Moon sighed, as she collapsed in her Champion's chair. It was a full day of challengers, and she was exhausted. Either the challengers were getting stronger or the Elite Four needed to beef up their Pokemon.
As Moon gently petted her Decidueye, she couldn't help but feel a pang of emptiness. She didn't quite know what was bringing it on, but she noticed it about two weeks ago. She still enjoyed battling and her Championship duties, but she felt like she needed something...more. She felt restless yet exhausted at the same time.
She had been the on-going Champion for five years. Five years of battling each hopeful challenger after another. Oh, of course, there were the repeat visitors - Hau, Professor Kukui, Gladion - but Moon knew they did it only to test their strength or for kicks. None of them were actually interested in becoming the Champion with their other duties.
Hala decided to become a full time Elite Four member, so Hau took over as a trial captain on Melemele Island. Professor Kukui was busy as ever with research. And Gladion took over as President of the Aether Foundation. Moon reflected that they were all going on the paths that were expected of them. There was no doubt Hau would become a trial captain, and likely would be a kahuna eventually. Even though there was some doubt that Gladion would actually be willing to take over the Aether Foundation, given everything that happened. However, the welfare of the Pokemon and the true mission of the Foundation won out, and Gladion was making sure it was doing the best it could.
Bzzzt! Moon glanced down to see a text message. Speak of the devil...
What are you up to?
Sitting here, waiting for another challenger.
Do you ever get a break?
Ehhhh....I'm kind of tempted to fake being sick so I could skip League for a day.
Moon could see Gladion rolling his eyes as he typed a response back. You would.
Moon pouted as she typed a reply. Hey, we all need vacations! What are you up to?
Paperwork Moon could see Gladion sighing heavily.
Well, look who's procrastinating now.
I'm not procrastinating! I just needed a ... dammit.
Moon chuckled. A break?
See? We all need them.
Moon watched as the ellipses bubble would go active, then disappear then go active again. Moon had a pretty good idea what Gladion was typing. They hadn't been good friends for the last five years without learning about each other's quirks.
Do you want to skip duties tomorrow and just go somewhere?
Moon coughed, as that was completely not what she was expected. She typed back quickly. Go somewhere? Are you serious? Hmm...as long as it doesn't involve anything dangerous, I think I'm game. I'm pretty sure I can wiggle a day off. Hala has been complaining about his back lately, and if he is game, the rest of the E4 just agree with what he says.
Well, I'm President, so I'll just ask Wicke to stand in for me.
? Not Lillie?
There was no response for a few minutes. Finally, the animated ellipses popped up and a few seconds later, a message arrived.
She and Hau left today for a trip to Hoenn. Moon could see a vein popping on Gladion's forehead.
Ehhhhh?! What about trial duties?
/headdesk Of course you would only think about trial duties.
Moon then remembered something. ....oh. I see. Moon couldn't help but grin.
Just stop now, please. I know you are smirking at me. Moon absolutely loved teasing Gladion about Hau and Lillie.
Moon paused for a second as she thought back to that time. She contemplated telling Gladion, but then decided it would be better to wait until after Lillie and Hau were safely overseas.
So I'll see you tomorrow? Do you want me to meet you at the Aether Foundation?
No, I can pick you up at your apartment.
Moon had decided to rent an apartment Malie City to make the commute to the League easier. As she started to type a reply, the doors opened, indicated a new challenger.
Oops, gotta go. I'll see you tomorrow. Just knock when you arrive.
Even if she wouldn't admit it, Moon liked being able to sleep in an extra hour. With League, there was always prep beforehand, so she usually had to get there by eight, which meant leaving by seven and getting up at six. Knowing Gladion wouldn't be there any earlier than nine, Moon set an alarm for eight. She was deep in sleep, when she was awoken to gentle shaking. She begrudgingly opened an eye to see Gladion looking down at her.
"What are you doing in my bedroom? And what time is it?" Moon managed to get out groggily.
Gladion sighed. "You gave me a key to your place when you were traveling in Kanto for a champion tour, remember? So I could bring in the mail?"
"Hmmmm, that doesn't answer what time it is."
Moon sensed Gladion roll his eyes. "You didn't ask, but it's eight-thirty."
Moon was more awake now. "Wait. Really?" She maneuvered over to grab her phone from her endtable. "Ugh, I set the alarm for eight PM and not AM. I fail."
She looked up at Gladion to see his watchful gaze observing her. "Are you ok? I haven't seen you this exhausted looking in a long time."
Moon lightly groaned. "Thanks for the wonderful compliment on my looks." She patted the space next to her on the bed. "Sit for a moment until I can mentally wake up." Closing her eyes, Moon failed to catch the light blush that appeared on Gladion's cheeks. A moment later, Moon felt the weight of the bed shift as Gladion sat down.
"So what do you want to do today?" Moon mumbled, half into the pillow she was clutching.
"I don't care. Something relaxing that keeps my mind off of paperwork." Moon could feel Gladion eye her. "As for you, you look like you simply need rest."
Moon yawned. "No, we can go somewhere. Just give me a half an hour." Moon reached without looking and ended up patting Gladion's thigh. "Just stay here with me for now."
Gladion was thankful Moon was facing the other direction, or she would have totally seen his bright red face. To occupy himself, he pulled out his phone and began scrolling through Instagram. Soon he let out what could only be described as a mix of an angry snarl and a resigned sigh. He leaned over to show his phone to Moon. "Did you know about this?"
Moon opened one eye to see a picture posted an hour ago. In the picture were Hau and Lillie smiling happily, with Lillie holding out her hand to emphasize the diamond ring adorning her finger. Hau! That was too soon! Moon knew she would need to use her words carefully. "I had an idea."
"An idea?" Gladion's voice was on the edge of someone about to kill someone else.
"Well, a couple of weeks ago, Hau asked if I could hang out and help him with something. We ended up at Hau'oli City Mall and in one of the jewelry stores. He was torn between three rings and wanted my input."
"Isn't that hint enough?" Gladion groaned. Moon felt his body weight bring down the bed further as he collapsed back on it, next to Moon.
"He didn't buy the ring I suggested while we were together. He must have gone back after. And I certainly had no clue as to when he was going to pop the question. It wasn't until you mentioned the trip to Hoenn yesterday that I had an idea. But even so, I thought Hau would wait until later in the trip." Moon reached for her phone and scrolled through her photos. "Hau and I were being silly and trying on all sorts of rings. We took some pictures together." She handed her phone to Gladion.
Gladion felt his eye twitch as he looked through the pictures. If it wasn't for the fact that he knew Hau proposed to his sister, he would have had a more adverse reaction to the photos than only a twitching eye. If anyone saw these photos, they would definitely conclude that Hau and Moon were the happy couple.
"Never show these photos to anyone else," he said gruffly as he handed back the phone.
"Um, ok?" Moon replied, a bit confused. Now she was starting to feel more awake and shifted to age could look at Gladion. He was pouting a bit and his arms were crossed, but it wasn't an angry pout. More a deep in thought pout.
"So which one did you like best?" He asked.
"The...rings." He begrudgingly clarified.
"Oh." Moon giggled. "I don't know. It was simply fun trying on all this stuff that was more expensive than I am willing to pay. I kind of like shiny stuff like gem stones, but it really doesn't fit in with my day to day gear." As a busy Champion, her clothes were focused on being comfortable yet useful for a more active daily activity. Moon looked up at him with curiosity. "Why are you asking?"
Instead of responding, Gladion rolled off the bed and stood up. "C'mon. Get dressed, so we can head out."
Moon sighed. "Ok." She threw the blankets off of herself and stood up.
Gladion saw Moon in a very revealing tank and short boxer shorts. He immediately turned the other way, blushing furiously. "I'll be in the living room." He sputtered, leaving quickly.
Moon couldn't help but silently laugh at Gladion's blatant awkwardness. It amused her how he was so capable in certain things like running a foundation, but completely helpless in other aspects in life. You would think he would be fine with seeing a girl in nightwear, given he had a sister the same age. She threw on some clothes and then went to the bathroom to freshen up before joining Gladion in the living room.
"You ready?" Moon asked.
The two took a walk into the city center to gab some breakfast. As they walked, Moon chatted about various things and Gladion listened. This was pretty typical between the two. In truth, Gladion was simply happy to be able to spend time with Moon. He really didn't care what they did, as long as it was together.
"So I've been feeling a bit down lately," Moon said as they walked after grabbing some breakfast. "I'm not sure why."
"Something happened at League?" Gladion suggested.
Moon shook her head. "Nope, same as always."
"Missing your brother?" Moon's twin brother Sun had left to study under Green in Kanto a few months back.
"Nah. I mean, he's my brother, but we still text and call on occasion." Moon looked thoughtful. "I only started feeling down a couple of weeks ago. I can't figure out what happened."
Gladion couldn't offer anything to Moon to comfort her. Which he hated. Moon always had some words of advice when he was feeling down or anxious. He felt like a terrible friend. If anything, he determined that he first and foremost had to become a great friend. And if he could get to that point, then maybe, just maybe, he could finally tell her the truth.
The truth that he has deeper feelings for her that were beyond platonic.
Suddenly Moon's head turned. "Ooh, a jewelry store!" She looked back at Gladion, her eyes pleading.
Gladion shrugged. "Ok, let's go."
Moon squealed as she entered the shop. Gladion followed in after her, casually keeping a short distance to better observe what Moon gravitated to. She first observed some necklaces and bracelets. She skipped over the earrings since she didn't have pierced ears. She smiled at the watches, and then reached the ring display.
A sales clerk came up to them. "Are we looking for anything in particular?" She smiled, glancing between the two of them.
"Just looking!" Moon responded cheerfully.
Gladion felt a stab to his chest. Of course Moon was never going to look at him in any way other than a friend.
Leaning over to peek better at the ring selection, her gaze focused on one ring in particular. She turned to Gladion. "Isn't that one unique?"
Gladion peered at the ring Moon was pointing at. It had three stones. A larger, blue green stone in the middle and two smaller stones on each side, one yellow, the other a grey white. The mount made unique swirls around the stones.
Before Gladion knew what he was doing, he blurted out, "Can we look at it?"
Moon glanced at him in surprise. The sales clerk smiled and went to grab a key to open the case. After unlocking the case, she handed the ring to Gladion. It was certainly unique.
Gladion inspected the ring. It was certainly different. But for some reason, it felt like Moon. If she really liked it, maybe he could use the excuse of her upcoming birthday to give it to her as a present. In the meantime, maybe he could get what he wanted to across in a different way.
Moon's eyes widened in surprise as Gladion reached out for her left hand and slipped the ring on her ring finger. It was a size too big, but that wasn't what Moon was focused on. The feeling of Gladion's hands touching her hand, the gentle way he slipped the ring on...Moon found her heart pounding, but entirely different from how she felt when entering the Ultra Wormhole or how she felt as she approached the Pokémon League for the first time.
Moon glanced up at Gladion. He had a soft expression in his eyes, and his face was free of the tension and stress he usually wore as clear as day. They stared at each other for what felt like an eternity when the sales clerk cleared her throat.
"So what do you think?"
The two jumped apart, and Moon quickly pretended to inspect the ring. "Um, it's really nice. I'll think about it." She quickly removed the ring from her finger and handed it to the sales clerk. "Thank you." Moon found herself walking quickly out of the store. Once she got outside, she brought her hand to her cheek. It felt hot.
What was that, what was that? It's not like Gladion and I haven't held hands before. Or even hugged, though it felt reluctant on Glaidon's end. Why did this feel so different?
"Are you ok?"
Moon jumped at the sound of Gladion's voice. "Arceus!" She yelped, her heart pounding even louder in her years. She glared at her angsty companion.
"You suddenly ran out. Are you ok?" Concern was reflected in his eyes.
Moon avoided his gaze, feeling her cheeks heat up again. "Yeah, I'm fine. Actually...I need a restroom," she fibbed. She glanced around and spotted one a few stores down. "I'll be back."
Moon went into the restroom and leaned over the sink, trying to collect her thoughts. She looked up at the mirror, and saw a frazzled, blushing girl looking back at her. And it jogged the memory of how Lillie looked anytime she was with Hau.
It couldn't be.
Moon thought back to her relationship with Gladion. They frequently texted each other. He would visit, er challenger her at the league every so often. She would visit him at Aether sometimes on her day off or after League when it closed early enough, and just hang out in his office. They would chat sometimes as Gladion worked, or Moon was happy to just sit on the couch in his office, reading some news article or browsing Instagram. Gladion was kind enough to help her look for an apartment when she first got the idea in her head. Then he helped her moved in (along with Sun, Hau and Lillie).
She had given him the extra key not only to keep an eye on her place when she was out of town, but as a precaution. But it also turned into Gladion sometimes showing up to her place at night, when he needed to be away from Aether. At first, he went to sleep on the couch, but then Moon reprimanded him, and told her to just sleep in her bed with her. It was a queen size bed, so more than big enough. And maybe, Moon wouldn't admit that she actual slept much better the nights Gladion was there next to her in bed. Something about having his warm body close by was comforting. It helped relax her.
She thought back to when she started feeling uneasy. And then it dawned on her. It was after she and Hau went engagement ring shopping. She wasn't jealous of Hau and Lillie's relationship. But it made her realize what she was still lacking. She didn't have that special someone who she could relax with, speak to all the time, and trust.
Or at least, she did have that. But it was with Gladion. And there was no romantic feelings ever on that end. Gladion clearly didn't see her in that way.
But now, she suddenly knew her feelings toward him had changed.
They had been friends for five years, known each other for six. She would need to act as normal as possible. Of all people to have feelings for, he was the one person who would never reciprocate them.
Moon looked at herself in the mirror. The blush had cooled down, but her eyes told a different story. One that showed someone with unrequited feelings.
Moon shook her head. No, this forever needed to stay a secret.