Friendships bother Lear.
Not really surprising considering how many times he states how much he despises them, especially the whole concept of the PML being meant for trainers to grow closer. But he's grown to accept everyone is going to remain gushing to each other, wearing their heart on their sleeves, doing Arceus knows what, etc.
He can live with it. It's really not a big deal to him since when he wins the PML he’ll prove that you don't need friendship or teamwork to be the best.
It's not until he sees Cheren doting on Hilbert that it becomes a problem.
Laughing, hugging, unreasonable close..
It's sickening to him.
"You're still as strong as ever," Cheren says while he pats Samurott’s head and bumps shoulders with Hilbert. "I remember how exhilarating our battles used to be."
"Your new team isn't half bad itself," Hilbert winks and Lear feels his mood worsen by a single gesture. "We really did go neck to neck back then! So did Bianca too!"
Bah, what useless chatter and useless praise..
Lear doesn't stick around much after that. It's a little unbearable seeing Cheren
on that hat wearing loser. Seriously, why didn’t
get praise like that? As someone with greater skills than a champion shouldn't he be acknowledged too?
Rachel and Sawyer follow behind with hushed whispers and he has to stop himself from snapping at them about gossiping again. They were childhood friends, of course they're still close. Just like how he was with those other two girls.
So it shouldn't bother him, it doesn't bother him and maybe it's just the heat getting to him again so he tries his best not to slump in the small comfort of the Pokemon Center.
"Awh.. Why so pouty, master Lear?" Rachel and Sawyer surround him with looks of concern. "Do you want a hug?"
"I am not pouting, I'm simply cooling off from the heat," Lear scoffs. "And I don't need a hug."
Well.. Maybe not from them anyway. Rachel and Sawyer tended to never let him go, as if he were so deprived of affection.
"Would you like some lemonade then, master Lear?" Sawyer frowned, fretting over him. "If you're feeling light headed I could always carry you back to the battle villa—"
"The drink sounds fine." Lear hurried his words and bit back a sigh of relief as Sawyer rushed off. Rachel on the other hand was beaming as she was waving at someone—
Cheren gave a slight wave and a nod to Lear, fortunately alone, heading their way and Rachel's growing smile unnerved him.
"Heeey, Cheren!" Rachel perked up, flopping her sleeves. "Great timing!"
"Oh?" Cheren raised a brow and smiled at the two. "Why's that?"
"Master Lear's been pouty because he missed out on getting a hug from you," Rachel frowned, though it hardly stayed by her bright smile that followed. "But now you're here so like, he won't be pouty anymore!"
The nerve of her! Why in the name of Arceus would she go around telling anyone, especially Cheren that! It was supposed to be confidential!
..Even though he didn't say any of that to her. Why is she so good at reading his moods?
Lear decided to drag Cheren away from her and out of earshot, shooing Rachel away after she gave him two thumbs up from under her long sleeves. Why did his subordinates have to be so embarrassing?
"That's not—" Lear paused to pinch the bridge of his nose as he let go of Cheren, ignoring the growing heat on his face. "I don't need a hug, however I'd like the same treatment you give that.. Friend of yours."
"You mean.. You want to be treated like one of my friends?" Cheren asked slowly. Lear cringed at the word and had to stop himself from gagging.
Arceus, please don't let this turn into another friendship talk.
"No," Well, maybe? How are you supposed to say, 'I'd like more attention from you' without actually having to say it? "I mean— I guess. But we're not friends—"
His brain short circuits the moment Cheren decides to hug him, chuckling in his ear and gently patting his back. It’s brief and Lear mourns the loss of contact but he's mostly busy trying to calm his rapidly beating heart.
"You know, I consider you to be something more than a close friend," To make matters worse for Lear, Cheren gently grasps Lear's hand in his; fingers easily entwining. "Hilbert has commented on our relationship more than once."
Lear rolls his eyes at the mention of the name, but silently listens to Cheren's soft laughter fill his ears, and he doesn't bother letting go of Cheren's hand either when Sawyer approaches him.
For some reason it felt right having Cheren's hand in his.