The saying is "It's better to give than to receive", but sometimes the ones who give the most deserve to receive a gift too.
Discarded wrapping paper lay on the floor of the lounge and silence finally settled about the room as the other three occupants revealed their own presents.
"…Are… are you serious?" whispered Glacia, eyes still locked on the interior of her own gift box.
Drake's narrowed gaze slid over toward where the Champion sat, a sheepish look on his face and a box of his own resting nearby. Except his was full of tissues.
Steven barely managed a nod in the affirmative before another coughing fit took hold.
"You didn't go to Sinnoh just to get these, did you?" Phoebe held up the polished key stone between her fingers and fixed Steven with an accusatory glare.
Grabbing another tissue, his silence was answer enough.
"It's December," stated Glacia.
This time Steven found his voice, though it was raspy and dry. "Yes, and?"
"You went to Sinnoh in December."
"I had to pick up the last keystone for the set." Steven sniffled again.
"No one goes to Sinnoh in December."
"I –" Another cough. "I did."
"And look what that got you," Glacia folded her arms with the same look her mother had given her when she'd run outside without her coat.
"Yeah, Boss. You don't sound so hot…"
Steven tried to sigh, and all that came out was a wheeze and another cough.
"Aye, we appreciate the gifts, lad. But not at the cost of yer own health."
"I'll be fine. It's just a cold. Nothing some sleep can't fix." He gingerly rose from his seat with a dismissive wave and shuffled toward the door to their quarters.
"Steven, wait!" Phoebe called before he could leave, and Glacia shot her a look. "It's just… well…"
"Thanks for the stones, Boss. It means a lot," Sidney finished for her. "Now go get some rest."
With a genuine smile, Steven made his departure. "Merry Christmas, everyone."
Glacia was enjoying her morning cup of tea, still mulling over the events from the previous night. The key stone in her palm glinted with a rainbow of hues as she cradled it back and forth, lost in thought.
She'd known the Champion for quite some time now, and she still found herself amazed at the kinds of stunts he'd pull simply for the sake of others. This wasn't the first time he'd up and vanished only to come back with something rare and fantastical to give away, claiming he did it for the thrill of the adventure.
Granted, she never knew what sort of person Steven had been before he bested the League, but she certainly knew he never wanted for much; his father's estate had seen to that. But from the resigned eye rolls from Metagross every time Steven would return and excitedly share his latest find, Glacia suspected he'd always been like this.
Which was why she wasn't wholly surprised when Phoebe blustered into the lounge with both Sableye and Claydol hot on her heels, the latter whining in hollow, distressed tones.
"Glacia, maybe you can talk some sense into him?"
Calmly taking another sip of tea, Glacia asked the question, even though she fully knew what the answer would be. "Talk sense into who, dear?"
Phoebe threw her hands up in defeat. "Steven, that's who! Cradily showed me the thermometer. He's got an awful fever and he's still determined to fly all the way to Rustboro tonight, and that's after he's due for an appearance this afternoon in Lilycove for the Holiday Festival! He doesn't even have a voice, how is he going to give season's greetings to anyone!?" Claydol whined again, all eyes turned to the ice-type trainer in a worried look.
Tucking the key stone back into her pocket, Glacia stood and called forth her Froslass.
"I'll see what I can do," she muttered before slipping from the room.
Phoebe deflated into a nearby chair with a defeated sigh, staring at the two concerned pokemon still hovering nearby. "Not to mention he's the keynote speaker at the New Year Gala in a few days! What are we gonna do if he's still sick then?"
"Well, Wallace would kill us if we canceled the Gala," said Sidney as he came into the room and leaned over the back of the chair to look down at his fellow Elite.
"I know we can't cancel it," she retorted, "but how is the evening going to go if the host is absent?"
Sidney scratched the side of his head in thought. "Aren't we all hosts, technically? It's the League's Gala. Although if it means I don't have to wear that tux anymore…"
He trailed off as Phoebe suddenly shot straight up in her seat.
"Uhh, what's it?"
She spun and grabbed Sidney by the shoulders, beaming.
"Sid, you're the best!"
With a twirl, she sashayed around the chair and gave him a peck on the cheek. "Quick, go find Drake, and I'll get Glacia."
When he only continued to stare at her with a dumbfounded look, she giggled as she danced out the door, "I'll explain when we're all together. And you better have that tuxedo ready!"
Steven wasn't exactly sure what time it was when he finally found the strength to sit up in bed. His room was dark and quiet with the shades drawn, and he turned to look at the clock on the nightstand.
The display read 7:08 pm, and Steven began to panic. He had to be at his father's holiday party in under an hour.
Ignoring the pounding in his head as he swung his feet to the floor, a round of coughing wracked his frame and set his throat on fire. Sure, he felt like he might collapse at any minute, but he promised he father he'd be there, and he wasn't about to break that promise.
At least until a pair of blue eyes materialized out of the darkness and he stumbled back onto the bed in surprise.
Glacia's Froslass moaned a quiet song as she waved him back beneath the sheets.
"But I –"
She sent him a narrow glare, and he faltered only a moment before stubbornly trying to rise again.
"I… I can't be late…" he coughed again, voice barely a whisper, and Froslass continued to disapprove. "I already missed one appointment today…"
A deep rumble from the doorway froze him in place. Metagross' stern gaze cut through the dim light of the room, and Steven couldn't hide a wince.
"Metagross… You know how much this party meant to Dad. I have to go."
But his partner wouldn't budge. Instead, the television remote lifted from the dresser in a faint blue outline before landing in Steven's lap.
Metagross's eyes flicked toward the tv, and Steven gave it a questioning look.
His question was cut short as Froslass darted forward and toggled the power before changing the channel to the Buzznav news.
Steven sat in silence as the latest stories scrolled across the chipper news anchor's desk. His patience was wearing thin though.
"This is just wasting time. I have to get ready." He moved to stand back up, stifling another coughing fit when the anchor's voice piped back up.
'…And the holiday festivities were in full swing today in Lilycove, as the Lilycove Department Store's Ninth Annual Great Gift Giveaway took place with an unexpected special guest…'
Steven spun to face the television, just as the studio cut to a video clip of the event. Sitting at the center of the holiday display was Glacia, dressed in her Sinnohan cold-weather best, smiling and handing out gifts to the line of waiting children.
As the cheery anchor droned on about how wonderful it was to have one of the Elite make a surprise appearance, Steven turned to look at his partner again, and Metagross gave a reassuring hum.
But even with the knowledge that his absence from Lilycove was excused, Steven was still not convinced it would be in Rustboro, and he was halfway out of bed again when his phone buzzed with a message.
A knowing rumble came from Metagross as Froslass floated over and handed Steven the device.
Sniffling, Steven thumbed through the screen until the message from his father popped up, revealing a picture of the Devon pre-party activities. Smiling back at him was a selfie of his father and Drake locked in a hearty embrace.
'Sorry to hear you're not feeling well, son. We'll have an extra drink for you!'
Just as quickly as the phone was handed to him, it was snatched away by Froslass and replaced with a dose of cough medicine. Steven obediently downed the medicine before Froslass returned to place one of her icy hands against his chest. With a gentle shove, she nudged Steven back into the waiting pillows where he stayed, too weak to protest any further.
As Froslass turned the sheets up, Steven's gaze slid over to his starter, and Metagross grated a satisfied noise. The only thing he was going to be allowed to do was rest. They would take care of everything else.
It had been several days, and while Steven's fever had finally broken, his voice had not yet recovered. At least nowhere to the point that he could deliver his speech at the New Year Gala. Which was why he found himself again barricaded in his quarters with Skarmory diligently standing guard at the door.
"Skarmory, please," he rasped, "A League sponsored event can't be missing the Champion."
But his pokemon would not be swayed, and it gave a short screech and a clack of its beak.
However, Steven also had a stubborn streak of his own.
"Who put you up to this? Glacia again?"
Skarmory put on its best poker face.
Skarmory was not a very good poker player, and its head slightly tilted at Steven's latest guess, causing the Champion to sigh.
"What could she possibly be thinking?"
But even though it gave away the mastermind behind the plan, Skarmory still would not budge. And as the evening drew on, Steven had little choice but to accept his fate. The clock ticked over to 6:00 pm and he was not on the stage at the Slateport Convention Center addressing a crowd of merry party-goers, so Steven closed his book and turned out the light.
"Happy New Year," he mumbled to the lone occupant of the room.
A gentle knock on the door roused Steven the next morning, and he blearily sat up as his visitor turned the handle and slid inside.
"'Morning!" chimed Phoebe, as she came up to the bedside bearing a tray filled with an impressive looking breakfast spread.
As Steven eyed the treats now resting in his lap, he suddenly noticed that Phoebe wasn't alone. The rest of the Elites filed into the room and assembled at the foot of the bed.
"Happy New Year, Boss," said Sidney, wearing a lopsided grin. "First off, we wanted to apologize for basically forcing you to take a break."
"But you really did need one," said Phoebe, "And we all know how much of a workaholic you can be sometimes…"
"So hopefully you understand that it was really for your own good," Glacia finished, arms crossed.
"Besides, it all worked out in the end," added Sidney, nodding toward the breakfast tray.
Glancing down, Steven finally noticed the newspaper tucked beneath one of the plates. Unfolding the paper, the front page was splashed with a photo of last night's Gala. Standing center stage in a shimmering gown of midnight blue was Phoebe, and by her side looking only slightly frazzled, was Sidney, tuxedo in perfect order.
"It was a mighty fine speech, if I might say," said Drake with a nod of his head.
"So now that we know it's possible for Steven Stone to take a day off and the world won't end," Glacia's tone was firm, but there was a warm smile on her lips, "We've come together and given you a little gift."
Beneath where the newspaper had sat was a single white envelope, and Steven scooped it up and opened the flap.
His brow arched as he scanned the contents.
"A two week trip to Alola?"
All four Elites nodded in unison.
"Guys, while I appreciate it, I don't think I need a vaca –" he started.
"It's our vacation," said Phoebe, "Together. So you're coming along whether you like it or not."
"But we can't all go –" Steven protested, and this time it was Glacia who cut him off.
"Drake and I will stay here to look after the League. It's the least we can do to give you the peace of mind to actually enjoy your trip."
Steven still looked on, at a loss for words.
"Just say 'thanks', Boss," Sidney said with a wink. "You do so much for us. It's high time we paid you back."
"Now just relax and enjoy your breakfast, we can talk about the details later," said Phoebe as she ushered the rest of the Elite toward the door.
As surprised as he was by the whole situation, Steven couldn't help but smile. "I, uh – everyone, thank you."
"It's no trouble at all, lad," and Steven definitely saw Drake's smile quirk beneath his mustache.
But as Steven moved to set his gift down and tuck into his breakfast, something caught his eye, and he called out to Phoebe's retreating form.
"Wait, why are there four plane tickets?"
Phoebe giggled as she poked her head back into the room. "Oh, I forgot! Wallace is coming too! See ya!"
With a wave, she ducked out just in time to miss Steven nearly choking on his toast.