Don't want to confuse anyone, so just a reminder: This is not intended to be TtS verse May and Brendan. This is just them… existing. I imagine this is more like game them where they started their journeys at the same time, but have whatever headcanons you like.

Ignore any stupid errors in this. I probably need to edit it again before posting, but eh. I'll do it later.


Critical Hit

Brendan had never attended a Grande Festival.

Most seventeen year olds probably hadn't. Then again, most seventeen year olds weren't the sons of renowned professors with connections to all things pokemon, nor were they set to be one of the top competitors in this year's League tournament.

He was out of his element, he realized, tugging at the collar of his charcoal button down with no small amount of dread. Or was that a tingle of anticipation?

It was hard to tell when May was involved. He'd been perfectly prepared to reject Lisia's invitation in favor of training for the looming League tournament (It was only a few months away, after all) until his pesky neighbor had come banging on his door, as per usual.

"We have to go, Brendan," she'd said, a hand on her hip.

"Speak for yourself." He remembered he'd tried so very hard to keep his eyes glued to the notes he'd jotted down from his last training session. He didn't notice the stray hairs falling delicately across May's forehead, damp from her own training. Not at all.

"Lisia really wants us to come watch her, and it's the Grande Festival." May was outraged then, but all that Brendan had really registered was the fact that her hand had somehow landed on his shoulder and she was close enough that he could smell the fruity tang of her shampoo. "Wally's invited too. We could all use a break, don't you think?"

He'd been thinking a lot of things.

"Brendan Birch!" she'd shrieked when he didn't reply. Her grip tightened on his shoulder so much that it could rival a crawdaunt's.

He'd swiveled in his chair, adding a few more inches between them before he did something embarrassing. Her hand was ripped from his shoulder. "Fine, fine! You lunatic. We'll go."

And that was the story of how he'd ended up here, in the lobby of a mediocre hotel in Lilycove waiting for May to finish getting ready like some lovesick growlithe. He'd even foregone his favorite hat and put gel in his hair. Gel.

He was truly pathetic.

Even Wally had managed to get out of it. "Stomach bug," May had told him that morning over cereal, giving him a strangely jittery shrug as he scowled at her. She was probably experiencing a sugar high from her Cranidos Crunch.

"Ready!" a familiar voice chirped, yanking Brendan out of his thoughts. He looked up, prepared to complain, but the words caught in his throat.

May had emerged from around the corner, the periwinkle skirt of her dress swaying over her thighs. Her hair was swept up into an elegant twist of curls at the nape of her neck, and her skin seemed to be glowing. Somehow, impossibly, the sapphire of her eyes shone even brighter than usual.

She shifted and gave him an odd, nervous sort of smile that Brendan was sure he'd never seen on her face before, and it suddenly occurred to him that he was supposed to say something.

Oh, Latias, help me, Brendan thought, his mind a blur. Aloud, he coughed. "About time."

It took May a beat too long to respond, but he missed her reaction. His gaze couldn't seem to meet hers. The ugly hotel wallpaper had never been so fascinating.

"The contest doesn't start for another thirty minutes," she said.

He felt her watching him, and the back of his neck grew uncomfortably warm. He forced himself to raise an eyebrow at her. "Twenty-eight. This place is going to be so crowded-"

"Oh, shut up." May rolled her eyes. She paused for a fraction of a second before nearing him, swaying slightly in the heels she had chosen. Her hand looped around his elbow to pull him towards the door, and his stomach leaped against his will. "Let's go."

The streets of Lilycove were bustling with activity, as big of a night as this was, but all Brendan could focus on was the warmth of her fingers through his shirt. She hadn't let go yet. Why wasn't she letting go?

The silence between them hung heavily in the air. This was weird. He didn't have awkward silences with May, not anymore. They'd spent far too much time together, far too much time walking throughout the region without speaking, but thinking nothing of it.

"Lisia tried to show me this thing to do with my hair, but I'm not as good as her. I usually just do a ponytail or wear it down," May blabbered, as if he didn't already know how she usually wore her hair. Her free hand drifted to where her curls were pinned, and she glanced at him from under her darkened lashes. "Um. It doesn't look stupid, right?"

It was doing wonders to accentuate the slender plain of her neck. Brendan wasn't about to tell her all of that, though.

"Where are you keeping your pokeballs?" he asked instead, nodding to her tiny dress. He cleared his throat, then added, "Your hair looks fine."

May pursed her lips. "In my bag."

The itty bitty silver bag hanging from May's shoulder didn't look like it could fit much more than a few tubes of makeup, but he didn't argue. They fell back into that uneasy silence, and Brendan was becoming more and more convinced that he was the one with the stomach bug. Forget Wally.

Okay, so it wasn't that Brendan didn't realize that he had somehow become besotted with his best friend. It was just that he had never taken the time to consider what in Latias's name he was supposed to do about it.

Did he even want to do anything about it? More importantly, how was he supposed to know if she wanted him to do anything about it? It wasn't like a gym battle he could prepare for. There were no guaranteed super effective moves, nothing to predict what May's counter move would be. She liked hanging out with him, and he wasn't completely blind; he'd noticed her eyes lingering on him before. But wasn't the occasional inconvenient sexual attraction a simple curse of being a teenager?

As far as Brendan could calculate, May had never given any obvious indication that she felt the same way, and his potential risk-reward ratio certainly wasn't saying that he should try to approach her about it. Although he would be hard pressed to admit it out loud, her friendship was one of the dearest things he had. There really was no need to try to throw things off balance.

This entire scenario was ruining that. This… getting so dressed up to go out, just the two of them. It was eerily date-like, and he couldn't wait until they returned to familiar territory: pokemon.

He tried not to breathe an audible sigh of relief when they reached the festival hall.


Brendan had to admit that the Grande Festival was amazing.

The coordinators, which were made up of the twenty-five highest scoring competitors of the region based on the past year, put on some of the greatest spectacles he'd ever seen. Begrudgingly, he even found himself wondering if there was any way he could incorporate a few of their novel move uses into his training.

Lisia had made sure they were sitting near the front row, and May's arm brushed against his across the plush armrest for nearly the entire time. She was so entranced in the competition that Brendan was certain she didn't even notice, and watching her eyes dance when someone pulled off something particularly fantastic was almost better than the show itself.

Unsurprisingly, Lisia was crowned Top Coordinator for the fourth year in a row for her dragon pulse rainbow with Ali. Thanks to their friendship with her (Or rather, May's friendship with her and Brendan being dragged along behind them like spare luggage), they were among the few VIPs permitted at the after party for the contestants.

"Oh, thank you so so much for coming," Lisia crooned, pulling May into a crushing hug the second she saw them. Brendan hung back. He had a strict no group hugging policy.

"You were awesome," May assured her, and Brendan had to nod in agreement.

Lisia met his eyes over May's shoulder, and there was a shift in her face, like she had been anticipating something especially exciting and had just remembered it. Brendan didn't think he liked it at all.

"You look gorgeous," Lisia said meaningfully to May, pulling back.

Unfortunately, Brendan thought. He couldn't see May's face very well, but her updo gave him the perfect view of the flush creeping up the back of her neck. Not that he was staring, or anything.

"Thank you. So do you," May said, stepping back into Brendan's space. She was always varying levels of awkward when accepting compliments.

Her movement left him once again enveloped by her cursed scent of summer and apples. He fleetingly wondered what she'd do if he blurted out how amazing she smelled, like the creep he was.

"So, how has your night been?" Lisia was grinning as she glanced between them, and Brendan felt like he was missing something very obvious. His throat grew tight, and he resisted the urge to run a hand through his gelled hair. Surely Lisia didn't know about his pathetic crush on May, right?

"There were some impressive pokemon," he said, and his voice came out blessedly normal. He watched May for agreement even though he'd seen firsthand just how much she'd enjoyed the performances. She hesitated a beat too long before nodding at Lisia.

"I loved it!" May said, and she was smiling again.

"Oh." Lisia had just been officially told she was the best coordinator in all of Hoenn, maybe in history, and her eyes fluttered in what looked like disappointment. The look passed as soon as it had swept over her. "Well, we need help with all these refreshments, so you better make yourselves at home!"

"Not too much help, May," Brendan couldn't help but say, and she elbowed him and suddenly everything was back on kilter with them. He almost sighed in relief.

Several minutes later, Brendan found himself separated from the girls, waiting in line like a moron at the ridiculously long cupcake bar while they returned to their table with the other refreshments. May just had to have that pretty chocolate cupcake with blue swirls, and of course, her feet were aching from her heels, so she couldn't be the one to go get it.

Did he mention he was a moron?

There were still at least six people in front of him. His eyes drifted back to their table, prepared to shoot May his fifth "you owe me" glare in a row. He froze.

Lisia was gone, most likely dragged off for more congratulations, and a slim, golden haired boy in a pretentious suit was leaning across their table, chatting to May. A machoke hulked behind them, and Brendan could see the flash of May's teeth even from where he stood. She was practically glowing.

The boy flicked a golden lock of hair out of his eyes, and Brendan hated him.

"Excuse me," a timid voice began.

"What?" Brendan spun his gaze on the server, and she flinched. He realized that he'd been holding up the line, and made an effort to temper his scowl. "Sorry."

A quick glance at the dessert display revealed that the double chocolate cupcake May wanted was gone. Eye twitching, he requested the yellow cake batter with chocolate icing instead.

As Brendan approached their table, he was able to recognize the boy chatting up May as one of the other coordinators. He was undeniably talented, and had managed to secure the third place spot easily. Brendan was fairly sure his name was Chaz something or other.

"I'd love to compare notes with a competitive trainer," Chaz said, and the back of May's head bobbed as she nodded along. "I-"

Chaz's cornflower eyes had landed on Brendan. He gave him a brief once over, and his lip curled, unimpressed. "Sorry, no autographs after the show."

"What?" Brendan droned, disgusted. May had turned around in her seat. She was biting her lip, something she always did when she was trying really hard not to laugh.

He better have heard wrong.

"Chaz, this is Brendan," May managed to say, with badly concealed amusement. "He's competing in the League with me."

"Oh." Chaz leaned back in his seat, like he owned the place. He inspected his nail beds, clearly more interested in them than in Brendan's presence. "I don't think I've heard of you."

"I haven't heard of you either, Chad," Brendan snapped, nudging a spare chair impatiently out of his space. It was so crowded. "And you're in my seat."

"Brendan," May hissed, as if he were the one being rude. She was one hundred percent chewing him out later, but he could handle it. He was itching for a good argument, anyway. This entire night had left him on edge.

"It's fine," Chaz assured her. He rose out of the chair and straightened his jacket, ignoring Brendan's glower. "I'll get back to you on… the other thing."

May smiled then, giddy. Smiled.

She never smiled so soon after Brendan did something to annoy her this much.

"Good," May said. Chaz melted into the crowd, easily finding a group of coordinators to assimilate with.

"Take your cupcake before I throw up on it." Brendan dropped the plate in front of her and sunk down into his chair, arms crossed.

Predictably, May leveled him with a pissed off look. It was a signature of hers, but this one only reached a three at the most on her scale of scary. Brendan wasn't concerned.

"What? He was obnoxious. You know I'm right."

He didn't actually know if she agreed with him, after seeing the way she'd been smiling earlier. He nearly shuddered at the thought.

"You're so annoying," she said, but her voice betrayed how little frustration she was actually feeling. She slid the cupcake towards her, eyeing the intricate swirls for a moment before cutting into it with her fork. "Mmm. This is good."

"Better be," he muttered.

May grinned at him, and there was a spot of chocolate at the corner of her lip. His stomach fluttered. "Eat some," she urged, slicing the cupcake in half. She must have been in a good mood.

She slid her chair over to share the plate, her knee brushing his under the table. He didn't complain again.


"This girl, Katelynn, is known for a slaking and a gardevoir."

May was sprawled across his bed on her stomach, her chin propped up on her hands as she gazed down at the info on their competitors that they'd printed out. Her bare feet bounced in the air, a sure sign she was nearly studied out for the day.

She looked up, dismayed. "I hate battling slaking."

Brendan sat on the floor with his back to the bed, a separate set of papers stacked in front of him. He ran a highlighter over the name 'Katelynn'. None of the League competitors were required to formally register a team of six, but when you made it as far as the League, there was usually information out there about your most commonly used pokemon. It was impossible to hide.

"I'm sure it's not as strong as your dad's, and you beat that one," he assured her. He didn't want to tell her, but he'd be very surprised if anyone actually knocked May out of the tournament. Himself included.

Brendan was proud of what he'd accomplished as a trainer, but he'd never seen anyone with the natural ability that May had. Her affinity and passion for pokemon was one of the things he loved most about her.

He definitely wasn't telling her that, though.

"I guess." She groaned, flopping down onto the bed. Escaped strands from her ponytail fell like little wisps around her face. As nice as she had looked at the Grande Festival, he preferred her like this.

Brendan flicked her with his highlighter. "Get up. No more slacking."

"This sucks," May complained, voice muffled by his comforter. "I'd rather just train and know nothing. I'm gonna forget it all anyway."

"Just thirty more minutes and then we can go for a run."

May groaned again. If there was anything she hated more than sitting down and studying, it was the warm up running sessions they'd taken to doing with their entire teams.

"You're trying to kill me so you can win," she accused, one blue eye glaring at him from underneath her arm.

He scoffed. "Please, like I need to cheat."

"Whatever. I'm going to get snacks before I look at any more words," May declared, rolling off the bed. Her hand grasped the doorframe, and she peered down at him. "Want anything?"

"Whatever you get is fine." He crossed a different name off with his pen instead of his highlighter, and May swirled away into his kitchen like it was her own.

She'd only been gone about thirty seconds before her Pokenav started chirping, right by his ear. Brendan meant to ignore it, but it beeped a second time and then a third. Irritated, he snatched it off the bed.

Chaz's name flashed across the screen, and there was a little star emoji next to the z that stood out to Brendan like a beacon of his eternal misery. He knew for a fact that May's emoji for himself was a smiling nerd face. A nerd face!

His hands itched to flip to the text screen and see what in the world Chaz thought he should be texting May about. Since when did they even have one another's number? May hadn't mentioned him since the Grande Festival, and that had been a week and a half ago.

Mustering all the willpower in his veins, he tossed the Pokenav back onto his bed, screen down, just as May returned. A bag of Hot Growlios and two Dr. Thunderbolts were balanced precariously in her arms.

Brendan pointed sharply at her Pokenav, scowling. "Charles is texting you."

"Who?" May craned her neck towards her Pokenav. "Oh, Chaz."

Her thumbs ghosted across her screen, typing a text message that seemed entirely too long to be good. She smiled down at whatever she was writing, ignoring Brendan altogether as he sipped sulkily on the drink she'd brought him.

He was burning to ask about a thousand questions, but he kept his mouth firmly shut. May had made plenty of other guy friends while they were on their journey. In fact, she hung out with Wally all the time.

Wally doesn't lean across tables to flirt with her. Wally doesn't have a star next to his name, an annoying voice in his head whispered.

The Pokenav buzzed again, and Brendan pretended not to notice.

"So," May said, a few minutes later. Her hand was reaching into the chip bag as she glanced down at him. "I can't train tomorrow until late. You should text Wally."

Brendan's shoulders tensed, and he didn't look away from the list of trainers in front of him.

"Why?" he asked, keeping his tone carefully neutral. It wasn't like May to cancel training plans, and his mind was connecting the horrible, ugly dots at a mile a minute.

"I'm going to Mauville. Some place called Crooner's Café?"

"Because…?"

"I'm meeting Chaz for lunch. He lives there."

"Lunch?" Brendan repeated, and then immediately cursed himself. The goal here was to not advertise his feelings for her on a flashing neon sign. But because he'd already gotten out the shovel, he decided to continue digging his own grave. "Getting kinda close, huh?"

May tilted her head down at him. He hated that she looked cute doing it. "Not really."

"Make sure to get an autograph," he mocked, in a high-pitched voice. He turned his eyes pointedly back to his stack of papers.

Either he was hearing things, or May laughed a little under her breath. "He's not that bad. Mostly."

"Figures that you have bad taste." Brendan was proud of the sarcastic edge he added into his statement. He sounded normal, like himself. May would expect him to tease her on this, surely, just out of best friend and basic Brendan duties. Especially when she was flirting with such a chump.

She paused. "Wait. It's not like that. It's—"

"A pre date date?"

Her cheeks were flushing already, and Brendan had a nasty flashback to how giggly she'd been earlier while reading her text from Chaz. He was going to be sick.

"No." May was watching him, eyes wide, like he was something alien. Oh, Latias. She was going to try to find the words to explain her not date but really a date to him. "It's just—"

He'd changed his mind. He definitely did not want to hear this

Brendan shot to his feet, eyes on the doorway. Literally anywhere but on May and her annoying, buzzing Pokenav. "We've done this enough. Let's go run already."

"What? Hey, wait. I need to find my socks," May cried, but he was already halfway down the hall.

"Winners don't waste time losing their socks!" he echoed. The sound carried all the way through his hollowed chest.


The next morning, Brendan woke with big plans. Mostly, they centered around avoiding May and thoughts of her not date all day, but he also hoped to make strides in his training. There were some moves he really wanted to try on Wally's gallade.

Of course, his mom wanted him to die a miserable death, so she ordered him to deliver muffins to the Maple's house before the clock had even struck nine thirty.

"I put chocolate chips in these. May'll love them," she said, an evil twinkle in her eye. She'd been planning his wedding to May since the second her family had moved next door.

"Great," he grumbled. Maybe May would fall so in love with the muffins she'd forget her not date with Chaz.

Brendan hovered outside her house a few minute later, already resolving himself to standing there for Latias knows how long. He'd sent May a text to let her know he was on the way, but since they didn't have training plans this morning, he seriously doubted she'd even crawled out of bed yet. She was a horrible morning person.

He was surprised when the door flew open. "Hey," May said, a little breathless.

Her eyes were bright and awake, and half of her hair was pulled up into a small ponytail. The locks that remained free fell around her jawline in loose curls. Her outfit was nice too; one of what Brendan personally dubbed her "going out outfits".

His eyes narrowed.

"Those for me?" May asked, and he could tell she'd been up for over an hour. She didn't speak happily before she had at least that long to wake up.

Her gaze was fixed on the Tupperware in his hand.

"Yep. Mom tried a new recipe."

"Bless!"

She stepped aside, gesturing for him to come in, and he knew he had no choice but to follow her into her kitchen. Thankfully, May was more focused on the muffins than on him. She eagerly stuffed the corner of one into her mouth.

"Mhmmmmm. These are amazing. I could kiss you," she moaned.

Brendan froze, one hand raised to scratch the back of his neck. May, realizing what she'd said, erupted into a brief coughing fit. "Kiss your mom I mean. Tell her I said thanks. These are great, and thank you, for bringing them, but especially thanks to your mom."

"…Yeah."

Although Brendan and May were best friends in all the ways that mattered, they had always had a sort of unspoken set of ground rules between them. No complimenting one another's appearance. Don't regard the other as a sexual being at any cost. As little touching as possible. Definitely no mention of kissing, even when told as a joke.

Yeah. Brendan sucked at those rules.

Change the subject. He needed to change the subject.

"You're up early for a slakoth." He nodded meaningfully to her attire.

May inhaled another bite of muffin. She had both elbows on the counter now, watching him. She tossed a crumb at him. "Ha ha. I thought I'd get an early start to Mauville. Maybe battle some people or shop."

She looked awfully nice for battling. Don't think about it, he told himself.

"You taking Farah?"

Farah was May's flygon. She hadn't been evolved for too long, so flying with May on her back was always a great opportunity to build up her wing strength. It also happened to be amazing transportation.

She nodded. "Yeah. It'll be good for her. I just hope the wind doesn't ruin my hair."

Brendan raised an eyebrow. "Wouldn't wanna disappoint the shopkeepers, would you?"

He was starting to wonder why she was being so sketchy about the whole thing. Why wouldn't she just admit what this was?

Latias. He really hoped she wasn't trying to spare his feelings. That would be the worst, because it would mean she knew.

May huffed, bouncing backwards from the counter. She'd finished her muffin. "Just because I look like I crawled out from under a rock when I'm training doesn't mean I don't like to look like a girl sometimes."

"So it's not because of your date with Chase?" he accused.

May's cheeks blossomed a bright pink, confirming his worst fear. "It's not a date."

"You just got dressed up, and you're going to meet him for lunch. It's a date." His head was spinning, and something lurched painfully in his insides. He probably belonged in an emergency room somewhere.

May swallowed, eyes darting over his face. There was a light dawning over her, like something had occurred to her. He quickly schooled his features, nervous about what she was reading in his expression. As much as it pained him to admit it, he recognized this for what it was: white hot jealousy.

He did not want May to recognize it.

Was he being obvious? He didn't need this right now. He wasn't prepared. And if anyone could read him, it was May, his best friend. Who happened to be the absolute last person in the world he wanted to be able to read him on this.

Carefully, she asked, "Why does it matter?"

"It doesn't," he blurted, and something flickered in her face.

"Oh. Good."

"Good."

She glared. "I just said that."

There was a very tense silence in which neither of them spoke. May's eyes were darker than normal as she stared at him, like the ocean during a storm. He wondered if they'd lighten up to bright, clear sapphire sky when she met Chaz.

He really needed to get out of there.

"Alright, well." He rocked back on the balls of his feet. "I should get started training."

May's face softened, almost in defeat. "Okay. See you later."

"Bye." Brendan hesitated halfway out the door. His hand gripped the knob so tightly his knuckles stung, and he forced out, "Have fun."

"Thanks."

The last thing he saw was her forehead crinkling into a frown as he shut the door.


Brendan knew he was obsessing, but he couldn't help it.

Weren't girls usually excited when they had a new date, or something? He knew May probably thought he'd tease her, but unless she'd called and spilled all the details to Lisia, she didn't really have anyone else to talk to about her love life. So why wouldn't she just say it was a date?

Unless she'd figured out he liked her, but he wouldn't let himself consider that option, for the sake of his own sanity.

He checked his Pokenav, and it was only eleven. He doubted May had met up with Chaz yet.

"Hey."

Brendan looked up, and Wally was standing a few paces away, his altaria at his side. As usual, he was dressed in a carefully ironed button down, but his mousy hair was windblown from his flight over.

"Hey," Brendan said back, climbing to his feet and dusting the grass off of his gym shorts. He knew he must've looked insane, sat in the center of Route 101 clutching his Pokenav, paying no attention as his entire team of pokemon scuffled around him. He could play it cool, though.

"Thanks for texting me," Wally said, voice soft. He was too nice to comment on how odd Brendan was acting. "I really needed to train."

Even though Wally had reconciled with his parents since pulling his runaway stint to start his journey, his mother in particular still seemed to have a difficult time letting him out of her sight when he was visiting them in Petalburg. Brendan wondered when she'd figure out that Wally was probably one of the most self-sufficient people in the region, at this point.

"No problem." It abruptly occurred to Brendan why it had been so long since he'd seen Wally. He took a subtle step back. "Your stomach's better, right?"

He could just picture himself crouched over the toilet, puking, on top of everything else going to smithereens in his life.

"What?" Wally stared. "Oh. Oh, yes, it's fine now."

"Thank Latias."

Brendan observed his team, who miraculously hadn't yet set the field aflame. Even with Wally's team also at his disposal, no perfect training routine for the day was coming to him. He hated not being in the right headspace for this. The tournament was only a couple months away; neither of them had time to waste.

"Where's May?" Wally asked. It was common knowledge that he and May usually trained together.

All of Brendan's feeble attempts to gather thoughts for training died.

"She has a date." If he left a sour emphasis on the word 'date', what harm would it do?

Wally blinked at him. "…Oh," he said eventually. "But… With who?"

His pale eyebrows scrunched up as he looked at Brendan, like he was trying to calculate something in his head. Clearly it wasn't adding up.

"He's a coordinator." Brendan couldn't help but scowl. "He's so full of himself. I didn't know her taste was that bad."

Wally coughed, almost like he was choking back a laugh, and Brendan gave him an incredulous glance out of the corner of his eye. He couldn't for the life of him understand what was so funny about this situation.

Unless Wally, too, had realized how Brendan felt. He shoved his hands in his pockets so he wouldn't figit.

"Oh, wow," was all Wally could say.

"Tell me about it."

An idea stirred within Brendan. A very bad idea.

"You know what we should do?" he began, like he hadn't been dwelling on the same thought all morning. "Go to the Mauville Food Court for some battles against other people."

Wally shuffled from foot to foot. "Is- Is May in Mauville?" he asked, warily.

"Well, yeah," Brendan admitted. Even as the back of his neck grew warmer, he edged, "If we see her, we can make sure Chance isn't being a punk."

Wally had gone even paler than usual. He looked like he'd rather fight a blaziken barehanded than insert himself into the situation. "I- um- I don't know—"

"Come on. Just if we run into her." Brendan knew he sounded crazy, but Wally was harmless. They most likely wouldn't even see May, anyway. Mauville was enormous. "We're her friends. We're supposed to look out for her, right?"

Friends.

"Yeah, but…" Wally paused, gathering his words. Brendan could practically see him sweating, so whatever he was trying to say was taking a lot out of him. "Maybe if you didn't want her to go you should've told her?"

Brendan wanted to argue, but Wally's jade eyes were big and obnoxiously sympathetic. He felt very small even though he was the taller of them by several inches. A little bit of his resolve cracked away, and he ran a hand through the bangs sticking out from under his hat.

"Like she'd listen to me," he said, feigning nonchalance to the best of his ability. "Not that I care."

"I think she would have," Wally said, quietly.

This conversation was making Brendan antsier than he already was. Wally must've sensed this, because he added, "Just an idea though!"

"So, anyway." Brendan needed to shift the conversation back towards Wally, so someone else could feel trapped. He looked up at Brendan like a stantler in headlights. "About Mauville."


Brendan was more convinced than ever that Chaz was a chump, because Mauville was a horrible place for a date.

The air smelled of grease and lowlifes, even in the most public friendly areas such as the battle food court. Brendan knew for a fact that it was one of May's least favorite cities in Hoenn, even though they'd taken to occasionally visiting Lisia in her ritzy Mauville Hills home.

Chaz probably lived there too, he realized.

Brendan and Wally were sat off to the corner of the food court, emptied bowls of pasta on their tables and a perfect view of Crooner's Café in the distance. So far, he hadn't seen May enter or leave, and they'd been there for two hours.

Either he'd missed her, or it was a really good date.

He shoved the thought aside and thumbed through the collection of bills in his hands. Both he and Wally had earned a considerable amount of money off of the other trainers in the food court. Apparently, they didn't realize they were challenging two Hoenn League qualifiers.

At least the trip wasn't a waste.

"We should come here more." Brendan smirked, and Wally nodded along, meekly, probably embarrassed by the way he was flashing his new cash. "That one kid was—oh, sh… That's May."

"W-What?" Wally craned his neck to see behind him, panicked.

Sure enough, there she was, pushing open the door from inside Crooner's café. Chaz was beside her, wearing a horrendous shade of mauve. May waved to him, like she was saying goodbye, and Brendan could tell by her posture that she was happy.

At least she didn't hug him, or worse.

His momentary relief was set aflame when she turned around, eyes fixed on the food court. He hardly restrained himself from diving under the table, because all of a sudden, he really didn't want her to see him there.

"This was a horrible idea," Wally whispered, sinking low in his seat. His hands were over his face. "May is going to kill us."

"Me, you mean?" Brendan didn't think May had it in her to yell at Wally, but he had good reason to fear for his life. "Only if she sees us."

"What do we do?!"

Brendan slid out of his chair, slouching as much as he could manage without being conspicuous. He tugged on the back of Wally's shirt. "We're leaving. Let's get out of here."

"She's going to see us—"

"Shhh, no she's not! If she does, we only came here for battles. And she doesn't own Mauville."

A wild stroke of luck hit, and a crowd of bicyclers was heading for the exit closest to them. Brendan dragged Wally towards them, trailing the group much more closely than he normally would have so they could blend in.

He followed the bicyclers several paces before yanking them down a different direction. They were still in the indoor section of Mauville, but they were officially clear of the food court.

Wally was white as a sheet, but a slip of relieved laughter escaped Brendan. "Dude, we did it."

"Let's not do it again," Wally begged. His hands were wringing, and Brendan suspected he'd like to have a paper bag to breathe some calming breaths into.

"We should keep going," Brendan said, and Wally was quick to nod in agreement.

It felt like there were little knives jabbing into skin as they walked, and he wasn't sure if it was the remaining anxiety over May catching him in Mauville, or the realization that she'd quite obviously had a successful date getting to him. He blinked down at the shiny tiles under his feet.

It wasn't like anything was going to happen between him and May, regardless of whether she'd had a nice date with Chaz. He might as well try to be happy for her.

And at the very least, she'd never know how ridiculous he'd acted today. He really didn't know how he'd explain being in Mauville.

"Brendan. Birch."

Oh. Oh no.

Brendan spun around, and May was stalking towards them, having somehow headed them off from a different direction. Her hair was like a wicked halo of rage around her as she approached, and he swallowed. He wasn't sure if he was delighted or terrified.

"May." Wally's voice came out as a squeak, but Brendan wasn't sure she'd even noticed his presence. Her fury was reserved for him.

He imagined himself saying a lot of things:

"Oh, hey, May."

"What a coincidence, May."

"May, are you stalking me?"

Unfortunately, all he could do was stare, slack-jawed, as she approached. Like some sort of stupid, gaping magikarp.

She was only about a foot away now, which meant he was in punching distance. Straight in the danger zone. He didn't inch back, even though a part of him wanted to.

"I thought I saw you," May ground out, like she was still in disbelief to have found him there. Her chest was heaving. "Were you spying on me?"

Brendan finally found his voice.

"No. We came here for easy battles," he said, just as he'd rehearsed. He'd pull out his winnings if he needed to. Anything to get out of this… this.

May crossed her arms, leaning back on one foot. He was familiar with this look. She was not impressed. "Then why did you run when you saw me and Chaz?"

Brendan hesitated. Great. Fantastic. There was no way to answer that.

He decided to spin things back around on her. "Why would I spy on you, May?"

It worked.

"I- I don't know." Her hands clutched into little fists by her sides, and that was how he knew she was truly getting frustrated. He wondered if he should brace himself for that punch. She turned on Wally instead, cheeks pink. "And you! I can't believe you're here!"

Wally flinched under her glare. "I'm sorry, May."

May's stance softened. Yelling at Wally was like kicking an injured baby pichu.

His green eyes darted between Brendan and May, sensing that the air was rife with tension. At this point, Brendan was convinced that even a stranger would notice it. It was far bigger a problem than just May catching him in Mauville, and it was all his fault. He was the one putting the strain on their friendship.

He jumped when he felt the point of May's finger jab into his chest. "I need to talk to you. Now."

"Yes. Good. Please," Wally said, eagerly, and Brendan thought about taking back that thought about him being an injured baby pichu. He was already backpedaling away from them.

Brendan tried to scowl at Wally as he retreated, but May's hands wrapped around his shirt collar like a pair of vices. She yanked him through a nearby glass door, and the jingle of a bell announced their entrance to the shopkeeper. There was a vague grunt of acknowledgement from somewhere on the other end of the store, but their view was blocked completely by the potted plants growing from floor-to-ceiling. She'd pulled him into some sort of elite berry shop.

He hated how private it was. Privacy was ideal for her yelling at him, or for him doing something stupid. Or both.

Her perfect eyes were blazing at him, and suddenly he hated the close quarters even more.

"What?" he snapped, feeling hot.

"What? Really? You followed me here." She was totally invading his space now, all up in his face. His skin prickled, and he wished desperately there was enough room for him to take a step back.

It had been a really, really long time since May had been genuinely mad at him, but he could feel emotion rolling off her in waves. This wasn't going to be easy to smooth over.

"I told you I came here to battle in the food court," he said.

"So you didn't come here to see what I was doing at all?"

"No?" he lied, and it sounded feeble even to his own ears. She was near enough for him to count the different shades of blue in her iris, and he cracked. "Fine, maybe I was a little nosey! You were being weird about it."

May let out a totally exasperated sound; something between a sigh and a gasp. "No, I wasn't. You were!"

"Just because you wouldn't tell me!"

"Why do you care so much?" she asked, finally, and there was something on her face. Something caught between hope and anger and confusion.

"I…"

Brendan was overwhelmed. By the question he had no acceptable answer too, by the minty tang of her breath, her proximity in general. The sheer taxation of all the emotions he'd kept carefully boxed up in the corner of his mind for what seemed like forever.

May huffed. "Well, are you—"

Her words were swallowed by his mouth, which he effectively covered hers with in half a step.

He was drowning in May. Her lips, warm and soft beneath his own, tasted faintly of chocolate. Hot chocolate, because she'd just left a café and she never ordered coffee. He'd never dreamed he'd know what they felt like.

Her cheeks were smoother than he ever could've imagined beneath his calloused fingers, and he realized he must've grabbed her face. His stomach rolled.

It took him all of three seconds to notice she had gone rigid as a board against him, and thus how monumentally he'd screwed himself over.

His hands dropped from her like she was fire. And she might as well have been, because his veins were melting from humiliation.

May was gaping at him, eyes wider than twin moons. Her curls were askew from where he'd touched her, and he wished he could teleport away. He took two staggering steps backwards, so far from her that the branches from the berry plants poked into his shirt.

"Sorry," he stammered, half drunk on what he'd just done.

"Brendan-" May started, and she sounded far away. Who could blame her, considering her platonic best friend had just decided to yank the roots out of their entire foundation and throw them in her face?

He couldn't listen to what she had to say. He didn't want to remember her voice explaining to him that they were just friends.

"Just pretend that didn't happen. Please," Brendan begged. He almost didn't recognize the sound of his own voice, it was so desperate. "I don't- I don't know what I was thinking. I wasn't thinking. It didn't mean anything."

His voice was ringing in his ears. Dimly, he realized that usually May was the one who was blabbering like a hot mess.

She was still breathing heavily as she stared at him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered if one of them wouldn't have a heart attack before this confrontation was over.

"Yes, sure. Okay," May said, voice small. "I'll just—I'll see you later?"

Brendan hardly felt himself nod. There would be no later, because May was probably going to avoid him for the rest of her life. If he didn't do the same to her, first.

May's hand hesitated on the door. He felt her eyes on him, but he was busy counting the oran berries above her head. One, two, three, please go away before I impale myself on that branch

The bell jingled, finally, and she was gone. He'd never wanted so badly to be swallowed up into the Earth to perish as he stared at the empty space she had vacated.

What had he done? He'd tried so hard to prevent this from happening, and then he'd gone and royally screwed up their friendship. She'd been nice about it, but he could tell, she was never speaking to him again. It would never not be awkward between them after that.

He was never kissing her again, but he could kiss the late night training sessions and movie marathons goodbye, too.

His head was in his hands, fingers threading through his hair when the door cracked back open. His eyes shot up in alarm, unprepared to make an excuse to a stranger at the moment.

His stomach did a somersault off the highest cliff imaginable. It was May.

She was fiddling with her hands, and her chin was jutted out. She swallowed, throat visibly bobbing. Whatever this was, she was bracing herself.

"Idon'twantto," May said, so quickly he wasn't sure he understood her correctly.

"What?" Brendan echoed, stupidly. He still couldn't look at her for more than a second at a time.

May took a very deep breath, more nervous than he'd ever seen her. She was probably about to tell him straight up that she didn't want to be friends anymore. No, she was too nice for that, but it couldn't be good. He just wanted her to go, so he could gather the shards of his racing heart.

"I don't want to pretend."

He didn't even have time to comprehend what she was saying before she'd strode back across the room and thrown herself at him. "Ow," he muttered, when her nose bumped his a little too aggressively, but then she was kissing him and all notions of pain fluttered away.

She was kissing him.

Despite her bravado, her hand was shaking where she'd braced it against his shoulder, and her lips were inexperienced as they glided over his. It was the greatest thing he'd ever felt.

Slowly, nervously, he ghosted a hand against her hip to pull her closer. She let out a pleased sigh against his mouth, and his heart flailed in his ribcage. He was a salamence soaring through the sky. A champion claiming his throne.

Her hands grew more confident, looping together against the back of his neck so that she was pressed more tightly against him. His teeth grazed her lip, and she gasped.

"I really like you," she breathed, and he couldn't contain his grin as he leaned back in to kiss her harder. If he was dreaming, he was going to make the most of it.

"Same," he admitted, between kisses, and she squeezed him tighter, like it was the most romantic thing she'd ever heard. He was fairly sure there was a stick stabbing him in the back, but he couldn't care less.

Brendan had no clue how much time had passed when he pulled away, brushing a final, light kiss against May's forehead. Her eyelashes fluttered over her cheek, and she leaned against him.

Even though they'd both just said so much by hardly speaking, he found he didn't know what to say.

"Sorry for ruining your date," he settled on, pathetically.

May hid her face in the crook of his shoulder, and her nose tickled his skin. "It wasn't a date," she mumbled.

"What?" He was still half-dazed, amazed by how soft she felt in his arms. Her hair was silk between his fingers, and he still couldn't comprehend that the two of them were standing here, like this.

"He's Lisia's boyfriend."

"What?!" Brendan was knocked out of his daze in an instant. His hands fell back down to his sides, still tingling from where they'd been touching May. He wished he hadn't moved away, because he no longer knew what to do with them.

May's skin was flushed, whether from embarrassment or their kiss or both, he wasn't certain. "I tried to tell you," she argued, throwing up her hands the way she did when she was especially flustered. "They just started dating and they don't want the press to know yet. He was hoping I could help him find a birthday present for her."

"Well, you didn't say that!" Brendan cried, not believing what he was hearing. He didn't know if he should be incredibly relieved, livid, or humiliated. Regardless, there was a significant weight coiling out of his chest.

"Sorry. I could've tried harder." May's face was significantly redder now, and her eyes were on the ceiling. "You were acting really weird about him, and I thought you might be jealous, which I knew was crazy and probably wasn't true, but I still just wanted to see what happened, and if you cared, and-"

"May," Brendan cut her off, putting a tense hand on her shoulder. She blinked down at it, like she couldn't believe he was touching her, even though their hands had been all over one another just minutes ago.

He nearly winced from the effort of what he said next. "Maybe I was… a little."

Her chest stilled. "A little what?"

"Jealous," he said in one breath, half hoping she didn't hear. Her shoulder drooped under his hand, and he realized with dread she was laughing. "Hey. What's so funny?"

"You." May leaned her head on his shoulder, hesitantly wrapping her arms underneath his in a hug. It was a move that dramatically decreased his annoyance, and he resolved to never, ever let on how much this worked. He'd never win an argument again. "This."

She laughed again, and her breath danced across the tender flesh of his neck. He shivered. "We're so stupid," she said.

"Tell me about it," he repeated, dully thinking back on all the times he'd agonized over what he thought was an unrequited mess. He flicked her nose. "You could've just told me you had a big fat crush on me instead of letting me die."

May scowled up at him, but there was no heat behind it. Especially when she only hugged him more tightly. "Don't push it," she warned, failing to sound anything but winded from happiness. "I tried to make something happen at the Grande Festival, but you didn't do anything."

"How?" Brendan argued, thinking back on that night. She hadn't said a word, and he'd been hyper aware of her the entire time. But then he recalled the expectant way she'd shown him her dress, how often she'd touched his arm, how close she'd sat. "Oh."

"You could've at least told me I looked nice," she complained.

"You didn't look like you crawled out from under a rock that day." She punched his shoulder, and he let out a puff of laughter into her hair. He couldn't ever remember feeling so light.

"Did you make Wally fake the stomach bug?"

"Maybe."


AN: In case anyone was wondering, writing this made me discover that I hate writing kiss scenes, because it makes me feel like I'm intruding on something. I really need to practice lmao.

Drop a review if you feel like it! I appreciate them!