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Rematch

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Luna tells herself she hadn’t expected to get this far in the tournament. After all, it’s the World Championships, and it’s only her third year of playing VGC. But she can’t help but feel her heart sink as her Cresselia’s HP bar drops to zero, and she sinks down into her chair. As she takes off her headphones, she can hear the crowd cheering. Cheering for the fact that she just lost.

Luna really wishes she could wipe that cold, emotionless expression off of her opponent’s face. Both players stand up and she extends her hand, shaking Gladion’s numbly. He doesn’t acknowledge her at all, and Luna forces herself to inhale sharply in an attempt to control her temper. She needs to get out of there, before things just get worse. Luna’s fingers fumble as she unplugs the cords attached to her 3ds and scurries off of the stage quickly.

“What a dominant round for Gladion Aether!” The commentators’ voices are quiet from backstage, but Luna doesn’t miss a word, despite her attempts to block them out. She lost. She lost by a landslide. Everybody knows it, too. To come so far and then be eliminated in such a fashion is what hurts the most.

Gladion was right. She didn’t stand a chance. He may not have said it outright, but Luna vividly remembers the cold, confident, and dismissive attitude he had written all across his face when the first battle had begun. And then once Luna’s Garchomp was off the field, his Xurkitree was free to run, sweeping the entire rest of her team after a few Beast Boosts. Regardless, Luna had forced herself to be optimistic and told herself she could still come back. Win game two, and then force a game three. It didn’t happen.

She knew it was over when Tapu Fini went down, leaving only Cresselia against both Incineroar and Metagross. Luna wasn’t stupid. That last flare blitz had done it, and Luna lost. She hadn’t come close in either match. Either Gladion was really, really good, or Luna just sucked. As she leans against the wall backstage, part of her believes the first one. But there’s another side of her brain that puts it down. Instead, it’s determined to convince that she should have won. Luna should have won.

“Usually, we would share an interview with the game winner, Gladion Aether, but he seems to have left already, so we’ll instead be moving onto the TCG semifinals…” That hits Luna hard. She gets absolutely and utterly destroyed, her opponent can’t even muster up a “good game,” and then leaves before his postgame interview even begins. He has some nerve, that’s for sure. Luna forces herself to stand up straight, and shoves her 3DS in her pocket. After letting herself throw a little pity party for herself backstage, she’s quick to leave the area.

As she walks, Luna can’t help but recall every single mistake she had made in her match. The missed predictions, the risks she should have taken, and choices she should have made. And on the other hand, Gladion executed flawlessly. He was one step ahead of her at all times, knocking out Pokemon after Pokemon until victory fell right into his hands, far out of Luna’s grasp. There were so many things Luna could have - should have - done.

Luna’s phone dings with a text from her sister back at home, and she ignores it. Funny enough, she doesn’t want the “nice try” or “good game” Silv likely sent her. Even the “I’m sorry” wouldn’t do anything to help Luna’s disappointment at this point. Yet that’s the exact same acknowledgement she had wanted from Gladion, and the kind he had failed to deliver. Why Luna sought it out from him - and just him, in fact - was a mystery. Was it just because he was her opponent? Or was it because of the closed off, ice cold demeanor he always seemed to carry with him? All Luna knew was how extremely angry she was, and how frustrated she was with her performance. And how disappointed Locust was bound to be. She could only assume he'd come find her when he learned what happened, considering he'd been knocked out before Top Cut. Sadly, he was not exactly a comforting presence.

Luna finds a seat in the last row, sits down, and lets herself slouch. She tells herself she’s being ridiculous - Gladion’s a good player, and he deserved to win. Luna knows her skills aren’t on his level yet - her last battle just proved that. But why - why - can she not shake this loss from her mind? The logical, sensible part of her mind says it’s because it’s Worlds. The biggest stage she’s ever fought on by far, and this placing in the Top 8 is the farthest she’s even made it in a tournament of this scale. Luna should be pleased with the result - and sure, she is. But if Luna had lost two rounds ago, in her Top 16 match against some random guy from Kalos, she can’t help but feel like that would have been better. There was something about Gladion - something about the cold, edgy, boy from Alola with the funny haircut that really, really, got on her nerves. If she hadn’t faced him at all, the results surely would have been much better - or that’s at least what Luna is forcing herself to believe.

Luna’s mind remains completely on her last match for the rest of the day. In fact, she has no reaction to Gladion’s loss in the semi finals to Moon Fuyuki, a 16 year old girl also from Alola with an impressive record under her belt already. Instead, she burns the image of his disapproving glare into her brain, alongside the replay of Cresselia’s HP bar dropping to zero. She remembers the stiffness in his hand during both of their handshakes, before and after the round.

Most importantly, Luna recalls his username from the team preview. XXglazioXX. Where it comes from, Luna can’t be sure. But it fits him, actually. She may not have spoken to her opponent, but it fits him, for some unknown reason. Luna has a feeling she’ll see it again. When she does, she’ll be prepared - or at least, that’s what she wants to believe. She won’t know until it happens.

-

As the months pass, the image of Gladion’s username and expression remain vividly in the back of her mind. Luna doesn’t forget how it felt to lose like she did, in front of thousands of people. She certainly doesn’t forget Gladion Aether, his aggressive playstyle, or his dominance in both of their matches.

Suddenly, Luna’s playing skill drops. She’s struggling to place in even a Premiere Challenge, the smallest live event one can enter. When she’s on stream, the “World Championships Top 8” under her name does nothing but haunt her. She finds herself falling short consistently, the expectations of the audience weighing her down. Her confidence levels plummet.

Luna immediately ascribes her failures to Gladion. If he hadn’t beaten her back then, none of this would be happening, right? Luna tells herself that Gladion is the reason her confidence is at an all time low, and the reason she can’t seem to hit her stride again. She doesn’t know if it’s true - there’s no way to. But Luna reassures herself that if nothing else, having somebody - or something - to blame helps take the weight off of her shoulders a little.

The 2019 season is off to a rocky start, to say the least. But maybe Luna will do better in the online competitions. Maybe the pressure of not having an audience watching her every move will help her win the CP she desperately needs. Maybe XXglazioXX will finally stop messing with her. Maybe - just maybe - Luna can win again.

Then she can finally move on.

Chapter Text

Luna remembers the sting of defeat, just like she remembers his name.

It’s the exact reason she wants to scream when she checks the brackets for the first round of the Rising Star Online. So much for doing better in online tournaments. She really wants to punch somebody right now. Instead, Luna resorts to slamming her fists into the table and smacking her head down. Goddamnit. Of all people. Of all the people in the tournament. What are the odds? Luna’s mind races, and her heart begins to speed up.

It’s supposed to be simple. You check the brackets, send a message to the social media profile linked to your opponent’s name, request a time slot, and book a battle room. Nowhere in the description does it say “Rematch the one person you never wanted to see again,” or “Re-ignite some old emotions you really didn’t want to think about.” Luna mutters a long string of curses under her breath, and takes a deep breath. Gladion Aether. She’d recognize his name anywhere. The exact name that had sat in the back of Luna’s mind for the past 4 months. The exact face that she’d put to blame for the horrid mess that was her VGC 2019 season so far. When she checks his profile, she knows exactly what happened at Worlds 2018 is going to happen all over again.

xxglazioxx
Gladion Aether
- VGC Zone 3
- Worlds 2018 Top 4
- Zone 3 Internats 2018 Runner Up

His Instagram username matches exactly with his screen name from team preview all those months ago. There's no way for Luna to forget it. Her finger shakes a little and she forces herself to press the dreaded "Message" button under his bio. It takes her longer than a moment to think of how to begin.

Luna: Hey, I'm Luna
I'm your first opponent for the Rising Star Online

Maybe he won't remember me. He crushed me, after all. There's no reason he would know who I am, Luna thinks. She's not sure if she really believes that herself, so she forces herself to keep going.

Luna: I'm free 2 pm - 5 pm PST, what about you?

She leaves it at that. The rest is… probably better left unsaid for now. Luna places her phone face down on the table and flips open the lid of her 3DS, only for the first device to vibrate just a moment later. Luna grits her teeth and picks the phone back up again.

Gladion: im gladion
2 pm pst is fine. I’ll register us

So far, so good. Or is it bad? Luna isn’t sure. All she knows is that so far, Gladion has said nothing about being the one who kicked her ass at Worlds, and it’s possible he doesn’t remember. Luna doesn’t know why it matters, but for some reason, she finds herself wishing he’d at least recognized her name, while at the same time, she couldn’t help but hope that he’d forgotten everything. Maybe because she thought it would help her do the same. Instead of dwelling on it any longer, Luna types up a quick reply.

Luna: okay

For a moment, she’s tempted to ask. But Luna’s not quite sure how to word that. Somehow, Luna’s pretty sure asking if he remembers demolishing her at Worlds is not the best idea. She waits a moment, and Gladion replies.

Gladion: room 6819

Luna: okay, see you there

It’s marked seen, and Gladion doesn’t reply. Not that Luna cares - there’s nothing more for him to say, after all. So she places her phone down once more, and turns her attention to her open 3DS screen.

Battle spot doubles, here we come.

-

Luna is thoroughly exhausted by the time 2 pm on the next day rolls around. She checks into the battle room at 1:50 precisely, and forces herself to take a few deep breaths. Her eyes are tired from how late she stayed up the night before, and she tries to convince herself the cramping sensation in her hands are not a result of the hours she's spent with her fingers pressing the small buttons on her 3DS.

She knows it's bad. Spending so many consecutive hours on a screen is bad. Getting only four hours of sleep going into a battle against somebody at Gladion’s level is bad. The fact that she really wants to just forfeit this match and be done with it is bad. To put it shortly, everything regarding this match is bad.

Last night, Luna spent hours searching for Gladion’s team and practicing in Battle Spot Doubles. Then she called up Ottie, and they practiced in Pokemon Showdown together. She wants to reassure herself that she’s completely prepared. That she’s done everything she possibly could have done to make this match go in her favor. Yet at the same time, Luna can only remember her defeat at Worlds last year. It was hardly even a battle. So what makes her think this time is going to be any different?

In fact, Luna hasn’t even been improving, has she? Her confidence is at an all time low, and the amount of CP she’s racked up is pitiful for somebody who placed Top 8 at Worlds the year prior. She’s supposed to be one of the top players in her area - so why is she still losing? And what makes her think she even stands a shot against Gladion? The teenager finds her mind racing all over the place for the next few moments. She knows she’ll be disappointed if she loses, after all the training she did. But maybe if she does better than she did at Worlds, that’ll be enough for her.

Luna’s heart races for the next ten minutes, the room dead silent. Silv is out with the horses - she understands how much VGC matters to Luna, and knows her sister can’t miss her match. Luna failed to tell her twin who she was battling, which in hindsight was probably a bad idea, but Luna constantly reminds herself she doesn’t need Silv worrying about her.

She waits patiently, and at 2:00, the battle begins.

Rising Star Online Tournament 2019
Masters Division Round 1
1/7/19
SailorLunala vs XXglazioXX
Standby…
Begin match?
Yes/No

Luna’s thumb rests on the A button for a moment of hesitation, and she inhales deeply. She doesn’t have faith in herself - in fact, she’s extremely confident in the fact she’s going to lose. But Luna is still hoping her hours of practice would pay off, and there was truly only one way for her to find out. She presses A, and the battle begins.

-

Game One ends quickly and decisively - in the exact opposite way Luna had hoped. Gladion won. Of course. What had she expected? But despite the disheartening start, Luna grits her teeth and focuses. Game Two is about to begin, and she has 90 seconds to choose her Pokemon.

It’s at that point she feels the lack of sleep kicking in. It’s hard for Luna to concentrate, and as the battle begins, she finds herself making stupid mistake after stupid mistake. She gets lucky a few times - a flinch here and there, and Gladion’s Groudon misses the Precipice Blades on her Lunala, allowing it to Z-Move into Incineroar, but Luna is still losing.

When Luna’s Kartana faints, she lets out a groan. 2-0, Gladion. Hardly better than Worlds, in Luna’s opinion. It’s a wonderful feeling when you practice so hard but still lose in the end, unable to even force a Game Three.

Luna slams her 3DS shut and face plants onto her bed, burying her face in the pillows. She clenches her fists, digging her fingernails into her palms, and lets out a large sigh. Her team is fine - her team is far from the problem, right? It has decent counters to every Pokemon in the metagame. It’s just her playing - or at least, that’s what she wants to think. Maybe something is wrong with her playing, and that something isn’t letting her really break through this season.

The team Gladion had played was as similar as one can get to his from Worlds 2018 while still adding in his two restricted legendaries in Groudon and Xerneas. It’s frustrating how well his team works together, and how when Luna does all of her damage calculations, she should be fine - but she still loses. Her EVs are placed carefully, movesets given hours of thought, but for some reason, it’s not working. Luna knows how much work she put into building this team, and to see it fall short so quickly hurts. A lot.

She swallows the lump in her throat, and forces herself to get up. The bed is comfortable, sure, and after such a defeat, Luna enjoyed the brief 30 seconds of rest, but that’s not going to help her win the next tournament. She wastes no time in logging into her computer and opening up the Showdown Teambuilder. Maybe… maybe she needs to fix something. Maybe it’s her team, after all. I know I wasn’t playing my best today. But maybe the hours I spent on this team wasn’t enough. I can always start again. I have the time, don’t I? Luna thinks, forcing herself to relax. She hadn’t realized how every muscle in her body seemed to have tightened back when she first read the brackets the day prior, and she hadn’t realized they had stayed like that ever since. Luna took a deep breath, and her fingers began to fly across the keyboard. If I want to beat Gladion, I have to step it up. I have to be better, starting with my team. Maybe it’s worth the time, and maybe it’s worth the effort. So I guess… I guess it’s worth a try.

Chapter Text

The Rising Star Online went well. Gladion soared through each and every round, winning him a nice chunk of CP at the end. He’s on his way to Worlds, for sure. So far, it looks like the Excalibur Online may wield the same results. It’s time for the semifinals, and Gladion’s battle dock beeps. He places his 3DS down, and enters the battle room at exactly 10 am.

His opponent’s name is familiar, and their message history proves why. Luna Kajiba was his first opponent in the Rising Star Online just last month, and he’d won. Of course. He couldn’t lose in the first round - after all, his current record raises everyone’s expectations of him. To place 2nd in Internats and 4th in Worlds means pressure, to put things lightly. Which meant Luna was going down again, because Gladion had to win this tournament too. Then he and Moon will for sure meet at Worlds again - whether it’s a good thing or not, Gladion isn’t quite sure.

Excalibur Online Tournament 2019
Masters Division Round 5
2/12/19
XXglazioXX vs SailorLunala
Standby…
Begin match?
Yes/No

SailorLunala. Something about that name rings a bell for Gladion, just like “Luna” does, and not just from this screen during Rising Star. He can’t seem to remember why, and shakes any thought away. He needs to focus. His opponent is on time, and Gladion presses A to begin the match. It’s time to beat her - again.

-

The first match ends in such a close fashion that Gladion begins to worry that this might not be as easy as he had hoped. He proves to be correct when Luna narrowly forces a Game Three. But in the end, it doesn’t matter, as Luna’s namesake Lunala goes down to Gladion’s Groudon and its Precipice Blades. He’s won, again.

He can’t deny that Luna fought well this time. Sure, he’s had harder matches, but she’s improved a lot within the past month. So he checks her profile again.

lunaa.kajiba
Luna Kajiba 🌙
🖤 SailorLunala 🖤
- VGC Zone 3
- Worlds 2018 Top 8
🐎 || 🎵 || 📷 || ✏

He’s surprised she has time for all of those hobbies around both VGC and high school. But it doesn’t matter to him, anyways. He doesn’t need to know what kind of music she plays, or what that pencil is supposed to stand for. Gladion clicks the message button under her name, and pausing for a moment before typing and sending anything. He knows what he wants to say, so he doesn’t know why he’s hesitating at all. Finally, his fingers begin to move across the keyboard.

Gladion: good game

It’s a simple and formal acknowledgement, and it isn’t a lie. Luna played well, and she deserves to know. Soon, the words “seen” appear under the message. Gladion waits for a response, but nothing comes. A few moments later, Luna is offline. Gladion sighs and leans back on the sofa, staring up at the ceiling. Nothing. It shouldn’t get on his nerves, but it does. He can’t help but find himself wishing she’d at least reply, and he doesn’t know why.

Without thinking, Gladion finds himself opening up his phone again. He rereads her bio once - then twice, for good measure. Worlds 2018, Top 8. For some reason, he finds himself curious. Luna Kajiba. He definitely remembers the name from something, and not just Rising Star. He’d recognized it even back then on the brackets. But even so, he has no clue why he decides that she’s worth looking into. He has other opponents to face, after all. And it’s not like Luna is particularly memorable - he’s beaten plenty of other people in a similar fashion, and it didn’t stick with him in anyway. But regardless, he’s intrigued.

Before Gladion can stop himself, he’s typing her name into the search engine, along with “pokemon vgc.” The first thing that comes up is the link on the Pokemon website, which shows her team and results alongside the rest of the players from Worlds last year. That’s not of interest to him. The thing that he really cares about is the stream. Somebody posted her match from the Top 8 of VGC. The video is short - only 20 minutes long. Extremely short for a VGC match. Whoever had beaten her must have been exceptionally good. Then he squints at the thumbnail, and smacks himself in the head. Of course. That’s why he remembers. Worlds, 2018. Luna Kajiba was his quarterfinal opponent, and the one he absolutely devastated.

It wasn’t a memorable battle, so Gladion isn’t surprised he forgot all about her. He is surprised that he now has the sudden urge to do something about it. It’s not like him to feel remorse after a battle, yet he feels the need to take some sort of action, whether it be an apology or a simple question - does she remember him, and did she just not say anything? He doesn’t know why it matters, either, but it does.

Maybe he’s remembering the first time he battled Moon. Konikoni Regionals, 2015, Seniors Division. Moon had just turned 12, Gladion was 14. She’d absolutely crushed him. But afterwards, she gave him a small smile and told him he had played well. At the time, he’d still felt angry and frustrated with himself, and had stomped off the stage with his head down and hands in his pockets. That was the first time. The second time they battled had been a short one, during the lunch period one day at school. He’d recognized her immediately in the hallway, and Hau had brought the three of them together into a little group. She won again, as she did every single time they battled.

Gladion should be mad at her - he should hate Moon, for always beating him. But the way she acknowledges him with a smile, regardless of well poorly he did, after each battle… it makes it impossible. Maybe that’s what pushes him to do the same for Luna - not just for today’s match, but for their round in Rising Star, and their round at Worlds.

But it seems clear Luna wants nothing to do with him. And to be honest, Gladion isn’t sure he does either. Still, he can’t help but wonder who she is and what she's like, or something like that. And there’s no harm… His finger hovers over the blue button beneath her profile. What the hell is he doing? But there’s nothing wrong in wanting team reports. Based on the fact they’d matched up in both of the online tournaments Gladion has entered this year, he can assume their battles will only be more frequent as the season goes on, especially with them both being in the same Internats Zone. With her account on private mode, there’s no way for him to view her posts without following her. So that’s exactly what he does.

He presses the stupid blue button his finger has been hovering over for a moment too long and waits.

-

Two hours later, his phone buzzes.

@lunaa.kajiba has accepted your follow request

Another thirty seconds, and it vibrates once more.

@lunaa.kajiba has requested to follow you

Of all the things to happen today, nothing surprises Gladion more than the fact that when he opens Instagram, he clicks accept without hesitation. Maybe… maybe he was wrong. It’s time to see what this SailorLunala is all about.

Chapter Text

When Luna’s phone vibrates, she’s unable to fight the urge to check it. She’s trying really hard to spend less time on her screen, but she can’t help but pick it up off of the table. There’s a new message from Ottie, but that isn’t what is of interest to her. Instead, she has a few older notifications from Instagram. She reads the first one, and falls dead silent.

@xxglazioxx has sent you a follow request

He’d sent her a “good game” earlier, and Luna hadn’t given it much thought. He hadn’t said it back at Worlds, so there was no reason for Luna to reply. Payback, you could say. At this point, she’s relatively positive he does not remember her from last season. Then again, there’s no reason for him too - he beat her, after all. Luna doesn’t know why she feels a slight twinge of disappointment at the thought.

It’s interesting, actually. Why would Gladion Aether want anything to do with her? And why would Luna want anything to do with him? Still, she can’t stop herself from asking herself “why not?” Luna doesn’t post her teams at all, if that’s what Gladion wants. He would be terribly disappointed to see all she shares are cute photos of Fleet and the rest of the horses on the farm, along with a few sketches she does.

Luna doesn’t know why, but she finds her finger hovering over the accept button. She gets the hesitation - she doesn’t like Gladion. In fact, she thoroughly hates him. What she doesn’t understand is why she’s tempted to click it. Just a centimeter away is the decline option. Isn’t that just easier? Why does Luna find herself willing to give him a chance?

She knows she can’t let Gladion get to her. And right now, she’s definitely overthinking everything. Like she previously thought, there’s absolutely no harm. So maybe she should stop worrying about this, and just click the damn button. But then she remembers what happened with Locust. She freezes, and finds herself hesitating all over again.

But Luna shakes her doubt away and clicks accept, and then clicks again. She clicks follow back.

She’s not sure why, but she clicks follow back. Maybe she wants his team reports. Maybe she wants an advantage for when they battle again. But maybe… maybe she’s curious. Maybe Luna Kajiba finds Gladion Aether interesting. She doesn’t know what she’ll do if she finds that to be true.

-

The Moon Series is drawing to a close, and Luna’s still struggling. She either has to make a comeback during the Ultra Series, or she can kiss a Worlds qualification goodbye. The best part? She has absolutely no clue what team she wants to run.

Luna enjoys sticking to the metagame. The teams are often tried and true, so what’s the point in not using them? But for some reason, it really isn’t working. There have been multiple tournaments of various sizes in the 2019 Season - in fact, they’re over halfway through. Luna’s tried every single team core, every single combination, in the meta. Nothing is working, and she’s getting desperate.

Gladion and her have fought four times now. In every single online tournament they enter, the other follows. And Luna’s closing the gap. Gladion doesn’t post his teams either, but she does see the comments he makes on other players’ posts. She predicts he’ll bring Yveltal and Groudon to the Spring Challenge, and the battle after that is the closest yet. But even if she’s improving against Gladion, there are other players for her to face, and things never go well in that department.

It’s almost April, and Luna needs ideas. She has no clue what to run for the Ultra Series - and after her various failures during the last couple of months, she’s feeling pretty discouraged.

For some reason, Luna finds herself scrolling through her message history with Gladion. She must be exceptionally bored - and procrastinating making a new team. There’s been nothing between them except for game scheduling, and an occasional “good game” or “well played.” Then she finds herself typing a message into the box.

Luna doesn’t know why she thinks this a good idea. She and Gladion aren’t friends - far from it, certainly. Acquaintances at the most, and rivals, for sure. But that’s all. And your rival is the last person who is going to help you with your team.

Despite that, Luna doesn’t stop. She finishes typing, takes a deep breath, and hits send.

Luna: What are you running for ultra?

She’s tempted to hold down and tap unsend. But Luna shakes the urge away, and waits.

Gladion: why u asking

She bites her lip and decides to tell the truth.

Luna: idk i’m desperate

Gladion: oh

Luna: yeah i kinda tried everything during moon but i didn’t like anything and now that everything is allowed during ultra it’s just going to make it worse lol

Luna knows there’s nothing funny about her dilemma, but she doesn’t want to admit that. She waits, and the screen shows Gladion is typing.

Gladion: yeah i’m kinda the same

Luna’s heart sinks a little. That isn’t helpful at all.

Gladion: but my friend said i should try silvally
It’s kinda stupid though idk

Luna can’t help but feel intrigued. Her eyes widen, and she’s drawn back into the conversation all over again. Silvally? Why?

Luna: why?

Gladion: well its stats aren’t great and it’s just kinda not as good as the other options

Luna: no, why did she recommend it?

Gladion: its my favorite mon

Luna: oh cool
i mean, it isn’t bad. The movepool is decent

Gladion: yeah thats what moon said

Luna freezes. Moon. That’s familiar, for sure. She knows Gladion comments on the posts of somebody under the username of @cresselia☆bloom, and that’s immediately where she goes. If she recalls correctly, that user’s first name is Moon. Luna types the username into the search engine, and finds the profile immediately.

cresselia☆bloom
Moon Fuyuki
- VGC Zone 1
- Zone 3 Internats Champion ‘17, ‘18
- Worlds 2018 Runner Up

Holy crap, she’s good, Luna thinks. Looks like she was right. Was this who Gladion was talking about?

Luna: @cresselia☆bloom?

Gladion: yeah, that’s her
we’re... rivals/friends i guess

Luna: oh, i see
tbh i think she’s right
at least give silvally a try, right?

Gladion: what’s your favorite mon

Why does it matter? Luna wonders. She sighs, and finds no harm in replying.

Luna: absol, why?

Gladion: use a mega absol then

And Luna isn’t quite sure what to think of that. Gladion is using Silvally, his favorite Pokemon. Now he says she should use Absol. With the Ultra Series rules, Mega Stones are permitted. So she could try it. But still… there’s a reason Mega Absol has never made waves in VGC. It’s got a nice attack, sure, but the rest of it’s stats aren’t great. It’s not the fastest, nor the slowest, but it’s extremely frail. Even with a max speed investment, it ends up with a total of only 115. But still, Luna can’t help but wonder. She’s never been the type to build unique teams, but why not? Gladion notices her silence.

Gladion: i mean its worth a try, right?
also i’ll make you a deal

Luna perks up immediately.

Luna: what?

Gladion: whats ur next live event

Luna: spring coast mss

Gladion: take absol to it, and i’ll take silvally to hau’oli regionals

Oh. That’s… tempting. Gladion must know he just put himself at a disadvantage. Regionals are a big deal. He can’t afford to mess one up… Or perhaps he can. Maybe he already has enough CP that a poor performance at such a big event is fine with him. Maybe Gladion is messing with her. Maybe he wants her to screw up. But then again, it’s worth a try, isn’t it? Luna thinks for a moment, and sighs.

Luna: deal

Gladion: really?

Luna: what, do you wanna back out? :P

Gladion: no
you can’t change your mind tho once things get hard

Luna: fine :(

Gladion: great
well i gtg, bye

Luna: oh okay bye

Luna is surprised. Sure, it ended abruptly, but that went well. They certainly weren’t at each other’s throats for once - though to be fair, Gladion hasn’t really said anything, and it’s mostly just Luna being angry at him - and they had a nice conversation.

Luna doesn’t know why she’s giving Gladion a chance like this. She doesn’t know why he’s doing the same for her, either. Maybe they’re both desperate. Or maybe Luna’s on her way to making a new friend out of the one person she thought she truly, thoroughly hated.

-

Luna’s at school, and it’s lunchtime. She’s sitting at her usual table with Silv and Ottie, when her phone vibrates multiple times in her pocket. First it’s just once, and Luna ignores it. Then it happens again, and again. She rolls her eyes and pulls her phone out, placing down her slice of pizza.

It’s Instagram. She has a flood of new DMs - or a few, at least - some from people she recognizes, and some she doesn’t. The first notification is different, though. She’s been added to some sort of group chat. There’s a long string of messages from before she was added, but she mostly pays attention to the new ones. The first message is from Gladion.

Gladion: so you’ll stop spamming me

It’s directly under the message that says xxglazioxx added lunaa.kajiba, and Luna can’t help but let out a small giggle. I messaged you once, and you call that spamming? She thinks. Silv turns to look at her sister in surprise.

“What is it?” She asks. Luna looks down and ignores her, continuing to scroll through her messages. “Let me see!” Silv says, reaching to snatch Luna’s phone away. Luna glares at her, and protectively shields it. She resumes reading. The next message is from somebody she does not recognize at all.

Hau: oooh, new person!
hello new person, i’m Hau!
wait
wait a sec

Turns out all the vibrating was just Hau. Whoever this Hau kid is, Luna can’t help but wonder how Gladion puts up with his spamming if one message from her was too much. She clicks on his profile, but doesn’t get a chance to read it before another notification appears. Another message from Hau. She opens it, and her jaw drops.

Hau: glads, is luna your girlfriend?

Suddenly, it’s a race between her and Gladion to see who can shoot Hau down first. Luna wins.

Luna: NO

Gladion isn’t far behind her, though.

Gladion: What the hell, Hau???
No
Why do you even think that oh my god

Luna’s curious too, actually.

Hau: idk because this is the first time you’ve ever added somebody to this chat
also because you follow her

Gladion: wth no that’s stupid i can follow whoever i want
plus i whipped her ass at worlds last year i don’t think she’s interested

Luna freezes, and she stops breathing. He remembers. Oh my god, he remembers. She’s unable to function for a second, and Silv uses that moment to swoop her sister’s phone out of her hands. Ottie leans over, and the two read it carefully. Then Silv squeals, and Luna sighs.

“Don’t get any ideas, Silv,” she snaps. Her sister pouts, but Luna keeps her gaze fixed straight ahead on a tree that is suddenly very interesting. “Gimme my phone back,” she adds, completely unamused. She holds her hand out to the side, and Silv places the phone in her palm.

“But what if I ship it?” Silv whines. Luna grabs her phone and clenches her jaw.

“Don’t ship me with Gladion,” she says coldly. “You know how much I hate him.”

“Then why are you messaging him?” Ottie interrupts. Luna forces herself to breathe and control her temper, and Ottie recognizes her friend’s anger. She stops, and so does Silv. “Sorry,” the brunette mutters. Luna ignores it, and turns her attention back to the chat.

Hau: oh
DAMMIT I SHIPPED YOU
wait i can still ship you muahahaha

Gladion: no
Luna please tell him to stop

Luna sighs, and types up a quick message. Poor Gladion.

Luna: hau stop shipping us
Gladion i messaged you once how is that spam

Gladion: idk

Hau: hmph fine but wait til moon sees this

Luna’s eyes widen, and she checks the group member list. Her, Gladion, Hau… and Moon. Holy crap. She’s on the same group chat as Moon Fuyuki.

Gladion: she’s in kanto, hau
it’s literally 5 am there
be patient

Hau: fineeeee

Luna laughs again, and Silv and Ottie shoot her yet another odd look. She ignores them, and a new user sends a message.

Moon: actuallyyyyyyyy

Hau: MOON
MOON MOON MOON MOON MOON
CAN YOU TELL GLADION AND LUNA WE SHIP THEM
PLEASE

Gladion: moon why are you even awake
hau you should know better than to ask moon that

Moon: i forgot to put my phone on silent and it buzzed so much and i woke up >:(
And idk if i ship it it’s way too early to tell
Hau i know you’re just doing it to annoy glads

Gladion: of course you did

Hau: HEY THAT’S NOT TRUE

Moon: hmph
Oh hi Luna! I’m Moon, nice to meet you :D

Luna smiles. She likes Moon so far, actually. But she checks the time on her phone, and she only has ten minutes left in lunch. She better return to eating.

Luna: hi, and you too!
now uh i kinda gtg because i’m at school rn but ttyl

Hau: awww bye luna
wait but we didn’t get to talk at all nooooo

Gladion: bye luna
Hau please leave luna alone

Moon: Bye!

Luna: bye everyone!

Luna can be sure her phone will be vibrating constantly from now on, so she puts it on silent. Then she puts it back in her pocket, and returns to eating her pizza. She still has… two periods left to get through, and then she can return to the chat.

Chapter Text

Gladion definitely regrets adding Luna to the group chat. He’d take a spam set of DMs from her over whatever this monstrosity is anyday. It only got worse as the days went on.

Hau: lunaaaaaaaaaa

Luna: what?

Hau: let’s play get to know you
everybody answers these questions

Moon: oh no

Luna: should i be concerned

Gladion: absolutely yes

Hau: HEY
Glads and Moon you have to answer them too :P

Gladion: hell no

Hau: pleaseeeee?

Gladion: … fine

Hau: YAY
okay
here are the questions
Favorite pokemon
Favorite type
What color is your DS
Trick room or tailwind
Swords dance or calm mind
What is your name origin (real and online)
Xerneas or Yveltal
Kyogre or Groudon
Best gen 7 starter
Okay that’s it

Moon: but that’s a lot

Gladion: what kind of questions are those

Hau: HEY THAT’S MEAN

Luna: 1. Absol
2. Psychic
3. Dark blue
4. Tailwind
5. Swords dance
6. Luna because idk and SailorLunala because Sailor Moon and also Lunala is best legendary
7. Xerneas it’s majestic
8. Kyogre because it’s blue
9. Popplio/Primarina

Hau: whoa you fast
GLADS HER FAVORITE POKEMON IS A DARK TYPE I SHIP IT

Gladion: just shut up already it’s not gonna happen
silvally
dark
black
tr
sd
not saying
yveltal
groudon
incineroar

Moon: glads you can’t skip 6 that’s cheating
Rowlet
ALL OF THEM (okay fine grass)
Purple
BOTH :D
Calm mind
Idk and because Cresselia is amazing and so are flowers
Xerneas
Idk i might run them both
ROWLET IS MY CHILD

Hau: he’s skipping because he doesn’t want to admit he’s named AFTER A FLOWER
HE’S NAMED AFTER A FRICKIN FLOWER

Gladion: i hate you

Luna: oh my god
that’s amazing
The edgelord himself is named after a flower :P

Gladion: i will kick you off this chat

Luna: you wouldn’t dare :(

Gladion: yes i would so shut up now

Luna: okayyyyyy

And that is the only way Gladion can stop Luna from joining Moon and Hau in teasing him about practically everything. Currently, Gladion is entering in damage calculations as he works on his Silvally team. His phone buzzes repeatedly, and he ignores it. He has no interest in the shenanigans of the group chat at the moment - or at all, actually. But after figuring out his Gigalith’s EV spread, he decides it’s time for a break. Gladion is surprised - pleasantly surprised, not that he’d admit it - that the messages he has are from Luna, and not the group chat.

Luna: heard you liked silvally :P

Gladion: what

Luna: the first of many:

Beneath the message is a drawing of Silvally. And then another. And then another. Soon enough, Gladion has over 10 shared posts in his messages.

Luna: idk they reminded me of you

Oh.

Gladion: thanks
might not like it as much if it backfires at regionals tho

Luna: oh

Gladion: i was joking don’t worry

Luna: okay

Neither of them says anything for a moment, but another message pops up.

Luna: well, how’s the team coming along?

Gladion bites his lip, and looks back up at his computer screen. The Showdown Teambuilder is open, and only four of his six team slots are filled. So… not great, considering he only has 5 days left until Regionals.

Gladion: hard
bad
Idk
Not great, i guess

Luna: oh
Well, if it makes you feel any better, i’m struggling too
But we have a deal and we can’t call it off

Gladion: never

Then he finds himself sucked into a conversation with Luna about their teams, the building process, and the stress of live events. He finds it easy to talk to her, actually. Surprisingly. As long as Hau and Moon aren’t around, she doesn’t bother making fun of him. Instead, it’s just the two of them talking through their issues. That’s just how he likes it.

At one point, he’s tempted to ask about Worlds 2018. What she remembers - if anything, considering she hadn’t made a comment when he’d brought it up on the group chat the other day. A part of him wishes she had recognized his name - he doubts it, but for some reason, he finds himself wishing she remembered. He doesn’t know why. So instead, he keeps the conversation on safer topics.

But then Luna asks, and Gladion isn’t quite sure how to respond.

Luna: idk how to say this, but did you actually remember me from worlds?

He freezes up for a moment. Should he be honest? He’d looked her up - there’s no way he would have remembered otherwise. He battles too many people to keep track of every opponent. What he types is a mix of both the truth and a lie.

Gladion: it took a while, but i guess i did. Your name was familiar, but it took me sometime to remember where from
What about you?

He waits a moment for her reply, and nothing comes. She’s typing for a second, and then it’s marked as seen as she goes offline. And Gladion has no clue what to think. What did I do this time? He thinks, sighing, he waits a few minutes. Maybe she had to go do something really quick. But it definitely gets on his nerves when somebody leaves a conversation without saying anything, and he finds himself typing a string of messages and sending them.

Gladion: hello?
You still here?
Goddamnit luna what did i do
Can you please reply
What the hell is wrong

Sighing, Gladion forces himself to place his phone down. If she’s gone, she won’t seem them until later anyways. There’s no point. He takes a deep breath, clenching his jaw, and leans back in his chair, staring up at the ceiling. He really wants to do something. But instead, he forces himself to wait.

-

It’s twenty minutes later when his phone buzzes again, and he jumps at the sound. It’s Luna.

Luna: shoot sorry
Shoot i did not mean to leave like that

Gladion grits his teeth, and forces himself to take a deep breath. He really needs to calm down. But at the same time, why did she just leave like that? He knows it’s stupid - petty, even. But still, he can’t help himself. He lets his fingers fly across the keyboard at a record speed, and presses send.

Gladion: twenty minutes
Twenty minutes
What the hell, Luna?

Luna: i’m really sorry
Really really really sorry
My sister started screaming from the barn because valor was colicing
Though you probably have no clue what the even means
Shoot i’m sorry
Just like really really really stressed right now
Basically one of my horses is probably gonna die and idk i’m kinda freaking out because my parents aren’t home and yeah

His heart practically stops when he reads the third line. Any anger fades away immediately, replaced with worry. When he reads the last message, he clenches his jaw.

Gladion: well um maybe i can try and help?
did you call the vet?

Luna: yeah it’s supposed to be twenty minutes
Goddamnit i’m so stupid why didn’t i notice
And i’m willing to take any advice at this point

Gladion: shoot shoot shoot well okay is your sister with the horse

He doesn’t think about how much he might be confusing Luna. Instead, all he can think about what they usually do at the clinic when they have a colicing horse. Lillie’s especially good with dealing with horses when they’re stressed, unlike him. But he forces himself to focus and continues typing.

Gladion: either way you need to get down there
If it isn’t too bad just walk it around but if its in pain stop
Keep it away from food or water
Take the levels like heart rate and respiratory
Stop it from rolling especially if it's in a stall
Just keep it calm until the vet arrives
The best thing is to stay out of the way incase it tries to injure you but you have to keep it calm or things are going to get worse

Luna: okay i’m going

Gladion knows he’s going to make some stupid mistake and bring up Mohn. He knows he will. So instead, he sends her the link to the Aether Clinics page on colic so she can read up about it. He wonders if she’ll notice the similarities between the website name and his own, and she does.

Luna: this is your family’s website?

Gladion: yeah
Just go down to the horse for me and take care of it until the vet arrives

Luna: okay okay well thanks for the advice

Gladion: sure

Luna: okay well i’ll keep you posted, but i’m going to go help silv now

Gladion: okay and good luck

Luna: thanks

She goes offline a moment later, and Gladion puts his phone down again. At this point, he doesn’t know what to think of Luna anymore. She cares about the horse, for sure. He really wishes he could be there and do something. But there’s nothing he can do, so he instead returns to his team building.

Hopefully, the advice he gave her will be enough. And hopefully it would be enough to make his father proud.

Chapter Text

It was early Friday morning, and Gladion was skipping school. He was skipping school to play a video game, just like he’d been doing for the past 5 years. If any teacher had dare challenged him by saying Pokemon was for little kids, he would have wasted no time in challenging them to a VGC Doubles match and outclassing their every move - but thankfully, it hadn’t come to that yet. None of his teachers seemed to care at all, actually. Maybe they just knew better than to mess with him - or his family, to be more realistic.

Gladion had been to so many regionals over the years he'd practically lost count. Yet he couldn't help but feel terribly unprepared. He and Hau had just checked into the hotel room, and Gladion's mind was completely on his team. Silvally, Lunala, Celesteela, Groudon, Tapu Koko, and Gigalith. They were all common choices in the metagame - except for Silvally. In fact, Gladion could be pretty sure nobody had won any CP with Silvally at all - or at the least, in a very long time. So what made him believe he could win Regionals with such a mediocre Pokemon? To be completely honest, Gladion was pretty damn sure he was going to lose. For many people, Regionals was the biggest event they would go to all year. For him, it was just one small step in the road to Worlds. Maybe it was his record - Worlds Top 4, Zone 3 IC Runner Up. Maybe that was why part of him wanted to believe he stood a chance. Gladion could only hope his experience would carry him through the weekend.

Later that afternoon, he passed over his team list, the battle team locked for the weekend. There would be no changes from here on out. So he and Hau buckled down in their hotel room with instant ramen noodles and their 3DS's plugged into the wall outlet, hunched over their tiny screens running through battle after battle, while their classmates back at home were drilling themselves through math problem after math problem. Gladion quite preferred this, actually. Math was easy, but VGC forced him to be consistently thinking and outplaying his opponent. It was harder, and more rewarding. Five years ago, he'd started playing just to get an escape - and escape from the life he really didn't want to be living. Gladion quite preferred his own predicament, actually. Math was easy, but in VGC, he was consistently using his head to outthink his opponents.

It was a good distraction, and when he had started playing 5 years ago, that was all it was meant to be. A distraction - or a getaway, almost - from the hell his life had become. Half a decade later, he’s thoroughly sucked in. VGC is his life at this point, which is why he finds himself still up at 1 am the night before Regionals.

But hey - if it’s going to make him and Silvally do better during the competition, then it’s all worth it.

-

The next day, Gladion breezes through his first three Swiss matches, leaving him with the record of 3-0. But with six more matches to go, he knows he can’t get too confident. He needs at least 7-2 to make Day 2, and get a chance of scoring some CP.

His strategy is simple. Silvally and Lunala get sent out first. If the opponent’s leads are fragile, Silvally can use Explosion on turn one. Otherwise, he can fire off an attack or use Parting Shot and switch out. Lunala’s Shadow Shield ability allows it to take an attack nicely, and it’ll set up Trick Room, while Gigalith can replace Silvally and prepare to sweep. With minimum speed IVs and EVs, Gigalith has an extremely low speed stat, and it’s practically guaranteed to move first under Trick Room conditions. The strategy is simple, yet all of Gladion’s opponents fail to predict his moves. The surprise on their face when Silvally explodes is the cherry on top.

However, Gladion’s team is versatile. If the opponent has an abundance of steel or ghost types, he’ll lead with Tapu Koko and Groudon instead, and forego Trick Room entirely. Many of his opponents fall to his simple strategy, and Gladion finds himself relatively confident going into his fourth Swiss round against Acerola, a regular from last season. Because Acerola does tend to use at least one ghost type, Gladion skips Silvally for the first game, and it works well. Acerola leads with Lunala, making Gladion glad he made the choice he did.

In the second game, he decides to take a risk. He brings Silvally, and Acerola sends out Smeargle and Xerneas. On the first turn, Xerneas sets up Geomancy, as Gladion would have expected. But Smeargle puts Lunala to sleep, who therefore fails to get Trick Room up. Gladion knows Silvally can’t take a STAB, Fairy Aura boosted, +2 Special Attack Moonblast from Xerneas, so he goes for Explosion. But without Trick Room, Gigalith can’t get a hit in, and Gladion loses Game 2.

He’s remarkably calm, however. He knew Acerola would do well against Silvally, and took the risk because he knew he could afford to. When they go into Team Preview, Gladion finds himself debating his options. Bringing the chimera Pokemon would be risky here, but much more unpredictable. But he decides to play it safe, and goes back to Tapu Koko and Groudon. It works, and while the match is extremely close, Gladion wins, making his record 4-0. It’s his closest battle yet, but he won. Gladion won’t come that close to losing until his undefeated record is finally broken in the 8th round.

Soon enough, Gladion finds all 9 Day 1 Swiss rounds over. He’s 8-1, losing only when he makes the stupid mistake of exploding Silvally against a Pelipper who used Wide Guard. But Gladion is extremely happy with his rounds. Silvally is working, and he’s made Day 2 at Regionals. He can’t believe it, but knows he has to keep practicing.

When Day 2 rolls around, the same results seem to resurface. He breezes through the Swiss rounds once again, with a couple of tight matches, but a Day 2 record of 5-2. It’s good enough to make Top Cut. It takes a moment for Gladion to realize he’s just Top Cutted with Silvally in his team - Silvally, of all Pokemon. He’s even more surprised when he has a single message from Luna, who had clearly watched the stream.

Luna: top cut, nice

Gladion: thanks

He finds it funny how she acts around him. Sometimes she’s closed off, and other times less so. When Valor had coliced, she’d wasted no time in sending him message after message. And sometimes, all he gets is a “nice.” He’s curious why that is, but shrugs the thought away as he checks the brackets for Top Cut. Low and behold, his first opponent is Hau, and they’re playing on stream.

“Ha! You’re going down, Glads!” Hau says confidently. Gladion snorts.

“You wish.” They quickly go their separate ways, each climbing up the stairs to the main stage on their respective sides. Gladion looks up at the huge screen above them, and the adrenaline comes pumping in. He loves playing on stream, and this time, his screen is the one projected on the TV. He wastes no time in putting on his headphones and shaking Hau’s hand, as they go into Team Preview. His headphones cancel out all noise, including the commentators, and Gladion is completely focused on the match. He debates whether to bring Silvally or not, but settles on trying it at least once. Hau’s team is made up of Kartana, Tapu Koko, Alolan-Raichu, Rayquaza, Kyogre, and Porygon2. The higher speeds on his Pokemon makes Gladion sure that he won’t be setting up Trick Room, which proves to be correct when they go into Game 1.

Hau leads with Tapu Koko and Kyogre - a classic combination. Kyogre reverts to its Primal Form, and the rain pouring down makes Tapu Koko’s Thunder 100% accurate. Gladion is tempted to explode Silvally, but he knows Hau expects it. So instead, he switches into Gigalith with a Parting Shot, while Lunala goes for Trick Room. But Hau breaks into a grin when he sees Gigalith come in, and sends a Water Spout from a full HP Kyogre directly into it. In just a single hit, Gigalith goes down, and Gladion is forced to bring in Celesteela, the only other Pokemon on his team that can take advantage of the Trick Room Lunala set up at the cost of its Shadow Shield. But Hau continues to blaze ahead, reading all of Gladion’s moves like a book. Lunala can’t take another attack after the Water Spout and Thunder from the previous turn, so Gladion has it use Malicious Moonraze Maelstrom into Kyogre to get off as much damage as possible before it goes down. But Kyogre uses Protect, and Lunala’s Z-Move does minimal damage before it goes down to another Water Spout. Three turns later, the battle is practically over, and Gladion presses forfeit. He’s impressed - Hau is good, despite the bubbly and relaxed approach he takes to his battles, and becomes serious the second he needs to.

Game Two team preview begins, and Gladion decides to skip Silvally. He brings Tapu Koko and Groudon, and Hau sends out the same Tapu Koko and Kyogre as last time. Groudon loses the speed tie, and the Desolate Land is cancelled out by Kyogre’s Primordial Sea. But Gladion is fine with that, and sends a 100% accurate Thunder from his own Tapu Koko into Kyogre, doing major damage. Hau is forced to do a double switch, bringing in Rayquaza and Porygon2. Predicting that Kyogre would leave the field, Gladion Volt Switches into what is now Rayquaza and brings out Celesteela instead, which makes Hau groan. Game Two plays out in Gladion’s favor the entire time, and despite Groudon missing his Precipice Blades once, he still pulls out a win, and Game Three begins.

Gladion trusts Silvally this time, and he doesn’t know why. But he brings it and Lunala to lead again, while Hau finally switches it up and chooses Raichu and Kartana. Gladion doesn’t know whether Hau is going to expect an Explosion, but he knows this Kartana does not carry Detect, so he takes the risk. Raichu moves first, and sends a Thunderbolt into Lunala, who responds by hitting Kartana with a Moongeist Beam. Kartana uses Leaf Blade into the Silvally slot, probably expecting Gigalith to come in, and Gladion breaks into a small smile when Silvally explodes. Both of Hau’s Pokemon are frail, and just like that, Hau is down to his last two Pokemon.

Hau plays well - Gladion can’t deny that. But after his early lead, there’s no way for Hau to come back, and Gladion wins, guaranteeing him a place in the Top 8. Even better, he’s secured 100 CP, and it’s especially nice to see Silvally earn some as well. Gladion is tempted to try and escape his interview, but finds himself too slow anyways. Instead, he settles for giving the shortest, simplest possible answers.

“Congrats on your win! How are you feeling right now, after such a good game?” The interviewer asks. You ask that everytime, Gladion thinks. He can’t help it.

“Confident, actually. Ready to win my next game,” Gladion replies simply.

“That’s good to hear! Now, tell us a little bit about your team. Silvally isn’t a Pokemon you usually see in the VGC scene, is it? Why did you choose to use it?” As for this question, Gladion expected it, and he’s prepared.

“Silvally is my favorite Pokemon, actually, and a friend suggested I try it out,” he says. The interviewer nods, and asks yet another question.

“What was it like to build a team around such a Pokemon? Was it difficult?” Hell yeah, it was, Gladion thinks. But he knows he can’t say that, so he settles on spinning a small lie.

“Groudon has been a part of my teams for most of the season, and Lunala came naturally, as I wanted a ghost type that Silvally could use Explosion next to. Once I chose my restricteds, the rest came pretty easily.” The last part isn’t necessarily true, but nobody needs to know that. Gladion hopes his answers were satisfying enough, and that he can be done soon.

“Well, thank you for your time!” Success. “A huge congratulations to you, and we hope to see you show the same success in the later rounds!” Gladion nods and says a quick “thank you” before walking away quickly. He earns a few congratulations as he walks throughout the room, and spots Hau at the Prize Wall.

“Glads!” Hau whips around, and grins. “Good game!” Gladion smiles weakly as Hau gives him a fist bump, and then picks up an Umbreon plush from the table behind him. “Congrats, and here you go!” He shoves it into Gladion’s hands, who stumbles backwards and can’t help but let out a small laugh.

“You’re actually kidding me. Did you just get this for me?” He asks. Hau beams and nods, while Gladion rolls his eyes. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Hey!” Hau replies stubbornly. “Well, let me at least take a picture!” Gladion freezes and Hau pulls out his phone. Nope, nope, nope. Not happening. He’s quick to cover up the camera with his hand, but he’s too late, and Hau triumphantly pulls his phone away. “Got it!” He shows Gladion the screen, which displays a photo of him covering up half of the camera with his hand, but you can make out him and the Umbreon in the background. He cringes.

“Oh god no,” he mutters.

“And… sent!” Hau says. Gladion clenches his jaw.

“You did not.”

“I did!” Hau is terribly pleased with himself. Gladion is… less so.

“I hate you,” he mutters. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, and finds a handful of messages from various people. There are a few from Lillie, wishing him good luck. The latest one is a congratulations - she’d watched his stream, apparently. But then the announcer says that the quarterfinal matches are up, and Gladion puts his phone away, leaving the rest of the messages unread. He’s still got three more battles to go.

-

He ends up only playing two, when he loses in the semifinals. But that’s fine with him. 130 CP is a nice, hefty amount, and he’s exceptionally pleased with how Silvally worked out. The tournament is over, and they have to go back to school tomorrow. Gladion is sitting in the passenger seat of his car, while Hau takes his turn driving. By the time they'll get back, it'll be almost midnight, and neither of them has started their weekend homework. Maybe Hobbes will let Gladion skip tomorrow.

Finally, Gladion has the chance to check his DMs. He already went through the text messages from some of the other Alolan players - Kiawe, Lana, Mallow, and a few others - who were congratulating him on his placings. When he opens up Instagram, he finds a few messages from followers, and one from Luna. He's both surprised and not at the same time.

Luna: congrats
third is rly good

Gladion: thanks

 

Next to him, Hau is singing - or wailing, more realistically - to whatever pop song is on the radio at the moment. It makes it hard for Gladion to concentrate, as he ponders whether to ask the question that has been burning in his mind for the past two months. Maybe it's the fatigue or the lack of sleep, but something tells him to just do it. So he does.

Gladion: luna i was wondering

He pauses, and Luna's icon pops up as online. She's typing for a brief second.

Luna: yeah?

Right. No more stalling. This is not that hard.

Gladion: dont you hate me for beating you at worlds

There. That wasn't a big deal, was it? Luna takes a moment to respond, but the screen shows she's typing, and Gladion waits.

Luna: yeah

Oh. That wasn't exactly what Gladion was hoping for. Though to be fair, what did he expect? And why does it even matter if she hates him or not? At this point, he doesn't know how to respond. It seems rude to just leave it on seen, yet that's exactly what he does. He feels a twinge of regret, but he forces himself to put his phone down, as the car continues to rumble on forwards down the highway.

Chapter Text

It’s Luna’s second Midseason Showdown of the season, she sincerely hopes she does better this time around. And she has Absol. That’s the weird thing - if you look up Absol on a VGC statistics website, it has a grand total of 0 CP and 00.00% usage. That’s encouraging, isn’t it?

After arriving at 7:00 am in the morning, Luna sits down at her first table of the day, as round 1 of Swiss begins. If she goes 5-1 or better, she should make it into Top Cut. She’ll get at least 25 CP at that point, which isn’t much, but it’s something, unlike Gladion, who won 130 CP at Regionals. Luna immediately scolds herself. Why is she comparing herself to Gladion again? She forces herself to focus, and Swiss Round 1 begins.

As they go into Team Preview, Luna scouts for Tailwind. If they have Tailwind, that would make this thing a whole lot easier. They don’t, and Luna decides to skip the Absol this first round. Instead, she leads with Tapu Lele and Swellow, another unconventional choice on her team. Her opponent sends out Dawn Wings Necrozma and his own Tapu Lele, and Luna gets to work. First, she uses Ally Switch on Tapu Lele. She can only expect a Moongeist Beam into what was the Lele slot, but if she switches in Swellow, the normal and flying type won’t take any damage. As the opposing Tapu Lele sends a Psyshock into what was Swellow and Necrozma moves exactly as she’d expected, Luna can’t help but feel triumphant. Her own Tapu Lele takes it like a champ, and Swellow sends an Air Slash into Necrozma. But then things go downhill. Swellow faints before it can fire off a Boomburst, and Tapu Lele gets hit two more times with Psyshock and goes down as well. Luna’s down to her last two Pokemon, and her opponent still has four.

She narrowly escapes with the win in Game One, her Xerneas and Lunala having to put in a ton of work. Plus, Groudon missed the Precipice Blades on both of them, and Lunala is able to set up the ever crucial Tailwind. Now it’s time for Game Two, and Luna’s heart is racing. She leads with Xernala after the success in the last game, and it proves to be a mistake. Her opponent sweeps her team, and they’re on to Game Three in a flash.

Luna takes the risk and brings Absol to Game Three. It Mega Evolves first turn and uses Role Play into Blissey, gaining the Serene Grace ability. But due to its frailty, one hit from Groudon would probably take it down. Luna prays for the flinch when she has both of her Pokemon go for Rock Slide, and gets it. Both Groudon and Tapu Lele flinch, and Absol lives another turn. But it goes down to a Moonblast from Tapu Lele, and the entire game spirals downhill. It’s only because of hax and pure luck that Luna is able to escape with a 1-0 record, and she grits her teeth as she signs the match slip. After turning it into the box, she leans against the wall and thinks, as she waits for Ottie to return from Starbucks with coffee for them both.

I almost just lost my first round of Swiss. How am I supposed to make Top Cut then? How could I possibly expect to win this entire thing? She lets her gaze flirt around the game store, and quickly establishes she is the most accomplished player in the room. That’s always a good feeling - being expected to win and failing to deliver. It’s been happening a lot this past season. Then she begins to wonder. Why do I even trust Gladion? I hated him for months, and we may not be friends, but we certainly aren’t enemies anymore. Why did I even agree to this? I guess you could say we’re rivals, too. What if he’s trying to screw me up? I wouldn’t put it past him, that’s for sure, Luna thinks, frustrated. She self consciously finds herself clenching her fists, and freezes up when there’s a tap on her shoulder.

“Got the coffee!” It’s Ottie. Luna lets out a sigh of relief and takes the cup from her friend’s hand. “How’d Round 1 go?”

“I’m 1-0.” Luna leaves out how close it was, and certainly doesn’t want to talk about how it’s shaken her all the way to the core. Right. Even if Gladion is trying to mess me up, I better suck it up and deal with it. There’s nothing I can do now except for win.

“That’s good!” Ottie replies. Luna nods halfheartedly. “You’re fine, Luna.” I hope so. Then Swiss Round 2 pairings are up, and Luna’s off to check the board, coffee in hand.

-

She makes it through Swiss, exactly 5-1, and is 8th in the placings. She barely made it, but Luna’s in Top Cut. She’s happy about that, sure, but not so happy with her overall chances of winning. It’s now time for her favorite part - playing on stream. She’s up against a girl named Fern, who she vaguely remembers from last season. Luna sits down at the table, puts on her headphones, and shakes her opponent’s hand. Then Team Preview is underway, and she focuses all attention on the battles ahead.

There’s an Aerodactyl on Fern’s team, and Luna takes the risk. They often carry Wide Guard, sure, but it’s even more likely to have Tailwind, and that’s what matters. Luna breaks into a small smile when Fern leads with Aerodactyl and Weavile, while she sends out Absol and Blissey herself. Luna knows that if this backfires, this could be it for Game One. There’s a part of her that doesn’t want to take the gamble. Yet she does, because she doesn’t have any other options. Aerodactyl and Absol Mega Evolve. Then Luna uses her Z-Move, and Blissey uses Z-Snatch into Aerodactyl. She holds her breath, and when Aerodactyl goes for Tailwind, she grins. That Tailwind is hers now, and Blissey’s speed has increased by two stages. Weavile uses Taunt and temporarily gives Luna a heart attack, but then she realizes Fern has chosen to Taunt Blissey, which is fine. Instead, Luna has Absol use Role Play, gaining Serene Grace as planned. The rest of the battle runs smoothly, as the two Serene Grace Pokemon on Luna’s side both use Rock Slide, causing flinches almost every turn. Even when Primal Groudon comes out to replace Weavile, Luna remains unfazed, and the battle ends in her favor.

Fern learns her lesson going into Game Two, yet Luna wins again, her Xerneas and Lunala sweeping through the opponent’s team easily. Suddenly, Luna has faith in her team again. She just breezed through her first battle of Top Cut, and she’s guaranteed to place in the Top 4. Her team is unconventional in so many ways, yet it’s the best one she’s played all season. Fourth in a MSS? By far her highest placing so far.

After her battle and interview, Luna has some time to spare before her semifinal match, so she checks her phone. Her eyes widen when she sees a message from Gladion.

Gladion: well played

That’s high praise, actually. Especially coming from him. Somehow, Luna finds her confidence boosted up another two levels as if she’s used Swords Dance. Which is why she’s completely unfazed going into her next battle, and between Xerneas and Lunala, she’s able to win yet again. Then it hits her. She’s in the finals. She’s in the finals of a Midseason Showdown, and Absol is working.

Luna sits down in her chair across from a girl named Selene, who she remembers faintly from last season. Apart from Luna, Selene is the most accomplished player at the tournament. Fitting they’re fighting in the finals.

Luna knows Selene’s team even before the Team Preview begins. She’s watched her on stream after her own Swiss battles were done, and the most interesting part about her team is that she can set up both Tailwind or Trick Room, completely dependant on what she wants at the time. Luna doesn’t know if she wants to try Absol - if Selene doesn’t bring her Tailwind setting Salamence, it wouldn’t work that well, considering even Mega Absol’s speed stat is not especially extraordinary. So she goes the safer route and runs Tapu Lele and Swellow again. Selene sends out Lunala and Incineroar, which is not a favorable matchup for Tapu Lele. But Luna takes the risk, and figures Lunala will be setting up a Trick Room first turn. She proves to be correct, and has Tapu Lele send a Moonblast into Incineroar, while Swellow goes for Air Slash. And then in the next turn, she switches out Tapu Lele for Xerneas, and with Lunala safely in the back, Luna wins the match.

Luna is feeling good going into Game Two. So far, Top Cut has been nothing but smooth sailing, and while she knows it won’t remain like so for long, her confidence is higher than it’s been all season. But Game Two plummets downhill quickly. Luna isn’t worried at all, and takes the risk of leading with Absol and Blissey. While she’s able to have two Serene Grace Pokemon on her side at once, the Trick Room from Lunala makes it so Absol is moving last, and it goes down immediately to a Moonblast from Tapu Fini, after Blissey fails to get the Rock Slide flinch. Five minutes later, Luna is down to just Xerneas, and it’s game over when Selene crashes into it with a single target, Aerialite boosted Hyper Voice from Mega Salamence. They’re onto Game Three, and while there’s only a 10 CP difference between first and second place, Luna wants to win. Badly.

Selene brought Trick Room twice, and everything is riding on whether she will again. At first, Luna wants to play it safe and skip Absol. But there’s a part of her that says it’s the final game in the final round, and she should bring the Pokemon she really wants to make work, and that’s the Disaster Pokemon. She goes for it, and leads Absol and Blissey once more. Her heart leaps when Salamence and Groudon materialize on Selene’s side of the battlefield, and Luna prays Salamence goes for the Tailwind.

Not wanting to use her Z-Move already, Luna has Blissey use a regular Snatch into Salamence. Instead, it goes for Protect. Absol manages to get the Serene Grace as it Mega Evolves, but without Tailwind, Luna has no clue in what order the Pokemon will be moving. Groudon uses Precipice Blades, but by some miracle, it misses Absol. She lives another turn. Between both Pokemon on Luna’s side, she manages to flinch both Salamence and Groudon. Next turn, Salamence faints, and Groudon goes for Precipice Blades. This time, it hits, and both Blissey and Absol go down. Luna clenches her jaw. She was doing well, but she’s also losing. So she sends out her Lunala on the left and Xerneas on the right.

There’s no switching for her at this point, so it’s safe for Xerneas to go for a Geomancy, while Lunala wastes no time in setting up a Tailwind. Incineroar comes out to replace the fallen Salamence, threatening Fake Out pressure into Xerneas, but Luna’s fine with that. Groudon goes for Precipice Blades, but with Xerneas fully invested into bulk, it lives it easily, while Lunala hangs on just fine. In the next turn, Luna decides to go for Psych Up. The boosts Xerneas got from Geomancy are not shabby at all, and if Lunala could take those too, her two legendaries would be fully set up to sweep. She does exactly that, and Groudon goes down to a Dazzling Gleam, while Incineroar hangs around 50% HP. The game presses on, as Selene sends out her final Pokemon in Lunala. But Luna has it in the bag at this point. With the Tailwind up, both of her Pokemon move faster, and she’s easily able to KO Incineroar with a Moonblast. With the multiple dark types on her team, Luna is surprised Selene doesn’t have a better counter to Xerneas. Then Lunala goes for it’s Z-Move, Malicious Moonraze Maelstrom. Through her headphones, Luna can faintly hear those watching cheering as Selene’s Lunala goes down in a single hit.

Just like that, Luna wins the Spring Coast Midseason Showdown.

-

Luna is shocked. Shocked, proud, and amazed. She just won a MSS, has 50 more CP under her belt, and did it with an Absol. She couldn’t be happier with the days results, and it’s evident during her brief interview. Because the tournament is smaller, the interview is short and the streams are hard to come by, so Luna only answers two questions. She could have guessed them both.

“Congrats on winning the Spring Coast Midseason Showdown! How are you feeling right now?” It’s the same question, every time. But this time, Luna feels different. She feels… better than she ever has after a win. Maybe there’s hope for her 2019 season after all.

“Pretty good,” she starts. It’s an understatement. “I’m just really happy I could win such an event with the team I did. My season has been pretty rough so far, and I’m glad to finally get a nice chunk of CP.” She stops herself before her answer turns into a full on ramble.

“That’s great to hear! It’s well deserved - you played very well! Now, you began to mention it yourself, but your team is extremely unique. Why did you choose the Pokemon you did?” The interviewer isn’t wrong. Lunala, Xerneas, and Tapu Lele are all common choices in the metagame. But Blissey, Swellow, and Absol are all less so.

“Actually, Absol is my favorite Pokemon, so I really wanted to try it in a team. I didn’t think it was going to work out, but I’m glad I was able to pull it off in the end. Plus, I have a-” Luna pauses. Friend? Rival? Acquaintance? She starts again. “There’s somebody I know - another VGC player - who made a deal with me that he’d use his favorite Pokemon in his Regionals team if I used Absol here. That was all it took to push me over the edge, and I’ve been dead set on this Pokemon ever since.” The interviewer nods, satisfied.

“Well, thank you for your time! Congratulations again to Luna Kajiba, the winner of the 2019 Spring Coast Midseason Showdown!” Luna is clearly dismissed after that, and scurries off to find Ottie. As she’s walking, she finds herself thinking. And for some annoying, frustrating, confusion reason, she first wonders if Gladion was watching.

It’s stupid - Gladion shouldn’t mean anything to her. She’d sworn to hate him ever since chance set them up to battle at Worlds. Yet at the same time, there’s nobody’s approval she wants more than his right now. It’s the same thing - months ago, all she’d wanted was a “good game.” Now, she wants a “congratulations.” Why? In fact, there’s no reason she should look up to Gladion like she does. Moon is more accomplished, isn’t she? And Hau sure is nicer. So why - why does Luna always end up thinking about him? Lately, she’s been letting her guard down around him more than she’d like to, and she doesn’t know why. But she remembers the night Valor coliced, and how she could be pretty sure Gladion saved the horse’s life. She saw a different side of him right then - a worrying, kinder, softer side. Luna begins to question whether the Gladion she met at Worlds was really him. Because maybe - just maybe - his cold, dismissive attitude is just a disguise. It’s possible he’s better underneath, and Luna is tempted to give him that chance.

Chapter Text

Gladion: hey
you going to internats?

Luna: no
are you?

For some reason, Gladion feels… disappointed? He’s not quite sure why, and he shakes his one hunch away. Last time he and Luna were in the same room, it was practically a disaster. Why would things be different this time?

Gladion: yeah

He pauses before continuing.

Gladion: why aren’t you?

Luna: money

Gladion: oh

Luna: i guess it’s cheaper for you, since it’s in alola
what about worlds?

Gladion: i got travel awards anyways
and yes

Luna: oh i see
I wish i could go but idk this season’s been kinda rough so i haven’t qualified yet
I guess i still have some time

Gladion: yeah

Again, he stops. It’s stupid. But Luna said she wanted to go, and he can’t help but feel a little bad for her. He doesn’t know why, but he wants to do something to help.

Gladion: um i can help you pay if you want?
for internats

Luna: oh god no i can’t ask you to do that
It’s really expensive
do you actually have that kind of money to spare?

He's tempted to say no. He wants to say it was all a fluke, that he wasn’t thinking. But it isn’t true. He knows what kind of house he lives in, and he knows what kind of car he drives to school. To say no would be a flat out lie.

Gladion: kinda
i mean
i guess

Luna: oh
well thanks anyways
i’ll still try and qualify for ta, but i’m not counting on it, you know?

Gladion: yeah
i get it
and you’re welcome i guess

Luna: well
you entering the pgl international challenge?

Gladion: probably
why?
you really wanna fight again that badly?

Luna: no just curious

Gladion: you sure about that

Luna: … no

Gladion: my point exactly
look
i’ll make you a deal

Luna: another one?

Gladion: the last one worked out pretty damn well

Luna: true

Gladion: let’s enter every online tournament from here on out
we have two months until internats
lets see if you can finally win

Luna: really?
i’m catching up you know

Gladion: and im getting better

Luna: fair

Gladion: you in?

Luna: fine
challenge accepted

-

“And how many tournaments have you entered?” Lillie asks. Gladion has to think for a moment.

“Three,” he replies. He looks down and continues eating.

“So not that many.” His sister is quick to point out the obvious.

“That’s every single one, Lillie,” Gladion reminds her. She shrugs. “It’s just weird, I guess. I fought Luna four times in four tournaments, and then not all in the past two months.”

“Is that a problem?” Hau interrupts.

“Again, it’s just weird. There’s nothing wrong with it,” Gladion says curtly. It’s not like he hasn’t seen Luna play - not that he’d admit it, but he’s definitely seen a few of her streams. She’s getting more confident - he can tell. After winning the MSS with Absol, she seems to have found her stride again. The Xernala core she always uses may be predictable to her opponents at this point, but it just keeps working. It also means he would know what to expect if they ever do battle again. But so far, that hasn’t happened.

“She’s gaining on you, anyways,” Lillie points out. Gladion tenses. She’s not wrong. Luna placed higher than him in the last tournament, and there’s no doubt she’s getting better. And he can’t help but feel his improvement is at a standstill, for some reason. “So maybe it’s good you aren’t fighting.”

He knows Lillie has a good point. But at the same time, he can’t help but feel the opposite. For some odd reason, he wants to fight Luna. Why? He isn’t quite sure. But for some reason, he does.

“Yeah, good point,” he says finally.

“Why don’t you just ask her to Link Battle?” Hau asks. For a moment, Gladion doesn’t know the answer.

“It just… it feels different, I guess. I don’t know.” He pauses. “She… she isn’t Moon, okay?” That's all it takes. One word - one name of a mutual friend should not do that. But Lillie looks down, and Hau decides to stop pushing it. Maybe for the better.

Moon shouldn’t still be such a sore subject. In fact, Moon is their friend. You can see it through their texting. But Gladion wonders if Moon has noticed the change - the moment Luna was added to their group chat, Gladion’s been making an effort to be more friendly, and not just to the newcomer. To her as well.

There was never any tension between Hau and Moon, and there probably never will be. But ever since Moon decided to move, that’s been… less of the case between her and Gladion. For a few reasons. But he pushes it away when they’re online. He’s not sure why, and he’s even less sure why he’s so set on keeping it from Luna. As far as she’s concerned, Moon and him are rivals, and friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Part of him says his secrecy is because of the fact that Luna and him really aren’t that close yet. In fact, he’s not sure if she considers him a friend, or vice versa. She made it clear she’s still at least a little upset over Worlds. And then there’s the other side of her. The open side that’s giving him a second chance. That’s the side of Luna he feels should know the truth - not that he’s lying, he just isn’t telling her everything.

Gladion also doesn’t know why he thinks about Moon like this. They’re friends. They act like nothing ever went wrong whenever they’re on the group chat. Yet at the same time, the mention of her name is enough to put the entire subject of his battles - or rather, lack of - with Luna to rest. And it really shouldn’t be like that. He questions why Lillie and Hau haven’t seemed to move on, but then immediately takes it back. He knows why. Because maybe if he stopped acting so oddly around Moon, the subject of her leaving, and what they used to be, everyone else would too.

-

Gladion: what are you guys running for internats/whatever your next tourney is

Hau: YAY INTERNATS TIME
i’m so excited :D

Luna: you always are

Hau: HEY

Gladion: and thats not the question

Hau: right sorry
probably rayogre with koko again

Gladion: cool
luna what about you

Gladion doesn’t reveal that Luna is the sole reason he even posed the question. He knows she’ll be using Xernala - she always does - but he’s curious what else. In fact, he isn’t so sure what he’s bringing to Internats himself.

Luna: xernala
duh
but apart from that not telling

Gladion: why
we both know we aren’t getting matched up anytime soon

It’s true. They’re four tournaments in now, and there’s only two weeks left until Internats. They still haven’t fought. Not that Gladion minds - or at least, that’s what he wants to believe.

Luna: cause i got a travel stipend
and i’m coming to kick your ass at internats

Gladion freezes. Then it hits him. Luna’s going to Zone 3 Internats after all. He’s going to meet Luna Kajiba in person again. And maybe… maybe things will go better.

Hau: YAYYYYYY

Gladion: congrats

He knows he can’t let out much, or Hau would end up making some comment about shipping them again. But those messages had grown fewer lately. Once he’d realized neither Luna or Gladion was interested in the other, he seemed to be holding his tongue a little. And of course, he finally understood that maybe leaving such messages on the chat Moon checked daily was probably not the best idea. But regardless, Gladion had learned to tread carefully. He wasn’t making a mistake now.

Luna: :D
i’m really excited

Hau: YES
i can finally meet you

Gladion doesn’t know what to say to that.

Luna: yup! :D
gonna beat you both

Gladion: eh

Luna: i’m using new pokemon this time :P

Gladion: interesting

Luna: anyways
you never answered your own question

He doesn’t admit he honestly has no clue what he’s bringing to Internats, so he spins a lie real quickly.

Gladion: not telling
cant give you the advantage

Luna: fine
but seeing as i’m yet to beat you, i might need it

Hau: COME ON LUNA
have more faith in yourself! :DDDD

Luna: thanks, i think?

Gladion: hmph
you’re gonna be fine until i crush you again

Luna: you can try

Gladion: you bet i will

Luna: i’ll try harder

Gladion: okay you know what im done here
we can settle this when we actually fight

Hau: wowwwww

Gladion: gotta go work on hw anyways
bye

He doesn’t wait on a response. And the homework thing? A complete and utter lie. Instead, he logs into Pokemon Showdown. He’s got to start team building. After all, he now has Luna to beat. He has Luna to beat, and at Internats.

They both know the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, not including Worlds. Plus, Luna’s been improving, and rapidly. Gladion knows he’ll need all the luck he can get if he wants to win.

He doesn’t know why he so firmly believes they’ll fight. In fact, the odds are seemingly against him. But Luna’s news has done nothing but force him to finally sit down and prepare. Internats is a big deal - if he does well, he’s well on his way to a Day 2 Worlds invite. Worlds. He hasn’t thought about Worlds 2019 at all. He can only assume Luna will be going - after all, it’s in her hometown. But both of them remember last year, and Gladion can only hope it won’t end the same way again. Well sure, he’d like to win, but maybe they’ll be on better terms at that point. Maybe he can at least muster a “good game.” He’s sure Luna would appreciate that.

But first - Internats. He begins his team building, mind completely set on beating Luna and Hau in two weeks. He has to - losing is not an option at this point. And he knows Luna feels the same. But it doesn’t matter. Winning the CP he’ll earn for placing well at Internats will push him far over the requirement. And to be honest? He doesn’t really care who stands in his way, because he’s going to win. Even if it means both his best friend, in Hau, and rival, in Luna, will lose. Then he stops. Rival. Is that what Luna is? Regardless, he refuses to let himself dwell on it any longer. All he knows is that they’re both going down.

Chapter Text

For some reason, it doesn’t feel real yet. It didn’t feel real when Luna was packing her suitcase, and it didn’t feel real when she said goodbye to Silv. Now she’s on the plane, and it still hasn’t hit her. She’s been repeating it in her head all day - I’m going to Z3IC. I’m going to the Zone 3 International Championships - but for some reason, she isn’t feeling the butterflies she usually would prior to such a large competition.

Luna has no clue what to expect. It’s actually her first Internats, despite her multiple years of experience playing. She can expect it’s like Worlds, almost. Maybe a little smaller, but similar. Certainly bigger than Regionals.

As she waits for her plane to take off, she decides to pull out her phone and send off one last quick message before she loses signal for the next five hours.

Luna: i’m on the plane, taking off in like 10 minutes

Hau: YAY

Gladion: have a safe flight

Luna: thanks
i’m excited

Hau: me too :D
let us know when you get here and we can meet up!!

Luna stops breathing. Of course. There was only so much she could expect if she was going to the same live event as both Gladion and Hau. The latter would definitely want to meet, regardless of what either Luna or Gladion thought. Her feelings are mixed. She knows Gladion and her are getting better - closer, for sure. Friends, almost, even if not quite. But Luna can still vividly remember the last time she saw him, and the last time they met. If that were to happen again, there would be no more second chances. If you were to ask her, she firmly believes she still has the right to hold the grudge she has against him. It’s the sole reason it takes her so long to reply. After all, she doesn’t have any other friends in VGC. In the past, she could be seen with Locust and his group. But Luna knew she didn’t fit in, and they aren’t exactly an option this time around. So unless she wanted to be alone for the rest of the weekend, she didn’t exactly have any other choices.

Luna: okay
gonna turn my phone off now, bye!

Hau: bye!

Gladion: bye luna

Luna places her phone into her backpack, which she then pushes it underneath the seat in front of her. She then pulls out the book she’s been reading, and cracks it open. She’ll practice with her team later. For now, she’s going to sit down, push Internats (and Gladion) out of her mind, and let herself relax. She has five hours to burn.

-

By the time Luna arrives in Heahea City, it’s early in the afternoon. Her and her father hurry off to the hotel, and as they walk through the lobby, it can’t help but remind her of Worlds. On a smaller scale, sure, but there are people sitting all throughout the room, battling each other or laying out TCG Playmats on the ground. They relax for a while - for Alan, it means taking a nap, after they woke up at 4 am to head out. For Luna, it means drilling her team over and over again in the Battle Tree and Battle Spot. At 4:30, her father stays in the room, telling her to go off and go to check in, which begins at 5.

Her mind drifts briefly to Hau and Gladion, and what she was supposed to tell them, but she quickly ignores it and continues her walk to the convention center. The doors are open, and Luna pauses in the entryway. It isn’t too busy, but that’s because it’s early and she isn’t even in the main area yet. There’s a giant Pikachu inflatable right in the center, and she takes a right, following the signs. Then she sees it.

On her left is the check in. Beyond it, there’s a line that weaves in and out and then stretches miles long - not literally, but it sure seems so to Luna. She struggles to find the end and finds herself walking down the convention center quickly. But it continues to stretch farther and farther, to seemingly no end. In fact, she finds herself doubting she’d even make it through the line in the 3 hour time period allotted. Then Luna’s phone buzzes, and she wants to smack herself. Hau was expecting her to at least say she’d landed, and she certainly had not.

Hau: Luna!!
are you here yet?????

Luna: shoot sorry
yeah i’m here
just searching for the end of the line
how long is this thing??

Gladion: it moves fast

Luna: oh okay

Hau: come meet us and we can wait together :D

Luna stops for a moment. She stops, frozen right in the middle of the walkway. Does she really want to meet Gladion again? To be honest, she doesn’t. But she knows it’s going to happen at some point this weekend, so… I guess I should just get it done with. Maybe when Hau meets me for real, he’ll realize it isn’t worth his time. But inside, she knows that won’t happen. In fact, Hau wouldn’t think that about anyone. Regardless, she forces herself to reply.

Luna: sure, where are you?

Hau: vgc orange pod

Luna frowns. That is… not helpful. To be honest, she has no clue where the VGC Orange Pod is. That isn’t to say she doesn’t have a few guesses, but still. So she enters the main hall, and freezes.

There’s a giant Pikachu float hanging on the ceiling, and banners displaying various Pokemon are scattered throughout the hall. She sees the vendors setting up their booths for the next day, along with the main stage at the end of the hall. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of chairs set up in large sections. It takes her a long moment to take everything in, and it seems to finally hit her. She’s at the Zone 3 International Championships, and she actually stands a shot - a long one, sure - at winning. That’s when her stomach starts to churn, and she quickly looks down at her phone once more, rereading Hau’s message again. VGC, Orange Pod. She finds the VGC sign, and then the area fenced off in orange. She can only assume that’s it.

She has a vague idea of what Hau looks like, and she obviously remembers Gladion. It’s impossible for her not to. She quickly looks around the area, and fails to spot either of them. Huh. That’s weird. She finds herself wandering throughout the area, making herself look distracted by fixing her gaze on her phone screen most of the time, looking up occasionally. There are other people, for sure. They’re sitting in the various chairs, either on their phones or 3DS’s. In the TCG section there are a few people who have set out their playmats and decks, and are practicing with their friends.

Suddenly, Luna bumps into something. Or someone. And the very last someone she wanted to see. She’d recognize those eyes anywhere. She freezes, and puts her phone down.

“Sorry-”

“It’s fine,” he says coldly. Luna bites her lip, and looks down. Gladion’s gaze is cold and unfriendly, and a little too much like she remembers. And she almost bolts. She really, really, does not want to be there. His glare brings back a few unpleasant memories she did not want to recall. But then Hau comes in.

“Luna!” Well, they’re both taller than her. She’s not used to that. Hau looks exactly like she had imagined. He looks the same as he does on stream, and the same as he does in any photos. “Finally!” Hau puts up a hand, and Luna hesitantly gives him a high five. He grins. “How was your flight? Are you ready for tomorrow?” He asks her a barrage of questions, and Luna struggles to remember them all.

She finds her gaze drifting to look at Gladion again. His gaze may be unmistakable, but there’s something different too. He still has the same, oddly cut, pale blond hair, and piercing emerald eyes. But suddenly, they remind her a little too much of somebody else. It’s… unfortunate, to say the least. But there’s more. There’s something different about him that she can’t quite place. Her mind runs through everything - everything about Gladion that could possibly be the source of the off putting sense she feels. And then… Oh my god. Stop, Luna. She scolds herself inwardly, and suddenly, Luna’s got it. No. Stop. You cannot - you cannot find Gladion Aether physically attractive. What the hell is wrong with you, Luna? But Hau has finally stopped asking questions, and Luna forces herself to focus.

“Uh…”

“Let’s go,” Gladion interrupts. Luna stops, and gives a small nod. She has to push any of her previous thoughts out of her mind. Gladion doesn’t wait for a reply from Hau, and instead turns on his heel quickly and begins to walk off. Hau shoots Luna an apologetic look, and they follow him.

“He’s not always like this,” Hau whispers.

“Heard that.” Gladion doesn’t turn around, and instead walks faster.

“Sorry.” Luna finds herself apologizing for no particular reason. Gladion just shrugs.

“Nothing to apologize for.” Luna knows that, so she doesn’t know why she said anything. She decides to keep her mouth shut for the next two minutes, as they find the end of the line. She vaguely pays attention to Hau rattling on about this and that - the upcoming rounds, the team locking the next morning, the side events, whatever. For some reason, she finds herself trying to look Gladion in the eye, but he instead turns away, shoving his hand in his pockets.

“Come on, Glads! Why are you being so rude? You’re the one who added Luna to the group chat, anyways!” Hau complains. Gladion rolls his eyes.

“I’m just thinking, Hau,” he says icily. Luna looks away.

“Well, Luna, is this your first Internats?” Hau asks her. She nods. “Oooh! Gladion, how many years for you?” The other boy sighs, and finally turns around.

“Why do you keep pestering me?” He asks, frustrated. Hau just shrugs and grins. “It’s my 5th.” Hau’s eyes widen in surprise.

“Fifth? I thought it was your fourth! Then you’re one ahead of me!” Gladion shrugs.

“I went the year before I became friends with you, anyways,” he says. “Why you ask?”

“It’s Luna’s first time, and you’ve been the most times. I’m sure she’d appreciate an explanation, right?” Hau shoots Luna a glance that she honestly can’t decipher, and she finds herself nodding for absolutely no reason at all. She really doesn’t need anybody’s help, let alone the one person she’s only just rekindled her distaste for. And the same person you suddenly think is cute. Luna scolds herself once more, and listens in on what said person has to say.

“Fine.” It’s clear Gladion does not want to argue with Hau, and he sighs. “We’ve got until 8 tonight to check in, and then tomorrow we lock in our teams before 8:45. Round 1 pairings will be posted then, and we’ll be separated into two pods, where we’ll have a player meeting before we start. We have 9 rounds of Swiss, no lunch break, and then Top 32 advance to Day 2. 5 Swiss rounds on Saturday, and then Top Cut for the Top 8. Then obviously finals on Sunday, and we’re last.” Luna doesn’t miss the implication of “we’re,” and that Gladion is set on at least one of them - probably him, if we’re being honest - playing on Sunday. Luna can hope it’ll be her, even if she knows it’s a long shot. But there’ll be at least 9 rounds of Swiss to get through first, and if she makes it to Day 2, a total of 14.

“Thanks.” Luna doesn’t mention the fact she’d memorized the schedule already while she was on the plane, because at least Gladion finally said something that wasn’t rude in any sort, right?

“Luna, you should join us for dinner!” Hau pipes. She bites her lip. Not so sure if Gladion would agree to that, she thinks.

“Don’t be stupid.” Yup. The line moves forwards, and then all step up. “I’m sure she has other friends she’s hanging out with.” Gladion’s tone is dismissive and uninterested, and it’s all too familiar to Luna right now. But if she’s being honest, he’s completely wrong. She doesn’t have friends - not since the thing with Locust happened. Without him, she’s completely alone.

“Actually… not really,” she mutters. Hau looks at her and then grins.

“See, Glads?” Having no friends isn’t something I’m proud of, Hau. His voice sounds a little too triumphant for her taste. “You in, Luna?” Oh. I mean… What else am I supposed to do? Her mind drifts to Gladion again, much to her own annoyance. Stop. Luna, focus. You’ll go because you’re friends. Not because you are suddenly and sorta possibly interested in someone, and certainly not because you find him attractive. It’s not like you have an excuse prepared, either. So maybe… Luna’s mind begins to drift. She looks up at Gladion once more, who finally meets her eyes. Maybe things will take a turn for the better. Finally, she replies.

“I’m in.”

Chapter Text

Gladion doesn’t ever recall saying yes to this. In fact, he can faintly recall himself making any and every excuse he could come up with as to why Luna should not come to dinner with them. But Hau was all over the idea, which is how he ended up sitting - extremely awkwardly, you might add - across the table from Luna Kajiba. Neither of them has spoken to the other all evening. Gladion isn’t surprised - Luna has made it perfectly clear she still despises him for beating her at Worlds, and while they can both admit they’re getting… better, they aren’t “friends” yet. So instead, Gladion distracts himself by running through his Battle Team for the next day. He runs his fingers over his 3DS in his pocket, and questions whether it’s a bad idea to pull it out right then. He decides it probably would be, and instead settles on reviewing every Pokemon on his team, along with their movesets, EVs, and Natures. But then a familiar voice breaks his concentration, and he clenches his fists under the table.

“Hey, everyone!” Hau leaps up from the table, and decides it’s necessary to hug all of the newcomers. Every. Single. One. Across the table, Gladion catches Luna shooting him an amused glance, and he rolls his eyes in return. He can see the surprise that briefly crosses her face, which he ignores. “Guys, this is Luna,” Hau starts. Luna smiles nervously, and runs her fingers through her hair. “Luna, this is…” his voice trails off, as he introduces every one of the Alolan VGC players who had walked into the room. Gladion knows all of them already, of course - he’s been playing for years, so he’s bound to. But somehow, Hau is still talking, and Gladion forces himself to take a deep breath and control his temper. When he looks back over at Luna, he can see the nervousness in her eyes, and he bites his lip.

“Hau, can you shut up?” He snaps. His friend frowns, but complies. “You guys are overwhelming Luna.” He doesn’t know why he says that, and immediately wants to smack himself. The relief in Luna’s gaze almost makes him feel slightly better, but the teasing glint in Lana’s does the exact opposite.

“Hold on, Gladion.” She leans across the table to whisper, and he clenches his fists. He knows exactly what’s coming. “Is Luna your new girlfriend?”

“No.” He’s surprised when Luna shoots her down just as quickly as he does. The rest of the Alolans whip around, interest piqued by the sound of Gladion’s raised voice, and he clenches his jaw.

“Look, Lana. And everyone else, so you don’t bother asking,” he says coldly. He meets Lana’s eyes with a glare. “I hate to break it to you -” He really doesn’t -. “But I’m pretty damn sure Luna isn’t interested.” Across the table, Luna looks down. Gladion pretends to not notice. “ I kicked her ass at Worlds last year, and I don’t blame her if she still holds a grudge against me. Understood?” Lana rolls her eyes and nods, though Gladion can be pretty sure she doesn’t mean it. He shoots the rest of the Alolans a warning glare.

After a few goodbyes and good lucks, Hau sits back down next to Gladion. Nobody dares talk about what just happened, and Luna looks lost in thought. That’s totally fine by Gladion - he doesn’t have any interest in talking to her, does he? But at the same time, he can’t help but not understand why they can hold a conversation online but not in person. He almost wants to say something - ask about Valor, her other horses, her team for tomorrow, anything. But he doesn’t, and he isn’t sure why. They spend the rest of the dinner in comfortable silence, minus Hau’s chattering. And for some reason, Gladion can’t help but feel disappointed.

-

Gladion doesn’t know what to think. Currently, he’s the only undefeated player in the Orange Pod. He’s 7-0, with two rounds to go. He hasn’t asked Luna or Hau what their records are - they’re both in the Blue Pod, so they won’t be fighting unless they both make it to Day 2. Now, Gladion has had plenty of time to meet them, as he’d breezed through all of his games. But he doesn’t need the distraction. Instead, he finds his table, and opens up a new page in his notebook. He titles it with his opponent’s name, and waits.

When his opponent arrives, they waste no time in starting Game One. Gladion leads with Tapu Lele and Umbreon, while his opponent chooses Groudon and Yveltal. He knows his opponent will expect a Snarl from Umbreon, and he decides to take a risk. He switches in Salamence, who lowers the opposing Pokemons’ attack with Intimidate. Meanwhile, both Yveltal and Groudon go for Protect. Sadly, it renders Tapu Lele’s Dazzling Gleam useless. But Salamence has done its job by dropping the opponent’s attack, and Gladion brings Umbreon back once more. His opponent switches in Incineroar - that’s fine for him, actually. Unfortunately, Groudon then goes for an Eruption, and Tapu Lele’s HP is reduced to only about 10%. But a few smart plays is enough to bring Gladion back, and he wins Game One.

In Game Two, both of the players use the same leads as the last round. Gladion takes another risk, and has Umbreon use a Helping Hand into Tapu Lele. But Groudon protects, and Tapu Lele’s boosted Moonblast is rendered useless. The rest of the game continues in a similar fashion, and Gladion can’t help but feel extremely frustrated. He’s able to get some decent damage on the Yveltal, sure, but he ends up losing, as his Umbreon faints to an Earth Power. They’re on to Game Three.

Sadly, it doesn’t go much better. He doesn’t lose - Gladion manages to pull out a tie, and while he’s still guaranteed a spot in the Top 32 who battle tomorrow, he’s disappointed. He knows very well he could have won. He just got too reckless and his opponent read all of his moves easily, and now he’s frustrated. Still, he forces himself to shake his opponent’s hand, sign the match slip, and drop it into the turn in box. Finally, he shoots the message to the group chat he should have sent long ago.

Gladion: how are you guys doing?

His games ran on the longer end, so he’s not surprised when it shows both Hau and Luna are active, meaning their 8th rounds were also complete.

Hau: 6-2
if i win the next one i’m in for tomorrow guaranteed

Gladion: gl

Hau: thanks :D

Gladion: luna?

She’s been typing for a while, and he doesn’t know why she hasn’t sent anything yet. It’s just a few numbers, isn’t it?

Luna: 8-0

He freezes. Luna is 8-0? She’s undefeated, just like he should be. Quit it. Quit beating yourself up over a tie, he thinks bitterly. He clenches his jaw.

Hau: YES GO LUNA!!!

Gladion: wow

It’s all he can muster at the moment. He knew Luna was getting better - he knew she was improving, and he knew the chances of her making it to Day 2 and possibly even Top Cutting here were high. But regardless, he’s shocked. Luna? Undefeated? He isn’t sure why he’s so surprised, yet he is.

Luna: wbu?

He doesn’t want to admit that Luna's doing better than he is, as his competitive side gets the better of him. But it’s stupid, really - 7-0-1 is a great record. And there isn’t anything he can do.

Gladion: 7-0-1
last round was hella rough

Luna: no that’s rly good tho

He knows that.

Gladion: thanks
just like… frustrated
i made so many mistakes

He doesn’t know why he’s saying these things, and he takes a shaky breath, leaning against a wall. Luna and Hau don’t need to know he’s beating himself up over a tie - a tie, of all things. He’s literally 7-0-1. Why he is so upset? He sighs.

Luna: i’m sorry

Gladion: don’t be
it’s my fault
you first in blue pod?

Luna: yeah
you?

Gladion: idk
prior to my tie i was

Luna: oh okay

Hau: glads don’t be sad :O

Gladion: i’m not

Hau: yes you are and you better stop

Gladion: shut up

Hau: you know i’m right
in fact
i can see you sulking by one of the tcg booths

Damnit.

Gladion: okay fine
i’m not sad tho
just like
really frustrated

Hau: well go be happy pls

Gladion: stop

Hau: if i stop will you be happy

Gladion: yes

Luna: you guys are actually so stupid oh my god

For some reason, despite everything else, Gladion almost laughs. He almost laughs. It’s at these moments he feels like he and Luna actually might enjoy each other’s company. But then he remembers the night before - the silence, the awkward laughter, the odd glances Luna shot him from across the table when she thought he wasn’t looking. He doesn’t understand how they can be so close one second and so distant the next. She’s made it clear she hasn’t put Worlds behind her yet, and he keeps telling himself that’s fair - and it is. But at the same time, he can’t help but wish that they could be something more than rivals. Mostly, Gladion just wishes they could be friends. And he has no clue why.

-

Day 1 runs late. In fact, it’s almost 10 pm by the time they return to the hotel. Annoyingly, Hau decides to ask Luna if she wants to join himself and Gladion in eating pizza in their hotel room. And equally annoyingly, she says yes.

Gladion doesn’t even know why. Whenever he and Luna are in the same room, everything turns cold and silent. But he soon finds himself (secretly) thanking Hau for making the offer. Luna’s excitement is contagious, and only builds off of Hau’s. It’s enough to relieve Gladion of a little bit of the stress that comes from playing 9 rounds of Swiss in a single day.

When Luna’s excited, she isn’t bouncing off the walls - instead, she retains her more quiet and reserved personality. He likes that. But she smiles, and she talks. Soon enough, Gladion finds himself listening to her recaps of her matches, and how she somehow managed to go 9-0-0, placing her at the very top of the rankings for VGC Masters. It’s insane. And Gladion finds himself unable to sulk over his tie anymore. In fact, he’s 8-0-1, making him third. Never in a million years would he have expected to be third - third place - going into Day 2 of Z3IC. It’s the best he’s ever done at one of these. Now, he’s determined to win - especially with a certain person not in attendance.

As Luna and Hau continue to talk, Gladion finds himself running through each of his battles in his head. He doesn’t even flinch when he recalls the mistakes he made in his one tied match. Instead, he finally takes a critical, learning viewpoint on his decisions. He’ll be better tomorrow, won’t he? But a voice snaps him out of his thoughts, and he looks up.

“Gladion, how were the rest of your rounds?” It’s Luna. “I’m sorry, I just keep on talking and talking and talking…”

“Don’t worry about it.” It comes out colder than he had expected, and Luna winces. “I mean - sorry. You can keep going if you want.” He pauses. “I don’t… I don’t mind.” Something flickers across her face, and Gladion finds his gaze glued to hers. For the first time all weekend, he meets her eyes, and she smiles. It’s not an eye roll, and it’s not a glare. Instead, her eyes are bright, and she continues talking.

For some reason, he finds himself unable to draw his gaze away from her. His eyes trace the line of her smile, and he takes in the ways her eyes glisten, in a way unlike they have all weekend. Suddenly, he freezes. No. Stop. Gladion cannot be thinking what he’s thinking. But then he remembers Moon, and for some reason, he’s relieved. What happened with Moon is not happening again, and he’s able to tear his gaze away.

For the rest of the evening, he forces himself not to think about it. He cannot think about Luna. He doesn’t know if it’s because of Moon, but he succeeds. He can only hope he can do the same tomorrow - tomorrow. Then it hits him. What if he faces Luna? In fact, he’s pretty damn positive he’s going to face Luna. She’s the only 9-0 player on the board, and between him and the one other person with his record, one of them is going up against her in the first round of Swiss. And she’s on fire.

For the first time, Gladion Aether is afraid. He’s afraid of losing to her. Because at this point, she actually stands a chance at winning. In fact, he’s relatively positive he would lose. And that’s the last thing he wants. So he sets himself a goal. It’s only six words. Yet somehow, it carries so much weight that it threatens to crush him if he fails.

Do not lose to Luna Kajiba.

Chapter Text

Luna: records?

Hau: 5-1-1
I MADE TOP CUT :D

Luna: yay!

Hau: wbu?

Luna: 6-0-1
gladion?

Gladion: 7-0

Luna: nice

Hau: YAY
you guys are on fire :D

Luna: haha
hopefully one of us will make finals tomorrow
we’ve got like 30 minutes, anybody wanna grab some food?
i had some goldfish for lunch and i’m starving

Gladion: sure
why did you eat goldfish for lunch

Luna: my match ran really long and i didn’t have time to get anything
i had them in my bag
dont you dare judge me

Gladion: im not

Luna: good :)

Hau: lets go to starbucks

Luna: thats not food

Hau: nobody here has malasadas and starbucks cake pops are the next best :D

Gladion: wtf

Hau: HEY
you judge me for liking cake pops but not luna for eating goldfish for lunch?

Luna: not my fault
anyways
i’m last row far right by the vgc stream stage come meet me

Gladion: ok

Hau: FOOD :D

-

Luna doesn’t know why they chose her over Gladion to stream in the first round, but the pressure is on for her to perform. She’s literally Seed 2. Unfortunately, her opponent is none other than Hilbert Black. Sure, he’s one of - if not the - best players in Unova, but he’s also the person who created the very team Luna has been using all tournament. She’s surprised he Seeded 7, but she goes into her match with her guard high.

He reaches across the table, and the two players shake hands. Luna takes a deep breath, and Game One begins. Luna sends out Smeargle and Stakataka, while Hilbert chooses Lunala and Smeargle. Luna debates for a moment - her Stakataka could set up a Trick Room easily, but is that what she really wants to do? She decides so, and is unfazed when Lunala sends a Moongeist Beam crashing into the Ultra Beast, and the Trick Room goes up without fail. Next turn, Luna breathes a sigh of relief when Hilbert chooses Crafty Shield over Wide Guard, allowing the Rock Slide to hit, but she fails to get the flinch, and Smeargle is brought down to its Focus Sash with a Psyshock from Lunala. Then Hilbert brings in Incineroar, which lowers Stakataka’s attack with Intimidate, and while Luna gets off some good damage with Rock Slide, it does less than she had hoped. So Luna follows her opponent’s lead, and switches out Stakataka for her own Incineroar. But her Smeargle goes down, and Hilbert brings out his own Stakataka to take advantage of the Trick Room Luna had set up herself just a few minutes prior. Lunala comes in on her side of the field, and Stakataka leaves on Hilbert’s side immediately, while Incineroar comes in once more. The Moongeist Beam does very little to Incineroar, which is frustrating, and Luna clenches her jaw. During the next turn, both Hilbert and herself end up pulling out their Incineroars for Stakataka, and she’s unable to land any damage onto the opponent’s side. The rest of the game continues similarly - they read each other’s moves easily, having developed the same strategy and using the same Pokemon. 7 minutes later, they’re even.

Then they’re down to one Pokemon each, and Luna barely stifles her laughter, meeting Hilbert’s eyes across the table. It’s Stakataka vs Stakataka. They alternate - Protect, Rock Slide, Protect, Rock Slide. Nobody is able to hit a thing. But slowly but surely, Hilbert’s Stakataka is able to chip away at Luna’s, and it goes down, having started off with less HP to begin with. And suddenly, the clock has drained 15 minutes. Luna can’t help but think that was the most ridiculous battle she’d ever been in. They wasted an entire third of their game clock on two Pokemon, unable to damage one another. And now, Luna has only 20 minutes to make a comeback.

In Game Two, Luna is determined. She may have lost Game One, but if she can win this round, they’ll go into Game Three. She doesn’t want to lose when she’s come so far. So she leads with Smeargle and Lunala, as Hilbert goes with Tsareena and Lunala. Luna takes a deep breath - there’s one option here that could make or break the game. So she clicks it. A moment later, Hilbert groans and falls backwards in his chair, while Luna can’t help but smirk. Through her headphones, she can faintly hear the crowd cheer. Just like that, the opposing Lunala goes down to a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom, and Luna is up by one.

For the rest of Game Two, Hilbert struggles to keep up. Suddenly, Luna’s playing becomes more aggressive - she nails her predictions and sweeps his team easily, and she doesn’t know why. But she’s just breezed through that match like she has in almost every single Swiss round, and Luna’s confident going into Game Three. But what she doesn’t look at is the game clock.

Game Three kicks off with both players sending out Smeargle and Lunala. But Luna decides to play it safe, and protects her own Lunala. When her Smeargle uses Lovely Kiss into the opposing one, putting it to sleep, she smiles. It’s time to run. She clicks Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom and switches in Xerneas. But Hilbert calls it perfectly, and switches in Incineroar to take the Z-Move. Luna slams her fist into the table and groans. And while she’s able to bring the opposing Smeargle to its Focus Sash, she feels herself tense up. Then she checks the game timer, and her jaw drops. They have 2 minutes left. Hilbert’s Smeargle falls to a Dazzling Gleam, and Incineroar comes in for Lunala, but she can’t stop her heart from racing. She’s clicking moves frantically, and is failing to think them through. She feels the pressure mounting, and she feels the expectations that she should win weighing her down. She becomes reckless - stupid, almost. During the next turn, Hilbert has brought in Stakataka, who can easily land a super effective Gyro Ball into Xerneas. Lunala replaces Incineroar, taking a little bit of chip from Dazzling Gleam, but Luna knows that won’t cut it. They have 30 seconds left.

When the timer runs out, Luna has just brought out Smeargle to replace Xerneas. They have three more turns left, and whoever has more Pokemon left at the end will be the winner. And Luna knows she can’t mess around anymore. But when she has her Smeargle go for Wide Guard, Hilbert goes for Gyro Ball. Luna’s Pokemon goes down, and the Pokemon count is even. And then she freezes. Hilbert sends a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom into Luna’s own Lunala. It gets knocked out, and Luna is suddenly losing. Her breathing becomes rapid, and she feels her heart begin to race. All Hilbert has to do is play defensively at this point. He double Protects the next turn, and Luna grits her teeth. She has to knock out at least one Pokemon next turn, or she’s done for.

She knows it’s over when Hilbert has his Stakataka send a Gyro Ball into Xerneas, and Luna only has Incineroar left. As for Hilbert? Lunala, Incineroar, and Stakataka. It takes a moment for the judges to confirm, but she soon finds herself numbly shaking Hilbert’s hand from across the table. Then it begins to sink in. She just lost. Luna Kajiba, Seed 2, undefeated, just lost. Goddamnit.

Part of her is frustrated. Angry at herself, for playing so recklessly. Angry, because she should have won. She really should have. But she can’t help but feel at least slightly pleased with herself. She just placed Top 8 - Top 8! It’s her first Internats, and she placed in the Top 8! Sure, she lost on stream, in front of thousands of people, but she played her best. And there’s no shame in losing to Hilbert. So she smiles and ducks off stage, clutching her 3DS in her left hand.

She isn’t sure how to feel. Upset, bitter, proud, and happy, all at the same time. She’s still lost in thought ten minutes later, when she runs into Hau. He lost his round too. Neither of them is surprised when Gladion is nowhere to be found, and instead sit down and talk about their matches. Luna tries to focus on the positive - she really does. But as time goes on, she can’t help but feel a little deflated. To have done so well but fallen so short nonetheless? Reminds her a little too much of a certain World Championships. Instead, she just nods numbly in agreement to everything Hau says. In fact, she’s barely able to register anything when they watch Gladion lose his Top 4 match on stream. But Hau suggests they go check on him, so they scurry to the exit of the backstage area and wait.

Gladion emerges a moment later with his hands in his pockets and a scowl on her face. Hau runs up to give him a hug, and Luna looks down.

“Don’t.” Gladion’s voice is cold, and Hau freezes. No hugs, that’s for sure. Suddenly, Luna finds herself standing there - very awkwardly, too - watching as Gladion stalks away.

“You okay?” She asks quietly. He stops, and clenches his fists.

“I’d rather you not talk to me right now,” he replies bluntly. Then he continues walking, and Luna finds herself frozen in place. Shoot. I didn’t think it was that bad. I mean… his match was close, wasn’t it? But at the same time, she understands. That feeling - the feeling of disappointment after losing a battle you were supposed to win - it’s what convinces her to call Hau back when he starts after Gladion.

“Do you think he’s okay?” Hau asks. Luna looks down.

“He’ll be fine. I think he’s just… frustrated.” And she can’t help but feel the same. She lost. Gladion lost. Hau lost. All three of them lost, and none of them will be playing in the finals tomorrow. It thoroughly, utterly, sucks.

But she’s determined to make the best of it. It’s Internats - she’s not spending her final day in Heahea sulking over a loss! In fact, Luna just won $1,000 and 250 CP! So she decides that maybe it’s not all that bad. After all, it frees up a lot of Sunday for the three of them to relax - or just her, depending on if a certain person is still sulking around.

She’s lying in her hotel room when Gladion’s behavior beings to irk her. She lost before he did - sure, he was Seed 1, but she lost before he did. So if you were to ask her, he has no right to act the way he has. If he’d been silent for an hour, sure. That would have made sense. But he hasn’t talked to anyone since his loss. He hasn’t replied to any messages, instead just deciding to leave them on seen. And Luna makes a promise for tomorrow. She has one more day - one more day, and she’s going to make the most of it. She’s going to start by enjoying all the shops and side events they have in the morning. Then she’ll watch the VGC Finals, and maybe try and learn a thing or two. And ideally, she wants to get in a word with Gladion. She wants to have face to face, solo conversation with Gladion. If you’d asked 2018 Worlds Luna, she would have said no way. But now, she’s dead set on it. For some reason, she wants to get to know him better. A lot better. Because they’re more alike than either of them realize. And maybe if Gladion knew, they could both give each other a chance. They could be friends, and rivals, who had given each other a chance.

Chapter Text

Moon: awww nice try everyone
still really good tho!

Hau: thanks :D

Luna: thanks
i’m really happy with the result

Gladion doesn’t know whether to believe that or not. He saw the defeated, frustrated look in Luna’s eyes when her match ended. It was still there the last time he’d seen her, after his own last round was over. And he knows how easy it is to lie over text.

Hau: glads, you okay?

He reads the message, sure. But he doesn’t reply.

Hau: glads?
awww come on its not that bad

What Hau doesn’t understand is that it is. Gladion hasn’t lost Internats to anybody except for Moon. And for a while, that was bearable. Sure, it was annoying - losing repeatedly to the same person tends to be so - but he didn’t mind all that much. This year, he thought he’d stood a chance at finally winning. But either the competition was stiffer or Gladion was getting worse.

Luna: hau just leave it
he’s probably just frustrated

Moon: gladion

He can almost hear Moon’s voice in his head, and he flinches.

Moon: gladion, it’s not that hard
i know you’re there

He slams his phone down, and leans back, slouching on the sofa. He doesn’t want this right now.

Luna: guys just leave him alone for now
gladion i’m giving you a chance, you better come around and stop sulking
you have an hour

The messages go unread, and Gladion doesn’t dare pick his phone up again.
-

He wakes up Sunday morning to a multitude of DMs. A lot from Hau, a lot from the group chat, and a few from Luna. And then there’s one from Moon, and that’s the one he clicks on first.

Moon: gladion please don’t tell me you’re still salty over losing

He snorts. For a moment, he doesn’t know how to reply.

Gladion: take a guess

Surprisingly, it’s marked as read immediately.

Moon: finally goddamnit
okay please stop sulking around and do something
It’s internats my god get it together

He rolls his eyes.

Gladion: sorry but im trying okay?

Moon: try harder

Gladion: im sorry

Before Moon can type a reply, he exits, and reads through his other messages. The ones from Hau were exactly what he expected - begging him to talk, asking why he’s still so upset, etc. What surprises him the most are the messages from Luna - because it sounds like she actually cares.

Luna: hey um
i’m sorry
that you lost and all
but you can’t sulk around forever

Then there’s more, marked from two hours later.

Luna: look
i’ve been defending you for the past three hours
please get it together

Finally, there’s one last set, sent half an hour ago.

Luna: i’m hoping you feel better today
okay you know what
i get that you’re upset
but maybe we can at least enjoy the last day of internats?

He sighs, and his fingers hover above the keyboard shakily. He pauses before typing a reply.

Gladion: im really sorry

Luna: oh thank god
you’re alive

Gladion: barely
i almost drowned in the amount of messages hau sent me

Luna: why am i not surprised

Gladion: exactly

Luna: well speaking of hau
he’s trying to convince me to do this side event with him today
but we need three people

He already knows where this is going.

Gladion: no

Luna: please
otherwise hau is going to make some random kid do it with us
do you know how embarrassing that would be

He sighs.

Gladion: whats the event

Luna: pokken team battles

Gladion: oh god
do either of you even know how to play that

Luna: um… demos at the game store?

He rolls his eyes.

Gladion: count me in

Luna: wait actually?

Gladion: you’re gonna need me
hau cant play either

Luna: and you can?

Gladion: not great but yeah

Luna: oooh yay
okay well meet you at the breakfast buffet in 20?

Gladion: sure

Luna: okay great
Bye!

Gladion: bye

He pauses. He’s never been one to speak his mind. But for some reason, he can’t help but feel Luna deserves to know.

Gladion: and thanks
for checking in on me

Luna: oh no problem
see you later?

Gladion: yeah
bye

He doesn’t even know why he said it.

-

They’re registered for the Pokken side event, and now they’re just waiting in front of their system for their opponents. Gladion has absolutely no faith in their team - Hau has no clue what he’s doing, Luna has only played the demo, and he’s the only one who has any idea how to properly play the game. And with the main Pokken events over, he can only assume a large portion of those playing in this side event competed the day prior. So long story short, Gladion knows they’re going to lose.

He’s standing with his arms crossed behind Hau and on his left, while Luna crouches to watch over his shoulder. Hau is currently freaking out because he can choose a Pikachu in a wrestler costume, while Luna is struggling to choose between Garchomp and Suicune. She settles on the latter. On the other hand, Gladion already knows he’s choosing Darkrai. Back when he still played the game, he’d maxed out it’s levels completely. When Hau hands him the controller, he runs it over once with his finger, forcing himself to recall the buttons and the patterns quickly before selecting his Pokemon.

This side event isn’t a regular Team Battle - the organizers decided to call it a Crew Battle, where you do battles in groups of three, with each player controlling a Pokemon on the team. This means that once one Pokemon is knocked out, the controller is passed over to the next person. It also means Gladion has to clean up Hau and Luna’s mistakes.

When the battle starts, Gladion isn’t surprised when Hau and Pikachu Libre are barely able to do any damage before getting defeated. But at the very least, their Synergy Gauge is close to full. But Hau doesn’t let the loss get him down, and he hands the controller to Luna with a grin, who rolls her eyes. She sits down, and Gladion watches carefully. Soon enough, he finds himself murmuring orders to her under his breath. She hears, and their opponents don’t.

“Jump, and then X while in the air,” he says. Luna nods, and lands a huge Blizzard. 150 HP down. With his help, a few more Blizzards, and a landed Burst attack, she’s able to win, and they’re tied up.

“YAY!! Go Luna!” Hau cheers. Gladion rolls his eyes.

“Thanks,” Luna says, turning to Gladion. He shrugs. “I would not have won without spamming Blizzard there.”

“No problem.”

Next, the other team chooses a Blaziken. Sadly, Luna can’t hit a single Hydro Pump or Aurora Beam, and settles on using her Weak Attack repeatedly. To be fair, it somewhat works. She’s able to get off a lot of damage and goes down to a Burst Attack. Who knew button mashing could be so effective?

Now it’s Gladion’s turn. He takes a moment to familiarize himself with the controller and commands - sure, it costs him a little bit of HP, but he bounces back easily and takes down the Blaziken. The Synergy Gauge is full now, and Hau cheers.

“Yes! We’re gonna win, Glads!” Hau says. Gladion snorts and shoots their opponents an apologetic glance. It’s a set of teenagers - probably in the Senior group, and their parents just smile back in return.

“Glad you have so much faith in me,” Gladion replies. He turns his attention to the screen and to the Sceptile that he’s facing, blocking Hau out completely. If he replies, Gladion doesn’t hear it.

Gladion uses his Burst immediately, in hopes of lasting long enough to get a second one. His Burst attack lands, and he’s winning right off the bat. But their opponents come back immediately, and Gladion finds himself not breathing for a solid 20 seconds, when his Darkrai magically survives with 1 HP. Sadly, they lose, but for some reason, Gladion isn’t upset. Maybe a little frustrated, considering it was so close, but he’s not upset. Instead, he puts down the headphones and controller, stands up, and smiles. And he doesn’t know why.

“So close!” Hau whines. Gladion shrugs.

“We’re not here to win, are we?” He points out.

“Definitely not,” Luna replies. “That was really good though!” Gladion finds himself turning to her, and she’s grinning.

“We tried.” And they may have lost their next game, knocking them out of the tournament, but for some reason, Gladion doesn’t mind. There were some frustratingly close matchups that he should have won, sure, but he doesn’t mind. That’s because it took his mind off of his loss the day prior, he got to have fun with two people he could even consider friends, and he got to see Luna smile. For some reason, that in itself makes him want to do the same.

-

“Hey, uh… I don’t think I ever properly said sorry about your loss earlier.” Luna’s voice makes Gladion flinch, and she immediately recoils. “Shoot. Um… sorry, again?”

“Don’t be,” he says bluntly. She looks down.

“Still upset?” She asks. He doesn’t reply for a moment and clenches his jaw.

“Frustrated, more like it. I should have won,” he finally replies. “Sorry you didn’t win either. I was hoping at least one of us would be up on that stage.” Gladion looks up. The VGC Masters Finals are underway, and for the first time in three years, he’s not playing.

“It’s fine. I think… I think I’m over it now,” she replies, avoiding his eyes.

“Oh. Okay.” Neither of them says anything for a moment, and Luna sighs.

“Okay, what’s the problem?” She turns to the side, and Gladion’s eyes widen as they meet hers. “I lost before you, I’m somehow still salty over a World Championship match a year ago, and yet you’re more sulky than I am. Care to explain?” Gladion clenches his fists. She’s called him out, for sure. It takes him a moment to think about what Luna just said, and to be honest? He isn’t sure what the answer is. He ponders it for a long second.

“I think…” He knows, at this point. “I think it’s because I lost to someone other than Moon,” he says slowly.

“What do you mean?” Luna asks. Gladion bites his lip and sighs.

“I placed second last year, and second the year before. Moon won, both times. I thought that maybe since she’s gone, I could finally win, you know?” He doesn’t even know why he’s saying these things. In fact, it’s the first real time he’s spoken with Luna all weekend. But he also remembers their late night DM conversations about this and that, and it makes a little more sense. He’s more open to Luna than he is to almost anybody else, at least online. It just took a few days to translate to real conversations.

 

“Oh. I see. I mean, it makes sense.” He can hear it in Luna’s tone - she actually means it. He can’t help but feel slightly surprised. In fact, it sounded pretty ridiculous in his head. “I’m not angry at you for needing some time alone, you know. Hau might be, but I’m not. I guess I just get it. I was like that... “ She freezes. “After Worlds.” Neither of them speaks for a moment, and Gladion struggles to bring himself to reply. He wants to - he really does. He just doesn’t know what to say. Finally, he asks the question he’s been wanting to ask for a long time.

“If you’re still upset over Worlds, why are you talking to me?” He says. Luna freezes and doesn’t reply for a long moment. Shoot. I should not have said that. Come on, Gladion. What are you thinking? He’s hit her weak point, and he knows it. I’m sorry.

“I... “ Her voice trails off, and she takes a deep breath. Gladion turns to look at her, and she meets his eyes again. “I don’t know. In fact, you’d think I’d learned to stop giving people chances they don’t deserve. I don’t know why I trust you, and I don’t know why I’ve let you into my life like this, you could say. In fact, I’ve had no clue what I’ve been doing ever since I accepted your follow request. But I think… I think it’s because this time, I can tell you’re worth giving a second chance, and I’m willing to take that risk.”

-

Gladion has no clue what to say. Luna is leaving - the day is over, and she’s going back home. Yet for some reason, Gladion can’t even muster a simple “bye.” Hau gives her a hug and grins, saying they’ll meet again at Worlds. But Gladion is frozen to the spot.

Luna’s words from earlier left him thinking, and have now shaken him to the core. He didn’t understand a lot of what she meant - and he still doesn’t. But it’s all he can think about, and he’s struggling to find the words to say goodbye. He doesn’t know why. After all, they’re messaging each other through Instagram often enough, so why can’t he say anything now?

But when he catches himself trying to meet her eye, hoping to see the edges of her mouth curve up into a smile one more time before they part ways, he suddenly understands. Nothing he felt earlier was a fluke. But he forces himself to remember Moon, and all feelings disappear again. At least for now, the trick still seems to work. If nothing else, his memories of Moon are able to keep his feelings about Luna at bay. When she turns to him, he’s barely able to muster anything.

“Better than Worlds.” His voice cracks as he shrugs, and he scolds himself immediately. But it’s all he’s able to say, and he grits his teeth when he sees Luna flinch. But she nods before turning away.

Luna says bye once more, and Gladion makes himself say the same in return. Then before he knows it, she’s walking away. He wants to call out to her - to say something, but he fails too. Instead, he turns away with his head down, and begins the walk to his car. He needs to figure it out.

At this point, he knows he likes Luna Kajiba. If not as a friend, than more. And he doesn’t know what to think of it. He can’t keep using Moon. He can’t use his feelings - or the ones he used to have, either way - for the Zone 3 Champion as a tool to stop himself from admitting he is possibly attracted to Luna. And he needs to do something about it. Sadly, he has no clue what. And he’s confident his feelings don’t matter. Even if Luna is giving him the chance she mentioned earlier, it’s pretty clear to him she hasn’t forgiven him regarding Worlds - not that he expects her to, at all. He understands why she feels the way she does. Yet, for reasons he now understands, he wishes it was different. And he doesn’t know what to do about it.

Chapter Text

Hau: WORLDS HERE WE COMEEEEEEE :D

Luna: :D

Gladion: yup

Moon: we can finally meet up again!
Luna, i can’t wait to meet you for real!

Luna: you too!

Gladion: anybody going for day 2

Luna: nah

Hau: awwwww come on we can finally take a break now

Moon: i need travel awards, otherwise it’s too expensive to come from kanto

Luna: wait
okay i’m actually so excited for this because worlds is in my city this year
so i can like show you guys around and stuff
plus i don’t have to travel

Hau: luckyyyyy

Moon: oooooh that’s so cool!

Luna: :D

Gladion: well there’s an mss near here soon i’m probably gonna go for

Moon: can’t stop, huh?

Gladion: eh

Luna: jeez
can you really not just take a break?

Moon: gladion doesn’t “do” breaks

 

Gladion: it’ll be worth it when i can skip nine swiss rounds

Luna: fair
day 1 is rough

Moon: very

Hau: STOP RUINING THE FUN

Luna: sorry :P
also i saw this thing on the pgl
since we’re all taking a break
(well except for mr edgelord over there)
wondering if anybody wanted to enter the mega melee thing

Moon: oooh i saw that

Hau: idk what that is but YES

Gladion: no

Luna: my god stop being such a downer
hau its one v one singles but with only megas

Hau: YES I’M IN

Gladion: singles?

Luna: yeah
it’ll be fun, even when we fail lol

Moon: i’ll do it!

Luna: great!

Hau: YAYYYY

Luna: gladion, you sure?

Moon: do it :D

Gladion: fine

Hau: YES

Luna: also would you guys be interested in like doing a group video call
we could like block out a time where we do our battles and video call at the same time
idk i just feel like it would be fun

Moon: oooh, sounds good!

Hau: YES

Gladion: i cant stop you

Luna: okay well get back to me with what times you guys are free

Moon: great!

Hau: i’m so excitedddddd

Moon: you’re always excited

Hau: :(

Gladion: fine

Luna: all right well i gtg, ttyl!

Hau: bye!

Moon: bye luna!

Gladion: bye

Luna: bye everyone!
and don’t forget to register!

-

Luna’s heart is racing, and she isn’t sure why. But it only speeds up as her phone rings once - then twice, and then a third time. Come on, Luna. Get a grip. You guys are friends, she thinks. Her thoughts are interrupted just a moment later when her call is answered.

“Luna!” It’s Hau, of course. Her phone is propped up and she waves at Hau’s smiling face.

“Hi!” She replies. Suddenly, the screen moves and splits in half.

“Hi guys!” It’s Moon. For the first time, Luna really gets to see her. She’s seen a photo or two, sure. But it’s her first time actually talking to her face to face, and Luna smiles.

“Hi Moon!” Luna checks the time quickly - 4 pm. Gladion should be here any minute… Of course. She’s supposed to be focusing on her upcoming battles, and yet all she can think about is Gladion. How frustrating.

She still remembers how she felt at Internats, and she thinks about it on a daily basis. Luna knows she likes him. She isn’t sure if it’s just because she finds him attractive, or because she actually enjoys talking to him, but she does. That’s why she freezes when he appears on screen, and doesn’t breathe for a long moment. For some reason, she sees Moon do the same.

“Hey.” Gladion’s tone is bored and uninterested, almost. Moon smiles, but Luna can see some sort of tension in her expression. She can’t help but wonder why, but ignores it.

“Hi Gladion!” Luna says quickly. “You guys ready to go?” She asks. Everyone nods, and Luna looks down at her 3DS. She has her six Pokemon chosen, but she already knows which one she’s planning on using in most - if not all - of her 15 allotted battles today.

“Luna, let me guess. Absol?” Gladion asks. Luna rolls her eyes.

“I wonder how you knew,” she retorts. Why is it easier to talk to him through a phone screen than when they were actually together? “What about you?”

“I’ve got a few options,” he replies vaguely. Luna scoffs. “Unlike some people, I’m actually going to try all six Pokemon on my team,” he says, shooting her a teasing look.

“Hau, what are you using?” Moon interrupts quickly. Luna doesn’t know what’s up with her - but for some reason, she’s all too quick to turn the conversation away from both Luna and Gladion. Hau begins to rattle off each of his team members, and Luna lifts up her 3DS.

“Well, I’m going to get started,” she says. Gladion nods, and they both go into their first matches.

Considering the match format is singles, Luna isn’t expecting much. She’s able to win her first game, but not so much her second and third. Meanwhile, Hau and Moon keep up a casual conversation in the background of all their battling. Luna isn’t surprised when it’s revealed that Moon is doing the best so far out of the three of them, and that Gladion is a close second. It doesn’t really bother her. Instead, she lets herself have fun. For some reason, with all four of them together, they can act like the friends they do when texting, and Luna likes that.

They’re about 7 matches and 1 hour in when Moon says she’s off to go to the bathroom and will be right back, while Hau runs off to go get some food to eat. Apparently, it helps him focus. Luna isn’t too sure about that. But she doesn’t make excuses or anything. Instead, she finds herself and Gladion completely silent.

“This is awkward,” she remarks, breaking the silence. Gladion snorts.

“Indeed it is.” Luna doesn’t know how to reply.

“Well… uh…” She starts. “I guess we should talk?” Gladion sighs.

“Probably.” Luna purposely looks down, avoiding her phone. Instead, she fixes her gaze on her 3DS. Not just because she’s focusing on her game, but also because she knows seeing Gladion’s face right in front of her will only distract her more. “So… how are the horses?” Gladion asks.

“Good!” She replies. She’s mostly surprised he even said anything. “I mean, we’ve been super careful and watching for colic symptoms, since obviously the thing with Valor wasn’t great, but… Let’s see. I’m hoping that with a little break in between now and Worlds, I can spend more time with Fleet.”

Fleet Moon is Luna’s off track Thoroughbred, and the one she brought up herself. But VGC keeps her busy, and she doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with him anymore.

“That’s good,” Gladion says. “He’s yours, right?”

“Yeah. Rescued him from the track,” she replies. Her Absol faints on screen, but she’s barely paying attention. “Too slow for the races, too fast for hunters, you know?” Gladion nods, but Luna’s too busy starting her next battle (and purposely avoiding looking at him) to notice.

“Makes sense. Anyways…” He’s cut off immediately.

“I’m back!” It’s Hau. Luna isn’t surprised, and she looks back at her phone to see him putting down a can of soda and a bag of chips (wow, healthy) as he slides back into his chair. “What are we talking about?”

“Nothing,” Gladion replies quickly. A little too quickly.

“Wait, what is it?” Hau asks. Gladion’s done nothing but intrigue him.

“Nothing you’d understand,” Luna replies. Oops. That sounded… harsher than she had anticipated. “Horses,” she adds quickly. Hau suddenly looks less hurt and nods. Then Moon is back, and they return to battling.

“Moon, your favorite Pokemon is Rowlet, right?” Luna asks.

“Yeah. Rowlet is a precious little owl child, okay?” Moon replies. Luna rolls her eyes.

“Good to know,” she says. “Anyways, remind me, I’ve got some stuff to send you.” She thinks back at her collection of Rowlet fanart - whenever she comes across one, it reminds her of Moon, just like Alolan Raichu makes her think of Hau and Silvally makes her think of Gladion.

“Ooooh, what is it?” Moon asks.

“Just wait and see,” Luna replies teasingly. Moon pouts.

“Luna’s a master at finding fanart, Moon!” Hau says. Luna shoots him a glare, and then he smacks himself. Spoiler. “Oops. But anyways, she might have even found stuff you haven’t seen yet!” Moon fake gasps, and then giggles.

“I promise, I’ve seen them all,” Moon counters. Luna should be disappointed, but for some reason, she isn’t. Instead, she turns to Moon in surprise.

“Fanart hunter too?” She asks. Moon nods.

“Mostly for Rowlet, but of course! Fanart is the best thing to have graced the planet, okay?” Luna laughs, and Gladion rolls his eyes, turning back to focus on his battle.

“Absolutely.” Luna has no argument against Moon’s statement. “Where’s your favorite place to look? Mine’s-”

“Instagram hashtags,” they both say. They freeze, and then burst out laughing.

“Oh my god, yes!” Luna says. “Everyone else goes to Tumblr, but I can’t figure out how to work that site for the life of me!”

“You guys are so stupid,” Gladion deadpans. Luna glares at him playfully, and he turns back to his match.

“Hey!” Moon whines. “Anyways, have you tried DeviantArt? It’s not so practical, but there’s some good stuff on there.”

“Of course!” Luna replies. “I definitely agree with that. Gimme a sec though, going into Team Preview…” she says. She quickly selects Absol again, and the battle begins.

As their session goes on, Luna finds herself in an easy banter with Moon. Their talk of fanart turns into a conversation about their habits of drawing in class, which quickly shifts into one about photography - plants in Moon’s case, and horses in Luna’s.

“I really wanna get a nicer camera, you know? Mine kinda sucks. But they’re really expensive!” Moon says. Luna nods.

“Same. Especially because my subjects are always moving!” She replies. Moon sticks out her tongue.

“I promise you, plants are hard too!” She retorts.

“Never said they weren’t,” Luna replies wittily. “But horses are harder!” Suddenly, their conversation turns into a full scale debate. Hau finds it enthralling and Gladion finds it stupid, and the latter leaves five minutes later to go prep for the MSS he mentioned. Luna’s a little disappointed at that, but doesn’t let herself dwell on it.

For the next half hour, Luna tries not to notice Gladion’s absence, and is able to hold a conversation with Moon until her fifteen battles are done. Sure, she didn’t do great in the actual tournament, but that’s fine with her. After all, it’s singles. It’s not what she’s used to, and she also knows Absol was not the strongest choice. She just wanted to use it again. But it was fun, and that’s what matters. She got to know Moon a little better, too.

She also found out talking casually with Gladion is possible, and that makes her feel… happy? Luna isn’t quite sure. In fact, she’s surprised he even wanted to listen to what she had to say. After all, it wasn’t particularly interesting. But it makes her hope that maybe they actually could be friends. And if they can be friends, maybe they can go beyond that too. That’s what Luna can only hope for.

Chapter Text

Luna: what u using for the mss tomorrow?

Gladion: my internats team

Luna: oh cool
good luck

Gladion: thanks

Moon: you’re gonna smash it

Gladion: eh we’ll see

Hau: BE POSITIVE MY FRIEND :D

Gladion: …

Luna: gladion doesn’t do positive

Moon: true

Gladion: you’re not wrong
i mean
im not pessimistic

Luna: are you sure

Gladion: id say im just realistic

Moon: which is why you think everything is going to end in disaster

Gladion: not everything

Hau: yes everything

Gladion: okay fine im outta here

Luna: hah
bye!

Gladion: bye

Moon: good luck tomorrow, if i don’t talk to you before then!

Gladion: thanks

Hau: GOOD LUCK!!! :D

Gladion: unnecessary, but also thanks

-

Gladion’s on time - early, almost - but he can’t help but curse at the stupid person in front of him driving 50 miles per hour down the highway. He has a ferry to catch that’ll take him to Akala Island for the Midseason Showdown tomorrow, and he doesn’t have time for this - or so he likes to think. Finally, he’s able to pass them by swerving into another lane, speeding up to almost 70 MPH, and then cutting in front of them again. He doesn’t care if he just completely trashed the speed limit. However, he does continue at a slightly more reasonable pace of 65 MPH until he gets off the freeway. Soon, he arrives in downtown Hau’Oli City.

Unfortunately, the upcoming light turns red right when he reaches the intersection. Seriously? Ugh. This is a long one. Gladion curses under his breath and pulls out his phone, scrolling through his Instagram. He doesn’t follow that many people, so there are only a few posts. One of which is from Luna, who has shared a recent photo she took of her sister’s horse, Sakura.

Suddenly, there’s a flurry of honking noises from behind him, and Gladion snaps his head up. Somehow, the light is green already, and he steps on the pedal, the car accelerating at an extremely fast pace. He can almost hear Moon’s voice in his head, telling him to be more careful and get off his stupid phone, but he ignores it. But seriously. He could have sworn that light was usually longer than that. But maybe time just went quickly.

As Gladion drives down the street, he periodically looks up from his screen. He knows very well it’s against the law to drive while on your phone, but Gladion knows these streets too well. He knows that this street goes straight for a long few blocks, and he knows he won’t have another light for a decent amount of time. So he allows himself to take his eyes off the road for just a moment - or a few moments, actually.

For some reason, he finds himself opening Luna’s profile. Maybe it’s because her post was the last one he saw before he started driving again after the light, or maybe it’s because he has nothing better to do. But there’s also that nagging voice inside of his head that tells him that yes, he definitely likes her.

At this point, Gladion doesn’t try to deny it. He knows. He knows fully and thoroughly that he’s attracted to Luna. He isn’t sure why - after all, they’ve only met a couple of times, and don’t know each other all that well, do they? But he’s come to ignore it - he doesn’t push it away, nor does he let it consume him. After all, Luna flat out said she still isn’t over how he beat her at Worlds. Not that he’s surprised - it’s fair, after all. But Gladion knows she doesn’t feel the way he does, so he tries not to think about his feelings too often. If he did, he’d only find himself wishing for something that would never happen. That’s a feeling that’s all too familiar.

He finds a photo of her with Fleet, her horse. She’s smiling, which isn’t an expression he sees all too often on her face. But he likes it. Her eyes are brighter in real life, too. Brighter, and livelier. But that isn’t why he likes her - Gladion likes Luna because he enjoys her company. He likes the way she listens to him, and he likes how she gave him a chance. Apart from that, he isn’t sure what it is that draws him to her. But he knows there’s something more there as well, and it isn’t her appearance. Then a new notification appears on screen, and Gladion opens it.

Luna: just so you know, i’m gonna be out of power for the next few days
electric people are shutting it off to help prevent wildfires
so probably won’t respond to messages for a while

He doesn’t know why that gets him, and he doesn’t know why he suddenly freezes up. His breathing stops, and he isn’t thinking anymore. All he can hear are the rushing of cars around him, the wind whistling through the treetops, and then -

Something smashes into the side of the car, and Gladion is sent spiraling. He drops his phone and is pitched forwards, saved only by his airbag. There’s a flurry of honking, a crashing noise, and tires skidding. Then glass shatters, and he almost wants to scream.

-

Gladion is sitting in the lobby of the car dealership, and he knows he screwed up, to put it lightly. He’s going to have to pay for the car, for sure.

Somehow, he’d run a red light. He’d been too absorbed in Luna’s messages that he’d literally ran a red light. How stupid can one get? He remembers freezing up - he wasn’t thinking, nor was he focusing on the road. At all. But somehow, he’d come up to the intersection and blazed right through it, and he finds that hard to believe.

He’s not worried about how his mother will react. After all, she probably won’t care, as long as she doesn’t have to pay for repairs. Mostly, he’s just frustrated. He was so reckless and stupid. Lillie will probably be upset with him for making such a stupid mistake, and Hobbes will just be disappointed. So will Moon, if he decides to tell her. Not that it matters - after all, they aren’t… Goddamnit. Stop bringing Moon into everything. You moved on long ago, and so did she, he thinks, frustrated. He sighs. He needs to get back to Luna, before she gets mad at him for leaving her messages on seen and not replying.

Gladion: oh shoot okay
that sucks

Luna: ikr

Gladion pauses.

Gladion: just stay safe

Luna: of course
and thanks

Gladion: yeah
so uh i was wondering

He doesn’t even know why he’s doing this. Maybe because he’s angry with himself and needs to let it out. Or maybe because… he actually trusts her.

Gladion: how do you explain to your mom you just got into a car accident with the super fancy sports car?

Luna: uh oh

Gladion: ikr

Luna: are you okay?

Gladion: yeah

Luna: wait what happened?
knowing parents, your mom will probably be crazy worried about you
and ban you from driving for a while so you don’t kill anyone (including yourself)

He bites his lip.

Gladion: your mom, sure
my mom couldn’t care less what happens to me but okay

He wants to smack himself. Why did he even say that? Still, it feels good to be honest with Luna like that.

Luna: whoa whoa whoa okay
was about to ask if you’re joking or not but you don’t joke

Gladion: yeah
im being honest though
she kinda hates me
correction she hates everyone
especially lillie and i

Luna: jeez okay wow
well uh anyways
you sure you’re okay? what happened?

Gladion: ran a red light

Luna: oh

Gladion: yeah
got your message and wasn’t watching the road

Luna: are you always so stupid when driving?

He rolls his eyes.

Gladion: id like to think not
but uh
i did go 70 mph on the freeway earlier

Luna: lol wow
i think that means yes
but uh be more careful pls

Gladion: no promises

Luna: still need to answer my other question tho
you okay?

Gladion: yeah im fine
other person smashed into the side of my car but like
airbag saved me big time
im not hurt

Luna: oh okay good

Gladion: yeah

Luna: wait

He does.

Luna: you still gonna make it to the mss?

Gladion: yeah i just like wont sleep at all tonight
gonna catch some crazy late ferry probably

Luna: try and sleep
you’ll want it for tomorrow

Gladion: yeah ik

Luna: all right well
you all ready?

Gladion: should be
probably gonna link battle some while i wait for the next ferry
since this whole thing obviously means im missing mine

Luna: well if you need somebody i’m here

His eyes widen in surprise.

Gladion: you wanna lose that badly?

Luna: eh
usually i’d protest and say i’d win but i’m trying some new team comps for worlds so you’d probably beat me anyways

Gladion: ha
also i was wondering

Luna: yeah?

He doesn’t reply for a moment. He knows what he wants to ask, and he’s definitely curious. But for some reason, he has to force himself to hit send. Gladion isn’t sure why.

Gladion: why share the blackout thing with me and not the group chat?

Luna: oh
yeah idk
i was gonna say because i just felt like it but that’s a stupid reason
don’t got an answer for you, sorry

Gladion’s heart sinks slightly. He’s disappointed, and he knows why - not that he likes it. Instead, he opts himself out of this conversation. He has to call somebody, and let them know what happened.

Gladion: thats fine
i was just curious

Luna: okay

Gladion: anyways i should go
gotta tell somebody i ruined the car before i take off to akala

Luna: probably a good idea
and good luck
(tomorrow and right now)

Gladion: ha thanks
bye

Luna: bye!

Gladion: oh wait
luna?

Shoot. What is he doing?

Luna: yeah?

My god, Gladion. Just leave. Why are you acting like this? He asks himself. But he pushes his thoughts away and focuses, biting his lip.

Gladion: i dont mind talking to you
nextime you get your power shut off, im here, okay?

He barely breathes as he waits for her reply.

Luna: awww, thanks
i don’t… i don’t mind either

The chat goes quiet for 10 seconds.

Luna: in fact, i think i like it

And Gladion smiles.

Chapter Text

Hau: CONGRATS GLADS :DDDD

Gladion: thanks

Moon: congratulations!

Gladion: uh thanks again

Hau: why aren’t you more excited????

Gladion: its just an mss

Hau: dude
you frickin won

Gladion: ik that

Moon: I know it isn’t the most exciting thing on earth, but you could act a little happier
What’s up?

Gladion: the sky

Moon: no, seriously?

Gladion: nothing, why?

Moon: if you say so

Hau: wait
where’s luna?

Gladion: oh
the power company in pabay is shutting off power to reduce wildfire risk
she told me she won’t be getting hers back for a few days
so no wifi

Hau: NO WIFI???

Gladion: nope

Hau: aww man that sucks
Moon: I see
Didn’t know you guys were so close

Gladion: ??

Moon: nvm

Gladion: honestly, idk why she told me either
if thats what youre wondering

Moon: oh okay

Gladion: you okay?

Moon: why wouldn’t I be?

Gladion: you know why, moon
dont try and play dumb with me

Moon: oh
I’m fine, okay? Can you drop it?

Gladion: sorry
yeah

Moon: great, well, i gtg, so ttyl
bye

Hau: bye Moon!

Gladion: bye

-

 

It had officially been the most boring 24 hours Luna could remember. Her 3DS had died hours ago, and her phone was at 50%, left charged only in case of emergencies. Not that she could call anyone from her house, anyway. She’d already watched all her downloaded Netflix episodes and read an entire novel. And after spending the past two hours attempting to draw Pokemon, she was done.

Luna sighs, and pushes herself back from her desk. Putting down her pencil, she stands up, and opens the door to her room, glancing at the hallway. It was empty, meaning everyone was likely downstairs.

“Luna!” Silv yells from the living room.

“Yeah?” Luna replies. She walks to the edge of the staircase, leaning on the railing. On the lower floor, Silv is looking up, phone in hand.

“We’re going into town to get a cell signal, wanna come?” Luna nods frantically. Wifi? Finally! She thinks.

“Absolutely!” She says. “Be there in a sec!” Quickly, she turns and runs back to her room, snatching her phone, 3DS, and charging cord. The car is the only place she can get power. Then she sprints downstairs, devices in hand.

Then Luna finds her mind drifting to a very specific group chat - and mostly, a single person. Because she can finally get an answer or two, and stop thinking about him.

Gladion. How did the MSS go? She didn’t get a chance to ask or watch the stream before she lost her internet. And what about the whole car accident? Is he okay? Has anybody on the group chat missed her? Did they even notice she was gone? Shoot. Come on, Luna. Stop, she scolded herself. But Luna can’t help but wonder - what has even happened in the 24 hours of her absence?

She wants to believe that Gladion isn’t the source of her worries. She wants to believe that yeah, she cares about Hau and Moon. And she does - but Luna knows that they’re just friends, and she knows she feels more for Gladion then she does for either of the other two. And she hates it. She utterly hates the fact she likes Gladion Aether the way she does, and she’s given up pretending her feelings don’t exist. But… What can she do about it? Tell herself she doesn’t like him? Stop messaging him? Because Luna knows that would break her.

Yet at the same time, there’s nobody she can talk to about this kind of stuff. Definitely not her parents, and certainly not her sister. Luna wants to think it would help her if she just let her feelings off her chest, but she has no clue how to do it. So she gives in. She lets herself wonder. After all, pushing away any feelings she has isn’t really helping, is it? And what’s the harm in merely thinking?

-

Luna: hey guys

Hau: LUNAAAAAA!!!!

She stifles her laughter, and Silv turns to look at her suspiciously. Luna shoots her sister a warning glare. Not now, Silv. Not now.

Luna: my family drove downtown to get some wifi signal and all, charging my 3ds in the car too

Hau: YAYYYY

Gladion: hey luna

Luna bites her lip. This is what she wanted, right? So why is she having such a hard time talking to him? Why doesn’t she know how to reply? You’re the one who messaged him last night about the blackout. He’s the one who told you about the car accident. Why can’t you get it together and talk like friends again? Because you’re scared? What is wrong with you, Luna? She thinks. All she knows is that the more she thinks about how she feels, the worse things seem to get.

Luna: hi gladion!
congrats on the mss!

Gladion: thanks

Hau: lunaaaa

Luna: what?

Hau: when do you get your power back?

Luna: supposedly in three days but idk

Hau: WHAT???

Gladion: you heard her

Hau: that sucks :(

She almost laughs. You wouldn’t believe it, Hau. You wouldn’t believe it, she thinks, shaking her head.

Luna: i’m aware

Luna pauses for a moment, fingers hovering over the keyboard. She doesn’t know why she’s hesitating. After all, she’s just curious, right?

Luna: gladion, did the car thing end up okay?

Gladion: yeah
im just a hella lot poorer now

Luna: rip

Gladion: ikr

Hau: IT’S YOUR FAULT ANYWAYS GLADS
YOU SMASHED A FREAKING CAR

Luna laughs, and Silv shoots her an amused look.

“What is it this time?” Silv asks. Luna sighs.

“If I tell you, are you gonna tease me about it?” She retorts. Silv pouts, but shakes her head. “Basically, one of my…” Luna pauses. Shoot. Rival? Friend? Is Gladion a friend at this point? “...friends, accidentally ran a red light and crashed their car, so now everyone is making fun of him,” she says.

“Who?” Silv replies. Luna bites her lip and looks down at her phone screen again.

“Nobody you’d know,” she says in reply. “Nobody you’d know.”

Gladion: im aware

Luna: well at least you’re okay

Gladion: yeah

Luna: well, anything else I missed?

Gladion: id just read the chat

Luna: okay

Quickly, Luna scrolls back up to the most recent message she can remember, and begins to read from there on out. There isn’t a lot - a few good lucks and congratulations from the mss, a few questions about her absence, and the occasional VGC meme. But there’s nothing particularly interesting. But Luna can’t help but notice something. Moon isn’t around that often. And when she does send a message, it sounds… off. Disappointed. Dismissive. Luna can’t quite place it, but Luna doesn’t remember Moon usually acting that way. Since when did she have “oh” or “um” in her messages? The girl was a stickler for clear, proper grammar. So what was wrong? Quickly, Luna does the calculation in her head. Goddamn time zones were so confusing, but Moon should be awake by now. Come on, Luna. You’re friends. Why are you hesitating? She clicks on Moon’s bio, and then the message button.

Luna: hey
you okay?

Moon doesn’t reply, and she isn’t online. Shoot. This is a stupid idea. In fact, Moon probably has better stuff to be doing… Then her phone buzzes.

Moon: ?
Yeah, I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?

Luna: uh well idk how to say this, but…
you seem a little off, I guess? Maybe a little down or upset?

Moon: oh
Is Gladion rubbing off on you?

Luna: what?

Moon: idk, he just said the exact same thing
And you’re pretty close

Luna’s eyes widen in surprise. Close? With Gladion? That was… questionable.

Luna: huh? Not really…
i mean i guess we’re kinda friends, but like still

Moon: oh i see

Luna: see? That’s kinda what i mean. Why all the “ohs” and “ums” lately?

Moon sees it. Luna knows that. Yet she doesn’t reply, and the two spend a long second in silence before Moon even begins typing.

Moon: have I been doing that a lot?

Luna can’t help but feel disappointed. That isn’t… an answer. Far from one, in fact.

Luna: idk it seems like it

Moon: oh
Shoot I just did it again didn’t I?

Luna: yes lol

Moon: i guess you’re right

Luna doesn’t know what to say to that, and begins to wonder if Moon even plans on answering her question. But then the other girl starts typing, and Luna begins to wait.

Moon: well
I guess it’s just odd
I’ve known Gladion for a long time, and he doesn’t usually get this close to anybody, let alone so quickly.
Or what I've been trying to say is that it’s just kinda off putting to see Gladion like this, if that makes sense.

Luna doesn’t know what to make of that. She knows Gladion isn’t the most extroverted or friendly person - she learned that at Worlds last year. And it makes sense that his current behavior might be unusual to Moon. She’d just… never thought about it that way before. After all, it seemed to have taken the two of them long enough to even begin messaging each other. And why did Moon seem so… disappointed? Her messages didn’t seem confused, and instead seemed… Luna didn’t know exactly how to put it into words. But she couldn’t help but feel she was missing a part of the story, she was glad Moon was willing to talk to her. She was making friends with Moon Fuyuki - slowly, yes, but Moon Fuyuki. She was practically famous among any and all VGC players in Zone 3, and to call her a friend? 6 months ago, she never would have believed it.

Luna: i see
yeah i guess he’s been a lot more… idk what the word is
not friendly, but like…
less emo and edgy? :P

Moon: EXACTLY :P
And I’ve never seen him like that before around anybody, except for me, Hau, and Lillie

Luna: Lillie?

Moon: his sister

Luna: oh i see

She feels oddly relieved, and she knows why. Not that she likes it - in fact, it’s annoying. She shouldn’t be worrying like that over each and every little thing.

Moon: yeah
They’re pretty close, and Lillie’s really nice

Luna: gotcha

Moon: But anyways, thanks for checking in on me
It means a lot <3

Luna smiles.

Luna: of course!

Moon doesn’t reply, but Luna isn’t disappointed. She’s just glad she got an answer - or at least part of one. Because she can now maybe stop worrying so much about other people, and focus on herself. She can focus on what the heck she’s going to do about Gladion, focus on figuring out how she really feels, and focus on how she wants to deal with it.

And she can also stop letting him consume her life. If she can figure this all out, maybe she can move on. She can decide if she actually likes him as a person, or if she forget all about him. All that matters is that she gets herself some answers and stops letting herself obsess over him. After all, the last time she let a crush do that to her… it didn’t end well.

And this time, it’s either going to be different, or Luna’s done with the pathetic feeling people call “love.”

Chapter Text

“Hey, Lillie?” Gladion doesn’t even know what he’s doing, and his sister looks up, surprised. They’re sitting at the kitchen table, Gladion continuing work on his Worlds team. Across the table, Lillie is eating a snack. The two siblings usually spend their time together in comfortable silence - after all, Gladion doesn’t talk much. So he doesn’t know why he’s doing it now. But he has to say it now before he loses his nerve. “I think…” He pauses. “I think I like someone.”

There. It was out. Gladion looks down, avoiding his sister’s eyes. Lillie’s jaw drops.

“What? Who?” She demands. Gladion sighs.

“Do you expect me to tell you?” Lillie bites her lip. “I’m just… I just needed to get it off my chest. What should I be doing?” He asks.

“I’m your sister, Gladion. You can trust me,” Lillie replies. He shoots her a glare.

“You’re gonna give me a hard time for it, I know. Don’t try me.” Lillie rolls her eyes.

“Okay, well… what have you done about it?” She asks. Gladion doesn’t reply. What have I done about Luna? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What am I supposed to do? He thinks.

“Nothing,” he says finally. Lillie frowns. “Look, I’m trying, okay? It’s not the same as -”

“Don’t start, Gladion. Don’t start.” Gladion’s eyes widen at the sudden change in Lillie’s tone. But he should have known better. He can’t mention Moon around Lillie in this kind of conversation. “I’m going to be honest with you. If you won’t tell me who this girl is, I won't be able to do anything. Spill it.” Gladion glares at her. Nice try, Lillie. You’re not getting anything out of me like that, he thinks. Mostly, he’s afraid. He’s afraid that Lillie’s going to tease him, and he’s afraid that she won’t understand. After all, he’s met Luna only twice. He shouldn’t be this… absorbed. Attracted. Whatever the hell this is.

But at this point, the more Gladion thinks about it, the worse things get. In fact, he can’t even be quite sure how real these feelings are. But he was so desperate for an answer on why he felt the way he did around her back at Internats, that once he thought maybe he actually likes Luna, he accepted that as the truth without question.

“Nice try, Lillie. But you’re not getting a name,” he snaps. “Look. All I want is an idea. What do I do at this point?”

“Why are you asking me?” Lillie replies. “I’ve never had a boyfriend, and…” She shoots Gladion a knowing glance, and he sighs. “A year, Gladion. Yet you still don’t know what to do about a little crush?” She questions.

“I didn’t come to you for a scolding, Lillie. And I know I should be better than this,” he says. “But I need help, and I don’t know who else to ask.” Lillie rolls her eyes.

“Okay, fine.” His sister pauses before continuing. “Are you… really that desperate to move on?” Gladion freezes, and forces himself to take a deep breath. He doesn’t reply for a long moment, and the tension between the two siblings begins to grow.

“It’s been 10 months, Lillie. I wouldn’t call this desperate,” he finally retorts. “If you have nothing better to say, then I’ll just shut up and we can pretend this never happened.” Lillie frowns.

“Okay, let’s take a chill pill.” Gladion glares at her. She knows that gets on his nerves. “Let’s start nice and slow. Does -” She stops. Gladion knows what’s coming, and he hates it. “I’m sorry.” Lillie looks down. “But it has to be said. Does…” Her voice grows quiet - shy, almost. It’s all too similar to the way she acted just a couple of years ago, and Gladion doesn’t like it. “Does Moon know?” She finally says it, and Gladion clenches his jaw. He knew it was coming. Yet…

“Why should she?” He snaps. Lillie flinches, and Gladion can’t help but feel slightly bad. He shouldn’t be so upset over such a comment. Yet… his current relationship with Moon isn’t what it once was. No. Lillie is wrong. She doesn’t need to know - in fact, she wouldn’t care. It won’t change things. But he isn’t sure he actually believes himself.

“I think…” Lillie starts. She sighs. “I think she deserves to know, whether you like it or not. I know what happened, and I know that you two aren’t on… the best of terms. But all of people, she’s the last person you should be hiding this from. And we both know why.”

Gladion doesn’t want to admit it. He doesn’t want to admit the fact that Lillie isn’t wrong, and he doesn’t want to admit that this isn’t something he can keep a secret forever. But in the end, he’s so hesitant because he’s scared. He’s scared of how Moon will react, and he’s scared of what will happen if he ends up hurting her again. Because regardless of what happened, Gladion knows she doesn’t deserve pain like that.

But in the end, it’s not like he has a choice. When his battle ends, he opens the messenger on his phone. Her number is at the bottom of his recents, and he opens it for the first time in almost ten months. Before he can back out, he hits send.

Gladion: hey

It takes no time for Moon to reply, much to his surprise. In fact, he’s shocked she even reads it.

Moon: you kept my number

He’s insulted, almost, but knows better than to be. It isn’t her fault.

Gladion: yeah

Moon: what do you want?

He pauses. He can’t flat out say it yet, can he?

Gladion: im sorry

Moon doesn’t reply for a moment, and Gladion feels his heart speed up.

Moon: funny you say that now

Moon doesn’t understand that Gladion knows he screwed up. He screwed up big time. And he still feels guilty. But Moon… she can’t seem to move on, and it irks him.

Gladion: fine

Moon: what’s your point?

He isn’t surprised at her bluntless. In fact, he doesn’t blame her for being so short with him. They’re friends, sure, but their relationship has been stretched to its limit over the past few months. The distance did nothing to help them.

Gladion: i wasnt kidding
i really am sorry

Moon: great

He grits his teeth at her sarcasm.

Gladion: you dont need to forgive me

Moon: I wasn’t going to, but okay

Gladion can’t even be sure what he even expected out of this exchange.

Gladion: you know
its kinda funny

Moon: what?

Gladion: the group chat
we’re like
almost friends
can you believe that?

He’s stalling, and he knows that. But he isn’t wrong, either. They both pretend nothing ever happened when they’re around Luna and Hau. For all Gladion cares, Luna doesn’t need to know. And Hau’s come a little too close to hitting a nerve with a few of his comments. Thankfully, it only took a single reminder for him to stop. From there on out, they haven’t talked about it, and probably for the better. So why is he bringing it back now?

Moon: yeah
its cause of luna, isn’t it?
why do you care so much about keeping us a secret?

Gladion grits his teeth. He doesn’t have a response to that.

Gladion: its not an “us” anymore

And it hasn’t been for a long time.

Moon: True
But you get my memo

He doesn’t have any more excuses.

Gladion: yeah

Moon: so, the question?

Gladion: idk

Moon: Seriously? That’s all you have to say?

It’s the truth, even if Moon doesn’t understand that.

Gladion: im being honest with you

Moon: fine
What’s your point?

Gladion: wdym?

More stalling.

Moon: We haven’t talked in months
Don’t play dumb with me - why message me now?

Great. She’s called him out. And now, Gladion doesn’t have any other options but to tell the truth. Yet at the same time, Gladion doesn’t reply for a solid two minutes. Instead, he types and retypes his message over and over again. How should he even begin to say what he wants to say? Finally, he decides he has to take the dive. He has to be bold, and just get things over with.

Gladion: how would you feel if i told you i liked someone?

It was out. Gladion waits, and Moon doesn’t reply for a long moment.

Moon: do you?

Shoot. That… wasn’t what he wanted.

Gladion: you didnt answer my question

Moon: Well idk
Now answer mine.

He forced himself to take a deep breath, clenching his jaw. It shouldn’t take him so long to type a single word, but he somehow spends a long moment with fingers hovering over the keyboard. Then he forces himself to hit send, and waits.

Gladion: yes

There’s no reply, and Gladion tries to be patient. He’s nervous, too. He doesn’t notice, but his heart begins to race, palms growing sweaty. He doesn’t know what to expect, and he can’t help but be afraid. Then Moon replies.

Moon: So that makes two of us.

Gladion freezes, and suddenly, he has no clue what to think. Moon. Moon… likes someone. He doesn’t know why he’s so surprised, but he can’t reply, and he doesn’t know what to say. This time, he isn’t even stalling on purpose when it takes him five minutes to formulate something to say. He truly, utterly, has no clue what to do.

Gladion: i guess so

He hides his surprise. Moon doesn’t need to know how he froze up, and she doesn’t need to know how he sat, fingers shaking, for so long.

Moon: yeah

And now, Gladion’s out of there. He got his answer.

Gladion: well then
i need to get going

He really doesn’t.

Moon: bye

Moon doesn’t protest, and he isn’t surprised. Neither of them can deny how awkward this situation is.

Gladion: bye

He’s done, and puts his phone down. Then he begins to think.

Moon likes someone, and so does he. And does that mean Gladion can safely assume things are over? That he’s free to do what he wants without hurting her? Because that’s what he’s been terrified of for the past 10 months. He hated seeing Moon cry, and he hated when she left, because he knew he’d just destroyed anything they possibly still had. Now, what are they? Barely even friends. Rivals, sure - but he finds himself struggling to strike up a conversation, and he’s struggling to keep up the illusion of amicability around Hau and Luna.

Luna. It’s not her fault this mess has become what it is. In fact, Gladion needs to stop dwelling on this. Even if he wishes it isn’t the case, he can be pretty sure Luna isn’t attracted to him the way he is to her. And saying something at this point would more than likely but their entire relationship on the line. They’re friends - finally. Even if neither of them has said it out right, Gladion can be pretty sure they’re friends. And he likes that. But for the first time in 10 months, he can finally sure it’s time to move on. And… maybe Luna is a good first step. All he has to do is figure out where to begin, and that - that’s the hard part.

Chapter Text

One month, Luna. One month. And Luna isn’t sure if she’s looking forward to it or not. On one hand, it’s Worlds. The Pokemon World Championships. Shouldn’t she be excited? It’s all she’s been working towards for the past 11 months - all her games and hours of practice, leading up to a single weekend. And last year, she had been. But this time, Luna’s afraid. She’s afraid that what happened last year will happen again, and she’s afraid that her confidence will disappear all like it did last time. She’s also anxious - the last thing Luna wants to do is mess up again, or fail to perform as well as she did at Internats. She’d only be letting herself down. And most of all, she isn’t sure how to feel about the fact that Gladion will definitely be there. 

 

Luna knows she likes him, and she knows it all too well. She needs to get it off her chest, badly, before it ends up consuming her even more. She’s barely been able to think about anything else since Internats, and it isn’t good for her. 

 

Truly, there’s only one person Luna feels she could even begin to talk to. That certain somebody has just walked into the room, and she forces herself to speak. 

 

“Hey, Ottie?” Her friend looks up, surprised. Luna leans against the wall of the tack room, and Ottie places her saddle down on a rack. “Do you think… I could talk to you for a second?” Luna feels her palms get sweaty, and Ottie shrugs. 

 

“Sure! What’s up!” The brunette walks over to Luna’s side, and looks her friend in the eye. Luna bites her lip, and doesn’t reply for a moment. Not because she’s forgotten what she wants to say, but because she’s worried. But it’s too late to turn back now. 

 

“I think…” Luna pauses, looking down. “I think I like someone.” Ottie freezes, and nobody speaks for a long moment. 

 

“Oh… wow,” Ottie replies. That’s all she says, and the silence returns. 

 

“I just… I just don’t know what to do about it,” Luna finally says. And she isn’t lying. “I don’t know if I like him just because he’s hot or cute or whatever, or if I actually like being around him. I mean, I think I do. I like talking to him. A lot. But I don’t get what I’m supposed to do, if that makes sense,” she rants. She opens her mouth to continue, but Ottie interrupts. 

 

“No, I get it. I totally do. Just… give me a second.” Luna nods, and waits. She looks over at her friend, who looks lost in thought. “Okay, well, what I’m picking up here is that you like some guy and you need advice on what you should be doing next, correct?” Luna nods. “Well, I’m not sure I’m the person to ask, but…” She pauses. 

 

“I know. I feel like I should be better than this,” Luna says, a hint of bitterness in her tone. 

 

“Don’t worry about it, Luna,” Ottie replies. Right. Don’t go there, Luna. Just don’t. She bites her lip and nods. “I guess… if you don’t mind me asking, who is it?” Luna freezes. She knew it was coming, yet… Come on, Luna. Get it together. 

 

“I…” Her voice begins to waver, and she stops again. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly. She doesn’t know what she’s even apologizing for. 

 

“Well, you don’t have to. I was just wondering and all…” Ottie says quickly. “I was just thinking that maybe it would help a little, you know? To just get it out there?” She’s right, Luna. Wasn’t that the whole point? Luna thinks, scolding herself. “But no pressure. I get that it can be hard and all, so don’t -” 

 

“Gladion,” she says suddenly. It’s both bold and quiet, hesitant and definitive. Everything falls silent. 

 

Shoot. Come on, Luna. What as that? Luna thinks, frustrated. But at least it was out there, right? Ottie doesn’t reply for a long second, and Luna feels herself tense up. 

 

“Shoot.” It’s all Ottie is able to say, and Luna tries to laugh it off. 

 

“Exactly,” she replies. “So, what the hell am I supposed to do?” She feels something inside of her crack, and she clenches her fists. 

 

“Hey, it’s okay, Luna!” Ottie says quickly. Luna grits her teeth. Come on, Luna. Stop getting so frustrated, she scolds herself. It doesn’t help. “Okay, well, let’s see. I’m figuring you’re stressed because Worlds is in a month, correct?” Luna nods. “Shoot. I’m really not good with this type of stuff. Well…” Ottie’s voice trails off, growing quieter and quieter as she thinks. 

 

“You like Gladion??????” Shit. Silv barges in, and Luna curses under her breath. Her sister’s eyes are bright, and she forces herself to take a deep breath. Okay, Luna. Maybe you can play it off. Maybe you can… She knows it’s hopeless. Silv heard what she heard, and her sister isn’t the type to let go so easily. “I knew it!” Silv squeals, giving a small hop. She stops in front of Luna, grinning. Luna looks down. “See? I shipped you all the way back in, like, springtime!” It’s all too accurate. 

 

“Silv, please stop.” Luna’s voice cracks, and she’s unable to meet her sister in the eyes. Her mind and heart are both racing, and she hates it. Silv pouts. 

 

“Awww! But this is so exciting!” She says brightly, completely undeterred. “You went from your whole “he’s an absolute asshole” mentality to “he’s so cute and hot and-”

 

“Silv, I meant it. Just shut up.” Any control Luna formerly had is gone, and she looks up, glaring at her sister. Silv merely rolls her eyes. 

 

“But don’t you see, Luna? This is a big deal!” Silv says teasingly. “And Worlds is in just a month! That would be a perfect time for you two to finally get together!” There’s more running through Luna’s head than just her frustration. “You could have your first date, you could…” Luna forces herself to ignore her sister. All she knows is that her heart is racing faster than it has in a long time, and she knows exactly why. Because all she can think about is one specific person who she never wanted to bring up again. 

 

Silv shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Her sister doesn’t realize that she's gone way too far. And now, Luna only knows one way to get her to stop. One name - that’s all it would take. And all Luna has to do is think about him, and she crumbles. 

 

“Don't you get it, Silv???” Luna screams finally. She’s cracked, and her sister freezes. “It’s going to end up like -” Luna chokes, and then she crumples to the ground, sliding against the wall.

 

The name goes fully without saying. Silv stops, and Ottie winces. Luna sits, crouched on the ground, and lets herself cry. It’s out there, and now she’s done. Nobody says anything.

 

“I’m sorry.” Silv breaks the silence, and crouches at her sister’s side. Luna forces herself to look up. “I didn’t mean to…” 

 

“Take it that far?” Ottie interrupts. Silv sighs and nods, and Luna’s breath shakes. The tears stop flowing as hard, and she wipes a single drop from beneath her left eye. “Hey, Luna? Silv didn’t mean it, I promise. Please don’t be upset, okay?”

 

“I’m not,” Luna whispers. “At least, not at Silv. But I’m just… scared. I’m scared of it happening all over again. I’m scared, because if anything like that happens again, it would completely shatter me.” Silv looks down.

 

“I’m really sorry, Luna. I can’t say that enough,” she says slowly. “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to me about all of this. I know I tease you, and I know I said some stuff that’s hurt you, but don’t be afraid. I’m your sister, okay?” Luna gives a small nod. 

 

“We’re here to help you. Please understand that. I get this has got to be really hard for you, and I want you to know that I’m always here,” Ottie says. 

 

“I… thanks,” Luna replies quietly. She forces herself to stand up, brushing herself off. “I’m just… terrified. I’m tired of being hurt like that, and I’ve got a month to get myself together. You saw me. I was a fucking wreck. I told myself I would never let something like that happen again. Yet here we are, and I have no clue what to think. It’s been a month of this, and I can’t decide if I believe the part of me that wants to give up and move on, or the part that tells me that this is something worth pursuing,” she says.

 

“Luna, if you truly do like him, you can’t just do nothing-” Silv starts. Luna opens her mouth to speak, but then bites her lip. Silv doesn’t need you to lash out at her again. Control yourself, Luna! She thinks bitterly. 

 

“I know, Silv. But it’s hard,” Luna interrupts. She forces herself to take a deep breath. “I shouldn’t be having so much trouble with this. I don’t know why I can’t just get myself together. But mostly, I needed to get it off my chest. It’s been weighing me down for too long,” she admits. 

 

“I don’t know what we can do, but I promise we’ll do everything we can, okay?” Ottie asks. Luna nods, pacing small circles around the room. Right. Of course. What else did you expect? And why did you wait so long to do this? She thinks. 

 

“And Luna?” She looks up, pausing for a second, to meet Silv’s eyes. Her sister smiles, and Luna feels herself relax. 

“If he ever breaks your heart, I will personally hunt him down. Nobody messes with my sister and gets away with it.”

 

And that in itself makes Luna feel a little better. 

 

-

 

It’s August 14th, and Luna can’t sleep. For a good reason. Worlds. Tomorrow. Gladion. Tomorrow. Everything is coming together, and she can’t handle it anymore. She lays, awake, staring up at the ceiling. She has been, for the past two hours. It’s natural - she’s stressed. But it’s getting to the point of extreme. 

 

It’s a year later, and Luna still remembers. She still remembers how it felt to lose to Gladion that very first time. And she never wants it to happen again. Over the past year, she’s tried so hard. She’s tried so hard to move on and forget. In fact, she’s gone from positively hating him to liking him to the point where it consumes her at an unhealthy level. They’re friends now. But somehow, it’s still not gone. The sting of defeat isn’t gone, and neither is the image of his cold, emerald eyes. All those memories she made are completely intact. And now, they’re more vivid than ever. 

 

In under 24 hours, it’ll have begun. The Pokemon World Championships 2019 will have begun. And Luna has never felt more unprepared in her life. She could practice more, sure. She’ll be doing that tomorrow morning. She could run over in her head time and time again how she wants to greet Gladion, and she can picture them meeting all she wants. But there’s nothing more she can do. 

 

At this point, Luna is nothing but afraid. She doesn’t want to lose again, and she doesn’t want to miss another chance. Her to-do list for the upcoming days is full, for sure. She wants to win. She wants to tell Gladion that she is definitely kinda sorta is attracted to him. She wants to meet Moon. It’s stressful, to say the least. But this weekend has been a year in the making, and it’s time for Luna to take advantage of it. Whether she’d like to admit it or not, she’s about as ready as she’ll ever be. 

 

Now, all she has to do is wait - and somehow, go to sleep. 

Chapter Text

Hau: WE HAVE ARRIVED :DDDD

 

Gladion: hau shut up pls

 

Hau: HEY

 

Luna: oooh welcome to Pabay!

        wait when did you guys wake up???

 

Gladion: uh

             like maybe 4 ish?

 

Luna: WHAT

 

Hau: that’s why he’s so grumpy D:

 

Luna; understood

 

Gladion: hau shut up

 

Luna: okay well lmk when you reach your hotel!

 

Hau: got it :D

 

-

 

Hau: we have checked in!!!

 

Luna: yay! 

        you guys planning on going to the pokemon center today?

 

Hau: YES

       but i’m meeing lana and kiawe and those peeps for lunch first

 

Luna: fun!

 

Hau: :D

 

Luna: gladion?

 

Gladion: nope

 

Luna: awww why?

 

Gladion: practicing

 

Luna: wow :P

        but you’re day 2

 

Gladion: so?

 

Luna: you literally have all of tomorrow

 

Gladion: and?

 

Luna: so why are you practicing now?

 

Gladion: its called being prepared

 

Luna: ugh you’re no fun

 

Gladion: and youre turning into hau

 

Hau: HEY

 

Luna: okay wow that’s a little too far :P

         Well i’m in line right now you wanna join?

 

Gladion: no

 

Hau: that was mean :(

 

Gladion: no its not, im being honest

 

Luna: pls?

 

Gladion: shouldnt you be practicing

 

Luna: i am!

        it’s called i have my 3ds in line and i’m battle spotting off my phone’s mobile hotspot aka being smart 



Gladion: my god

 

Hau: that’s actually genius

 

Luna: why thank you

        Gladion, please?

        i’m gonna be here for three hours by myself it sucks :P

 

Gladion: fine

 

Luna: wait really? 

 

Gladion: i guess

 

Luna: yayyyy

        we can practice together!

 

Gladion: sure

             i’ll be there in 10 

 

Luna: okay, see you then!

 

Gladion: yeah

             you too

 

-

 

Gladion doesn’t know why he’s doing this. After all, he’s sure the hotel room is a better practice environment than this mile long and definitely not shaded line for the Pokemon Center. But Luna asked, and… at this point, Gladion isn’t sure how to say no to her. 

 

His eyes drift from left to right, scanning the line, as he walks around the block. He can only hope he’ll recognize her. The sun is shining down intensely, and Gladion begins to regret wearing all black. But then again, that’s just kinda how he rolls. After all, Pabay’s weather isn’t any worse than Alola’s at this time of year - if anything, it’s better. It’s more mild, for sure. Hot, definitely - but Gladion can only remember how sunny it was back in his home region just the day before. 

 

Despite the weather, Gladion forces himself to focus. It’s not that he doesn’t remember what Luna looks like - in fact, he does, and all too well - but there’s an overwhelmingly large amount of people. The line seems to stretch far into the distance, and he certainly understands why Luna wanted somebody to keep her company. Sure, he wonders why him precisely, but it’s not like he minds… right? 

 

Gladion wouldn’t want to admit it, but he’s stressed. Stressed, because he’s worried he won’t be able to keep his head straight around Luna whenever they’re alone. Stressed, because he has no clue how to act around Moon. Well, it’s mostly because of Moon. He’s definitely worried about seeing her again - for seeing her, in real life, face to face, for the first time in almost a year. And considering how close they used to be, Gladion isn’t sure how either of them will react. But suddenly, he has to push all thoughts of Moon aside. Because he sees her - it’s Luna, for sure - and she’s talking with some other guy. 

 

Gladion knows he’s stupid. Just because she’s talking to someone doesn’t mean… He forces himself to walk towards her calmly, and his heart rate begins to pick up. But then he sees the tension in her shoulders and her clenched fists at her sides, and he reassures himself that no, the random guy with spiky brown hair is not Luna’s boyfriend. After all, why would she look like she really wants to punch somebody if that was the case? He pulls out his phone, and fires off a quick message.

 

Gladion: see you

 

It’s unread, but he isn’t surprised. She isn’t on her phone. But for some reason, it helps to reassure him a little. Just so he can say he at least gave her a fair warning, in case she’s surprised when he appears. Gladion forces himself to keep walking, and Luna doesn’t seem to notice. The person she’s standing with does, and shoots Gladion a glare. But Gladion tells himself there’s nothing wrong, and he taps Luna on the shoulder. 

 

Luna jumps and whips around, and then breathes a sigh of relief. Gladion forces himself to crack a small smile - or he tries to, at the very least. He doesn’t really smile. But Luna looks relieved, and Gladion feels the same. 

 

“Hey. Did you get my message?” He asks. Luna bites her lip, and the guy she was talking to just a moment earlier looks at Gladion oddly, his emerald gaze hard to decipher. 

 

“No, sorry,” she starts. “I was just -”

 

“Talking?” Gladion interrupts. She nods. “Well, how’s the practice going?” He’s trying to be friendly - he really is. 

 

“Fine,” Luna replies. Gladion isn’t sure if she means it or not. Then she turns around, and the brown haired figure shoves his hands in his pockets. “Sorry, Locust, but this lovely conversation will have to end now.” She shoots him an icy glare, and Gladion can hear the sarcasm in her voice. It’s enough to make him flinch, but the other guy doesn’t seem fazed in the slightest. Locust. At least, that’s what Luna called him. Gladion can’t help but wonder who the heck he is.

 

“Not a problem,” he says calmly. “I’ll leave you and your -”

 

“Don’t.” Luna stops him, her tone bitter and cold. Gladion’s eyes widen. “Sorry, but I’m busy right now. We can talk later.” She glares at him once more, and then grabs Gladion’s arm, pulling him into the line next to her. “Sorry, he’s…” she starts, her voice nearly a whisper. 

 

“You okay?” Gladion asks. Seriously? Shut up, Gladion. Just shut up. You really aren’t helping, he thinks bitterly. He wants to take back his words, but… it’s a little late, you could say. 

 

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Luna snaps. Gladion recoils, and Luna bites her lip. “Sorry. I’m just…”

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Gladion interrupts. “Who was that guy?” Luna freezes. He feels a small tinge of regret, but… he’s curious. Really curious. And a little upset, because whoever “Locust” is was obviously getting on Luna’s nerves.

 

“I’d rather not talk about it,” she replies. Gladion grits his teeth. Come on, Gladion. You don’t need to be pushing her any further. Just shut up. Yet for some reason, he doesn’t listen to himself, and keeps talking.

 

“Luna, we’re friends.” Shoot. “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to me.” And… shoot again. What the hell do you think you’re doing, Gladion?   “If that dude is getting on your nerves, I’d happily-” 

 

“Okay, Gladion. What’s the issue?” Luna interrupts. Gladion’s eyes widen. Then she hits the nail right on the head, and Gladion has no clue how to react. “Are you seriously that afraid he’s my boyfriend?” His jaw drops. Yes.

 

“No,” he lies. “Why would I be?” Relief crosses Luna’s gaze, and Gladion’s stomach begins to twist. At least she doesn’t see past you, he thinks. Though I’m not sure being good at lying is something to be proud of.

 

“You seem… oddly persistent about finding out who this guy is. Why can’t you just drop it?” Gladion knows he’s gone too far. He really wants to stop, he really does. But he knows he likes Luna, and he hated seeing her so… upset. It hurts him that there’s nothing he can do, unless she opens up a little.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says. Gladion can’t bring himself to be fully honest with her. “But I’m just-” Suddenly, Luna meets his eyes once and then looks down. Something crosses her face, and it takes Gladion a moment to identify it. But then he gets it. It’s fear. “I’m really sorry,” he says again. “I-”

 

“Gladion, just please don’t look at me right now,” Luna whispers. Excuse me? What was that for? I- He clenches his jaw. Her voice is barely audible, but Gladion can hear the desperation in her tone. Stop, Gladion. You’ve already pushed her too far. He forces himself to take a deep breath, and he looks away.

 

“I’m sorry. Whatever I did, I didn’t mean to hurt you…” he starts. Shit, Gladion. Stop getting so soft with her. He doesn’t even understand what he’s doing. This is unlike you. You don’t need to… 

 

“It’s not your fault,” Luna replies quietly. “It’s his.” And Gladion has absolutely no clue what she means. 

 

-

 

He’d noticed Luna had been slightly off. He didn’t know why, but she was… more quiet, and hesitant. And she definitely wasn’t playing her best, either. It’s not like her to lose to some random person in the Battle Spot. But all of that disappeared the second Luna laid her eyes on the Pokemon Center. 

 

It took two hours, but they were in. And it was at this point Gladion regretted his decision to come. Shopping with Luna was… nearly as bad as shopping with Lillie. Or maybe it’s just because it’s Pokemon - at least, that’s what Gladion wants to think, as he watches Luna grab item after item off the shelves. 

 

“How many Worlds plush should I get? Because I kinda want all three, but that’s $60, and I have a budget of $150, so…” At least she has a budget, and at least she’s sticking to it, Gladion thinks. “I guess I’ll go Eevee for now - Gladion, aren’t you getting one?” Luna asks. Gladion shrugs. “You have to! It’s Worlds!” He sighs. 

 

“Fine. I think Lillie would kill me if I didn’t get one, anyways.” That’s Gladion’s excuse for the afternoon, and he reaches out, grabbing a Pikachu out of the basket, shoving it into the clear plastic bag. Luna looks at him triumphantly. 

 

“See? It’s not really an option. Come to Worlds, and you have to get at least of the plush. Even Mr. Edgelord wants one.” He shoots her a glare, and she laughs. “Okay, well… how about the t-shirt? I know you’re all like “I only wear black” or whatever, but…”

 

“Fine.” He’s not going to argue with Luna at this point. And in the end, it is dark blue, so… He grabs himself one, and Luna follows suit. 

 

“Yay!” Luna then grabs a pin set, and shoves that in her bag as well. Gladion rolls his eyes. “What? I like collecting pins, okay?” He sighs. 

 

“I’m not gonna argue with you,” he replies. Luna grins triumphantly, and then moves onto the next section. 

 

“Ooooh, I want a hoodie! And this, and this, and this…” Gladion forces himself to take a deep breath, and then he grabs Luna’s arm, pulling her away. 

 

“Luna, you already got Worlds merch. Let’s move on, please.” He looks briefly over to the shelves, and then looks down at Luna, who frowns. 

 

“Fine.” He’d feel bad if it weren’t for the slight amusement in her tone. Then she sees a full wall of eeveelution pixel plush, and Gladion’s forced to chase after her all over again. 

 

“Seriously, Luna?” He asks. She ignores him, and reaches upwards to grab an Espeon. “The psychic types, huh?” She nods. “Do you need help?” Gladion may only be a few inches taller than she is, but suddenly, it all matters. Because most importantly, he can reach the top shelf. 

 

“Maybe?” Luna replies. They both know the answer is yes, and Gladion grabs the Espeon for her. “You should get one to!” He snorts. 

 

“Nice try,” he retorts, placing the Espeon in her hand. Luna pouts and shoves it in her bag. 

 

“Come on, who’s your favorite? Everyone likes the eeveelutions!” Gladion sighs. She isn’t wrong - after all, he still remembers his very first Pokemon playthrough, and when everyone else wanted to use a Leafeon or Glaceon, he chose the dark type, Umbreon. It’s one of his favorite Pokemon to date, but still…

 

“No,” he says bluntly. Luna crosses her arms. “It’s Umbreon for me, but that doesn’t mean I need a 20 inch pixel version of it,” he says. Luna sighs. 

 

“Fine, fine,” she says. “But promise me you’ll actually get stuff? And not just for your sister?” Oops. He really doesn’t want to agree to that. But it’s not like he really has an option, anyway. 

 

“Deal.” And Gladion has no clue how much trouble he’s just gotten himself into. 

 

Ten minutes later, Luna has already maxed out her $150. Between her annoying obsession with the pins and Gallery Figures, Gladion isn’t surprised she has no money left. She insists on picking up an eeveelution lanyard and pin set, and somehow convinces him to get a dark blue Umbreon one. Then there’s the Absol Ditto plush she’s thoroughly obsessed with, and the countless Gallery Figures she’s placed in her bag. At least three. Gladion lost count by the time she picked up a Sylveon. Yet somehow, she still wants more. 

 

“Gladion, we should get this for Moon!” He flinches, and Luna holds up a Rowlet plush keychain. Goddamnit. Moon. Somehow, he hasn’t thought about her for the past hour. That could be a new record. Then he forces himself to focus, and he sighs.

 

“Okay, look. That’s cute -” And not just the Rowlet. “- But I assure you, Moon already has every single Rowlet thing to touch this planet.” And then… Shit. I just called Luna cute. Oh my god Gladion, get it together. But Luna doesn’t seem to see anywhere past his words, and remains oblivious. Thankfully. Instead, she pouts and puts it back on the shelf. “And you’re already over budget,” he points out quickly. He’s all too eager to move on from that. 

 

“Yeah, I know, but…” Gladion shoots her a glare. 

 

“No buts,” he says. He pulls out his phone to check the time, and curses under his breath. “Okay, it’s almost four. Gimme your stuff and I’ll check out if you go grab us a spot in the check in line.” 

 

“Already???” Luna says. Sighing, she hands over her bag. “Fine. See you later, then?” Gladion nods numbly. 

 

“See you later.” His mind is already elsewhere, and Luna scurries away.

 

Once she’s gone, Gladion breathes a frustrated breath in and out. This was a terrible idea. He compares his bag - half empty - to Luna’s - completely full. That’s not a good thing. But Gladion finds himself looking across the store, and his eyes land on a couple of items that remind him a little too much of her. Suddenly, he can’t help himself. 

 

He moves quickly, avoiding eye contact with nearly everybody. Nobody needs to see him carrying two bags of… stuff. Only for Luna. Only for Luna. He knows he would never offer to do this for anybody else. First, Gladion grabs a Worlds notebook off the shelves. Luna is always writing stuff down during her battles, and he remembers her using last year’s edition at Internats. She’ll need a new one for the next season. Then, because why the heck not, he grabs two of the stupidest looking but also most appropriate plush from a bin along the wall. Luna has used the Xernala core all season, and as ridiculous as the two restricteds look in plush form, he can’t help it. He puts them in his own bag, and he doesn’t know why. If it’s for Luna, then why…? You know why, Gladion. Because you’re too chicken to give anything to her right now, he thinks. He shakes his thoughts away, and focuses. There’s one last thing. 

 

He makes his way to the pin section and pulls it off the shelf without hesitation. Gladion really needs to stop doubting himself. After all, if he likes Luna…

 

Well, he definitely likes Luna. He’s known that for months. And while he can’t be quite sure how real it is, the very least he can do is be a friend. After all, that’s what she’s been doing for him. And if Luna somehow agrees that yes, they’re better together, then this is the most appropriate gift he could have found. 

Chapter Text

It was two months ago when Luna first found herself attracted to Gladion Aether. But it was hard not to, with his striking pale blond hair and piercing emerald eyes (which reminded her a little too much of a certain somebody else, but we’re going to ignore that). For a while, she wanted to believe that’s all it was. In fact, she’d been trying incredibly hard to pretend she didn’t feel anything for him yesterday. 

 

Yesterday. All she remembered about… yesterday. Locust. Gladion. They met, unintentionally, for the first time. And it was terrifying. 

 

Gladion can’t know what happened. Luna isn’t sure why, but she’s not about to bring it up around him. Finally, it seems Gladion is seeing her as a friend, and she’s not ruining that. And she knows it isn’t her fault. Luna knows what happened really is not her fault. But it’s ruined her - terrified her, practically. And because Gladion is finally the friend she was looking for, he doesn’t need to know. He never will. She’s so… messed up over something that happened so long ago. And doesn’t that make her weak? 

 

“Hey.” Speak of the devil. 

 

“Hi…” Luna has no clue why she’s pausing. “Gladion.” Luna quickly moves her bag out of the seat on her right, and he sits down. 

 

“Thanks for saving me a seat,” he says. Luna nods. Right. Come on, Luna, focus. Nine rounds of Swiss. You have no time to think about yesterday, at all, she thinks. “You okay?” She looks up.

 

“Huh? Oh. Sorry.” She curses at herself inwardly. She must have gotten lost in thought. “Just like… nine rounds, y’know? It’s a lot.” It isn’t a lie, actually. She is stressed. And determined. “I just really want to make Day 2 at least, and hopefully Top Cut,” she says. It works, amazingly enough. It helps distract her from… whatever other thoughts she’s thinking. 

 

“Yeah,” Gladion says. He turns to the stage, and Luna does the same. “Good luck,” Gladion adds. Luna nods, and finds herself unable to reply. She needs to stop thinking so much, doesn’t she?

 

They spend the next few minutes in complete silence. Luna can’t tell if he’s just busy taking in the atmosphere of being at Worlds, or ignoring her. But… either way is fine. After all, it gives Luna a nice amount of time to herself, and to think a little bit more about what lies ahead. Locust, likely. He’s not bad, and he’s improving constantly. If they both end up with an x-0 record at some point, she’s sure they’ll fight. But Luna won’t mind beating him. Hau’s a possibility, too, and despite their friendship, they’ve never battled. And Luna doesn’t… watch his streams the way she does for a certain somebody else.

 

Speaking of Gladion, both him and Moon are on Day 2 Invites, so Luna won’t be playing either of them today. In future rounds, unless she flops, sure. But even without their presence, Luna knows the field ahead is tough. Probably the toughest one she’s ever faced, in fact. Suddenly, the countdown snaps her attention back to the stage. She can hear Pokemon fans calling out number after number, in various languages. Galarian is the most prominent - it usually is, at these kinds of events. But she can hear a hint of Kantonian, and one group shouting extremely loudly in Kalosian. It reminds her how this is it - it’s the climax of the season, and players from all over the world have gathered here. In her hometown, of all places. And as the crowd reaches “O,” Luna knows it’s officially begun. The Pokemon World Championships 2019 are underway.

 

-

 

Luna almost thinks she must be seeing things. What are the odds? In a field of nearly 300, what are the odds? But she can’t be surprised, can she? After all, she’d been preparing herself for this while waiting for the opening ceremony to begin. So why is she so... frozen?

 

“What’s wrong, Luna?” Gladion asks. Luna bites her lip. Clearly, he doesn’t remember yesterday. 

 

“It’s nothing,” she lies. “I’m fine.” The doubtful look in Gladion’s eyes only goes to show she’s doing a better job convincing herself than him. 

 

“You sure? Because if so, I’m gonna go find Hau,” he replies. Luna nods. She wants to feel something - some sort of hurt, maybe. Because she knows there’s nothing she wants more than to have Gladion with her for her upcoming match. But for some reason, Luna can’t bring herself to say anything. 

 

“Yeah. You go… do that,” she says hesitantly. Gladion shoots her one more look - questioning, as if she’s really okay. And she will be. But she doesn’t know what’s going to go down along the way. 

 

“You-”

 

“Go, Gladion. Just go.” His eyes widen at the coldness in her tone, and Luna looks down. “Tell Hau good luck from me,” she says, turning around. She takes a deep breath. 

 

“Right. Good luck to you, too,” he replies. Luna nods numbly, and then starts off in the other direction. “I’ll see you… later.” If Luna looked back, she would have seen the worried glance Gladion had cast over his shoulder, watching as she walked away. But she doesn’t, and instead, she forces herself to think. 

 

He’s already at the table when Luna gets there, chair tilted precariously backwards. Unsurprisingly, he has a vlog camera pointed at his face. Typical Locust. 

 

“All right, guys! Just got to my round one table, and-” Luna sits down, and he stops, lowering the camera. Luna doesn’t say a word. Instead, she meets his gaze with an icy glare. Locust rolls his eyes and sits up straight, leaning over the table. His mood changes immediately.

 

“So, what the hell was yesterday?” He says. The personality he shows to his viewers is all a lie, to be honest. Luna glares at him, and crosses her arms. 

 

“I don’t want anything to do with you, Locust. And you know why.” She has to keep this up. Cool, collected, confident. She can’t let herself break down. Even if Luna wants to cry - even if she wants to scream - she can’t let herself. Even if she tells herself Locust means nothing to her now, she doesn’t want to let him see her like that.

 

“I mean…” He starts. 

 

“Shut up, Locust.” Luna cuts him off, and he crosses his arms. He opens his mouth to reply, but then their attention is called for a player meeting, and Luna lets relief wash over her. Both of them will live to see their second round match, somehow. Hopefully. 

 

-

 

Luna loses Game One, but she knows she can’t let it get to her. Sure, her heart is racing at an extremely unhealthy rate, but she still has a chance. All she has to do is… Yes. 

 

Locust’s Incineroar goes down to an Earthquake from Luna’s Mega Garchomp, and the second match is hers. In fact, it wasn’t even that bad. Close, sure, but Luna forced herself to focus. She can’t mess up now. She’s proud she was able to play so well under such conditions, and now, she actually has a decent amount of confidence going into Game Three. 

 

Luna brings Alolan Ninetales and Garchomp to start off, and sets up an Aurora Veil easily. Thankfully, Locust chooses to send a Helping Hand boosted Hidden Power Ice into Garchomp, who uses Protect. For Luna, things are going exactly as planned. 

 

Next turn, Luna switches out Garchomp for Arcanine. It takes the Hidden Power without any issues, and Ninetales locks Locust’s Arcanine into Helping Hand with Encore. Three turns later, Locust has lost both his Nihilego and Kyogre, and when Luna’s Ninetales goes down, she brings in Lunala, who sets up a Tailwind. From there on out, her Geomancy boosted Xerneas is prepared to sweep. 

 

Luna knows she has to tread carefully. She can’t mess up now. She pauses for a long moment, wondering if Rayquaza would dare Protect. When she looks up, she meets Locust’s eyes. He’s done choosing his moves already. Luna knows he’s a reckless player, and so she decides to risk it. It pays off when Rayquaza is knocked out with one Moonblast, even though it breaks Lunala’s Shadow Shield with a Dragon Ascent. And then all Locust has left is the Kyogre. A full HP Water Spout would be dreadful, but hopefully… 

 

Xerneas moves first, and hits it hard with Moonblast. When Kyogre’s HP drops to barely over half, Luna smiles. Because Lunala sends a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom, doubling into it, and it goes down. Luna wins.

 

“Well played.” She looks up from her 3DS, eyes widening in surprise. Locust just… gave her a genuine compliment, and she’s shocked. 

 

“Thanks,” she says. They shake hands, Luna reaching out stiffly. His palm is cold, and she flinches. As she scribbles her messy signature on the match slip, there’s a tap on her shoulder. She jumps.

 

“Hey.” Gladion. Again. Luna looks up, and Gladion meets her eyes. Then he looks across the table at Locust, and he clenches his jaw. “You again,” he says coldly. Locust glares at him, and Gladion meets his eyes with the same intensity. Luna quickly stands up. 

 

“Gladion, we should-” Locust interrupts her. 

 

“Luna, are you going to introduce me to Mr. Emo over there, or no? Because you seem to be hanging around him a whole lot,” Locust snaps. Luna clenches her fists. 

 

“What’s it to you?” She spits. Locust rolls his eyes. “In fact, it doesn’t even matter to you, considering I’m not-” Shit. What did I nearly just say? I… Luna thinks. She barely caught herself. 

 

“Not my girlfriend anymore? Yeah, I’m aware.” Luna freezes, and Gladion’s jaw drops. On the contrary, Locust smirks and turns to Gladion, who quickly recovers, grabbing Luna’s arm protectively. Her eyes widen in surprise, and she feels her face heat up. “I’m Locust, Luna’s ex. And you are?” Oh no.  

 

“Gladion Aether,” he says coldly. “Top 4 at Worlds last year, and one of Luna’s friends.” Locust snorts.

 

“Interesting. Shouldn’t you be prepping for your own match, then?” He asks smoothly. Gladion tightens his grip on Luna’s arm, and she winces. He quickly lets go. 

 

“I’m here on a Day 2 invite-” Gladion starts. No. Get out. Get. The. Hell. Away. Luna grabs Gladion’s hand, and turns away from Locust abruptly.

 

“Gladion, let’s go.” She shoots an icy glare over her shoulder at Locust, and then drags Gladion away. She ignores the way her palm is sweating, and the way that she can’t bring herself to meet his eyes. He doesn’t need to see the red that’s crossed her cheeks, and he doesn’t need to see the fear in her eyes. They’re well out of the play area when either of them finally speaks.

 

“What was that?” Gladion leans against the wall, and Luna looks down, hastily letting go of his hand in embarrassment. “Are you okay?” She bites her lip.

 

“I’m fine,” she replies. Or she will be, at least, if she can push Locust to the back of her mind. “I’d rather not talk about it. He’s just… he shouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t want you to-” Luna freezes, catching herself just in time. Shut up, Luna. Just shut up. You’re going to -

 

“Know?” Shit. “Why, Luna?” Gladion asks. “It’s not a big deal. Everyone has an ex at some point. It can’t have been -” He stops. “Oh. What did he do?” His tone is blunt and his question simple, but Luna freezes.

 

“Please don’t, Gladion. I don’t want to talk about this,” she says. He looks down. 

 

“Am I pushing you too far?” Yes. “Because if so, sorry. But I want you to know that I meant what I said back there - we’re friends. I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to me, just because…” He pauses. “Oh shit. Please don’t tell me you still hate me for last year?” Luna almost laughs at the suggestion. It’s quite the opposite, in fact.

 

“No. Quite the contrary, in fact. I just… yeah.” She has no clue what to say. So instead, she turns away. “I’m off to check my matches for the next round. You coming?”  Gladion stands up straight, and nods. 

 

“I’m coming.” 

 

-

 

Luna’s three rounds into Swiss, and she’s absolutely starving. It’s only 1:00, but she didn’t eat nearly enough for breakfast due to her nerves. She knows she has a snack stowed away in her bag somewhere…

 

“Nope.” She looks up, and Gladion faces her, arms crossed. He sits down. “No more goldfish.” Luna laughs, and then stops. Oh my god. The goldfish from Internats. Why does he even remember that? He senses the confusion on her face. “It’s hard to forget such a stupid move,” he remarks. Luna facepalms. Wonderful. “Okay though, I got you and Hau sandwiches. You know where he is?” Luna’s eyes light up when she spies the wrapped sandwich in Gladion’s hand. She doesn’t even care what’s in it at this point - she needs food, and now. 

 

“No, sorry. But he can’t be that hard to find, considering he’s probably making a racket right now,” Luna replies. “And for real?” Gladion rolls his eyes.

 

“Yes.” He places the sandwich into her hand, and Luna grins. “Hope it’s okay and all-”

 

“Oh my god. Thank you so much!” She says. Briefly, she’s tempted to give him a hug. But then she realizes how awkward that would be, and stops. “How much do I owe you?” Luna reaches her hand into her bag, feeling for her wallet.

 

“Nothing.” She looks up in surprise at Gladion’s nonchalant tone. “It’s not a big deal.” Right. This is coming from the guy who offered to help you pay for Internats, she reminds herself. “I’ll see you later, okay? I gotta go find Hau.” Luna nods.

 

“Gotcha. Well, thanks again!” She replies. Gladion nods and turns around, waving once over his shoulder.

 

“Bye, Luna.” Her name sounds different coming from him. “Good luck in your next round!” She smiles.

 

“Thanks. I… appreciate that.” And she really does. 

Chapter Text

Moon: Congrats to Hau and Luna for clearing Day 1!

 

Luna: thanks :D

 

Hau: thank you!!!!

       so happyyyyyyy

 

Luna: haha

         me too

 

Hau: :D

 

Luna: oh so i was wondering

         you guys wanna meet up for dinner? 

         there’s a really good ramen place nearby

 

Hau: yesssss

 

Moon: sure!

 

Gladion: i guess so

 

Hau: ENTHUSIASM, GLADS!!!

 

Gladion: shut up

 

Hau: D:

 

Luna: haha

         lemme check address and all, but you wanna meet in like, 30?

 

Moon: sure!

 

Gladion: that works

 

Hau: YAY!! So hungryyyyyy

 

Luna: haha same, see you all soon!

 

Moon: you too! 

 

Gladion: see you

 

-

 

Gladion really, really, does not want to be there. As he and Hau approach Luna, who is waiting outside the building, he has to remind himself why he even came. Honestly, it’s because he can’t bring himself to say no to her. He likes spending time around Luna and getting to know her a little better, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. So he forces himself to rid his face of his near permanent scowl when she greets them.

 

“Hey, Gladion, Hau!” Luna says. She winces and flashes Gladion a small smile as Hau gives her a hug, and he knows exactly how she feels. They both love Hau - he’s a great friend. But his hugs are… a little overwhelming. 

 

“Hey.” Finally, Gladion’s able to speak, and his voice comes out… weaker than he had hoped. But Luna doesn’t notice, and as Hau steps back, Gladion holds out a bag. “Luna, here’s your stuff from yesterday, by the way.” He didn’t put in the stuff he got her, and he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t know when he plans on giving it to her, either. But Luna grins, and takes it from him.

 

“Thank you!” She reaches into her bag and pulls out her wallet. “I owe you $150, right? And what about the sandwich from earlier? Because you saved my life right there, you know-”

 

“Don’t bother,” he says. She freezes, and her eyes widen. Even Hau shoots him a questioning look, and Gladion glares at him. He better not say anything now. “It’s not a big deal. I set aside a lot of money for Worlds too, but I didn’t use most of it, so I can cover your stuff and all,” he says. Luna’s jaw drops. 

 

“Excuse me? You can’t just -” She starts to protest, but Gladion cuts her off. My god, Gladion. What do you think you’re doing? But he doesn’t stop. 

 

“Pretty sure I can, Luna,” he says. She nearly laughs, and places her money back in her bag. 

 

“Thank you so much,” Luna replies. “I owe you.” Gladion simply shrugs. “Should we wait for Moon, or head inside?” Gladion freezes. Shit. Moon. It’s been a year, and Moon will be here any second. But he takes a deep breath, and forces himself to open his mouth, as he tries to hide the old feelings suddenly rushing into his head.

 

“I think-” 

 

“Luna!” Moon. He’d recognize her voice anywhere. And when he turns around, he sees her sprinting towards them. Gladion pictured this so many times - he pictured them meeting, time and time again. And yet, he can’t even look at her. Because there’s somebody else behind her. “Sorry we’re late!” She stops, breathing heavily. The boy behind her grabs her hand, and something clicks in Gladion’s head. “I hope you don’t mind, but this is my -” Boyfriend. “-boyfriend, Sun.” And Gladion almost wants to laugh. Sun? My god. Sun and Moon. That is the most stupid thing ever. 

 

“That’s okay!” Luna truly seems unfazed. “You guys wanna head inside?” Moon nods, and Gladion turns around. He doesn’t speak a word as he follows Luna inside, and Hau comes up on his left. 

 

“Shit, dude,” he whispers. Gladion snorts. 

 

“I’m not surprised.” He kinda is. “And it’s not like…” he looks up, and meets Hau’s eyes. “We broke up, Hau. And it was clearly for the better.” But at least he isn’t lying. Especially with Sun in the picture, he and Moon are done. They have been, ever since September. Even since her plane departed, Gladion knew things would never go back to the way they were before. And that’s okay with him. 

 

“That’s all you have to say?” Hau asks, voice rising. “Moon literally has a-” Gladion glares at him. 

 

“Keep it down, Hau,” he snaps. He looks back at Sun and Moon, and neither of them seems to notice. Suddenly, Moon looks up. And Gladion meets her large gray eyes for the first time all evening. 

 

They get a table for five, and the restaurant is close to empty. After all, it’s late. There’s another large group in the opposite corner of the room, and they’re clearly wearing Pokemon shirts. Gladion loves that about Worlds. Somehow, people from all around the world can come together and bond over the same game. But he can’t let himself get lost in thought for too long, because he’s pretty sure Hau is in trouble. 

 

“I told you! Udon is the superior Kantonian noodle soup!” He protests. On Gladion’s left, Luna glares at him playfully, and Moon laughs. Gladion catches Sun’s eye from across the table, but Moon’s boyfriend merely crosses his arms. 

 

“Come on, Hau! How - wait, no pun intended!” Hau laughs. “How can you even think that?” Luna sounds genuinely confused, but she’s laughing too. Gladion likes seeing her - Stop. Stop, Gladion, goddamnit. Focus, he thinks. But yeah. He likes seeing Luna smiling like that. He can’t convince himself he doesn’t. 

 

“Guys, can you just agree to disagree?” Moon interrupts. Amusement twinkles in her eyes, and Luna sighs. Hau leans back in his chair and shrugs. 

 

“Fine…” Luna says. Her tone is almost bored, but the smile on her face says otherwise. 

 

“Great. Now we can move on. How did Swiss go for you guys?” Moon asks. “I mean, you obviously both cleared, which is amazing, but still. I really hope we can play tomorrow!” Gladion sure doesn’t. 

 

As Luna and Hau give rundowns of some of their matches, Gladion begins to think. Tomorrow, he starts his run at Worlds. There are going to be players like Moon, who could stop him easily in his tracks. The trick is getting around them. And it doesn’t help that Luna and Hau have been thrown into the mix either - they’re both good, and he doesn't want to take any chances. He’d avoid all his friends - or rivals, maybe - at any cost. 

 

“My eighth round was against this Astrid girl from Kalos, and it was like, literally insane,” Luna rants. Gladion wants to block her voice out of his mind, but fails. “She was running Xernala! Like, can you believe it? Nobody runs Xernala anymore!”

 

“You do,” Gladion interjects. Luna shoots him a playful glare. 

 

“Not the point, Gladion!” She says. “Anyways, I won the Lunala speed tie, but then she won the Xerneas speed tie, and it was, like, so close!” Luna rants as it gets later, doesn’t she? I don’t think I’ve ever seen her like this, he thinks. And suddenly, he feels something building in his throat. Anger, almost. And he doesn’t know why. 

 

It’s at that point he realizes that when Moon said she liked someone, she wasn’t lying. Not that he ever thought she was, but she actually has a new boyfriend now. And it doesn’t bother him - it isn’t like he’s jealous of Sun or anything - but it feels… odd to him. For the longest time, nobody knew Moon as well as he did. It feels different now, knowing that their friendship has changed in so many ways, and that they’ll only grow farther apart from now on. He looks across the table at Sun, who seems extremely bored. Clearly not a VGC player. And before Gladion knows what he’s even doing, he cracks. 

 

“Moon, aren’t you going to introduce us to your boyfriend?” He spits. Moon winces, and Gladion immediately scolds himself. He doesn’t even know why he’s so… upset. She shoots him an icy glare that he remembers all too well, and he returns it. 

 

“Right, sorry!” Moon brings back her smile immediately, and turns to Sun. “Sun, this is my friend Luna. She’s from around here, and we message each other sometimes!” That comes as a surprise to Gladion. He didn’t know Luna and Moon had become… so close. But the smile on Luna’s face tells him that Moon isn’t lying. “And then that’s Hau, of course. He was one of my best friends before I moved. They both play VGC,” she says. Sun nods along, and then Moon turns to Gladion. Both of them freeze, and Luna casts him an odd look. “And then this is…” He can’t help himself. 

 

“Moon, how long do we plan on hiding this?” He snaps. Her jaw drops. Shit. What did you just say, Gladion? He thinks. But he feels his blood begin to boil, especially when he sees the angry look in Moon’s eyes. And it’s for no good reason, except that… he’s sick and tired of secrets, even if this was all his fault in the first place. He’s the one who added Luna, and he’s the one who refuses to tell her anything. But today, something has pushed him far over the edge, and he’s about to plunge into ice cold water. 

 

“I-” 

 

“I’m Gladion Aether.” He cuts Moon off abruptly, before she gets a chance to protest. Both of them know what Gladion’s about to say. “One of Moon’s friends, her rival, and…” For the first time, he hesitates. But then he shakes it off, and continues. “I’m also her ex.” 

 

On Gladion’s left, Luna freezes. Across the table, Sun has almost no reaction at all. Moon merely sighs, and Hau’s jaw drops. Oops. 

 

“Nice to meet you, then,” Sun says. He doesn’t sound as cold as Gladion had expected, somehow. “Are you-”

 

“Sorry, I have to go use the bathroom!” Luna says suddenly, tripping over her words. Gladion turns and she stands up immediately, scurrying away as fast as she can. Gladion’s eyes widen, and Moon bursts out laughing. 

 

“Oh. My. God.” Gladion turns back to her, and for some reason, she’s grinning. “Yes! It’s her, right?” Gladion’s mouth falls open. Excuse me? What - Oh shit. Moon’s got it. I told her I liked someone, and… He doesn’t reply for a long second, and things only get worse.

 

“What? I-” He begins to protest, but Hau cuts him off. 

 

“You like Luna????” He says loudly. Gladion glares at him, and he sinks down in his chair. “I knew it! I shipped it from the start! I-”

 

“Shut up, Hau,” Gladion says coldly. “We’re rivals, okay?” Moon snorts. 

 

“Don’t tell me you’re trying to pull another “not friends not enemies” card again,” she says. That hits hard. Gladion remembers speaking those exact same words to her, the first time they truly got to talk together. Sure, he was a little frustrated that he could never beat her, but… he already knew he liked her. It was the start of a long year, and one that ended terribly quickly. “Because you obviously like her - I know you well enough, Gladion,” she says. He sighs. Great. No avoiding it. At this point, everyone knows, he thinks. 

 

“Moon, I swear to god. You better keep your mouth shut about this, okay?” He snaps. She rolls her eyes. 

 

“Fine, jeez,” she says. He glares at her in warning, and she rolls her eyes.

 

“Plus, I’m pretty damn sure she doesn’t feel the same way,” Gladion starts. And it’s true. They’re barely friends now, and he won’t be surprised if Luna still harbors a dislike for him, especially with them being at Worlds all over again. 

 

“You sure about that?” Moon counters. Gladion’s jaw drops, and for the first time, he isn’t. Because Moon is almost always right.

 

-

 

“Hey, Luna?” She stops. They’re the only two left, standing in the cold outside of the hotel, and Luna turns around, shoving her hands in her jacket pockets. “Are you okay? You seemed a little… off, earlier.” And it’s true. When she came back from the bathroom, she wasn’t the same. Her smile was weaker, her eyes a little dimmer. Her laugh was nervous, and Gladion saw her fidgeting with her fingers under the table. 

 

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing,” Luna replies. He doesn’t know if that’s the truth, but it’s too hard to tell. “But I can’t wait to get some sleep! I-” She’s trying to make an escape. That much he knows. But Gladion can’t help but want answers. 

 

“Answer me, Luna. You seemed really tense after you came back from the bathroom,” he says bluntly. Her eyes widen, and Gladion knows he’s got her. 

 

“What?” She’s not a terrible liar, he’ll give her that. “Oh. I was just thinking about tomorrow, you know? Because we all know how Day 2 went last year, huh?” Yeah. I destroyed you. It’s obvious they both remember. “And I have to clear Swiss first. After all, I-”

 

“Stop.” She does. Because Luna never - she never talks about last year like that. And she certainly never… Gladion can’t explain it. But something is off. And she’s definitely lying. “You’re lying.” He’s blunt, and Luna freezes. 

 

“What? I-” Oh, you’re definitely lying now, he thinks.

 

“Luna, I’m not kidding. I’m just wondering, okay?” Oops. He didn’t mean to get that… defensive. When he sees Luna look down, he can’t help but feel a little bit bad. 

 

“I was just thinking, that’s all,” she says. “I didn’t realize - I don’t know. I was just surprised, you know? About you and Moon?” Oh. Wonderful. 

 

“Oh.” It’s all Gladion can muster. Luna avoids his gaze, and there’s a small flicker of hope in his chest. Because maybe Moon was right. But the expression on Luna’s face says that she was more than “a little” surprised. At the very least, it affected her a little more than she’s willing to let on. Why?

 

“Yeah,” she replies. “I didn’t realize you guys were so close and all,” she says. Gladion bites his lip. We were. We definitely were. But not so much anymore. 

 

“We’re not that close anymore, that’s for sure,” he says honestly. Luna looks up. “We just ended up deciding that long distance wasn’t really going to work.” Why did you say that? Luna doesn’t need to know, he thinks. 

 

“Yeah, I see. Locust and I-” She stops, and Gladion tightens his jaw. Locust. That’s right. Luna has an ex too. And it’s clearly worse than she’s pretending it is. After all, she refuses to tell him anything. And she clearly isn’t planning on continuing her sentence. But now…

 

“What happened between you two, Luna?” Gladion asks. “I’m sorry for prying.” He needs her to let her guard down a little. And Gladion isn’t trying to take advantage of her, at all. But he’s genuinely curious. And he’s wondering what happened that makes her so afraid. “But sometimes it helps to let it all out, you know?” She bites her lip. 

 

“Sometimes it is, Gladion. Sometimes it is.” And Gladion begins to think that maybe he’s broken through. “And this is not one of those times.” But then he’s proven wrong once more. “I hate talking about him, and I hate thinking about it. Can you please drop it?” And Gladion is tempted to. It’s his third time trying, and he feels like a terrible person for being so stubborn, especially when she clearly wants to be left alone. But he wants Luna to be able to move on, even if it’s just to make her happy. And if talking is what’s going to help, then…

 

“Luna, this is the third time,” he starts. He has to tread carefully. Luna doesn’t trust him enough, and it’s clear. But he hopes that one day, she’ll see him as the friend she needs. “I don’t know what happened, but please trust me. Whatever happened, it’s not going to change anything, if that’s what you’re afraid of. Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean we can’t be close enough as friends for you to trust me like this.” At this rate, he’s going to friendzone her. But he doesn’t care, as long as it works. Luna shows no reaction, and Gladion takes a deep breath. “I promise, I-”

 

“He cheated on me.” Her words are quiet and shaky, and Gladion freezes. Then Luna turns away, and all falls quiet. 

Chapter Text

Gladion has to focus. He has to make Top Cut. He has to not think about… He can’t think about anything, except for his matches. He can’t slip up now. Not when he’s come so far, that’s for sure. What happened last night doesn’t matter. What happened to Luna doesn’t matter. Nothing matters, except for the upcoming battles. And of course, his current match. Because if he wins this, he’s in Top Cut without question. 

 

His opponent’s name is Shadow Artemooni, and she’s from Johto. They’re both 4-0, and now all Gladion has to do is win this one. After that, he’s fighting for seeding. Supposedly, she’s really good. He’s heard about her from opponents, and she’s definitely one of the top players from her region. But he’s already won Game One, and Gladion forces himself to buckle down and focus. 

 

Shadow leads with Medicham and Kyogre, while Gladion himself chooses Groudon and Incineroar. The latter lands a vital Intimidate on Medicham, who, along with Kyogre and Groudon, Mega Evolves on the first turn. It uses Fake Out on Groudon, but because Gladion was able to win the weather war, the harsh sunlight from Groudon’s Desolate Land ability removes most of the threat from Kyogre. Incineroar uses U-Turn, chipping away at Medicham and bringing in Metagross. But the game goes south quickly when Shadow brings in Nihilego. Gladion thought he knew the Ultra Beast all too well - he’s faced them many times before, and lost. But this one is different. It uses Role Play into Kyogre, and gains Primordial Sea. Now, the heavy rain cancels out Groudon’s sun, and Groudon goes down to a single Origin Pulse from Shadow’s Kyogre, while his Metagross is brought down to under 10% of its HP. All it takes is an Ice Beam, and it goes down. It’s at this point Gladion knows he’s going to lose. Yveltal and Tapu Koko come in, taking out Kyogre, who Shadow fails to Protect, but it doesn’t matter. Nihilego uses Power Gem, and Yveltal goes down before it’s able to hit Lunala with a super effective dark type attack. The game ends when Gladion forfeits, and he clenches his jaw. They’re going to a Game Three.

 

Suddenly, something changes. Shadow makes one mistake after another, and Gladion takes an early lead. He isn’t sure if she has something up her sleeve, if he’s actually playing that well, or if she’s just cracking under the pressure. Nihilego, the same Pokemon that caused him so much trouble last game, goes down immediately. It’s Focus Sash is broken with a Bullet Punch from Metagross, and Mimikyu sends its Z-Move into it as well, knocking it out Turn 1. And with Mimikyu’s Disguise still intact, Trick Room goes up for the first time in the set, and with Shadow’s entire team relying on Tailwind and Electroweb to gain speed control, Gladion sweeps her team immediately. Medicham goes down to a Play Rough, while Tapu Koko is knocked out with Iron Head. Under Trick Room conditions, all four Pokemon Gladion brought are able to move before any of Shadow’s. Lunala comes out last, and Gladion doubles into it, knowing it doesn’t carry Protect. He’s able to knock it out in one turn, and it’s over. Gladion has made Top Cut, without any issues. 

 

-

 

Gladion: how’d it go?

 

Luna: 5-2 :D

 

Hau: 3-4 :(

 

Luna: awww

 

Moon: aww that sucks

 

Luna: wbu?

 

Moon: 7-0

 

Luna: WHAT

 

Gladion: congrats

 

Luna: and you?

 

Gladion: 6-1

 

Luna: niceeee

          and sorry about that hau that sucks

 

Hau: tis okay :DDD

        at least i made day two!!!

 

Luna: imagine being that optimistic

 

Gladion: ikr

 

Moon: haha

 

Hau: but

        Moon destroyed me round 1

 

Moon: awww it wasn’t that bad! 

 

Luna: rip

 

Hau: YES IT WAS

 

Gladion: i have no doubts

 

Moon: I can’t decide if that’s really, really mean or not.

 

Gladion: eh

 

Hau: BUT I FORGIVE YOU MOON <33333

 

Moon: Haha thank you then! Good to know we’re still good :P

 

Gladion sighs. Of course Moon made it, and he isn’t surprised Luna did either. And as for Hau, it’s only his first time making Day 2, so it makes sense he still fell a little short. Now, they’re all headed into the single elimination Top Cut. The hardest bracket of the year. But Gladion can’t help but think. Because now, his Swiss Rounds are over, and he’s got a nice, half an hour break, as Seeds 15, 16, 17, and 18 fight to make the Top 16 bracket. Gladion’s in already, considering his record. And he spent the first 20 minutes of his free time grabbing a bite to eat, because he won’t be eating a proper meal until probably at least 9:30. Now, with the matches (and a snack) over and out of his head for now, his mind drifts to Luna. And immediately. 

 

It sucks, honestly. But Gladion knows he can’t hide forever. Especially since now, he finally got her to say something. And he promised to be a good friend for her, and that definitely involves congratulating her on Top Cutting.

 

He’s able to find her easily, as she sits at her Swiss table, scrolling through her phone. He taps her on the shoulder, and she looks up. There’s a light in her eyes, and she’s smiling. 

 

“Congrats,” he says. She places her phone back in her bag. 

 

“You too!” Luna’s grin grows wider, but then Gladion sees something. She’s not bad at hiding her emotions - that isn’t the issue. It’s just that Gladion’s too good at spotting them. And there’s no way she’s as happy as she’s pretending to be. 

 

“Thanks.” He pauses. How is he supposed to say this? “Are you excited for Top Cut?” He tries to sound concerned, and he can only hope she gets the idea. Clearly, the tone he uses is enough, and she bites her lip. 

 

“Are you going to kick my ass again?” She asks. Gladion freezes, and then sighs. 

 

“I’m sorry, Luna.” That's all he can say. He doesn’t know what else to do. He can’t promise he won’t beat her, if they, by chance, happen to battle again. They haven’t in months. But one year ago, this is where they met. And it’s clear Luna’s still scared. 

 

“Don’t be,” she says bluntly. “You were better than me, and you won. There wasn’t anything to it. It’s my fault I’ve been dwelling on it for so long, but I can’t really let go, for some reason. Did I ever tell you I swore to hate you forever after that? And now look at me. I-” She stops, and then stands up. You what? Gladion can’t help but wonder, even if he knows how foolish it is. But Luna makes no move to continue, and he sighs.

 

“I can’t blame you, honestly. It takes time to get over a loss sometimes,” he says. “You wanna go check matchups for Top 16?” Luna shrugs.

 

“Sure, I guess.” He can tell she’s nervous. He can tell that she’s afraid. But he doesn’t know what he can do to make it better, and Gladion starts walking, Luna following close behind. 

 

They make their way to the matchup board quickly, and push past a few other players to catch a glimpse of their names. It takes Gladion a moment, as he reads through row after row, and then he sees it. 

 

“Who you got?” Luna asks. His eyes flicker to her name. Shadow Artemooni, surprisingly. So she did Top Cut after all. But Gladion doesn’t reply, because his eyes land on the name next to his all over again. And then Luna’s do the same.

 

“Oh shit.” He almost laughs. He’s never heard Luna curse before, but he isn’t all that surprised. That’s the only reasonable way to react when it turns out your friend is battling your ex in the very first Top Cut round. 

 

“I know, right? Is he good?” Gladion asks. Luna sighs. 

 

“What do you think?” She replies. True. Everybody in Top Cut is good, he thinks. “But you’ll be fine, I’m sure of it. He didn’t make Day Two last year, if that helps at all.” It honestly doesn’t, but there’s nothing Gladion can do about it. 

 

“That’s good then. I can’t lose here,” he says. Luna nods. But that’s not the only reason he wants to win. Sure, Top 16 wouldn’t look too great on his record, but that’s not the important part. The important part is that it’s Locust. It’s Luna ex. And he cheated on her. Can Gladion really let that go without any sort of action? Honestly, no. 

 

-

 

“You again.” Gladion whips his head to the side, and clenches his fists. Locust stands against the wall, lowering a vlog camera from his face. Filming backstage is definitely against the rules, though it’s clear Locust’s been doing just that. But that’s not the reason it takes all of Gladion’s self control not to punch him right then and there. Now that he knows what happened, of course he’s going to be mad. Instead, he jams his hands into his pockets, gripping his 3DS tightly in his right hand. 

 

“I-” Gladion wants to confront him so badly. To do something at least. But then they’re called to the stage, and Gladion’s forced to hold himself back. Instead, they walk out onto the VGC stage, plugging in their headphones and 3DS’. If he wants to be angry with Locust, that’ll have to wait until after the battle. The battle that Gladion has no intentions of losing. 

 

It’s amazing how quickly Game One goes. Somehow, Gladion’s anger at his opponent has translated into flawless predictions and movements, and he manages to win with only Mimikyu fainted. Because it worked the first time, Gladion brings the Trick Room mode again. 

 

Kyogre is the slowest Pokemon on Locust’s team, and Gladion knows that he’ll be moving first under Trick Room at almost all times. But then Locust does something truly unexpected. He knows exactly what Gladion is getting at. Why are there so many unpredictable Nihilegos this year? Anyways, it has Trick Room. It literally has Trick Room. Gladion goes for it Turn One, and so does Locust. Because Locust knew exactly what Gladion was doing, and suddenly, the speed order is exactly how it started. With Mimikyu’s Disguise busted by Kyogre on the first turn, Gladion fails to set it up again, and settles for a Z-Move to get off as much damage as possible. But Kyogre protects, the Z-Move does barely any damage, and Mimikyu goes down to a Sludge Bomb. But to be honest, that’s the extent of Locust’s genius for that game. It’s incredible he wins, but thanks to some insane hax, Gladion can only watch as Groudon’s HP bar drops to zero. It’s infuriating. What are the odds of a quadruple - not even triple - but quadruple Protect? If Gladion’s mental math is correct, it’s around 1.5%. Seriously? But Gladion already knows he’s the better player. If RNG decides to play fair this time, Game Three should be his. Hopefully. 

 

He’s proved correct almost immediately. He skips Trick Room this time, and even though most of Locust’s team is moving first, Gladion pushes through easily. Sucker Punch lands into Kyogre Turn One, followed up by an Eruption from a full HP Groudon, which knocks out Kartana with no issues. With one of the biggest threats on Locust’s team gone, Gladion is set to sweep. He messes around with his positioning a little, and sacks Groudon for the sake of bringing in Tapu Koko. It does massive damage with Volt Switch, amd following a strong Sucker Punch from Yveltal, it’s more than enough to take Kyogre down. A few turns later, Mimikyu deals with Rayquaza easily, using it’s Z-Move, and then it’s over. Locust presses forfeit, because with only Arcanine left standing, he knows he stands no chance. It’s done, just as soon as it began. 

 

Backstage, Gladion can’t decide if he’s eager to leave or eager to land a punch into Locust’s face. Both sound pretty good. But Locust doesn’t give him a chance when he calls out to Gladion, as the latter begins to walk away. 

 

“So, are you Luna’s new boyfriend?” He asks. Gladion stops, and whips around. 

 

“No,” he snaps. Locust doesn’t need to know that Gladion’s attracted to his ex-girlfriend, that’s for sure. Locust rolls his eyes.

 

“Okay, jeez. Relax, dude,” he says. Gladion grits his teeth. There’s no turning back now. “You know, I was just wondering if she’d-”

 

“Shut up,” Gladion says coldly. He stalks forwards, meeting Locust’s eyes with a glare. “Just shut the fuck up.” Oh, he’s lost it now. “It obviously doesn’t matter to you, since you clearly don’t give a shit about Luna anymore,” he says. 

 

“Whoa, okay,” Locust says defensively. Nice try. I know what you did. Acting clueless like that really isn’t going to work, you little… “Can’t I be friends with my ex? Like, just because we aren’t dating, doesn’t mean-”

 

“You cheated on her,” Gladion snaps. Locust’s eyes widen, but he immediately regains his composure. “You’re a lying, cheating, asshole who somehow still has the audacity to pretend you care about her. What’s your problem?” He asks, shoving his hands into his pockets. Locust shows almost no reaction. 

 

“Who’s to say I have one? Can I not ask a question in peace?” He says. Quit acting so innocent, my god, Gladion thinks. He forces himself to breathe. He really should be handling this like a mature, respectful adult. But at the same time…

 

“News flash, but you aren’t her boyfriend anymore. Leave her alone,” Gladion snaps. “What even made you think she deserved to be cheated on?” Because she sure didn’t. 

 

“Not my fault I found someone better,” Locust replies calmly. Goddamnit. Why is he so good at keeping his temper in check? Gladion thinks. 

 

“Excuse me? Luna is…” Shit. Nope, don’t go there. Don’t you dare go there. “Luna didn’t deserve that at all, and you never deserved her.” Oh, he’s about to start yelling. This isn’t good. “You hurt her - can’t you see that?” Yup, he’s definitely yelling now. “You little-”

 

“Gladion Aether? We need you for your postgame interview, please.” Shit. Gladion forces himself to breathe, and he shoots Locust an icy glare before turning away.

 

“We’ll finish this later,” he snaps. If he had looked back, he would have seen Locust shrug and then walk away, and that only would have gotten on Gladion’s nerves even more. But he has an interview, and he’s late. For sure. 

 

“Excuse me, but please remain courteous to your opponents, both before and after the battle,” the employee says. Gladion follows her towards the interview area, and clenches his jaw. 

 

“It has nothing to do with the match,” he snaps. “It’s a personal thing.” He isn’t lying. 

 

“I understand, but please. We still need to maintain a friendly and supportive environment-” Just shut up. Gladion’s done. He doesn’t want to listen to this load of crap. Instead, he ignores her completely, and stalks away. 

 

-

 

“Gladion!” Luna waves at him, and he walks towards her. She’s smiling - she must have won. He doesn’t know why he doesn’t feel all that happy himself. Locust just… gets on his nerves, and badly. “Congrats!” He shrugs.

 

“Thanks,” he replies. 

 

“Why are you so tense?” Luna asks. Oh. He hadn’t even realized. Gladion loosens his shoulders and unclenches his jaw, sighing. He tries to crack a smile.

 

“Your ex is an asshole,” he jokes halfheartedly. It’s true. Luna laughs, and that makes Gladion feel a little better automatically. 

 

“Glad to know you’re on my side,” she says.

 

“I always am.” Gladion replies automatically, and then wants to smack himself. Why did he say that? “Anyways, wanna come check matchups with me?” He asks.

 

“Sure!” Luna answers. They begin their walk across the convention center, the matchup board in sight. “I’m gutted I couldn’t watch your stream, but how did it go?” She asks.

 

“Eh, it was fine. He got a quadruple Protect Game Two, but apart from that, I mostly swept,” he says. Luna’s eyes widen.

 

“Quadruple Protect????” She says. Gladion snorts.

 

“Exactly. Anyways, what about your match?” He asks. Luna shrugs.

 

“It was fine. Close, but my opponent had some terrible luck. Missed at least two Origin Pulses,” she says. Gladion nods. For the first time, they’re able to keep up a calm, casual conversation, as they talk about past battles and the ones to come. Either Luna’s really good at pretending, or she’s much calmer than he would have expected. After all, they’re going into Top 8, and…

 

“Do you see either of us?” Luna asks, breaking his train of thought. They’ve reached the board, and Gladion forces himself to focus. His eyes flirt across the list, and then… “Wait, there we go. I-” 

 

There it is. 

 

Luna Kajiba [PB] (Seed 12) VS Gladion Aether [AL] (Seed 4)

 

Oh no.

Chapter Text

Luna Kajiba [PB] (Seed 12) VS Gladion Aether [AL] (Seed 4)

 

“Oh shit.” Yeah. He’s right.  

 

Neither of them speaks for a long moment. Then Luna finds herself staggering backwards, and her heart begins to race. 

 

“Luna?” Gladion. Gladion Aether. What has she been doing these past 6 months? What the fuck has she been doing? She’s been befriending - heck, even falling in love with - the one person she swore to hate. And now, it’s all going to happen again. It would be better if she just…? “Luna, you okay?” Why does he always pretend to care so much? Why is he being so… nice? He’s tricked her. He’s tricked her into thinking that he’s her friend, and that she can trust him, just so he can beat her down all over again. What did she ever do to deserve this? “Luna, please listen to me.” But she can’t deny how genuine he sounds. And maybe… She needs to trust her gut. The past 6 months have been real. Completely real. Neither of them can ignore how close they’ve become. And even if she loses, Luna has to…

 

“I can’t.” Her voice comes out as a croak, and Luna winces. “Please, Gladion. I…” 

 

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I don’t know what to do for you. I’m sorry last year hurt you so much, and I’m sorry that… Shit. I’ve got no clue, Luna. I promise I won’t-”

 

“Don’t go easy on me.” His eyes widen, and Luna clenches her jaw. She may have lost last year. But that doesn’t mean she can’t at least try again. She wants to give up, and forfeit the match. She really does. But to come so far and to give up so easily… She can’t do that. “Don’t go easy on me. If you beat me down again, then screw it. Whatever. I’ll just have to accept I’ll never be good enough. But I want a real battle, understood?” Oh, she’s so going to regret this in twenty minutes. But she won’t go down without a fight. Luna never does. 

 

“Understood.” And Gladion doesn’t either.

 

-

 

“I can’t, Gladion. I can’t make myself go out there, and you can’t either,” she says quietly. Her voice shakes and wavers, and there’s definitely a tear rolling down her left cheek. She’s crying. Goddamnit. “Can’t you just tell them I’m not coming? I can’t do the battle. I don’t want to…” She looks down. Lose again. 

 

“Luna. Stop.” Gladion’s voice is firm, and he begins to pace back and forth. “Stop beating yourself up over a loss that happened so long ago, and stop beating yourself up over something that isn’t your fault. You played your best then, and so did I-”

 

“And my best isn’t good enough!” She screams. “My best isn’t good enough at all, okay?” Luna falls backwards, leaning into the wall. “My best isn’t good enough, because I’m not good enough. I don’t even deserve to be here. I-”

 

“Luna, I swear. Is it worse to lose, or is it worse to not even try?” She freezes, and Gladion stops. “Exactly. You can’t end your run at Worlds with a forfeit because you’re afraid. This isn’t you. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but Luna Kajiba doesn’t give up just because she’s afraid. If that was true, you would have quit VGC after last year. If that was true, you wouldn’t even be here. If that was true…” He pauses, and his voice cracks. “You wouldn’t have given me a second chance.” And Luna doesn’t know what to say to that. 

 

“I-” 

 

“So do you want to forfeit or not? Because you’re right. I can’t make you go out there,” Gladion says firmly. “But I can promise you, you’ll regret it if you don’t even try.” And Luna knows he’s right. But fear and confidence have been issues for her ever since last year, and now… the stakes are much higher than ever before, and everything is falling perfectly into place for Gladion to win again. “I know you’re thinking about last year.” Oh. “And I’m sorry, but I don’t understand why you’re so afraid. A loss is a loss. You’ve lost before. So why did last year matter so much?” Luna freezes, and finds herself unable to speak. Because to be honest, she has no clue. There’s a long moment of silence before she finally replies. 

 

“I’ll do it,” she says quietly. “I’ll do it.” She doesn’t even bother answering Gladion’s second question. But now, he nearly smiles, and that does it. Luna stands up straight, and takes a deep breath. “You promise-” But then they’re called to the stage, and she stops. Gladion begins to walk ahead, and then turns back when Luna doesn’t follow.

 

“Luna, let’s go. You’ll be fine.” For some reason, she can’t force herself to move. Come on, Luna. Get a move on, she thinks. Suddenly, Gladion grabs her left hand, and pulls her forwards. She stumbles once, and then looks up, meeting his eyes. Shit. “You okay?” Goddamnit, Gladion. Just the distraction I need right now. She takes a deep breath and nods, pulling her hand free from his. Battle first, feelings later. 

 

Soon enough, they’re walking onto the main stage from opposite sides, and Luna’s heart begins to race. The emcee asks them to shake hands, and Luna feels herself go numb as she extends her arm. Gladion shakes it, with almost none of the stiffness from last year. But the feeling of being on stream remains, and Luna can’t help but tense up. As she sits down, she can hear the voices of the announcers, right before she puts on her headphones. Heck, even they realize this is a rematch. 

 

“We can’t wait to get right into this battle,” one of them says. “Luna and Gladion are promising an exciting battle to come. And you know, it’s really interesting - this is an exact rematch from last year!” 

 

“Yeah,  you’re right! These two players battled in the Top 8, here at Worlds, last season,” the other one agrees. “Last time, Gladion was able to edge his way to victory-” It wasn’t even close. “But we’ll have to see if Luna’s able to change it up this time.” Probably not. But Luna can’t let anything get to her right now. Not Gladion’s concerned gaze, trying to meet her eyes from the other side of the table. Not the roaring crowds, not the pressure. Not the fear, and certainly not the memories. All Luna knows is that she has to win. If not, she doesn’t even know what will happen to her. And now that she’s here, there’s no turning back. She can either give up and press the dreaded forfeit button, or she can try her very best and refuse to go down without at least somewhat of a fight. Then the match begins.

 

Ninetales. Garchomp. Celesteela. Xerneas. Lunala. Arcanine. 

 

Yveltal. Groudon. Tapu Koko. Metagross. Incineroar. Mimikyu.

 

Luna knows Gladion’s team by heart, and Team Preview is merely a reminder to her. She flips open her notebook, frantically scribbling down the names of each of his team members. Soon enough, she’s selected her four Pokemon, and the battle begins. 

 

You are challenged by Pokemon Trainer XXglazioXX! 

 

Goddamnit. His name. She remembers it from last year, and from each and every online tournament they’ve battled in. It’s beginning to get to her. This is exactly how things began last year, when she came into her match with high hopes and far too much confidence. This time, Luna expects to lose once more. And she knows that isn’t good - but she can’t help it. She’s never beaten Gladion. So what makes her think she can do it now? After trying so hard to get herself to at least try, Luna can’t help but think it’s useless. When the game begins, there’s no way she’s able to focus in the slightest. And it’s obvious.

 

She starts with Garchomp and Ninetales. Gladion chooses Incineroar and Metagross. First, Luna clicks Aurora Veil and Protect. She doesn’t breathe, as the screen shows “ Communicating… ,” while Gladion makes his move. It takes too long, in her opinion. Shoot. Did I do something wrong? Should I have… There’s no more waiting. But then she sees Incineroar use Fake Out, and she knows she’s going to lose. Ninetales flinches. Aurora Veil fails. Garchomp Mega Evolves and immediately Protects. And then… Iron Head. Gladion chooses Iron Head. Ninetales goes down first turn. Garchomp wasted Protect, and should have used Swords Dance. Ninetales should have used Protect instead. Luna should have - She just did everything possible to ruin this match.

 

The rest of the game is nothing but smooth sailing for Gladion. And Luna can tell she isn’t playing her best. She brings in Lunala next, who sets up a Tailwind immediately. Garchomp uses Stone Edge. It’s super effective, yet it doesn’t even do 50% of Incineroar’s health. Metagross goes for a safe Iron Head into Garchomp, and Incineroar U-Turns out, breaking Lunala’s Shadow Shield and bringing in Yveltal. Great. Yet Luna reassures herself it’s going to be fine. Absolutely, utterly fine. Lunala Protects, Garchomp Protects. She’s testing out the field, that’s all. But somehow, Gladion calls her perfectly. He brings in Mimikyu for Metagross, and it takes no damage whatsoever. Next turn, Luna doubles into it, in hopes of stopping it from setting up Trick Room. But Stone Edge comes nowhere near knocking out Mimikyu, after Lunala is forced to merely break its Disguise, and suddenly, with Trick Room in place, Gladion’s moving faster again. From there on out, he sweeps her team. He completely obliterates her entire team. First, Lunala goes down to a Sucker Punch from Yveltal. Then Garchomp gets knocked out with Mimikyu’s Z-Move, which has the horrible-but-also-hilarious name of Let’s Snuggle Forever. All Luna has left is Xerneas, and she can’t even bring herself to try. She forfeits. That’s it. Game One goes to Gladion, and Luna can’t even try. How pathetic. 

 

Lose appears over her avatar, and Win over Gladion’s. Of course. It was stupid to hope for anything else. And Luna knows it’s her fault. There are so many things she should have done. But she feels the corners of her eyes become wet, and she almost wants to cry. What was she even thinking? Why did she even come out and do this stupid match? If she knew she never stood a chance, what was the point of traumatizing herself all over again? 

 

Suddenly, there’s a tap on her shoulder. One of the judges is motioning for her to take off her headphones. Why? But she does, and across the table, Gladion does the same. 

 

“Attention, Pokemon Trainers. We are currently having a few complications with the stream, so please be patient while we get this fixed for all the viewers at home.” She can hear the crowd groan, and Luna bites her lip. A break. Great. A break, so she can continue beating herself up over how badly she fucked up that battle. 

 

“Luna?” She looks up, and Gladion leans over the table, arms folded. “You okay?” No. She doesn’t reply, and instead, she forces herself not to cry. She can’t cry now, and certainly not in front of… 

 

Gladion. 

“Yeah?” He asks. Shit. I must have said that outloud. “Well, you’re obviously not okay.” Yeah. “Look. Don’t get one loss get you down. You can still comeback-”

 

“That’s what I thought last year!” Luna screams. Suddenly, she claps her hands over her mouth. Hopefully, nobody heard her. She lowers her voice, and it becomes barely a shaky whisper. “I thought maybe I could come back, win Game Two, force a Game Three, whatever. Nothing. It wasn’t even hard for you. I wasn’t good enough, and I’m still not. I wish I wasn’t here. I wish I’d just given up. I wish I’d just-”

 

“Stop.” Gladion sits up straight, and Luna looks up to meet his eyes. “Stop saying these things. I get you’re upset, but that wasn’t your best. You’ve played better. You’ve cleared 16 Swiss Rounds, Luna. You beat one of the best players from Johto. You’ve given me a run for my money more times than I can count these past few months. You’re too busy feeling sorry for yourself to focus, I can tell. Quit it. Quit throwing yourself a pity party, and quit telling me about how afraid you are. You’re fine. And while you’re at it, you can quit with your “I’m not good enough” bullshit. Because both you and I know that isn’t true. In fact-” Luna falls backwards in her seat, and Gladion stops. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to-”

 

“Won’t you be upset if you lose?” Luna asks quietly. Gladion freezes, and bites his lip. 

 

“Yes. I will. But winning… this isn’t a win, Luna. Beating you down when you’re at your worst isn’t a win. Seeing you upset like this… how am I supposed to feel happy about that?” He says finally. “Like, jeez. You're depressed and crying right now. How can I be happy, if this is how you're going to be on the other end?” And suddenly, it seems real. Gladion and her have a friendship that’s completely real. And there’s a flash of something in his emerald eyes, that’s… Oh. 

 

“Thank you for your patience, everyone. We will now resume the action, here at the Pokemon World Championships!” Right.  

 

“I…” Luna looks down. “Thank you.” But Gladion doesn’t hear her. His headphones are back on, and Luna bites her lip. Game Two. And she has to pull herself together, or it’s all over. 

 

Luna chooses Ninetales and Arcanine, while Gladion uses Metagross and Incineroar once more. She needs to play safely, if she doesn’t want Turn One to go the same way it did last round. Now, she knows the movesets on both of Gladion’s leading Pokemon. So Luna double Protects, which eliminates the Fake Out pressure from Incineroar, along with the terrifying amount of damage Ninetales would receive from Iron Head. Next turn, Ninetales safely sets up Aurora Veil, and Arcanine, barely faster than Metagross, knocks it out in one turn with Flare Blitz. Two turns later, Gladion sets up Trick Room. But Luna is able to stall it out, switching in Arcanine time and time again for crucial Intimidates, while Aurora Veil prevents Gladion from landing a vital KO onto her Xerneas, who is then able to set up Geomancy. When the five turns are up, Luna’s Pokemon may be low on HP, but her positioning is perfect. A Moongeist Beam lands into Mimikyu, and Yveltal faints to a Geomancy boosted Moonblast. With only Incineroar left, Gladion presses forfeit, and Luna smiles. She now stands a chance. Thank god for Gladion’s little pep talk, because now? Luna is determined, focused, and not going down without a real fight. 

 

On Luna’s side, it’s Ninetales and Garchomp once more. For Gladion, he finally switches things up, choosing Mimikyu and Yveltal. Oh, how tempting it is to just Moonblast right into… But no. Luna can’t get too reckless like that. Right now, she wants to bait out a Trick Room from Mimikyu. Then she can use Encore, and lock it into the move, making it so it’s completely vulnerable for three turns. As the move time widdles down, Luna decides on Aurora Veil and Swords Dance. But Gladion reads straight through her. Mimikyu uses Taunt into Ninetales, and now, Encore is no longer an option. Ninetales can now only use Blizzard. And then Yveltal uses Foul Play, taking a huge chunk of HP out of Garchomp. Thank god Garchomp moved second, so that the Foul Play didn’t completely OHKO the dragon type after the Swords Dance attack boost. But Luna has to admit - Gladion’s good. Really, really, good. And it’s infuriating. 

 

Next turn, Ninetales goes for Blizzard. It does almost half damage to Yveltal, and breaks Mimikyu’s Disguise. And Luna knows Garchomp is going down this turn, so she clicks Tectonic Rage, Garchomp’s Z-Move. Mimikyu is eliminated, and the Trick Room threat is gone. Good. As predicted, a Foul Play from Yveltal knocks out Garchomp, and she brings in Xerneas. Next, Luna switches Ninetales out, bringing in Lunala. This forces the Moone Pokemon to take a super effective Snarl, but Luna likes her position. With the Aurora Veil up, Gladion’s Pokemon aren’t doing too much damage. Moonblast KOs Yveltal, and Lunala sets up Tailwind. But you can never underestimate Gladion Aether. 

 

Groudon and Metagross come in, the last two Pokemon on he’s team. Metagross is probably the worst possible Pokemon for Luna to face, with two fairy types on her side. And when Lunala goes down, Luna knows it’ll take a miracle for her to pull this off. She Protects Ninetales first, and Metagross’ Iron Head is rendered useless. Xerneas sets up a Geomancy, while Groudon is able to land a decent amount of damage on Luna’s side with Eruption. Now, she needs to decide which of the two Pokemon are a bigger threat. But Luna knows how Gladion plays. When she correctly predicts a Protect from Metagross, who is afraid of taking a +2 Moonblast from Xerneas, she’s able to lock Groudon into Eruption with Encore. Normally, Gladion wouldn’t have any issues with that. But when Luna hits it with the same Moonblast Metagross was so afraid of, it drops to only 45 HP, and Eruption does almost no damage. 

 

But it’s the next turn where things start to get really dangerous. Bullet Punch takes out Ninetales, and it’s Xerneas against both of Gladion’s Pokemon. Luna doesn’t know if it can take an Iron Head from Metagross, and she’s forced to think quickly. How can she even get herself out of this? There’s only one option. Even if Groudon isn’t doing much damage at all, the chip will add up. And Luna can’t afford that.

 

Dazzling Gleam takes out Groudon, and does a decent amount of damage to Metagross. And then it’s Gladion’s turn. The entire audience holds their breath, and Metagross uses Iron Head. Luna doesn’t move. 

 

She can picture Cresselia’s HP dropping to zero. She can picture it as it faints, and she can picture it as it returns to its Pokeball. And the real question is - will the same happen to Xerneas? The answer… No.

 

Xerneas survives. It survives on 3 HP. And when Luna clicks Moonblast one last time, she knows it’s over. 

 

She watches the animation in silence, and buries her face in her hands. It’s all too slow as Metagross’ HP bar slowly drops. And then it hits 0/155, and Luna can’t believe it. 

 

It’s the biggest victory of Luna’s life. She extends her right hand for a handshake, but she can barely believe her eyes. She’s beaten Gladion Aether. A year ago, she never would have guessed she’d be here. Nobody did. And now, through her headphones, she hears the crowd cheer. When she slips them off, it only gets louder. Then, when she looks up, Gladion is doing the same. He pushes himself to his feet, but Luna can’t see his expression, with his gaze fixed downwards like that. And it’s at that point that Luna realizes her hand is still outstretched, and he hasn’t shaken it. Is he upset? Is he…

 

Suddenly, he clasps her hand, and pulls her up. She staggers once, and then she falls forwards. Right into his arms. 

 

Luna feels her face heat up and her palm grows sweaty, their hands pressed together. Then Gladion wraps his left arm around her, hugging her tightly, and whispers a single word into her ear. 

 

“Congratulations.”

 

And it’s all she’s ever wanted. 

Chapter Text

Gladion doesn’t know whether to be upset about his match or not. On one hand, he easily could have won. He could have taken advantage of Luna’s state, and swept through her team like he did in the first game. Then, it would be him and Moon in the semi finals once more, though Gladion knows he wouldn’t have gotten past her anyways. But on the other hand, he wasn’t lying. It hurt to see Luna like that. And she clearly deserved to win. Once she got her head in the game, she outplayed him. Sure, it was close, but she outplayed him. And even if the little pep talk he gave her ended up causing him to lose, it’s okay. Because Luna deserved that win, and she didn’t deserve to feel the pain she did last year - or at least, that’s what Gladion wants to believe. He isn’t sure if he does quite yet. 

 

And then there’s the… Yeah. Gladion has no clue why he did that. He was probably intruding way too much into Luna’s personal space. After all, she seemed extremely uncomfortable. And what made him think it was okay to do that? To hug her like that, on stream, on stage, and at Worlds? Why was he so stupid? 

 

“Glads? Are you even paying attention?” Hau nudges him on the shoulder, and Gladion sighs. No, he definitely wasn’t. And now, Luna’s playing Moon up on the main stage. 

 

“Sorry, just thinking,” he replies. Hau rolls his eyes, but knows better than to press it. Instead, they both fix their eyes to the big screen. 

 

Moon’s winning. Though to be fair, Gladion expected nothing less. Moon’s good this year. Or, well, she always has been. But moving to Kanto? It’s done wonders for her playing. There’s no surprise she’s the only player who cleared Day 2 Swiss completely undefeated. And while Luna’s good too, she isn’t on Moon’s level yet. Even if Gladion hates to say it, it’s the honest truth. 

 

Game One is underway, and currently tipping extremely far in Moon’s favor. Luna chose to Protect her Ninetales first turn to avoid Fake Out, but Moon read her easily, and instead doubled into Celesteela, removing its berry with Knock Off and then using Flare Blitz with Incineroar. It kinda sucks, to say the least, at least for Luna. The Ultra Beast is able to use Leech Seed on Moon’s Alolan Muk, but it faints within the next two turns, and Ninetales is only able to set up Aurora Veil before being knocked out with a Gunk Shot. Now, she’s down to two Pokemon. But Luna doesn’t seem fazed, at least yet. It’s a little hard to tell from Gladion’s spot in the last row, but she doesn’t look too upset yet. Which is always good. 

 

As expected, Luna has her Xernala core in the back. It may not be too common, but Moon certainly knows how to play around it. Incineroar U-Turns into Moon’s own Lunala, while Luna Protects her Xerneas, who is able to avoid a nasty Gunk Shot from Muk. Luna needs to get the Poison type of the board, and fast. Next turn, with Luna’s Lunala is fully invested in Speed, it knocks out Moon’s with a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. That’s good, Gladion can assume. But when Xerneas, who itself used Geomancy, is brought into red HP with a Gunk Shot, Gladion knows it’s almost over. The +2 Moonblast knocks out Muk, and while the Pokemon count is even, Moon still has her Z-Move, and both her Pokemon are fully healthy. All it takes is a landed Precipice Blades from Primal Groudon and a Twinkle Tackle into Lunala, and Luna loses Game One.

 

It’s not that Gladion didn’t expect it. It just… isn’t the result he was hoping for. He wants Luna to win, even if he knows she probably won’t. Or at least, that’s what he’s telling himself, to make himself less disappointed. 

 

“Yes! Go Moon!” Sun, actually. He sits on Hau’s right, two seats over from Gladion. Moon’s new boyfriend… Gladion doesn’t really have an opinion on him. He’s similar to Hau, in a few ways. Optimistic, supportive, energetic, at least once you get to know him. Not that Gladion has - Hau has, but Gladion has no interest in befriending him. He holds nothing against Sun, but he just doesn’t see the point in getting to know his ex’s boyfriend, especially since he lives across the world in Kanto. He plays Pokken, that much Gladion knows. And he’s good. But if nothing else, he likes Moon, and Moon likes him. That’s what matters most. They’re happy, and that’s all Gladion wants. He just wants to make sure Moon’s okay now, because he’s still afraid he hurt her. But now, Game Two is starting, and Gladion has no time to think anymore. 

 

For Luna, it’s Arcanine and Garchomp. For Moon, it’s Muk and Tapu Fini. Neither of Luna’s Pokemon like staring down that Tapu Fini and the Fairium Z it carries. So Luna simply Protects both Arcanine and Garchomp. She’s testing out the field. Moon doesn’t have any stat boosting moves on either of her Pokemon to take advantage of the free turn, and simply uses Moonblast and Knock Off. Neither connects, and Turn One ends uneventfully. Now, Luna has to make a choice. 

 

Garchomp really doesn’t have much to hit either of Moon’s Pokemon, except for Earthquake. However, Luna doesn’t want to sack her Arcanine like that. Instead, she hard switches both of her Pokemon, bringing in Xernala once more. And by carefully choosing Lunala to place in the Garchomp slot, Xerneas is able to come in without the threat of a Gunk Shot. Scald hits, but doesn’t do much damage at all. Next turn, Luna sets up Tailwind and Geomancy, and both her Pokemon live. It’s close, but they live. And now, she’s set to sweep. 

 

Moonblast takes out Muk. Moongeist Beam brings Tapu Fini down to 50%. Luna’s playing well, and the gap is closing. Gladion feels himself tense up, and the crowd follows the battle closely and intensely. It’s the last match of the evening, and whoever wins is playing in the finals the next day. Either Luna wins this game, or she’s out. Next turn, Xerneas fires off a Moonblast,  and Lunala hits Groudon with a Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom. But Moon isn’t stupid. She Protects both her Pokemon, and the Z-Move does minimal damage. Next turn, Tapu Fini is knocked out, and Groudon is brought to below half its HP, but both of Luna’s legendaries go down. Now, it’s all Arcanine and Garchomp.

 

The odds of Luna winning are low. Extremely, extremely low. Lower than they have been all day, for sure. And while Gladion feels disappointed, he’s more worried about how Luna feels. Will she be upset again? It’s all he can think about when Arcanine gets hit with a Precipice Blades, eliminated completely. Garchomp Protects, and avoids a STAB, single target, Aerilate boosted Hyper Voice from Salamence, but Luna can’t stall forever. Next turn, Salamence hits Garchomp with Double Edge, and that’s it. Luna loses, and Moon’s onto the finals. 

 

-

 

“Moon!!!” Hau sprints forwards, and envelops his friend in a tight hug as she comes out from backstage. Moon laughs and winces slightly before he lets go. Then Sun comes forwards, planting a small kiss on her forehead, and Gladion bites his lip. Then he meets Luna’s eye, who stands behind Moon silently. He can’t tell if she…

 

“Hey, Luna. You okay?” Oh, stop it, he thinks, frustrated. But it’s too late now. But then Luna looks up and smiles, and it’s all real. 

 

“Of course! There’s no shame in losing to Moon, you know?” He’s surprised. Luna’s out, and yet… 

 

“But there is in losing to me?” He retorts teasingly. She laughs and rolls her eyes, walking towards him with her 

hands in her pockets.

 

“I mean…” Oh, she’s definitely trying to get on his nerves on purpose. And it’s hilarious. 

 

“Oh shut up,” he replies, amused. “You’ve won once, and I’ve won what - 5 times? I’d hardly say it’s even,” he

points out, crossing his arms. Luna giggles under her breath, and sighs.

 

“Fair, sure.” She doesn’t have a witty response this time. “But hey, I don’t think I’m gonna be salty over this one for an entire year!” He almost wants to laugh, but he can’t decide if that’s appropriate or not. “I tried my best, and there was nothing more I could have done against Moon. She’s really good.”

 

“Hell yeah she is,” Gladion replies. “I’ve never beaten her. 4 years of rivalry, and I’m yet to beat her. Isn’t that sad?” It kinda is, but Gladion isn’t upset about it, per say. Frustrating, sure. But it’s something he’s come to accept. Instead, he sees Moon as somebody he can constantly push after. They’re both improving, and Gladion’s matching her stride for stride. He just started off behind, that’s all. 

 

“Kinda,” Luna says. Gladion rolls his eyes. 

 

“Thanks a lot, then,” he retorts. Luna laughs again, and Gladion smiles. For real. Because even if they’re both done - even if they’ve both been stopped just short of the finals - Worlds has been fun. A whole lot of fun. And Luna’s moved on, and she’s happy. Automatically, Gladion can’t help but feel the same. Happy.

 

-

 

It’s the final day of Worlds, and it’s 12:03 in the morning. Gladion’s awake, of course. He never really gets more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep. Surprisingly, the hotel lobby is dead silent, and just the way Gladion likes it. It’s by far the emptiest it’s been all weekend. As he walks through the hotel, taking it all in one more time, Gladion lets out a sigh. This is it. Finals Day. Moon will be playing, for the second year in a row. He hopes she wins. And tomorrow, he’ll say goodbye to Luna again. For a long, 10 or so months. He doesn’t like it, yet he has no clue what he can do. Tell her that… he likes her? Or at least, he thinks he does? Because that sounds like a horrible plan. Instead, he focuses on absorbing as much of the atmosphere here as he can. The air inside the hotel is cold and crisp, large potted plants lining the walls. Then suddenly, Gladion stops. Looks like he isn’t alone after all.

 

He walks down the hallway quietly, and the sound grows louder and louder. Faint, still. But louder. Besides his quiet footsteps, somebody is singing, and somebody is planning piano at midnight. Why? It’s stupid how intrigued he is, but he heads towards the noise automatically. Then he finds himself leaning on the wall right outside the door where the music is coming from, and he listens. 

 

Luna. It’s his first thought, and he isn’t sure if it’s stupid or simply correct. Stupid, because he’s he’s probably jumping to conclusions way too quickly. But it does sound like her. He can’t deny it. So Gladion stands, listens, and waits. 

 

It’s hard to make out. But the tone of voice… it sounds so much like Luna, it’s frightening. It has to be her. 

 

It’s funny how it changes… 

 

Gladion shuts his eyes, and the voice grows louder. 

 

But nothing really changes… At all. 

 

Am I jaded? 

 

No, Gladion thinks.

 

Am I meant to feel this way?

I’m a loser, getting beat by my own game, 

 

Luna, please stop. He really, truly, wants her to. Because she sounds… afraid. Again. 

But if I falter, well at least it was my mistake,

Oh at least it was my mistake, 

 

He almost wants to burst through the door and tell her to shut up. But instead, he forces himself to listen. To stop, take a deep breath, and listen. 

 

‘Cause I choose to be this way, 

I’m a loser and I self deprecate, 

 

You aren’t, Luna. Luna, I… Gladion feels his breath growing shaky.

 

So when I falter, well at least it was my mistake

 

And Gladion wants nothing more than for her to pause and think about what she’s saying. Because if it’s all true, then he’s been a sorry excuse for a friend. It’s that thought that forces him to rest his hand on the door knob and crack it open. 

 

“Luna.” He doesn’t even know why he said anything and she turns around, pausing. The piano stops. “I didn’t know you…”

 

“Played piano?” She finishes. She closes the lid of the instrument and sighs. “I don’t, anymore. At least, not that often. But sometimes, I see it, and I can’t stop myself. I miss it sometimes. A lot. And I-”

 

“Please tell me you don’t mean what you said in that song.” Luna freezes, and Gladion takes a step forwards, as he begins to pace across the room. “Because if so, I’ve been a terrible friend. I should have -”

 

“Please don’t worry about me, Gladion. I’m fine,” she replies. “What are you doing up so late?” Normally, he’d change the topic back. Especially because Luna never gave him an answer. But at this point, he doesn’t want to push her. Instead, Gladion resorts to countering the question she just fired at him.

 

“I could ask you the same,” he says. Luna sighs. 

 

“You’re right, I guess. I’m just thinking about how this is it. You know, Worlds is almost over now,” she replies. She isn’t wrong. It’s not like he was thinking the exact same, walking down the hallway earlier. “It’s hard to believe that…” Luna’s voice trails off and she stops. Gladion doesn’t dare push her. He doesn’t want to do that now. Because, as he stops pacing, he can see the expression on her face. Tired, sure. But there’s something else there. Disappointment, almost. Sadness, maybe. 

 

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He isn’t joking. He dated Moon long enough to know that when a girl says “I’m fine,” she probably isn’t. “Because I really want you to be proud of how you played today. I know you wish you were in Moon’s spot. I think we all do. But please, don’t be upset. And I guess you’re better than me, so I can’t really be much help right now. But please, I’m…” He should really stop. Gladion should really, really, stop. But he can’t. “I’m proud of you, Luna.” And then he falls silent, and so does she.

 

He shouldn’t have said anything. He should have just shut up, and stayed silent. It wouldn’t have been that hard. And as the silence drags on, there’s nothing he wishes for more. 

 

“I’m sorry. I should go, shouldn’t I?” He doesn’t want to. He just wants to…

 

“Don’t.” Gladion freezes at the desperateness of Luna’s voice. “Please don’t. I like… talking to you.” Oh shit. Gladion has no clue what to make of that. And there’s a small part of him that wishes… 

 

He wishes that Luna likes him the same way he likes her. And there’s only one way for him to learn. He takes a deep breath, and...

 

“Luna, I-” No. He stops, and then he meets her gaze. And then everything is gone. Because he sees the look in her eyes, and he can’t say it anymore. Because if he’s truly stupid, than… No. Luna doesn’t need this right now. Because if she's truly as afraid as the look in her eyes says she is, there's nothing she needs more than the quiet presence of a friend. And Gladion can't ruin that now. “Nevermind.” He turns away, voice cracking. “Good night, Luna.” And Gladion can’t even bring himself to wait for a response. Instead, he walks towards the door, not allowing himself to look her in the eye again. Because that would break him.

 

“Gladion, please…” He stops. “Gladion, I think I-” And then she stops. Gladion freezes. And then Luna sighs. “Forget it. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for keeping you here.” Don’t be. “Breakfast at 7?” He can hear the hopefulness in her voice, and he can’t say no. He hasn’t been able to all weekend.

 

“Sure.” He rests his hand on the doorknob, and calls once more. “Night, Luna.” 

 

“Right. See you tomorrow,” she says. And then Gladion turns the knob, cracks open the door, and steps out. The door closes behind him with a click, and then all falls silent. 

Chapter Text

They don’t talk about last night. At least, Luna certainly doesn’t. She really does not want to think, let alone talk about, the fact that she came this close to telling Gladion she likes him. And she can only imagine how poorly that would have gone. 

 

Luna doesn’t like the fact she’s so afraid. She honestly shouldn’t be. And she doesn’t like the fact she backed out at the last possible moment. It sucks. And now, here she is. Sitting at breakfast, not eating, across the table from Gladion himself. And she obviously can’t think straight around him. 

 

“Are you going to eat?” Honestly, no. She probably isn’t. Luna’s too busy thinking to do anything. 

 

“Where’s Hau?” Shit. Wrong reply, she thinks. Gladion bites his lip. 

 

“With Moon. He says he’s going to help her prep for finals.” Oh. Well, it makes sense. But leaving her alone with Gladion for at least 4 hours… not the smartest move. “But Sun’s with her too, and he offered to teach Hau Pokken, so…” He cracks a weak smile, and it makes Luna do the same. Gladion almost never smiles. “I doubt there’ll be much VGC between them. After all, we both remember Internats, and to put it lightly… Hau has some work to do.” That makes Luna laugh. She definitely remembers the Pokken thing from Internats, and how Gladion kinda carried their whole team. It was a lot of fun, actually. 

 

“That’s very true,” she replies. “So, what’s the plan for today?” 

 

“Honestly, there is none,” Gladion says. Luna sighs. “Ideas?” Then she remembers.

 

“Pokemon Center?” She was unable to convince Gladion to take the money she owes him, and now, she can get even more of the stuff she wanted. That’s always a plus.

 

“Do you trust me?” He retorts.

 

“Yes.” Luna replies instinctively, and then scolds herself. What the hell? But she’s not lying. And sure, she can’t help but ask why Gladion even asks, but…

 

“Great. Then we’ll skip it.” Oh. Interesting. 

 

“What? But I-” She starts to protest, but Gladion interrupts her.

 

“You said yes, Luna. And I don’t think I noticed how damn fast that was.” Oops. It takes all of her self control to stop herself from blushing. Or at least, she’s trying. Luna’s got no clue if she actually succeeded. “Any other ideas?” 

 

Well… you could say Luna has one. A stupid one, sure. But… She takes a deep breath, and lets it out.

 

“Um… you wanna ditch and go get coffee or something?” And suddenly, she’s got no clue whether she just asked him out or not. 

 

-

 

He said yes. He actually said yes. And Luna can hardly wrap her head around it. 

 

She knows it isn’t really a date. Sure, it’s their first time together away from the venue, but still. It can’t be considered… that. Luna orders her usual - a chocolate chip frappuccino and a donut, while Gladion simply orders a plain, black coffee. She’s silently judging him for that one. And while he does his best to stop her from paying, Luna’s just too fast. They go with their coffee and grab a seat in a booth. Luna sighs. 

 

“So…” Yeah. She has no idea what to say. In fact, she doesn’t even know why she invited him here. Or to be more accurate, Luna never knows what she’s even doing in the first place around Gladion. At all. But that’s besides the point. After all, it’s the last day of Worlds, and she only has today too…

 

“Yeah?” Gladion’s voice breaks Luna from her thoughts.

 

“Nothing,” she says. She takes a bite of her donut to avoid saying another word. Gladion sighs, and leans back.

 

“Well, you excited for finals?” He asks. She pauses.

 

“Eh, I guess,” Luna replies. It’s not that she isn’t excited - but it’s not like she’s particularly looking forward to it. After all, she isn’t going to be playing, and even though Moon is her friend, the Finals aren’t… the biggest thing on Luna’s mind right now. “How about you?” Gladion shrugs. 

 

“I mean, I’m not playing, so…” He’s thinking the exact same thing. “I’m cheering for Moon, of course, but still. I’ve never been on that stage, and sometimes, I wish it was me up there instead. It doesn’t help to see the Juniors and Seniors playing, either.” That’s true. A lot of them are so young, yet they’ve already accomplished more than Luna has in her own VGC career. It’s a little frustrating, sometimes. “And honestly, they’re not even always very good. I mean, I get they’re young, but I’ve seen some pretty questionable decisions.” Luna can’t argue with that.

 

“Yeah, I get it,” she says. Eyeing the cup in Gladion’s hand, she sighs. “Do you always order black coffee? And how do you find that tasty?” Luna’s genuinely curious. 

 

“Yes, and I don’t know,” Gladion replies. He takes another sip, and pauses before continuing. “I just like it, I guess. It’s a little bitter, but I’ve gotten used to it. And it has more caffeine, so…” 

 

“And based on last night, you don’t get much sleep, do you?” Oh. Luna didn’t even mean too… Last night. Stop, Luna. Just shut up. That was the last thing she needed to say. 

 

“Honestly? No.” Somehow, Luna laughs. She isn’t surprised. “I feel like I focus better when it’s late." Luna can relate to that. She tends to stay up pretty late too, and last night was nothing strange for her. “Are you going to explain why you were playing piano at midnight?” Initially, Luna wants to say no. But then she thinks. Because how many chances is she really going to have?

 

“I guess I’m the same, then. Late nights are normal for me. And I think I just needed to…” She pauses. “Let some stuff out.” She knows what she said. She knows the lyrics to that song by heart. Of course she does. And Luna would be lying if she said that none of it was true. 

 

It’s not that she’s disappointed. In fact, she’s terribly happy with the tournament results. Top 4 is a dream come true, and the fact that she defeated Gladion… But no. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Luna can’t bring herself to do what she needs to do, and say what she needs to say. And the fact that it’s all because she’s afraid… If the weekend slips by, and Luna does nothing, she isn’t sure she’ll ever be able to forgive herself.

 

“Oh. Okay.” Gladion sighs. “Luna, did you-” He pauses. “Did you want to say something before I left?” Immediately, she freezes. Because he has no idea how right he is. 

 

She can’t say that. She can’t say anything now. She certainly cannot tell Gladion she’s attracted to him, and she certainly cannot…

 

But what if she can? What if Luna could just say it, right there and now? She doesn’t know why this is so hard. Because she really, really, wants to say something. But she just… doesn’t know how. Because telling someone you love them…

 

“No.” It comes out colder than she had expected, and Luna immediately bites her lip. “I mean… it’s nothing.” It isn’t.  “What about you?” She asks. Because what better way to avoid a question than with a question?

 

“That’s not the point.” Luna flinches at the sudden ice in Gladion’s tone. Clearly, the caffeine is kicking in. Because this is more of the Gladion she knows, with his short temper and quick witted retorts. “And are you sure about that?” No. I’m really not. But unlike last time, you can’t get me to admit anything, Luna thinks. 

 

“No. I’m really not.” She pauses. “But I think there are some things that are better left unsaid.” Then she turns back to eating her donut, and Gladion tightens his jaw. 

 

“Right.” Oh. He actually… understood. “I shouldn’t push you like that. I’m sorry.” Wow. That’s new. 

 

“It’s fine.” Maybe this time, it actually is. “Thanks for…” Luna pauses. “Looking out for me.” And she means it. Because Gladion doesn’t mean any harm. He clearly cares, and he clearly… Stop. Stop, Luna, before you say something you really shouldn’t.  

 

“Oh. You’re welcome,” he says bluntly. Luna finishes her donut, and crumples up her napkin. “You ready to head out?” She doesn’t want to. She honestly has no interest in returning to the venue, and truly? Luna wants to stay. She wants to stay here, with Gladion, and just talk. Because even if they’re friends…

 

“Do you think… we could stay and talk a little more?” She asks. Because even if they’re friends, there’s still so much she doesn’t know about him. And Luna wants to learn.  

 

-

 

Finals Day. The biggest day of the year for Pokemon fans, and Luna can feel the adrenaline and excitement. Sure, she isn’t exactly playing, but… 

 

It doesn’t matter. Because then Moon’s walking out onto the stage, a bright smile on her face and a Rowlet plush clutched in her right hand, and Luna can’t help but grin. She’s cheering, clapping, and shouting, because that’s her friend. And she’s going to do the best job she can to support her. Then Moon’s opponent, a guy named Red, also from Kanto, enters, and the pair shake hands before sitting down. And suddenly, the last match of the season has begun. 

 

Moon leads with Groudon and Incineroar. Red chooses Tapu Fini and Nihilego. Luna immediately finds herself tensing up, as both players wait to make their moves, and the first turn ends uneventfully when Tapu Fini flinches from Fake Out and Nihilego Protects, avoiding an Earth Power, but Luna knows it’s just beginning. And she’s right. 

 

The crowd erupts when Red’s Nihilego lands a Continental Crush into Moon’s Incineroar, knocking it out in one hit. Luna groans, and Gladion sighs. Red isn’t playing around. Both the Fake Out and Intimidate pressure are gone. And while Nihilego does go down to a Precipice Blades, rendering the Beast Boost useless, Tapu Fini gets a free chance to set up Light Screen. This means Moon’s Special Attacking Pokemon won’t be doing much damage at all, and when she sends out Lunala, Luna knows Moon’s in a tough spot. Light Screen is severely minimizing Moon’s damage output, and with likely another Special Attacker in the back… It isn’t looking too great. 

 

Suddenly, she feels a grip on her right hand, and she turns to the side. Oh. Gladion’s jaw is clenched, and his hand tightens around hers even more.

 

“You really care about her, don’t you?” Luna asks quietly. Gladion freezes.

 

“Shit. Sorry.” He looks down at their clenched hands and lets go, as if he hadn’t even realized what he was doing. Luna feels her face heat up as Gladion pauses and sighs. “And I guess I do. I mean, I don’t regret… ending things. It’s what was best for both of us. But we’re still friends, even through everything, and even if we don’t always act like it.” And Luna honestly doesn't know what to say. She isn’t really surprised, but… 

 

“Oh.” And she knows it’s better to stop there. Instead, she turns her head back up to the big screen, and watches as Red switches out his Xerneas for Rayquaza. It’s a risky play, but when Air Lock cancels out the sun and Tapu Fini knocks out Moon’s Groudon with Scald, Luna completely understands Red’s mindset. He’s playing quite aggressively, yet it’s paying off. 

 

Then Moon’s Salamence comes in, and lands a Double Edge into Tapu Fini. Luna’s able to let out a small sigh of relief when it’s knocked out. But both of Moon’s Pokemon have taken damage, and while the Pokemon number is even, Moon needs to tread carefully. But then Rayquaza is knocked out with Double Edge and Moon’s Lunala takes a huge chunk of damage out of Red’s Xerneas, as the crowd cheers. And now, with the Light Screen gone… 

 

One more Moongeist Beam is all it takes, and Moon wins. Moon wins Game One, and Luna falls backwards in her chair, breathing a huge sigh of relief. She cheers with the rest of the crowd, while Sun and Hau highfive and pump their fists into the air. On top of the stage, Moon turns to the audience, and smiles. It’s hard not to like Moon. And even when Team Preview begins, Luna finds herself tensing up all over again. Because all Moon has to do is win this one, and… 

 

Unfortunately, Red is off to an early lead once again. Even though Moon is able to set up a Tailwind, Groudon gets knocked out by yet another Air Lock Scald combination. Then Lunala is able to come in safely, but Double Edge fails to knock out Tapu Fini, and instead just activates its Wiki Berry. And that’s it. 

 

The rest of the game is an easy win for Red. He keeps up the consistent, offensive rhythm, hitting the Incineroar with a Dragon Ascent, and bringing in Xerneas to land a powerful Dazzling Gleam, knocking out Salamence on Moon’s side for good. And with Tailwind gone, Red easily KOs Moon’s last two Pokemon, with all four of his own Pokemon remaining. 

 

Luna, Hau, and Sun groan. Gladion clenches his fists and sighs. None of them are happy with that, and it's clear Moon isn’t either, based on the frustrated expression that crosses her face. She only has one more shot to win this, and Red will most certainly be bringing his very best to their final match. Everything is at stake. Because this is it. This is the climax of the entire season. And even if Luna is stuck on the sidelines, she can feel the pressure, and adrenaline, and the energy.  It’s the reason her heart is pounding furiously in her chest, and it’s the reason she…

 

She doesn’t even mean to. But for some reason, Luna finds herself grasping Gladion’s hand in her own. It must be because she wasn’t thinking. But she does it anyways, and neither of them lets go. Because it’s the comfort both of them need right now. 

 

For Moon, it’s Incineroar and Groudon once again. For Red, Tapu Fini and Nihilego. The exact same leads as Game One. And while Moon’s able to avoid the Air Lock Scald combo that’s gotten her Groudon in both games so far, the newly brought in Rayquaza is putting a lot of pressure on her team. And then Red doubles into Incineroar, and it goes down. The Fake Out pressure on Moon’s team is gone, and she’s falling behind already. 

 

For the first time in the series, Moon brings Muk. And Luna can’t seem to wrap her head around why. She gets Moon loves the Pokemon - but it’s not going to help her win, is it? Sure, it takes a Rayquaza Dragon Ascent nicely, but… Oh. Then Luna gets it. Because Gunk Shot knocks out Tapu Fini, and Groudon hits Rayquaza with… A Dragon Claw???? The entire crowd erupts. Hau screams, and Sun grins. Even Gladion smiles. Because Groudon almost never carries Dragon Claw. And it may have just won Moon the World Championships. 

 

But the next few turns prove you can never underestimate Red. In fact, anything can happen on the Worlds stage. Anything. Moonblast from Xerneas eliminates Muk, and Nihilego Protects, stopping a super effective Precipice Blades from knocking it out. And now, it seems Worlds will be settled in just a couple of turns. In just a couple of plays, this will all be over. It’s funny how so much time, effort, and work comes down to these next few moments. That’s the one part Luna doesn’t miss about being up there. She doesn’t miss the pressure, and certainly not the disappointment of losing. And she doesn’t want Moon to feel that either. 

 

Luna wants Moon to win, and badly. But in the end… it’s too much to ask. 

 

Red doubles into Groudon. First, a Power Gem. Then, a Moonblast. And that’s it. Groudon goes down. Lunala lands a Moongeist Beam, but Moon no longer has anywhere to run. And in two more turns, Lunala is knocked out. It can’t handle two Pokemon by itself. And that’s it. 

 

Moon loses. Red wins. And Luna’s heart sinks. Because if she felt so down over a loss from a year ago, how does Moon feel? And as her friend, she can’t help but feel terrible. Utterly, utterly, terrible. And that just like she will when the day ends, because she’ll be forced to say goodbye to everyone all over again. And that’s what hurts the most. 

 

-

 

Luna should have known she’d find herself here again. The last night of Worlds, and what better way to spend it than hiding from the one person she really, truly, should go find and talk to? She runs her fingers over the piano keys and sighs. Because this is not what she should be doing. She should be telling Gladion what she wanted to tell him last night. She should be telling him that she’s become so... that they’ve grown so close, that she's too afraid to let go. Because right now, nobody means more to her. And Luna knows she has to do something, before it’s too late. 

 

She’s been ignoring his text messages, and she knows it’s bad. But every time he asks her where she is, and if she wants to meet up one last time… Luna doesn’t know what to say. Because she truly does, but she’s too afraid. And instead, she’s hiding. Or not hiding, per say. Just… avoiding. In a very secretive manner. Hooray. And as she plays the opening chord to her favorite song, she can’t help but wonder one last time. 

 

How do I tell Gladion Aether that I'm basically in love with him?

Chapter Text

Luna was ignoring him. Of course. Just his luck. The last night of Worlds, and the last few hours they have to possibly talk once more, and she’s goddamn ignoring him. Gladion leans back against the wall of the elevator as it climbs floor after floor, and scrolls through his continued messages.

 

Gladion : hey

you wanna meet up or something?

hau, moon, sun, and i are in the lobby

hau’s playing some matches for money if you wanna join

i bet you’d win

hello?

luna? 

well i’ll probably be down here for a while, so you can come and join whenever

only if you want

 

Yet, she still hasn’t replied. And they’re marked as seen, funny enough. She’s read his messages. She knows exactly where he is. Yet for some reason, there’s no reply, and she certainly hasn’t come down to meet him. Now, he isn’t really sure what to do. 

 

He isn’t hunting her down, per say. He just wants to talk to her, just one more time. And that’s what he says next.

 

Gladion: i really need to talk to you tonight. Please?

 

It isn’t like him to be so… desperate. But at this point, he has no clue what to do. Soon enough, he finds himself knocking on her hotel room door, holding his breath. Then his heart sinks. 

 

“Is Luna here?” Because she obviously isn’t. Instead, it’s her dad that opens the door, and he shakes his head. Gladion was right. 

 

“No, she said she went downstairs, to-”

 

“Downstairs?” Gladion interrupts. Luna’s father nods, and Gladion grits his teeth. Downstairs? But he would have seen - 

 

Oh shit. Then he gets it. Then he’s muttering a quick thanks, pulling the door shut, and sprinting down the hallway. Because he knows exactly where Luna is. And he doesn’t like it. 

 

It’s his last chance. His last chance to say at least something. And he also has to grab the stuff he got Luna from the Pokemon Center from his room, which he does. Then he’s back in the elevator, heart racing. He can only hope he isn’t too late, and that she'll still be there. Because he can’t miss her now. 

 

He pushes himself through the crowd in the lobby, where hundreds of Pokemon players have gathered. Apparently, they’re all battling. Because they clearly didn’t get enough already. Hau’s among them, actually. He says he wants to win some money, because apparently that’s the prize now. It’s stupid, in Gladion’s eyes. And it also isn’t what matters right now. Because now he’s faced with a familiar hallway, and then he sprints. 

 

He was right. Of course he was right. Gladion is almost always right - or at least, that’s what he likes to think. But he cracks open the door, and stops. And this time, he doesn’t say anything.

 

Everyone is lonely sometimes

But I would walk a thousand miles to see your eyes

 

Gladion bites his lip, and leans against the doorframe. Luna doesn’t look up, and plays another chord. 

 

You are not alone, we are family

 

Except Gladion doesn’t have a family. Apart from Lillie, he has nobody. Ever since Mohn died, and ever since his mother went insane… that’s what family is to him. Family is crying over his dead father, and family is a midnight run from home. Family is nothing to him anymore. And it hurts. 

 

Hold me, let’s escape all this reality

 

And that hits Gladion differently. Something about that line… Luna isn’t the only one who wishes for that. Then he finds himself crossing the room to stand behind her, and he places the bag on the ground. And before he knows it, he’s reaching his arms around her shoulders, and finds himself holding her tightly, letting her rest her head in his chest. 

 

“Gladion?” She turns around, and his heart nearly stops when her eyes meet his. The music stops. “What are you-”

 

“Luna.” It comes out quietly, barely a breathy whisper. “We need to talk. Please.” He doesn’t even try to hide how desperate he feels. Something crosses Luna’s face, and she nods. She reaches for the lid of the piano, and then Gladion grabs her wrist with his left hand. She freezes. “But finish, first. I… I like listening to you.” And he’s completely honest. Luna’s cheeks flush pink, but she nods. Gladion moves his arms, and walks to lean on the piano, resting an elbow on the top. Luna rests her hands carefully on the piano keys, and takes a deep breath. 

 

You are my symphony

By your side, we are unity

You are my energy

My guiding light, we are unity

We are…

We are…

We are unity

 

Luna’s hands fly up and down the keys, and something stirs in Gladion’s chest. He doesn’t speak. 

 

We are…

We are…

We are unity

 

The melody ends, and then another starts. 

 

Although the rain might pour

A thunder starts to roar

A lightning wakes the wave

But through it, we are brave

 

And even if the lyrics are positive, Luna’s tone says otherwise. There’s a sharp pain in Gladion’s chest, and he forces himself to breathe. 

 

Everyone is lonely sometimes

 

With Luna, he isn’t.

 

But I would walk a thousand miles to meet your eyes

 

And for her, he would. 

 

You are not alone, we are family

 

There it is again. Family. The one thing he truly wishes he had. 

 

Hold me, let’s escape all this reality

 

There’s nothing Gladion wants more. And when Luna runs through the chorus once more, and then again, Gladion stands up straight, and takes a deep breath. Because now that he’s here, how can he…

 

We are unity. 

 

It’s the last one. Luna finishes. And Gladion doesn’t say a word for a long moment. 

 

“Thank you.” It’s all he can say. Luna gives a weak smile, and he can see something in her eyes. Fear, hesitance, and… 

 

“I’m sorry,” she says suddenly. Gladion freezes. 

 

“What?” He sputters. Luna looks down, and clenches her jaw. 

 

“I’m sorry, because I’m a fucking wreck.” She’s frustrated. Gladion can tell. He just has no clue why. Then she bites her lip, and sighs. “I’m sorry, for ignoring you all evening. And I’m sorry, for…” She pauses, and her next words come out as a choking whisper. “For being so afraid.” And then Luna breaks. She breaks, and Gladion goes completely still. Because the tears begin flowing from her eyes, and she’s so close to collapsing…

 

Before Gladion knows what he’s doing, he races to her side and pulls her into a hug again, as her shaky breaths send shivers down his spine. He wants her to stop. He wants Luna to stop, because it’s only making him feel worse. Like he’s done something terribly, terribly wrong. 

 

“Luna, please stop. You have nothing to apologize for,” he whispers. She looks up, and then wipes a single tear from her eyes. She’s trying to smile. She really is. But it doesn’t fool him. “What’s wrong?” Luna doesn’t respond for a long moment.

 

“I’d say nothing, but I can’t fool you, can I?” She asks weakly. Gladion gives her a small smile, and her teary eyes automatically become just a little bit brighter. 

 

“No,” he says. Luna lets a small, weak, laugh escape her lips. Then she sighs. 

 

“Gladion, what are we doing?” Gladion’s eyes widen. Then, he becomes completely aware of what he’s just done, and suddenly, he lets go, taking a large step back. 

 

“Shit. I’m sorry.” He turns away. Goddamnit. What does he think he’s doing? Luna doesn’t - You don’t just hug a girl, even if they’re your friend, whenever you want. After all, Luna…

 

“That’s not what I meant.” Luna’s quiet voice comes from behind him, and Gladion turns his head slightly to the right. He expects her to say something more, but she doesn’t. 

 

“What do you mean, then?” He snaps. Immediately, he flinches. He didn’t mean to…

 

“You tell me,” she replies quietly. Gladion turns back around to face her, shoving his hands in his pockets, and sighs. 

 

“I’m sorry, Luna.”

 

“Don’t be.” Her reply is quick, and Gladion clenches his jaw. “Just… please explain to me what’s going on.” And everything changes. Because now, Gladion has absolutely no clue what to say. 

 

“I…” He pauses. “I don’t know,” he admits. Luna’s eyes widen. “I just wanted to…” Stop. Stop, because you’re stalling. Just tell her - you like her, okay? It’s not that hard, he thinks. “To…” His voice drifts off, and Luna takes a long step forward. She’s right in front of him, now, and he feels himself heat up. 

 

“To do what?” And either he was completely wrong earlier and he’s going to regret this forever, or…

 

August 26th, 2018. There was nothing but pure hatred, anger, and frustration when Luna met his eyes. He’d returned her stare, and that was all. That was the first time.

 

June 20th, 2019. The tension was there. Of course it was. It was to be expected. But the fleeting glances Luna had shot him across the table when she thought he wasn’t looking, and the appreciation in her gaze when he had dared to speak out against Hau and his over friendliness. That was different. And the way neither of them had dared meet each other’s eyes when Lana suggested… “Is Luna your new girlfriend?” Gladion remembers it all too well. And he distinctly remembers the silence that followed. That was the second time, and the beginning of a wild weekend to follow, filled with brief moments of hope, kindness, and understanding. 

 

June 23rd, 2019. The mysterious, almost saddened look in Luna’s eyes when she left for her flight home. The light, affection, and pride when they nearly beat a group of young teenagers in a game only Gladion knew how to play. The end of the tournament filled with so many emotions and realizations that he was far too eager to forget it all. Except he couldn’t.

 

July 7th, 2019. The easy, calm, conversations. The way Luna for some reason, couldn’t dare meet Gladion’s eyes, no matter how hard he tried. As if he was… a distraction. And he wasn’t sure why. Because even if it was through a phone screen, it was still all completely real. 

 

August 15th, 2019. Day 0 of Worlds. The anger in her gaze when she met Locust’s eyes, and fear when she met Gladion’s. The fear he still can’t seem to understand, but also can’t dare to question. The light in her eyes when they were shopping in the Pokemon Center, and the smile on her face that seemed to be contagious. 

 

And then the past few days. The reluctant frustration when he asked time and time again about her ex, and the final look of pure pain when she finally said the words. The raw emotion and fear before their battle, because it reminded her all too much for the one from so many months back. And the proud, teary, hopefulness when she won. 

 

And last night. Last night, when they’d been here together for the first time. The sadness, and odd sense of frustration and near depression that Gladion wanted to see gone so badly. But there was nothing he could do. And in the morning, when she asked him if he wanted to get coffee… Hesitance, sure. But there was hope, and something else Gladion couldn’t quite place. He couldn’t say no. 

 

And now, here he stands. Afraid that he’s got it all wrong. That there’s no way - there’s absolutely no way - that Luna would dare like him the way he likes her. But he either takes the leap now, or it’s all over. And that’s the last thing he wants. 

 

“I want to…” Hesitantly, Gladion lifts a hand to caress her cheek gently, and runs a finger along the edges of her lips. And something clicks in Luna’s mind, and her eyes widen. For a moment, Gladion’s worried he’s screwed up all over again. But then there’s a soft, sweet, affection in her eyes that he’s never seen from her before. And with their faces only a terribly few inches apart...

 

And then there’s a breathless “yes,” that escapes her lips, and that’s all it takes. 

 

Gladion leans down, closing the gap between them, and Luna rises on to her toes. She brushes his long blond hair out of his eyes, and his lips meet hers. 

 

It’s at that point that Gladion knows nothing he felt, saw, or thought was a fluke. Because he obviously likes Luna Kajiba as more than a friend, and it seems she does too. He can tell, in the way she pushes herself higher to deepen the kiss. And he can tell, in the way they don’t break apart for a long, heart fluttering moment. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

 

Luna grabs the loose fabric of his shirt, pulling them closer and closer with every passing moment. Gladion reaches his free hand around her back, and cups her cheek with the other. He can feel his heart racing in his chest. But that’s fine. Instead, he lets his lips meld to hers, as if they’d both wanted something like this for longer than either of them would ever admit. 

 

And when they finally break apart - when Luna finally stands down, and when Gladion meets her eyes - he meets her warm, dark eyes that shine with such love and affection that he’s so tempted to kiss her again… But then Luna steps back, and Gladion finds himself at a loss for words all over again. 

 

“I-”

 

“You have no clue how long I’ve wanted to do that,” Luna says. The silence is broken, and Gladion laughs. He actually laughs. And that makes Luna smile - a small, radiant smile that he’s never seen from her before. It makes something flutter in his chest, and then he’s closing the gap between them all over again. He kisses her once more, and when he pulls back, their eyes meet. And then he says one last thing. 

 

“However much I love you…” He pauses to catch his breath. A knowing twinkle appears in the corner of Luna’s eyes, and he grins. “...I’m so winning next year.” 

 

Then she rises up to kiss him one last time and then stands down, a competitive smirk crossing her face.

 

“Challenge accepted.” And Gladion can tell she means it.