his heart pumping faster. Removing his arms from Lapras' neck, he slid his fingers over the hand on his cheek. She looked from her hand, to his face and into his eyes. The light glinting off her obsidian hair made it shimmer in the dusk and her eyes sparkle with a diamond-like gleam, a rainbow hue surrounding her from the droplets on her body.

    Jackson was awestruck by her. His breath hitching in his throat, he was left breathless for a second before he found the ability to breathe again. His heart fluttering, an adoring smile tipped his lips, his fingers curling around her hand. Valerie couldn't help but gaze into his bright blue eyes, becoming somewhat lost in them. Her heart stopped for just half a second, and turned her attention back towards the shore--and blushed as she noticed how many people were there.

    Turning towards the direction Valerie was focused on, he blushed as well.

    "That's... a lot of people."

    She tensed up a little as she realized the implications this would lead to with her celebrity status.

    "We... we should get back to shore."

    "I suppose..." He turned back to the Lapras leader. "Mind giving us a lift back, Lapras?"

    Smiling, Lapras nodded. Letting go of Valerie's hand, Jackson swam back to the large Pokémon to climb aboard his back. Kissing the baby on the side of the head, she followed suit.
  9. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Fourteen: The Lapras Man

    The next day, Jackson had brought the egg to work with him so he could check on it as often as possible. Since he needed to keep his attention on customers when he wasn't on break, he left it in the employee's lounge with is Pokémon and instructed them to inform him if it showed any signs of hatching.

    He hadn't bothered to read the newspaper or watch the morning news, his mind filled with thoughts of Valerie. His mind had been so occupied, that he almost left the lounge with the body suit of the Spinda costume backwards.

    The first customers of the day was a small family--a woman in her late twenties with long, curled violet hair and pale skin and deep blue eyes. She was carrying a young boy in her arms with short cropped black hair and an older daughter with similar colored hair, but long and braided, at her side. The mother didn't care to be here, but her two children were thrilled. As she made her way deeper into the building, it was revealed that she was carrying a third child--a baby boy in a specifically designed back pack. The baby appeared to be sleeping.

    Wavering on his feet to mimic Spinda's mannerisms, Jackson staggered over to the family. Another family entered the establishment, a single father donning a simple shirt and jeans and his similarly dressed son, who was bouncing up and down in excitement. As Jackson turned to his attention to them, he froze as his eyes focused on the newspaper in the father's hand. His eyes widened even more as they scanned the large print on the front page: Gym Leader Valerie Finds Love With Lapras Man.

    Unbeknownst to him, a few people had uploaded their recorded videos of himself and Valerie interacting with the Lapras. One video that primarily focused on him and the Pokémon went viral, earning him the title as the Lapras Man. He bit his lower lip as his stomach knotted up, wondering if Valerie had seen the newspaper yet...


    Valerie was clutching the edges of the newspaper tightly, her eyes darting back and forth as she skimmed the article on the front page. Her Gym was closed for the day and was not accepting any challengers as she didn't want to have to deal with any inquirers or what they had read in the newspaper or tabloids. She knew what would happen and had preemptively took measures.

    A blonde furisode girl, burning with curiosity, had collected a copy of one of the tabloids. As she finished reading the article that garnered her interest, she turned a smirk to Valerie.

    "Is any of this even true?"

    Valerie sighed heavily and set the newspaper aside on the table she was sitting at. Even though she didn't have to deal with any outside trainers, her Gym trainers were another matter entirely.

    "... Yes, and no. Yes, in that I spent the day with him. No, in that I don't feel THAT way about him."

    "So... you two are just friends," the girl ventured.

    The Gym Leader nodded in confirmation.

    "I've only been on two dates with him."

    "Hm." The girl's eyes traveled to the secondary article with partial interest and decided to change the subject. "Looking forward to FairyCon?"

    Valerie smiled, grateful for the change.

    "I have been looking forward to it for some time," she answered. "I wonder if Jackson might be interested in going."

    "He didn't really strike me as the type who goes to cons, but you know him better than I do." The girl arched her brow as she flipped the page to an article about a woman who had given birth to some sort of angel Pokémon. "You could ask him."

    A light blush tinged Valerie's cheeks.

    "I had been considering telling him about DragonCon. It's supposed to be a month further out from FairyCon."

    "Well, like I said, you can ask him." She shook her head with a skeptical expression as she absorbed the story. Even now, she still found it hard to believe there were people gullible enough to believe the ridiculous stories printed in tabloids. "What does he do, anyway?"

    "He works over at that one family restaurant. The one with the Spinda as the mascot," the older woman replied.

    "Let me guess, he's the mascot?" the furisode girl jokingly inquired with a playful half-smirk.

    Valerie nodded.

    "The one in the costume, yes."

    The furisode girl immediately tore her attention from the page and stared at Valerie incredulously. She was silent for a couple of moments as her brain processed the fact that she had inadvertently guessed the man's occupation.

    "... Isn't that... embarrassing for a guy like him?"

    "It is. Which is why I don't tease him about it."

    "Why don't he just get another job then?" she queried, folding up the tabloid.

    Valerie's smile faltered slightly.

    "Because he likes what he does. The children absolutely love him, and even the Pokémon like it."

    "Seems kind of silly for someone to embarrass themselves for the amusement of others." The furisode girl lounged back in her chair. "He must love seeing kids and Pokémon happy."

    "He does. He has this... way with Pokémon. I don't know how he does it, but he understands Pokémon on a deep, fundamental level most of us don't."

    "Like a... Pokémon whisperer?" the furisode girl ventured.

    Valerie gave an affirmative nod.

    "You could say that, yes." Her smile widened slightly as she reminisced on yesterday's events. "He was able to communicate with the Lapras yesterday."

    The girl's playful smirk returned.

    "You better be careful. With those videos going viral, the ladies might start flocking a guy like him."

    Valerie stared at her, looking almost scandalous at first, having misheard what she said, but realized she said something entirely different.

    "He'll have a hard time with that. He's... shy. Adorably so."

    "This'll be interesting to see, if he does get more attention." She let out a chuckle. "Imagine him running from a swarm of girls."

    The black- haired woman frowned at the mental image.

    "I don't think that would be particularly amusing."

    Pulling out her phone, she looked over the photo that made up the background. Juliana had used it to snap a picture of her and Jackson, and had liked it enough to save it as a background image.

    "Oh, I see. You would get jealous," the girl assumed. "I understand."

    "No!" Valerie responded a little too forcefully, before calming her intonation. "I just... don't see the humor in anything of the sort."

    The furisode girl crossed her arms with a knowing smirk.

    "Come on, Valerie. You can't tell me you wouldn't be jealous if other girls were flirting with a man you're dating."

    The Fairy-type Gym Leader released a resigned sigh.

    "I suppose I would be more than a little envious..."

    "Hm... I'm feeling a little hungry..." The girl's eyes lit up as an idea was brought forth to her. "Why don't we go to that Dizzy's place?"

    Valerie perked up at this suggestion, her eyes practically brightening up her visage.

    "Why not?"


    Jackson was currently located in the ball pit with a small group of four children. Picking up two of the plastic spheres in his costumed hands, he held them up over his eyes, causing them to giggle in amusement. As Valerie and the furisode girl walked in, the former smiled into the direction of "Dizzy", releasing s short chuckle as she watched him play with the children. Dropping the balls the instant he saw Valerie, he just stared at her in awe. A couple of the children were perplexed, one even poking him and inquiring him what was wrong, but his full attention was on the Gym Leader.

    Valerie and her friend took their seats at the table closest to the ball pit with a sweet smile and a quick wink directed at him. The man blushed underneath his costume. As a waiter tended to the women, his attention went back to the children, occasionally stealing glances at Valerie.

    "That's him, huh?" the furisode girl asked, observing.

    Valerie's eyes never left him, giggling softly as two of the children threw themselves on him to hug him, causing him to fall back and sink into the depths of the ball pit.

    "Yes. That's him, all right."

    The furisode girl barked out a laugh at the sight of Jackson floundering about in the ball pit in an attempt to position himself upright.

    "Charming, I guess."

    Valerie nodded, the corners of her lips drawing back into a wider, amused smirk.

    "Hmm. He's very good with children." She sighed fondly. "He would make a good father someday."

    "Thinking about having kids with him already, huh?" the furisode girl teased, averting her gaze as the waiter returned with two glasses of water and an extra pitcher of the liquid.

    "Well, no. I was just saying."

    "He seems like a nice guy."

    Nodding in agreement, Valerie quickly thanked the waiter and brought the ice-cold beverage to her parched lips, her eyes still glued to the young man in costume. Once again, he turned to her, and in response, she threw him yet another smile.
  10. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Fifteen: Welcome to the World

    By the time Jackson's first break rolled by, the young man's attention was averted as Fraxure burst out of the employee's lounge and made his way up to his costumed owner. Urgently grunting and waving his arms, the man instantaneously knew what was happening. He couldn't be more grateful for the convenient timing.

    Remaining in character in front of the customers, he turned to Valerie and rapidly pantomimed that the egg was hatching to the best of his ability. The woman appeared confused for the first few moments, but upon recognizing the gestures she stood up and shifted her attention to the furisode girl.

    "Excuse me. I need to take care of something."

    Politely bowing her head before she left her friend, she followed Jackson and Fraxure. Rushing into the lounge, Jackson pulled the head of his costume off and dropped to his knees before the couch where the egg was nestled, held in place by pillows.

    "Ohh! It's hatching!" Valerie gasped as she lowered herself onto her knees right next to Jackson.

    The egg twitched, a small light gray beak breaking through the shell and emitting a delicate chirp. The baby Pokémon struggled, utilizing all of the limited strength it possessed to push its way out. Cracks forming around the diameter of the egg, the top was worked off, revealing the form of a blue bird Pokémon with cotton-like wings, its down wet with fluid.

    "It's a Swablu..." Beaming, he stood and worked the costume off, not caring that he was in nothing but his Poké Ball print boxers and wife beater in the presence of Valerie. He picked up the baby Pokémon still in the bottom half of the egg shell and brought it against his chest. "Hey, there..."

    The exhausted Swablu gazed up at the human holding it and chirped, then turned its attention to the woman next to him.

    Heart racing with delight, Valerie clapped her hands together with a wide berth glowing upon her features.

    "How sweet!" She then turned her smile to Jackson. "Now you'll eventually have another Dragon-type for your team!"

    Jackson nodded, stroking one hand over the chick's head, not minding if he got his hand sticky. His hands will eventually be washed.

    "Yeah! And if I get a Keystone and the right stone or whatever, I'll have a Dragon-and-Fairy-type!"

    The young woman definitely liked the sound of that.

    "Mmhmm!" She returned her attention to the newborn, reaching out to stroke one of the wet wings. "Hello, darling. Welcome to the world!"

    Pulling the chick out of the shell, Jackson cuddled it, the tiny creature chirping and lightly flapping the wing that wasn't pressed against the man's torso.

    "Fraxure? Can you get those crushed berries out of the fridge?" Jackson requested. In case the baby had hatched, the man wanted to be prepared and feed it right away. He was ecstatic that had done so, disliking the thought of making the little one wait.

    Nodding, the Dragon Pokémon headed over to the miniature refrigerator to pull out a plastic container consisting of a smashed mixture of assorted berries. Taking it in one hand, the man attempted to push off the top with his thumb, but had a difficult time doing so considering the fact it was coated in a thin layer of fluid. Sheepishly, he turned to Valerie.

    "Uh... Help, please?"

    Emitting a giggle as she accepted the container, Valerie popped the lid off for him.

    "There you are."

    "Thanks, Valerie."

    Sitting down and placing the chick in his lap, Jackson scooped up some of the mixture and let Swablu have a taste. As the baby came to the realization that it was food, she parted her beak as a signal that she was ready to receive more. Holding the container at an angle, he carefully poured more into her gaping mouth.

    "She's a sweetie," Valerie stated, closing her eyes partially.

    "She is," Jackson agreed. "She's going to be so fluffy when she dries off."

    Setting down the empty container, he wiped Swablu's beak clean when Fraxure brought him a paper towel. Glancing lethargically over at Valerie, the chick chirped with a small smile.

    "I wonder... if... she thinks the both of us are... her parents," said the young man.

    "Maybe? Baby Pokémon will imprint on the first thing they see."

    "She... did see both of us."

    He lifted his eyes from the newborn to rest them upon Valerie with a soft blush. His heart beat faster as he stared into her soft eyes, a yearn welling up within him that told him to lean in and kiss her. He did not though, his shyness holding him back. Plus, he felt it wasn't the right time.


    Sliding one arm behind the man, she reached with the other to stroke Swablu's head as the drained Pokémon sank into his arms and drifted off.

    "Um... Valerie?" Jackson spoke up in a nervous intonation, after a few moments of locking eyes with the woman. "Would you... like to come to my place sometime... and watch movies?"

    A gentle smile tipping her lips and a twinkle glimmering in her violet eyes, she nodded.

    "Of course."

    Beaming, his own light blue orbs sparkled with bliss. He opened his mouth to speak, but stopped himself at first, remembering that his new Pokémon was sleeping. Keeping his voice at a controlled volume, he spoke.

    "G-great! What... day sounds good to you?"

    She almost purred, taking her fingers from Swablu's head to brush them against his arm.

    "Any night this week will work."

    "Um... tonight?"

    She nodded in confirmation.

    "Tonight sounds fine."

    "I... I'll get everything... set up then," he said, still processing the fact that she agreed to spend more time with him.

    "What time should I come by?"

    "Does... five sound okay?" he questioned.

    "I should be there around then."

    Taking her arms away, the Gym Leader tilted her head back to press a kiss to his cheek, resulting in sending his cheeks to burn and send his heart into a wild flutter.

    "Uhhh... O... o-o-okay."

    "You're sweet, Jackson. Thank you again... for yesterday."

    Without another word, Valerie pushed herself off the couch and exited the lounge while Jackson watched her leave in a stupor, his heart still aflutter.

    "U... uh-huh..."
  11. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Sixteen: The Third Date

    As evening arose, Jackson just finished feeding Swablu and had set her down in her makeshift next, a wooden box stuffed with shredded newspaper with a heat lamp fixated onto it--the actual bulb positioned high enough not to cause any hazards or overheating--that provided UV rays to ensure she didn't develop organ failure. Carrying it to the coffee table, he gently set it down in order to keep an eye on her, and so the chick felt secure with him frequently in her vision.

    He possessed an array of drinks and snacks--even Fraxure had baked a casserole containing noodles blended with cream cheese sitting on top of a mixture of diced tomatoes and assorted vegetables and topped with a layer of Gogoat cheese.

    The clock striking five, Valerie knocked at the door, dressed in a pair of leggings, a short skirt, a shirt that exposed part of her midriff, and a light open jacket. She had her hair styled back with a flair and twin tails in a braid. The young woman smiled as she waited to be greeted, folding her hands together in front of her.

    Setting plates down on the counter, Jackson ran off to the door to pull it open, his face aglow at the sight before him.

    "Valerie... hi," he said, his voice sounding as if he just awoke from a dream.

    Unlocking her fingers, the woman brought up a hand to draw her fingers along her neck as she averted her gaze for a couple of seconds.

    "Hello, Jackson."

    "Uh... Heh... I... Erm..." Shutting himself up, the embarrassed man stood aside to allow her access into his home. "... Uh... c-come in."

    Stepping inside, the young woman delivered a quick wink as she passed Jackson.

    "How is the baby?"

    Blush tinging his cheeks at the gesture, Jackson closed the door and locked it as he struggled to find his voice.

    "... Sh-she's... in her nest... s-staying warm... Absorbing... UV rays..." Drawing away from the door, he followed her. As he caught up, he slowed to walk beside her, directing her into the living room. "Um... I... hope you're hungry... Fraxure made a casserole."

    Fraxure, garbed his apron and chef's hat, ran over to the humans to welcome the woman with a wide grin. It was only a matter of moments before he was followed by Dratini, Goomy, and Aron--Shelgon stationed near the coffee table where the chick was. In response, her face lit up at the sight of them, and she bent over to stroke each of their heads. Reaching up for her hand, Fraxure took it and urged her to come with him.

    "He wants to show you the casserole he made," Jackson clarified with a short chuckle.

    Amusement playing at her smile, Valerie allowed Fraxure to lead her into the kitchen. Stopping at the stove where the casserole was sitting atop of one of the burners, the dragon let go of the woman's hand and slipped on an oven mitt to remove the hot glass lid to reveal a layer of melted cheese, the rest of the dish showing the rest of the contents.

    "We usually have meat in that, but... that was left out," Jackson said, the tantalizing smell of food aggravating his empty stomach. "W... would you like some?"

    The woman's eyes surveyed the dish's contents through its glass wall, the sight of it appealing to her gustatory senses. A welling of gratification began to brew upon hearing that they remembered her preferences.

    "I would love some. Thank you."

    Picking up one of the plates, he scooped a portion for her and stuck a fork into it before handing it to her and serving himself afterwards.

    "Thanks again, Fraxure."

    Smiling and nodding, the Pokémon spun around and headed off. Once he nabbed himself a fork, Jackson led Valerie back into the living room and gestured for her to take a seat on the couch.

    "What... sort of movies do you like?" he queried.

    "I am not picky. So long as it's nothing excessively violent," the Fairy-type Gym Leader responded as she seated herself on one end of the couch.

    Satisfied with that answer, Jackson set the plate down on the coffee table and turned a quick gaze to Swablu.

    "I have plenty of movies without any of that."

    Traversing to the nearest bookshelf, he went through the DVDs, setting aside the movies that did involve violence in a stack that wouldn't be meant for viewing. As he pulled out a few, his eyes shifted to a series of new additions still bound in plastic. He stared at it for a few moments, looking forward to seeing them.

    Sitting back against the back support, she tossed an affectionate gaze over to the young man.

    "What all do you have over there?"

    He immediately snapped to attention the instant Valerie's voice reached him.

    "Oh, I got some picked out, but I... was looking at a series that recently came in. I don't think... you would like the first few episodes... They're very violent."

    "Well, I don't mind violence. Just not truly gratuitous."

    "The violence is excessive, but only for a few episodes," Jackson stated. "There's a lab-created Pokémon being transported by ship. He escapes, kills a lot of the people on board and the ship wrecks on an island. A group of people survived, but one of the scientists gets lost and bumps into the Pokémon. There's a lot of mistrust between them, but as they rely on each other to survive, they start to become friends."

    Never losing her smile, the young woman's face adopted a look of intrigue. While she was not at all fond of violence, she possessed a tremendous soft spot for stories that involved friendship between people and Pokémon.

    "Oh? What's the name of the series? I might be interested in watching it."

    "Anchateddo Shoto no Pokémon," he answered. "The animation is really stunning and the music is very nice."

    "Anchateddo Shoto...?" she parroted. "I've never heard of it. Is that from the far east?"

    "It is. I have a LOT of stuff from there," he affirmed, his eyes skimming over to the myriad of anime he kept.

    "Why don't you go ahead and pop it in?" Valerie insisted, sinking further against the couch.

    At this suggestion, Jackson's eyes lit up and a wide berth was formed upon his visage.


    Receiving a nod, he set down what he had in his hands and grabbed the set of DVDs. Tearing off the plastic wrap, he popped in the first disc and plopped onto the couch right next to Valerie.

    Taking the first bites of their food, Valerie and Jackson watched the opening sequence, the first episode opening up in the interior of a ship's mostly dim cargo room where a furry Pokémon was being held in a containment chamber. The creature appeared to be a cross between a wolf and a reptilian along with the humanoid build. It was around seven feet tall with a muscular frame, long arms and legs, a long fluffy tail that almost resembled an Arcanine's. Its coat was black with golden brown stripes and bright turquoise eyes.

    Like Jackson said, the animation was smooth, paying much attention to detail; the colors were vibrant, and the music was fitting. As more light was shed upon the creature, more of its body was revealed, showing reptilian-like hands and feet with claws, some sharp teeth jutting out from its jaws. A few men in lab coats emerged from the surrounding darkness and tapped on the glass of the beast's containment chamber to agitate him for their amusement.

    The men ignored the German-accented woman's request to leave the creature alone. Reaching to a boiling point, the beast snapped, eyes glowing with a violet aura that indicated it had psychic powers. Summoning his inner mana, he utilized his powers to kill the men in a manner that would satisfy the most hardcore gore hounds.

    Valerie gasped, her eyes snapping wide open at what they beheld, and quickly turned to press her face against Jackson's neck and shoulder. The man, himself, winced a bit, sliding an arm around her as he set the plate down on his lap.

    "I... forgot HOW detailed this sequence was..."

    Back on the television screen, the beast eyed the woman from within his confines. Telepathically reaching out to her, he transferred his thoughts to her, ordering her to release him. She did not comply, but instead ran off. Using his power, he broke out himself and dashed out, killing anyone who tried to stop him. He did not make any humans suffer needlessly, choosing to end them quickly. He made his way around the ship, eventually offing the crew that ran the vessel, which threw it off course.

    The program then cut away to another scene with the ship stuck in the middle of massive rocks jutting out from the water in front of an island.

    "Okay... it's over," Jackson sighed, feeling particularly guilty that he didn't remember the extent of the violence in the first act.

    Valerie exhumed a sigh, lifting her head and returning her vision to the screen. Relieved that there were no longer any signs of violence, leaned in to press her lips to the man's cheek and resumed her meal. Jackson blushed deeply from the kiss. Giving her a squeeze, he withdrew his arm and stared ahead at the television.

    The survivors made their way to the island and salvaged what supplies they could collect. In need of shelter, some set out to gather building materials while others went on an exploration in hopes of finding other people. The German woman, who had wandered off on her own, didn't find others. What she DID find was the escaped lap Pokémon and he did NOT look happy.

    This put Valerie on edge a little bit, expecting there to be more bloodshed... until she remembered the summary of the series Jackson had given her. Just as the Pokémon let out a roar, the episode ended on a cliffhanger.

    The next one opened up with the theme song and picked up where it left off. The beastly Pokémon closed his jaws, attention swaying as another show-created Pokémon appeared, roaring a challenge. Accepting, they lunged at each other while the scientist watched, petrified.

    Both creatures sustained injuries during the battle. The woman observed intently, studying the lab Pokémon's fighting style. It seemed to be lacking in stamina more than anything else. It's style seemed to be to hit hard and defeat the enemy as quickly as possible, though this bout was dragging out. By the time he tore up his foe, he was thoroughly exhausted.

    It was then she was able to find movement in her body, and she ran off as swiftly as she could.

    Valerie bit her lip.

    "Goodness. That poor creature..." She paused to shake her head once. "It's inhumane, but considering what could have been done to it..."

    Jackson nodded.

    "He has a lot of pent-up rage."

    Having lost track of where she came from, the scientist on screen only managed to lose herself in the dense jungle. She was unable to find her way back to the others, and therefore, had to locate her own food, which was plentiful in fruit. The show then cut back to the Pokémon, staring down at his fallen enemy, his thoughts audible to the audience. He proceeded to contemplate why he was alive, what he was supposed to do now, and that he had several instincts buzzing around within him and was uncertain of which ones to obey, rendering him into a bundle of confusion.

    A deeper frown tipped Valerie's lips, sympathy for the beast brimming within her, even though it was only animation.

    "Poor thing. It's just lost and confused," she stated and exhaled a soft sigh.

    "This is why I don't mind putting up with the gore in the series. It actually has a story and characters to feel for. And it's well-made." He went quiet again as the episode ended off with a close-up shot of the Pokémon's eye, focusing on the tear forming in it, then faded to the credits. "Want more casserole?"

    The Fairy-type trainer sighed, heavy emotion impressed on her from the show lingering, and nodded.

    "Yes. I'll take another half-plate," she responded, putting on an affectionate smile.

    The man non-verbally returned the affection with an expression, his cheeks flushing pink. Taking her plate along with his, he went into the kitchen to scoop himself a full plate and Valerie the amount she requested before returning to the couch.

    "H-here you are," he said as he presented her with her second helping.

    "Thank you, Jackson. You're such a sweetheart."

    Picking up her fork, she ate slowly, savoring it. Her compliment only managed to make Jackson blush even harder.

    "Th-thanks. Other guys... not treat you this way or something?"

    She shook her head.

    "Well, not really. It's not that they don't treat me with respect, it's just that most people don't see me for... well... me. They just see the Gym Leader."

    His smile faded.

    "Oh... That... must be hard. I mean... I wouldn't like being known as just the guy who dresses up in a Spinda costume." He gave pause for a moment. "... Okay, some of the neighbors already do."

    Valerie smiled, reaching over to rest her hand upon his as she rested her plate upon her lap.

    "You're not just a guy who dresses up in a Spinda costume. You're a wonderful man with a strong love for Pokémon, who gave me a wonderful time yesterday."

    A gently smile pulled at the corners of the man's mouth.

    "And you're... not just a Gym Leader... You're a very kind and fun woman. I... um... always look forward... to seeing you."

    The young man's words caused Valerie's smile to widen a little bit. She already knew they were true, but still felt relieved to hear them.

    "Thank you, dear. You're a doll."

    "... Y... you're welcome. Um... I guess we should... watch the next episode then..." he suggested, his blush darkening into a deeper shade of pink as his heart beat faster.

    "All right then."

    Sitting back comfortably and picking up her plate, she pulled up her legs onto the couch and shifted her attention back to the television. Starting the next episode, Jackson turned his gaze to the sleeping Swablu. In another hour, it would be time to feed her again. Scooting closer to the woman, he took another bite of his food.
  12. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Seventeen: The Struggles Are Real

    The next episode opened up with the woman racing through the jungle, vainly calling out for anyone who might be around. As she succumbed to exhaustion, she dropped to he knees and buried her face into her palms. Her sobbing only managed to attract the attention of a hungry carnivorous show-created Pokémon. Hearing the maned lizard-like beast hiss, she screamed and scrambled to her feet, adrenaline overriding her fatigue.

    The German woman ran, exhaustion creeping up on her again, but she refused to give up. After a three minute chase scene, she burst through a wall of large ferns and skidded to a halt upon seeing the cliff right in front of her. Slipping over onto her side and legs sliding over the edge, she grabbed a hold of a giant root and held on for her dear life.

    The hungry Pokémon snarled, peering over the edge and down at her, maliciously baring its gleaming fangs. Valerie drew in a small breath through her nose, leaning in closer to Jackson at what her eyes beheld upon the television screen. Just when the Pokémon was about to snap at her, it was engulfed in a purple aura. Being lifted off of its feet, it was flung over the edge where it landed on top of a tree that broke its fall.

    The woman was then cloaked in the purple aura and placed onto the safety of solid ground. She then gasped upon seeing the lab Pokémon staring at her intensely. He stared at her for several moments before he finally spoke telepathically to her that her screaming had been annoying him and he turned his back to her.

    She was shocked over the fact that he had saved her--as was Valerie, to a lesser extent. After thinking for a moment, the German-accented woman wasn't entirely sure that he came just to shut her up, but she was too afraid to say anything. A short while elapsed when she did speak, pointing out his injuries. He had told her that he was fine, even though his injuries were quite serious. She insisted on helping him, but he kept his distance from her... before relenting and allowing her to tear off part of her lab coat to wrap some of his gaping lacerations.

    Picking up the pillow on her end of the couch, Valerie placed it on Jackson's lap and slid away from him to position herself onto her side and rest her head. Smiling down at the woman, Jackson set his plate down on the armrest and brought his hand to her head to repeatedly stroke it. A smile tipped her lips, a murr escaping her at the feeling of the man's hand gliding over her head. With a gentle sigh, she closed her eyes.

    Running his hands over her hair, his fingers traveled to her cheek, smoothing them over her soft skin. Another purr emanated from the woman at the gentle physical contact. It wasn't much longer until she drifted off into a peaceful slumber.


    Jackson carefully lifted the pillow and Valerie's head to slide out from underneath her, only to place it back onto the couch. As he picked up Swablu, the bird loudly chirped, causing the man to wince and quietly urged her to keep the volume down even though he knew she wouldn't understand him.

    Valerie stirred, but did not wake. The baby Pokémon's chirping reaching her in her unconscious state, she smiled and snuggled into the pillow with a contented sigh.

    Soon, Swablu's chirps turned into louder squawks that pierced Jackson's eardrums. Taking her into the kitchen, he set her down on the counter next to the refrigerator and pulled open the appliance's door to retrieve a pre-made formula with the liking of baby cereal.

    The squawks roused Valerie from her slumber. Stretching and releasing a yawn, she lethargically pushed herself off of the couch. Her groggy mind hadn't come to the immediate realization that she had fallen asleep against her companion, her cheeks flushing a light shade of pink once she did.

    There was a clattering originating from the kitchen as Jackson rummaged through the drawers that only added to Swablu's hunger cries. Putting a portion of the mixture into the microwave, he proceeded to heat it up, then spun around on time to prevent the chick from shuffling off the counter. Listening in, Valerie smiled warmly, heading into the kitchen the moment the man caught the baby Pokémon. Stepping forward, she spread her arms to slide them around the small Flying-type to draw her into a cuddle.

    "Aww, is the baby hungry?"

    "I would say she is." He exhaled on a relieved sigh as his anxiety was becalmed. As the timer drew him back to the microwave, Swablu squawked up at the woman holding her as if expecting her to feed her. Putting down the container as he pulled it out of the microwave, he touched his finger to the mushy food to test its temperature, only to swiftly retract it as the heat seared him. "Ouch!"

    Valerie winced a bit.

    "Oooh. Be careful, Jackson."

    She pursed her lips in empathy then pressed them to the top of Swablu's head in a display of affection.

    "I think I put this in too long..." he said as he fished out a spoon from one of the drawers to mix it around. "I really don't like making her wait..."

    Transferring Swablu into one arm, Valerie brought her free hand up to her chin. Eyes brightening as an idea formed within her mind, she pulled out one of her Poke' Balls and enlarged it.

    "Mawile, come on out!" Cracking open, the Ball released a familiar white energy that materialized into the Steel-type. Turning to her, the woman smiled. "Mawile, could you use your Icy Wind on that container Jackson's holding, please? Just a short breath."

    Mawile nodded. Turning to the young man, she waited for him to extend the container to him and parted her lips to blow a breath of Icy Wind. Hands chilled, Jackson, mixed the formula and tested it a second time. A smile pulled at the corners of his lips, deeming it the appropriate temperature.

    "Thanks, Mawile."

    The Steel-and-Fairy-type let out a cry of happiness at the praise, her trainer administering a rub on her head. Pouring the mixture into a syringe, Jackson walked over to Valerie and proceeded to feed Swablu, taking especial care not to get any into her windpipe. Watching him feed her, Valerie stroked her hand over the soft cottony wings.

    Fed, Swablu calmed down and sank into the arm of the woman holding her while Jackson immediately washed the syringe. Once it was finished drying it off, he gave Mawile a pat on the head and headed back to the comfort of the couch, falling into step behind Valerie.

    "Thanks for the help... Sometimes it's difficult watching her and getting her meal ready at the same time..." said Jackson as he took his seat next to the Gym Leader. "Especially every two hours."

    "You're more than welcome, Jackson. After all, she's my baby, too, hmm?" she stated, reaching over to brush her free hand over his.

    A hot blush bloomed upon the man's face and he nodded slowly, his eyes dropping to Swablu as she nodded off. Valerie sighed, scooting closer to lean against him again. His heart picked up into a faster beat, half turning his body to furl his arms around her shoulders and upper arms. In response, she rested her head upon his shoulder, her fingers gently kneading through the soft bird Pokémon's down.

    "Do... you want to spend the night?"

    "Oh?" The woman lifted her head to meet her friend's gaze. "You wouldn't mind me staying here? I wouldn't want to be a bother to you."

    "I d-don't mind," he assured her. "You... can... even use my bed."

    A pleased smile tipped her lips, brushing her fingers over his cheek briefly.

    "Aw. You're sweet, Jackson. Although, really, it's fine. I don't mind sleeping here on the couch. You were quite comfortable."

    A second blush saturating his face, he gave her a gentle squeeze.

    "Why don't I put the baby back in her nest?" he suggested.

    Valerie nodded once.

    "Of course." As she carefully handed the chick to Jackson's awaiting arms, she couldn't help but plant one more kiss to her head. "Such a sweet baby."

    "She is..." Cradling Swablu with an affectionate smile, he lowered his head to kiss the bird himself. With the utmost care, he set the little one back into her nest and underneath the warmth of her heat lamp and sat back down to slide his arms back around Valerie.

    The Gym Leader curled up, her arms snaking around him as she rests her head on his shoulder again.

    "I'm sorry I fell asleep earlier."

    "It's... all right. I don't mind."

    The young woman blushed in mild embarrassment, slowly shutting her eyelids.

    "What all did I miss?"

    "Just a couple more episodes, but... they can be re-watched."

    She nodded, nuzzling up against his shoulder and neck.

    "Hmm. I'll probably have to sit on the other side of the couch if we do. I'm feeling kind of drowsy again," she informed.

    Keeping his arms around her, he turned his body fully to her and slowly laid back, bringing her with him as he did so.

    "Umm... Is... this okay?" he inquired with a hard blush.

    Emitting a short surprised squeak, she followed it with a giggle as she sank down on him.

    "Yes, this is fine. I'm not hurting you, am I?"

    Jackson's blush deepened.

    "O-of course not. I... I'm comfortable," he answered, his heart speeding up into a faster beat again.

    The young woman realized just how things were, looking him over, her arms on either side of him and laying on top of him. Giving him a sly, playful smirk, she touched her lips to his nose to give him a quick peck. Eyes practically bugging out, his cheeks flushed a brilliant scarlet, a series of incoherence spewing from his mouth. Amused, she responded with a giggle.

    "You're adorable. Especially when you get flustered like that," she commented.

    Jackson just gave her a nervous, yet goofy, grin. Still blushing, he picked a hand up to glide it over her hair. At this, she went a bit pink in her face.

    "Thank you for giving me a good time tonight, Jackson."

    The man nodded slowly as she snuggled up against him, preparing to turn in for the night.

    "... A-anytime."
  13. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Eighteen: Uncertainty

    A month's time elapsed. In the duration of that time period, Valerie and Jackson had gone out on a couple more dates and sometimes met up at around their lunch break to talk and get to know each other better. While the man had grown more fond of her, the woman's feelings remained relatively the same.

    Tatiana flopped back onto the soft comforter neatly draped over one of the beds within the hotel room. Releasing a tired sigh, her eyes scanned the interior while her Espurr and Skitty roamed the room, sniffing the unfamiliar space in their curiosity.

    "Whooo! That was a tiring trip," she said, lifting her head off the bed to peer at the other woman accompanying her.

    Valerie nodded in agreement, exhuming her own exhausted sigh as she turned her gaze out the window behind Tatiana's bed.

    "It HAS been a long trip," she confirmed, her mind retracing the day. The party had departed their homes not long before the sun began to peek over the horizon. They traveled in two vehicles; Gray and Manson joined Jerry while she and Jackson had rode in Tatiana's car. They had anticipated heavy traffic, giving the reason for leaving so early.

    "Sooooo..." the brunette began as she kicked off her shoes and positioned herself into a laying position on her side, planting her elbow onto the bed to prop up her head. "How have things with you and Jackson been going? You two officially getting together any time soon?"

    Valerie was quiet for several seconds as she thought about her answer. While she cared for Jackson deeply. He was a very kind man she felt comfortable around, and who liked her for who she was, she wasn't certain she could return his affections to the same extent as him.

    "Well... no," she finally answered, a frown tipping her lips. "He's sweet, but... I don't really see us getting together."

    Now Tatiana's smile disappeared, arching her brow in puzzlement.

    "No? Something... wrong with him? Or... what is it about him that makes you think that?

    "Is it because he dresses up like a Spinda for the entertainment for our customers?"

    Valerie shook her head to convey that that wasn't the case. In fact, it was one of the features she liked about him.

    "No, nothing like that... I've never really seen myself with a boyfriend." A ghost of a smile tipped her lips. "but... ever since I've been with him... I don't know."

    "Ooooh..." Tatiana pressed her teeth into her lower lip. "Ever talked to him about it? The guy obviously has a thing for you."

    "No, I..." She gave pause, a blush tinting her cheeks. "I wouldn't... know how."

    "Ahhh... Maybe you should? Better to cut him off as soon as possible before he gets in any deeper," Tatiana suggested, the expression on her face making it apparent that she was in a state of discomfort with the current conversation. "It'll only hurt him more if you don't."

    "Hurt him?" the Gym Leader parroted, staring at the woman across from her in bemusement. "But... I don't want to... hurt him."

    "Would you rather be in a fake relationship with him?"

    "Well, no, not at all! He's my friend, but... I don't want to... well..."

    "I get that you don't want to hurt him at all, but there IS gonna be pain," Tatiana stated, bringing her free hand up to slide it over her neck. "Better to hurt him now than to lie to him and wait until he's even more attached to you."

    Valerie evicted a heavy sigh.

    "I suppose you do have a point."

    Tatiana parted her jaws to say something else when her words fell short by a sudden heavy knocking at the door. Reluctantly getting up, her exhausted body insisting that she remain in bed, she opened it and was subsequently shoved aside by Jerry, who was dragging Jackson behind him--the latter holding an ice pack over his left eye. It wasn't long until Manson and Gray came in from behind them.

    "Hot friggity dig, Jerry!" Tatiana exclaimed upon taking notice of Jackson's condition. "What happened?"

    "It's no big de--"

    "Don't you tell us it's no big deal, Jackson!" Manson griped. "You got punched in the eye!"

    "W-wha?" the woman stammered.

    Surprise and concern adorning her features, Valerie immediately moved to Jackson's side, raising a hand to brush it over the cheek underneath the inflicted eye.

    "Jackson, what happened??"

    Jackson responded to the touch with an immediate blush, and opened his mouth to speak when he was interrupted by Manson.

    "Gray here." He turned a glare at the mentioned man, "Was flirting with another guy's girlfriend."

    "Hey, I didn't know she had a boyfriend!" Gray cried, holding up his hands defensively. "He wasn't even around when I approached her!"

    "The idiot was about to get his ass handed to him when Jackson intervened," Manson continued. "Jerry got a hold of security before it got any uglier."

    "And before you got involved," Jerry added.

    Manson grunted, grinding his fist into his palm.

    "Anybody who messes with our Jackson gets what's comin' to 'em."

    Valerie compressed her lips with a look of mild surprise as she crossed her arms.

    "I see..."

    Even Tatiana appeared a bit alarmed, her mind replaying the discussion she and Valerie had earlier concerning Jackson. Would this even apply to her if she broke it off with him?

    "Ehhh... Come on, Manly, that's a bit of a stretch, isn't it?"

    The portly man gave an unrelenting shake of his head.

    "Nope. We want nothing to do with people who hurt one of our own."

    It was then Tatiana turned a worried gaze to Valerie, who mirrored her expression in addition with a look that said "see what I mean?". Sighing, the brunette shifted her attention to Gray.

    "What have you learned, Gray?"

    "Not get caught flirting with girls?" He received a subsequent smack from the woman. "Ow!"

    "I'm fine, okay?" Jackson reassured. "There's... nothing to worry about. The guy got carted off for assault."

    The Fairy-type trainer sighed, reaching to caress his cheek a second time.

    "You should get back to your room and lie down so you won't have to hold that ice there."

    His face flushed scarlet at the physical contact, a goofy smile spreading across his lips.

    "Ah, heh... Y-yeah, p-probabuhbably."

    A snicker originated from Jerry as he rested a hand on the younger man's shoulder.

    "Come on, let's get you back to our room."

    "S... sure."

    With that, the still incensed Manson and composed Jerry led him out of the girls' room, Jackson gazing over his shoulder at the woman of his dreams as he was dragged away. Gray, however, lingered behind, turning to Valerie with a wide berth.

    "Hey, Val? I wanna thank ya for... y'know, going out with Jackson and being with him. I never seen him happier."

    After saying that, he finally left. Tatiana almost threw a glare at him, but withheld it, thinking that would only arouse suspicion, then promptly thought that he would be too ignorant to suspect anything.

    Valerie heaved a heavy sigh, lowering her bottom to her chosen bed.

    "This is why I cannot be like that. I can't hurt him. I don't have a choice."

    "You'll only hurt him more," Tatiana reminded her, plopping on her own bed. "... But... I can't make you do anything..."

    "I would rather see him happy, even if that means I won't be. I can't bring myself to hurt him. I don't want to lose him as a friend," Valerie said forlornly.

    "You know he'd want YOU to be happy, right?"

    "Well, yes, but..." She sighed again. "That's why this is so difficult. I don't have experience with anything like this."

    "It's kinda hard imagining a pretty and popular gal like you doesn't have experience with romance," Tatiana commented.

    "Yes, well, I don't. I've never had a boyfriend. I never intended on having a boyfriend."

    "Right, right. I'm sorry," the brunette apologized sympathetically. "I'm usually good at giving advice, but I got nothing. I may be a dork, but I'm usually the one in the group who gives out advice. You'd think it'd be Manly since he's a lot older, but nooooope.

    "He's just as dumb as Gray."

    "What's the deal between you and him?" Valerie spoke up with piqued interest. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've noticed you seem to be..."

    She trailed off, letting out a short giggle. A smirk pulled at the corners of Tatiana's mouth as she rolled her eyes.

    "He's like a stupid little brother. A very stupid little brother."

    "I just got the impression the two of you were a little more than that."

    Tatiana shook her head.

    "We've known each other for years. Yeah, he's tried to hit on me when we met, but he eventually got the idea I wasn't interested in him. Sometimes, I wonder if he's forgotten that, the idiot."

    "You two just look adorable together, that's all." Another giggle jumped out of Valerie, before all traces of cheer melted from her visage as she gazed over at the door. "But, now I'm worried about Jackson."

    "Yeah... You and me both, sister," Tatiana sighed, then decided to change the subject for the sake of the mood. "Bet you're surprised Manly came along, huh?"

    Valerie nodded, returning her attention to her friend.

    "I was, actually! I never expected him to."

    "He wasn't going to come, but once he got the news that the in-laws were visiting this weekend, be bought his pass immediately." She got an acknowledging nod from Valerie. "The in-laws don't really like him. They're... upper-class type people who think of him as some sort of a delinquent just because he runs a tattoo parlor, goes to bars, acts all tough, and tries to look like the biggest man ever. Stuff like that."

    "People should be able to follow their dreams without persecution. I can see why, though. I don't particularly care for tattoos myself, but..."

    "Hehe, no?" Pulling up her right pants leg, Tatiana revealed a tattoo of an Espurr surrounded by a purple aura that can be assumed to be psychic energy. "Got this from Manly a couple years ago."

    "It's nicely done." Valerie couldn't help but smile as she admired the artwork. "He's an excellent artist."

    "He sure is." Tatiana rolled down her pants leg. "Usually, a girl like myself would prefer a group of friends to be other girls to... discuss girl stuff, but those dumb boys are my best friends. They've always been there for me."

    Valerie chuckled.

    "Just another one of the guys?"

    "Haha! You bet I am!" Tatiana averted her attention when Skitty was lifted off the floor and placed onto the bed with the help of Espurr's telekinesis. "Awww... You babies wanna be on the bed?"

    Extending her arms towards the small psychic feline, she picked her up and set her down upon her lap. Curling a single arm around Espurr, she brought her free hand to Skitty to run it over the pink kitten's back.

    "My next door neighbor dropped Espurr off this morning before I left... again." Tatiana laughed in amusement. "Said she found her in bed with her, watching over her when she woke up. All the doors and windows were shut and locked, so we don't know how Espurr keeps getting in."

    Valerie eyed Espurr in bemusement.

    "How many times has Espurr gotten in your neighbor's house?"

    "I lost count after six... I dunno. She just likes the neighbor, even if she doesn't like her." She scratched the tuft of fur between Espurr's ears and cooed to her. "How could anyone NOT like a cutie like you?"

    Valerie rubbed her chin in contemplation.

    "I'm kind of curious as to how she keeps getting in... Using her psychic powers to unlock the locks and open the doors, perhaps?"

    "Maybe... If she's locking them again after she gets in... I don't think we're ever gonna know, honestly."

    The Fairy-type Gym Leader gave a non-committal shrug.

    "Perhaps not."

    "Yeah." Deciding that she was ready to shower and end the day, set her Espurr aside and slid off of the bed. "Well, I'm hittin' the shower."

    On her way, Tatiana pulled her shirt right off her body and allowed it to drop in the middle of the floor before she disappeared into the bathroom. Once the door shut, Skitty jumped off the bed to pounce on her owner's discarded shirt.
  14. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Nineteen: Shelgon the Tsundere

    The Anistar City Convention Center was practically packed with people and Pokémon, the conjoined voices of countless conversations making it difficult to even speak to a nearby person without raising the voice. The building was set up in sections, splitting the panels reserved by notable people in the field of raising Fairy-type Pokémon. Valerie had held several panels in the past, but decided not to this year, preferring to participate in a special Contest that she had failed to attend before due to time constraints. There were also sections where various merchandise was sold, some of it provided by panelists, all of it ranging from clothing, accessories, cards, games, DVD's, care products, treats, and artwork.

    Tatiana, Jerry, Gray, and Manson had decided to break off from Valerie and Jackson--or, more accurately, Tatiana decided for them, figuring the remaining two people needed time to themselves. The young man accompanying the Fairy-type Gym Leader had his Shelgon out while she had let her Sylveon out of his Poke' Ball. Of course, he had expected the Gym Leader would be swarmed by fans, but the intimidating glare on his dragon kept most of them back at a respectful distance.

    From what they could see, Shelgon was the only Dragon-type out. Jackson had anticipated his Pokémon to be uncomfortable with the presence of so many Fairies, but he was relieved to find that she wasn't at all unsettled. In fact, the armored creature felt satisfied that her appearance exerted dominance over most of the Pokémon they passed.

    As Sylveon scanned the crowd, his eyes settled upon the Pokémon standing with their trainers in the section reserved for breeders. He spied another one of his kind, a female possessing a shimmering blue coat. His sky blue orbs widened, becoming quite attracted to the female. The female stood tall, holding her head high to pose for whoever wished to get a look at her or take photographs. Turning her head, she spotted Valerie's Sylveon, and offered a friendly smile in greeting.

    Shelgon observed the interaction between the two Sylveon. Not liking that Valerie's Pokémon had his attention so intently absorbed on the other female, she tightened her scowl and lunged, aiming a Headbutt right at his hindquarters.

    Sylveon smiled back, only to be knocked onto his face. Springing up, he whirled around to face Shelgon with a confused expression. The shelled dragon met the Fairy-type Eeveelution with a face burning with anger. Snorting, she half-reared and slammed her front feet onto the floor to emphasize her displeasure. Sylveon just tilted his head, looking even more confused. He understood she was displeased, but he thought she didn't LIKE him.

    As Jackson turned his glance to the Pokémon to quickly check on them, his smile melted and formed into a concerned frown upon analyzing and acknowledging the expression upon Shelgon's visage.

    "Shelly, what's wrong?"

    Huffing again, Shelgon positioned herself behind Sylveon at an angle to where her body was blocking the other Pokémon's view of the female fairy. Sylveon merely purred softly, before hopping from the floor and up onto Shelgon's back. Curling around and laying down the dragon, he closed his eyes. At this, her face darkened, but this time not from anger and her expression softened a tiny bit.

    Having been fully invested and carefully examining the behavior of the Pokémon, a knowing smirk suddenly pulled at the corners of Jackson's mouth.

    "I see what's going on. You're a tsundere, aren't you, Shelgon?"

    Considering the type of content her trainer was interested in, Shelgon actually knew what that word meant. Eyes widening, her face went even darker. As if in defiance, she compressed her brows into a glare. Sylveon yawned, patting his paw against her back a couple of times and rolled onto his side, drawing out his tongue to rack it across her back. Shelgon clenched her eyes shut and shook with anger and embarrassment, an almost whining groan sliding out of her.

    "Isn't that cute, Valerie?" Jackson chuckled. "Shelgon likes Sylveon."

    Valerie couldn't help but giggle softly, charmed at the situation.

    "Awww. That IS sweet."

    The young man chuckled again, squatting down to run his hand over Sylveon's head.

    "What do you think about that, Sylveon?"

    Sylveon just lifted his head, yawned, and purred, nuzzling against Shelgon before appearing to fall asleep.

    "I think he cares for her, too..." Valerie surmised with another giggle. "Even if he doesn't outright show it."

    "She definitely doesn't show it." Dropping his gaze, he met the eyes of his Pokémon. "You need to be more affectionate, Shelgon."

    Snorting, the dragon shook her body to remove Sylveon from her back. Sylveon cried out at a surprised volume, landing on his back. Rolling over onto his paws, he shook himself and plodded over to Valerie to curl up by her feet.

    Jackson shook his head in disapproval and he stood straight up again. Just then, the shiny Sylveon began to wander over, her eyes alight with intrigue. Taking notice of this, Shelgon growled and positioned herself between the two Sylveon. Valerie's Sylveon looked a little surprised, and a bit bewildered, as he tilted his head. The shiny Sylveon gazed around Shelgon's bulky form to peer over at Valerie's with a smile that evoked jealousy from the dragon. Warning growl ignored, the shiny Pokémon received a Headbutt in the side, sending her flying.

    "Sh-Shelgon!" Jackson sputtered incredulously, Valerie sharing his shock. "What...? I know you like Sylveon, but there's no reason for you to do THAT!"

    Even Valerie's Sylveon looked cross, administering a glare at Shelgon. Jumping around, he nudged the shiny one, helping her to her feet and issuing an apologetic frown for his friend's actions. Gathering herself to her feet, the shiny Sylveon turned her nose up at the dragon... before pouncing on Shelgon and pressing her maw against her head in a Draining Kiss, taking a chunk of her energy. Groaning in pain, Shelgon slumped to the floor in a daze.

    "Ack! Shelgon!" the dragon's trainer cried, anxiety welling up within him. He should have known something like this would've happened, he mentally mused, berating himself.

    Valerie had been about to order her Sylveon to get the other one away from Shelgon, but she didn't need to. He rose to the defense of the Dragon-type this time, turning to the other in exasperation. It was quite clear the shiny Pokémon was enraged, shooting a vengeful glare at Shelgon as she staggered to her feet. Seeing that her male counterpart was unwilling to budge and allow her to finish the shelled dragon off, she turned around and padded back to her confused trainer.

    Sighing in relief, Jackson dropped to his knees at Shelgon's side and ran his fingers up the slope of her back.

    "You okay, Shelly?"

    Grunting, the dragon Pokémon nodded as well as a Shelgon could, lacking a neck. Sylveon, too, exhumed a sigh. Ears twitching, he turned around to paw her side and nuzzle her once.

    "My..." Valerie began, still reeling in from what had just happened. "That was... something."

    "Yeah..." the man responded, then addressed his Pokémon. "You really shouldn't let yourself get so jealous."

    Groaning irritably, Shelgon turned her attention to Sylveon, her face flushing as the fairy nuzzled her. Sighing, she allowed herself to return the nuzzle.

    "That's sweet, though," said Valerie as a smile dawned upon her features. "Look at them!"

    "Heh, yeah. I hope you learned a lesson, Shelgon."

    Drawing back a bit, Shelgon let her usually grouchy countenance drop as she locked her gaze with Sylveon's. He purred softly, moving to stroke his entire body alongside hers, rubbing his head and the base of his tail against her. She responded with a murr as she rubbed back against his side.

    Just then, a young woman who appeared to be in her early twenties approached Jackson from behind and gave him a tap on the shoulder. Startled to attention, the man spun around to face the stranger.

    "Uh, yes?"

    "Excuse me, but aren't you the Lapras Man?" she inquired.

    His face flushed a little in embarrassment.

    "Um, yes."

    An ecstatic expression lit up her face and she turned to a small group of similarly aged girls a short distance away.

    "It's him!" she exclaimed, her and her companions subsequently swarming Jackson and unnerving him.

    Valerie blinked incredulously. Backing up a half-step, she was rudely shoved out of the way by an over-enthusiastic fan, causing her to trip over Shelgon and land heavily upon her arm with an audible CRACK. She yelled out in pain and curled up on the hard floor. Jackson was immediately at her side, Shelgon whirling around with wide, alarmed eyes.

    "Oh, man! Valerie, did you hurt yourself badly?! Can you get up?!"

    She compressed her eyelids, tears spearing from the corners of her eyes as pain shot up and down her arm. Hissing, she attempted to move her inflicted arm to push herself up, only to cry out again and fall to her side again. Sylveon hopped to her side to help her roll over onto her other side. Without much problem, she was able to get herself into a kneeling position.

    The women surrounded Valerie, each voicing their concern until Jackson spoke up.

    "Clear the way! I'm taking her to the hospital!" he said urgently, and the women didn't hesitate to remove themselves from the path that led to the nearest exit. Sliding one of his arms underneath Valerie's knees and the other around her shoulders, he carefully lifted her up and proceeded to whisk her away, Sylveon and Shelgon falling into step behind him.

    Valerie grit her teeth harshly, her vision rendered blurry from the sheer amount of agony she was experiencing. Pressing her face into Jackson's neck, she emitted a whimper as she was carried out of the building.


    Once admitted, a time period of two hours elapsed before Valerie was finally allowed to see a doctor--upon which, once she was actually x-rayed, was found to have a clean fracture, that thankfully didn't break through the skin. It was still a nasty break as her elbow had been the point of impact--and it would take quite a long while to heal.

    Jackson had refused to leave Valerie's side, wanting to be there for her and comfort her in any way he could considering the amount of pain she was in. Throughout the duration of the stay, Shelgon wouldn't even look at her, feeling that it was her fault she was injured, despite her trainer's consolations and assurances that she wasn't at fault--that the woman who had pushed her was to blame.

    Valerie exhumed a sigh, sinking back against the bed as she gazed down at her cast and sling. She would be staying overnight to be checked for any additional injuries she might have sustained. With the pain level so high, she was far more miserable than one usually would be with an identical injury.

    "I am going to have to drop out of the Contest," she groaned, tearing up all over again. "I can't compete with a broken arm..."

    The man's eyes sprang open wide in surprise.

    "What? Why not? You only need one arm, right?"

    She shook her head, then paused in contemplation. Did she really require both of her arms for this competition?

    "... I suppose, but I'd have to hide my cast and sling."

    He arched his brow in confusion.

    "Why is that?"

    "Well, the majority of the Contest is... visual. That is half of the score right there. Unless I somehow alter my costume to incorporate my sling in some way..." She shook her head. "I'll have points deducted off and the judges I'm afraid don't give out sympathy points for injuries."

    Sighing, Jackson slid his hand over her shoulder. He wasn't going to let her just drop out like that when she had been looking forward to competing in a FairyCon Contest for years.

    "Anything I can do to help you? I'll do anything at all."

    Valerie tilted her head back to fix her gaze upon the ceiling in thought.

    "... ... I suppose you could hunt down some supplies..."

    He nodded, practically jumping up from his seat with energetic readiness.

    "Sure! W... what do you need?"

    The woman rubbed her chin with her good hand.

    "I'll need dye. Rose dye, if possible. Yellows as well. In regards to bandages, if you can find alternate colored bandages."

    "I'll get right to it!" Jackson balled up his fists, a determined expression brightening up his features. "You can bet I'll get everything you need."

    Valerie shifted her eyes to her friend, a smile tugging at her lips.

    "Thank you, Jackson. I'll probably be getting discharged tomorrow morning. I'll need to work fast to alter my costume for the competition."

    "Got it. I'll text the others and let 'em know what happened. Uh... I'll see you later, okay?"

    Her smile broadened, nodding once.

    "I will see you later, dear."

    Blush tinting his cheeks, he backed up, almost knocking over a tray as he bumped into it. Chuckling in an embarrassed fashion, he withdrew Shelgon into her Ball and exited the room.
  15. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Twenty: Devotion

    For the rest of the day, Jackson scoured Anistar City's craft shops for the supplies Valerie wanted. He managed to attain everything she asked for sans the rose dye. After he finished combing through the final store's inventory, he took a cab to Couriway Town as the sun sank made way for the moon. While he could have called or texted the Gym Leader he couldn't find the rose dye, he didn't want to let her down and allow her to drop out of the Contest. Tired and feet sore and blistering, he resumed his search on foot upon arriving at his destination.

    Valerie had been discharged early the next morning. Once Tatiana received the news, she immediately made her way to the hospital to pick her up. She had insisted she join her, Jerry, Gray, and Manson for breakfast at a diner not too far from their hotel, but she declined in favor of putting her costume together.

    Jackson trudged up to the room the women were staying and knocked on the door, plastic bags hanging from his other arm. In the middle of altering her design, drawing pad laid in her lap and pencil firmly held in her good hand--which was, unfortunately, not her dominant hand--, paused her task to shift her attention to the door.

    "You may come in, the door isn't locked," she called out.

    Door swinging open, the man shuffled into the room, eyes heavy, hair disheveled, and feet practically screaming at him for relief.

    "I... got your stuff," he mumbled. Suppressing a yawn, he set the bags down at the foot of her bed then collapsed onto the empty bed Tatiana had been using.

    "Oh! Goodness! Jackson!" Setting the drawing pad and pencil aside, she slid off of her bed and planted herself at the edge of the other bed. "Are you all right?!"

    "Mhm..." he hummed. Allowing himself to yawn, he closed his tired eyes.

    Her visage graced with concern, she reached out with her good hand to smooth her fingers through his thick hair.

    "You poor dear. You look completely exhausted..."

    Cheeks glowing pink from the physical contact, he slowly opened his eyes and directed a loving smile up at her.

    "... Yeah... but... I got what you need... You're worth it."

    Her own face dusting over with a light shade of pink, she appeared touched at the display of devotion.

    "You have been searching over a day? Oh, Jackson, you look like you've walked all the way from one side of the region to the other and back!"

    "The rose color was... very hard to find," he relayed. Lethargically lifting his legs, he pushed off his shoes and pulled off his socks to reveal his swollen and blistered feet. Cool air and sheets soothing his feet as he curled up on the bed, he exhaled a deep sigh.

    Valerie's smile dispersed at the condition of Jackson's feet, feeling a hint of guilt.

    "Awww, sweetie--you didn't have to go out of your way for that. I would've just used my carnation dye instead. I have plenty of that."

    Eyes snapping wide open, he mentally slapped himself. He didn't need to put in all that effort all along... Oh well... At least he obtained the dye and had proved to Valerie the lengths he would go for her.

    "It's fine, Val. I, uh... wanted... ah..."

    He averted his gaze, cheeks flushing a little deeper. Smile returning to her face, Valerie leaned over to kiss his forehead.

    "I really appreciate the lengths you went to."

    Face flushing a deeper shade of pink, Jackson returned his eyes to her and lifted a hand to brush it over her cheek.

    "I... would go... any lengths for you... a-anytime."

    "Well, right now, I want you to rest," she requested, caressing his cheek in return. "I'll take it from here."

    "Yeah... All right."

    Dropping his hand, he released another yawn and shut his eyes. Not much more time passed before he was pulled into a deep slumber. With how heavy his state of sleep was, it seemed that nothing could rouse him. Not even the noises Tatiana made when she entered the room and the loud slam the door made when it shut behind her disturbed him.

    Setting her purse down on the nightstand, the brunette cast her eyes over the sleeping form of Jackson, glad that he had finally returned.

    "So, he finally came back."

    Valerie nodded, gazing down at the design on her sketchbook.

    "He did. He has been searching all over creation for rose dye for me."

    "So I see..." Tatiana said as she surveyed the bags at the foot of Valerie's bed. "... Are you sure you don't want him?"

    "Anymore, I'm not sure WHAT to think..." Valerie sighed, shaking her head.

    "I guess only time will tell, eh?"

    "I suppose so."

    She was truthful, as she didn't know what to think about the situation. She knew she liked Jackson and she was repugnant to the idea of other girls flirting with him. However, she wasn't certain if she was ready to call him anything more than a friend. She didn't want to agree to anything, only to potentially change her mind and cause her dear friend heartache.

    Emitting another sigh, she gathered up her measured and cut patterns and proceeded to stitch--which was difficult to do with only one good arm. Taking a seat on her opposite side, Tatiana eyed her handiwork.

    "Need some help there?" the woman offered.

    "It would be nice to have some assistance, yes." A smile of appreciation tugged at Valerie's lips. "I'm afraid this is... a little frustrating to do while incapacitated."

    "You could have asked at any time, ya know," Tatiana chuckled. Scooting closer, the woman held the fabric in place while Valerie resumed sewing.


    As Tatiana further assisted Valerie with her work, Jerry and Gray had taken Jackson's Pokémon to feed them and let them expel energy. While Dratini preferred to curl up with his master, the rest of his Pokémon were content with running around outside of the hotel--with the exception of Shelgon, who really wanted to be around Sylveon. After the incident the day of the Fairy-type trainer's accident, she had become less callous and more affectionate with the Eeveelution. Sylveon himself wasn't much keen on running around, often keeping himself curled up next to--or on top of--the armored dragon.

    With Tatiana's help, Valerie was able to dye all of the fabric and tie back the one sleeve of her costume and incorporate her sling into it, turning what was originally supposed to be a fairy princess look into that of a fairy samurai. She would keep her sleeve in like her sling, but the costume was now accommodated to integrate that.

    "Just wait until Jackson sees this," said Tatiana as she looked over the now completed outfit. "He'll totally dig the samurai look."

    "I have to admit, I actually got the idea from him." Valerie let out a giggle as she turned her eyes to the sleeping man. "I have been playing a warrior during our game sessions every week."

    Emitting a chuckle, Tatiana averted her eyes as she heard Jackson shift in the bed and languidly sit up, his hair a complete mess.

    "What time is it?" he groggily groaned.

    "It's a little into the afternoon," Valerie replied. "You've slept nearly eighteen hours."

    His eyes sprung open wide, suddenly feeling more awake.

    "Eighteen hours?! W... why didn't anybody wake me up??"

    "You needed your sleep," Valerie reasoned, her smile broadening a little bit. "And you were so cute while you were napping I hadn't the heart to wake you up."

    The man blushed at Valerie's words, earning a giggle from Tatiana.

    "You were like a baby," the other woman contributed. "An overgrown baby on steroids."

    Jackson could only just stare in befuddlement, unable to come up with a response other than "Uhhh...".

    "Besides," Valerie continued, "Dratini hadn't moved from your side. He was curled up against you, like a little dragon protector. It was so sweet!"

    "Well, he did to eat and do his business, but other than that, he stayed with you."

    Dropping his gaze to his serpentine Pokémon, he smiled warmly and ran his hand over his scaly body. Feeling an empty gurgle within the pit of his stomach, he slid off the bed, only to wince as he put weight on his feet. This garnered subsequent concern from Valerie, Tatiana, and Dratini.

    "Are you sure you can walk?" Valerie worriedly inquired.

    "Of course. I'm not missing your competition for anything."

    Valerie couldn't help but smile, warmth spreading through her chest at his display of devotion. Pushing herself off of the bed, she walked around the bed to approach him, sliding an arm around her mid-section.

    "You really should rest up."

    "But, I want to be there," he insisted. He stared up at her, a pleading glimmer glazing over his bright blue eyes.

    She locked her gaze with his in silence. The woman really couldn't make him stay--not with that look upon his face. Caving in, she extended her arm to caress his cheek.

    "All right, but if you start feeling tired you come right back here, okay?"

    Face flushing pink, the young man nodded once.

    "Fell for the puppy eyes, huh?" Tatiana giggled, removing herself from the bed.

    "You are just too adorable to say 'no' to," Valerie stated. "I suppose I should be glad you're not a Pokémon."

    "O-only when... I'm... n-not on the job. Heh..." Jackson said with a huff of a chuckle, his blush darkening.

    An amused laugh leaped out of Valerie.

    "You have a point there."

    Bringing a hand up, Jackson brushed it over the hand Valerie had on his cheek as his face softened into a loving expression.

    "Heh... Y-yeah... Uh... Is... y-your... c-costume done?"

    "Oh! Yes! It was worked on practically all through the night!"

    Removing her hand, she crossed over to the bed to pick up the finished product, as well as a couple of other things from the closet. Disappearing into the bathroom, she re-emerged several minutes later, twirling around once to show it off for him and Tatiana. It was a rose-colored robe with a white floral pattern that was reminiscent of a kimono and similarly colored leggings, with a warrior's sash starting from the right shoulder and ending at the left hip. It contained a yellow ribbon belt and pink twin translucent fairy wings. Upon her head was a headset of antennae and at her feet were wooden sandals. The sleeve where her broken arm was supposed to reside dangled completely unused, with her slung arm hidden within her outfit in order to avoid point deduction.

    Jackson eyed the woman in awe as he scanned her from head to toe. The interested spark in his eyes clearly conveyed that he REALLY liked what he saw. Taking notice of this, Tatiana barked out a laugh.

    "Didn't I tell you he'd dig that look?"

    Valerie nodded, a tinge of pink touching her face.

    "Since I broke my arm, I wasn't sure if I could pull off the fairy princess look. But, then I remembered I played a warrior in our weekly game sessions, and, well... I... had inspiration to make the best of a bad situation."

    The man felt a twinge of flattery that he was partially responsible for Valerie's said inspiration.

    "That's... that's what w-we gotta do in life, right? Why... p-pull out and give up w-when y-you can do just that--make the b-best with what you h-have?" Upon receiving an affirming nod from Valerie, he continued. "W-well, uh... sh-should we get going then? We... ah, don't want you... t-to be late."

    "Of course."

    She gave her hand to Jackson with a minor twinkle in her eye. Blush returning, he sat back down on the bed only to pull his socks and shoes back on. As he stood again, he accepted her hand with a silly grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. Tatiana met Valerie's gaze one last time, arching her brow with a teasing smirk. The woman returned the smile, squeezing Jackson's hand as she led him out of the room, and the hotel, making their way back to the Anistar Convention Center.
  16. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Twenty-One: An Unintentional Blunder

    Situated backstage in front of a vanity that stretched across half of the room with chairs lined up and both of her sides, Valerie was in the process of making some last minute preparations. She had arrived on time with Jackson for check-in, even though the actual competition wouldn't begin for another hour. Utilizing her free hand, she twisted the head off of a broom and affixed the spike top from a coat rack to fashion a impromptu spear prop as her companion held the object in place for her.

    "I... is there... anything else I can do for you?" the man questioned, letting go of the handle once the job was finished. Even though his feet were aching, the look on his face made it abundantly clear he was eager to further help her in any way.

    "Yes. You can rest up," she replied, turning her eyes to him with nervous concern. "You keep pushing yourself like this and you're going to hurt yourself. You should have stayed at the hotel like I asked."

    "It's just sore feet, Val. I'm fine," he insisted, grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. "But... I... I'll rest once we get back."

    Valerie didn't look placated. Watching him intermittently shift his weight on his feet with an occasional waver inspired her nervousness to increase.

    "At least sit in a chair. You make me nervous--swaying back and forth like that."

    "I'll be sitting in the audience, all right?" he assured her. "Don't you worry about me."

    Propping up her impromptu spear up against the chair next to hers, she leaned forward to wrap her arm around his waist in a hug.

    "I worry about you. You're too good to me, Jackson."

    His face flushed a light shade of pink. Heart fluttering beneath his ribcage, he slid a hand around her good arm and rested it upon her shoulder blade.

    "I-I... Uh... I'm... doing... what... a-a-a... good friend sh-should do... r-right?"

    The woman let him go, her cheeks touched with a mild pink. She wanted to rebuke that, but she didn't want to call him out and embarrass him there. She knew, but she wanted to hear it from him.

    Giving her a quick kiss on the cheek crossed Jackson's mind, but he didn't want to mess up the makeup Valerie had so carefully applied to perfection. Stomach knotting up, he drew back and gently grasped her hand to bend over and press his lips to the back of it. While he did this, his blush darkened to a cute scarlet.

    "It's not very often the prince kisses his guard's hand," Valerie giggled. "Now, go. The show will be starting soon."

    "Bwuhghuh? Pri--guah--ah... Y-yeah! I'll... s-see you a-after the sh-show," he squeaked, looking even more flustered. Releasing her hand, he turned on his heel and exited the room.

    She watched him, emitting a chuckle, endeared by his mannerisms. For a few fleeting seconds before the door closed behind him, she couldn't help but focus on his rear. With a sigh, she mentally composed herself in preparation for the Contest. Picking up the prop spear, she slipped out of the room to join the congregation of competitors to await her turn.

    Participant after participant came on stage and went, each garbed in lavish costume and accompanied by a well-groomed Fairy-type Pokémon. Each performance seemed to be better than the last, raising expectations of both the judges and the audience. Even with the act before Valerie's leaving the spectators in awe from a gracefully choreographed ballet performed by both trainer and Pokémon, Jackson was confident his beloved friend would leave everyone enthralled.

    The instant Valerie heard her name being called, she swept out onto the stage with her Sylveon loping behind her. Both her and Pokémon dipping into a bow, they spun around to proceed with their performance.

    However, as they did so, Valerie decided to improvise on the fly, opening up the dance by swinging the spear around in wide arcs and elaborate circles. Swiftly catching on, Sylveon followed suit, prancing around his owner in poised springs. The young woman had difficulty holding onto the spear--and almost dropped it once, managing to catch it as soon as it as soon as it slipped out of her hand.

    Nothing else was in existence once Valerie entered Jackson's view, as he was so transfixed by her. His heart leapt and turned with each movement she made. Once their eyes actually did meet as she danced with Sylveon, he issued her an impressed, and encouraging, smile. She returned a sweet grin to him, whirling around once more and twirling the impromptu spear one last time while Sylveon careened and weaved with alacrity. In mid-spin, the head of the spear came unbound and flew off to the side, sailing backstage and landing with an audible CLANG. In an effort to distract the judges and audience, Sylveon swooped in front of Valerie, stood in a gallant pose, and performed a Dazzling Gleam.

    The Fairy-type Gym Leader was absolutely mortified, but relieved that no one had been injured by the head of her impromptu spear. Taking a quick bow, she led her Sylveon offstage, her face red.

    Several people in the audience had laughed at the blunder--even one of the judges allowed a chuckle. Applause erupting from the invested members of the crowd, the judges scribbled down their rating, not appearing as impressed as they were during the past few performances. It was quite obvious that goof-up was going to dent the woman's score.

    Valerie exhumed a disappointed sigh as she slipped into the back room. Slumping into the chair, she hung her head and loosened her hold on the broom handle, ultimately allowing it to drop to the floor. It was the norm for her to perform with such flawless grace, so she wasn't very practiced in dealing with such a mess up in this kind of competition. She was already less than hopeful over winning the Contest thanks to her injury, but she knew that mistake likely cost her the runner-up spot.

    Stumbling his way into the room, Jackson approached the woman from the side that held her good arm and slid his arms around her shoulders in a gentle embrace.

    "You... were amazing," was all he said, stepping back enough to bend over and rest his chin on her head.

    With an expression of surprise, she stared at the man's reflection in the mirror in front of her.

    "Jackson," she began gently, her intonation laced with concern. "Why are you back here? You should still be off your feet..."

    Letting her go, he pulled out the chair located at her side and sat himself down.

    "I am."

    Smile spawning upon the woman's countenance, she reached out to run her fingers through his hair, satisfied that he was off his feet.


    "You were the best dancer out there," he commented, his cheeks going pink. "And... and Sylveon."

    The addition made the Fairy-type Pokémon beam, blissfully emitting his name.

    "Is that so? I thought the young trainer from Olivine was quite captivating." She sounded surprised that Jackson even said this, considering her mess-up. Yet, also considering the man's nature, part of her wasn't all that surprised. "Either way, my mess-up cost me the top spot. I know it. I'll be lucky if I place second."

    Lifting his hand, Jackson slid it over hers, closing his fingers gently around her hand.

    "You... will always be... the best... in my eyes," he sincerely divulged, almost breathlessly. "You're... so talented. Incredible."

    Valerie had been complimented on countless occasions, especially during her stint as a model back in Johto... but, hearing him say such things as he radiated so much sincerity, she couldn't help but feel touched. Feeling so touched, she couldn't help but tear up a bit as her breast was filled to the brim with a glowing warmth. Shifting her body so that she was facing him, she leaned in to toss her good arm around his shoulders in a tight hug.

    "Thank you, Jackson," she breathed, before pressing a kiss to his cheek.

    "Eheheh..." he awkwardly chuckled, a flustered flush of pink dusting over his face at the affectionate gesture. Sliding both arms around her, but taking care not to jostle her broken arm, he returned the embrace. "Y... y-you're... w-welcome, Valerie... I, um... W-well... If only... e-everybody out there... s-saw what... I see when... when I look at you."

    "It's fine," she reassured him as she pulled back, issuing another touched smile. "It's just a Contest. There will be others."

    Hand sliding over his, she closed her fingers around it to give it a squeeze.

    "Why don't we head back to the hotel?"

    Jackson had felt a little self-conscious after uttering his last line, but it was something he felt Valerie needed know. Nodding and twining his fingers with hers, he slowly pushed himself off of the chair, his weight applying pressure to his sore feet.

    Before the pair and Sylveon could leave the building, they were stopped by a trio of women who recognized them. They were interested in attaining the attention of both of them, but Jackson for an entirely different reason than the Gym Leader.

    "Lapras Man, can we get a quick autograph?" one of them requested as all three of them pulled out notepads and pens, much to Jackson's befuddlement.

    "A... autograph...? Really?" He turned to Valerie as if asking for confirmation that he heard correctly, as he hadn't expected anything like this at all. His companion had not anticipated this, either. She appeared a little taken aback, but lifted both of her shoulders in a shrug. Shifting his attention back to the three woman, he released Valerie's hand and accepted the first proffered notepad and pen. "Uh... Sure."

    As Jackson scribbled his name on the notepads, one of the woman glanced between him and Valerie with a sly grin playing at her lips.

    "So... are you two actually dating?"

    This sudden query almost made the man drop the notepad and pen. Observing that he was spewing nothing but incoherence, the women pinned their eyes on Valerie for an answer.

    "Oh, not at the moment," the Fairy-type Gym Leader answered as she turned a calm smile to the man at her side. "We're friends. Nothing more."

    "Oh, really?" The women exchanged wolfish grins before fixating them upon Jackson, which unnerved him a little bit. "So he's fair game."

    "Uhhh..." A nervous bead of sweat slid down the side of his face, feeling the tremendous urge to back up. "Er..."

    The young women giggled, accepting the stack of notepads and pens and took a step closer to him in unison.

    "He sure is a cute one," the second one commented with a flirty smirk.

    Detecting her friends discomfort, Valerie decided to step in, smile still upon her face--though the friendly glint in her eye had disappeared.

    "I'm very sorry, my young trainers," she addressed the trio of women in a polite intonation, "But, you see, my friend and I are quite busy and we have somewhere to be. Don't we, Jackson?"

    The man nodded eagerly, wanting to get away from these women as soon as possible. The smiles plastered upon the faces of all three women subsequently faded together in disappointment.

    "That's too bad. Maybe we can get together some other time," the third woman suggested.

    "Perhaps some other time," Valerie said a bit quickly. Truthfully, she had no intentions on allowing any of them near Jackson any time in the future. She knew her companion was uncomfortable with their presence and forwardness, but the partial reason was the fact that she resented them flirting with him. Grasping his hand, she started off, pulling him along with her.
  17. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Twenty-Two: A Hesitant Rejection

    Relief settled upon the pair now that the women were long behind them. Exhuming a sigh to release the last of his discomfiture, Jackson turned a grateful smile to Valerie.


    The woman nodded once in acknowledgement.

    "You're very welcome." A sigh of relief of her own crept out of her, signifying that, she too, was glad to be away from the trio of fans. "To be honest, those young ladies unnerved me as well."

    She was slightly curious as to who would win the Contest, but she preferred to leave the vicinity before they were swarmed by anyone else. She definitely didn't want any more women harassing her companion. Just the mere mental image of it threatened to cause her to bristle. It was then Jackson fully processed the behavior his lady friend had expressed back in the convention center when they had interacted with the women. A pressing question crossed his mind. At first, he dismissed it, but once they were halfway to their hotel, he decided to ask.

    "Valerie? This might... sound stupid... but... you... weren't... jealous or anything, were you?"

    "Jealous?" she parroted, meeting him with a calm smile. Truthfully, she had felt jealousy tugging at her, but she did an acceptable job covering it up. "What ever do you mean, sweetie?"

    The flustered blush returned to the man's cheeks.

    "Ahhh... I mean... those girls were... flirting with me... Y-you... Um... Uh..."

    "It was nothing. They were just after you because they saw you on TV," she answered. It was a fib and she knew it, but right now she wasn't completely sure about her feelings for him. Yes, she liked him, but she wasn't sure if she liked him enough to take their relationship to the next level.

    "Oh..." Running his free hand over the back of his neck in a display of embarrassment, silence claimed him until they finally reached the hotel. Fishing out his key card, he unlocked the door to the room he shared with the other men of their group. As expected, they were absent. Doing a quick check of the food and water dishes, he was calmed to see that they were still partially full. With an inviting smile to Valerie, he took a seat on one of the beds with a heavy sigh of great relief. "Um... Valerie?"

    Valerie partially stripped, removing her robe and kicked off her wooden sandals. This startled Jackson for a fleeting second, but relaxed once he realized she had been wearing a shirt underneath her robe.

    "Yes, Jackson?"

    The man tried to quell the nervous flurry of butterflies rising up in his stomach, but all attempts held no avail.

    "Uh... W... would you... like to... go on another date? A... after my f-feet feel better?" he inquired, putting on one of his sweet smiles.

    Valerie hesitated, recalling what Tatiana had said earlier. While she did have fun with him on the previous dates, something was holding her back. She just wasn't ready; she needed more time to ponder over how she felt about him.

    "That... that sounds lovely, but..."

    "If it's about my feet... I promise I'll wait u-until they f-feel better," he said, kicking off his shoes and pulling off his shoes. The cool air enveloping his feet provided a small fraction of relief.

    Smile gracing her features, she shook her head.

    "No, it's... not that. Not entirely."

    "Then... w-what is it?" he asked, plucking one of the Poke' Balls from his belt and released Swablu. Over the month, she had grown significantly, adult feathers replacing her baby down. Dropping the Ball on the bed, he slid his arms around the bird to cuddle her and turned his gentle eyes to Valerie.

    The woman found it difficult to retain a straight face as she stared into those sweet eyes. A couple of moments elapsed before silence released her from its hold.

    "I... don't really feel like it," she said, slowly, as she tore her eyes away, unable to hold her gaze with his. "I had a really fun time, and I loved being with you..."

    Jackson's smile dissipated, his chest constricting.

    "... W... what...? I... Did I do something wrong?"

    "No!" Valerie quickly reassured, returning her attention to the man, lifting her hands in refutation for emphasis. "No, not at all! You didn't! It's... not you."

    The woman dropped her hands as well as her eyes. Already she felt the unpleasant twist in her stomach. She had to choose her words carefully.

    "You're such a sweet man, Jackson. I don't really... deserve anyone like you."

    Now this caught him by surprise.

    "W... what a-are you t-talking about?" His voice was cracking somewhat, despite his best efforts to keep it under control. "Y... y-you deserve to have a-anyone you want."

    Valerie joined her hands in front of her as she forced herself to slide her gaze to him.

    "... You like me, don't you?" she asked, deciding to be blunt and direct. "More than a friend."

    She hated to be like this--being confrontational was generally not her nature. The all too familiar blush raced across Jackson's face in response. Corners of his mouth curling down in a frown, he nodded.

    "... I... w-wouldn't... have... kept... a-asking you out... if... I... o-only liked you l-like a friend..."

    He honestly felt more than that. He was in love with her, and he wanted to tell her--the loving gaze in his eyes displayed that. But now, he didn't really see a reason to do so. The woman clenched her fists, one hand squeezing the other. Pinning her eyes to the nearest wall, she acknowledged how hard her heart was pounding against her chest.

    "But it's more than that, isn't it?" she queried, her voice low. Drawing a hand over the wall, she focused on the bush swaying in a perpetual dance by the guidance of the breeze.

    "I..." Jackson bit his lower lip. Could she really read him that well, he thought. Now that she figured it out, perhaps it was best to tell her how he truly felt about her. Taking in a deep breath, he mustered up his nerves. "Iloveyou!"

    Face burning, he ducked his head to partially hide his face into Swablu's cottony wing. A pink blush tinted Valerie's cheeks now that he admitted it. Averting her eyes once again, a chuckle escaped her. Facing him fully, she crossed over to take a seat next to him on the bed. Too embarrassed at the moment, he wouldn't look at her. However, part of his reddened face could be seen from her perspective. Chirping, Swablu reached over to take the hem of the woman's shirt into her beak, but almost immediately dropped it.

    Extending her good hand to stroke the bird's head once, she then brought it to Jackson's cheek and scooted closer to him. Feeling the touch, his head bolted upright and instantly had his attention right on her. Mouth hanging ajar, he stared in a mixture of embarrassment, hurt, and confusion. The woman said nothing, merely sliding her arm around his waist and leaning into a hug, being careful of Swablu in the process.

    "Uh... V-Valerie?" Jackson ventured, his still cracking voice riddled with befuddlement.

    "You're cute when you're flustered," she softly said. The woman spend a few minutes holding him before she eventually drew away. "I figured you did--after the lengths you went for me."

    "... Y-yeah..." Silence fell upon him, but not for long. "So... w... w-we're... just... staying... friends?"

    "I don't feel the same way towards you... But that is not to say I won't ever feel that way for you."

    There was a hitch in Jackson's breath as a painful weight anchored at his heart. With a choppy sigh, he nodded once and glanced off. He was obviously heartbroken, but he didn't want to allow himself to show it. With a deep, irregular inhale, he attempted to swallow his emotions and forced a smile.

    "... Maybe... I... should... rest now."

    The compulsory smile did not fail to escape the Gym Leader's notice. Sympathy entering her, she leaned in to press a comforting kiss to his cheek.

    "You should sleep. We won't be leaving until tomorrow anyway. You have plenty of time to rest your feet."

    Cradled in the arms of silence, the man nodded. Slowly, he eased himself onto his back, taking the Pokémon in his arms with him. The young bird flapped her wings as he did, but almost instantaneously calmed down and sank against his chest.

    Sweeping her fingers through his hair in repeated strokes for several moments, Valerie carefully laid herself down next to him with a sigh. She accidentally jostled pain in her broken arm, but fortunately, not much. Closing her eyes, she pressed her head against his shoulder.


    Jackson remained mostly silent the next day. He had skipped breakfast and barely touched his lunch. On multiple occasions his friends questioned him if something was troubling him, but each time he gave him the same answer--that he was fine. He did not wish to worry them over the heartache he was currently experiencing. In addition, he had avoided eye contact with Valerie the entire trip back to Laverre City, and his friends knew this wasn't normal behavior.

    The Fairy-type Gym Leader had taken notice of his withdrawn behavior and his attempts to deliberately avoid her. In response, she tried to remain close to him--but she got the idea he didn't want her around, especially when he refused to lock eyes. The remaining members of the group came to the conclusion that he wanted to be left alone, but agreed to get to the bottom of the situation after they let him have his space for a while.

    Once Jackson was dropped off at his place, Tatiana broke the heavy silence that had lingered since their last rest stop.

    "Hey, Valerie? Do ya know what's up with Jackson?" she questioned as she pulled away from their male friend's house and directed their trip to their final destination before her house, Valerie's.

    "Jackson... admitted that he loves me," the woman answered after a moment of silence, casting her gaze out the window. Clutching her bag closer to her torso, she exhumed a sigh. "And I... wanted to let him down a bit gently--that, well, I didn't feel the same way NOW. I was willing to give him a... a CHANCE, but... I think I... mis-worded what I said, and I think he mis-understood."

    "Oooooh. That... that explains his behavior." Tatiana released a sigh of her own. "He may be confident with Pokémon, but... with the ladies... yeah, I'm sure you noticed. He's probably convinced he doesn't have a shot... I think... he just needs to be reassured that he does. If you think he does."

    "He most certainly does, if he wants. But he's been so... evasive today. It's like he wants nothing to do with me, and I'm not certain what to do unless I do something drastic."

    "Drastic, huh? Like what?" Tatiana pressed.

    "Drastic like possibly grabbing him by the shoulders and kissing him." There was a brief elapse as Valerie reflected upon this option. "Though maybe baking him a cake would probably be a better idea."

    "The second option would be better. Kissing him would likely confuse him more than anything," the brunette agreed. "He's probably confused enough already."

    Valerie nodded understandingly.

    "That's what I thought. I wonder what kind of cake he likes..."

    "Hon, he likes any kind of cake. But, pumpkin spice is his favorite," Tatiana informed, groaning irritably as she put on the brakes for a man carelessly sprinting across the road.

    Valerie's surprised eyes tailed the man as he made his way across the street, wondering what had made him think it was a good idea to run across a road with oncoming vehicles.

    "Pumpkin spice," she mirrored. "Got it. I think I have some mix sitting in the pantry."

    "Is it still good, though?" Tatiana queried, slowly and cautiously rolling forward in case an other person decided to race across the street.

    "Of course it's still good." Valerie turned her full attention to the woman next to her. "Cake mix does not go bad."

    "Uhh... Actually, it does. It happened to me before."

    Tatiana's features scrunched up, her mind trailing back to the single occasion where she had prepared an old box of cake mix. She could still remember the sour taste the thick, marshmallow cream-like batter procured.

    "Really now? It's never done that for me. Besides, the Pumpkin Festival was only... a couple months back? It shouldn't have passed the expiration date."

    "Yeah, it should be fine then." Once Tatiana was confident there wouldn't be any more foolish people attempting to cross the road, she sped up to the speed limit. "So... Jackson... Ah, what did he say to you, exactly?"

    "He really didn't say anything after he said he loves me."

    "What'd he say before that?"

    Valerie hesitated a few seconds before replying.

    "He said he wanted to know if we were still just friends." Another pause. "And I told him I didn't feel the same way, but that wasn't to say I wouldn't ever feel that way for him.

    "I also recall he asked me out. And I... declined. Or rather, I didn't take him up on the offer."

    "Thaaaaat's probably why he thinks he doesn't have a chance with ya," Tatiana explained. "You know... it doesn't really sound like you're giving him much of a shot if you don't let him date ya."

    Valerie nodded to display her acknowledgement.

    "I don't know. I'm just..." She sighed. "I like him, but I don't know if I'm ready for a boyfriend, but... I don't want another woman to have him. I don't even know how to go about asking him."

    "Just... hang out with him. Watch movies and stuff together. Stuff like that."

    "Do you think he would be willing to still spend time with me after everything?" the Gym Leader asked with a hopeful glimmer in her eyes.

    "Of COURSE he would. That man is over the moon for you. I wouldn't be surprised if he's missing you right now. Sure, he's been distancing himself, but he probably doesn't know how to react to this situation."

    Fishing out her phone, Valerie wondered what her male companion was up to. Fingers punching the buttons, she composed a text.


    Jackson slumped onto the couch, Swablu snuggling against his chest as his remaining Pokémon congregated around him, sensing his depression. Feeling his phone vibrate in his pocket, he unfurled a single arm from the bird to check it.



    Valerie stared at her send box in puzzlement, a question pressing down on her.

    "... Say, Tati... I probably should have asked this, but what does DTF mean, anyway?"

    Valerie's query resulted in an uproarious laugh from Tatiana. It took her a pair of moments before she was even able to answer.

    "You didn't text him that, did ya?" she asked, then proceeded to provide an explanation.

    Processing the meaning, Valerie's face flushed a brilliant shade of embarrassed red.

    "I... Uh... Oh, my. I did, but... but I thought it meant..." The woman lifted both hands to cover her beating face. "I have been texted that so many times before I thought it meant something entirely different..."

    Tatiana belted out another laugh, ending it with a snort.

    "I can only imagine the look on Jackson's face!"


    Jackson stared at his phone in shock, face flushed. Snapping somewhat out of it, he responded that he was up for it. A few seconds passing, he received a reply.


    The man figured she didn't actually know, and he let her know in his next text.


    Valerie giggled, reading his text. She had mostly gotten over her initial embarrassment.

    "Would this afternoon at my place be all right?" she mumbled, texting her friend those exact words. There was a brief exchange before she slipped her phone back into her purse, smile tipping her lips. "He's coming by around two this afternoon."

    "Awesome." Tatiana gave her companion a playful smirk. "Not really gonna DTF, are you?"

    The other woman's eyes rolled in a mildly irritated gesture.

    "Of course not. Now that I know what it means."

    "Not using DTF again, I'm guessing," Tatiana chuckled.

    Valerie shook her head.

    "Not on your life."

    "Good to see you value my life so much, Val," she giggled.

    Again, Valerie rolled her eyes.

    "Well, had I known what it meant in the first place..."

    "Oh, I'm just messing with you."
  18. CrazyRabidPony

    CrazyRabidPony School Kid

    Oct 23, 2014
    Chapter Twenty-Three: The Dragon and the Fay

    Jackson pulled up to the home of the Fairy-type Gym Leader, butterflies fluttering wildly in his stomach. While his hopes of winning her heart had been re-sparked, he still held onto his doubts. Dismounting his bike, he made his way to the front door and rasped his knuckles against the hard wood.

    In the middle of indulging herself in one of her novels, was mildly startled at the sudden knocking. Her mind had been such a flurry that she hoped some light reading would put her at ease, and had actually temporarily forgotten that she invited the man over. Closing the book, she set it down on the far armrest and went to meet her visitor.

    "Oh! Hello, Jackson. What brings you here?" Receiving a responding look of confusion, she suddenly recalled the reason of his visitation. Embarrassment inscribed upon her features, she corrected herself. "I invited you over. I... I apologize. I'm a bit distracted at the moment."

    Confusion melting away, he put on a smirk as a huff of an awkward chuckle escaped him.

    "Anything bothering you?" he ventured out of concern.

    "I've just been thinking about things. Our... time together. Courmarine City, when we were with the Lapras and at your job, FairyCon, when we played those tabletop games..."

    Jackson's heart couldn't help but melt upon knowing that it was them she had been thinking about.

    "... I've... been thinking about us, too...' he admitted, though he figured she easily could've come to that conclusion.

    "Really?" A warm smile graced the woman's countenance. "Anything in particular about us, or were you only reminiscing?"

    The man ran his hand over the back of his neck, idly shifting his weight from one foot and to the other.

    "Just... reminiscing, I guess." He nearly jumped as five beams of energy escaped from the Balls at his belt. Pokémon materializing, they gazed up at Valerie expectantly. Eyes tearing away from the creatures and focusing back on the woman, another chuckle left him. "May we... come in?"

    Nodding, she stepped aside to allow Jackson and his Pokémon access to her home.

    "Of course."

    The Pokémon instantaneously scurried inside, Aron making a beeline straight for Mawile. The small Steel-type let out a greeting cry and pressed his round head into her abdomen. Mawile blinked, before smiling and slipping her arms around him. As predicted, Shelgon scanned the area for Sylveon, though she made it appear as if she was merely looking at the décor. Dratini, Fraxure, and Goomy wandered into the living room, almost immediately taking up a group conversation with Mr. Mime.

    Jackson issued a "Thank you", passing Valerie. He nervously eyed the interior. Like he had done for himself, the Gym Leader's home was decorated specifically to befit her. Despite the very feminine feel, he rather liked the fairy tale theme.

    "Like the interior?" she asked, Sylveon catching her attention as the Fairy-type Eeveelution plodded up to Shelgon and rubbed up against her bulky body.

    "Yeah," Jackson answered, turning his smile to Valerie as he headed into the living room. "It... reminds me of your Gym."

    Not fully paying attention to where he was walking while he directed himself towards the couch, he tripped over the armrest and fell straight onto the cushions with an "Oof".

    "Goodness. Are you all right?" Valerie fought to suppress a giggle. Walking around the couch, she sat down on the opposite end and extended her good arm to run her fingers through his hair. "Odd way to make yourself comfortable."

    His cheeks were touched with a deep shade of embarrassed pink. Positioning himself on his rear, a silly grin pulled at his lips.

    "I... Uh... Yeah... I probably... sh-should've watched where I was going."

    Valerie was almost disappointed when he sat up, fond of the idea of continuing to stroke his head.

    "Would you like some refreshments?" she offered. "Some tea, perhaps?"

    "Yeah, some tea sounds good... Thanks, Valerie. Surprise me with any kind."

    Valerie nodded in acknowledgement and turned to Mawile.

    "Mawile, can you brew us up some chamomile?" she politely requested. The Steel-and-Fairy-type nodded, toddling off into the kitchen to do just that.

    About to open his mouth to thank Mawile, Jackson let out a surprised grunt as a bundle of white and pink fur suddenly plopped onto his lap. Grinning at Sylveon, he furled his arms around the Pokémon. Lightly bumping his head with the canine's, he uttered a dead-on impression of the creature's kind and followed it up with a guttural purr.

    The woman beamed at the interaction between the pair.

    "Awww. He likes you! That's so sweet!"

    "I thought he already did?" Jackson chuckled, positioning both hands near the base of Sylveon's ears to rub at the sensitive patches of fur located behind them.

    "He did." Her smile intensified with warmth watching her Pokémon press his head against her friend's chest. "I cannot help but point it out. You two are absolutely adorable."

    The young man couldn't help but blush a little, digging his fingers into Sylveon's fur to massage him.

    "... You're cute," he mumbled to the woman, dropping is eyes to the Pokémon in his lap.

    "He really is, isn't he?" she said, not catching the fact that he had been referring to HER.

    "I... was... talking to you, Valerie," he informed her, blush darkening.

    She stared at him, face glowing. Sure, she had been called cute countless times during her stint as a model--and she still heard it from time to time, but to actually hear it spoken so sincerely from Jackson...

    "... You... honestly mean that?" she questioned. She knew it was true, but she wanted to hear it again.

    "Y-yeah, of course I do... Why wouldn't I think that of someone I... really..." Jackson trailed off, cheeks blooming a bright shade of scarlet. He knew she would know what he was going to say.

    Finally releasing Sylveon's ears, the man scooted closer to her. At a loss for what else to say, he allowed his eyes to wander. He wanted to say more, but he didn't know what words to use. Spying Aron waddling over to a nearby bookshelf, a smirk pulled at his lips. Aron, rising on his hind legs, extended a stubby leg to bat at the spine of the book in front of him. The book was eventually pulled out, title facing up.

    "Heh... I... sometimes read to my Pokémon," Jackson stated in order to explain his Pokémon's behavior.

    "Really? I've never heard of a trainer doing that for their Pokémon. I suppose I'm not really surprised, though, considering how some will baby their Pokémon." She analyzed the cover from afar, quickly recognizing the title. "Though I think... that book is a little beyond his comprehension level."

    "You'd be surprised. Remember, Fraxure can understand his cooking shows just fine." Moving Sylveon off of his lap, Jackson pushed himself up from the couch and dropped to his knees by Aron. Picking up the book, he looked over the cover. "'The Dragon and the Fay'?"

    A wide berth spread across his face, lifting his blue orbs to Valerie.

    "I read this all the time when I was a kid!"

    A look of surprise stole over Valerie's face.

    "Are you serious? I... Wow, I would have never thought that! You don't think Aron recognized the title on the spine, do you?"

    "I wouldn't be surprised. I have a copy with a different style cover that he pulled out a couple times." The man glanced down at Aron. "I wonder if he likes the font and the look of the words. I never read it to him, but my other Pokémon have heard it."

    "Well, maybe you should," she proposed. "I'd certainly like to hear it."

    "You... wanna read it together? To the... Pokémon?" he queried, noticing that the Pokémon, with the exception of Mawile, had their collective attention pinned to them.

    "Together?" Valerie parroted, blushing softly. "Um... Well... all right."

    Smile broadening, he stood erect and turned to address the present Pokémon.

    "Who wants to read a story? It's 'The Dragon and the Fay'! Remember that one?"

    The dragons responded with zealous cries. As their owner made his way back to Valerie's side, they and Mr. Mime followed and congregated around the couch. Valerie dispensed a smile to each of them. As Sylveon curled up in her lap and Mr. Mime leaned against the couch, Mawile came in carrying a tray with a kettle of chamomile tea and two teacups.

    Jackson placed the book between himself and Valerie as he set his attention on Mawile.

    "Aw, thanks, Mawile." Relieving the Pokémon of the tray, he put it down on Shelgon's back, knowing that the shelled dragon wouldn't mind acting as a table. The man ran his hand over the Fairy-and-Steel Pokémon's head and scratched underneath her chin as a reward for so graciously preparing the tea for them. Mawile sounded a murr, enjoying the attention she was given.

    Drawing back and sinking against the couch, Jackson scooted closer to Valerie. Reaching over with his far hand, he gently grasped his end of the book.

    "Um... Would you... like to start us off with your... a-angelic voice?" he asked, cheeks flushing.

    Valerie's blushed returned.

    "Oh. Um. All right." She sounded a little hesitant, but she laid her end of the book upon her thigh, turned to the first page with her good hand, and began to read aloud for all to hear. "'Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a castle nestled in a glen surrounded by emerald woods'..."

    As she paused, Jackson picked up where she left off.

    "'While she was the most beautiful princess in the land, she was very spoiled and was often rude to almost everyone'..."

    "'One day, a brave and handsome prince arrived from the neighboring nation primarily populated by Dragon Pokémon, seeking the Fairy Princess' hand in marriage. She stated if he could best her in battle, she would grant his request.

    Try as he might, day after day, challenge after challenge, he could not defeat her in combat'..."

    "'As mean-spirited the Fairy Princess was, the Dragon Prince saw another side of her'." Jackson glanced over to Valerie, a warm smile upon his face. "'She treated her Pokémon as if they were no different from her. This was a quality that garnered a deeper affection from him. As he got to know her better, he fell in love with her and he tried ever so hard to win her heart'..."

    "'While the Fairy Princess was originally frustrated with the Dragon Prince, she eventually began to warm up to him. Her icy demeanor gradually defrosted, as she grew to enjoy his company--beginning to think of him as more than just a mere acquaintance. Despite her jaded scorn and repeated barbed words, he would brush them aside and continue to treat her as lavishly as he ever did. He never stopped challenging her, not just in battle, but in other areas of life. Challenges that the prideful Fairy Princess could not resist'."

    By now, Jackson didn't need to look at the print on the pages, drawing out the story from his memory.

    "'War soon broke out in the Dragon Prince's homeland and he had been called upon to return to fight for his country. Not wanting to risk the lives of his own Pokémon, he left them with the Fairy Princess, requesting her to take care of them. He didn't want anyone else looking after them, knowing very well how she treated Pokémon'."

    "'The Fairy Princess agreed, promising to do so, so long as he promised to return to her--having secretly grown to care for him beyond that of a friend. The Dragon Prince went off to war, and the princess kept an eye on the horizon waiting for the day of his return'.

    "'But that day never came'," Valerie said, her eyes misting over. Mawile blinked, she and Mr. Mime turning to Sylveon, who lifted his head in confusion. Aron and the remaining dragons expressed similar reactions. "'The Dragon Prince died in the war, between the two cities that were feuding. Devastated, the Fairy Princess unleashed a terrible display of her Fairy Pokémon's power. She could have destroyed them all, but instead she declared the war over. The two cities helped her build a new one, where all would live together in peace'.

    "'The Fairy Princess' name was Oma, and the Dragon Prince's name was Shu. The great city was named Omashu in honor of their love. In the nearest cave, there is a shrine where the couple now lies beside one another. Carved into the stone are these words: Love burns brightest in the dark'."

    Valerie finished with a tearful smile, and was promptly met with everybody's baffled expressions.

    "... Oh. Oh dear, did I... forget what story I was telling again?"

    Jackson stared incredulously at the woman before a laugh carried out.

    "Yeah, that's definitely not in the story." Letting out another chuckle, he resumed the actual story. "'The Dragon Prince was gone for years. He had been captured and held prisoner for the duration of that time. His love for the Fairy Princess kept him alive, refusing to break his promise to her. He eventually escaped and the war was won. When he returned to her, he was battered and blind'."

    Valerie went back to the text, not entirely certain what she recalled of the story. Finding where Jackson left off, she continued on.

    "'The Fairy Princess, upon his return, was touched and heartbroken for him. Mourning the loss of his sight, she promised she would care for him as she had his Pokémon--grateful for not only the return of her dearest friend, but for also not allowing harm to pass his borders and into her own'."

    "'The Dragon Prince couldn't see her, but hearing her voice and'..." He briefly elapsed, slowly sliding his hand over hers. "... 'touching her filled him with bliss. Even though he was recovering, he still insisted on defeating her in a battle'..."

    He took his eyes off of the page and returned them to the woman's face, his blue orbs gazing upon her with heartfelt longing.

    "'He wanted nothing more than to be with her... He loved her so much'..."

    Valerie, looking up and gazing into his eyes, felt her cheeks grow warm.

    "'But the Fairy Princess refused to battle'," she resumed, not needing to look at the page for this part. "'Claiming he had proven beyond her standards that he was more than worthy'..."

    The man's chest swelled with a outbreak of emotion to the point where he felt like he would burst. His fingers dipped between hers, curling underneath her palm, but took great care not to jostle pain in her broken arm. His mind trailed back to everything they had been through together. Their battles, their first date, the revealing of the fact that they both delved into dressing up like Pokémon, their picnic and assisting the Buizel, their gaming sessions, their outing with his mother and the magical encounter with the pod of Lapras, and the entirety of FairyCon, when she broke her arm, his wild chase for supplies for the Contest, and the Contest itself.

    "'She accepted his hand in marriage. As spring rolled in, the two of them were forever bound together and their kingdoms became one'..."

    Valerie curled her fingers around his hand, holding it tightly in hers.

    "'And they both lived happily ever after'," she finished.

    Jackson continued to stare, an expression of honest, pure love contorted onto his face. Even though Valerie wasn't spoiled or cold, he couldn't help but think of her as his Fairy Princess. He didn't care how long it would take--he would patiently bide his time until the day came where she would be his... At least, he hoped that day would come. He felt like he fell even more in love with her every time he looked at her. He wondered, exactly, the extent of her feelings for him. He wanted to know, but he just couldn't bring himself to ask.

    Valerie squeezed his hand softly, her eyes locked with his.

    It didn't take her long to come to a realization. He was no prince, far from it, but he was certainly noble enough. Nobody she knew could command respect from the wild Lapras like he had. That evening out at Courmarine City was nothing short of magical. He may have been a little dorky, but there was something more than a little charming to him. She had struggled with it, often wanting to deny it--but seeing the light in his eyes... it melted her heart.

    She couldn't deny it anymore. She did feel for him. She wasn't entirely sure if it was LOVE... but she did very much want to have him around. He made her feel funny, but in the best way imaginable. It wasn't something she could explain, but she had never felt anything like this.

    He fell into one of those trances he often fell into when he looked at her. In his mesmerized state, he subconsciously leaned in, touching his forehead to hers. Removing his hand from the book, letting it lay limp between them, he brought it to her face, sweeping his fingertips over her fair skin. Valerie allowed herself to lean in close as well, meeting him halfway. Shivering at his touch, she closed her eyes, sliding her good arm around him.

    She was dimly aware of her Sylveon jumping onto the floor, softly barking for them to kiss over and over, until he was thumped upside his head by Mawile. Shelgon growled lowly in Mawile's direction, asserting that only SHE was allowed to hit Sylveon and that she would've Headbutted her if the tray wasn't on her back.

    Jackson blushed, understanding the urgent note in Sylveon's voice. He really wanted to kiss her, but he wasn't sure if she would even want him to. Swallowing hard, he inched his face closer and breathlessly whispered, "Valerie...?"

    "Yes, Jackson?"

    Mawile just rolled her eyes, claiming she only did it because Shelgon was indisposed. Shelgon huffed and promptly informed the Steel-and-Fairy-type that she had no intention of Headbutting Sylveon, even if she didn't have the tray on her back; that she actually agreed with him and wanted their trainers to kiss.

    Jackson's stomach knotted up even more.

    "U-um... Uh... I... w-would... l-like to... I-if you d-don't mind... m-may I...?"

    Smiling, Valerie said nothing--leaning further to press her lips against his. Bliss crashing over him, the man applied pressure to her lips, savoring ever second of the kiss. So filled to the brim with emotion, he felt his eyes well up, but his compressed eyelids made sure tears didn't escape.

    She held the kiss for a few seconds before pulling away. Her face was red, but she was sporting a large smile. Slowly opening his eyes, a single tear slid down the man's cheek. Face flushed, he lifted an arm to rub it away at his eyes. He didn't bother trying to hide the fact that he was emotional. As he lowered his arm, he mirrored her grin, his glossy eyes shimmering.

    '... I... love you..." he breathed, finally summoning words.

    Valerie couldn't help but tear up herself. Squeezing her good arm around him, she couldn't seem to say anything for the longest time--before finally managing to nod and mouth out she felt the same way.

    "... I..." she began. "I..."

    She shut her eyes and kissed him again, figuring actions spoke louder than words. Jackson welcomed the kiss, returning it zealously. His euphoria kicked into overdrive, as he understood the meaning behind it. Like the last one, he savored it, reluctantly drawing aback for a breath of air. Even though he came to the realization of how she felt, he issued an expectant grin. He wanted to hear her say it.

    Valerie pulled back once the kiss ended, her redness now reduced to a pink blush.

    "I love you, too..." she whispered, attempting to hide her face with the sleeve covering her good arm.

    Beaming, he furled his arms around the woman to draw her into his lap for a cuddle. He positioned her with her broken arm facing away from him to ensure no pain would come to her. Holding her close, he brought his lips back to hers, bringing them into another deep kiss. Valerie squeaked as she was suddenly pulled into his lap. Bringing her arm up and over his head, she sank into the kiss with a giddy, muffled squeal.

    So lost in the kiss, he nor Valerie heard the clinks and clatters of the teacups, kettle, and tray as the fell off of Shelgon's back. He was over the moon to know that she loved him as much as he was in love with her.

    He had done it. He had won her heart.

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