Disclaimer: I don't own Pokémon.

A/N: Written bright and early at 3AM after a wonderful night of insomnia.

It has become a tradition for her to go straight to Aspertia City after making a significant discovery in her field research: not to boast, but to share her happiness with her childhood friend. With every step she is closer to the Aspertia gym, and her heart grows lighter until Bianca feels as though she is soaring through the cool blue sky. It's like she is returning home after a long journey.

She reserves a room at the Pokémon Center and goes straight to the gym, allowing herself a customary giggle upon seeing the school building (it fits his image so well!) before striding inside. Cheren is most likely out back training or battling, so she goes there first.

That afternoon he is doing neither. The two young trainers point her to his office, long familiar with the blond researcher's frequent and unannounced visits.

They erroneously think she is his girlfriend. She forgets to correct them.

Bianca heads inside and makes a few turns, navigating through the hall with ease, and knocks twice on the last door. Then she lets herself in.

"Ch—" Her cheerful greeting dies on her lips as she steps into the small room and finds her friend taking a nap. With a fond smile, she carefully shuts the door and tiptoes over to the guest chair. She sits down, and for several moments she drinks in the sight of Cheren's rare, unguarded face resting on folded arms. Then, with a quiet sigh that may have sounded wistful to a bystander, she pulls out her notes and begins to review them.

Seconds turn into minutes and hours and the shadows grow longer across the room before Bianca realizes she has dozed off. Orange-red sunset streaming through the window highlights the dust motes floating in the office. Stretching her neck and shoulders, she looks over to see Cheren still sleeping. He must not have slept well last night, she thinks in disapproval.

Another sigh. She pulls out a sweater from her bag and creeps silently over to him, laying it slowly on his back. He looks so young with his eyes closed and brows unwrinkled. Resisting the urge to brush his bangs, Bianca turns to her seat, the floorboards creaking lightly despite her efforts.

There is a slight rustling sound behind her. Before she can react, his fingers suddenly grip her wrist tightly. Her head swivels and she blinks in astonishment.

Cheren stares up at her, fear and panic etched into every line of his pale face.

The hand that clutches her is cold and strong enough to hurt. Despite her own alarm, Bianca feels a rush of warmth zing through her body. "Cheren?" she manages to ask.

Her quiet voice seems to wake him out of his strange state, and his features instantly relax. But his face is still pale and he does not release her.

"Bianca," he mutters, pressing his eyelids with the other hand. "Sorry, I had a late night. When did you get here?"

"Not too long ago," she assures, mustering a smile and turning completely around. "Do you… feel okay?"

He stops rubbing his eyes, frowning slightly. "What? Of course I do. I'm just a little tired, that's all."

"Ehm, but… you… my…"

She wiggles her captured limb and he blinks at it, seeming to not realize he was holding it in a tight grip this whole time. His fingers ease up until they are loosely encircling her wrist, less frigid now. Her cheeks grow warm by the gesture. Cheren is not acting like his usual, proper self today, this much is clear. And yet, in spite of her worry, she enjoys the attention he is giving her.

"I had a bad dream," he murmurs, gazing fixedly at his desk. "It was… disturbing. A nightmare where everyone I knew was leaving me."

Her eyes widen. "Even me?"

He doesn't reply. The expression in his eyes says it all. Cheren finally releases her, and Bianca feels her throat and chest tighten with a tender, choking emotion that makes her want to cry. She has never felt it before, but knows it to be love.

Throwing all caution to the winds, she leans down and embraces him. It is a light hold, easy enough to disengage from, but overflowing with all the warmth she has to offer him.

It's okay, she tells him silently. You're not alone.

After a beat of startled hesitation, his arms come up and hugs her back. It is an awkward position, but she feels as though he is desperately clinging to her for support. When she hears him exhale softly, it makes her deliriously happy. Happy to be his friend. Happy to be alive and here with him.

I will never leave you.

Even if he does not return her feelings, she will be content with what they already have because he needs her and she is an irreplaceable person in his life.

That is more than enough for her.


"—and the number of Patrats actually increased after that. It totally blew my mind! Even the Professor was surprised, and usually her predictions are spot on." Bianca pauses to sigh in pure satisfaction, drawing an amused smile from her companion. "It's moments like these that make me think, 'Aha! So this is why I research my head off.' And then I want to research more!" Her arms shoot up into the air in victory.

"Bianca," he says mildly. "You're getting too excited. Calm down."

She turns to him with a retort on her lips but Cheren reaches up and gently brushes aside an errant wisp of hair from her face. His fingertips linger on the curve of her jaw, light as flower petals, before dropping to his side. He continues walking on as though nothing has happened, not seeming to notice when she abruptly ducks her head and becomes silent. Bianca's face is so red she can feel the tips of her ears burning.

"Hey, are you okay?" He peers down at her.

"Eh? Yes, I'm okay! Wow, is it hot outside or what?" It is a cool autumn evening but she laughs brightly and says, "Now, where was I before you interrupted me? Right. So, the colony of Patrats was taking over the farm and…"

We're just friends. Friends. Nothing more. End of story.

Still, the evening wind brings with it a sweet and nostalgic scent, traveling from faraway lands and distant oceans, and it makes her think of warm fingers on her skin. Something like hope blossoms into a tiny flower in her heart.

Because in the end, she still loves him.

To Be Continued...?