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Moonlight

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Thoughts of Moon always wiggled their way into Lillie's head at the worst possible times.

Today it was during her second attempt at challenging Kanto's Elite Four. The first time she was just simply not prepared – it was so different than the League in Alola, there was actually paperwork to fill out in advance, in Alola you just had to show up – and the challenge had ended as soon as it began. This time she had been much more ready, with a bag full of healing supplies and a much more fiery drive to win – until Agatha.

The ghost-type master whose team was also all poisonous. Poison was one of the few types Lillie could identify on sight, and that was entirely thanks to Moon. She was never pushy about her love for poison types, but whenever Lillie had a question about them she fielded it with bright-eyed enthusiasm and a confidence in her own knowledge that made her posture puff up like she had been inflated.

It took her a moment to realize that the match was over, and that Agatha was approaching her with a hand extended to shake. She called Snowy back into his ball and took Agatha's hand, all reflex.

“Excellent battle, my dear. Is this your first challenge?”

Was her inexperience that obvious? Agatha, who had been straightforward almost to the point of being crass during the battle, was now plainly making an effort to be polite. Lillie appreciated it.

She shook her head. “My second...”

Agatha crooked an arm around Lillie's and started towards the door back through the other rooms to the lobby. For a moment Lillie wondered why Agatha needed her arm, she had seemed spry enough just a moment ago and she had a cane to lean on – then realized as she took a step forward that her own knees were wobbly.

“You did well! Were you planning on evolving your Nidorina anytime soon? That might give you the edge you need.”

Lillie felt her face blanch and then heat up with embarrassment. “Well, I... to be honest with you, I... didn't know Nina could evolve again... I'm very new to training, I only got my first Pokémon a little over a year ago...”

She wondered often how Nebby was adjusting to life with Moon.

“A year!” Agatha's voice held genuine surprise that tugged Lillie away from her thoughts. “My goodness, girl, you have talent.”

She stopped, her arm around Lillie's bringing her to a halt as well, right before the final door back to the lobby would have swooshed open ahead of them. Agatha reached into a pocket hidden somewhere beneath the folds of her dress and apron, then into the pocket on Lillie's skirt. She felt a weight fall from Agatha's hand, but before she could ask what it was Agatha was in motion again. The door opened and Lillie found herself being whisked through it, out of the atmospheric lighting of Bruno's empty battle chamber into the bright and sterile lobby. She blinked hard, trying to force her eyes to adjust faster.

Agatha chuckled beside her. “It seems you have someone here to congratulate you!”

Lillie wrinkled her nose, both out of confusion and to try and blink even harder. Who did she know in Kanto who would want to meet her all the way out at the Indigo Plateau?

She heard the surprise visitor before she saw her.

“Lillie! It's been a while!”

She couldn't hold back a gasp. Agatha patted a hand against her arm.

“I'll leave the two of you to catch up. Hope to see you again soon, girl!”

As soon as Agatha let her go, she was wrapped up in Moon's arms, pressed into her shoulder and shrouded in the smell of her laundry softener and her hair. When they drew apart, after a long few moments, Lillie swiped the back of her hand across her cheeks. Because her eyes weren't quite adjusted yet, she told herself, not because she was tearing up. She wasn't a crybaby anymore. Especially not over things that weren't sad at all.

“What are you doing here?”

Moon smiled, eyes crinkling almost closed, and spoke without unlooping her arms from around Lillie's waist. “You were challenging the Elite Four, of course I had to come see. You were amazing!”

“Y-you saw...?”

Moon glanced over her shoulder, then jabbed her thumb towards one of the huge screens lining the walls, flashing with ads for the Pokémart and the trainers' hostel. “There are cameras all the way through. They have an announcer and everything. That's why they have you fill out your Pokémon's names on the intake paperwork, they have to make the graphical overlays in advance.”

Lillie felt a mortified heat flooding all the way from her cheeks to her chest. Had she done anything embarrassing between the start of her challenge and now? Were her clothes wrinkled, was the way she threw Pokéballs weird, did she have something in her teeth...?

Moon noticed, of course, because they were still standing scant inches away from each other in a loose embrace.

“You're so cute when you're flustered,” she teased, smiling. “Come on, I'll buy us dinner. I want to hear about every step you've taken since you got off the boat from Alola!”

Lillie stopped by the Pokécenter on the way out, watching the six colourful balls flashing as the nurse clicked them into place in the slots behind the counter. It really had been a long time since she left Alola.

Moon caught Lillie's hand in her own and they walked together outside and all the way to the edge of the cliff next to the waterfall. Moon put a hand in her pocket, frowned, then patted herself down with the hand not holding Lillie's.

“Oh,” she said, freezing in place. Her dark eyebrows scrunched into a frown. “I forgot. There's no ride pagers in Kanto.”

“Oh!” Lillie echoed. She dropped Moon's hand, reluctantly, and pulled her backpack off, digging for the Pokéballs she had just gotten back. “Don't worry, I have someone with me to help with that!”

She kept an eye on Moon as the ball opened and red light flashed out – a little part of her was hoping Moon would be impressed, but once the look on her face suggested she was very impressed, Lillie felt embarrassment flood up her body like ice water.

Moon held out a hand, and the Pidgeot standing in front of her with a chest-puffing air of pride dipped his head to sniff at her palm. “Wow. Who's this?”

“This is Poppo!” Lillie reached forward to adjust the silk scarf tied around his neck, not because it was lopsided or loose but because she needed to fidget with something. Poppo rustled his wings and Lillie could tell that he'd be rolling his eyes if he could. “We met just outside of Pallet Town. He's a good flier, I ride on his back all the time. Poppo, do you think you could carry us both?”

Poppo considered them both. Moon was just a little bit shorter than Lillie, and Poppo's glossy crest reached as high as her shoulders. Lillie had been more than a little alarmed when the tiny Pidgey that could sit on her hand got big enough to use her whole arm as a perch, and then very alarmed when she found out he would be getting even huger. She'd gotten so much more used to being around Pokémon – the only ones that still made her uneasy were wild ones, or ones that were taller than her. She figured she could file that one under wise as opposed to wimpy.

Finally, Poppo nodded, and turned his back towards the two girls, squatting down so they could climb on. Lillie sat in front, hands firm around his silk scarf, and Moon sat behind her, arms around her waist again and squeezed close.

“It's a little chilly out,” Moon muttered. “I'm used to Alolan weather.”

It wasn't that cool yet, Lillie didn't think. The sun was going down, yes, but the sky was still just barely orange and the air was still warm. It took her a moment to realize Moon was shy.

She didn't know what to do with that. She was supposed to be the shy one.

“Wh-where's that restaurant you wanted to visit...?”

“The south side of Celadon...”

Lillie tapped Poppo on the side of the neck, and he unfurled his massive wings and leapt from the cliff, the cool rush of air around them forcing an end to Lillie and Moon's conversation. Once they banked up to cruising altitude, which was considerably lower than Poppo would fly on his own, Lillie felt Moon unhook one arm from her waist and return a second later, beanie clenched in her fist.

Lillie didn't know quite what made this different than the hug back in the foyer. She supposed it was the fact that they'd hugged plenty of times before, back in Alola, but this was like the longest and closest hug ever. It was more like holding, really.

They'd probably be doing a lot more holding in the future, now that they were girlfriends.

It had been kind of a slow burn thing, starting with a few text messages here and there and developing into video calls that lasted all night – the time difference wasn't too drastic between Alola and Kanto, but they managed to wreck their sleep schedules on a regular basis regardless. It was just so wonderful for Lillie to have a stable person in her life while she travelled, and Moon loved hearing about how Kanto had changed and how it had stayed the same. Even when they didn't have any exciting news to share their conversations flowed easy and the silences were comfortable. Lillie had fallen asleep more than once with her Pokégear propped up next to her on its charger, watching Moon quietly click away at her computer.

When Moon asked Lillie if maybe they could make this into a thing, like a dating thing, a girlfriends thing, Lillie said yes before she even had time to get embarrassed.

They had been out of touch for almost two weeks leading up to the day of Lillie's Elite Four challenge – there was zero wifi in the gloomy caves of Victory Road, and not much more in the Indigo Plateau hostel. That was a good chunk of the time they had been dating. This was the first time they had met in person as girlfriends, and Lillie was starting to feel the same nervous butterflies she suspected were making Moon so quiet all of a sudden. For the first time they wouldn't have to blow each other a kiss and hang up at the end of the night.

Would things stay the same now that it was happening in real life? Would it fall apart once it became obvious that Lillie had no idea what she was doing?

The rest of the flight to Celadon was silent, save for the rush of wind over Poppo's wings.

They landed on a hill just outside the city limits. The sun had gone down further over the course of the short journey, and artificial lights were starting to flicker on to keep the night away. From where they were they could see almost everything to the south – the tall streetlamps along Cycling Road fading into white pinpricks in the distance, the glimmer of the water in the bay, and the vast open swath of the Safari Zone that opened up into the sunset-stained sea.

“It's beautiful,” Moon muttered, tugging her beanie back on and adjusting her bangs, “it reminds me a little of Alola.”

Lillie raised her eyebrows at Moon. She wasn't usually one to remark on the wonders of nature, especially not the ones that had anything to do with Alola. Lillie couldn't remember Moon's exact words, but she'd said once that Alola didn't suit her. Something about the tropical air and the heat. Lillie imagined it would be a bit much, especially coming from one of the parts of Kanto that got snow, but she had lived in Alola her whole life. Even now that she had spent time in Kanto, she couldn't really understand what Moon had meant.

Moon interrupted Lillie's thoughts with a smile and an outstretched hand. “C'mon. Dinner, remember?”

Lillie gave Poppo a little scratch on the head, and he fluttered with silent ease into a tree at the edge of the forest ringing the city. Lillie turned and slipped her hand into Moon's.

“You're gonna leave him out here?”

Lillie nodded. “He can take care of himself, and I trust him not to run away or anything.”

Poppo cooed noisily from his perch, as if the very idea was preposterous.

“I should have known you'd be a weird trainer,” Moon said, and before Lillie could ask what that meant she set off at a jog, tugging Lillie along behind her.

Moon clearly knew the streets of Celadon. She weaved through a couple of back alleys, dodging the few pedestrians that were still wandering the streets, and stopped at an unassuming awning between two huge glass storefronts. The bigger shops were closed and the only indication that this one was still open was a simple cardboard sign on the door, a stark contrast to the snazzy neon ones most other places had.

“Is takeout sushi okay?”

Leave it to Moon to only ask now. Lillie liked that about her, though – she thought that they balanced each other out very nicely. When Moon was bullheaded Lillie could be rational, and when Lillie was anxious Moon could be confident.

“I love sushi,” she replied.

“Good, because I made the order in advance days ago.”

Moon was in and out of the restaurant with their order so fast that Lillie hadn't stopped laughing when she returned.

“It's not that funny!” Moon huffed.

“It kind of is,” Lillie said, “I'm sorry!”

As a gesture of apology Lillie took one of the plastic bags filled with takeout containers from Moon so they could hold hands yet again on the way back to the edge of the woods. Lillie decided she liked holding hands – Moon's hands were toasty warm in the cool almost-night air, her fingers slender and dexterous. She tried not to wonder if that meant her own hands were chubby and clammy.

“I'd never eaten outside before I came to Kanto,” Lillie said as they settled on the grass and untied their bags of food. “I don't think I ever even sat on the floor to eat before.”

Moon pulled two cans out of her bag – lemonade, Lillie's favourite – and smiled. “It's pretty great, isn't it?”

“I love it! How does food taste so much better this way?”

Moon snapped apart her disposable chopsticks and clapped her hands together eagerly. “I think we need to do some field research on that topic.”

Lillie realized once the first bite was past her lips that she was so hungry it felt like her body was empty right down to her bones. She'd been too anxious to eat very much earlier, and the adrenaline from the Elite Four battles and the excitement from seeing Moon had kept her distracted. It seemed Moon was just as ravenous, because they demolished more than half of the meal in complete silence.

Moon was the first to speak, after sipping at her lemonade and clearing her throat. “I just realized,” she said, “this is kinda our first date, isn't it?”

Lillie swallowed before she was finished chewing and choke-coughed in alarm, a splash of lemonade falling onto her skirt before she could put it down safely.

“Woah, careful!”

“I'm fine,” Lillie wheezed. She was glad she'd stopped wearing bright whites shortly after she arrived in Kanto, but she still didn't want to smell like lemons until her next visit to a laundromat. She reached into her pocket, expecting to find her handkerchief, but her fingers collided with something smooth, hard, and cold.

Of course. The mysterious gift from Agatha. She'd been so surprised she had forgotten it. She fished both it and the handkerchief out and placed the gift in her lap, finally taking a proper look at it as she rubbed at the spill.

It was a glossy black rock, almost an oval but shaped out of rough-hewn flat planes. It reflected light strangely, banded with white the way Lillie would have expected from a shiny rock but also holding it and exuding a faint and eerie glow.

“Wow, that's a big one. Where did you get it?”

“Agatha gave it to me after our battle.” Moon picked it up and twisted it this way and that. Always the scientist, examining everything. “Um... what is it, exactly...?”

Moon smiled. “It's a moon stone. Snowy needed an ice stone to evolve, right? It's the same thing, but for different Pokémon.”

“Oh! Like Nidorina, right?”

“Exactly.”

Lillie stuffed her handkerchief back into her pocket and dug into her backpack for Nina's ball. “Agatha told me after we battled that evolving Nina would give me an egde, I didn't even know Nina could evolve again...” She paused as she found the ball and released Nina onto the grass. Nina did the same thing she did every time she got out – stretched her front legs, then her back legs, then shook her whole body and sent her ears flapping against her head, then trotted happily to sit beside Lillie.

Lillie squeezed the moon stone in one hand and gave Nina a pat on the head with the other. She didn't expect to feel so... apprehensive.

Moon noticed, of course. “What's wrong?”

“I don't know... I like Nina the way she is. I've never seen what she'll evolve into. But she'll be stronger that way, and the only reason I have to not evolve her is sentimental.” She sighed. “I guess that isn't very trainer-ish of me to say, huh...”

Moon collected the empty takeout containers into one bag and pushed the still-full ones aside so she could scoot closer to Lillie and rest her head against her shoulder. She tucked both of her arms around Lillie's and stared down at the stone with her.

“It's very Lillie of you to say,” Moon said. “And you don't have to do anything you don't want to. The stone isn't going to get up and leave just because you don't rush into things.”

Always the rational to her anxious. Lillie sighed and let her head fall to rest against Moon's. “I guess you're right.”

“I usually am,” Moon replied with a giggle.

They sat together in silence for a moment. Nina rested her head in Lillie's lap, waiting for more pats.

“Thank you,” Lillie said, voice almost breaking over the words. “For everything you've done for me since we met.”

She could feel Moon's smile against her shoulder. “You know, I thought when I got here I'd feel like I was home again, because I grew up here, and Alola doesn't feel like home even though my mom's there.” A sigh. “But I was actually homesick, until I finally saw you.”

Lillie's heart leapt. She didn't know what to say.

Thankfully, Moon wasn't done talking. “Even though I spent my childhood in Kanto, I only really grew up once I met you in Alola. You know what I mean?”

Lillie nodded vigorously. She knew exactly what Moon meant. It was the same for her, though she hadn't known how to word it. She was such a baby until she met Moon and saw all of Alola.

Moon breathed an airy breath out of her nose, a soft laugh. “So, what I mean to say is, you're welcome, but mostly thank you. You make me so happy.”

Lillie took a deep breath to steady her nerves.

Their first kiss was clumsy and lopsided, and their lips tasted like sushi, but the air was calm and just a little warm and the stars and the city lights illuminated the night, the same twinkling way Lillie's heart lit up in her chest. She decided that as far as first kisses went, it was perfect.