The roar of cheers that still filled Wyndon Stadium was dulled by the walls of the locker room, but not enough to not make Leon feel like they were drowning out all of his thoughts. He knew he should change, he knew he should hurry and get back outside and talk to the reporters desperate for an interview with him after his first loss in years.
That truth reverberated through his mind, rendering him unable to do anything but sit on the bench and stare at the ceiling.
It wasn’t like he’d never lost before. In fact, he’d lost his very first Pokémon battle, if only because Sonia’s Yamper paralyzed his Charmander. He thought he’d never forgotten the frustration from that time, the incredible mix of emotions from an exciting battle where his opponent outplayed him, but maybe, maybe after all these years of not losing even once, he sort of did forget.
At least it felt like it now that he was feeling the same way again.
Maybe it was just the scale of things. Thousands, maybe millions of people had watched him lose, wanted to see his reaction after the loss. Some would definitely be happy to finally see him fall. That was no comparison to Sonia’s grandma patting his head and encouraging him to learn about status effects.
But he’d known that. He’d encouraged it. He’d created the myth of the undefeated champ for the sole purpose of it eventually coming to an end.
After all, he wanted the trainers in Galar to become the strongest in the world. That was his dream. He’d spend years building up the hype, so more and more trainers would be encouraged to try and grow strong enough to beat him, and nothing should make him happier than that finally one had emerged who’d actually managed to accomplish it.
And yet, he just felt empty.
The door was thrown open with a loud bang, jolting Leon out of his daze.
Raihan marched in like he owned the place, casually kicking the door shut behind him again. “Yo, not-so-unbeatable champ,” he greeted, with a big grin on his face.
Of course, his self-declared eternal rival must’ve been very happy to see him lose. “Are you here to make fun of me?”
Raihan shrugged. “I wasn’t going to, but seeing you mope around and looking this pathetic, you might actually not give me much of a choice here. I saw some amazing roasts online already.”
The emptiness in Leon’s chest made way for rage really fast, and he was up in Raihan’s face before he knew it. “What do you know-“
“-about losing?” Raihan finished before Leon could, still perfectly casual. “Considering I lost to you ten times in a row, more than you.”
The rage was gone as quickly as it came. Leon deflated. “Sorry, that’s not what I meant…”
Even as he averted his gaze, he could hear Raihan sighing loudly. Then suddenly, Raihan was another step closer to him, and strong arms gently pulled him forward against Raihan’s broad chest. “It’s okay to be upset, dumbass. You don’t have to be happy you lost. You don’t have to put on a brave face when it’s just the two of us either.”
Leon didn’t know how to respond. But the warmth of Raihan’s embrace felt comforting in a way Leon had almost forgotten about. It sucked all the tension straight out of his body, and before he knew it, tears were streaming down his face.
“I wanted to win,” he finally choked out between sobs, “I wanted to keep winning. I wanted to show everyone my Pokémon really are the best! Unbeatable!”
Raihan patted his head. “Now you sound like a brat who’s mad his cool fire dragon lost to a little girl with a giant teapot.”
“No I’m not,” Leon immediately protested. “And Charizard isn’t a dragon! Shouldn’t you know this, Mr. dragon type expert?”
“Dragon type expert says it could be a dragon, if only you could find your way to Kalos. Also, it looks like a dragon.”
“Always gotta have the last word, huh?”
“Gotta beat you somehow.”
Leon looked up at Raihan, and they both grinned.
The urge to kiss Raihan hit Leon in full force and without any prior warning. He’d never felt it before, certainly hadn’t thought about it even a single time, but now, it felt like every second he spent without his lips pressed tightly against Raihan’s was a huge waste of time and near impossible to bare.
And yet, his body wouldn’t move. He stayed rooted on the spot. “You’re such an idiot,” he shot back weakly.
“Well, guilty as charged, I guess. But at least I look great. You, on the other hand, look like a mess.”
There was a part of his brain left that told him he should worry about that, that there were tv cameras just outside this room, and the tear stains on his face would be recorded the moment he left. But a much bigger part was trying to process what had just happened, and was still debating whether or not he should just kiss Raihan and see what happened next.
But before he could reach a conclusion, Raihan took a step back, fished a tissue out of his pocket and handed it to Leon. “I’m gonna go get Sonia, she said she’d watch your match against Gloria since she almost missed the activation of the Darkest Day last time you and Gloria tried to fight. She always carries a bunch of make-up so I’m sure she can get you presentable in no time at all!”
Raihan left with a wave, and Leon let himself fall back on the bench. His brain felt all hazy again, but for a very different reason than before Raihan had shown up.
He might end up needing Sonia’s help in more ways than one.