Moving along from the rollercoaster of yesterday's events the journey lingered on as they made through their way through the swamp at a much calmer pace. There were no grunts or Team Flare members to hunt down and none of their friends needed saving. Nobody could remember the last time where they could travel in peace. It was something they took for granted early on and they were so grateful to have that sensation back with them.
Though the smell of the swamp around them was hard to miss, the thrill of watching Ash and Clemont battle with their Pokémon took their attention away from the foul smell. And by a fallen log May sat with that strange helmet in her arms. Bonnie was by their bags grooming a number of their Pokémon including Pikachu.
Serena watched on from the distance of Ash's battle with Clemont behind May, leaning on a tree of her own with her Pokémon in her arms as well. Her attention was not on the intense battle Ash and Clemont were sharing but the newest girl that had joined their group.
Finding the courage within her, Serena made her way to May, sitting right beside her.
May wasn't too fixated that Serena had taken a seat beside her. She was amazed at how well Ash and Blaziken were getting along and how strong their bond had become in just a week's time.
"Ash and Blaziken are really something else aren't they?"
May looked to her left and noticed it was Serena that has spoken to her. Looking back at the battle, "Yeah, it's pretty amazing. I'm glad that giving Blaziken away to Ash was the right move."
"But isn't he the first Pokémon you ever had? Isn't it hard to see your very first Pokémon with somebody else now?"
May shook her head as she turned to face Serena. "No, it isn't hard because I know Ash will make Blaziken better than before and he loves looking after Pokémon." May smiled. "Though the last time I gave my Pokémon to him he nearly gave me the wrong one back." May started to laugh.
Serena showed off a small smile. "You two are really close, aren't you?"
"Of course, we travelled together for awhile. You and your other friends are close to Ash as well right?"
Nervously smiling, "Yeah, you could say that."
The girls' conversation went dry as they both watched the battle.
"I know they have history but that's just a wild guess Serena. Maybe you should go and get to know May as well as you do with Ash and try to convince yourself that."
Clemont's words echoed in her mind as Serena stared at the helmet in May's grasp. Wondering, she couldn't help but ask. "May, why are you holding onto that helmet nearly all the time? Why don't you leave it with our bags over there or get rid of it for good?"
The brunette stayed silent for a moment before gathering her words together.
"Because I don't want anyone else to suffer through the same pain as I did while under the control of this helmet and Xerosic and the others."
Leaning back slightly, "I guess that makes sense." Serena paused. "Anyway I didn't mention this earlier but we've met before – you in the suit I mean."
"…I see." The tone in May's voice started to drop. "Then whatever I said to you back then, I'm sorry."
Still not looking towards her Serena was left puzzled. May continued.
"You see whenever I put this helmet on I receive memory blanks of what I'm doing. Like when I was saving you. I remember landing on the truck and opening the gates but I can't remember how we escaped. It's the same whenever I say something while wearing the suit. I only remember a few parts of a conversation. You see Serena," May held up the helmet to her line of sight, "This helmet is part of the expansion suit. When I was with Team Flare there was another part of the suit. If I wore that I wouldn't have memory blanks while wearing the suit as I would be completely asleep wearing it. Anyone wearing the whole set will be so powerful I couldn't imagine the terror it could bring."
"So when you were escaping Team Flare you only brought the helmet, but why?"
"The helmet provides the illusion of the suit while the other half brings power, speed and stealth. I thought if I took either one Team Flare couldn't get another person to wear the suit and cause terror to others."
Serena felt it was getting too much for the brunette and stopped her questions. Instead she watched the final moments of Ash's battle with Clemont. But her eyes would sometimes gaze off the battle field and onto a certain trainer which she couldn't help but deny felt something towards but lack the confidence to tell Ash at least.
She wanted the courage that May showed when she came to save her, she wanted the trust May gave to her when she placed their lives in her hands. Maybe if she felt a little more courageous, more trusting and more understanding then maybe it wouldn't be so impossible for Ash to give back a simple glance, like the ones he would sometimes give off to May whenever she wasn't paying attention.
"You really like him don't you?"
It was no denying that. Serena's flustered cheeks just proved that to the coordinator.
"How do you know?" She knew there was no point denying the fact. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad talking to another girl her age about crushes and love. As much she loved Bonnie like her own sister the topic of liking someone was something she would always avoid with her due to how young she was.
"I'm quiet the expert on things like that. I can detect it miles away." May joked.
"So you would really help me?" Serena couldn't contain her joy.
"Well it would be a challenge but we won't know if we don't try right?"
Serena clapped her hands together, still with flustered cheeks. "Thank you so much." Opening her turquoise eyes a question popped into her mind. "But how do we know if the plan is working?"
Giving off a wink, the coordinator smiled. "It not may be evident but Ash shows off hints a little differently to us girls. They won't happen often but when they do, you know you're on the right track."
Questions kept coming into Serena's mind. "And how do you know all of this?"
May paused as she tried to pull out a great answer. But only the truth provided her good answer.
"Because I've seen it before,"
"Why didn't you contact me? Why? You know I would do everything I could to help you."
"But that's the point. If I had asked for your help you would have gotten hurt. And plus I don't want to interrupt your journey."
Opening up her eyes May finally noticed the skies above her showing a wonderful light show of stars. Leaning on Ash's back she watched in awe. Earlier she watched on in the distance at how quickly Ash had snapped in front of his new friend, Serena, for questioning him on things he would rather forget.
"I really miss this."
"What do you miss?"
"Just looking up at the stars in peace, it makes me forget the world I'm in now. I forget what I am now just looking up at them."
Suddenly May felt her whole body falling onto the ground. Opening her eyes she noticed Ash was looking straight down at her.
"Well do you miss looking at this?" Ash pointed at his own face and pulled a funny face. May soon fell into laughter.
Turning onto her side she finally calmed down. From the cliff's edge May kept on stargazing as she felt Ash's presence by her right. Sitting down and admiring the stars for himself. Pulling herself up she sat up with her hands in her lap.
"It's so hard to believe we've gone so far in our dreams now haven't we?"
Looking back at her friend, May was puzzled.
"I just hope you haven't thrown yours away because of what you've become."
"I haven't. I just got a new one along the way." May reached her hand out to the sky, as if she could pull the stars down from the heavens.
"And what is that?"
"To protect my family and my best friend."
Looking at her best friend May noticed how red Ash's face had become. This came to her as a surprise as she never seen Ash blush at anything even travelling through two regions together. Giving off a chuckle May lowered her arm but kept her eyes glued to the skies.
"So how are you really with that Serena girl?"
"Not again." Ash rolled his eyes and leaned back down on the grass.
"Come on, it's clear she likes you. I don't think even Misty showed this kind of obvious liking." With a teasing stare, "So do you return the same feelings back?"
"No. I have a feeling that you're getting really annoying fast." Ash gave of an annoyed glare as he turned his back on her.
"But if you give me a serious answer I'll stop."
Lying on his back May heard Ash was silent. She could remember Ash would be dense at moments and give off answer that would kill the mood when it came to love and that was the type of answer she was expecting. But nothing of the sorts was happening.
"I know when it comes to things like this I'm not the smartest and I really try to avoid things like this but since you're so persistent as usual I might as well answer. Who knows when we'll see each other again anyway?"
His auburn eyes turned their attention to the heavens above as May waited for Ash to gather up his words properly. Still with his attention stolen by the stars above, "You always said you had an eye for these types of things…" Ash turned to face his best friend. He quietly stared at her with those wonderful eyes of his that only now she really took notice of.
"Can you tell who I really like?"
May quickly discovered the answer fast.
And it wasn't the type of answer she ever expected from him at all.
"May?" Serena's voice broke her out from her thoughts. "Are you okay?"
"Hm?" May turned to face her new friend. "Ah yes. I'm fine. I was just thinking of a few things." She suddenly stood up and noticed Ash's battle with Clemont had finished. "Why don't I speak a few words with Ash and see how he really thinks of you?"
Serena stood up and reached over for May's arm and held it tightly. "You're not going to say to him that I like him r-right?" She stuttered.
"Of course not," May gave the girl some confidence. "While I do the talking you can impress him with your baking skills. I heard you do quite the macaroon pretty well."
With a brief embrace the young trainer made her way to Bonnie who was the youngest out of them all. She watched their interactions and reminded her of her relationship with her brother back at home. She had not seen him for so long that his face was starting to become a blur to her. Even with her parents as well.
The footsteps of the two boys came louder and louder as she turned away from the two girls and noticed they were making their way to her.
"You really raised Blaziken well May. I had trouble beating it." Clemont praised the young girl.
With flustered cheeks, "Thanks Clemont, but if you only saw me how I started you wouldn't believe I rose Blaziken to the way he is now."
"And you wouldn't believe how many times Torchic would crash into something as soon he was released out of his pokeball." Ash laughed at the memories.
After sharing a laugh between the three of them May reached for Ash's arm. Whispering into his ear, "I need to speak to you."
Confused, "What for?"
May dragged Ash closer to her by tugging his arm. "It's about Serena."
Ash stared at Clemont and the gym leader nodded and took his leave. Looking back at his friend, "Is she feeling well? She isn't hurt is she?"
As May explained Clemont watched on from a distance. It didn't take long until she saw May dragging Ash to a place where they could talk alone. Still alone Clemont wondered if everything Serena shared with him could be true.
Before making way to his sister and Serena he watched at how well they bond together. He stared at Serena for a moment before looking away. He simply made his way to his sister as Dedenne ran up to him to give him a nuzzle on his cheeks. It took only seconds for him to become fully paralyzed as only part of his body he could move was his eyes.
As he could hear Bonnie laughing in the background he didn't hear Serena joining in which was usually always the case. Moving his eyes he noticed Serena was focused at the path May had taken Ash down to talk. Rolling his eyes Clemont sighed.
"If you stop painting yourself as the perfect woman for him, if you stop painting him as the perfect man you want him to be and let destiny do its work, you'll see the results will be better then you have ever imagined if you had done it all on your own."
"Is really dragging me here really necessary?" Ash held his nose from the foul smell of the swamp.
"Yes and Ash, it doesn't smell that bad." May lectured. "Anyway I want to speak about Serena. How long are you going to keep her hopes up?"
"Hopes up for what?" Ash questioned.
May was at the point where she wanted to pull her own hair out. "She likes you! She genuinely likes you and I'm not talking about the friendship type of liking."
"You mean that type of liking that ends up two people as a couple?"
Taking a sigh of relief, "Yes, that type of like."
Ash fell silent. Sure, there were a few times where he would come across a girl that would hang around him so close it made him feel uncomfortable but Serena never did any of the sorts. She would only come close if she wanted to talk or would ask some advice about Pokémon.
"Wow, I didn't know…"
"Of course you don't. I'm even surprised you know the word couple to be honest."
"So…how do you tell that you like somebody, more than the friendship type?" Ash was really lost. He needed the advice May was going to give him.
With a smile, May was glad to offer her services to her best friend, "You can tell when you can't keep them off your mind and when they are in trouble you would do everything you can and you don't care if you hurt yourself in the process. You'll feel guilty when you have a huge fight and you feel sad whenever they lose a battle. You always want them with you and you always enjoy whenever they are with you."
May gave off a blank stare. "Please tell me you got all of that."
"…I think…I did."
May suddenly felt disheartened, "You are such a hopeless case."
"No…I think I actually understand it now." Ash pondered for a moment.
The coordinator felt the joy and excitement ready to burst out of her. "So what's the verdict? Do you like her because if you don't you have to tell her because I don't like seeing one of mah gurls hoping for nothing," May placed a slight accent towards the end of her sentence.
"Look I feel really confused right now May and I can't understand what I'm feeling." Ash held his head. "I don't know what to feel or say right now."
"And that is why I'm here." The brunette spoke proudly. "But what do you mean you don't understand what you're feeling?"
Ash gave off a nervous and a slight confused smile. "Well you see May…I think I might have something towards Serena but I'm not sure and-"
"-Then we should celebrate!" May interrupted as she raced over and held Ash's hands tightly.
"B-but that isn't all!" Ash added. His face was all red and he was so lost that he was stuttering for words. May stopped and stared at Ash blankly.
"-and I think I feel the same for you too."
The bright lit sky started to fade into deep orange by the time Clemont decided it was time to start eating. With Serena's mind at a lost she was stuttering all over the meal she was cooking and both siblings in the group noticed. With Bonnie peeling any vegetables needed for the soup and Clemont chopping the job was easier on Serena but she was still making basic mistakes she would normally never do.
The inventor of the group spoke nothing and instead took the wooden spoon or a bottle and pour in the right amount for her before returning chopping the vegetables and other ingredients. The young trainer would stare at Clemont wondering how to say thanks but before she could she noticed she made another mistake.
"Serena." Clemont finally spoke up. "If you can't handle it I and Bonnie will finish up. You go and take some rest."
"No, I'm fine." She persisted.
"But Serena, your making more mistakes then you would normally would." Bonnie added. "I'm worried."
"Guys I'm alright, I'm seriously fine."
"Serena." Clemont spoke.
The blond pointed at the pot of soup that was now pouring over the table and over the gas cook stove. Panicking Serena turned down the heat and lifted the soup up for a few seconds before putting it back on.
"Normally you would never reach it to the point where the soup boils over." Clemont added as he kept on chopping the last of the carrots.
"I'll go and get the plates ready brother." Bonnie spoke before leaving the two friends to talk.
"Are you counting on how many mistakes I make?" Serena questioned.
"I don't but today I couldn't help. They're really hard to miss. The over pouring of salt, filling the pot with too much water, you forgetting to add the pepper." Clemont poured the last of the carrots into the pot. "I don't have to travel with you for a long time to know you're bothered with Ash and May alone in the forest."
Serena sighed. It wasn't the first time today where somebody could read her like a book.
"Alright, I admit. I'm a little bothered."
Clemont snickered. "But what for? What do you honestly think they'll do?" Clemont couldn't help but laugh but he soon got himself under control. "May probably wants to talk to Ash about her ordeals with Team Flare that maybe she doesn't want us to hear."
Speaking nervously, "Ah…yeah, maybe."
Clemont readjusted his glasses but spoke nothing in response. Picking up the chopping board and scraps left by Bonnie from peeling vegetables a few words escaped his lips, "I worry for you Serena."
Sighing, "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Clemont gave off a reassuring smile. "I'm your friend. Bonnie and I are so it comes naturally."
Words couldn't describe the joy Serena felt after hearing those words. Her joy was uncontrolled as she leapt into Clemont's arms and embraced him tightly. She was hugging him tightly that it was proving hard to breathe.
"S-Serena!" Clemont choked. "A little bit of air would be really nice right now."
"Oh." Serena jumped and took a few steps away from Clemont. "S-Sorry." She watched the young gym leader fall off his feet and onto the ground. Blinking, "I'll be right back. I-I'll just get Bonnie to help."
With stars rotating around his head, "Sure, I'll be right here."
Stunned May still held onto Ash's hands for support as she could feel her whole body about to crash into tiny million pieces. Still shaken Ash stood dumbfounded as the brunette found it hard to find words to her response.
"May are you alrig-"
"YOU WHAT." Her sudden outburst came along with a harsh push to the ground. "Ash, you said you don't understand what you're feeling so maybe your confused an-and."
"Well what you said I thought about it and…" Ash sighed. "Maybe your right, maybe I'm making no sense at all." Ash gave off a nervous smile.
Finding her composure again, "Joking about people's feelings isn't funny Ash." She held out her hand to him. "Come-on lets head back to the others."
Accepting the help Ash was soon on his feet. But as soon he was, May escaped his grasp like her hands was made out of soap. Giving a small nod May went on ahead. Putting his hands into his pockets Ash tagged along behind. He noticed May was acting strange around him and he needed to know why.
"Did I say something wrong?"
There was no response at first.
"May please give me an answer,"
It was when they were only a few meters away from camp where Ash got his response.
"Of course there is something wrong!" She snapped. "Do you think I like being involved in this? In this love issue you and Serena are having?" Taking a step closer to Ash, "Ash, do yourself a favor and get your feelings in check!" She dug her finger into his chest; pointing towards his heart. "Because if you don't get it pretty soon you might lose one of us, then you'll regret everything."
Left speechless Ash watched the upset girl stomping back to camp. Serena, Clemont and even Bonnie were left as speechless as Ash. None of them could ever imagine May had the guts to speak to Ash so straight to the point. She left nothing to the imagination.
Ash returned the looks of his friends with a sign of help. But Bonnie and Clemont gave off shrug shoulders as Serena was too lost to give her own and simply left the scene. May was seen in the distance calming down with her remaining Pokémon and Ash knew if he showed he was looking at her, she would hurt him.
Bonnie rushed over with Clemont tagging behind. "What did you do to Miss May and Serena?!" Bonnie placed her hands on her waist.
"Please, not you too Bonnie." Ash sighed.
"What really happened in there Ash?" Clemont asked as he held his younger sister in place.
Pausing for a moment, "I just had a harsh scoop of reality just now."
"Do you think I like being involved in this? In this love issue you and Serena are having?"
Left only to wonder in her own wild theories Serena was just walking, walking in the foul smelling swamp. She didn't care about the slime that was getting into her hair or the ones already on and staining her dress.
"Ash, do yourself a favor and get your feelings in check!"
In fact she didn't care at all. She didn't care where she was heading, what she was doing. She just wished she could stop caring for Ash as well.
But that was impossible.
"Because if you don't get it pretty soon you might lose one of us, then you'll regret everything."
Knowing she was heading too far Serena knew it wouldn't take long until the others would start looking for her and she didn't want to burden anybody else. She seemed to already unintentionally unburden May with helping Ash see the light.
But the result was far from simply okay.
"Ah, I see you're here."
A voice, Serena knew.
"You seem troubled, you alright there?"
The voice was far from concerning. In fact, it was nearly teasing her of her pain.
"I know you." Serena spoke.
"Well I'm glad I was able to leave a good last impression on you." A figure came out of the shadows. The first thing Serena noticed was the strange glasses she wore. "Serena correct?"
"C-celosia." Serena spoke very softly.
The purple hair scientist placed her hands behind her back and made her distance with Serena closer. "I was told not to show myself to you since you're not too far from your friends but I think after the drama I saw I don't think they'll be looking for you straight away."
"What do you want?" The young girl was trying to gather some confidence.
The scientist circled around the confused child with a smirk on her face that terrified Serena. "Oh I'm just genuinely concerned about you and your love story with little Ashy boy." With a teasing smile, "You want to know why May took Ash so far from you guys, it's because she confessed to Ash that she liked him as well." She whispered into her ear. "And Ash returned her feelings but once he confessed he likes you as well, she snapped."
"No, you're lying." Serena backtracked. "May isn't like that and plus Ash told me May has somebody special waiting for back in Johto."
"From what I heard May's little lover boy has moved into another region to compete in contests and hasn't had contact with him since May left for that Wallace Cup thing back in Sinnoh. If I was the boy I would have moved on from May ages ago."
"Stop it, stop it!" Serena screamed and held her hands over her ears. "You're lying."
"And how can you prove that I am? Between Ash and that girl of his I was the only one to witness their conversation."
"But why should I trust somebody like you from a criminal group?"
"Because I'm your only choice, do you think Ash and May will tell the whole story after that incident?"
Her emotions were starting to show as tears started to build in her eyes. Crying, Serena looked down before feeling her head begin lifted up to Celosia's line of sight. "And plus out of the two of us May has tried to kill you and Ash more than once. I and the others haven't even landed a finger on you."
"But that was all the suit's working. May doesn't have full control over the suit."
"True but she remembers half of them. Maybe she came after you both in Luminous City to kill. She thinks that she can kill you both without remembering half of it without feeling guilty. Sounds good right?"
Serena was tired of listening. She just wanted to get back to the others and find Ash and ask him so many questions. She didn't care if he would snap like he did last time after discovering she spied on him and May by the fountain. She just wanted to clear the cloud of confusion in her head.
"Little girl I can help with your problems." Celosia spoke ever so tempting. "If you want to save Ash from his criminal girlfriend then listen to me."
Shedding her last tear Serena didn't know how to react. Instead she simply let the woman speak.
And somehow her words cleared all the confusion she knew Ash would only clear half of.
And in the distance Ash watched on in horror as he saw Serena do nothing but listen to the woman's lies. He could only listen to a few words before feeling his stomach turn. But he wanted to watch on and hope Serena would fight and just leave the woman's presence.
But she didn't.
She just watched on and listened and let the woman fill her head with lies.
And there was a point where Ash couldn't take on and just left. No words could express how he felt, except the one May yelled at him earlier.
And she was right.
He had lost them both before, and he was going to lose them again.
"But just because you let destiny paint the picture for you doesn't mean the results are the ones you wanted from the start."
A/N: I really feel sorry for Ash right now. My heart goes out to him.
Now lets clear things up right now, May hasn't returned Ash's feelings at all. Ash is just making no sense because he doesn't know what his feeling is move than friendship and Serena doesn't deny that she likes Ash.
I really want to add Geekchicshipping but, there is hardly any foundation in the anime to base their interactions at all. Sigh. Why did I start this story so early. :/
I do hope you guys are not upset at how slow building Amour is compared to Advance. It's because Advance has more of a foundation compared to Amour right now so that is what I'm using in this story. I'm using that mentality.