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If there was one thing Gladion was definitely not experienced in, it had to be—well. There were a lot of things Gladion wasn’t experienced in, if he was frank. But holidays with friends? That had to top the cake.

It wasn’t as if he’d never celebrated holidays with people or never had any friends, no, it wasn’t like that at all. If he counted Wicke and a few Aether employees, he was just fine in the friend area as a child, and his family always made a point to be festive during major holidays. Lusamine would always throw exciting and glamorous galas for Yuletime, as well as other solstice and equinox festivities. He had always been the picture of a good host and entertainer. Lillie was allowed to be more relaxed and free during parties, as she was the younger of the two, and not expected to be Aether’s heir.

With all that in his childhood, he assumed the Spring Equinox would go off without a hitch while Lusamine was in her coma. She would surely be up and kicking after the flowery gala, so the Summer Equinox party wouldn’t be his to worry about.

It was only when Lillie called him at three in the morning that he was informed of a new holiday. He’d picked up after the first few bars of her ringtone went off, continuing to read over and sign documents.

“S’up,” his greeting was airy.

“Good morning, Gladion,” Lillie’s voice was cheery as always, and it made him relax a bit, “I won’t ask why you’re still awake. I know the time difference between Alola and Kanto is a good six hours, so it must be super late over there.”

“Only three, Lils,” he shrugged to himself, chuckling a little when she scoffed on the other end.

“Please have some self-preservation and get some sleep.”

“I will as soon as I deem fit. I’m trying to find a way to stop a new shopping center from being built on crucial Akala land,” he frowned down at the building permit documents.

“Are you finding any loopholes?” She sounded concerned, and Gladion’s frown flip flopped into a smile. There was always something soothing about having someone to talk to about these things.

“Unfortunately not. Everything seems amazingly sound, they even have a habitat relocation permit, but even Guzma knows those things are bullshit in any eye except for the law…”

“I can text the Champ and see what they can do about it?”

“Hm,” Gladion sounded unsure, even to himself, “they go a little overboard, sometimes. I swear they’re gunna end up killing themself on accident one of these days.”

“What other options do you have, tough guy?” Lillie’s laughter almost made Gladion impulsively hang up. He forced himself against it and swallowed down his outstanding temper, softly reminding himself that she wasn’t mocking him.

“I can always see if Plumeria’ll do a little dirty work for me. Terrorize the team and damage some equipment until they scram.”

“If she gets caught you’ll soil Aether’s reputation.”

“I think that woman opening straight up fucking portals to let loose killer extraterrestrial beasts into Alola would soil us as far as we can go, but yet I’m still running this floating hunk of shit.”

“Fair.”

“I’ll ring up Guzma in the morning. I know he’s awake right now, but I want to catch him when he’s not hopped up on seventeen energy drinks.”

“That’s a good idea,” Lillie trailed off, and that’s when Gladion realized she had called for another reason than to check up on him.

“What’s the downlow, then?”

“Well, you see!” She was ecstatic he had asked, and Gladion suddenly felt himself wary. “I called to tell you to make sure a package I’m going to send to you gets delivered to Hau and MC for Valentine’s Day! They already made their stuff for me, but they’re sending it after they get my stuff since I don’t know what Bill’s PO box is. He shipped it for me, see, and I was also wondering if you had—”

“Wait, what?” Gladion cut her off. He’d lost her somewhere in those two sentences and a half. “What the hell is Valentine’s Day?”

By four in the morning Alolan time, Lillie had booked a flight to Alola, still not giving Gladion a clear cut picture on what the holiday even was. Before he could boot up his laptop and look it up, he woke up to his alarm blaring at him. When he tried to call his sister, her phone was turned off. A quick text to Bill had proven that, yes, she was on a flight to Alola, and yes, the antidote research for the neurotoxin in Lusamine’s system would progress just fine with her gone.

His day was progressing as usual up until Lillie’s arrival into the ship dock. She had apparently ran right up into Lusamine’s office, not pausing for a second at her room to drop off her bags. Gladion knew this, because she flew in with all twelve thousand bags hiked up on her shoulders and in her hands. The plummeted to the floor in a loud THWUMP and straight up blew paperwork from Gladion’s desk.

“Lillie,” Gladion grimaced down at the misplaced documents, “to what do I owe the fucking pleasure?”

“Valentine’s Day!” She breathed out, a huge smile plastered on her pink flushed face, “Your first Valentine’s Day!”

“I’m sure I’ve lived through many of them,” Gladion started, bewildered.

“But have you participated? No, because you didn’t even know what the holiday was on the phone!”

“Yeah, well, that’s what the internet is for—”

“I can’t believe how sheltered you are!” Lillie continued, slamming her palms down on the desk and grinning at him. He was suddenly very defensive over this whole thing.

Sorry for living in this Oxiclean prison for the entirety of my life?”

“But you were with Team Skull for a good couple years!” Lillie frowned at him, the realization suddenly seeming to hit her, “did they not celebrate Valentine’s?”

“I’m sure they did, sister of mine, they took every chance they got to trash the place and have a party,” Gladion sighed, tugging at the collar of the button down Wicke forced him to wear, “but it’s not as if I was entirely welcome there? At least not when Guzma or Plumeria weren’t around. And since those two like to travel around? Yeah, I wasn’t a welcome face.”

“Awh, but you’ve got such a pretty one, big brother—” Lillie’s voice cut off as she peeled into quiet giggles, reaching and pinching at Gladion’s cheeks. He dropped his pen and papers in favor of swatting her away best he could, yet still ended up getting his face smooshed together.

Anyways ,” he bit out, shoving out of the chair, “there really was no need for you to come out all this way for a holiday I’ve never even heard of.”

“But there is, because it’s important, and I know you’ll avoid it like the plague, so I want to show you how to do it right!” She tapped her foot and glared sternly when her older brother crossed his arms, looking nonplussed.

“Educate me then, in this holiday you seem to think is so important.”

“Valentine’s day is celebrated between couples to show their love,” Lillie quickly started, raising a hand when Gladion’s mouth opened, “before you speak an inch, you should also know that it’s super common nowadays between friends, too. Giving out Valentines to close friends and people you care about is a great way to show how much you appreciate someone.”

“Okay, great. What warranted you coming all the way to Alola for this? If you’re assuming I wouldn’t have gotten anyone anything then you’re mostly wrong. I’d have at least called you—”

“No, no, no , Gladion!” Lillie huffed out, giving him a pouty look, “I’m not your only friend anymore!”

That, surprisingly, hit Gladion like lightning, and it was almost as if something had clicked. Scratch that, something had clicked. MC and Hau’s grinning faces began flashing in and out of his mind’s eye so quickly he had to sit back down before the realization struck him down where he stood.

Fuck ,” he breathed, looking up at Lillie. She wasn’t his only friend anymore. Fuck , when did he admit to himself that he didn’t grow up with friends? When did he stop lying to himself about liking Hau and MC?

Alright, so he had friends. He looked up at Lillie, trying to swallow down his increasing nausea. What did she expect from him?

Dumb question, Gladion. You know exactly why she’s here. To monitor your ass and make sure you do something for MC and Hau.

MC was always easy to shop for, he knew that. They would probably kill for Pokébeans and max revives. Being the Champion of Alola and all, they weren’t actually allowed to use revives during Trial battles, but they didn’t seem to mind stocking up anyways...

Lillie smiled down at her brother, watching his lost facial expression morph into steely determination. She almost giggled, seeing how seriously he was taking this. She was worried he might make a fuss over his relationships with Hau and the Champ, but he seemed to connect the dots quicker than expected.

“I can make a shit gift basket for MC. We all know how they are with Full Restores and whatever the fuck else…” He trailed off for a few seconds, staring blankly down at his desk. Lillie crossed her arms and waited. If Gladion didn’t figure out what to do for them while she was metaphorically crawling up his ass, he’d put it off for way too long.

“What,” Gladion’s face paled more than usual, and Lillie stiffened when he looked up at her in an almost child-like fear, “does Hau like? Other than malasadas? I guess I could get him malasada..?”

“Why get him something he gets everyday?” Lillie frowned.

“What else is there? What did you get him?”

“I bought him stuffed animals and hard candies. I didn’t really expect that I’d fly down here myself, so nothing perishable was put in his or MC’s box.”

AUGH, ” Gladion cried out, smacking the palms of his hands against his face, “this conversation is pointless! How long do I have until this stupid ass holiday?”

“Two and a half weeks, just about.”

Gladion stood abruptly at that, making his sister jump. He paused, as if he hadn’t planned to do that. There was an extremely awkward pause, before he seemed to make up his mind and slid around the desk and Lillie, heading towards the door.

“Where are you going?” Lillie didn’t actually need to ask, but she obviously wanted to hear him say it. This made Gladion grimace.

“Surveillance,” he answered curtly, “hold down the fort. You know how to do Lusamine’s job, probably better than I do.”

Not half an hour later, he was boarded on a boat to Melemele. It was a relief to have his piercings and old, torn clothes back on. He felt more at home. Silvally’s pokeball was zipped up into his beltpack along with his Xtransceiver, and all of it almost eased his tightly wound nerves. The past several months running as the temporary president of Aether Foundation had knotted him up tighter than he originally noticed.

Smelling the air on Melemele calmed him even more. The sunshine, the soft waves, the cobblestone paths, and even the yellow hau bushes scattered around was enough to refresh him. He didn’t have a plan, and he wasn’t even sure who he was looking for was on Melemele, but it seemed like a good start. Hau’oli City was even more beautiful than he remembered it to be, and he felt himself start to get a little sentimental over it all.

Before he started wandering, Gladion forced himself on the path towards Route 1, and Iki Town. He took much longer than usual getting there, even stopping to absently run his fingers against hau flower petals. When he got to the outskirts, he felt his legs speed up, following the Iki Town smell of fire and freshly cut wood.

Seeing the town again took his breath away. It felt like forever since he’d seen it. It was both the same and different than when he left. His feet instinctively went up towards the arena, and he noted all the yellow flowers sprouting everywhere.

“Gladion, my boy!”

He froze, his foot on the first step up to the plain of land that held the arena. Looking back, he was met with a staggering clap on the back by Melemele’s Hala himself.

“H-Hala,” Gladion coughed out, his lips quivering into a sheepish grin.

“Hau’s up at the broken bridge of Tapu Koko’s dwelling,” Hala nodded up towards the entrance to the shrine.

“Does he go there often?” Gladion thought it was odd of Hau to hang around a dead end. He always seemed like a boy who’d go down a path that led somewhere.

“Every once in awhile, yes,” Hala’s smile changed almost imperceptibly, but Gladion saw the uncertainty in his face as plain as day. It was obvious ‘every once in awhile’ was a drastic understatement.

“Well,” Gladion wasn’t sure what to say, “I never did say I was here to see him, but. Since I’m in the area.” He almost fucking winced at that. Smooth as shit, Gladion. Hala saw right through the preteen, however, and Gladion wasn’t sure if he was happy about that or not.

“He’s been a little out of it lately,” Hala said softly, “still cheerful and motivated, but he seems less… ‘Go Get ‘Em’. If that makes sense. I don’t know how close you and my boy are, but, if you can get him out and around again… I’m sorry to put this on your shoulders.”

“No, it’s fine,” Gladion swallowed his sharp attitude for the time being, realizing this was a sensitive topic for Hala, “I planned on dragging his ass out today, anyways.”

Gladion winced as soon as he finished his sentence, realizing he has cussed without thinking. Hala just boomed out a laugh and slapped the boy on the back once more, shaking his head as he turned and sauntered away. Gladion assumed that was a good reaction.

His trek up toward the summit of the shrine was surreal. In fact, the entire path gradually became more and more overgrown with hau flowers, like a gradient from green to yellow, and Gladion thought it was oddly enchanting. When he reached the top, all the green was practically blanketed with yellow flowers and their scattered petals.

Hau was there, just as Hala had said. He was laying on his back, hands behind his head, eyes closed, a soft smile playing on his lips, and legs hanging over the edge of the cliff. Gladion was able to approach him silently, the petals muffling his footsteps almost completely. He stopped right above the other boy, watching him in silence. He wasn’t sure if Hau was asleep or not, and, if he wasn’t, it felt like he would be intruding on something. Gladion didn’t want to disturb him.

As it turned out, he didn’t have to. A small gust of wind swept through, blowing petals from the ground and spiraling into the air. One petal brushed past Gladion’s lips, making him grimace at the tingling it created, before swirling down and landing gently on Hau’s nose.

Gladion watched in mild fascination as Hau’s face scrunched up and his eyes slowly opened, crosseyed, to stare at the petal. He sneezed almost immediately, his dark eyes squeezing shut yet again. At that, Gladion let out a snort, and was rewarded with Hau shrieking softly and scrambling to sit up. He twisted around to look behind him, and visibly loosened up to see the blond Aether child.

“A-Alola, Gladion!”

“Hey,” Gladion shoved his hands in his pockets, “did I wake you?”

“Ahh, only slightly,” Hau sang out, his cheery smile adorning his face.

“Good,” the other wasn’t able to keep the teasing tone from his voice, and yet still managed to get a pout out of the younger boy on the ground.

“I haven’t heard from you in months, and the first thing you do is admit to waking me up from a nap? How rude!”

“Get up,” Gladion nudged Hau’s side with his shoes, and Hau whined, squirming away. “Get up, we’re going into town. You’re going to ramble about things you like over malasada, and I’m going to do my best not to die of boredom.”

That got Hau up in record time, his smile back on at full force. An almost euphoric feeling washed over Gladion, seeing this cheerful boy standing in front of him, yellow petals scattered through his hair.

“You look like a fairy,” it was out of Gladion’s mouth before he could censor or mutilate it, and he was sure that even if he didn’t have nerve endings, he would still feel the amazing force of the blush that smashed his face. “From. All the stupid fucking petals in your hair. Quite the country bumpkin fashion statement you’re making.” Fuck . Gladion, what the fuck .

Hau, Arceus fucking bless him, just started laughing. His hands were pulled up to tangle themselves behind his head, and Gladion nearly died of embarrassment on the spot.

The walk back to Hau’oli almost made the poor Aether child faint. He’d forgot that Hau had this effect on him. The months he was gone didn’t seem like very long, so Gladion was a little more than shocked to remember that the boy next to him always had such a positive influence over his attitude. Hearing his laugh and seeing him smile made it impossible for Gladion to focus on anything except for the Melemele flower boy beside him.

“How’s Aether been treating you?” Hau had asked, once the two sat down with two malasada.

“I’ve been greeted by paperwork and casual suicidal tendencies every morning for at least a month and a half,” Gladion deadpanned, picking halfheartedly at his malasada, “I know Nihilego’s neurotoxin is the biggest Shit City on this side of Ass Island, but if she recovered tomorrow, it’d still have taken way too long.”

“Harsh!” Hau laughed out, seeming to ignore the disapproving looks from adults in the area when Gladion started cussing. “I’m sure everything will be sorted out before long! And, hey, if you get too stressed, I’m always a call away, so,” Hau shrugged, biting into his food. Gladion studied him for a second, instinctively expecting him to start laughing and play it off as some sort of joke. When Hau looked back up and gave the older boy a wide smile, he quickly looked back down at the malasada in his hand, feeling his face contort and pull together.

“Well,” he heard himself say, “I guess you are.”

Gladion hadn’t planned any of this, and he didn’t expect Hau to want to do anything after they ate. But, he did, and he soon found himself in Hau’oli’s clothing store, Hau stacking as many hats as he could on Gladion’s head. Gladion himself was standing with his arms crossed, refusing to let his face show how much fun he was having.

“Eleven hats!” Hau cackled out, dropping down from his tiptoes to stare up at Gladion, a huge grin on his face. “I can’t reach anymore! Oh, wait…!”

Gladion snorted when Hau snagged him by the coat and carefully led him over near a table. As soon as he had clambered up onto it, shoving shirts out of the way to do so, the man at the front desk turned around from his sorting and yelped out in shock. Hau squeaked like a Pikachu and toppled over, at the mercy of Gladion. The Aether child easily caught him, but the tower of hats on his head dislodged and fell straight onto Hau’s face, breaking and flying to all corners of the room.

Scatter! ” Hau’s shout almost made Gladion jump and freeze up, but the other had already snagged him by the arm and forcibly dashed the pair out of the store. Hau was laughing, and, from the sounds of it, so was the employee in the clothing store. Gladion was really not sure how to feel about all this, and, yet, he found himself collapsed in the grass between two buildings, muffling his giggling with a hand right along with Hau.

“That was so stupid,” Gladion breathed out, reaching up and pushing his bangs from his face. Hau sat up and grinned down at him, shrugging.

“Maybe!”

Maybe , he says,” Gladion coughed out a few more laughs, snorting on accident when he inhaled. He became embarrassed on the spot, and noticed Hau staring with an almost dazed look on his face.

Cute? ” Not only did it sound like a question, but it was almost a whisper. Gladion immediately swung a leg around and kicked Hau to the ground, pinning him there.

“Shut the fuck up!” Gladion meant for it to sound menacing, but it came out as more of a whine. Hau immediately started huffing out laughs, trying to shove Gladion’s leg off his chest. Gladion felt like dying.

“Foulplay, foulplay…!” Hau wheezed, “you take me out on a friend date and attack me when my guard was down…! It’s cliché, yet brilliant and effective…!”

“I had no idea you were such a pain in the ass,” Gladion sat up, dropping his other leg over Hau’s stomach. The islander boy wheezed and fell still. His face was scrunched up, but his cheeky smile was still stretched across his face.

“And I had no idea you were so fun to be with,” Hau’s face relaxed as he gazed up at Gladion, “I was always under the impression you hated me.”

“Hate you?” Gladion had to admit he wasn’t sure how to think about Hau the first time they met, especially since it was obvious he wasn’t going all out in their battle. Not to mention, every time they crossed paths afterwards he’d treated Gladion and Silvally like best friends. Silvally had accepted Hau as soon as a patterned Pokébean was presented to him, and Gladion had found it hard to force his partner Pokémon to go all out in battle against Hau’s team after that.

“You’re always frowning and grimacing and grumbling and ordering me around and,” Hau seemed to force himself to pause, “being a general grump when I’m around, so I always figured you didn’t like me!”

“No, I’ve never hated you,” Gladion shook his head, “that’s just my face.”

“Just your face? ” Hau laughed again, “so your face is always angry-looking?”

“Yes,” he stared down Hau blankly, “I’m incapable of smiling, you see.”

“That’s crap!” Hau went to sit up, but was pushed down by Gladion’s thighs again. He gave up struggling quicker than the former time. “I’ve seen you smile!”

“Negative,” Gladion shook his head, swallowing a slowly rising giddy feeling from bubbling up his throat, “I always knew they put hallucinogens in malasada. And your poor ass is addicted. Tragic.”

“You’re dreaming!” Hau squirmed around again, and Gladion rested his full weight on him just for good measures. Hau coughed rather dramatically before flopping down, completely limp. “Ahh, or maybe I’m dreaming…? There are stars in my vision… Is this what it’s like to hold Kyogre…?”

“Y-You asshole!” Gladion had to quickly hide a shaky grin behind a hand. “If you’re going to be like that, I’ll make you puke up an apology!”

“Squeeze me all you want, you fiend!” Hau tried his best to cross his arms with one of Gladion’s thighs in the way, “I’ve been suplexed daily by MC’s Incineroar! Kicked by their Decidueye! And did you know that their Primarina will sit on you when he wants his hair brushed?”

“Hm,” Gladion hummed out, finding all three images to be pretty fucking hilarious, “sounds like hell. I’m feeling a whole lot of pity for you.”

He, in fact, was not.

“Liar!” Ah, Hau was as intuitive as ever it seemed. Gladion snorted out a laugh, looking up at the skyline. The sun was setting, nearing the horizon, the brightest of the stars beginning to flicker into view. Hau, noticing his friend craning his neck uncomfortably, reached up to Gladion’s shoulder and pushed him down, so the two of them were staring up at the rainbow of colors being painted above them.

Before Gladion had enough time to think, he suddenly found the two of them talking about everything under the sun.

The Aether child learned of Hau’s infinite enthusiasm for everything that left his mouth, and became entranced at what a fantastic storyteller the other boy was. When commented on, he was told of all the Iki Town bonfires and late night parties that Hau had grown up around, learning to weave together words of the past, the present, the future, and the myths of old. He learned of Hau’s love of exploration, how much he had loved learning how to cook out under the open sky, and that sometimes he would stand out in a rainstorm just because.

Hau, on the flipside, learned just how soft spoken Gladion could really be. As he relaxed further, Hau began to hear the almost diplomatic inflections in Gladion’s tone, and was shocked to hear the astounding similarities between his and his sister Lillie’s speech patterns. He learned that Gladion had gotten extraordinarily good at sewing and salvaging torn clothes from being ruined anymore, and how much he actually enjoyed small, solitary hand crafts, especially under a clear night sky with Silvally sleeping curled around him.

Both boys were slowly falling asleep when the moon hit it’s highest point in the sky.

“Mm, Hau, it’s really late,” Gladion’s voice was cracking from exhaustion, and Hau glanced over to see his eyes were already closed. “I really… should get back to Aether…”

“But―” Hau yawned, stretching his arms behind his head right before plopping them down over Gladion’s legs, “you’re currently my blanket, and I don’t think I could handle walking back to Iki Town.”

“Your blanket ,” Hau was pleased to hear Gladion giggle a bit, “that’s so gross.”

“What is?”

“How enthusiastic you are.”

“About your legs?”

“Augh,” Gladion slapped his hands over his face and rubbed, “don’t word it like that. Fucking awful.”

“Someone needs a nap,” Hau laughed almost deliriously, Gladion flopped an arm over and half-heartedly slapped his shoulder in response.

“Yeah, it’s you,” Gladion sounded increasingly out of it by the second, and Hau started to delay his responses more and more until he heard the soft, deep breathing of a sleeping preteen who desperately needed a night with a friend under the stars.

Gladion wasn’t nearly as heavy when he was asleep, but it was still a struggle to shimmy out from underneath him. He snagged a large blanket from his backpack and spread it on the ground with ease, patting it down into the grass.

Picking up Gladion and accidentally waking him wasn’t on Hau’s bucket list, but, fortunately, the temporary Aether president seemed to be dead to the world. Moving him was a cinch, Gladion only making a small noise when he was set down. Hau stood still for a few seconds, watching the sleeping boy to make sure he didn’t wake up, then slowly fell down beside him and tucked his arms behind his head.

He felt good. Better than he had in weeks. It was like a breath of fresh air, having a friend around. MC had been busy being the Champion, and Hau had already lost to them in the title defense battle. Lately, he’d been hanging around on Melemele, feeling the days blur together into one mass. It wasn’t as if he was unhappy, he was just. Lonely.

He glanced at Gladion from the corners of his eyes, chuckling a little when the older boy let out a grumble, shifting around so he was curled in on himself. Hau smiled faintly, but his eyebrows drew together.

“You really do shield yourself even in sleep, don’t you, ka’u hoaloha…?” Hau murmured, reaching out and brushing his friend’s hair behind his ear. His hand fell, fingertips brushing against Gladion’s cheek. He worried it might make the introverted boy uncomfortable if they woke up like that, but before he could muster up the energy to move it, his eyelids had slipped shut, and he drifted to sleep in record time.

 

Gladion woke first, gently. It was disorienting, waking up so softly. He stared up at the sunlit sky blankly for a while before his location clicked all at once, and he shot up into a sitting position, looking around wildly. His fingertips hit something soft, and he looked down to see he was laying on a grass stained, tropical print orange blanket, with Hau asleep a damn near half a foot away. Did he move him in his sleep?

“What the… Fuck? ” He was a little bit more than just confused. His brain wasn’t working fast enough for him just yet. He felt… Good. Less stressed, maybe? He rolled his shoulders and grumbled lightly. Sleeping on the ground still did a hell of a number on his shoulders.

“Gladi,” the groggy voice of Hau startled him, and he yelped a little, eyes flying back over to the other boy.

“G-Good morning,” Gladion managed, feeling oddly flustered to have Hau’s half asleep eyes looking up into his.

“Alola―” Hau let out a massive yawn, his hands coming up to scrub at his eyes. “Did you sleep alright…?”

“I,” Gladion paused, noting how content and awake he felt, “actually did. That’s a fucking miracle.”

Hau propped himself up on an elbow, hard blinking a couple times before he finally looked alert. Gladion swallowed a smile as best he could.

“It’s too early for your grumpy cussing, Gladion!”

“Let me live my life,” Gladion prodded at Hau’s forehead, “why didn’t you wake me up? I should have gone back to Aether last night. I don’t think Lillie wants to do my job forever.”

“Why don’t you let yourself live?”

“Oh, please,” Gladion sighed, pushing himself up to his feet, “I’ll have all the freedom I need once Lusamine gets her poisoned head out of her ass.”

At that, Hau started laughing, rolling off the blanket and beginning to fold it back into a square for storage. Gladion stepped off, reaching down and folding the other end over to Hau. He stood there for the couple minutes and watched as Hau compressed a stadium sized blanket into the size of a hand towel.

“Let me tag along!” Hau piped up as he shoved the cloth into his backpack. Gladion stared blankly back at the younger boy. “Just to the dock maybe. Unless you want to use a Charizard, I mean.”

“Oh,” Gladion’s brain finally caught up, “uhm, yeah. The docks.”

True to his word, Hau accompanied him to the docks, though, it felt like Gladion was being escorted more than anything. He found they took the scenic route, allowing Hau to take them around town and even stop at the Malasada Shop yet again. This time for breakfast, he’d insisted. Gladion found he couldn’t remember the last time he’d ate breakfast, and could only eat half the malasada.

“Ehh,” Hau started as they were finally angled towards the docks, “I hadn’t really noticed yesterday, but you didn’t eat your malasada then either, did you? I ended up eating a good three-fourths of it.”

Gladion made a noncommittal noise, both stopping in front of the doors to the boarding station. They stood there looking at each other for a good few seconds, Hau seeming to be studying Gladion’s face. He allowed this, finding he was enjoying the other’s attention.

“Hey,” Hau spoke up again, “are we going to hang out more often?”

“Maybe,” Gladion spoke without thinking, then rectified it with a, “most likely. I don’t have a reason why we shouldn’t, I guess.”

That seemed to be the only thing Hau needed to hear. For the rest of the week, Gladion found Lillie suspiciously bursting into Lusamine’s office and shoving Gladion out, telling him to go hang out with a certain Melemele flower child. Even more curious, Hau always seemed to be expecting him up near Tapu Koko’s shrine. It was just in the way he held himself. As opposed to being relaxed like when Gladion had first found him up there, he was sitting like he used to. On the edge of his metaphorical seat, bouncing a little as he stared across the broken bridge into the dark entrance of the island guardian’s dwelling.

During that time, Gladion began to heavily notice how little he actually ate in comparison to the other people around him. He knew Hau noticed too, by the way he began to buy smaller portions and more nutritionally beneficial snacks or food items for him. Sometimes, when Gladion ate too much for his stomach, or sometimes his mind, to handle, he would end up rushing to the nearest bathroom or a secluded trash can. He would promptly throw the fuck up, and then spend the next several minutes staring down blankly until Hau would come to find him. Bless his damn soul, Hau never spoke a word of it, instead offering quiet support. Gladion was eternally grateful. He wasn’t sure he was ready to talk about this just yet, not until he figured out why it was happening for himself.

Hau was also gradually getting more and more reckless, he found. Or, no, he was going back to how he was before everything settled down. His constant need for adventure and exploration began to overrun his thoughts yet again, and Gladion found himself crawling or climbing after Hau into small, naturally formed hideaways he’d never dreamed of finding. Sometimes, Lillie would request an errand be ran (which Gladion found outstandingly weird―his sister doing the job he was supposed to do) and Hau would tag along.

That was ultimately how Hau became friends with Team Skull. Walking out of the main house with Plumeria and Guzma (once a deal to take care of the construction company had been fixed) showed the scene of Hau and a majority of the grunts having an impromptu play date with all their Pokémon. Gladion stared out at him for a while, finding his mouth had begun to go dry. Guzma nudged him, and he tore him eyes away just to see the shiteating grin plastered over his old boss’s face. Gladion was more than happy to punch him right in the arm.

As Valentine’s Day approached, Gladion found himself in, his opinion, a bigger predicament than the one he had before. Getting to know Hau was shockingly easy, but now that he knew what he liked, he found that Hau was the least materialistic person he knew. In fact, the only items he ever did buy, Gladion found were handed over to him as a gift. And they were all exceedingly useful gifts. Max revives, full restores, Old Gateau… In fact, every item Hau gave him was medicinal, despite the fact that he knew Hau used those items a lot, and didn’t have a whole lot of money to spoil his friends like this.

One day, Gladion found himself at his desk doing work with Hau, who was sitting on the edge of the table, facing away from him and juggling Lum berries he’d snagged from the sanctuary floor.

“Hey,” Gladion started, setting down his pen and glancing up at the back of his friend’s head, “what do you want for Valentine’s Day?”

The Lum berries dropped to the floor in an instant, Hau squeaking out a faux curse word and scrambling to pick them up. Gladion watched him in amusement, resting his cheek on the palm of his hand. One berry rolled under a decorative dresser across the room, and Hau seemingly took his sweet time trying to fish it out.

“Uhm,” the younger boy piped up, his voice somewhat muffled by the distance between the two, “I really don’t mind? I mean, if you’re offering to get me something, uhm…”

He sat up and glanced over his shoulder at Gladion for a second, and Gladion noticed with a start that his cheeks and forehead were darker. He was struck with a little bit of envy, realizing that Hau’s skintone probably kept his face from going tomato fucking red like Gladion’s would.

“Ooh, I know,” Hau looked up with a cheshire grin, “demote Faba more for me. That old man really does have it out for you, you know. It’d be funny to see him in the Aether grunt clothing.”

Gladion chuckled, shaking his head in disagreement. Hau made a high pitched whining noise and crossed the room, flopping down over the entirety of Gladion’s desk. The Aether temp president found that he couldn’t be mad in the slightest, as he tried to swallow his giggles and push the other off his desk.

“I’ve already demoted him and promoted Wicke, there’s no reason for me to push him down farther. It’ll just piss him off,” Gladion choked out a laugh as Hau rolled off the desk and slammed down over his lap.

“Master Gladion?” Speak of the devil, the soft voice of Wicke filtered through the office door. Gladion gasped softly, eyes shooting down to the paperwork in front of him. Legal paperwork to be sent to Guzma and Plumeria that basically granted them alibis and a safe out if they were caught wreaking massive fucking havoc on the construction site.

“Classified,” he murmured, Hau glancing up at him with a innocent smile on his face. It kicked Gladion into high gear, grabbing swiftly onto the edge of the desk and jerking his seat forward. Hau cussed―this making Gladion’s eyes widen in shock―at his head getting slammed against the corner of the table.

“Glad―”

“Shh!” Gladion hissed at him, then, “Wicke, enter.”

“Young master,” Wicke greeted, entering the room and peeking around. Gladion was almost certain she heard him and Hau talking, but when she saw nothing and gave a bright smile, he allowed himself to relax. Meanwhile, Hau had seemed to submit to his, frankly awkward, position over the Aether President’s legs.

“Is something the matter?” Gladion prompted the new Branch Chief, who seemed to be slightly on edge.

“Oh, no, young master,” Wicke’s shoulders untensed, and Gladion gave her the best ‘I-Do-Not-Believe-You’ look he could manage up. With Hau obviously messing with his shoelaces under the table, Gladion found it extremely hard not to kick out at his hands.

“Came to check up on me, then?” He sighed out, trying to seem as convincingly inconvenienced as he possibly could. Hau had begun to jab at him in oddly specific places, and only when his shoe was tugged off did Gladion begin to break out in a cold sweat.

“It has been a good several hours since you’ve holed yourself up in this room, master Gladion,” Wicke nodded, “I was wondering if you needed anything. Mainly food. You hardly ate this morning.”

“I’m fine, Wicke,” he assured her, motioning to a couple empty wrappers at the corner of his workspace, “I haven’t been running on pure rage for five hours.”

He felt Hau shake with laughter. In reality, Hau had ate those, and Gladion had to force down the urge to reach under the desk and pinch him. Even if he did, it wouldn’t have been a very long attack. As soon as Gladion had finished his sentence, he felt what he could only assume to be Hau’s fingers prodding at his shoeless foot. Gladion froze, fists and teeth clenching alike as he viciously choked back laughter. The bastard.

“Hm,” Wicke still seemed unsure, her hand coming up to cup at her face, “maybe I should call up Hau? He always gets you to eat a little, and you always come back in such a good mood.”

Gladion felt his blood run cold, and luckily, Hau seemed to have stilled as well. Call Hau? But he was right here . If Wicke knew Hau, a stranger to the Aether Foundation database, was in the room while Gladion was handling sensitive documents . It didn’t matter if she loved him, it wouldn’t simply be ignored .

Wicke reached down and grabbed for her XTransceiver―

NO! ” Gladion stood with a shout, hands slamming against the desktop, and Hau tumbling to the floor with a muffled thump!

Wicke, startled, dropped her XTransceiver, staring up at the Aether child in shock. Gladion stared back, his panic fading to morbid amounts of embarrassment. Slowly, and to his horror, he felt his entire face grow extremely warm. There was only one way to deal with this situation, especially now that his face was definitely beat fucking red, and he hoped to Arceus that Hau wouldn’t tease him later.

“I,” Gladion swallowed, glancing down at his hands, that had clenched sometime in the last few seconds. “If… If you don’t. Mind. Maybe. C-Could I call him instead?”

You call him?” Wicke was still obviously bewildered, “young master, with the utmost respect, I don’t see why I should believe you’ll make right of that particular promise. You have always been a workaholic. I’m afraid you’ll forget or avoid it because you don’t want to ‘inconvenience’ him.”

“I…” Fuck. He didn’t expect that kind of sound logic. Then again, she had practically raised him and Lillie, hadn’t she?

Wicke kneeled to pick up her XTransceiver.

I want to hear his voice! ” Arceus fuck Gladion. Really? He regretted it as soon as the words left his mouth. It did the trick, though. Wicke was staring up at him again, looking like she was about to have a shock-induced aneurysm.

“I… Beg your pardon? ” She spluttered out, eyes wide, and hand still only halfway to her XTransceiver.

“I, fuck, I, he’s nice to hear from y’know, he, uhm,” Gladion was really fucking screwing himself over here. He’d never remembered a time he’d been so spectacularly inelegant with his words.

Wicke got the wrong idea almost immediately. He could see it in the giant grin that was crossing her face.

“Oh, young master―”

“N-No. I assure you you’re getting the wrong idea―”

“You could’ve just told me. Oh, goodness, now it all makes sense―!”

“Wicke, no―”

“You did tell me a couple years back that you weren’t really fond of gir―”

WICKE! Please!”

“Though I did just assume that was the ramblings of a small child. Ohh, and you’re always so happy when he’s around, too! Oh, young master Gladion, I’m so happy for you―!” Wicke clasped her hands over her face, eyes sparkling as she looked over the child she had watched grow.

“I. I really think you’re taking this wrong―” Gladion felt fucking trapped. He, for real, did not expect this to ever happen to him.

“So you don’t?” Her gaze had suddenly turned sharp.

“S-Sorry?” Now he felt trapped in an entirely different way, and it was putting him even further on edge.

“You said you think I’m taking it wrong. Am I?” She had done a complete attitude one-eighty. Business Wicke. This was why Lusamine hired her, and Gladion kept forgetting. Her demeanor was always so motherly and honest, clients would be soothed by her presence, only to be drilled as soon as their guard was let down. It was a ruthless tactic, but it was one Wicke did without remorse, for the sake of the company she loved.

“I don’t…” Gladion was forced to think about the question at hand, however. With Hau literally six inches away from his feet, he couldn’t dream of how he was supposed to tactfully answer. It didn’t help he wasn’t sure. Did he have a thing for Hau?

He felt a brush against his leg, then a hand rested on his calf. It snapped him back to reality.

“He. Calms me. I love having him near me more than anyone, because I’ve never had someone around who made it so genuinely hard for me to not smile,” Gladion stared Wicke down with determination, but he felt his entire body start to shake. His hands dropped to his sides, and he balled his fingers up into his pants like his life depended on it.

Wicke studied him for a long pause. Gladion took it as a sign to keep going.

“He’s made me realize that I maybe have some problems. Pessimism maybe, along with an eating problem, and,” Gladion took a shaky breath, feeling Hau reach up and snag onto his pinky, “I know those are things that’ll take years to heal, and even then it’ll likely affect me for the rest of my life, yet he makes me feel so comfortable and hopeful that I can’t help but want to at least let him try and support me. Through… All my bullshit. So, I just. I don’t know what that means, but―”

“Shh,” Wicke held up a finger, her eyes soft and glittering with tears. Gladion gasped, realizing his face was wet and his eyes burning like hell, fuck.

He grumbled, wiping at his face almost angrily. Wicke quietly crossed over to him, taking his face and cleaning it off with a tissue like she always did, ever since he and Lillie was small. He let her, finding the action was unknotting his nerves.

“Call Hau, then. I’ll leave you to it,” she told him softly, her green eyes practically swimming in maternal love. It made Gladion feel a little euphoric, having her fussing and caring over him like nothing ever happened. She, in his opinion, was the most stable mother figure he’d ever had.

She turned, flouncing back towards the door, taking care to scoop up her XTransceiver before she left. The door closed with a click. Gladion and Hau both waiting for her heels to click down the hallway into nothingness before they dared to breathe.

Gladion fell down into his chair, legs shaky, hand covered his face with his free hand. He sat there for a second, not daring to glance at his friend under his desk. A few moments passed, though it could have been hours, and Gladion felt Hau’s fingers slowly grip and intertwine with his own. It was extremely comforting, and it made his chest give a funny, sparkly feeling. He catalogued that feeling away to be referenced later, peeking out from under his palm and instantly getting caught in Hau’s lively brown eyes.

Hau smiled. It was wide, goofy, elated, and almost looked a little smitten. Though, Gladion was sure it was wishful thinking at this point.

He returned the smile with ease, and the pair fell over each other in a fit of laughter that lasted until the pair were lying over each other on the floor, staring up through a skylight and trying to catch their breaths.

“You’re a nut, Gladi,” Hau looked over, still sounding breathless. Gladion snorted from beside him, not daring to look back over. Their faces were close enough that their noses would brush if he did, and he didn’t think he could handle that at this point.

You’re the nut. Trying to see if I’m ticklish while the Branch Chief is in here doing a random inspection? You’ve gotta be off your damn rocker.”

“With all honesty, I figured you wouldn’t laugh. You’re super good at acting all cool and crap. It’s insulting sometimes,” Hau said matter-of-factly. Gladion snorted, feeling a smile hit his face once more.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Should I be more of an emotional wreck for you, Hau?” He teased, and Hau just rammed a shoulder into his, laughing.

“Look, all I’m saying is that with your level of ‘I-Work-Alone’ attitude, I expected a lot of Evanescence in your room. And maybe even Depeche Mode.”

“Holy shit, Hau,” Gladion looked over at him, sacrificing his better judgement so he could grin right in his friend’s face, “you honestly think Lusamine would stand for me beginning the third emogoth revival in her own home? I think she’d sooner decapitate me.”

“But classical music. Do you really enjoy that stuff?”

“Well, it,” Gladion frowned, “helps me concentrate, yes.”

“Ah, I didn’t mean it like that, sorry,” Hau corrected himself, “I just wasn’t sure if she forced her tastes on you or not. My bad.”

“No, it’s alright,” Gladion’s smile came easily once again, “I’m sorry I don’t fit your super high standards for Edge.”

“Don’t be like that!” Hau smacked his shoulder, giggling, “I’ll plant My Chemical Romance in your room and tip Lillie off to it!”

“That would be horrible, actually.”

“I know.”

“No, I mean. She’d know it’s a joke, but she’d never be off my case. I’d get MCR tank tops. And she’d guilt trip me into wearing them.”

“Good.”

“No,” Gladion scolded his laughing friend, “no, that is very bad. Bad Hau.”

“Hey, super off topic,” Hau smiled wide, and Gladion found himself giving him a nonplussed look, “don’t look at me like that! I just… Wanted to know what you wanted for Valentine's day?”

“Not food,” Gladion answered swiftly, then realized what he’d just been asked, and slowly felt a blush crawling up the back of his neck and onto his face. Hau tsked.

“I wasn’t going to get you food, dummy! I know how you are about that. But, I also,” Hau frowned, “know that you aren’t really. Into items that don’t have much of a functional purpose. So getting you a cute bear to woo you with is kind of out of the question―”

“To woo me with,” Gladion snorted out a laugh, covering his mouth. Hau just grinned, eyes glittering in that affectionate way they did half an hour ago. It forced Gladion to look away, feeling a little bit of guilt pool in his stomach. He wasn’t sure why, though.

“Maybe an MCR tank top, Young Master Too-Cool-For-You?” Hau teased, prodding at his friend’s sides. Gladion choked back giggles, trying to swat him away.

“To be fair, I don’t know what to get you either!”

“Just get me food!” Hau laughed, rolling over and sitting on one of Gladion’s legs to try and jab at him some more.

“I can’t get you food! That’s too easy!” The Aether child tried squirming away. He was grinning wildly up at his friend, who had him pinned down in a vicegrip. “That’s why I asked what you wanted!”

“It’s not my birthday, just get me candy!” Hau stopped prodding in favor of resting his arms on Gladion’s chest, grinning up a storm, “you’re overthinking, Gladi.”

“I’m not, I just…” Gladion trailed off, eyes instinctively avoiding Hau’s.

“Want to seem genuine about it?” Hau supplied, and Gladion nearly melted at how soft his voice had gone.

“I want to seem like I put thought into it,” Gladion affirmed, turning his head so his bangs would fall over his face like a shield. There was a long moment of silence.

“Did you, uhm,” Hau started up, voice cracking a little, “mean what you said?”

“Yeah,” Gladion didn’t need to ask what he meant, and he didn’t feel like lying either. He nearly jumped out of his skin when a hand brushed back his bangs from his face. Hau was smiling―when wasn’t he?―a soft, easy smile that had Gladion relaxing.

“I like to see your face.”

Gladion’s mouth went dry.

“Another question,” Hau continued, starting to look a little embarrassed, “would you like to spend the night at my house? Hala has been getting on me to bring you back to Iki, since he hears me talk so much about you n’stuff―”

Hau talked a lot about him? That was new, and pleasing, information.

“―Hala’s food is really good but he won’t ask if you don’t eat much, so you won’t have to worry about explaining yourself or anything, and we can even camp out in front of Tapo Koko’s shrine in case you aren’t comfortable in my house―”

Oh, he was still rambling. Gladion felt his lips twitch upwards at how thoughtful he was being.

“―and since it’s still midday we could even hang around Hau’oli for a bit before going to Iki? If you wanted, or we could just go straight there and I can give you an in depth tour of the house―well, no, not. That deep. We might just. Skim past my bedroom, actually―”

“Hau,” Gladion stopped him with a laugh, holding up a hand, “I’ll definitely crash at your place for the night. Just let me finish the last page of my work and pack up a bag.”

Hau lit up, then his face crunched in on itself. Gladion busted out laughing when Hau hurriedly excused himself, saying he needed to go make sure his house was actually presentable. Gladion promised to meet him there, shooing his friend with a wave.

Lillie bust in a few minutes later, having caught Hau on his way out and hearing that Gladion was going to spend the night in Iki.

“Shoo! Get out!” She demanded, taking his work from him, “go pack! I’m not having you here for another three hours while Hau is waiting! Bye! Bye! Get out!”

He was laughing as he left, much to his sister’s obvious surprise. It hit him that she probably hadn’t seen him laugh in a long time.

 

As he was packing, there was a knock at his open door. He looked back, eyes widening to see the Champion. They were looking vacantly cheerful as usual.

“Alola, cousin,” they greeted, “I’m here for your sister. She asked me to raise up a Mareanie into a Toxapex for her.”

“Alola, dickhead,” Gladion snorted, dropping a shirt into his bag and crossing the room. The pair gave a rough handshake, MC even slapping his back good-naturedly. “She’s in the office dealing with classified documents. I’d give her a few hours, she likely locked the door.”

“Ah, really? Aloha ‘ino, thank you anyways,” MC hummed, adjusting their sunglasses on their face, “I’ll probably camp outside her room. This Toxapex was a feisty one. Okole puka. I want to get her off my hands as soon as possible. Where are you off to, cousin?”

“Ah, Melemele,” Gladion glanced over at his alarm clock, “I should get going soon.”

“Just to Melemele?” MC’s smile grew, and Gladion suddenly felt very trapped.

“Yes, that is where I’m going. Melemele.” Gladion bristled. The younger child always had a way of getting under his skin.

“You’re full of shit!”

“Goodbye, MC,” Gladion slammed his door shut, grimacing to hear the Champion’s cackling on the other side.

After packing, he forced himself to wait a solid ten minutes before peeking out the room to make sure the Alola Champion wasn’t loitering. They’d done it before, he didn’t see any reason why they wouldn’t do it again. The coast was clear, so he sped down the halls and into the landing bay as fast as he could. This time, he decided to take a Charizard, not keen on waiting on a boat.

He landed right in Iki Town, anxiously looking around. There was something about landing on a Charizard that seemed super flashy, and he was quickly regretting not landing on the outskirts and walking up. He wasn’t even sure where Hau lived. But, he assumed, since Hala was the island Kahuna, that it was the big house near Iki Town’s small festival arena.

He cautiously approached, standing in front of the door and just staring awkwardly before backing away. He was halfway down the steps when there were the loud pounding of feet on wood, and the door slammed open to a very frazzled looking Hau.

Gladion! ” He breathed, launching down the stairs and smashing his friend into a bear hug. Gladion was pleasantly surprised to have the smell of citrus and flowery cleaner smack into his nose. “ My savior! Hala decided we needed to deep clean before you got here! I told him it was only gunna be maybe thirty minutes, but then a good hour passed and we were still cleaning so he decided to try and pull up the floorboards to clean under them and I―”

Hau pulled back. His eyes were watering, and Gladion couldn’t help but snicker.

“MC held me up a little, my bad.”

“MC?” Hau perked up a little at that, and Gladion felt a twinge of jealousy prick at his chest. He shoved it away the best he could, but that seemed to make it worse.

“Yeah. Raised a Toxapex for Lillie. It’s whatever.” Gladion could hear the pout in his voice, and he flinched at it. Hau gave him an odd look, but chose to not comment in favor of leading Gladion up the stairs.

The show around the house was pretty amazing, in Gladion’s opinion. It was flowery, and warm. He screamed a little when Hau showed him the bathroom, not expecting to see Pyukumuku had taken up residence. The Pokémon had found this extremely funny, and stuck to Gladion like glue for the rest of the tour.

“Other people live here?” Gladion noted the large room full of beds.

“My whole family, yeah,” Hau laughed awkwardly, “I… We built a room for me in the back of the house.”

“What? Why?” Gladion was ready to get mad, but Hau’s face scrunched up and tinged just the slightest bit of red.

“Wh… When I hit puberty, uhm, you see…”

OH. ” Gladion exclaimed, and Hau made a strangled noise, slapping a hand over his friend’s mouth.

“Don’t. Holy crap, don’t,” Hau looked like he was going to explode from embarrassment any second, “I’ll kill myself right now. I’ll jump off a cliff. I swear.”

Gladion swallowed, fighting back a grin. Unfortunately, Hau’s hand was right over his mouth, and he could tell he was struggling. His face fell into the most unamused look Gladion had ever seen on anyone, and that made it even harder not to laugh. Pressure built up until a strangled giggle escaped him on accident. Hau groaned.

“Is it really that fucking hard not to laugh? Arceus save me.

Gladion exploded as soon as he cussed, doubling over and burying his face in Hau’s neck. Hau muttered something grumpily, patting Gladion’s hair.

“I-I’m so-sorry!” He giggled, enjoying his laughter’s bubbling sensation and the feeling of being in close proximity with Hau.

“Let it all out, bud,” Hau sighed, but he didn’t actually sound angry, “please. I don’t ever want to hear about this again.”

The pair ended up in Hau’s room a good fifteen minutes later. A new tidbit of information Gladion found out: Hau loved taking pictures. They spent a solid hour going through a box full of meticulously organized photos from Hau’s journey through Alola. He found that Hau gradually got more and more skilled at taking photos, and it got to the point where Gladion was seriously holding back from asking for a few.

“What the…” Gladion snagged one photo out, and Hau started laughing. “This is me . With Silvally back when it was just Null. When…?”

“Whenever you’d see me, you’d always pretend that you hadn’t noticed. I started taking pictures out of spite. I had a lot of them!”

“Ah,” Gladion felt guilt stab him, “I’m sorry. About that.”

“I always meant to ask if there was a reason for that,” Hau sounded passive, but Gladion knew him better than that.

“Hm,” Gladion sat back against the side of Hau’s bed, “are you ready to hear something pretty edgy?”

What? Edgy? From you? ” Hau laughed out, and Gladion lightly punched his arm, shooting him a grin.

“In honesty, I wasn’t sure how to handle you.”

“Handle me?” Hau laughed, though his eyebrows drew together, “a good ol’ Hi Hau! would’ve sufficed.”

“It was just…” Gladion was getting frustrated at his inability to explain, “I’ve been raised for business, Hau.”

“Oh,” Hau breathed, and Gladion was reminded of how smart this boy actually was, “well, I think you’re doing pretty swell.”

“I am now .” Gladion scoffed.

 

Dinner was wild. Hau’s family was big, and Gladion had never been at a dinner table where people really talked. No one was even paying attention to him, and having Hau laughing and making a mess of his face directly next to him was oddly calming.

“Hau! Eat your vegetables! Tapu Koko only knows how much sweets you eat when I’m not watching!” A woman who had been earlier introduced as Hau’s aunt scolded him.

“Tapu Koko would know, because I share malasada with it!”

“Don’t spoil the guardian like that! Hau!”

“Aye, you go, hoahanau! It’ll definitely favor you to be Kahuna over everyone else if you fatten it up!” Another voice, one of Hau’s cousin’s, piped up jokingly.

“Ahahana!” Hau’s aunt slapped the cousin across the head chastisingly, “don’t insult Iki Koko like that!”

Gladion felt himself grin, amazingly thrown off by this casual talk about Melemele’s guardian Pokémon. And did she just call it Little Koko? Outstanding, Hau’s family was fucking outstanding. He’d never dreamed that a guardian Pokémon would be talked about like it was the village child .

Like Hau said, not only did no one ask him why he was barely eating, but Hala’s food was extremely good. At least, what he ate of it anyways. Once the boys had skedaddled back to Hau’s room, he was explained to that Hala liked to cook the old fashioned way: over an open fire, with banana leaves. He then loudly proclaimed that his grandpa’s cooking was the best ever.

After about an half hour more of looking through pictures and listening to Hau talk about each memory that photo held, two of his cousins bust in and pelted the both of them with Pokébeans. Gladion dropped and rolled under Hau’s coffee table, leaving the other to the metaphorical Sharpedo. When they had left, Hau peeked under the table and grinned at the grumpy look Gladion was wearing.

“Why, exactly?” He asked immediately, Hau just giggling a little.

“Help me gather all these up, it’s my turn to feed Iki Koko.”

What .”

True enough, Gladion found himself walking his way back up to the entrance of Tapu Koko’s shrine, where the Guardian Pokémon was hovering in wait. Hau scampered up, undeterred, and offered up a patterned bean. Tapu Koko didn’t budge, just remained clamped up in it’s shield.

“ ‘Ea? Nana i o’u, Koko, you’re being a brat today,” Hau seriously sounded like he was scolding Tapu Koko, “if you don’t eat, ‘Anake will scold you herself. We all know how well that went last time, pa`akikî Koko.”

Gladion had to take a second to translate everything that Hau was was saying. He always knew Hau was a native speaker,  but he’d never heard him speak so much . Especially since he was mixing common language with Alolan, Gladion’s translating wasn’t going along too well. Not to mention, Hau’s voice sounded musical when he was speaking his homeland language, and Gladion found it kind of distracting.

All was lost, however, when Hau started rapid firing off sentences in Alolan. Gladion had been raised in this region, but he’d never been around their language enough to get fluent enough for… this.

Tapu Koko opened its shell a tad and cooed almost angrily. Hau responded beratingly, and Gladion managed to catch him threatening the guardian with his Aunt again. He held up a bean like it was a knife, and the pair stared at each other for a long second before Tapu Koko huffed indignantly and took a massive bite out of the offered food. Hau’s mood brightened instantly, and he rubbed Tapu Koko on the head, offering up more beans after it finished the current one.

Gladion watched in awe. The setting sun made the guardian Pokémon look like it was on fire. He glanced away from Tapu Koko and over to Hau. He was petting Melemele’s deity, but smiling over at Gladion.

“Whaddya think of Iki Koko? Kind of a dummy, isn’t it?”

“I think it looks to be in great health,” Gladion blurted, flinching a moment later. Hau giggled a bit.

“I forget you’ve been raised in Aether Paradise sometimes! That’s the first time I’ve heard that one,” Hau still sounded like he was singing, “usually we get beautiful or stunning or powerful , but never in good health. Koko, you passed Gladion’s science-y evaluation!”

Tapu Koko made a noise that sounded like a scoff, taking the last of the beans and disappearing in an instant.

“It’s temperamental?” Gladion asked, scanning the skies for any sign of the Tapu, to no avail.

“Hmm,” Hau sang out a hum, stuffing his hands behind his head, “I’d say it’s more of an isolationist. It really does have it’s patient moments.”

“Speaking of isolation,” Gladion looked around at the cliff, still amazed by how many hau bushes were planted around the area, “Hala mentioned you come up here a lot? I never did ask why.”

“Ah,” Hau looked around, his face dropping. For a moment, Gladion considered taking back the question and moving on, but Hau had sat down on the edge of the broken bridge faster than his mouth could move. He looked back at Gladion and patted the area next to him. He wasn’t too fond of heights, but he accepted the offer anyways.

“I brought these flowers up here,” Hau started, sounding sheepish, “it was on accident, but I had apparently brought some pollen up here on my clothing or something, and it cross-pollinated with some Bounsweet and they dropped some hau seeds into the ground.”

“They can do that?” Gladion had never been strong in the grass type area of Pokémon, but he’d never heard of that happening before, either.

“Oh, yeah. Bounsweet are perfect pollinators for pretty much all types of flowers, it’s theorized that’s why they smell and taste so nice,” Hau rattled off listlessly. Gladion found that pretty fucking fascinating, but Hau was too distracted to be enthusiastic, so he kept his excitement on the downlow.

“Keep going,” Gladion prompted, and Hau jumped a little, as if he forgot someone was with him.

“Oh, right, oia,” Hau shook his head, “I had gone through the entire region. I was so excited for everything, you know? I’d never really gotten to see outside of Iki Town, much less Melemele in general . So, going out, seeing Poni, and Akala, and Ula’ula… That was super fun. Everything was new, you know? Building up my team, getting strong, even getting beat by you and MC all the time, it was all a ton of fun. Learning about yours and Lillie’s home problems and quite literally stopping an inadvertent criminal organization because of a poisoned lady who was slowly going mad? No offense, but that was the most thrilling time of my life so far, and it probably always will be.

“But, it ended so quickly, ya know? MC became Champion , you took over as Aether President until Mrs Lusamine recovered, and Lillie was off to Kanto. And, then, here I am, stuck as the grandson of Melemele’s Kahuna, expected to be the next one. You know I can already take Hala in a battle? It just seems. Unfair. How my future seems to be already planned out for me. The old man isn’t going to retire or die anytime soon, he’s only in his mid fifties. You’d think I’d want to go around Alola more, maybe. Explore until I get tired. But, I’m. Not ever going to be tired of exploring. Shit, I’m just rambling at this point. Is there even anything connecting my thoughts together?

“I guess what I’m trying to say is that. I’m expected to stay near Iki―or, at least, that’s what it feels like. I want to go out and see more things, maybe even outside of Alola. I want to… Feel like I have control of myself and what I want to do. To see if I really do want and deserve to be Melemele’s Kahuna,” Hau took a deep breath, falling onto his back and staring up wistfully at the sky, “Alola is so small compared to the rest of the world. Have you seen pictures of Ecruteak City?”

Gladion shook his head, not wanting to say anything that might derail Hau’s train of thought.

“Oh, man ,” Hau grinned, looking excited and sad all at the same time, “it’s this beautiful town in Johto. I saw some photographs in a book in Malie City’s library. The roads are made of those pretty decorative stepping stones. The ones you usually see in Zen Gardens and stuff. The whole place gives off this really traditional vibe.”

“Like Malie Garden?” Gladion asked, and Hau smiled at him brightly.

“Yes! But with more trees, it looks like autumn would be beautiful there, ya know?”

“Tell me more about it,” Gladion said, shifting in a cross-legged position to face his friend.

“Ecruteak, or…?” Hau’s brow drew together.

“Everything you have to offer. Everything and everywhere you’ve read about and want to do and see. Tell me about all of it.”

“Wh…” Hau’s eyes widened, he searched Gladion’s face for a second, and, not finding whatever rejection he was looking for, launched into a verbal essay.

He talked for ages about Johto, and how all the pictures he’d seen were so rustic and natural. Not natural like Alola was, he’d explained, but more woodsy. The trees were more suited for colder weather, he’d said, and instead of just a few pines in one area, they were all over. There was an offhanded comment about him wanting to braid the pine needles together into a long rope.

He also seemed super psyched over Hearthome City, saying there was a Pokémon park there and that there were ruins to explore in it. Gladion thought that was pretty weird, which he voiced. Hau proceeded to spit off so much knowledge about the Sinnoh region and all it’s digging and architectural prowess that Gladion couldn’t help but spout out how amazing it was that Hau knew all of this stuff. Hau grinned, his eyes shining in the moonlight.

He continued talking about everything he could about every different region. Gladion had never heard about the shipwreck in Hoenn, but after hearing about the unique environment it had to offer and how not a lot of people liked to explore it, he even started to get back that itch for adventure he’d lost somewhere during his time as temporary Aether President.

“They even make secret bases in Hoenn,” Hau commented, and Gladion perked up.

“Secret bases?”

“Yeah! They sell decorations and furniture in some places. Slateport City has a pretty well-known flea market where they have stuff up for sale.”

“That’s… Furniture?”

“Yeah! Couches, beds, televisions, stairs even―”

“That’s not bases that’s real estate.

“Right?!” Hau laughed, wedging his arms under his head, “I still want one, though. It’d feel like my own place to go back to and rest. It sounds really nice.”

“What would you do with it if you decided you didn’t want to stay in Hoenn?”

“Probably scrap it and move on! I can keep the furniture, so, it’d be good to have for my first house, I think.”

Gladion didn’t bother pointing out the fact that he just implied he didn’t want to stay in Iki Town―or at least his current house. The last thing Hau wanted was to hear that he was expected to remain in his birth town.

When Hau started talking about Lavender Town in the Kanto region, Gladion started getting a little spooked. He brought this up casually, but Hau knew him better, and gave him a relieved smile. He, too, was a little creeped the fuck out, it seemed, and didn’t actually want to visit the town, though it was listed as a popular tourist destination. He seemed much happier to ramble about Seafoam Island’s five different levels and the Pokémon that could be found there.

Gladion didn’t hear much about Unova except that it seemed to be very technology driven―“Nimbasa City has a ferris wheel, Gladion! A ferris wheel!”―and Hau really wanted a Casteliacone. They were famous for them, he’d insisted, and he really wanted to compare them to malasada. Hau had also pulled up a picture of an Emolga on his XTransceiver, stated he definitely wanted it. Gladion said he’d seen a few of those in Poni Plains. Hau replied that he wanted an authentic Emolga. Gladion told him he was full of shit.

Kalos was the region of fashion. Gladion had always heard about this from passerby tourists, but Hau seemed to also be super interested in their clothing as much as he was interested in everything else. The must’ve spent a solid hour looking through Kalos boutique websites, joking about each other in the complete opposite style of what they were currently wearing.

“I think you’d look dashing in a white sleeveless turtleneck with purple skinny jeans and fluffy boots, Gladi,” Hau had told him.

“You’re fucking delusional,” Gladion had replied, “the day I wear White Girl In The Winter attire is the day I see you in a vest and a tie.”

Hau seemed to take this a sound deal, and Gladion was half tempted to take it back. He didn’t, though, and somehow felt that he needed to make good of the promise.

Somewhere along the way of Hau’s passionate talk of the outside world, Gladion had laid down beside him. The moon was at it’s highest point in the sky, and he was suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of déjà vu. It took him a few seconds to realize they’d done this before, not too long ago. Laying, looking up at the sky, and talking about things that the two of them found to be the most important.

“What about you, Gladion?” Hau asked, and Gladion could hear the familiar soft, sleepy tone that had creeped its way into his excitable voice, “do you want to be Aether’s President?”

“No,” he’d answered so quickly, he startled himself. It shouldn’t have. He had been waiting for someone to ask him that question. Did he want to run Aether? No. He didn’t.

“Then why are you there?”

Gladion took a moment to collect his thoughts.

“Aether is… important to this world. Despite the fact that Lusamine almost screwed us all over, we got off easy because we genuinely value Pokémon. Each and every one of them. Lapras are no longer endangered, we’re keeping Corsola off the watchlist, and the Mareanie population is at a sustainable rate from our efforts alone. We have vast resources to heal and rehabilitate injured species, and with all the evil groups popping up lately, no one really wants to crack down on us.

“I could leave Wicke in charge, but she has no heirs, Arceus forbid Faba gets his hands on the reigns somehow. And, shit, even Lillie is busy making sure our dumbass parent doesn’t die because she was going mad and subjected herself to a shitload of poison. I feel obligated to keep Aether as genuine as I possibly can, now that it’s dark underbelly has been slashed open for the world to see.”

“That’s,” Hau took a deep breathe, “tough.”

Gladion snorted out a laugh, turning his head and ramming his face into the side of Hau’s arm.

“Yeah, actually. This wasn’t what I had in mind for my childhood at all.”

“Me, either,” Hau sounded a little choked up, “I mean. Shit . I. Don’t want to stay in Alola, Gladion. I don’t want to stay here until it’s too late. I know I told MC I would travel the world, but… I still feel so trapped.”

“Yeah,” Gladion’s voice was shaking, “yeah, me too.”

“Taking on all this here. It―yeah, it was exciting , but… Now I’m scared something else will happen, i-if I leave Alola. And this time, I won’t have MC, or you, or even Lillie, ” Hau clutched at Gladion’s hand, “but I want to leave these islands so bad. I want to see everything from these books with my own eyes. I just… can’t muster up the courage to go.”

“I understand,” Gladion replied, returning the death grip that Hau had put on his hand.

“I know you do,” Hau replied, in a whisper so quiet Gladion could barely hear it, “I know you do, and I love you for that.”

The breath rushed out of Gladion in a torrent, and he felt his head swim. He laid there for what felt like a millenia, face pressed against Hau’s arm. In reality, it was only a few seconds, and in those short moments, Hau had passed out.

Fuck? ” Gladion whispered, suddenly wide awake. He wanted to shake Hau awake and demand he repeat what he’d said, just to be selfish and revel in the fact that, platonically or otherwise, Hau had told him he loved him. And damn if that didn’t make his chest hurt in the best way possible.

Gladion wasn’t really sure how long he had stayed awake after, glancing up at the side of his best friend’s face every so often, but he fell asleep at some point.

Their awakening was rude. Gladion had to give Tapu Koko some slack, though, considering it had decided to land it’s full weight on Hau and not him.

“ ‘Ai kukae a make!” Hau spat out, his voice still laced with grogginess. Gladion’s eyes widened at the vulgar statement, and he stared at his sleepy friend for a long while before howling in laughter.

Eat shit and die?! ” Gladion cackled out, covering his face with both his hands, “holy fuck! You just said that to a Tapu!

“Well maybe if it wasn’t such a problem child I wouldn’t have!” Hau whined out, sitting up slowly and pushing the guardian Pokémon off himself. Tapu Koko cooed out grumpily, shoving it’s body into Hau.

“I’m going, I’m going!” Hau grouched out, grabbing the laughing Gladion by the hand and hauling the two away from Tapu Koko’s shrine.

Gladion stopped giggling quickly, noticing that Hau was stiffer than usual. There wasn’t silence for long, though. Gladion tugged on his best friend’s hand, forcing him to a stop. After that, it was easy to tell something was wrong, since Hau was actively avoiding the other’s eyes.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” No point in idle chat, he wanted to get right to the point so he could try and fix it.

“I… Said something that you may not have been okay with last night,” Hau’s face crumbled in on itself in guilt, and Gladion immediately shook his head.

“Don’t,” he flinched at how aggressive he sounded, “I’m not very good. At the friendship and the feelings thing, but, just. Do me a huge favor and don’t look like that. Unless you really didn’t mean it―”

“I did!” Hau yelped, head snapping up in a fiery determination. It melted quickly, though, into the most amazing facial display of embarrassment Gladion had ever seen.

“Then don’t look so sorry about it,” he huffed, trying not to sound too irritated at the fact Hau thought even for a second that his affection was unwanted.

Hau studied Gladion’s face for a second, and, for the second time since this whole crazy thing between them had started, he cautiously intertwined his fingers with Gladion’s. The Aether child had to swallow literally every positive emotion under the sun, he was sure. The struggle apparently showed up on his face, and Hau exploded into giggles, turning and continuing to drag the other back to Iki Town.

When they raced past Hau’s house and down onto the path towards Hau’oli, Gladion asked Hau what in the fresh fuck he was doing.

“I assumed your workaholic self has work today, so we’re going back to Aether!” He proclaimed.

“I literally left my bag at your house,” Gladion snorted.

“Yeah, but you only had clothes and toiletries in that. Don’t pretend I don’t know you!”

The receptionist seemed overly chipper that morning, not her usual wary self. Gladion realized with a shock that it was because he didn’t look nearly as menacing with Melemele’s flower boy linked to his hand. It wasn’t as if he was worried about reputation, but it definitely was an odd change, being treated so congenially.

In fact, the entire boat staff was treating him differently. Even the few that were on the boat to Aether because they worked there weren’t giving him uneasy glances. It was all rainbows and fucking sunshine with Hau and him connected by the hip. He found this unnerving, but not entirely unpleasant.

Once on Aether, he informed Hau that he’d most likely be dealing with sensitive things once more, but it shouldn’t take him as long. It was most likely just approving some more downlow legal documents for Guzma and Plumeria’s sabotage, and well as dealing with how the fuck they were going to get paid. It wasn’t like he could wire transfer money to a bank account they didn’t even have .

Hau assured him this was just fine, but made him give up Silvally’s Pokéball. He was going to hang out in the conservation floor, and he wanted to play with Silvally and the rest of his Pokémon. Gladion was incredulous, but he willingly handed over his partner Pokémon. When he thought about it, Hau really was the only person who never showed a shred of fear for Type: Null or, later, Silvally. Even MC had looked a little shaken when they first saw it.

And, while he was sitting at his desk, the door locked and his mind still wandering up to his best friend a floor up, he came up with the perfect Valentine’s gift.

 

The remaining few days couldn’t go any slower. He’d already done everything. He had a long sit down with Hala, Wicke, and Lillie. During that time, he managed to get MC to drag Hau around on the “longest fucking friend date” they could muster up. MC had obviously found this as a challenge, since later on, Hau was rambling on and on about how he had no flipping idea Poni was so big .

Thinking back onto the meeting, Wicke had agreed almost immediately. She even teared up a little, assuring Gladion of some minor things.

Lillie was teary eyed too, and that was what made Gladion the most embarrassed. His sister. Crying. He wanted to die. Or, at the very least, give her a hug. He did the latter easily. She whispered encouragement to him, and he felt eternally indebted to her.

He had expected Hala to be tough. However, after telling him everything he felt―leaving out the, uh, romantic feelings bit―Hala had even started wiping at his eyes, murmuring some things in Alolan about how proud Hau’s father would be that he’d found such wonderful friends. Gladion took it back. That made him the most embarrassed.

When Valentine’s Day had finally hit, he got a good luck text from Lillie, and a text from MC saying he was seriously outdoing everyone’s Valentine’s Day gift for Hau, and that they were going to kick his ass for it someday. Gladion told them to shove their bitchy attitude up their ass and just wish him luck. He proceeded to get a two gigabyte file of shimmering, moving, 3D text that just said “Good Luck :3c”. Gladion wanted to fucking murder the Champion, in the nicest way possible.

He had made Hau promise to meet the three of them at the Melemele docks, though he planned to arrive later than Lillie and MC. It gave them time to hand out gifts and exchange hugs.

He arrived just in time, it seemed. Everyone was already holding items. Lillie had gotten a Cosmog plushie. MC was holding two baskets full of various medicinal herbs and items, and they were looking pretty damn pleased about it too. Gladion didn’t notice right away, but Hau had been given chocolate (most likely from Lillie―it was already in his mouth) and a new hair tie. It had a small yellow hibiscus flower attached to it.

Gladion strode up, and when MC opened their mouth to greet him, he shoved a Max Revive in their mouth, and a basket full of specialty Pokéballs in their arms. They spit the Max Revive into the basket, looking smug at the sheer amount of loot they had managed to rake in. MC, in return, handed Gladion a sew on patch that said ‘Bitch Alert’. Gladion snorted, grinning a little. He was surprised MC actually got him something he liked, even if it was an obvious gag present.

His next gift was for Lillie, and he handed her two Lunala and Solgaleo plushies. He’d managed to snag them at a tourist shop. Her eyes got watery, and she stuffed the three plushies into her bag before launching at her older brother at top speed, the two locking into a vice grip of a hug. Gladion wasn’t fooled. This was more than just a ‘Thank You’ hug.

She slipped something into his bag, and he was about to ask when she said:

“It’s for later.”

He decided not to question her.

“Ah, by the way,” MC interjected, “I didn’t want to give Lillie her present until everyone was here.”

Lillie sniffled out a laugh, pulling back from her brother and grinning cheekily at MC.

“Oh, what? You actually got me something?”

“Of course I did. Come here,” they were digging around in their bag, and pulled out a tightly closed fist. Lillie gave them a flat look. “Hold out your hand.”

“If it’s a piece of candy, I’ll push you into the ocean. No remorse―” She held out a hand, and MC quickly set something down and pressed something. Lillie’s statement cut off with a choked sob to see a Master Ball resting in her palm.

“Since you’re a trainer now,” MC said softly, “I figured you might want this back.”

“Oh… Oh Nebby ―” She covered her mouth with her free hand, other arm still outstretched and shaking. Then, softly, she brought the Pokéball to her face and began to let out soft cries, rubbing her cheek against it.

Everyone stood there, MC and Hau reaching out and rubbing her shoulder and back respectively, as she wept and swallowed back her gradually clogging throat.

Thank you, MC. Thank you so much, ” she was half laughing, half crying, and everyone couldn’t help but smile.

“Right…!” She suddenly spun on her heel, Nebby’s Pokéball still clutched tightly in her hands. Her face was tear stained and eyes bloodshot, but the smile on her face was the biggest Gladion had ever seen from her. “We still have one more to go, don’t we!”

“Ah,” shit, she was talking about him, “yeah.”

“Oh! That’s right!” Hau looked over at him and smiled, “I didn’t really know what to get you…”

He laughed, MC and Lillie looked mortified, but Gladion just chuckled.

“I assume you didn’t get me anything, then?”

“You know me too well, ka’u hoaloha!” Hau began digging through his bag, giggling a bit when he pulled out a small photo portfolio, “I just decided to give you what I already had.”

Gladion took the photo book, smiling elatedly. He flipped through it, recognizing a lot of scenery photos Hau had in his box back home. Then, to his delight, there were several pictures of Silvally, Raichu, and Hau, all playing and relaxing in the sanctuary. That’s why he wanted Silvally.

“This is…” Gladion struggled with his voice, “wonderful. I love it.”

“I’m so glad!” Hau turned up the brightness on his smile, and Gladion just snorted.

“Way to fucking scare the shit outta me and Lils, hoahanau!” MC laughed out, slugging Hau on the arm, “we genuinely thought you didn’t get the whiner jack shit!”

“You have no faith!” Hau blew a raspberry at them. Lillie giggled into her palm.

“Honestly, you calling me a whiner…” Gladion huffed taking his time to grab his gift from his bag. When he snagged it, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves, which were rapidly spiraling out of control.

“You alright, Gladi?” Hau asked, and Gladion offered a shaky smile.

“Yeah. Here,” the Aether boy reached out quickly, and Hau’s hands whipped out and caught the small golden satchel right as Gladion dropped it.

“What… Is this?” Hau asked, looking confused. He studied the shimmering bag for a second, then fingered it open cautiously. The contents made his face scrunch up even more. “Is this…? Ash?”

“Sacred Ash. Yes,” as soon as Gladion had said it, the group gasped. Even Lillie looked shocked, and he couldn’t blame her. He hadn’t mentioned this little part. Hau looked like he was going to faint, and he clutched the bag close to him.

“H-Ho Oh’s…?” He seemed to be in a bit of a daze.

“Yes. Ho Oh’s Sacred Ash. I… was able to contact a Geisha from Ecruteak who shipped some out for me. She seemed to think it was a thoughtful gift—”

“Th-Thoughtful?! This is amazing! ” Hau spluttered out a laugh, gazing down at the satchel in awe.

“I’m…” he glanced over at MC and Lillie, who egged him on with encouraging nods, and, in MC’s case, an enthusiastic thumbs up.

“I’m not done,” he managed, pulling two cards from his pocket. Hau looked at them in interest.

“What else could you have possibly done for me?” He laughed airily, reaching out and taking a card Gladion offered him.

He took a second to study it, then froze solid, eyes wide. The group watched him, MC and Lillie edging over to better see his reaction.

“G-Gladion…? Wh-What…? Is this…?” his voice was cracking, eyes already welling up with tears. “H-Hala even… signed it? Is… Is this a…?”

“It’s a universal Trainer Identification and Transportation Card,” Gladion affirmed, finding his voice was also shaking a little, “it functions under the pretense that you’ll be competing in each region’s trainer Gyms, so we can’t exactly shirk in that area—”

“W-We?” Hau looked up at him, tears beginning to bubble over and fall down his cheeks.

“I… I was wondering if you’d,” he tried to take a breath to stop his shaking, but to no avail, “if you’d like to travel with me. Around the world.”

Hau was silent, staring incredulously at Gladion. The waterworks were still going strong.

“Of course, you… don’t have to! I was… Just, uhm, offering, I, uhm, talked to Hala and everything and he was perfectly okay with it, and Wicke will be taking over Aether though I was hesitant, she, uhm, is actually better at business than I am so I trust her, and, uhm—”

Fuck, ” Hau breathed out, and Gladion’s rambling was cut off by Hau’s mouth crashing into his. He staggered back, but managed to tangle his hands into Hau’s shirt and kiss him back as hard as he could muster up.

They broke apart to Hau whining in pain, reaching up to his lips and grimacing to see blood. Gladion had fared no better.

“I…” But that was all Gladion could force out. He was staring down at the boy in his arms in astonishment. Hau just grinned sheepishly.

MC whistled, breaking the moment. They looked over, remembering there were others there .

“I’m so happy for you two, honestly,” MC was giving them the biggest grin they could muster up, “you two together feels good. Feels natural.”

“I assume,” Lillie giggled out, her cheeks dusted pink, “that’s a yes, Hau?”

“Oh, crap,” Hau laughed bashfully, blinking up at Gladion, “uhm, yes. I’d love to travel with you.”

Awesome ,” was all Gladion could reply with, still swallowing a whole hoard of Butterfree. MC found his obvious struggle hilarious .

 

Hau had insisted they leave immediately . Gladion told him he was crazy, but Hau told him quietly that he didn’t want time to think, or he might convince himself not to go. Gladion told him he’d already agreed to go, so there was nothing in the fresh fucking lava pits of Kiawe’s ass that Hau could come up with that would keep him from forcing them both onto that boat.

For some reason, Hau got extremely emotional over that, and dragged Gladion down into a series of kisses. MC and Lillie found them like that.

“Dumbasses!” MC cackled as Lillie smacked them both upside the head.

“You both split your stupid faces with the first kiss! Let it heal!” Lillie scolded. Gladion kept his face passive, staying silent. He only hoped Hau would do the same—

“Fuck no!” Hau exclaimed, and Gladion nearly had a heart attack, “I waited this long, woman! Let me kiss your cute brother!”

MC couldn’t take that, and they broke down into howls of laughter on the floor of Hau’s bedroom.

“Arceus lend me strength…” Lillie grumbled, pinching the bridge of her nose. Gladion felt bad for her for a second, but then Hau was nuzzling his cheek, and he was suddenly completely remorseless.

The entirety of Alola’s population was outside the docks when they got there, it seemed. Everyone was chatting, all laughing at Hala’s jokes every so often, even Kiawe. When they saw the four kids begin to make their way down, they all rushed forwards.

Ilima and Mallow practically stuffed a book full of recipes into Hau’s hands. Olivia and Hapu joined in, the four of them fussing over Hau and making sure he had absolutely everything .

Nanu was, surprisingly, at the docks as well. He approached Gladion and gave him a soft clap on the shoulder.

“G’luck, kid,” he offered, and Gladion couldn’t help but smiling.

“Thanks, grandpa.”

“Ugh, damn, kid,” Nanu chuckled a bit, “Guzma, Plumeria, and the rest of Team Skull already call me that. I can’t believe this is some shit trend. Oh, and, here. Speaking of.”

Gladion took a letter from Nanu, confused, until he saw the signature skull emblem scribbled on the front. He felt emotion choke up in his throat, but swallowed it down and managed to thank the Kahuna for delivering it.

Hala was next, slapping him heartily on the back.

“Take good care of my boy!” He boomed, prompting Hau to break away from his four fussing friends and yell out a few whiny protests about how he could take care of himself. Hala just laughed as he was swallowed by the crowd again, MC and Lillie joining in for the fun of it.

Kiawe was. Awkward. And so was Lana and Sophocles. They nodded at him from a distance, and Gladion nodded back, a little glad he didn’t have to deal with more half hearted goodbyes.

Acerola came shooting out of nowhere with Mina. The ghost Elite Four member flew up and attached herself around Hau’s neck, screaming about how she was going to miss him. Mina just gave Gladion a nod. Gladion was too confused as to why Acerola and Mina showed up together to nod back. She didn’t seem to care.

“Alright!” Hau laughed out, peeling himself from the mob of people and stumbling to attach himself to Gladion, “we have a boat to catch!”

“Ah, that’s right,” Gladion looked up as a street clock, “boarding is starting right now, actually.”

Before they could go, Lillie and MC flew out of the group of Trial Captains and Kahunas, smashing the four of them into a big group hug.

“Call regularly, okay? Or, text, and, lots of photos! Please be careful, and, uhm, h-have fun ,” Lillie rattled out, her voice quaking again.

“I’m setting up a groupchat,” they were all surprised to hear MC’s voice laced with emotion, “you two message it every hour until you land! And… And tell us when you land! Send picture proof!”

They all looked up at the same time, then broke out into laughter, tears streaming down all their faces.

“We will, MC. Thank you for worrying,” Hau knocked their heads together, and MC sniffled.

“Whatever! Friends worry about friends. It’s a friend thing to do.”

“Go catch that boat,” Lillie pulled back, taking MC with her. They clung to her, visibly holding back more tears.

Hau nodded, taking Gladion by the arm. The two waved, walking into the loading station and passing through ticket check. Their trainer cards did the trick, and the pair found themselves on a boat to Johto.

“Wait, fuck, Hau!” Gladion exclaimed as the boat began to sail, “You didn’t say goodbye to Hala!”

“It’s okay!” Hau laughed, taking Gladion’s hand, “we said our goodbyes earlier. I don’t think he could handle saying goodbye again.”

Gladion breathed out a sigh, looked up and watching all their friends waving at the end of the pier.

“What’s that?”

Gladion looked over at Hau, then down to the letter in his hand.

“Oh, it’s—” he turned it over in his hands, “from Guzma and Plumeria.”

“Gunna read it?”

“Might as well,” Gladion tore it open.

 

Small Gladster,

 

WHATS UP ITS YA BOI GUZMA HERE WITH YA GAL PLUMERIA. SHE SAYS HEY.

so, heard youre off on one hell of an adventure with your small malasada boi. proud of you kid. plumeria nods in agreement. all the grunts wanted to say theyre fuckin sorry for every time they were little gremlins to ya. they also wish you the best, and, hey shit, feel free to mail letters and fuck. just send it to po town and one of us will get it, HAH

thanks for all ya did for us, kid. wickester said our lil back alley pact is stayin intact because of how “effective” we are. we love ya kiddo. ur like a little brother to us. or maybe a son. iunno. im not that fuckin old am i?

—ya bois, ya gals, ya team skull pals

 

PS: plumes says she wants photos of ya and ya lil malasada. says she just might beatcha ass if ya aint smilin. i think thats her way of sayin ya better enjoy urself

 

Gladion stuffed the letter back into the envelope, eyes stinging viciously. Hau wrapped an arm around his waist and nuzzled his arm.

“Guess we have a whole town of idiots to send letters to, now,” Gladion sniffed out, wiping at his face and staring back Alola, fading into the horizon.

“That’s not so bad,” Hau giggled, tugging at Gladion’s waist until he turned and gave Hau a small peck, “they seem to really care about you.”

“Eh, that’s a recent development,” Gladion slung his pack from his shoulders and went to stuff the envelope inside, stopping short when he saw a thin package, wrapped in pink heart paper. He pulled it out, and the two stared at it.

“What is that?

Gladion remembered.

“Lillie. She snuck something in my bag. It’s a Valentine’s present,” he ripped open the wrapper and couldn’t help the loud laugh that erupted from his throat.

“Are those?” Hau’s mouth turned upwards into a smile.

“Fucking maps ,” Gladion crushed the wrapping paper in a hand, fanning out the maps in his other. Johto, Kanto, Hoenn, Sinnoh, Unova, and Kalos. All region maps. Sitting in his palm. “How practical of her.”

“Ooh…!” Hau took them gingerly, eyes sparkling, “I’m…! So excited!”

Gladion stared at him, flipping through the pamphlets and grinning wildly. His hair was blowing around in the ocean wind, and Alola was almost out of sight. They were on there way to a completely new adventure, and the realization he was doing this with Hau suddenly hit him like a train.

“Hau,” he choked out, catching the boy’s attention immediately. Gladion reached out slowly. When his fingertips snagged the fabric of Hau’s shirt, he jerked him into a tight hug. Hau reciprocated immediately, almost squeezing the air out of Gladion’s lungs.

“Are you okay…?” Hau asked quietly.

“Happy Valentine’s Day. I can never top this, I really played myself—”

“Gladion! You’re so silly, only realizing how crazy this gift was while we’re on our way to a different continent ,” Hau laughed. He buried his face in the crook of Gladion’s neck, breathing in and tightening his hold before whispering back;

“You’re wonderful. Happy Valentine’s Day.”