Chapter Five: Costume Play
Meal paid for and Pokemon withdrawn--making sure to leave a generous tip for his friend--, Jackson escorted Valerie back to his motorcycle. His boxed and bagged steak hanging from the handlebar, he and his date made their way to their next destination.
The exterior of Jackson’s home matched the others in the neighborhood, with the only differences being the garden hose coiled up by the house and the stone birdbath standing in the middle of the lawn, a decorative Dratini coiled around the stand holding up the actual bath.
Unlike the almost vacant exterior and front yard, the interior of the home was lavishly bedecked by paintings of dragons--both Pokemon and non-Pokemon-- and swords and even a set of chain mail armor that were possibly hundreds of years old restored to their former glory. Along the walls were also shelves holding detailed dragon statues, a lot of them quite majestic and fierce with a couple bearing a glittery finish on the scales. There were bookshelves sitting side-by-side on the wall in the back of the living room behind the couch full of roleplay games, fantasy and adventure novels, along with comic books and mangas. Some of these items were vintage and kept in excellent condition thanks to gentle handling and care. By the television set was another bookshelf stuffed with movies and anime.
Upon entering the house, Valerie was quite taken aback at the quaint charm of the vintage décor. Her jaw partially dropped at the paintings, old swords, and the chain mail. Reaching up, she very carefully drew her fingers along them.
“This reminds me of the Battle Chateau.”
Coming to a stop, the young man let out his Pokemon and turned to her with a wide grin.
“I… actually never been there,” he confessed, gesturing with a tilt of his head for her to follow him. “So! Costumes! I keep them in my room.”
“I’m a Marchioness, myself,” she informed with a light chuckle, moving to follow him down a hall where more wall art was displayed.
She was led into a room that was just as decorated as the living room, the walls home to paintings, a CostumeCon poster depicting people in various Pokemon costumes clustered together in one crowd and a DragonCon poster with every single discovered Dragon-type Pokemon amassed. The bed was draped with a large and thick comforter with the image of a Dragonite rising out of the ocean and an old Dratini plush with a prominent stitch located on the side. Right next to it was a nightstand with a lamp sitting on top of it and one of his comic books with a bookmark jutting out from between two pages. On one side of the bedroom, next to a dresser, was a bench press and a set of dumbbells.
“A Marchioness? That’s awesome!”
Pulling open the closet doors, he pulled out the Charizard costume first. It, like the others were bodysuits, bulk added and sculpted into the creature’s actual figure with a detachable head.
“Oooh…” Valerie stepped forward, reaching out to touch the scales sewn into the costume, appearing very much impressed. “Oh, yes, there are ranks at the Chateau. A trainer starts as a Baron or Baroness, move up to a Viscount or Viscountess, then to an Earl or Countess. From there, they join the ranks of nobility by becoming a Marquis or Marchioness, then a Duke or Dutchess. The topmost trainers are Grand Dukes and Dutchesses.”
“Nice… Maybe… I should go there sometime…” He looked down at the costume, then brought his eyes back up to her. “Want… to see what it looks like on me?”
The young woman’s smile extended.
“Yes, of course.”
Beaming, Jackson made an excited dash to the restroom to change. Re-entering the room sideways as to not to disturb the wings, he stood before the doorway and uttered a dead-on impression of a Charizard. Like his other costumes--and the Spinda he wore at work--it was restricting due to the bulk, but he was used to it.
Arching her brows with a light gasp of feigned horror, she brought a hand to her mouth, a grin gracing her lips.
“Oh, my! How frightening!”
Smirking from underneath the costume, Jackson slowly stomped closer with his clawed hands extended in front of him, releasing a deep, playful growl from deep within his throat.
Giggling, the woman moved to meet him halfway.
“Oooh? What are you going to do with those big claws, hmmm?”
Pausing to contemplate for a moment, he brings his hands to her abdomen to tickle her with another playful growl.
In response, Valerie squeaked and began laughing, partially shielding herself with her arms and long sleeves.
“That tickles! Hahahaha!”
Chuckling in his Charizard voice, he ceased tickling her and gently and bashfully took her hands in his. Valerie wasn’t the only one surprised by this. For some reason he didn’t even know, he felt more confident in costume. Quickly releasing her hands, he removed the head of his costume to gaze down into her eyes with a blush.
Lowering her gaze, she chuckled softly.
“You look dashing in that costume,” she said, eyeing it over. “It doesn’t really look very heavy, either.”
The man’s blush deepened.
“I-I do, huh? It… it isn’t… I guess ‘cause I work out.” He flexed his arm once, though nothing would be noticeable thanks to the costume, then dropped it at his side. “… Is… your outfit heavy?”
She nodded once.
“Hmm. Thirty-three pounds.”
Jackson blinked, a look of unexpected surprise stamping itself upon his face.
“And you wear that ALL day? Dang! You must be strong.”
Valerie giggled again, a wider smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.
“I’m stronger than I look., believe me.”
“Heh… I believe it. You work out often, too, I’m guessing?”
“I do quite a bit of squats, curl-ups, and weight training,” she replied. “I often do it with my Pokemon--after all, training the body is important along with training one’s Pokemon.”
Looking quite impressed, the man nodded in agreement.
“Yeah, that’s true. Uh… so…” He trailed of as Dratini slithered into the room, slipping between his feet and nuzzling his head against Valerie’s leg. “Hehe… Dratini really likes you…”
Valerie smiled gently down at the small dragon.
“He certainly does.” She let out another giggle. “He’s very adorable. It seems like Fraxure is the one that doesn’t care for me.”
“Nah.” Jackson dismissively waved his hand. “It was just that meat discussion that put him off. I know my Pokemon.”
“Really?” she questioned, still retaining her smile. “Because I wouldn’t be surprised if your Pokemon didn’t like me because of my… preferences.”
“Fraxure isn’t like that,” Jackson assured. “Shelgon probably won’t like you at first. She, uh… tends to hold grudges against those who beat her.”
“The same Shelgon that Sylveon handily beat?” she ventured, figuring she already knew the answer but wanted to be sure.
“The very same.” His ears catching footsteps, he turns around to spot Shelgon entering the room. “Hey, baby.”
Shelgon regarded her trainer with affection, then glared up at Valerie. The woman just gave him a warm smile, bending over to extend her hand to her, but not touch her.
“Such a sweetie.”
Continuing to glower, Shelgon averted her gaze. Smile fading into disproval, Jackson shook his head.
“Come on, Shelgon. Be polite. She’s a guest.”
Sighing, Shelgon turned back to Valerie and reluctantly sniffed her hand. Chuckling softly, stroking her body a couple of times before kneeling down and leaning in to plant o kiss on the top of her back. The Dragon-type scrunched up her eyes at the physical contact, not really liking it, but allowed it.
“She’s adorable. All of your Pokemon are.”
Leaning away from Shelgon, she scooped up Dratini in her arms and pushed herself back up into a standing position. Dratini sank in the woman’s arms and nuzzled into her neck with a soft coo.
Smile returning, Jackson reached back to rub the back of his neck.
“… Thanks. So are… your Pokemon.”
Valerie smiled with a nod in acknowledgement.
“You said you had other costumes besides this one?”
Slipping the head back on, he walked over to his closet to pull out the Dragonite and Pikachu costumes, placing them and them down on the bed for her to view. The women looked them over, but her eyes were predominately on the Pikachu.
“This Pikachu one here looks pretty cute…”
“You wanna see me in that, don’t you?”
She turned her attention to him with a smirk, and even sending him a wink.
“I wouldn’t mind. I believe I have a Dedenne costume at home.”
Blushing harder underneath his costume, Jackson picked up the Pikachu costume and went back to the restroom. Upon returning, carrying the Charizard in his short arms, he did his best impression of the Pokemon he was dressed as.
Eyes lighting up and smile broadening in delight, Valerie emitted a squeal.
“Awww! You’re so cute! How precious!”
His cheeks growing hotter, Jackson quickly waddled over to the closet to hang the Charizard back up and toddled up to her. Shifting Dratini into one arm, Valerie brought her hand to the large head of the Pikachu costume to pet it.
“I prefer beautiful things, but you are just too cute!”
The young man’s face was practically burning, and was thankful she couldn’t see how flustered he was, but by the tone of his voice, it was distinguishable.
Taking notice of the flustered note in his voice, she leaned in slightly.
“Hmm. You like that, don’t you?” she asked with a shred of teasing, caressing his cheek and chin.
Though he couldn’t feel her hand, he could see her arm, and he knew exactly what she was doing. Stunned, and too flustered to form a complete sentence, stammers incoherence, growing more embarrassed the more nonsense he utters.
Retracting her hand, Valerie took a step back.
“You’re adorable, stammering like that. I take it you’re not used to women complimenting you?”
“N-not… that… often,” he managed to say.
She nodded in comprehension.
“I understand. You don’t often go out on dates, do you?”
“No. I don’t,” the young man confessed. “I… really appreciate you… going out with me.”
“Well, I noticed you were quite interested in me,” she stated, smoothing her hand over Dratini’s head. “I suspected you were, but until you challenged me and said the stakes were one date…”
She giggled, not bothering to finish. He knew what happened.
“Heh… I guess… that was a bit… much.”
“Again, you didn’t need to put that as the stake. You could’ve just asked me,” she reminded him.
“I’ll… um, keep that in mind… Would… you like… to… go out again sometime?”
Taking her hand away from Dratini’s head, she tapped her chin, as if in contemplation, but she already had her answer.
Jackson placed his costumed hands on his cheeks, filling with excited anticipation.
“Y… you might? You’d consider it?”
Beaming with eyes alight, Dratini gave Valerie an encouraging squeal. She, however, didn’t need it, and reacted with a teasing smile.
“I didn’t say no, did I?”
Jackson couldn’t help but leap once, unable contain himself.
“Awesome! When would… you like… to go?”
The young woman found his enthusiasm amusing, her smile stretching a bit wider.
“… How does Friday sound? Before game night?”
Jackson could hardly believe it. The date didn’t turn out to be a disaster after all! She must have had a good time with him if she was willing to go out with him again. As he calmed a small dosage, ideas already formed inside his head.