Dawn sighed and slumped against the cold, jagged stone wall, wondering what she had done to deserve landing in this situation. She was sure she hadn't ever committed any crimes, nor did she feel she wronged anyone; yet here she was, stuck in a few feet of space with the one person in the universe she loathed: Paul. She glanced over at the boy who was just a few inches from her, shining her flashlight right into his eyes.
He glared and held up a hand to protect his eyes from the bright light. "Get that out of my face," he snapped, and, while Dawn would have liked to keep Paul as uncomfortable as possible (let's all be honest, the jerk deserved it), she did as he ordered and turned the flashlight to the ground. "You should just turn it off and save the battery," he said with a sigh. "It's not like we're going to need to see."
"I like being able to see," Dawn said, eying Paul with distrust. "And this way, I can keep an eye on you."
"What do you expect will happen?" he snapped. "It's not like I'm going to steal your pokemon or anything."
And to think the day had started so promising, too.
Dawn, Ash and Brock had gotten an early start, and were making excellent progress towards Sunnyshore City. They hadn't intended to go through this cave, but Brock's guidebook said that there was a shortcut through here, and Ash, ever eager to get his eighth and final badge, was quick to take the shortcut.
They were all surprised to find Paul in the cave, catching him in mid-attempt at a Golbat with his gliscor. Their sudden presence scared off the golbat, no doubt putting Paul in a sour mood.
"Hey, Paul!" Ash greeted cheerfully, apparently unaware of the deep glare Paul was giving him.
"You again," Paul spat. "What the hell could you be doing here, of all places?"
"I'm on my way to Sunnyshore City," Ash announced. "I can't wait to get my eighth badge!"
"Figures," Paul said, returning his gliscor to its pokeball, then turned to Ash with a small smirk. "Of course you still don't have eight badges yet. You move so slowly between cities, after all."
Ash glowered at Paul, his feathers ruffled, but it was Dawn who spoke up. "You just never quit, do you?" she spat, moving to stand next to Ash, but Paul just ignored her and reached for his pack that was on the ground. This riled her all the more. Piplup, in her arms, was letting his displeased voice be heard as well. "Listen, you-" she started, but was quickly cut off.
All of a sudden, large robotic hand reached out and snatched Pikachu right off Ash's shoulder, lifting him high into the air. Taken by surprise, Paul, Ash, Dawn and Brock turned to face the robotic hand, which was connected to a very large, boxy machine painted bright yellow. It featured a big red R on the front, and its presence was accompanied by familiar sinister laughter.
Of course, their ever-present stalkers, Team Rocket, had followed them into this cave, still trying to steal Pikachu and any other pokemon they could get their hands on. Their newest robot (how did they afford them all?) had Pikachu in a vice-like grip that no amount of Thunderbolt could break, as was obvious when Ash commanded Pikachu to use said attack.
Right on cue, ominous music blared out from the robot as a panel opened on the top and the infamous team rose up out from within the contraption, with Jessie starting off their motto: "Is that a bunch of twerps I hear?"
"It comes to me loud and clear," responded her partner in crime, James.
Dawn, however, was not in the mood for this. "Piplup, use Whirlpool!" she called to her pokemon at her feet. The piplup sprang into action, building up a very large and powerful whirlpool and unleashing it on the team and their robot, soaking it thoroughly, even getting water inside the machine from the open panel the nasty threesome stood over. As Jessie was about to complain about being wet, Dawn turned to Ash. "Have Pikachu attack now," she told him. "Aim for the interior."
"You got it," Ash said, quickly commanding Pikachu to do just that.
Pikachu's powerful Thunderbolt attack was carried by the water, electrocuting Team Rocket and their robot, which exploded suddenly (as was usual with Team Rocket's gear). Team Rocket was launched out of the cave, blasting off to who knows where, while Pikachu and everyone else were sent back from the blast.
Dawn was thrown against a wall, Piplup thudding into her legs and Paul was nearly on top of her. As soon as she could react, she moved to shove Paul away from her when, suddenly, the ground started to shake.
This explosion caused the cave to vibrate from the releasing energy and within seconds, part of the ceiling collapsed. Dawn was nearly crushed by the rocks; she saw them coming down on her head, but she could hardly even process what was happening, let alone react to it. The rocks seemed to be moving in slow motion down on her when she heard someone yell "Move!" and then felt herself pulled away just in time before she was crushed.
It had been Paul who had pulled her out of the way of the rocks. He had ran forward and pushed them both into a small indentation in the rock wall. The cave ceiling had collapsed and entirely blocked the front of this little cavern, effectively trapping the two.
Dawn hadn't even consciously processed that they were trapped, but rather that she was pinned between the hard rock wall and Paul's softer body. She stood in stunned silence as the floor and walls gradually ceased to vibrate and the dust began to settle. There was a pause of complete silence before Dawn shrieked and pushed Paul away.
He made an oomph noise when he stumbled back against the new wall of rocks behind him, though in the darkness, she couldn't exactly see the new wall, but she still knew at that moment that they were trapped. "Oh no," she said to herself, panic beginning to set in. "Oh no, oh no, oh no!" She shoved Paul out of the way just as he was recovering from his first shove and began to try and pry the rocks away. A few loose ones came away, but the large boulders wouldn't budge. She clawed at the rocks, not realizing she was screaming until Paul firmly grabbed her arms.
"Will you calm down?" he shouted at her, snapping her out of her panicked state. She could hardly see him, as the little cavern they were in was completely pitch black.
"Sorry," she stuttered, and Paul released her with a sigh.
"Dawn?" It was Ash's voice, muted from the new wall, but it was unmistakable.
"Paul? Can you hear us?" That was Brock's voice.
"I can hear you!" Dawn called as loud as she could and her voice echoed off the walls, hurting her ears a little.
"Are you okay? Is Paul with you?" Brock asked.
"We're fine," Paul called, but Dawn wasn't sure they'd hear his low voice, so she repeated what he said.
"Paul's with me!" she added. "Is Piplup okay?"
"Yeah, it's fine, don't worry," Brock called. "We're gonna try and move these rocks."
"You two sit tight!" Ash added and then the two boys went quiet.
Paul grunted, but Dawn wasn't one to just sit around and wait. She had to take action, and help Ash and Brock get these rocks moved. She dug into her pocket for a pokeball, intending to let out Buneary, when her elbow landed right into Paul's fleshy side.
"Watch it!" he snapped, nudging her elbow away.
"Sorry!" she said frantically, battling with him for the space to reach into her pocket. "I'm just getting a pokeball."
Paul grabbed her arm suddenly in a vice-like grip. "Don't do that!"
Was he crazy? "Why not?"
"There's hardly room for the two of us in here," he explained as if it should be obvious. "And if you have a pokemon use an attack on that wall with us this close to it, the attack will no doubt bounce onto us." He let go of her arm then, almost shoving her appendage away from him.
Good point, Dawn thought with contempt. She let her arm drop to her side as she heard dull thuds on the other side of the wall. No doubt Ash and Brock were using their pokemon to try to break the rocks apart. It was just a matter of time. Still, Dawn wanted to get a good look at what they were dealing with, so she eased her pack off her back, bumping into Paul more times.
"Now what are you doing?" he asked, or rather, growled. Dawn was just about done with his attitude.
"I'm getting out my flashlight," Dawn spat back, digging through her pack until she found it. She took it out and clicked it on, shining the light on the large wall of rocks before them.
It looked nearly impenetrable: every boulder fell into place and locked like a jigsaw puzzle. There were only a few holes at the very top, maybe twelve feet up. At least they wouldn't suffocate in there. The sight was disheartening, however, so Dawn turned her flashlight off.
She sighed and leaned against the wall, trying to be patient and wait. There was no doubt that the boys would be through this wall in no time at all. Croagunk and Buizel had managed to break walls in the past; there was no reason not to think they couldn't manage this wall.
But after a few moments, the thudding stopped. Dawn tensed; something was wrong.
Then she heard Brock's voice call out: "These rocks are too hard, and our pokemon are getting tired."
"I'm going to run for help," Ash called.
"Okay," Dawn called, fear setting back in. "N-no need to worry." Yet, even as Dawn silently repeated her mantra to herself, she couldn't help but feel a surge of panic. What if Ash couldn't find help and they were stuck in there forever? What if the rest of the ceiling caved in on the two of them in there and they were buried alive?
She needed to calm down. After all, panicking wouldn't help anything. Keeping the darkness illuminated, however, would help, and Dawn clicked the light on again. Beside her, Paul sighed and dug his fingers into his eyes as if he had a headache.
"Is that light necessary?" he asked. He sounded like he was trying to stay calm himself.
"Yes it is," she answered. "Sorry if it bothers you." She shined the beam around their little space, noticing just how little room they had. It was like they were both crammed into a bathroom stall. There was just barely enough room to sit down together, and it would be a pretty snug fit.
"He better not be long," Paul grumbled, shifting on his feet. Dawn chose to ignore his comment. In fact, she'd much rather ignore him altogether. He was one of the most unpleasant individuals she had ever met. He never smiled, never had anything nice to say, and more often than not, he just ended up making every encounter into a fight.
Out of spite, she beamed the light into Paul's face, only to find his eyes closed. His brow furrowed, however. "Do you have to shine light in my face?"
Dawn glared even though he couldn't see her and moved the light away. "I hope you showered today," she said dryly, folding her arms across her chest. She got no audible answer from Paul.
He was, however, smirking.
Dawn had to be one of the most annoying people he knew, right up there with Ash. She was loud, hot-tempered, immature and she really didn't know much about how to properly raise a pokemon. In fact, she and Ash were a lot alike. But, unlike Ash, rarely did she irritate him. Rather, she amused him. Maybe it was because she might not know better (after all, she had apparently just left home a few months ago) or maybe it was because she was just easier to tolerate than Ash. Hell, maybe it was because (though Paul would never admit this out loud) she was kind of cute. In a kid way.
Whatever the reason, Paul recognized that he was fortunate to be trapped here with Dawn and not Ash or Brock. Actually, Brock wouldn't be so bad, either. Paul had a lot of respect for the older teen, even if he was very meddlesome. Most of the time, it seemed Brock was just curious about Paul. Ash, on the other hand, always had a point to make, and that point always had to be how his way of training was the right one and Paul was doing it all wrong. Ash had, on many occasions, stolen Paul's training techniques and, more aggravatingly, refused to admit it. If he were trapped here with Ash, he would no doubt strangle the kid with his bare hands. Instead, he was with Dawn and that wasn't so bad.
So he simply relaxed and waited patiently. The only problem he could see with Dawn was if she continued to move around like she had been doing. Paul wasn't sure how many more times he could take her body elbow in his ribs. Even with his body's natural extra padding (which he would prefer not to acknowledge), it still stung. However, it seemed Dawn had calmed down somewhat and she wasn't fidgeting as much.
Paul didn't have his pack on him, which meant he didn't have any food. He doubted Dawn had any food on her considering Brock took care of that situation in her group. Even still, unless Ash took weeks, and Paul and Dawn would have to consider cannibalism, there was no need to worry.
No need to worry. Dawn said that all the time. He glanced over at the girl, noted the way she was trying to put out a brave front, but by the way she gripped her flashlight and the look of anxiety in her eyes, Paul knew she was certainly frightened. For someone who said such a phrase all the time, she certainly looked worried. Paul felt a tinge of pity for the girl. He found that he wanted to say something to help calm her down, but found himself at a loss for words.
Why did he even want to bother? Paul figured that he might need a rational Dawn, not a panicky Dawn. He didn't need or want either of them to get unnecessarily hurt. Even if they were hardly in a life-or-death situation at the moment, anything could change in which Paul might need her to be helpful, not a burden.
Or perhaps being trapped in a tiny space for so long was affecting him more than he realized. He just needed to put it out of his mind, and it was a very convenient distraction when the dull thuds on the other side of the wall began again.
"Ash?" Dawn called, leaning forward, hope in her voice.
"It's just me," came Brock's voice. "Ash hasn't come back yet, but I'm having Croagunk and Sudowoodo attack the rocks again."
"It didn't work the first time," Paul stated plainly, and Dawn turned her glare on him once again.
"It might work this time!" she argued, and Paul could see she was trying to convince herself of that just as much as him. He sighed, but didn't say anything else on the matter; after all, he has just told himself he wanted a calm Dawn, not a panicky Dawn.
After a few minutes, the thudding died down again. Paul noticed that the sounds hadn't gotten any louder in that time, so Brock's pokemon probably hadn't made any progress. Dawn groaned. "Guess you were right," she said to Paul, but her eyes were downcast.
"We're going to be here a while," Paul said, sliding down the wall into a sitting position. "We might as well get comfortable."
Dawn shined her light at the floor, no doubt gauging the space. There wasn't too much room for them to sit down, and it was inevitable that they would be touching, probably almost in one another's laps. It was a bit awkward, but Dawn didn't protest.
Instead, she sunk down, pulling her knees to her chest. She didn't seem too comfortable in that position, but there wasn't any room in front of her to stretch her legs out. Though Paul was able to sit in a cross-legged position, his left knee was painfully pressed into the rock while his right knee was pressed into Dawn's thigh, which he figured couldn't be a pleasant experience.
"There has to be something better than this," Dawn said, shifting her legs a little, no doubt also trying to avoid her short skirt from flying up and exposing her underwear. "My feet are already going numb."
Paul sighed at her complaints, but also at the same time realized his own legs were starting to fall asleep under his weight. He glanced at her once more, but this time to gauge how much space there was in the cavern. Sitting like this, side by side, they were squished together in the tiny space. As Paul thought before, they were almost in each other's laps. But if they were to literally do that...
That was an awkward thought. Dawn would have to sit between his legs. He would really rather that not happen, but at the same time, he was losing feeling in his toes.
"Turn to your left," he told her reluctantly.
She looked at him with eyebrows raised. "What?"
"I said turn to your left!" he snapped, his temper flaring, though not at her. He felt very awkward about what he was to do.
She glared at him. "You don't have to be so rude, mister," she snapped herself, but did as she was told, carefully shifting so that her back was to him.
Slowly, Paul unfolded his legs and turned to face her back. He eased his legs on either side of her body, no doubt catching her off guard, as she started suddenly when his legs brushed against her own. She looked back at him in surprise as he leaned against the stone. "Now you sit against me," he told her, not meeting her eyes.
"You've got to be kidding!" Dawn exclaimed. "You want me to snuggle with you?"
Paul glared at her, his cheeks burning. "I don't want this at all," he said defensively. "But it's either this or losing circulation in our legs. You pick." Dawn sighed with resignation and eased back into him, her body understandably tense. He himself was hardly relaxed.
Still, his legs had a bit of room to stretch out now, and the returning blood flow to his feet was welcomed. Now waiting for Ash to return with some help wouldn't be so painful, even if they had to sit like this. It wasn't so bad. Dawn was small and light, so she hardly put any pressure on his chest. In fact, Paul found he was rather comfortable with her there.
"By the way," Dawn said suddenly, pulling Paul from his thoughts. "Thank you for saving me. I didn't expect you to do something like that, though."
Paul was dumbfounded. "I wouldn't just let someone die," he said, feeling he needed to defend himself. Did she see him as some kind of monstrous sociopath with no respect for human life? Sure, he wasn't exactly a nice person, especially when Ash was around, but he didn't think he seemed that terrible.
"But you risked your own life to save me," she explained, looking over her shoulder to meet his eyes. "You could have just as easily sent out your torterra to block the rocks or something. But you didn't. You pulled me out of the way."
Paul stared at her in silence. He didn't know how to respond to that. He wasn't sure why he just didn't send out a pokemon; in fact, he hadn't even been aware of his actions until he found himself pinning Dawn to the wall to shield her from the crashing boulders. It had just been a flash, and his body acted on instinct. He hadn't even thought about the action until now.
Paul let out a breath. "Well, you're welcome."
She nodded then and turned back around, relaxing against him. "Ever since Ash heard you won your eighth badge, he's been focusing on catching up to you," she said quietly, her hands playing with her flashlight absentmindedly.
Paul wondered why Dawn suddenly brought Ash up. It didn't sound good. "Of course he is," he said warily.
"You are such a jerk to him," she said, her voice still soft, as if she were apprehensive about saying these words.
Ah, of course. She was trying to convince him to play nice with Ash. "I'm not trying to be his friend," Paul responded bluntly.
Dawn sighed. "Ash has been nothing but respectful and nice to you, yet you treat him like dirt," she said, sounding weary now. "It's annoying. Every time we see you, you and Ash get into some kind of argument, and then Ash focuses on training to beat you for days, even if we don't know when we'll see you next or if you'll even accept Ash's challenge to a battle. It's become stressful."
Paul had been listening to her when he felt a little pull on his pant leg. He glanced down to find that, as Dawn was speaking, she had been plucking at a loose thread on Paul's pants. She probably didn't even notice what she was doing, but it was distracting. "Oh," was all he said, his eyes on her small hand which had finally seized and plucked out the thread.
"That's all I get?" she asked, looking over her shoulder at him again. "You're not even looking at me."
Paul quickly met her narrowed eyes. "I don't know what you want me to say," he said honestly. "It's not like I'm going to promise not to argue with Ash. He and I don't see eye-to-eye on many things, and he likes to confront that with all the subtlety of a raging tauros."
"You also like to push his buttons," she pointed out.
"I won't deny that," Paul admitted.
Dawn finally broke their eye contact and sat forward again, letting out a deep breath. "I don't see why you have to be like that."
"Look, it's nothing you'd understand, so drop it, okay?" Paul said with an edge to his voice. He just wanted to move on from this conversation as quickly as possible. His feelings towards Ash were complicated: on the one hand, he saw Ash as an immature, pushy little kid, but on the other hand, he found that he admired Ash, even just a little bit. Somehow, that kid had managed to beat Brandon, where both Paul and his older brother had failed miserably.
Dawn went quiet after that, and for a while, they sat in silence. Paul could feel the tension between them, could almost taste Dawn's displeasure. It made sense why she would want to defend Ash; they were, after all, friends. Hell, they might even be a couple, for all Paul knew. He didn't want to be confronted about it, however. The last thing he wanted in this situation was for that troublesome girl to meddle in his affairs.
How much longer can Ash take? Paul wondered, wanting to be out of that little crevice as fast as possible. Of course, if Murkrow's Law is to be believed, every single person in the world was probably avoiding that area right now. After all, he was stuck in a tiny space with Dawn; it would just be Paul's luck that there would be no human life in a fifty-mile radius.
It figured that in the one time that Paul had to depend on Ash, he was taking forever. He didn't think Ash had stopped to smell the roses or chat with some friendly pokemon, but Paul was beginning to get impatient.
Paul was pulled from his thoughts suddenly when he felt Dawn shift against him. He glanced down as he felt her put her arms behind her back, so that they were pressed right up against his stomach. "Sorry," she said, not looking at him. Her voice held an edge. "My arms are cold."
This was awkward; he didn't want her touching him there. However, he also didn't want make a big deal out of it, so he decided to mask his embarrassment with a small joke at Dawn's expense. "You should wear more clothes," Paul pointed out, and that earned him an elbow to the ribs. He wouldn't be surprised if he came out of this black and blue along his ribcage.
"I didn't ask you what I should wear," she said defensively, shifting her arms behind her back some more. "Just be quiet and let me use you as a warmer."
Paul sighed quietly with resignation. He just needed to be a little more patient. Ash couldn't be too far away, he told himself, and they would soon be free to go their separate ways. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, waiting for time to pass.
Dawn, meanwhile, was a bit harried. She was caught in a weird place, emotionally, for Paul. He was arrogant, self-centered, a huge jerk, and borderline abusive to his pokemon.
And yet, he was the reason Dawn was alive. He had personally pushed her out of harm's way, risking himself; he had gotten himself trapped with her; and now he had her pretty much in his lap, squeezed together awkwardly, and all without complaint. She had never expected this from the aloof boy with whom Ash always bickered and battled.
She shook her head, not wanting to think about it anymore, though trying not to think about Paul when she was almost laying on him was nearly impossible. She felt the rise and fall of his chest against her head and shoulders and felt his thighs pressed into hers, keeping her legs warm. She was very aware of his hands, which rested on his knees on either side of her, and of the soft flesh on which her arms rested behind her back.
Dawn had been surprised to learn that Paul was rather chubby when she first sat back against his body. After all, Paul always dressed in baggy layers and barely exposed any part of his body whatsoever, so she never really knew what he looked like underneath, but had guessed he might have a body type not unlike his brother, who was tall and lean. It seemed that wasn't so, at least not now, though maybe that would change when Paul grew up some more. He was quite comfortable to lean against, though.
And to boot, he didn't smell bad. His clothes smelled of earth and grass, which wasn't surprising considering he spent a lot of time outside. This was mixed with his natural scent, an interesting combination of sweetness and bitterness that Dawn found rather nice. In all honesty, once she smelled him and felt the warmth of his body, she realized she was content to just lay here with him for however long it would take Ash to get back.
She closed her eyes and let her head lull to the side a little bit. She could just about fall asleep like this, if her arms weren't in such an awkward position. She felt so drained, thought. It had been such a stressful day, with almost dying and everything.
If someone had told her that morning that she'd be snuggled up with Paul and enjoying it, she would have thought that person would have to be admitted to a psych ward. She had realized in their time together, though, that Paul wasn't unbearable, he was just difficult. If only he and Ash wouldn't fight as they did. It really wore on Dawn.
Another ten or so minutes passed before they heard Ash calling from the other side of the rock wall: "Dawn! Paul! I'm back! You two still okay?"
The trapped twosome instantly sat up, startled, as if they'd been caught, though there was no way Ash and Brock could tell what they were doing. Dawn felt her cheeks get warm, nonetheless, and her voice held a bit of an edge when she called out. "We're fine," she told Ash. "Did you find some help?"
"I sure did," came the reply. "I found a guy with some machamp that can move the boulders! We'll have you out in no time!"
"Okay," Dawn called, turning around to look at Paul. She smiled weakly at him. "We better get up," she said, realizing that she was actually disappointed that Ash had come back. She really didn't want to move.
"Right," Paul said, waving his hand in an "after you" gesture and, reluctantly, she got to her feet.
Moving carefully in the small space, Dawn realized that her legs and butt had fallen asleep against the hard floor of the cave. She had to grab onto Paul's shoulders at first to stop her from falling right on top of him. In the dim light of her flashlight, she thought she saw him blush, but she couldn't be sure.
Once she was stably on her feet, Paul got up and the wall in front of them began to tremble a little. Instinctively, Dawn stepped closer to Paul, anticipating the rocks to fall down on them, but right before her eyes, the top of the wall began to gradually disappear as boulder after boulder was forced out of its tight fit.
"Dawn," Paul spoke up quietly as this was happening. Dawn was pretty sure this was the first time he had ever spoken her name, and he had her undivided attention, even if both their eyes were on the wall. "One day, I'll explain to you why I have such a problem with Ash."
That brought a smile to Dawn's lips, which she didn't even realize at first. "All right, Paul," Dawn said, boldly giving his upper arm a light squeeze. "I can hardly wait." She felt his arm tense under touch, but he didn't pull away like she'd expect, and her smile widened.
Within minutes, the seemingly impenetrable wall had been reduced to a stack of rocks only a few feet high, which they would need to climb over. Ash appeared on this pile along with Piplup, who jumped right into Dawn's arms the second he saw his trainer. "Piiip!" the little penguin cried, hugging at Dawn's chest.
"Oh Piplup," Dawn said, smiling and hugging her best friend. "I was so worried you'd gotten hurt."
"Hope I didn't keep you waiting too long," Ash called down to them, holding out his hands to help both Paul and Dawn up.
"It wasn't that long," Dawn assured him, shifting Piplup to one arm, scooping up her pack and taking Ash's hand to pull herself up on the rocks in one smooth motion. She glanced back at Paul and saw that he ignored Ash's outstretched hand, electing instead to jump up himself.
He didn't say anything to Ash, though, but simply nodded to him, which surprised Dawn. She expected Paul to have spat out some mean-sounding quip about taking so long. Instead, he walked over to the gentleman who was standing out of the way with his three machamp and said something quietly to him. Dawn supposed he was thanking him, as the man's wrinkled face broke into a smile and he nodded.
Dawn was quick to rush over to the man, halting at Paul's side. He wasn't very tall at all, maybe only a few inches taller than herself, and his head was covered with very thin gray hair. "Thank you so much," she said to him with a smile. "I thought we'd be trapped in there forever!"
He chuckled. "You're both very welcome!" he said exuberantly. "When I heard a young couple was trapped in a cave, I just had to help!"
Dawn's cheeks burned as the man's words, and was about to correct him when Paul simply bowed his head slightly and walked away. She watched him pick up his pack, which lay forgotten on the floor, and sling it around his shoulders. "We aren't actually a couple," she told the man, looking back at him with a nervous smile.
"Oh," he said, sounding very disappointed. "That's too bad. Well, maybe one day!" He laughed again, but Dawn just felt awkward, so she politely excused herself and walked back to Ash and Brock.
"Are you hurt at all?" Brock asked her when she approached.
"No, I'm fine," she said, lightly squeezing Piplup.
"Sorry you got trapped with Paul," Ash said, his eyes on the boy in question, who was leaving the cave.
"He wasn't so bad," Dawn told him, following Ash's gaze to the retreating trainer. She didn't know when she would see Paul again, but for the first time since she had met him, she looked forward to their next encounter.