Thinking back on it, it was a curious thing that I met his father before I met him. Now, I couldn't imagine what we would be like if I had never met his father. In fact, maybe I wouldn't have met him at allor maybe he would have been just like every other trainer out there. But because I met his father, he meant something to me.
So, it was fate that I met his father.
I had only been trying to do the right thing; Team Aqua had been wrong in stealing Mr. Briney's Pokémon and the Devon goods, and I was simply in the right place at the right time to stop them. I didn't ask to become Mr. Stone's personal delivery girl, nor did I intend to make the job permanent. I was simply the "reliable" one.
As the "responsible and reliable girl" that I was, Mr. Stone, the president of the Devon Corporation requested that I deliver both the stolen-and-then-retrieved goods and a letter for him. The goods would go to Slateport, where I needed to pass through anyways in order to make it to Mauville, and the letter would go to a certain Steven in Dewford, where I also needed to go to challenge the next gym leader.
I really had no choice, in other words. But if I had been given another choice, I wouldn't have ever met Steven.
When I arrived at Dewford, I didn't know exactly where this Steven character would be, and I realized that Mr. Stone hadn't given me much to go on. I didn't know what Steven looked like or how old he was or where he would be. Basically, I knew nothing. I probably should have gotten more information from the president, but at the time, I figured I knew everything I needed to know.
It was, perhaps, chance that brought me to Steven. I had been walking along the beach, scoping every inch of the island in search of him, when a cave caught my eye. No one on the island seemed to know about any Steven, but a man in the mouth of the cave knew exactly who I was talking about. And sure enough, Steven was about as far into the cave as anyone could get.
If I had known this when Mr. Stone asked me to find Steven, I probably would have said no. But if I knew everything I knew now, I would have still said yes. It was a good thing I was so naïve then.
A tall, gangly man stood with a hand against one of the stone walls of the cave. There was something gentle about the way his fingers slid over the stone, despite their very rough appearance. And then, without so much as a warning, he pulled a pick out of a belt around his waist and hit the wall he had been examining. A large blue rock fell into his hands.
I realized I was staring at him for too long. "Um, Steven?" I began quietly, my voice barely louder than a whisper. I cleared my throat, trying again. "Steven?"
The man turned around, raising his eyebrows just as I did; I imagined this would have been a strange sight for anyone else. But I had been expecting the man to be much older. His silver hair didn't even age his face, however. This Steven fellow couldn't have been more than twenty-five years old, but with his back turned, I could have pegged him for forty.
I cleared my throat again, averting my gaze and feeling my cheeks begin to burn. "I'm
I'm sorry to bother you, sir, but I
you see, I came all this way because
um, the president of the Devon CorporationMr. Stone is his namewell, he asked me to deliver this letter to you. Um
" I reached into my bag and pulled the letter out, holding it out towards Steven. "Here you go."
Steven stared at it for a few seconds before pocketing the blue stone and taking the letter from me. I didn't know whether to continue to stand there awkwardly or to leave, but as I took a step back, he held up his hand. He didn't say anything, and the second I stopped, he ripped the letter open and began to read itcompletely ignoring me.
I could see him growing more and more irritated as he read, and by the end of the letter, he seemed frustrated. He folded the letter back up and put it in the same pocket as the stone, keeping his hand there for a few seconds. I could see a deep thought pass through his eyes, and as he extracted his hand from his pocket, he held the stone again.
" Steven finally said, and I glanced around the cave, making sure he was talking to me. He finally smiled, looking right at me. "The president of Devon Corporation happens to be my fatherif I can even call him that. I never really saw him much as a kid, and I never really see much of him as an adult. I'm sorry that you had to deliver this letter."
I didn't really know how to respond to that, although I could relate. Even before my dad was a gym leader, back when I lived in Johto, I didn't see him often. It was really just my mother and me, and my father would come home at night and head straight up to bed. Though we thought moving to Hoenn would help, it turned out that it made no difference.
"You would think that even a great president of a great company could make time to talk to his own son, though, wouldn't you?" Steven continued; unlike me, I could tell from his slight accent that he had grown up here in Hoenn. "He's never been good at the whole communication thing, but he should never have sent you to deliver a letter that he was perfectly capable of delivering on his ownor, better yet, he could have called me. Maybe he could work me into his schedule. But that wouldn't work for him."
"He seemed quite busy," I said, though I realized this was the wrong thing to say seconds after I said it.
Steven gave the stone in his hand a squeeze, his fingers turned white around it. "No one should ever be too busy to talk to his only son. I'm busy, too, but I always make time for the people who are important to me." He gestured to me, and I inhaled sharply. "What about you? Do you talk to your father often?"
" I replied, and Steven looked surprised by this answer. "My dad is the gym leader in Petalburg. He doesn't really have much time for me."
Steven stared at me for a couple seconds, though traveling through his eyes once again. I didn't know what it was about him, but he wasn't at all what I thought he was going to be like. Or maybe I just didn't expect anyone else in the world to feel a certain animosity towards his or her father. I always figured I was alone.
And if I read Steven's eyes correctly, then he thought he had been alone, too.
"Here," Steven finally said, putting the stone back in his pocket and reaching into one of the compartments on his belt. He held a disk out to me, and I took it from him without hesitation. I recognized thisRoxanne had given something similar to me. "It's Steel Wing. You deserve something for coming all this way."
" I examined the disk; I didn't know what I expected exactly, but it seemed to say something else. "Thank you."
I looked back up after what seemed to be only seconds, but Steven Stone was gone.
I couldn't stop thinking about what Steven said about his father. I almost felt bad for him before realizing that my father was exactly the same. I couldn't start feeling sorry for myself, too, so I sucked it up and kept on going. My father wouldn't change, and I didn't expect him to. But maybe both Steven and I hoped that our fathers would consider it.
Yet I knew when I walked into the Petalburg gym to get my fifth badge that I'd be disappointed.
"Hi, Dad," I said when I finally made it to him. He smiled at me, but he didn't reach out to hug me or anything. I knew it wasn't the place, and he had to be professional in his workplace. But I was still his daughter. He owed me something.
But all I got was a "Hey, kiddo."
Even after we battled, he gave me nothing. In fact, he seemed highly disappointed by the fact that he lost to me, despite his assurance that "as a father", he was quite proud of me. I saw nothingnothingin his eyes that told me that he was proud. All I saw was that gym leader. All I saw was that man who owed me everything and gave nothing.
And then, as I began to walk away, he had the nerve to say, "Go visit your mom every now and again."
I turned on my heel, standing completely flabbergasted by this comment. Something inside me cracked then. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have spluttered for a moment before walking out without saying anything. These weren't normal circumstances, though. What right did my father have to tell me to visit my mom? I visited her! He lived there and never saw her.
"Yeah, Dad?" I snapped, feeling my confidence suddenly skyrocketing to a level I had never once felt in my whole life. "I suggest you practice what you preach."
They called it a rite of passage for a reason. I had left home on my eighteenth birthday as many teenagers in Johto did, though I quickly discovered through my travels that those in Hoenn left home closer to fourteen years old. But despite my delayed journey, I couldn't see myself partaking in that rite of passage at fourteen. I barely understood it at eighteen.
Now, seven months later, I understood it. After meeting Mr. Stone and Steven and seeing my father again, I got it. This was why they sent us away from home; it wasn't because it our parents wanted us to leave the house, although maybe my father did. But they wanted us to understand the world and, more importantly, ourselves. And I understood it.
I supposed I had my daddy dearest to thank for that. Or perhaps I had Steven.
But no, that was stupid. I met Steven just once, and I didn't know anything about him. Even if it was just once, though, I was glad I met him at all. He was the one person in all of Hoenn that I felt a connection with; maybe that was me being homesick, but it was nice to have someone to relate to at all.
It came as a surprise, then, that I saw him again. I ran into him just past Mauville Cityor, more appropriately worded, he ran into me. He didn't seem shocked at all to see me, although it was clear that he remembered who I was. He grinned at me, and I was pleased that he appeared happy to see me rather than bitter considering our last conversation.
"Hello! Nice to see you again
" He paused, thought passing through his eyes once again. "What was your name again? I don't think I asked you last time we met."
I smiled; he hadn't asked, had he? Well, it was more appropriate to say that I hadn't told him. "May."
"May," he repeated, nodding. "I'll be sure to remember that. Well, May, how are you doing? I think I was rather rude upon our first meeting, and I apologize if your first impression of me was a bad one. I promise I'm not usually a complete loser." He smiled when I laughedthough I was laughing more in spite of myself. I hadn't been particularly grand, either.
and it's fine, too. I don't think you're a loser," I assured him, and he laughed now. "How are you?"
"Oh, I'm just great. Really good."
He glanced around the path we were standing on; the beach was right behind me, but behind him was a forest that seemed never ending. It was strange that someone built a path right through it, but people needed some way to get to Fortree, didn't they? But then, I wouldn't have minded cutting through the thicket.
"Don't you think it's funny," he began, "that out of all the people in the world, I bumped into you again? I travel a lot, so it's unusual that I see the same people over and over. I typically rely on my Pokémon for company. But you're a trainer, aren't you?I have a feeling I'll keep seeing you. It's destiny, then."
"Destiny?" I asked, and he grinned.
"You're a trainer with a father who doesn't quite understand you. Even though I know absolutely nothing about you, I know that, and I think that guarantees that we'll meet again. We have that in common, and I don't have much in common with many people." Steven sighed, perhaps seeing my perplexed expression. "Forgive me if I seem off-putting."
"You don't have to be so formal, you know. If we really are so similar, then it's like talking to yourself," I told him. It wasn't that I was so much confused by what he was saying to me; he was speaking the same language as me, whether accented or not. I just didn't see a reason for such formal wording. It wasn't like I expected it.
But he just looked at me with that same bemused furrow of the brow, always surprised by the things I said.
"Well, anyway," he said, his brow refusing to lift, "I hope to see you again."
And unlike last time, I got to see him go. He never once looked back at me, but I was sure he still knew I was there.
Sometimes it was hard being on my own. Back in Johto, my mother had helped me whenever I needed it. School had occasionally been a struggle for meI was meant for real world experiences, not book workso she helped me the best she could. But now, being here on my ownincredibly far away from homeI couldn't go back and ask for help. I managed fine most of the time, but it was moments like these that I needed someone to help me.
Steven was right about destiny. I saw him again a little less than a month later just past Fortree. I couldn't get into the gym, and I had no idea why. The people in Fortree, though kind, were less than helpful. No one seemed to know what was blocking the path, and the forest surrounding the gym was too thick to walk through.
So, in frustration, I left, walking to the route just past Fortree in hopes that the barricade would be gone sometime soon. And destiny made it so.
I approached Steven on the bridge without hesitation. It went through my mind that I ought to avoid him, that maybe he didn't want to see me, but he was the one who said he "hoped" to see me again in the first place. So, without even skipping a beat, I continued forward, pretending like I didn't even see him until I was feet away from him.
"Oh!" I exclaimed in fake surprise, and Steven, who had been examining something on the bridge very closely turned around. "Hi, Steven."
"Hey, May. We meet again." He smiled, stepping out of the way and gesturing to whatever he had been looking at. I didn't see anything particularly interesting about the bridge, but as I bent down to look closer, I hit my nose against something scaly and hard. I grabbed my nose, standing back up as Steven laughed. "There's something there you can't see, right?
"Obviously," I said with a bit more attitude than I meant. I lowered my hand from my nose, reaching out and touching the invisible object. It felt just like whatever was blocking the way to the gym. "What is that?"
"A Pokémon." He laughed again when my jaw droppedwe didn't have Pokémon like this back in Johto. "Want to see it?"
I nodded, and Steven held out a small, bright object. I took it from him, unsure how to hold it or use it, and he crossed his arms. "It's called a Devon Scope. My dad sent it to me
it's some new product that they haven't released to the public yet. I guess that's one of the perks of being the son of the president of Devon Corporation."
"My dad doesn't get cool stuff like this. It almost makes up for the fact that you never see him, right?" I joked, and Steven smirked.
He uncrossed his arms, pointing once again at the invisible Pokémon standing in front of us. Why the Pokémon didn't move, I didn't know. Maybe it was hoping that we would leave if we didn't see it, though we could easily pick it up and move it. If I had known that, getting into the gym would have been much easier.
Steven showed me how to use the Devon Scope, and just like that, the Pokémon became entirely visible. Surprised, the Pokémon cried out and lashed out towards us. I took a step back, and Steven put a hand on my back.
"Go ahead. That's a Kecleon, a normal-type. You can fight it just fine," Steven said, and I nodded, grabbing one of my Poké Balls and sending out my Breloom.
"Mach Punch!" I exclaimed, and Breloom attacked. But the second Breloom made contact, Kecleon changed colors from a bright green to a dull brown, almost blending in with the bridge again. I narrowed my eyes, looking back at Steven for help. He just smiled, shrugging despite clearly knowing exactly what was happening.
So, I nodded, turning back to Breloom and watching Kecleon's movements. Somehow they reflected Breloom's
"All right, use Mach Punch again!"
This time when Breloom attacked, Kecleon didn't appear nearly so damaged by the hit nor did it change color again. I watched for a minute, trying to understand what was going on, and then it clicked. Kecleon was a normal-typefighting was super effective against it. But when it took the first hit, it became a fighting-type. Fighting wasn't super effective against fighting, so it took less damage. It was too bad that Breloom didn't know any moves super effective against fighting, but this was a good strategy to know for next time.
I finished the battle the best I could without switching Breloom out, capturing Kecleon in the end. It was a fairly decent Pokémon to have on my team depending on the circumstances, and I felt bad about injuring it. I would have to take it to the Pokémon Center later and heal it up.
"Wow, nice," Steven commented, and I jumped, almost forgetting that he was there. "I've never seen you battle before, but I think you must have grown a lot as a trainer from the first time we met. I know you seem like a much stronger individual mentally and emotionally. I'm glad I've known you then and now. It's nice to see the difference."
He lowered his gaze to the object I held it my hands, the smile replaced with a frown. "You can have that Devon Scope, if you like. I have no need for itI never keep anything my dad sends me except stones. It's probably me just being bitter, but there's something satisfying about it, you know? Like, 'No, Dad, you can't buy me back' kind of thing."
He kept his eyes on the Devon Scope, but I was staring at his face. There was something about his expression that didn't match his tone. I could see pain, perhaps, etched into the creases around his eyebrows as he furrowed them, pain etched into his irises.
I wondered if he could see it in me, too, being so similar and all.
So, I pocketed the Devon Scope in my bag; I would give it back to him in time. He would want it someday.
Then, he shook his head, smiling once again. "It was nice seeing you again, May. I know I'll see you again soonwe always seem to bump into each other." He grabbed a Poké Ball from his belt, and a large metal birda Skarmory, which I recognized from Johtoflew out. "You're doing a great job, you know. I think maybe that's something you need to hear."
He left again, flying off into the horizon. He always seemed to leave me behind, but I was actually okay with that. I knew we would meet again.
And he was right. That was something I needed to hear.
It was a couple of months until I saw Steven again, and I probably would have been longer if I had not come across him by mistake. Having made it to Mossdeep, my intentions were purely to defeat the gym leader (or gym leaders, apparently) there and keep going. My journey had been dragging at this point, entering my tenth month away, and I wanted to make it home before my nineteenth birthday. I doubted it would happen, but I could always hope.
I overheard two women talking about a certain Steven Stone while I was on my way to the gym. He apparently made his residence here, and I couldn't help but note that he couldn't be much further away from his father if he tried. And after hearing that he was herewhich apparently was so rare an event that it was worthy of gossiping aboutI couldn't help but make a pit stop.
"Excuse me," I said, interrupting the two women, and they stared at me like I had three heads. Well, yes, I had been eavesdropping. "Steven Stone lives here in Mossdeep? Do you know where? I'm a friend of his."
I didn't even think about it before saying it: friend. Was that what we were?
One of the women gave me a weird look, but the other one pointed and said, "Just past the Pokémon Center. Second house on the left."
I thanked them and hurried off. I was pretty excited to see him, actually, and perhaps I surprised myself with this. I hadn't thought of Steven much in the past two months, perhaps because I was so busy, but now that I knew he was here, I had to see him. If we really were friends, he was the only one I had out here in Hoenn. Brendan was a little too cocky, and I didn't really think of Wally as my friend so much as an acquaintance.
second house on the left.
I knocked on the door, and I was about to give up and move to the next house when a familiar face peeked out from the door. Steven swung it open, grinning that same old grin at me. No matter how many times I saw him, nothing about him changed to mebut I thought everything about me had changed. I wasn't the same girl he met back in Dewford.
"May! Fancy meeting you here!"
"Sorry," I apologized, realizing how strange this must have seemed to him. I didn't usually show up at people's houses without their invitation. "I just overheard someone say that you lived here while I was on my way to the gym, and I figured I would stop by and say hi. But I can go
Steven jumped back from the door, stepping to the side and gesturing into his home. "No, no, come on in," he said, and I smiled weakly before stepping inside. "I admit, it's a bit embarrassing. Not many people would call this a home. I just figure that I don't need much other than the essentials. It's not like I'm here a lot."
"It's cute," I told him, and he snorted.
"That's not exactly what a guy wants to hear about his house, but I guess I'll take it."
I laughed, glancing around the place. It really was cuteI couldn't think of any other word to describe it. Despite seeming particularly wealthy, no one would be able to tell from his home. It was a single floor, nothing elaborate. The living room was the first thing seen upon entering the house, decorated with just a couch, several display cases of rocks, and nothing else, and the kitchen was just through an archway. There was a small hallway leading to what I assumed to be a bedroom and a bathroom, and I couldn't imagine those were decorated any more ornately than the living room.
"Well, I like it." I put my hands on my hips, spinning back around to face him. "How long are you planning on staying here?"
Steven shrugged, making his own survey of the house. "A couple days. It's kind of nice to just relax, you know? But I do have to do some more work, of course. There's not a lot of time for rest and relaxation for a guy like me, unfortunately."
He sat down on the couch, and I didn't know whether to follow suit or not. So, I ended up just walking around and glancing at the rocks in his cases. I noticed the blue rock from Dewford had its own small display case, and there was a card in front of it: Sapphire, 64g.
"Why not?" I finally asked, turning back around to face him.
"Son of the president of a major corporation? No rest for the wicked, I suppose." He winked at me, shaking his head. "I've always been expected to be successful, and being successful means no easy routes. Success comes with a price, and that price is usually bigger for those who have success thrust upon them."
"If it's any consolation, I don't get a chance to rest, either. Daughter of a gym leader? No rest for that wicked, either." I crossed my arms, frowning. "Everyone expects me to be this phenomenal trainer. I'd rather just
not have anyone know."
"You told me," Steven pointed out.
I nodded. Why I told him, I didn't know. He had asked, but I could have avoided saying anything. "True, but you told me that your father was the president of Devon first. I have a feeling you don't tell that to many people, either."
Once more, he looked at me like I was this mysterious being; I didn't feel like I was being scrutinized, but I did wish I knew what he was thinking while he looked at me like that. I could always see the thoughts deepening in his eyes, but I didn't know what could be so fascinating. It wasn't like I was some philosopher saying amazing things.
"No. No, I don't," he responded finally, standing up from the couch. "Here, I have something for you."
He wandered off to the kitchen, but I stayed where I was, calling, "You always seem to be giving me stuff." He came back into the living room with a big smile, looking more amused than anything else. Well, it was true. He had given me something almost every time I saw him.
"I'm just trying to help you out. If you don't want it" He moved his hands behind his back, holding the object away from me. I laughed, taking a step closer to him. He backed up as I stepped forward until he bumped into a wall and I was only a foot away from him. His eyes searched mine for a minute, but then he cleared his throat and held the item between us.
"This is Dive," he said, and I grabbed the disk from him and backed away. "Your Pokémon can use it to bring you underwater safely."
I put the disk in my bag, looking back up at Steven. "Thank you."
"One more thing," Steven added, his voice cracking just a tad. "Since I'm planning on staying here a few more days anyways and you still need to go to the gym, why don't you crash on my couch? A little rest and relaxation never hurt, right, and if what you said is true, then you could probably use some."
So, I agreed. And this time when it was time to say goodbye, I was the first one to leave. I never realized what it was like to be the first to leave. My dad had always gone first, and then I left my mother second. But when I left Steven behind this time, I realized how painful it was. It was almost more painful than being the one left behind.
But whether or not my father felt that pain, I didn't know.
I didn't make it home before my nineteenth birthday. Team Aqua saw to that. I supposed I didn't have to stop them, but it was just like with Mr. Stone. It was just something I didit didn't mean I was responsible or reliable; it just meant that I was righting a wrong. I was no heroine, and, in fact, I didn't do a great job of stopping them. Things got chaotic either way.
Maxie and Archie took me out of the cave and to the shore, only to find that it was no longer shore. A violent storm was brewing, and already the ocean had swelled several feet. Lightning streamed in the sky like banners, and thunder boomed so loudly that Maxie and Archie had to shout at each other to hear.
Their voices rang in my ears, but I didn't register what they were saying. I was too horrified by what I saw, and even when Maxie addressed me directly, I didn't understand what he was saying. I stared at the ocean, water falling across my feet as I stood still. It was cold, and I was shivering, but I couldn't get myself to move.
And then Maxie and Archie left me.
Even after sinking to my knees and watching as the water crashed over my legsit was so highI didn't remain by myself for long. Steven, somehow, found me, just as he always did. He grabbed my arm, hoisting me up and shouting something at me. I blinked, looking over at him and smiling. I was glad to see him.
"What are you doing?" he demanded, and I looked back at the water around us. It was impossible to see the ground now. "Listen, something bad is happening. There's a huge storm cloud spreading over Sootopolis, and it's spreading like wildfire. I have a feeling the worst is happeningI have to figure out what's going on."
" I said. I had witnessed it. Kyorge. It was awake.
Steven spun me around to face him, cradling my face in his hands. The rain matted his silver hair against his forehead, and he kept blinking to get the water out of his eyes. I didn't blink once. I let the water hit my eyes, unable to look away from him.
He dropped his hands from my face, curling them into fists instead. "May, I don't know what you intend to do, but don't do anything reckless."
Once again, he hopped on his Skarmory and flew away. But I didn't stay here this time. I followed him, knowing that I wouldn't be able to do anything else.
I landed in Sootopolis, jumping off my Swellow and running towards Steven. He was standing outside in the rain with another man, and as the second man turned his eyes towards me, Steven turned around, too. He hurried towards me, narrowing his eyes. Apparently this was what he considered "reckless".
"You shouldn't have come," he told me.
I reached into my bag and pulled out the Blue Orb, holding it out to Steven. He stared at it, his eyes wide with surprise. What were the chances of me, the girl that he so frequently ran into, holding the Blue Orb? But here I was, the one with the power to stop Kyogre from spreading this storm across the world.
"I said you shouldn't have come," he repeated, "but that doesn't mean I'm not glad you did. Come with me."
I followed him, and he brought me over to the man he had been talking to. The fellow looked me up and down, his eyes finally fixating on the orb in my hand. He seemed surprised that I was the one holding this orbwhile Steven looked at me with knowledge that it had to be me all along, this man didn't foster the same confidence.
"May, Wallace. Wallace, May. Good, you're acquainted," Steven said quickly, not even giving us time to shake hands.
Wallace nodded, and we walked and talked. The city was vast, but he walked through it with a certain all-mighty aura; he could walk through the city with his eyes shut. "I'm the guardian of the Cave of Origin," he told me. "No one is allowed to enter, but if you have the Blue Orb, you must go to Kyogre."
"How did this happen?" Steven mutteredmore to himself than anyone elsebut I didn't know what he was talking about: the fact that the world was flooding or that I had been the one to receive the Blue Orb.
We stopped outside the entrance of the cave, and Wallace held his hand out to it. "You must go in alone."
I looked back at Steven, expecting to see him deep in thought. But he nodded to me as our eyes met.
It was, perhaps, strange. I never doubted my confidence. Not when I was with Steven.
I was almost too tired to even notice that the sun was shining once again when I got out of the Cave of Origin. The battle with Kyogre had taken a lot out of me, too, and I knew my Pokémon were even more exhausted than I was. Neither Wallace or Steven would mind, then, if I took a little rest at the Pokémon Center.
After healing my Pokémon up to full strength, I went back outside to appreciate the sun. Whatever horror had been brought upon us from Team Aqua's deeds had gone away, and I could go back to enjoying my birthday. With all the craziness that had gone on today, I had almost forgotten about it. It was easy to do.
Figuring Wallace and Steven would be back at the gym, I made my way there. Sure enough, Steven was waiting for me outside. As I jumped off my Pokémon and approached him, he ran towards me, making no hesitation as he picked me up and swung me around. I laughed, the exhaustion I felt vanishing almost completely.
"You did it!" he exclaimed, setting me back down on the ground and backing away from me. "I never doubted it for a minute, of course, but I'm really proud of you. You did a good thing. I think even your father would be proud of you."
"You think?" I asked more solemnly than I intended.
Steven frowned then, nodding. "Of course. Of course he would."
Silence passed between us then, dividing us like a tangible wall. We watched each other cautiously, each daring the other to shatter the wall first. Steven managed to find his voice first.
"Wallace is waiting inside for you." Steven nodded his head towards the large, ostentatious gym. I didn't look. "He must be excited to battle youyou just saved everyone. We owe you our lives, you know."
I shook my head. "You owe me nothing."
Steven smiled, but he reached for what I knew to be his Skarmory's Poké Ball again. He didn't say anything else, but he turned away from me instead. There was something I still needed to saysomething I needed to ask, but I didn't know if this was the place or the time. But if he did owe me anything, then he owed me this.
"Steven?" I called, and he paused, turning to look back at me. I curled my hands into fists, wondering if I should even say anything. I realized then that it wasn't my place to say anythingbut then, he had told me many things at the wrong time. "Both you and your dad collect rare stones, right? And he sends them to you? I don't think you would collect stones or keep the ones he sent if you didn't care about him. You and I are similar
we both wish that we had more reliable fathers. But that doesn't mean we don't love them, and that doesn't mean they don't love us."
He blinked, his gaze lowering to the ground and his head turning slightly away from me. He stood there for a moment, perhaps contemplating what I said yet again. But without another word, he sent out his Skarmory and flew away, leaving me behind to contemplate it myself.
I made it to the Elite Four just a month later. I blew through them without a problem, but I knew the second I stepped into the Champion's room that I would have every trouble in the world defeating him. There had, of course, been hints all along. I should have realized. But I didn't, and the knowledge that I would have to beat him frightened me.
So, we battled, and I beat him, though I couldn't recount the tale to anyone if they asked. I was in a daze through most of it, worrying more about what would happen to the two of us if I beat himbut what would happen to me if he beat me? I had to win or else I had come here for nothing, or else I had wasted over a year of my life.
No. It wouldn't have been wasted, anyways.
Professor Birch and Brendan came to congratulate me afterwards (well, Brendan had come to give me "advice"), and I couldn't help being stung that my father wasn't there with them. Whether Steven noticed or not, I didn't know, but I thought it apparent on my face.
"Come on, May," he said, putting a hand on my arm. And, for perhaps the first and only time, we went together.
After such a long journey, it was no wonder I was so tired. But I never thought I would pass out completely and miss saying goodbye to Steven.
When I woke up, I was in my bedroom tucked snugly into my bed. I blinked a few times, looking around my rather unfamiliar room and trying to figure out where I was. When I realized where I wasand then realized I was aloneI shot up and kicked my legs out of the covers. Scrambling to my feet, I ran towards the door and down the stairs.
But seeing my father sitting at the kitchen table with my mom made me freeze in my tracks.
"May! Hey, kiddo, how are you feeling? Congratulations on becoming Champion! Can you believe it?" he added, turning to my mom. "Our daughter, the Champion. Imagine how the other gym leaders are going to react to that one. I always knew we had the blood for it in this family."
I stayed where I was at the foot of the stairs, keeping one hand on the banister. I couldn't figure out what I was feeling exactly. On the one hand, I was happy that my dad was home. I had, admittedly, never actually seen him at the house. Yet on the other hand, how dare he attribute his success to him when he had never really been around in the first place. My success was my own, and I didn't want him using it for himself.
I was about to turn and go back up the stairs when my dad called my name again. I sighed, putting a hand on my hip as I faced him again. He stood up from the table, walking over to me and holding a piece of paper out towards me. I reached for it with an eyebrow raised; it was a S.S. ticket. Had Steven left this?
"That's from a Mr. Briney," my dad corrected, and I couldn't help but be disappointed. Still, it was thoughtful of Mr. Briney to send that. "Listen, I have to head back to the gym, but congratulations once again, May."
He started towards the door, and I knewthis timethat I couldn't just let him go again. I wouldn't see him for awhile otherwise; where I was going, I didn't quite know. But after being away from home and having my moment of resting, I was ready to go again. Leaving home was meant to be, and while I felt bad about leaving my mom, she knew I couldn't stay forever. But my dad was supposed to. He vowed to stay forever when he married her.
"Dad!" I shouted, covering my mouth. I hadn't meant to yell, but it got his attention. He turned back, looking at me with wide eyes.
"You can't go." I walked towards him, curling my hands together and praying that he'd stay. "You can't go back to that gym, Dad, you just"
My dad sighed, shaking his head. "It's my job, May. When you're older, you'll understand." He started towards the door again, and this time I let him. He was the one who turned around again. "I almost forgot. Steventhat young man who dropped you offcame to talk to me at the gym right before he left. He told me to tell you congratulations from him."
Steven talked to my dad? No way
what could he have possibly said to him? It was more than just congratulationsit was more than just telling my dad what I did. Steven wouldn't have gone out of his way for that.
"That's all he said?" I asked.
My dad frowned. No. That wasn't all he said. "Right."
And he slipped out the door without telling the truth.
I thought about Steven for awhile and why he would talk to my dad without telling me. I kept convincing myself that he just wanted to tell my dad that I had done something right, that he just wanted my father to go home. But it didn't make sense to me. Steven had never gone to him before. He didn't go to my dad when I stopped Team Aqua and Kyogre. What was so different now?
When I made it around to Mossdeep again on my tour of Hoenn, therefore, I stopped at his house. I banged on the door, knowing that he probably wouldn't be there. It was no surprise when he didn't answer, but I couldn't help but be disappointed, anyway. What were the chances of me just running into him again now?
On a whim, I reached for the door handle, turning it. I didn't expect it to open, and when it did, I fell through the doorway. Pushing myself up, I glanced around. The house looked no different than the last time I had been here. Perhaps the only difference was the addition of stone in the display cases. But the sapphire still stood alone, the only stone to get its own case.
"Steven?" I called, but there was no response. I walked through the small hallway; his bedroom door was open, the sheets pulled off the bed. Heading back down the hall, I turned into the kitchen. There, on the table, sat a Poké Ball with a letter beside it. Though it was, perhaps, none of my business, I picked up the letter out of curiosity.
It was a good thing I didthe letter was addressed to me. He would be gone for awhile, and he didn't know when he was coming backand there was a silent if there. But he wanted me to take care of the Pokémon in that Ball. That was all. No you can reach me here. No I have a feeling we'll meet again soon.
None. And we wouldn't.
My mom bought me a ticket to go to Sinnoh for my twentieth birthday ten months later. I never saw Steven again in Hoenn, and I had lost my taste for the place. It was time to move on, especially now that I had been everywhere I could possibly go. Though I originally wanted to return to Johto, my mom thought it was a better idea for me to go somewhere new.
It felt so different being in Sinnoh than it did in Hoenn. Besides being colder, I felt like I was starting this journey with knowledge that I hadn't had when I began back in Hoenn. I knew, this time around, that I wouldn't fall for any rock maniac.
I made my way to Iron Island, climbing through the cave just like I had that first time in the cave in Dewford. It made sense, then, that I found Steven at the exit again. Destiny tied us together again once more, but I expected it in Dewford. I had been looking for him there. I had given up on looking for Steven now.
"Steven?" I demanded, walking towards him and squinting my eyes to make sure it really was him.
Steven jumped, looking back at me. "May?"
"What are you doing here?" I put my hands on my hips, trying to look annoyed rather than happywhich I most certainly was. He opened his mouth to respond, but I didn't let him talk. "Why did you leave without saying goodbye? I got your note, but you could have given me some sort of contact information."
"You weren't planning on seeing me again, were you?" I asked, my tone lowering just a little, but it made me sound that much more concerned.
"Well, I mean, I thought your becoming Champion sort of was our goodbye. I didn't have any more business in Hoenn after that, and I thought you understood that," Steven explained. I bit my lip. I didn't understand that at all. "Geez, May, I didn't mean to leave you behind like that. I just thought you knew."
I nodded. What else could I do?
"Well, all right, fine. That's my fault." I nodded once again, trying to convince myself of this fact. "But what about my dad? What did you say to my dad? He told me that you went and talked to him at the gym the day you dropped me off at my house, and my dad wouldn't tell me everything. You said something about me."
Steven's cheeks brightened, and even in the darkness of the cave I could see the rosiness. "Yeah, I talked to him. I actually talked to your dad and mine, too. I just told your dad that he should go home and talk to you
and I wanted to let him know that you were at an age now that someone else would be taking care of you. You wouldn't be going to him anymorehe had missed that chance."
I gasped, covering my mouth. "You said that?"
He grinned. "I did. Sorry if that's embarrassing. But I just wanted to let him know that he had missed out on a lot by not being around. You loved him, but you were done waiting," he said. "I basically told my dad the same thing, too. He missed me, and I wouldn't be going to him anymore, either. I have someone else who I can put my faith in."
There was a pang in my heart, and I looked past Steven just to avoid his gaze. I could see a hole in the wall where Steven had began picking, and there was a glimmer of blue. Brushing past him, I walked towards the rocky wall, reaching into the hole and pulling on the rock. It broke away, and I held the small stone in my fingers.
"It's a sapphire."
"I know," I replied quickly, passing it to Steven. He held it between his thumb and index finger, bringing it up to his eye. "It's pretty. I've always liked sapphires."
He pocketed it, but unlike last time, he didn't come up with anything else. "Me, too. It's actually my dad's favorite stone. My mom's engagement ring was made with twelve small sapphires even. I guess I inherited his taste in rocks."
"Steven?" I bit my lip, unsure if I really wanted to know the answer to my question. "Who is the 'someone else' who you can put your faith in? Because I know who I'm putting mine in, and I think you know, too. So, if it's not"
Steven didn't let me finish the question. He cradled my face the same way he had back at the island in the ocean. But this time, he leaned into me, kissing me so fervently that I didn't need a verbal reply. He could put his faith in me. We had both relied on our parents for happiness, but we didn't need that. As we age, we leave our homes and our parents, and eventually we put that faithwhether knowingly or notin the person we love.
But in the end, it always went back to our parents. They raised us, and even if our fathers weren't around for the majority of our lives, we were a part of them, too. And Mr. Stone and my father brought Steven and I together.
So, to my daddy dearest
I gave my most sincere thanks.