Bede hated this.
Hyper-focusing on the cookies and biscuits crumbling, on how metal spoons were clanging on the porcelain. He takes a deep breath, eyes flickering to the boy across him. The tension between them was as thick as ever.
And it had been three years.
He clears his throat, noticing how Hop pauses in his actions, almost as if he had been waiting for Bede to speak up. To explain why he was in Ballonlea of all places instead of the lab with Professor Sonia.
“You may be wondering why I asked you to join me today.”
Golden eyes meet his coldly. An expected reaction. A much louder placement of his tea cup back on the saucer.
“You want to ask Gloria out and you figured you could ask me, her best mate, how?” Cheeky, knowing grin slowly etching its way onto his features. Bede was never one to fear anything or anyone, for that matter. But he’s never seen a look so menacing, so conniving, on someone’s face.
And he’s seen Chairman Rose’s.
But all of that was long behind them.
Or at least it should’ve been.
Bede finds his own eyes narrowing as Hop fails to back down. They were amicable at best—all for the sake of Gloria if anything. She swore Hop never held grudges, but yet here he was, dangling his friendship with the current Champion in front of him like the sword in Zacian’s mouth. Teasingly. Annoyingly. Bede’s hands grasp at the table cloth, feeling the warmth hit his cheeks, his eyes struggling to hold.
Luckily his Hatterene tucked safely in its pokeball.
“I’m right, aren’t I?”
Arceus, Bede hated this.
“I should’ve asked Marnie,” the gym leader mumbles under his breath, looking away from Hop with a prominent scowl. But then he hears shifting. Hop pushing the tea and snacks in front of him to give him ample room to lean forward. Amused chuckle leaving Hop as he eyes Bede carefully.
“Marnie doesn’t know the first thing about asking someone out, but I on the other hand,” Hop’s boisterous voice rising with his body as he lifts off the chair. Showmanship had to run in their family. He’s just as proud, as vibrant, as on top of the world like the ex-Champion until he drops the bomb.
“I at least have Lee to give me advice.”
Bede should’ve expected as much, rolling his eyes, scoffing in the process. Arms crossing angrily.
“So you’re saying you’re as useless as the rest of us.”
Hop doesn’t take offense to it like he expected, shrugging with a laugh before shaking his head.
“Yeah, well…I’m not the one who’s been crushing on Gloria for years.”
Smug. That’s all he is. Smug.
Bede could feel the heat in his cheeks spread, his brow furrowing, his quick “I do not” leaving his lips like a defense mechanism he knew he needed to stop using. But Hop doesn’t seem to believe him, a sarcastic “uh huh” clear as day as he’s quick to sit back down. The tension instead being replaced with dread. Dread that he now had to deal with Hop’s energetic energy instead of secret harbored hatred.
Hatred almost seemed better.
“Oh hey Gloria!”
Bede freezes, looking over his shoulder in record time. Hop laughing almost manically as Bede stares at empty air. The flush on his cheeks was all but evident now, but even as Hop laughed it felt like he wasn’t so much laughing at him, or his emotions, and more like he was laughing at--
“I really don’t understand how she likes a posh jerk like you.”
Bede opens his mouth. To jab back. To question his word choice. But Hop seemingly decided his time was up, stretching with an over exaggerated yawn, hand covering the smile Bede knew he was hiding.
“Listen. Wooloo,” the horrendous nickname he heard too often from him. “You don’t have to do much, trust me . Just be honest with yourself for once.” A condescending pat on his shoulder declaring an almost truce-like statement. A quick, “oh hey Opal. Champion,” following that made Bede’s annoyance resurge.
So he’s quick to scream, “I’m not falling for your tricks aga--” when his head turns to glare at the exit only to very much find Opal and Gloria standing in the entrance way.
A tsk escapes his guardian. “That’s no way to greet a visitor,” Opal scolds, but his eyes are glued onto Gloria’s sheepish wave.
“You didn’t show up so I came to find you,” and as she smiles in her down-to-earth fashion, seemingly relaxing now that she knew he was safe, he feels his traitorous heart skipping. A reasonable punishment for forgetting that Gloria had asked to meet him in Glimwood Tangle, only to catch him having tea with her best friend of all people.
He opens his mouth to explain, only to realize he very much couldn’t explain. Tea was incriminating enough. How could he tell her the topic at hand was her.
And then he sees Opal eyeing both of them; watching as if this was some cliche romance trying to unfold.
(Which it wasn’t.)
He hastily grabs his jacket, nudges Gloria to walk, mumbles a goodbye to Opal, and finds themselves hit by the humid mossy air of the town.
Just the two of them. Alone. Minutes after Bede maybe, kinda, almost, admitted there was something he felt for her.
“We don’t have to go you know?,” Gloria says sweetly as she glances up at him. The blues from the nearby mushrooms reflecting off her round eyes, the pink hue only enhancing her pale features.
Why was it that any time he was around her he could only react in two ways? Pour everything out? Or lose the ability to form coherent sentence?
Today, thankfully was the latter. Deciding to not embarrass himself any further by trudging forward without a word; Gloria’s own footsteps scurrying along the grassy floor to keep up with him with no complaint.
And as much as he wanted to say he hated...whatever this was. He knew he couldn’t.
He appreciated her calming presence. In how she was more contemplative than shy--quiet only to encourage more out of him. The complete opposite of almost everyone that surrounded her.
He enjoyed her small comments; in how she asked him about the gym, about Opal, about him .
“Are you, the Champion, trying to gain insight on the new Gym Challengers through me?” (So far none have gotten by him, anyways). But she blinks, looking at him with honesty he could only expect out of her.
“There’s rumors you’ve been training into late hours again,” she pauses, lips pursing, eyes continuing to hold his gaze. “So I’m not so much worried about them as I am about you.”
And in the end he knew he admired her.
Not just now, in the moment as he stares at her in disbelief and small lights dance between them in Ballonlea fashion. But in general. And this admiration made him stare, all too often, today no different. Purple eyes noticing how her slouchy cardigan was missing when she simply walked down a path to begin her training. She sported a much paler pink dress than usual, her hair lightly curled, bouncing as she slowly walks through the grass. Occasionally he could pick up how genuine her smile was when she caught a new Pokemon. This time a Sinistea--as if the Champion didn’t already have a set team.
The very team that continued to beat him over and over again.
But even after every loss. Every close call. Every year she was named Champion again.
He knew he just liked everything that Gloria exuded.
Even that frumpy cardigan she always wore.
And now as a cold breeze passes through the forest and he sees her shivering he knew the reasonable thing was to head back into town, for it made no sense to try to get his longtime rival sick.
It seemed she thought the same thing.
“Should we go back, Bede?” Her voice sounding louder in the quiet lull of the forest. Arms gripping around one another to keep warmth in.
Realization settling in.
He was too late to act. To ask. To confess.
He simply nods. Letting her lead the way. Paying too much attention to how her arms frantically ran up and down her exposed skin.
It’s when she lets out a quiet, uncharacteristic squeak, that he realizes what he’s done. His magenta jacket slung over her head, her hands frantically pulling it off so she could look at him.
A blush he’s never seen touching her cheeks.
“What was that for?”
He tsks, pulling his gaze away before continuing to march on.
“You’re a fool for not bringing a sweater to a forest. Put it on.”
It’s haughty. Once again defensive. But Gloria never held it against him. Noticing from the corner of his eye at how she puts it on gingerly. It’s far too large, nearly swallowed by their height difference, but she looks cute nonetheless.
Bede shakes his head to remove the dreaded thoughts. The conceived notion that he actually had feelings for Gloria. And as they walk in comfortable silence it’s Gloria that breaks it once they enter Ballonlea.
“You’re actually nice you know.”
It’s a simple comment, one that nearly has him tripping on a stray root as they continue towards the gym. But she’s beaming at him with the warmest expression he had to force himself to look away.
To not expose himself or his heart or his own flustered cheeks.
“I’ve known for a while, but today settles it,” she hums they stop in front of the gym, turning to face him as unsaid words float around them. Her arms attempting to slide out of his jacket until he calls out her name a little too loudly.
She jumps ever so slightly. Wide, curious gaze waiting for him to continue.
“Keep it...you...you have to get home anyways.”
And before he can register her smile once again he feels her body pressed into his. Her arms cushioned by his clothing wrapping around him as best she could.
A hug that ends far too quickly.
“I’ll return it next time I visit.”
And this time it’s Bede whose left stunned by a sudden act. Stomach flipping. Heart racing. Waving almost in a trance-like state as he feels the remnant of her warmth still surrounding him.
Next time he'll pour his heart out to her.