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“So you aren’t going to make it public?” Hop sighed in desperation as he sat on his room’s bed.

“Will you to stop asking that? I said I still don’t know like ten times!” Gloria sighed.

“What are you so afraid of? Think about it, the new Champion of Galar and the new Gym Leader of Spikemuth. There’s no way people aren’t gonna love such a power couple!”

“It’s not that. I mean… I haven’t talked about it with Marnie yet, what if she doesn’t want to?”

“Don’t say anything then, but you won’t know until you ask her. I really don’t think she’d have a problem with it though.”

“Neither do I, but…”

“But?” Hop raised an eyebrow.

“Nothing!”

The only people who knew about their relationship were Hop, Sonia and Gloria’s mother. They were all asked to keep it a secret since they didn’t want anyone to know about them yet.

“Oh.” Hop said with a smug smile, getting what she meant. “You’re afraid of Piers.”

Knowing lying to her best friend was of no use, she sat next Hop, worry on her face. “I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of him, but yes, he’s the main reason I’m still reluctant to make our relationship public.”

“But why? I’m sure Piers would be cool with it, he’s a really good guy.”

“I’m not saying he isn’t. But you’ve seen how protective of Marnie he is, maybe he thinks I’m a bad influence? Maybe he doesn’t want her to date me!”

Hop pinched the bridge of his nose with a loud sigh. “Gloria I’ve known you since we were kids and you’ve never underestimated yourself this much, come on! You’re pretty, honest, smart, strong, and the champion of Galar on top of it! And the most important thing: Marnie loves you.”

A blush appeared on Gloria’s cheeks. “I still can’t believe she does though. But Hop, since when you became an expert in love stuff?”

“I spend a lot of time with Sonia as his assistant.” He just shrugged his shoulders. “She talks a lot about you two and enjoys sharing her thoughts about you both with me.”

It was true that Sonia, among other people, had been trying to push Gloria and Marnie together since they both realized they had feelings for each other, and was the happiest woman alive when Gloria told her they finally started dating. Of course, Sonia noticed Gloria’s feelings even before Gloria herself, and had been observing how they both acted towards each other since the start of their journey.

“And here I was thinking she would stop talking about that when we started dating…”

Hop laughed loudly. “You wish, she does it even harder now.”

When Gloria was about to protest, her Smart Rotom received a call. From Marnie. Gloria got nervous because of her last conversation with Hop, but still tried to look like she wasn’t. “Hey Marnie.”

“Hey.” Marnie said back on the screen, her face showing a small soft smile. “You told me to call you before arriving, so that’s what I’m doing. I just took the train in Hammerlocke, so I’ll be there soon.”

“Alright! I’ll head to Wedgehurst in a few minutes and wait for you at the station, so you don’t get lost.” Excuses. Gloria told herself. There was no way of getting lost from Wedgehurst to Postwick. Unless you were Leon.

“There’s no need to, I’m not Leo–”

“No, I want to. I…” I want to see you as soon as possible. She wanted to say, but words didn’t come out.

Realizing her girlfriend’s obvious intentions, she blushed. “I’ll wait for you there then.” Marnie stopped looking at the screen. “I’ve missed you.” Gloria felt her heart hammering in her chest and was about to answer when Hop, who was purposely avoiding being on the screen, interrupted with a high-pitched voice.

“Gloria! What’s this! You’re cheating on me! I thought we had something special…”

The panic on Gloria’s face was instantly visible, but Marnie’s voice was heard before she could even think of an answer. “I’m not that dumb Hop. Besides, I recognize your room.”

“Hey!” Hop then appeared on the screen next to Gloria. “I won’t have the best voice acting but how do you know this is my room?”

“There’s no way Gloria has so many Leon posters.” She giggled.

Looking at the wall and then back at Marnie, Hop smiled goofily. “Alright, you caught me. But enough chit chat! You should be going to get your girlfriend young lady!”

Hop dragging Gloria outside of his room was the las thing Marnie saw before the call ended. With a laugh, she looked at the window. It was the first time she was visiting Gloria’s – and Hop’s – hometown, and even if she was curious about how Postwick would be like, the nervousness of meeting her girlfriend’s mother beat the curiosity. Gloria had always insisted on not hurrying anything when it came to their relationship, including meeting her mother, that she’d wait until Marnie was ready.

A soft smile appeared again on the Gym Leader’s face. Gloria had always been so patient and understanding with her even when they were just friends, she really wanted Marnie to be comfortable that often forgot about her own comfort. It was the first time both of them had been in a relationship, and everything was going so smoothly well it seemed surreal sometimes.

Next thing she heard the train was announcing its next stop was Wedgehurst station. Picking up her belongings, Marnie stood up and waited patiently until the train stopped. She felt her heart hammering in her chest and took a few deep breaths to calm down, but all the effort she put on it was wasted when she saw Gloria’s smiley face once again.

Not wasting any more time, both girls run to hug the other the moment their eyes met, melting into each other’s arms.

Outside of the station was Hop, who cheeringly greeted Marnie and went to Postwick with them.

“Believe me Marnie, Gloria’s mom adores you. You have nothing to be afraid of.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! She got so emotional when you two battled against each other in the–” His phone getting a message interrupted him.  “Sorry girls, Sonia is waiting for me in the laboratory, so I better get going! Have fun you two!”

“Bye Hop!”

“Nice to see you again!”

The two of them laughed at Hop’s energetic way of running, and then Marnie started to look more closely at her surroundings. “I like Postwick. It’s small, but still very green and beautiful. It feels welcoming somehow. And I like that there are so many Wooloos hanging out everywhere.”

“They can be quite naughty sometimes.” Gloria giggled, briefly remembering when those Wooloos where the cause which made Hop and her run into the Slumbering Weald for the first time. “Wanna go to my house?”

Marnie’s body stiffened. “Y-yes. Let’s go.”

“Are you sure? We can wait a few minutes more if you want.”

“I’m ready.” Holding hands, they stepped into the house. Gloria knew it was going to be alright since her mother always accepted and supporter her relationship with Marnie, but at the same time understood her girlfriend’s nervousness.

“Welcome Marnie!” Gloria’s mother smiled happily. “I’ve been looking forward meeting you since Gloria mentioned you started becoming friends! You’re even prettier in person.”

Marnie blushed a bit. “Thank you, it’s very nice to meet you too.”

“Make yourself at home! You must be tired, so I guess you probably want to rest and take a long nap.”

“Now you mention it…” Marnie yawned covering her mouth with a hand. “That would be really nice.”

Once in Gloria’s room, both girls took their shoes off and lied on the bed. “Now I think about it, you went from Spikemouth to Hammerlocke alone?” Gloria asked.

Marnie shook her head. “My brother insisted on taking me to Hammerlocke. Unfortunately for him, we ran into Raihan.”

“Raihan is cool though.”

“He is, but he’s always picking on my brother. I find it funny, but if he wasn’t with me, he probably had turned around immediately.” Marnie giggled. “Anyway. What did you want to talk about?”

“Huh?”

“You told me a few days ago there was something you wanted to talk about with me. You can tell me now.”

Gloria took a deep breath and went straight to the point. “Have you ever thought about making our relationship public?”

“Public? Like, making an official announcement so everyone knows about it?”

“Something like that, yeah. If it’s too early or too stressing for you, that’s fine we can–”

“I don’t mind.”

“Huh?”

“I said I don’t mind if you want to make it public.”

“Do you mean it?”

“I do.” Marnie nodded. “What about you?”

“To be honest, it was Hop who gave me the idea, I truly hadn’t thought about it until then. We’re the Champion and a Gym Leader, not some random trainers. I-I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being a random trainer, so maybe it would be great if–”

“Gloria, breathe.” Marnie gently held Gloria’s hands with hers. “Take your time.”

The Champion did as Marnie told her, and took a deep breath before speaking again, trying to put her thoughts in order and find the right words. “Being the Champion is more complicated than it seems. I have a lot of eyes on me and I’m not as confident as Leon to deal with it so easily. But one of the things I’m confident about is that I’m not afraid to let people know I love you.” The words left her mouth before she could stop them.

Marnie’s eyes widened at that as she felt her face was warmer than usual. At her girlfriend’s lack of words, she jumped to hug Gloria with such force they ended up tenderly hugging each other on the bed, Marnie’s face on Gloria’s chest. Her heart is beating really fast. She smiled. “I love you so much.” She said in a whisper.

They stayed like that, Marnie calmly listening to Gloria’s heartbeat, the Champion’s hand tangled in her girlfriend’s hair. Just enjoying each other’s company, until they fell asleep.

“I’m telling you your sister is in love!”

“Again with that, Raihan? You can be quite irritating sometimes.”

“It’s true! Believe me.”

“So what if she is? As long as she’s happy, that’s fine with me.”

“Don’t you want to know who’s her crush? What if she’s dating a bad person?”

Piers then frowned. “Don’t even mention it. Marnie isn’t stupid, she wouldn’t date any jerk.”

“You sure about that? Worrying about your sister won’t hurt.”

“Oh my god Raihan shut up already.” Piers didn’t want to admit it, but it was true Marnie did seem different lately. Since she was little, Marnie had never shown any interest towards boys, girls or romance in general, so that wasn’t a thing Piers had to worry about until recently.

If it was true and she had someone she was in love with, he sure wanted to know, but at the same time he didn’t want to be intrusive since it was Marnie’s life after all.

“Alright, alright! Don’t get mad at me again, just remembered I warned you.”

“Remind me why did I let you come with me to Spikemuth?”

“I just said I was coming, and you didn’t say no.”

Piers gave a deep sigh. “Do whatever you want but have in mind I’m not your gossiping partner.”

“Pity.” Raihan laughed as he hit Piers’ shoulder softly. “Where did Marnie go anyway?”

“To visit Gloria and Hop. She’s staying there until the next exhibition tournament.”

“Now I think about it, they’re an interesting trio.”

“They sure are. I’m glad Marnie has found such good friends she can rely on.”

“Aw look at you! You should let sweet big brother Piers come out more often.”

“Shut up.” Even if his words seemed harsh, Piers was smiling. “Thank you, Raihan. For worrying about her too.” He then added in a very low voice tone.

Raihan smiled cockily. “What would you do without me?”

“Live a more relaxed and boring life.”

“That’s my Piers, always so honest and affectionate.”

“With you? Always.”

The days went by as Gloria and Marnie spent time together in Postwick. Sometimes Hop and Sonia joined them for a while. They even went into the Slumbering Weald one day just to give Zacian and Zamazenta a few hours out of their Pokéballs without them catching everyone’s attention. Besides, both girls needed a few days off to relax and forget about their League duties.

Hop often teased them when they got too lovely-dovely, and Sonia told them they were adorable every single time instead.

The morning of the exhibition, while they were on the train to Hammerlocke, Marnie noticed Gloria was a bit nervous. The Champion was used to battling in front of a lot of people, so it was unlikely that was the reason of her state.

“Gloria.”

“Hm?”

“Remember our little talk about making our relationship public?” Gloria nodded. “Did you give it a thought after knowing my input?”

“I did.” She saw Marnie tilting her head waiting for an answer. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to do it now.”

“Why not?”

“Because…” She started, struggling to tell the truth.

“It’s because of my brother, isn’t it?”

Gloria widened her eyes. “How did you know?”

“Come on Gloria.” Marnie giggled. “I’ve known you for quite a lot of time. I know you don’t mind about that, and now you know neither do I, what other thing could be bothering you when it comes to making it public?” Gloria didn’t say a word. “Look. I know how you feel. Hell, I was worried about causing a bad impression to your mother and thought she wouldn’t like me!”

“My mother liked you even before we started d–”

“Sush. Let me finish” Marnie put a finger on her mouth. “Like I said, I know how you feel, and I understand it. But I also know my brother better than anyone. He already likes you, not because you’re the Champion, but because you’re amazing. Every single inch of you.” Her hand went from Gloria’s lips to one of her cheeks. “If you’re still insecure about what people would think, that’s alright, but don’t think of my brother as an obstacle.”

Knowing she was blushing, Gloria nodded with a small and relieved smile. “You really meant that?”

“Uh-huh. I’m telling you, my broth–”

“No, I mean the part where you said I’m amazing.”

“Eh?!” Marnie suddenly became shy. She was trying to help Gloria so badly she didn’t notice how cheesy the situation was becoming. “Y-yes. That too.”

Gloria gave her girlfriend a loving smile. “Have I ever told you how pretty you look when you’re embarrassed?”

“Plenty of times.”

“Well that was just in case you forgot you are.” Assuring no one else was in the carriage, Gloria took Marnie’s hands in hers. “Look, I’ve finally made up my mind. I want to tell Piers after the tournament, and then making it public. How does that sound?”

“Amazing.” Slowly, Marnie leaned in and they kissed tenderly.

Once in Hammerlocke, they quickly made their way to the stadium where they met again all Gym Leaders, including Bede, who was now officially the new Ballonlea Gym Leader.

“Hey.” Gloria came closer to him after greeting the rest of the Leaders. “How are you doing?”

He waited a few seconds before answering. “Opal is very demanding.” He started. “But I’m used to her standards.” Gloria took that as an I’m doing better and gave him a smile.

“I’m so glad.”

“Thanks for asking.” He added lowering his voice.

“You don’t have to thank me. Remember: we’re friends.”

A bit flushed, he nodded. Gloria found funny the fact that he got used to Opal’s training quicker than Gloria’s friendly behaviour. “Sure. Your girlfriend is waiting for you.”

Gloria’s jaw dropped. “How do you– ehm, what do you mean?”         

“I’m not that dense, Gloria. It’s pretty obvious to notice that once one gets to know you two.” Seeing she didn’t come up with an answer, Bede petted her head and smiled weak but friendly. “I won’t tell anyone. Good luck today.”

With a timid but kind smile, Gloria thanked him and went with her girlfriend again. Marnie had changed into her Leader outfit, though Gloria still wore her challenger uniform for that kind of events.

“Your gym leader outfit looks so cool!” Gloria said, her gaze fixed on Marnie’s clothes.

“Thank you.” Marnie answered softly. “As the Champion, you should start thinking about getting one too instead of wearing the same sports uniform in all tournaments.”

“This is an exhibition tournament.” Gloria said confidently. “Nothing official. Outfits don’t matter.”

“We’ll talk about it later.” Marnie giggled as she gave a brief look at the screen. It was almost her turn.

“You’ll do great.” Holding Marnie’s hand, Gloria slowly leaned in and gave her a kiss. Marnie’s hands went to the other girl’s waist as she deepened the kiss when–

“What’s going on here?”

They turned around instantly to see Piers and Hop, who came to cheer on Marnie. Piers’ mouth was wide open, and Hop seemed a bit awkward. Neither of them expected that, even when Hop knew about their relationship.

“B-brother.” Marnie mumbled while Gloria was frozen in place.

“Would you care to explain this, Marnie?” Piers said, taking a few steps closer to the girls.

“I think it’s pretty obvious what’s happening…” Hop murmured from behind but decided not to intervene.

Once in front of her sister, Piers waited a few seconds before speaking. He himself didn’t know very well what to say. “You like girls?” Piers asked Marnie, his face still serious.

“Y-yeah.”

His face then turned to Gloria, and then back to his sister. “And you like her?”

“I do. I’m in love with her, brother.” Marnie was blushing really hard, but she was speaking with a lot of confidence.

“She makes you happy.” That was a statement rather than a question.

“A lot.”

Piers then nodded and faced Gloria. “You….” Gloria closed her eyes, but next thing she knew, Piers had a soft smile on his face and was gently petting her head. “You better keep making her smile, Champion Gloria.”

After some seconds of assimilating his words, Gloria felt like a weight had been threw off her chest. “You’re okay with me dating her?”

“Why wouldn’t I? We may not be the closest friends, but I know you enough to tell you’re great, and that you’ll make my sister happy.”

“And you aren’t mad we didn’t tell you earlier?”

“Nah.” He shook his head. “I won’t lie, I’d like to have known from the start, but it’s Marnie’s life, not mine. She has the right to keep things from me.”

A dumb smile appeared on Gloria’s face. “Thank you for understanding it.”

Marnie run to hug Piers, which made him smile in both surprise and happiness since that wasn’t something he was used to. “You’re the best.”

“Guess I am.” Piers smiled. “Come on Spikemuth Leader, it’s almost your turn.”

After nodding, Marnie gave Gloria a quick kiss on her cheek and run towards the stadium.

“You know,” Piers told Gloria. “Raihan said plenty of times Marnie was in love. I didn’t know what to believe, but now I know he was right, I’m glad she loves someone like you.”

“Thank you.” Gloria blushed slightly. “Do you plan on telling Raihan he was right?”

“No way. Otherwise I’ll be hearing his told ya! for the rest of my life and I refuse to go through that.”

Gloria giggled. “I’m also glad Marnie has a brother like you.”

Piers smirked and put a hand on her shoulder. “Then let’s make her as happy as we can.”

They high fived. “Count on me.”