An Appealing New Year
By: Sara Miyamoto
Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon, Nintendo and Game FREAK do. Not-for-profit, for entertainment purposes only, blah blah.
Warnings: Shoujo-ai. What does that mean? It means lesbian fluffiness. Don't like it? Don't read any further.
Note: This fic can also be found on fanfiction.net, here:
My name is Hikari Berlitz. It was the morning of December 31st, which meant the coming night was New Year's Eve. I had just awoken in my room at the Yosuga City Pokemon Center. I hadn't even gotten out of bed yet, and my mood was already plummeting.
I wish I could explain it. New Years has always felt kind of depressing to me, and I never understood why. I actually kind of liked it—a day when you're supposed to reflect on the events of the past year, and make resolutions to improve yourself in the year to come. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that as a Pokemon Coordinator, I did those things every day, and so the day was somehow less special than it should have been. Maybe it was because I had never had anyone to spend the day with, to share the traditional New Year's Kiss you always hear so much about.
Whatever the case may have been, from my first New Year's away from home, when I was ten years old, to now at the age of fifteen, the day had just always seemed to put me in a bad mood, and I hated that fact. Bad moods for me were like Mew sightings—rare, fleeting, and usually only the stuff of tall tales. I was a living perpetual happiness machine, so when I was feeling down, it made it difficult for me to function. I just wasn't used to feeling depressed.
And oh, how unfortunate I was this year. By a random stroke of fate, I had ended up in Yosuga City, one of the region's largest cities, and where the biggest New Year's celebration in all of Shin'ou took place each year. Which meant I was in for a virtual onslaught of overheard New Year's Eve plans, well-wishes, and general merriment, on the one day of the year when such things were most disheartening to me.
However, I couldn't just lay around in bed all day. I didn't really have anything that demanded my time, but any time I stayed still for too long with nothing to occupy my attention, I get horribly antsy. So, despite my bad (and steadily worsening) mood, I pulled myself out of bed and changed out of my pajamas and into my usual traveling clothes, brushed my hair, and gathered my things. Once I was set, I left the room, waited impatiently for the overly large crowd to thin enough to retrieve my Pokemon from Joi-san, and headed out for what I was sure would be a perfectly miserable day.
I cursed my misfortune as I worked my way through the city. It was still early in the day, only around nine in the morning, but the streets were crowded with more people than I had ever seen in the city. Yosuga was always busy, but today I could barely make headway on the overcrowded sidewalks. I don't think I had ever seen so many people in one place, not even at a Grand Festival or Pokemon League tournament. Even more daunting was that the crowd would just keep growing as people arrived for the night's celebration.
A walk that normally would have taken me twenty minutes dragged on for the better part of an hour. But, finally, I had reached my destination. It was a small diner I had discovered years ago, which served, as far I was concerned, the best food in the city, be it breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Unfortunately for me, it was also packed. It took almost half an hour before I was finally able to be seated, and the service was slower than normal. When my food finally did arrive, it was as delicious as always, but the normally comfortable environment felt stifling with so many people around, and I didn't enjoy my meal half as much as I had hoped.
I was glad to be gone when I had finished eating. But I had no clue what to do with myself. There were people everywhere I looked. At the moment, I wanted to be alone, but there seemed to be nowhere that could afford me that opportunity. I considered leaving the city entirely, but a Contest was taking place on January 2nd, and I couldn't let myself miss it. And so, I simply wandered, doing my best to block out the overwhelming sound of countless voices talking.
I have no clue how, but near noon I found myself in Contact Plaza. The plaza was normally a quiet and peaceful place, and subconsciously I must have gone there hoping to find that it was still the case. But my subconscious mind should have known better. While not quite as crowded as the rest of the city, the plaza was the night's main festivities were being held. There were work crews preparing, people already jostling for good positions for an event still twelve hours or so away.
I groaned, dropped to my knees on the grass, and found myself on the verge of tears. The realization that I was about to cry made me feel even worse. This was not the kind of person I was. I loved big crowds of people, I loved parties and excitement and the feel of big cities. But today ... something about today just made me feel so horribly wrong. As bad as I had always felt on Year Year's, I had never been this bad.
The first tears had already started their treks down my face when I heard a familiar voice. “Hikari-chan..?” A pair of hands were placed gently on my shoulders, hands whose touch I remembered with a guilty shiver of pleasure. I loved it every time I felt those hands. “Are you okay? What's wrong?”
I looked up, and even through my tears I could tell who it was. Not that I needed to see her. Her voice, her touch, had already told me all I needed to know. The girl who stood before me was, in many ways, my opposite. I was tall with a well-defined hourglass figure, while she was an inch or two shorter with less pronounced curves. I usually dressed in short skirts and sleeveless tops, while her usual attire was blue jeans and a traveling vest over a long-sleeved shirt. My hair was long, and so deeply black that it often shone blue, while her hair was short and fiery red. My eyes were a deep shade of blue, and hers were the color of red garnets. Even our attitudes seemed polar opposites; I was (usually) happy and out-going, nice sometimes to a fault, while she was quiet, reserved, and aggressive when provoked. Sometimes it seemed that the only thing we shared was our common love of Pokemon and the fact we were both Coordinators. But we had grown close over the years, and there was no one I would have rather seen right at that moment.
“N-Nozomi-chan!” Without so much as a thought, I launched myself at her, with enough force that I nearly sent us both tumbling to the ground. But she was stronger than she looked, and within seconds I had my arms around her neck, trying my best to prevent my crying from growing any worse. Between my awful mood and the sheer gratitude I felt that she was there, the tears seemed likely to never end.
A few seconds later, I felt her arms reach tentatively around me, her hands gently stroking my back in an effort to calm me down. She waited so patiently for me, until I was finally a notch or two below hysterical, to say anything more. “Hikari-chan, what's wrong? Is there anything I can do?”
“Get me away from here... Please...”
I don't think she knew quite what to make of my request at first. She stood there for several moments before anything else happened. I guess she was trying to figure out what to do. I don't think she had ever seen me cry, and she had certainly never seen me in a state like this. I mean, I had never seen myself in a state like this before. But after a while, she seemed to finally come to some kind of conclusion.
“Alright, Hikari-chan. Come with me.” She started to pull away from me, but I resisted. I didn't want to lose her touch. I looked up at her then, and what had seemed to be momentary exasperation on her face instantly melted. I must have looked so pathetic right then, to break down her walls so quickly. “It's okay... I won't leave you you. Come on.” I loosed my grip on her, not wanting to make things any more difficult then they had to be. She moved to my side, but kept one arm around me, holding me to her, and I was so thankful. I don't think I could stand on my own just then. Or, to be honest, I don't think I could have stood without her.
And so, with her guiding me along, we walked. I never once allowed us to break contact.
I think we walked for about half an hour. I'm honestly not sure. I allowed myself to drift off into my own little world during that time. I was absorbed with the way her arm felt around me, how comfortably my head seemed to sit on her shoulder, despite the fact she was shorter than me. I loved listening to the androgynous ring of her voice, though the only time she spoke during our trip was to chew out a few guys who made lewd comments or gestures as we passed. I didn't notice any of it, I was so lost in my thoughts. But it had allowed me to calm down, had allowed the tears to stop flowing. The last ten minutes were in total silence, for we had crossed to the eastern edge of Contact Plaza, where the park's boundary was defined by a dense forest, which she led me carefully through. The only sounds were our own footfalls, and the occasional cry of a Pokemon from deep within the woods.
When Nozomi finally stopped, I opened my eyes. I had gone most of the last several minutes with them closed, trusting her to guide me safely. I found myself in a small clearing. I could see Nozomi's tent, a few feet away from a well-used fire pit. She had obviously been camping here for several days.
I turned to her, wrapped her in a hug. I felt her tense at the gesture, but at the moment I was able to ignore the pang of disappointment that resounded through me. “Thank you so much, Nozomi-chan... Thank you...”
I wanted to cry again when I felt her arms circle me again. Though it was for an entirely different reason. “Like I could just leave you there in the middle of all those people, crying. Come on, let's sit down.” She lead me to a place near the dead fire pit. Against the trunk of a tree that had fallen some time ago, her sleeping bag was rolled up. She let me go then, and I fought the urge to clamp back onto her. She sat down, resting her back against the sleeping bag. She gestured to the ground next to her. She had sat at the far edge of the bag, giving me enough room to sit next to her. I sat, but further away than she had intended. I laid on my side, resting my head on her lap. I felt her go tense again, and worried that I was pushing my luck too far, I made to move almost immediately. But then I felt her hand on my hair, and within seconds tears were escaping again. “Tell me what happened.”
I felt like such a horrible person right then. If it isn't painfully obvious already ... I love Nozomi. I have for years now. The first time I met her I thought she was cute. Just an hour or so later, she was helping me with my hair. I think I fell in love with her then, though I didn't realize it until much later. And now, with her stroking my hair, it brought back memories of the day we met, the first time she had touched me. Here she was, worried about me, doing things I knew she would never do under normal circumstances, and all I could think of was how much I enjoyed her touch.
And to make matters worse, I knew this was a one-time thing. I'd likely never get the chance to be in this position again. Nozomi was one of my best friends, but this behavior was very out of the ordinary for her. She was the type who would normally encourage me to fight back against whatever was getting me down, to kick the *** of whatever was bothering me. I didn't know why she was letting me cry, why she was consoling me with kind words and warm gestures instead of her normal, more aggressive tactics. Part of her must have realized I needed this. And maybe she felt comfortable enough to do it because she knew as well as I did that it was a one-time thing.
Crap. I had gotten lost in my thoughts. I had left her waiting, I'm not sure for how long. “I'm sorry. I must have spaced out...,” I told her, which was true enough.
“Don't worry about it. But, you'll have to excuse me for a minute. It's already cold, and it'll only get colder as the sun moves down. I don't want us to freeze to death.” I nodded, lifted my head long enough for her to get up and move away, then resettled it on the sleeping bag and watched her work.
Nozomi was obviously more comfortable with life outside than I was. Early in my career, I was traveling with friends who handled most of the work. Since we had parted ways, I had never developed much of a taste for it. I spent most of my nights in Pokemon Centers or hotels. My bike, which I had replaced not long after my friends had moved on, usually got me from one town to another quick enough that camping outside wasn't much of an issue. But I enjoyed watching her work.
She stocked the pit with kindling and dried moss. From one of her vest's many pockets, she pulled out a small plastic case, which when she removed the top I realized was a striker—a rod of artificial flint and a small steel blade. There was a sharp crack as she brought the blade down on the flint, and a moment later she was blowing on the freshly glowing embers that had appeared. After a few seconds, a small flame had sprung up, and she spend the next few minutes nursing the newborn fire, feeding it more moss so the flames spread quickly, addling kindling for a more secure base, and when she was satisfied the fire would hold, she added a few of the dried branches she had collected to the blaze.
Content with her work, she returned to the fallen log, and soon my head was back in her lap, her hand again stroking my hair and sending guilty shivers of delight down my spine. “Now. How about telling me what's got you so upset?” she asked.
I sighed, trying to gather my thoughts. And in doing so, I realized I didn't really have any thoughts to gather. I had absolutely no good reason to give her. “I... I honestly don't know...”
“You were having a breakdown, and you don't even know why?” I shook my head softly. “Come on, Hikari-chan. You'll have to do better than that. At least tell me what led up to it.”
“Okay...” I sighed again. She was probably going to be angry at me when she learned how pathetic my story truly was. And I was angry enough with myself as it was. But the feel of her fingers in my hair was doing a marvelous job of keeping me calm. “I've always kind of felt bad on New Year's Eve. I don't know why, it just always makes me feel depressed. And then all day today, things just kept getting worse. My favorite restaurant was so busy I couldn't enjoy my meal. I wanted somewhere quiet and peaceful, and the entire city is swamped. And then I tried Contact Plaza, because it's usually such a calming place, and all those people were there, and I just didn't know what to do, and I...”
“Shh...,” she cooed softly, her fingers working gently through my hair, and I was silenced instantly. “It's alright. No one will bother us out here.”
“You probably think I'm pretty pathetic right now, huh..?”
“Not at all. The crowds were driving me insane, too. That's why I'm camped out here instead of staying in town.” I rolled over so I could look up at her, and she smiled down at me. I had seen her smile many times before, but those were stage smiles, or wry grins. This smile was soft, tender, a smile I had never seen her give anyone before.
I had to fight so very hard not to sit up and kiss her right then. I had considered the action many times in the past, but had never had the nerve, had never wanted to risk losing Nozomi as my friend. With that smile on her lips, the idea had never been more alluring, more powerful, than it was in that instant. I could feel my muscles tensing with the intent to move, my lips subconsciously working in desire to taste hers. But I wouldn't let myself act. Nozomi was too important to me, and she had never expressed a romantic interest in me. For all I knew, despite her boyish appearance and mannerisms, she was straight. Her romantic life had never come up in any of our conversations.
I turned back to the now blazing fire, before her smile caused me to do something I'd regret. “I thought you liked the crowds...” I said off-handedly, trying to distract myself from the heat I felt that had nothing to do with the nearby flames.
I felt the motion as she shrugged her shoulders. “I deal with them for Contests. I'm so focused on the Pokemon and the moves that I don't let the crowds affect me. But otherwise, I prefer to be somewhere quiet and out of the way. I don't like all the noise and hustle of crowded cities.”
“Huh... I never knew you felt like that. I guess even after five years, I still learn something new about you every time we meet.”
And so, over the next several hours, we talked. It was rare when we had opportunity to just talk, and never before for so long a time. When we met, it was usually at Contests, and when they were over we had to begin making headway for the next one. In the off season, I spent my time at home, with my mom. The times we ran into each other while traveling were rare, and we usually had to go our separate ways before too long.
Nozomi took such wonderful care of me during that time. She fed me when I grew hungry, kept the fire warmer than she would have needed to compensate for my skirt and sleeveless top, and never once complained about my clingy behavior.
We were sitting side-by-side, my head resting on her shoulder, the sun long since gone, when she glanced down at her Poketch. “It's almost midnight. The fireworks will be starting soon.”
I started, having no idea it was so late already. “Oh man, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make you miss the show.”
She slipped her arm around my waist, holding me down as I attempted to stand up. “It's okay. You can see them surprisingly well from here. That's why I camp here. I found this spot a couple years ago.” I settled down, and was more happy than I should have been that she didn't remove her arm. “Besides, I'd never forgive myself if I subjected you to the crowds again. Not after what happened earlier.”
I was so thankful that the crackling firelight did such a horrible job of showcasing the blush that creeped up my neck and made my entire body feel hot. “You're too kind to me, Nozomi-chan...”
“There's no such thing, Hikari-chan.”
Hearing those words, no matter how innocent they may have been, filled me with elation. I felt as though if it weren't for the arm she had secured around me, I would have floated away like a Drifloon on the wind. I had never been happier than I was at that moment, and not even the knowledge that the feeling would be gone soon could stop the warmth of her statement from flooding through me.
“You know,” she said suddenly, “there's an old tradition I heard about. They say if you close your eyes and make a wish just as the first firework explodes at the stroke of midnight, it'll come true.”
“Really? I don't think I've ever heard that one.”
“Mmhm. They say there's no chance at all it will fail if you do it right.”
“How much longer until midnight?”
Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds to think of a wish that I didn't have to think at all about. A wish I had had for five years. I began counting the seconds down in my head, but I didn't need to for long. Even from this distance, the ten-second countdown could be heard from the square.
There's only one thing I want.
It's the only thing I've ever wanted so badly.
The only thing that has ever mattered so much to me.
More than any ribbon, any trophy.
More than winning a Grand Festival.
More than equaling or surpassing my mother as a coordinator.
I realize now, it's not just something I want.
It's something I need.
I need it more than I need air itself.
I need you, Nozomi.
Just as I finished the thought, as a firework in the sky exploded with a thunderous blast, as the sound of thousands of cheering voices reached us, I felt Nozomi's lips on mine. But I hadn't moved. She had kissed me.
Her lips lingered on mine for several seconds, and I offered no resistance. I wasn't able to. I couldn't move at all. I was in shock, and it wasn't until long after she had stopped, had pulled away from me and was looking at me with a look I knew too well, from seeing it on my own face in the mirror. Her look spoke of desire, trepidation, confusion, uncertainty.
“Nozomi-chan, I...” She stopped me, a finger pressed against my lips. Lips that still tingled with the memory of hers.
“Just tell me one thing,” she said, her voice pleading. This was hard for her. Painful, even. “Do you love me?”
I looked at her, barely able to comprehend her question. In the firelight, the light cast by bursting fireworks, she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And right now, she looked so open, so vulnerable, that my heart wept. I had lost track of how many times I had cried in the past twelve hours. But I cried again now.
“Hikari-chan...” I felt her hands on my face, her fingers brushing away my tears.
“Yes,” I said, my choked voice barely audible. “By the Creator, yes!” I threw myself at her for a second time. This time, she did fall back, and I landed atop her, but I don't think either of us noticed, because our lips were fighting a furious battle for dominance. After what felt like hours but had to have only been minutes, I lost that battle. Losing had never felt so good.
Eventually we had to stop, before we kissed ourselves to death. For a while, we just laid in the grass, her arms around my waist, holding me to her, my fingers wrapped in her hair, both of us breathing heavily. I was, for the first time since I had first met her, content. I wanted for nothing at that moment.
“So,” she said, after we had both had time to catch our breath. “What did you wish for?”
“It already came true,” I answered honestly. She smiled. The same soft, gentle smile from earlier. A smile I now knew was mine, and mine alone. “It seems I made you miss the show after all.”
She laughed. “I wouldn't worry too much about that. There's always next year. Though I don't think I'd mind missing that one, either...”
And, there you have it. I hope you found reading this time well spent. And to everyone out there, have a very happy new year.