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Dance Lessons and Well-Meaning Friends

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September 4, 2017 – Elite Four Headquarters

“All right,” said Glacia calmly as she, May, and Phoebe sat down in one of the conference rooms at Headquarters. “Let’s finalize the plans for the party. May, I don’t know your father has told you, but everyone dances at this kind of parties. The songs for it has been chosen; Phoebe, have you confirmed the band?”

“Done,” Phoebe said happily.

"There-There's dancing?" May’s voice was weak. “I- I have to dance?”

"It is a party," said Glacia matter of factly. "Many people do dance at parties, May. This is an important party, May, since it will be your first as Champion and especially after defending the title successfully. You will definitely have to dance – perhaps with many, since this is your first."

She gulped. This was something that she had never learned in Johto nor in Hoenn. And she only had one week to learn – oh, she should have found out years ago. This wasn’t something she thought she had to know as a Champion!

"If you don’t know how to dance or need some practice, why don't you ask Steven," said Phoebe, winking at her. "As a former Champion, he certainly knows how to dance - he's done it a lot at these parties."

She tried to suppress a blush. She wondered if she was so obvious that Phoebe kept teasing her about the former Champion, who still helped the League out along with his father regarding various things. "But- But he's certainly busy, I can't ask him to."

Phoebe grinned at her. "Oh, don't worry about that. Steven's visiting Wallace at Sootopolis, they're good friends. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if you went there and asked him."

"But-" May groaned, she should have never asked members of the Elite Four for help for this kind of problem. At least Sidney and Drake weren’t here.

“La-Latias!” Latias flew through the open door.

“Oh, Latias” she said, burying her burning face in its neck. “I don’t think-“

"Latias, would you take dear May to Sootopolis City? I'll tell Wallace you're coming, May" Glacia said kindly, reaching for the phone. “He’ll probably be at his house – it’s probably too early for him to be at the gym.”

"Huh?"

"No backing out now, May" said Phoebe quickly, pushing her onto Latias, who gave a happy cry before flying out the door with May in tow.

She wondered if hearing Phoebe giggling mixed with Glacia’s refined chuckles was a bad sign.

***

September 4, 2017 – Sootopolis City

Upon landing at Sootopolis and thanking Latias, telling it to enjoy flying for a while, she forced herself to walk to Wallace’s house even though her legs felt like lead. It would be better to ask Wallace, she decided. It would thwart whatever Phoebe and Glacia may have planned, not to mention with how graceful Wallace was, she was sure he knew how to dance. Yes, she decided grimly, she would ask Wallace. Better to step on Wallace’s feet than Steven’s. With that thought, she knocked on the door.

"Wallace, hello" she said quickly when Wallace opened the door. "Are you free?"

"Ah, May! Come in, don't be shy" he said cheerfully. "I've been expecting you, after Glacia's call."

"May? You're here?" Steven said, a confused look on his face as he walked out of the living room.

"Yes," she said, deciding to bring it up herself before Wallace embarrassed her in front of Steven.

"Wallace, could you teach me how to dance? I'm supposed to learn for the party, Phoebe said, but I don't know how."

Wallace blinked before looking knowingly at her. "Of course, May, it will be no problem."

She didn't like the look in Wallace's eyes. "If you are busy doing something with Steven, I can ask someone else-"

"Nonsense, we were just chatting" Wallace said grandly. "Steven knows how good of a dancer I am, yes? I will certainly assist our Champion."

"A-All right," she said, looking at Steven helplessly before being pulled into the living room.

Steven gave her an encouraging smile.

***

"And one and two and three and four-"

"Ouch!" For such a graceful and trim man, Wallace was heavy, thought May, wincing at the pain from the foot he had stepped on.

"Oh, I apologize, May."

"It's all right," she said quickly, not daring to look at Steven. "Let's try again!"

"And one and two and three and four-"

"Ouch!" This time he had stepped on her other foot. She winced at the pain. Wasn't Wallace more graceful than this?

"Let us try again" offered Wallace, a smile on his face.

"All right," she said, suppressing another wince. She would not embarrass Hoenn, this was for Hoenn...

***

"You should rest your feet," Steven said softly as May sat next to him on Wallace's couch. Wallace had excused himself as a challenger had come to the gym.

"I guess so," she said, wondering if she could lift her legs partly onto the couch. She decided it wouldn't be polite.

Steven gave her a considering look before standing up and lifting her legs onto the couch.

"Steven! Um, Wallace-"

"He won't mind, after that number he did on your feet" he said, a frown on his face.

"Um, Wallace was very kind to teach me how to dance" she said, trying to defend Wallace. Even if he was absolutely bad at dancing with someone, he did teach her well when he wasn't stepping on her feet.

Steven gave her an incredulous look.

"Really," she said quickly. "I hope I won't do something stupid at the party, though."

"I'm sure you won't," Steven said reassuringly. "Besides, it's not like they can take the Champion title away from you even if you do something embarrassing."

She felt warm at Steven's kind gaze, a blush stealing across her face.

"Why don't you take off your shoes and socks," Steven suggested. "Wallace might not be back for a while and if you are going to practice again with him, you'll need the extra comfort that would give."

"But-" She certainly knew that it was rude enough to put her legs on someone else's couch, much more taking off her shoes and socks?

"It's fine, I'll take responsibility if he gets mad" Steven said reassuringly.

"Oh, okay-" Her feet really did hurt, she rationalized, and as long as she got her legs down and her shoes and socks on before Wallace got back, it couldn’t' be too bad.... She took her shoes off and then started taking off her socks, not noticing how wide Steven's eyes got as he watched her.

"Oh," she said as she winced. Her feet were completely red.

"That must hurt a lot," said Steven, sitting down next to her again. "You didn't say it hurt that much, May."

She tried her best to smile. "It's not as bad as it looks."

"All right," Steven said.

She took a deep breath, trying to distract herself from her pounding heart from his nearness to her. "Um, do Champions really have to dance? A lot?"

Steven looked thoughtful. "Well, certainly the Champion has the first dance but after that you can certainly decline dances if you wish."

So one dance, she thought. She could handle that. "And who does the Champion dance with first?"

Steven shook his head. "That depends. If there's someone of the opposite sex that is an honored guest and is single, then that person will be the Champion’s partner, but if there isn't, it could be an Elite Four member or a Gym Leader, someone known in Pokemon battling usually. It depends on the event."

She groaned. She could have just asked Sidney to teach her then. She didn't think anyone important was coming, so...

"Didn't they tell you already who, May?"

She shook her head.

"Why don't you ask?"

"I forgot" she said sheepishly, feeling stupid. Any other person would have asked that immediately, she thought to herself. Just then, her PokeNav Plus rang. Murmuring an apology to Steven who just smiled and nodded, she played the message.

"Hey, May! We realized we forgot to tell you who your partner was," said Phoebe. "We heard that the Unovan Champion - Hilbert, was that his name, Drake? - is coming, so you'll be his partner. He's your age and the Elite Four in his country say he's nice, so don't worry. Just continue practicing, okay?"

She sighed. Somewhere in her she had nursed a secret hope that Steven might be the partner picked for her, but she wasn't even sure that he was coming to the party. Well, he probably was with his duties to the League, but it was better to be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed.

"What's wrong?"

"Oh, nothing!" She had seen a picture of the Unovan Champion - he was new to the post like her, so they would hopefully get along and at least have something to talk about. "Um, do you think Wallace is coming back soon?" Her feet didn't hurt so much anymore so she shifted her feet off the couch and started putting on her socks, then her shoes.

"I suppose - he usually doesn't take this long to finish a battle." At that moment, Wallace's doorbell chimed. Steven stood up. "I'll answer it."

She finished putting on her shoes when he came back, a frown on his face. "Wallace said that it looks like his match will take a while longer; he might not be able to come back for an hour."

"Oh..." May said, trying to keep the disappointment off her face. "Then I guess I should go back... Maybe I can ask my father-" She sighed. This was not the time to try and mend her relationship with her father through dance lessons, of all things. Still, there was no one else she could ask.

She heard Steven clear his throat. "May..."

"Yes, Steven?"

"If you're still worried- I'm not as good as Wallace is generally at dancing," she wondered if Steven was being sarcastic by the frown he had on his face, "but I do know enough. If you'd like," he said, holding out a hand, "I can be your dance partner for now. If you still want to practice, of course."

She blushed under his kind gaze. This was a once in a lifetime moment, she thought. She took his hand. "Thank you, Steven."

"You're welcome," he said, before pulling her to stand up. "Then, Champion May, let us do our best together."

***

Steven was a much better dancer than Wallace, May thought, though maybe Wallace was just having an off day. He hadn't stepped on her feet once, she thought, and thankfully she hadn't done anything stupid yet even while his arm was around her waist. It was a wonder she hadn't done anything stupid yet, being so close to Steven...

"What are you thinking about, May?"

"Oh! Nothing!"

He smiled down at her. "You looked rather adorable chewing your lip like that," he said. "Nothing bad?"

She blushed at his comment. "No, nothing at all! Um, you're really good at dancing!"

He gave her a wry smile. "When you're the son of a CEO and then become Champion, you have to learn these things. You're doing very well, though."

"Yes," she said cheerfully. "My feet thank you very much."

He smiled as he twirled her gently. "My pleasure, May."

"Bravo, bravo!" They both turned to see Wallace clapping his hands, a camera in his hand. "May, that was wonderful!"

"Um, yes, thank you" she said, immediately flushing and disengaging herself partially from Steven, who was frowning at Wallace. "Um, how was the gym battle?"

"He was certainly promising," said Wallace, "but I triumphed in the end."

"Um, that's good" she said, suddenly feeling shy as she looked back up at Steven. "Thank you for helping me, Steven, Wallace."

"No problem, May" said Steven kindly, patting her head.

He just sees me as a child, she thought, though it was comforting to feel his hand on her head.

"You'll be fine, May" said Wallace reassuringly. "If your partner steps on your feet, just step on his" he winked at her. “Or get a better partner.”

"All right," she said quickly, before she left.

***

September 7, 2017 – Slateport City

Three days later, she greeted the Unovan Champion and his companions as they set foot in Hoenn. “Hello, it’s great you could come” she said. “I’m May.”

The boy she recognized from the pictures she had looked up on the internet held out a hand for her to shake. “Thank you,” he said. “This is my first time coming here, May. I’m Hilbert.”

“I hope you’ll enjoy it here, Hilbert. Um, good morning” she said to his companions, who were looking at them curiously.

“Ah, I forgot. May, this is the former Champion Alder and my childhood friends Bianca and Cheren.”

She nodded, recognizing them from the papers Phoebe had handed her two days ago. “I will be glad to show you around Hoenn during your stay here; is there any place you want to go?”

“The lab,” said Bianca instantly.

“The mountains,” said Alder.

“Mt. Pyre,” said Cheren. “And the Gyms.”

“Slateport City,” said Hilbert.

She laughed. “That’s fine,” she said. “I just moved here a few years ago and I’m still finding new places to love here in Hoenn.”

A hand touched her shoulder and she turned to find Sidney and-

“Steven? What are you doing here?”

Sidney grinned down at her. “Ah, May, we remembered that you did just move here a few years ago. Slipped our minds. So we asked Steven here to help you guide them around the region.”

She looked gratefully up at Steven, who gave her a smile before nodding at the visitors. “Is it all right, Steven? You must be busy-“

“I don’t mind helping you out, May” he said gently.

“It’s good to see you again, Steven Stone” said Alder, walking forward to shake his hand.

“Of course, Alder” Steven said, moving fluidly towards the Champion after patting her head.

“It seems that former Champions know each other well, huh” said Hilbert, moving next to her. “Think it’s because of these party things?”

“Well, it isn’t so bad” May said. “Have you met any of the other Champions?”

Hilbert shook his head. “I’d like to, though. Especially the one in Kanto, he’s really cool.”

“Oh, yes” said May with a smile. “He’s amazing, isn’t he?”

“Yes! I think we’ll get along really well” Hilbert said, smiling at her.

“I hope so,” she said.

“May,” said Steven suddenly, appearing at her shoulder. “We should get the visitors to their quarters.” Was he frowning, May thought, before the words he spoke sank into her head.

“Oh, I’m sorry, you must all be tired. Let’s go – we’ve prepared rooms at the Headquarters.” Sidney nodded.

“I’m sure they’ll be wonderful” Bianca said enthusiastically, smiling at her.

She smiled back. “I hope you think so. Um, Bianca, one of my best friends is a Pokemon Professor, so I’m sure I can arrange for us to tour some labs…”

“Oh, thank you!”

***

September 8, 2017 – Devon Corp

The Unovan people were all really nice, May thought. They were game for anything and it was clear they were really interested in the Hoenn region. Hilbert was really nice too, even though he was rather impulsive at times, jumping into waterfalls when he wanted to with Cheren and Bianca fishing him out.

Steven was amazing, she thought, for him to know so much about Hoenn. She told him so one day while everyone else was listening to Steven’s dad talk about the new features of the PokeNav Plus.

It’s because I spent so much time exploring Hoenn as Champion and before,” he replied. “I was looking for rocks as well as investigating things for my father and for the League, so I covered a lot of ground.”

“Oh,” she said. She hoped she would someday get to explore Hoenn as much as Steven; it probably wasn’t so good for a Champion to not know her region so well. But there were so many challengers right now, she couldn’t really leave even if so far in her six months only one of them had reached her...

“It’ll die down,” Steven said suddenly, patting her shoulder.

“Steven?”

He smiled down at her. “When there’s a new Champion, there are always a lot of challengers of the Elite Four because people think that new Champions are weak. But it’ll die down soon, then you can leave the Headquarters from time to time just to explore Hoenn or investigate anything you want to.”

“Oh,” she said softly. “Thank you, Steven.” He always seemed to understand what was worrying her.

“No problem,” he said gently.

***

September 10, 2017 - Littleroot Town, May’s House

“You’re really good friends with the former Champion, huh” said Hilbert, when they were alone. While Cheren and Bianca and Alder had expressed wanting to see the lab, Hilbert had asked May if he could see her house. She had agreed, getting out some cookies her mom had baked this morning and sharing them with him. From then, they had started chatting.

She blushed. While she and Steven were friends, she wished they were something more sometimes. It was good that Steven wasn’t bothered by the Elite Four teasing her about him. He was just too nice. He was probably used to many girls having crushes on him, being so attractive and nice.

“I think it’s a good thing,” said Hilbert. “I mean, compared to what happened in Kanto with Red-“

“Oh,” said May softly. For all that she admired Red and thought him the best of all the Champions, what happened to him after he became Champion was something that she had worried about, when she had become one herself.

“Hey,” he said. “It’s not like I can say much, since I became Champion not so much longer ago than you, but it helps to keep talking to people who knew you before you were Champion. Bianca and Cheren, we’re childhood friends so we’ve grown up together, we went on our Pokemon journeys around the same time. They remember all the times I messed up or epically failed as well as my triumphs on the way to becoming Champion. They keep me grounded. And the Elite Four, Professor Juniper, Alder – they help too, sharing their experiences. It was different with him, Red, he was pretty much driven into hiding by all the attention on him. I don’t blame him. After that, I heard that the criteria for being part of the Elite Four and Champion changed, you know – to try and help the current Champion with all the pressures that come with the position, however you can, especially if the Champion is as young as us. I’m glad I have that at least.”

“Yes,” said May, “I’m glad too.” She was glad for Hoenn’s Elite Four, for Brendan, for Wally, for Professor Birch, and most of all, Steven. She couldn’t imagine being Champion without being able to talk to them, ask them about things she had to do, or for them to remind her that there was still more that she had to learn.

He looked at her impishly. “For all that I’m glad, wanna go out and do something without their supervision for a while?”

“What do you mean, Hilbert?”

He grinned at her. “Let’s do some flying. I want to see that Latias of yours, if it’s okay.”

“Sure,” she said, feeling rather reckless. “What Pokemon will you use?”

“My Braviary,” said Hilbert. “I think people will be too shocked if Kyurem appeared in Hoenn.” He grinned at her again. “I’m not that reckless.”

“All right,” she said.

“Then let’s go,” he said, releasing his Braviary. “Come on, May!”

***

September 10, 2017 – Above Lilycove City

“I love flying with Latias,” May said. “She understands me and we’ve seen so much together.”

Hilbert grinned, patting his Braviary on the head. “Braviary’s been with me ever since the start of my Pokemon journey – he’s the first Pokemon I captured, since Tepig was given to me by Professor Juniper. I know what you mean – we’ve been through a lot together, right, pal?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Ah, Hoenn is really, really beautiful” Hilbert said. “I envy you – Unova is beautiful too, but there are some cities that are rather glum to look at.”

“Really?”

“If you ever go there, Cheren and Bianca and I can show you around. I mean, you and Steven” he said, grinning at her. “Lots of beautiful sights in Unova to share with someone important.”

She refused to confirm his insinuation. “Well, I’d like to travel to other regions too. And I think it’s great to meet other Champions from different regions.”

He smiled, a genuine one. “Really? When I get back, we should contact the other Champions. Maybe a tournament of Champions and former Champions, we could host that in Unova or somewhere else, that would be cool.”

She smiled back at him. “That would be cool.”

Her PokeNav Plus beeped.

“You actually get a signal this high up? That’s amazing.”

She smiled as she got out her PokeNav Plus from her beltbag. “Mr. Stone, the head of the Devon Corp – the company who makes it, always wants to improve his products as much as he can.” It was a trait he shared with his son. She pressed the button.

“May – May, where are you? Are you in trouble? Damn, Father should really get these things to become two-way. We’re waiting for you in Littleroot Town. Is Hilbert with you? Bianca and Cheren can’t reach him.”

He grinned at her as she flushed. “Guess we were found out. Look, he’s worried about you.”

“Steven’s just nice,” she said quickly, hoping Steven wasn’t too worried. “Well, we should probably get back. Cheren wanted to meet my father and see his gym and Petalburg City isn’t exactly that close.”

“All right, May, though I think he must be a pretty cool guy if you like him that much” he said, winking at her. “You going to send a message to him first? We might be a while getting back – we’ve gotten pretty far from that place we came from.”

“I’ll try, though I’ve never sent a message from this high up.” After sending a short message to Steven telling him that they’d be back as soon as possible, she signaled to Latias and to Braviary.

***

September 10, 2017 - Littleroot Town

“There she is,” said Bianca. “Mr. Stone, they’re back!”

As Latias and Braviary landed, she saw Steven and Bianca run up to them. Cheren and Alder followed at a more leisurely pace.

“May,” Steven said roughly, looking less composed than usual as he helped her down Latias. “You weren’t in trouble?“

She felt guilty, seeing the relief in his eyes. She should have dissuaded Hilbert from his idea, even if Glacia had drilled it into her head that she should try her best to accommodate all the wishes of the visitors. “I’m fine, Steven. Um-“

“Hilbert,” berated Bianca, running forward and pulling at his elbow. “You decided to run off to see Hoenn for yourself, didn’t you? And you dragged poor May with you! You probably didn’t get anything done while we were at the Pokemon Lab!”

Hilbert’s answering smile was cocky. “Actually, we did. Didn’t we, May?”

“Ah, yes” she said quickly, causing Cheren and Bianca to share surprised looks. “Um, can we talk about it later, Mr. Alder, Steven?” Mr. Alder and Steven would know more about this sort of thing, maybe even have participated in something similar when they were still Champions.

“Of course, May” Steven said warmly, though the look he gave Hilbert was anything but warm. Had Hilbert done something to offend Steven, May wondered. Steven was pretty calm normally, hardly let anything faze him. This was something she hadn’t seen before.

When she looked back at Hilbert, he grinned at her while pointing to Steven. She just rolled her eyes before turning to answer a question Alder had asked of her. She just hoped that Hilbert wouldn’t let anything slip.

***

September 10, 2017 – Elite Four Headquarters

“That’s a wonderful idea,” said Alder. “I can’t say it’s been done, inviting all the Champions to have a tournament, but when Cynthia and I used to visit each other – boy, it was fun having matches with her.”

“Yes, it would rock” said Hilbert, grinning madly. “Can’t wait to beat you in a tournament, May.”

“I guess it would be a lot of work,” May said, trying to be the voice of reason. “With finding the best location for such a tournament, working out everyone’s schedules, making sure that our regions will be safe while we aren’t there, but I think it would improve relations with the different regions.”

“It’s a good idea, May, Hilbert” said Steven, looking warmly at her again and giving Hilbert a decidedly less frosty smile. She relaxed. At least it didn’t seem like Steven hated Hilbert anymore, if he really did.

“May, Hilbert” said Phoebe, walking into the room. “The press are ready for your joint interview.”

May stood up, Hilbert following a second later. “Um, this shouldn’t take too long.”

“Don’t worry,” Alder said. “I’ll just catch up with Steven here.”

“Go ahead, May” Steven said. “Just relax.”

As she closed the door, she heard Alder talking to Steven.

“Your May is very kind and thoughtful, not to mention careful with her actions. Not like Hilbert, he’s a little too rash at times. She’s a wonderful girl, Steven.”

“I know,” she heard Steven say. “I- Hoenn’s lucky to have her.”

Her heart was pounding. She tried to calm herself by breathing in and out. It wouldn’t do to look flustered at an interview; people would invent different reasons for her fluster.

Hilbert, also hearing this, grinned at May. “If you can organize your trip to Unova-“

She pushed him forward, trying to hide the blush on her face with little success. “We have an interview to get to, Champion.”

“As you wish, Champion” he said teasingly though his smile was genuine.

***

September 10, 2017 – Elite Four Headquarters (11:00 pm)

May had just finished brushing her Blaziken’s fur when she heard a knock at her door. She yawned before opening it, not at all surprised to find Hilbert outside her door.

“Hey, can I come in?”

“All right,” she said. “What’s up?”

He grinned. “I wanted to invite you to go on a walk with me. Walk or Fly, I don’t mind.”

She sighed. Well, it wasn’t like she could sleep from worrying about her possibly disastrous debut at the party tomorrow. “Let’s fly.” She trusted Latias more than her feet at the moment, not to mention Latias had told her earlier it wanted to fly around at night…

“That’s cool,” he said. “Well, are you going to tell anyone if you’re going anywhere?”

She hesitated. She should probably tell someone just in case an emergency arose, but she didn’t want to wake anyone up…

He grinned at her. “Why don’t you just send an email? It works for me when I sneak out of our Elite Four Headquarters – most of the time, I get back before they need me and it’s nothing, but at least if you are needed they’ll get an idea of where you are and how to contact you.”

“O-Okay.” She walked to her computer and typed out a quick email to Steven, telling him she had gone out for a while with Hilbert since he wanted to see Hoenn at night. She hoped he wouldn’t be mad – maybe he’d see the email tomorrow, when she would most assuredly be back in bed.

“Latias,” she called. “We’re going out for a fly.”

“Latias,” cried the Pokemon happily. Hilbert extended a hand to pet it.

“She likes you,” May said.

“That’s good,” he grinned. “She must be one of the friendliest Pokemon around – it took a while for Kyurem to warm up to me.”

“Really?” Her next question was interrupted by a pinging sound from her computer.

“An email?” She decided to read it.

Stay safe, May. Send me a message when you get back via PokeNav Plus; I’ll be up for a while reading through something. – Steven

“That’s pretty devoted of him,” said Hilbert suddenly. She turned to find him reading Steven’s email over her shoulder.

“Oh, let’s just go” she said, not really hating Hilbert for spying. It might be impossible to hate Hilbert, even though he certainly knew how to push people’s buttons.

***

September 11, 2017 – over Sootopolis City

“It’s beautiful at night,” said Hilbert. “If I were you, I’d go flying every night. Unova is hard, sometimes, with all the bright lights in some cities it’s hard to see the stars.”

“I know,” May said. Seeing Hoenn like this calmed her, she noted. Maybe she should do this more often. Maybe Steven would like to go with her-

She shook her head. She shouldn’t complete that thought.

After some talk about where Hilbert planned to go with Bianca and Cheren alone the next day, he paused for a moment.

“Now that we’re miles above anything that can hear us, can I ask a personal question?”

“All right,” May said, kind of knowing where this was going based on the suspicious grin on his face.

He leaned forward on Braviary. “If you like him, why don’t you tell him?”

She would have winced at his blunt tone had she not been expecting the question. “You mean-“

“So you like Mr. Stone. Why don’t you tell him?”

“Because there’s no way he’d like me back,” she said. “He’s so mature, he wouldn’t like someone as immature as me.”

Hilbert rolled his eyes. “Well, May, last time I checked, you were 1) the Champion, which clearly requires some level of maturity to get the position and yes, hold on to it and 2) the savior of Hoenn. And you’re kind of cute too, so you know, I think there’s a chance. Besides, even if you weren’t Champion, many people like us start training at a young age – that takes some maturity in itself, especially when traveling alone and learning how to budget things and get your laundry done on the fly.”

She laughed somewhat bitterly; some of Hilbert’s points gave her hope, but... “But there’s no way-“

Hilbert held up a hand. “Okay, let’s put that away for now. Other than the possibility of him not liking you back which we’re going to disagree on, what else is stopping you?”

May shook her head. “I can’t- think of the scandal, people will think that Steven went easy on me, not to mention the age difference-“

He gazed at her levelly. “Okay, I have no idea how liberal things are here compared to Unova but think rationally, May. I heard things, you know, while you were touring me since not many know me as a Champion. The people love you, May. Know why? Because you saved the region! If anyone thinks that Mr. Stone went easy on you, just challenge them to a match. You’ll probably wipe the floor with them.”

She shook her head, smiling.

“You seem rather invested in my relationship with Steven, even though there isn’t one really.”

“Well, yeah” he said bluntly. “I like you, May. I mean, you know. As a friend” he said quickly. “Friends want their friends to be happy, you know?”

She giggled. It was honestly impossible for anyone to hate Hilbert. “Okay.”

“And I don’t know, I think it’s kind of a waste if both of you just kept on dilly-dallying like you do when you both clearly like each other. I mean, I heard your Elite Four members, the females at least, they tease you with him. Clearly that means they approve. And seriously, who else is there? You wouldn’t want someone who couldn’t at least give you a good match, really. Your choices are kind of limited with your skill. And he supports you - that's someone you should keep close.”

She smiled. “I’ll think about it, though I still don’t think I have a chance” she promised. “Maybe after the party.”

He pulled a face. “Don’t remind me. I mean, I’ve attended some of them in Unova but I’ll never be fond of them.”

“Don’t scare me off,” she said. “I might not make it to tomorrow’s party.”

He grinned at her. “Well, I’ll be there – I can help you through it. Though a certain person will also be there and he’ll do a better job, surely-“

She lightly pushed his shoulder. “It’s almost midnight – we better get back.”

“Okay.”

---

When she finally got back, she hesitated before sending a message to Steven via PokeNav Plus. He had asked.

The next thing she knew, someone was knocking on her door. She opened it, this time finding Steven.

“Hey,” he said gently. “You’re back.”

“I’m sorry I woke you,” she said softly.

“No, I was still reading up on something when I got your message. Where did you go with Hilbert?”

“Sootopolis City,” she said.

He nodded. “Did you talk? What about?”

She couldn’t tell him that Hilbert was giving her advice about him, of all things. “About the party tomorrow – I think he sensed I was worried and wanted to reassure me. He’s a good friend.”

Steven nodded. “The first one is always hard, but it gets easier. Really.”

“You’re sure?”

“I haven’t lied to you, have I?” He smiled at her, making her heart pound.

“No, not yet.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll be there to help you. I’ll help you with whatever you need, May.”

“Thank you,” she said softly.

“May, about Hilbert-“

“Yes?”

He shook his head, frowning even though he managed a small smile for her. “It’s nothing. Get to sleep, Champion.”

She would have given a thousand rematches to know what he was about to ask.

***

September 11, 2017 – Elite Four Headquarters

"I have bad news," said Phoebe to May, entering her room. "Oh, May, you look really pretty."

"Really? Um, thank you." She gazed at herself in the mirror. "It was a gift from my parents." Her father had personally come to deliver it to her this morning. She hoped that this meant he also wanted to try to improve their relationship.

"Oh, that's good" Phoebe said. "But May, I haven't told you the bad news yet!"

“Oh, what is it?”

“The Unovan Champion is sick – it seems he ate something bad when he was arguing with one of his friends earlier, when they asked if they could explore Hoenn themselves. He’s not leaving his room for the rest of the night.”

“Oh, that’s horrible.” She felt bad for Hilbert – he was a nice guy albeit a bit impulsive. She wondered what he had eaten that had been off – maybe she should have asked Brendan about foods that were risky in Hoenn? “I should go see him.”

“Well, his room is just on the next floor but May-“

But May had already run off.

Phoebe shook her head before calling after her, “Your date will pick you up in thirty minutes at Hilbert’s room, okay?”

***

“I’m really sorry,” said Hilbert, groaning as he shifted in bed. “I didn’t plan on this.”

“No, it’s fine” May assured him. “What did the doctor say?”

Bianca gave her a smile. “He’ll be fine; he just needs some rest.”

Cheren rolled his eyes at Hilbert. “And not to eat just anything without checking first with the locals what it is.”

She laughed. “Does Alder know?”

“Yeah,” said Hilbert weakly. “I told him to go, so at least someone from Unova will be there. Cheren and Bianca volunteered to take care of me.”

“It’s all right, he’s gotten us out of a lot of scrapes all the time” said Bianca quickly. “We’re not that fond of parties ourselves, right Cheren?”

Cheren nodded, though May knew that the true reason he stayed behind was also because he was worried about Hilbert. “But May, shouldn’t you be going to the party too? It should be starting soon.”

May laughed weakly. “Um, maybe I could also stay here, since um, my dance partner is ill.”

Hilbert groaned. “I’m sorry, May. I didn’t mean to-”

“No, don’t be, it’s not your fault” she reassured him. “I’m not that good at dancing either; I kind of crammed it the week before you came.”

“Me too, though I won’t be dancing any time soon” said Hilbert. “No one told us when we went off on our Pokemon journey that we’d need things like that.”

Cheren shook his head. “It is expected, especially of distinguished Pokemon Trainers, to be able to socialize. Dancing is one of the things done at these parties.”

“But I don’t think you can just skip, May” said Bianca worriedly. “I mean, you’re the Champion here; it’s different from Hilbert. Maybe you could just dance with someone else?”

“Maybe,” she said, but hopefully not with Wallace, she thought. She still wondered why Wallace was such a bad dancer that day, especially after watching one of his Contest Battles just the other day.

Her Pokenav Plus beeped, stopping her thoughts. After a quick apology to the three, she played the message.

“May, you ran off so quickly that you probably didn’t hear what I said. I found another partner for you since Hilbert can’t dance, someone who definitely is graceful enough and is very good with Pokemon. He’ll probably pick you up from Hilbert’s room in about five minutes.”

She groaned. This sounded like a blind date - if blind dates happened at parties the Pokemon League threw.

Hilbert laughed. “Don’t worry, the Elite Four in Unova are also like that. Meddlesome.”

“You’ll definitely like him, May! Be nice to him,” Phoebe admonished. May groaned as the message finished. This was embarrassing. At least Hilbert, Cheren, and Bianca were nice enough not to tell anyone about this.

Hilbert laughed again before clutching his stomach. “Ah, May, that’s great. I can stop feeling guilty that I left you in the lurch.”

She groaned. At least by the way Phoebe had ended her message it didn’t seem like she had sent Wallace to be her dance partner. Hopefully.

Bianca smiled at her before motioning for her to stand up. “There, let’s freshen you up. He might come here any minute.”

May submitted herself to the friendly girl’s ministrations, fretting over whom Phoebe had found. Probably not her father, maybe a Gym Leader? Hopefully not Brawly, she didn’t want to make anyone jealous… If only Brendan was free, she could have asked him, though she doubted that Brendan knew how to dance too. She refused to think about someone she wished it would be; she was already embarrassed enough.

Someone knocked at the door.

“That must be him,” said Bianca excitedly. “May, get ready! I’ll answer the door.”

She smiled weakly at Bianca. Cheren shook his head. Hilbert looked curiously at the door.

“Is Champion May here?” She couldn’t place the voice easily because of the music Hilbert had on.

“Yes, she’s here! Are you her date?”

May cringed at Bianca’s question.

“If she wants,” she heard him say. She shook her head. She must have heard wrong.

“Then come in,” Bianca said enthusiastically. “May! Your dance partner’s here!”

May immediately stepped towards the bed. “I’ll come visit you later, Hilbert.”

Hilbert gave her a grin. “Tell me if Alder charms everyone here too, okay?”

“I will,” she said with a smile before waving at Cheren. She then turned to look for Bianca when she suddenly tripped over the edge of Hilbert’s blanket. Her inevitable fall was stopped by someone catching her, pulling her close.

“May, careful” said the voice, one very familiar. “You don’t want to fall even before we start dancing, right?”

She couldn’t believe it. Her heart pounded as she turned her head to see a smiling Steven, resplendent in a black suit.

"Steven?”

He smiled. “At least you know I won’t step on your feet, yes? You look wonderful.”

She blushed, letting him steady her. “Yes. Um, thank you.”

“Then let’s go,” he said. He nodded at the three other people in the room before gazing back at May. “May? I’ll wait for you outside.”

“Okay,” she said. She exhaled when Steven stepped out, her hand on her chest trying to calm her beating heart.

“Well, I think that works out well” said Hilbert, a bright smile on his face. This lasted a moment before he groaned as he held his stomach and ran as fast as he could to the bathroom.

“We’ll be fine,” said Bianca, shaking her head. “Go enjoy yourself at the dance, May.”

"Oh, she will" she heard Hilbert call from the bathroom. She just shook her head. Hilbert was such an optimist.

***

The dance had gone well enough, May thought, even though she was deathly nervous throughout the entire thing. What if she fell? What if she made Steven fall because of her clumsiness? What if they both fell? Steven had been wonderful, covering up for her inexperience with his skill. After that, May had been pulled into a discussion about the differences between the Hoenn and Unova League with Alder and Steven and many enthusiasts, so she hadn’t had to dance.

After dodging Wallace and Phoebe, both of whom looked too amused for their own good, she finally excused herself to get some fresh air after the discussion. Hoenn was beautiful at night, she thought, looking out at it from the balcony. It was too bad she didn’t have someone special to share that view with.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Oh, Steven” she cried, jolting upwards. He steadied her before she could fall.

“You keep getting surprised around me,” he said, his smile soft.

She blushed deeply.

“I think your first party as a Champion is a success,” Steven said. “Soon you won’t even need me around, you’ll know everything that you need to know as a Champion.”

She shook her head vigorously before she could stop herself. “I’ll always want you around” she said quickly, before clapping her hand over her mouth. She wanted to fling herself from the balcony, even though she knew that Latias would probably swoop down and catch her before she hit the ground, so in tune Latias was to her feelings.

He chuckled, his arms loosely wrapping around her. “I’m glad to hear that.”

“Steven?”

“Did you hear what I said to Bianca earlier, May?”

She couldn’t believe this was happening. “Um, I did, kind of.” It was burned into her brain, what Steven had said. She still couldn’t believe it herself.

His smile was soft. “I want it to be true,” he said. “Do you?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Then it is,” he said, his lips brushing her forehead.

“This must be a dream,” she said.

“If it were a dream,” Steven said, “I doubt you would have cursed Hilbert with his upset stomach.” His voice was somewhat bitter when he said this, causing May to look at him curiously. This was her chance to ask.

“You don’t like Hilbert?”

“He’s fine,” said Steven, though his arms tightened around her. “I suppose I was just surprised that you became such fast friends.”

Was this… May couldn’t believe this. Was this why she had caught Steven being less than his normal amiable self when Hilbert was around? “Steven, you can’t be jealous of Hilbert.” It sounded pretty impossible to her, even when she said it.

He chuckled self- deprecatingly. “I suppose I am.”

She lifted her head to press a kiss to his cheek. “Hilbert is just a friend – we get along because we’re kind of both in the same situation. New Champions, young Champions, still unsure of what actually happens with everything else that isn’t battling. Steven, I- I-“ This was not the time to falter, she thought to herself. “I- You don’t know how much you mean to me, Steven. I mean, I- I must sound like a silly teenager but you’re everything I want. I-“

“May-“

She had to get it out. This was it, she thought, be a Champion, May. “I can’t stop thinking about you, Steven. In all the good ways,” she tried to assure him lest he interpret it wrongly.

He laughed softly before leaning down to press a kiss to her cheek.

“You’re everything I could ever want, May” he said softly before pressing his lips to hers.

***

September 12, 2017 – Slateport City

The next day, May and Steven saw off the Unova people at the docks.

“You’re going to send me the draft email we’re going to send the other Champions, right?”

“Of course,” she said, smiling at Hilbert. She would miss him a lot. “I’ve already written most of it. When you check your email in Unova, you’ll see it.”

“Good. I’ll go ask around in Unova – there’s a place near Driftveil City I’ve been thinking might make a good spot for the venue. If it’s good, maybe we can invite some of the Champions and former Champions to look at it.”

She nodded. “That’s a good plan.”

“It’s time, May, Hilbert” said Glacia.

He grinned brightly at her. “Then, bye, Champion.”

She smiled at Hilbert. “Goodbye, Champion.”

He ran onto the boat; Cheren, Bianca, and Alder followed him. As the ship started to move, Hilbert ran onto the deck and waved.

She waved back enthusiastically.

Hands wound around her waist.

“Steven?” She felt embarrassed at his sudden display of affection.

He just smiled and raised his hand in a wave.

She turned back to see Hilbert grinning madly at both of them, his hands dropping to form a heart. She blushed. Thankfully Phoebe and the others weren’t here to see that.

Steven was grinning broadly, the kind of smile she only saw on him when he discovered a rare stone. “Steven?”

“Let’s go back, May” he said.

“Okay.”

There may be problems in the future – she knew that Steven longed to explore the world soon, once she was settled as a Champion and she certainly wanted to do so herself, both as Champion and when she had given the title to the next deserving person and helped him or her settle in – but as long as he cared for her and she him, everything would be fine.

At least she knew they'd have no problems dancing at the wedding, if it came to that. She hoped it would.