“How long has it been, Steven?”
The question caught the Hoenn Champion off-guard. He rounded his eyes as he stared back at her. She was perfectly silhouetted against the setting sun that just barely swept the surface of the calm ocean beside them. Angelic would not even come close to describing how the woman beside him looked. Because of this, it took him a while to respond, partly because he found himself lost in her light gray eyes and partly because he did not quite understand the question itself.
Steven gently squeezed her slim hand in his, making sure that the rings he wore did not dig into her hand so that they would cause discomfort to her. His lips turned up into a warm smile. “How long has what been?”
The wind blew, just slightly, but enough to tousle her golden blond locks across her face. She tried to sweep them away, but Steven beat her to the punch.
A coy chuckle passed by her lips. “Always the gentleman,” she commented. She ended up giggling when she saw a soft blush spread across his face. “To clarify my previous question, I mean, how long has it been since we were in a relationship?”
Steven kept his hand against the side of her face, keeping her hair out of her face as he stared down at her. They had stopped walking along the beach and found themselves right beside the cliff that held up the Lilycove lighthouse.
The sun had finally disappeared beneath the ocean. It was dark in the area where they were and with how late the two Champions were out, there was no one else there with them. It was only the two of them right now.
“I’d suppose it’s been almost 3 years now that we’ve officially been dating,” Steven answered, following it up with a slight tilt of his head. “Why the sudden question though, Cyn?”
Cynthia smiled up at him as she brought her hand up to cup his. His steel blue eyes seemed to reflect the light from the full moon that was out in all its brilliance and she felt her heart warm up at the gentle way he always looked at her. It was such a contrast from the look in his eyes when he was in the midst of a battle or when he was tending to his professional duties as a Champion. It was a look she knew was only meant for her.
“Just curious,” she dismissed. “It feels like it’s been longer.”
Steven made a little face. “Does time seem to drag on when you’re with me?”
The blonde blinked at him before breaking out into a soft laughter. “I didn’t mean it like that. You know that I wish time would stand still when I’m with you.” Cynthia saw his expression change to that of embarrassment and as he averted his gaze, she took the opportunity to place a light kiss on his cheek.
At this small action, he seemed to grow even more flustered. That part of him seemed to never change. He had the same reaction for when she kissed him the very first time as he was confessing to her and for every other kiss in-between. It was an aspect of him that Cynthia found downright adorable.
Steven babbled on incoherently. “I - I think that way of you too! The time we spend, I mean!” he managed to stammer out. His hand grew noticeably clammy, but Cynthia held on, giggling as she did so.
“I know you do,” she whispered, smiling broadly at him. Her eyes fell slightly down to the soft sand that she was now digging her toes into. Their conversation took on a more somber mood. “It just feels like it’s been longer than 3 years because we barely see each other.”
Steven could sense the sadness that lined her usually confident voice and suddenly felt a pang of guilt course through his body. He looked to her, worriedly, as he switched their positions.
Cynthia curiously looked up at him as he gently seated her on a rock that was beside them. She was careful not to lean too far back for she did not want the rough texture of the cliff behind her to scratch her bare shoulders. Her eyes followed his face and she waited expectantly for what he was about to say as he knelt down in front of her.
For a while, the only sound that reached both their ears was the sound of the ocean waves crashing into the reef and rock formations that surrounded the Lilycove beach further out.
The blonde took this time to carefully study the subtle changes Steven had undergone during their time away from each other. It had been nearly six months since they had last seen each other and she noticed how his hair had gotten slightly longer. She could feel a new callous on his hand, one that she had not noticed the last time she held his hand like this. His forearms appeared to have gotten a bit more muscular as well and Cynthia could only attribute all of these small changes with how much time he spent digging for rare rocks in caves.
“Have you been digging more recently?” she asked him, smiling as she clasped both of her hands around his.
Steven looked up at her, his eyes analyzing her face and knowing that the smile she wore was not one out of happiness. “Cyn...I’m sorry I haven’t been present as often as I would like to be for you.”
She quickly shook her head. “Steven, please. That’s not what -”
“ - It is, isn’t it?” His eyes were probing her, staring deeply into her own eyes and Cynthia found that it was getting harder to hide her true feelings. “I will explain that I have been busier ever since I took up the title of Champion again, but that’s still no excuse for making you feel neglected.”
Cynthia swallowed a hard lump that started forming in her throat. She fought back the urge to cry like a heartbroken teenager, but a few tears ended up slipping from her eyes anyways. Almost immediately she felt him bring her in for a tight hug.
It was almost like clockwork with him. Whenever she felt upset about anything, he would always do his best to make her feel happy again.
This time was no exception and Cynthia felt sorry for bringing up her concerns, which seemed trivial now. Steven was such a gentleman and if she asked anyone, they would tell her that she was lucky to be the object of his affection and love. It felt silly to make him feel any sort of guilt in the first place for a matter that was out of both of their control.
“I- I’m sorry,” she whispered through her tears. “It feels so silly, but I guess I’m just frustrated that we’ve been seeing each other less and less with each passing year.” Cynthia felt like a little child, but then felt her heart warm when Steven did not treat her as such.
“Don’t be,” he responded as he pulled her away slightly just so that he could look at her eye to eye. “Because I’ve been feeling the same way, but I suppose I’ve been coping with it in the form of spending more time isolated in a cave.” Steven laughed wryly, to which Cynthia responded with a laugh of her own.
“It seems like you’re becoming a hermit, Mr. Stone,” she said, poking light fun at the situation.
“I’m trying not to,” he said with a small pout that he knew always tugged at Cynthia’s heartstrings. When he saw her jaw clench, he knew that it worked and he took the opportunity to take advantage of the opening she created.
She audibly gasped when she felt his soft lips upon hers, but the shock quickly faded and gave way towards pleasure. It was rare for Steven to initiate a kiss. Despite being in a relationship for 3 years, Cynthia could tell he was still shy with intimacy and filled with uncertainty. He had told her it was because he had never been in a relationship previously and because he insisted that he never wanted her to feel like he was objectifying her.
The only thing Cynthia could do at the time when he admitted all this was thinking of how much of a gentleman he was. He respected her a great deal, as his partner, as a fellow Champion, and as her as a person. She could never view that side of him negatively.
When he pulled away, the young woman expected him to do his usual routine of flashing her his signature charming smile and say one of his one-liners that would get her to laugh, but instead, he went in for another kiss. This time, a little more aggressive than the first.
She inhaled sharply in further surprise when he leaned in more, practically pressing her up against the cliffside. Cynthia felt no discomfort however and wrapped her arms around his neck, coaxing him to continue on. As innocent as the kiss was, her eyes soon shot open when she felt him part his lips just ever so slightly and she could feel the wet texture of his tongue run across her lips.
Blood rushed to her head and she made a soft, muffled noise against him, trying not to pass out from the sudden, bold, intimate gesture he initiated.
Steven quickly pulled away, his eyes wide. “C - Cynthia, I’m so sorry! I got caught up in the moment! I - If I made you feel uncomfortable -!”
She immediately clasped her hand over his mouth, preventing him from talking any further. Cynthia took a moment to recover, grateful that the cool ocean breeze was present to calm the red blush that engulfed her entire face no doubt. All the while, Steven remained quiet, not once making an effort to pry her hand off of his mouth. Once she got herself somewhat composed, she spoke.
“I liked it.”
And that was all she needed to say for Steven’s face to relax.
Cynthia took her hand off of his mouth and tried miserably to keep herself relaxed, like the disciplined Champion she was, but failed. “Wh- Where did all that come from?” she asked him, avoiding his feignedly innocent gaze.
He tilted his head slightly and rest his arms and chin on her lap, peering up at her in a way that made Cynthia’s heart throb. “Well, you said you liked it, so that’s all that matters.”
“Steven!” she reprimanded him sternly, to which he responded with a boyish laugh. “Answer my question, seriously.”
The young man let the remnants of his laughter linger before he got to answering her. “I want you to know that I love you, just as much as the first day we started dating. Even if we may not see each other as often as other couples may do.”
She widened her eyes in confusion because she expected an answer like this from him, but also not. “...That’s terribly honest of you, Steven,” she mumbled in embarrassment.
“As it should be,” he remarked with that trademark charming smile Cynthia had been waiting for. He stood up and dusted off the sand that clung to his black dress pants. “I want things to be transparent between us. That’s why…”
Cynthia saw that he held out his hand for her to take.
“...I really liked that you told me you felt the way you did about us. So don’t feel bad about telling me.” He helped her up and pulled her close to him. “Really,” he reassured her before cupping her chin and tilting her head up.
She felt herself melt into another warm kiss. Her small hands went up to his chest to tightly clutch at the thin white dress shirt he wore. The kiss ended rather quickly - faster than what Cynthia wanted it to be at least.
“How about we head back -?” Steven found himself cut short by her pulling him down by the collar of his shirt. His lips collided with hers once more and he let out a purely instinctive groan when he felt her initiate an open-mouthed kiss. He had meant to exhale, or was it inhale? Apparently, he had now forgotten how to breathe and he knew that the Sinnoh Champion would make a comment regarding the foreign sound he made when she deeply kissed him.
When the two finally parted, Cynthia found out that she had tangled her hands in his silvery-teal hair during the whole process and he had his hands on the bare of her back. They were both flushed after the experience, showing clear signs that they were inexperienced in the art of kissing and that they let their eagerness get the better of them.
She was sure that she looked just as equally disheveled as he did and she had no doubt that she looked absolutely appalling, but she wished she could engraved the look Steven had on his face as they basked in the aftermath of their brief make-out session.
His slightly reddened, bruised lips were slightly parted as his chest heaved up and down in an attempt to stabilize his breathing. His soft teal eyes were half-lidded and appeared clouded with desire. The heavy blush apparent on his cheeks was the icing on the cake for Cynthia. She never thought she could ever get the normally composed, level-headed man to exhibit such a desirable expression so openly on his face.
The same could be said for Steven, who made it very obvious that his eyes were roaming all over her after the kiss. He could feel the softness of her skin underneath his fingertips as he kept his hands on her back before he quickly realized what had happened.
“I - uhm - !” he stammered unintelligently as he took a step back. “Y - You must be cold with that light blouse on, right? I should’ve been more perceptive. Oh and I pressed you against that rough cliffside a while ago too...I’m sorry -”
He blabbered on and on, and Cynthia found his shy embarrassment downright adorable yet again. She paid no mind to what he was talking about and simply grabbed his hand. She interlaced her fingers together with his and she smiled up at him. “Shall we get going? The tide seems to be coming up.”
“Oh! R- Right!” Steven exclaimed as he cut off his own rambling.
Cynthia broke out into a fit of giggles, which caused the Hoenn Champion to blush a wild red. “You never cease to amaze me, Steven,” she commented, squeezing his hand tightly. “Just when I think I know you, you show me sides of you that I’ve never seen before.”
“You can see more if you want to,” he commented, which caused Cynthia to whip her head around to look at him.
She blushed at the initial, perverted thought that crossed her mind, but found herself blushing harder when he clarified what he meant.
Steven turned to her, just barely tilting his head to face her, and smiled endearingly. “I told you that I want to show you how much I’m still in love with you. That means…” He stopped and she followed suit.
Cynthia saw him setting her up for another kiss and she felt herself trembling in anticipation as she felt him tilt her chin up once more. Prematurely, she closed her eyes and waited, but found herself thoroughly disappointed when he ended up kissing her forehead instead of her lips. Both her eyes and mouth flew open as he pulled away, aghast at the teasing grin he wore on his face.
“S - Steven!” she exclaimed loudly. Her fists were clenched at her sides as she grew even more irate when he broke out into full-blown laughter. She watched him laugh and even though she knew that he was laughing on her account, she found herself eventually smiling as well.
This was another side of him that she rarely saw, when he let his pure emotions take over.
Perhaps everything that happened tonight between them was why she thought they endured and remained together, regardless of the difficulties in maintaining a long-distance relationship as two busy adults.
It was never a dull moment when she was with him and she knew that even though she had her flight back to Sinnoh tomorrow, the two of them would be alright.