As a Galar gym leader, Raihan isn’t immune from being sent on diplomatic trips to other countries. It’s all about building that rapport, Chairman Rose tells him with a glitter in his eyes, patting Raihan so violently on the back that it takes all his effort to remain upright and not double over.
It’s almost a rite of passage. Once becoming a gym leader, they have to hold an exhibition match against the Champion, have their ass kicked in front of the entire country, dust themselves off, and then get sent on at least one trip overseas. That’s the only way to be fully acknowledged by the public as a gym leader, and for people to start visiting their gyms as challengers or tourists.
But Raihan, specifically, is a diplomatic daydream. Chairman Rose is enthralled with him, consistently sending him out on trips all over the world. Something to do with his internet fame, something to do with his playing style, something to do with his personality.
Frankly, Raihan thinks Leon would be a much better representative – in title, at least – to be sent overseas to be the face of Galar. A boy-next-door, pretty boy vibe; a gigantic Charizard, iconic fashion sense; the actual Champion, no less, and Raihan could sing Leon’s praises for days. There’s something incredibly endearing about the man, an earnestness that Raihan can’t bottle up and keep in his room. Who wouldn’t love him?
It always ends up being Raihan that gets sent out. If it weren’t for him forcing Chairman Rose to sit down and redo their contract, he’d probably never even be back at Galar, and his gym would only be his in name. Now, he travels for a month. Every three months.
Raihan puts his head in his hands, jet lagged out of his brain while his Flygon nudges at his shoulder, and wants to shake his past self. Leaving Galar for a month every three months – it’s a far better deal than the one he had before, but it still sucks. He misses his gym, the way he tailored the entire building to his own unique tastes after taking over from the previous gym leader, and now he can’t even spend time in it.
The door slams open without his permission. Footsteps pad into the room, brushing against the thick red carpet on the ground, and a warm hand wraps around the back of his neck, rubbing against the stiff tendons.
“Back again?” Kukui says brightly, a laugh in his voice and Raihan leans back into the supporting grip. His eyes are still closed, the bags under them loud and terrifying, and he can sense his Flygon messing around on the bed, its tail wrapping around his waist.
“Fuck you,” he murmurs quietly, but a smile pulls at his mouth, curving his lips up. “Don’t I get a nice welcome?”
Kukui laughs, and Raihan feels a hand pulling at his beanie, throwing it somewhere in the room while fingers dive into his hair, patting it gently. “Welcome back to Alola,” Kukui says acquiescingly, and Raihan opens his eyes to look at the infuriatingly pretty smile directed at him.
“I hate Alola,” Raihan mutters bitterly, patting the sides of his thighs and calves, furiously attempting to brush the grains of sand off his skin. “It’s terrible for my complexion.”
“You’re a big baby,” Kukui replies, and picks up a shovel. “Did you get any good pictures?” He asks offhandedly, and Raihan doesn’t look up, refusing to give him an answer. It takes him a while, laboriously attempting to dust his arms and legs free of sand, before he catches the soft clicking noise, and his head jerks up immediately.
“Rotom!” He says, betrayal hanging heavy in his voice as he stares at the pair of fools standing a short distance away. Kukui is peering intently at the dancing RotomPhone, nodding and commenting on the millions of pictures it must have taken, and Raihan’s traitorous RotomPhone is wriggling excitedly.
He’s fairly certain it likes Kukui more than him. Ever since Kukui bought it that new phone case, ordered from Galar, shipping it to Alola, and then giving it privately to Raihan’s RotomPhone- it’s not fair. Kukui bribed his Pokemon. Admittedly, Raihan’s pretty surprised that his Pokemon’s loyalty is so easily bought by a three-dollar phone case, but still.
The principle of the matter stands. The two of them are in cahoots with each other to ruin Raihan’s carefully curated image.
“I think this photo is excellent,” Kukui says, and the RotomPhone turns around obligingly, showing Raihan the picture. It’s a terrible shot of him. He’s spread-eagled on the sand, ass up face down, and it’s clear to everyone that someone pushed him with the malicious intention to have him eat dirt.
Eat sand. Raihan would be fine with eating dirt. He’s lived in dirt for majority of his life. His entire terrain is rocky, dusty, caverns. But sand, with its tiny granules, the fine beads that insistently stick to his skin and get slimy when wet- Raihan mourns the rest of his day. It’s noon, the sun hanging high in the sky, and Raihan is already covered in sand.
“This is cyber-bullying,” Raihan replies, getting up. Kukui brandishes the shovel at him, and Raihan hunts for another one. He comes up empty, since he doesn’t own a shovel and Kukui brought just the one, so he grabs a stick.
Then he pauses, thinking better of it, and summons a Trapinch that he’s been training. “Attack!” Raihan says, pointing in the direction of Kukui. “Save my good name and reputation, Trapinch! Rotom, start streaming.”
The familiar start-up noise for his stream rings out on the beach. Kukui stands there in nothing but a lab coat and loose swim trunks, and Raihan stands opposite him in an open jacket and tight swim trunks.
The Trapinch makes a low, confused noise, and wanders over to Raihan, its jaws snapping as it walks tentatively on the soft sand that sinks with every step it takes.
“No, no, look at him,” Raihan tells his Trapinch, trying to hold back his laughter. His Flygon lounges in the distance, but moved closer upon seeing the Trapinch being summoned, and looks a little horrified at this iteration of its younger self. “You see that big, bad man with bad fashion sense? Attack!”
He mimes biting, opening his mouth wide to show off his fangs, and chomping down. The Trapinch obediently snaps its jaws as well, its bright eyes glittering curiously at Raihan, copying his motions.
Raihan looks helplessly at the Trapinch, before shaking his head and patting its back. “Good job! Now sit here and watch how it’s done, okay? Flygon!”
His Flygon perks up, hurrying over. It’s entirely unbothered by the sand rising up in a hurricane from the flapping of its wings, and divebombs Kukui with a loud cry.
The RotomPhone zooms in, taking a 360 view of the entire battle. The Flygon moves closer and closer, and Kukui lazily moves his shovel in a haphazard manner, flicking some sand up into the air as he waits for its attack.
It trills, one high note escaping its mouth, and it wraps itself happily around Kukui, twisting until the man is forced to the ground, laughing as he tumbles around in the sand, one Flygon bodily attached to him.
Raihan dusts his hands off, beckoning for his RotomPhone to come closer. “And that,” he announces to the stream, rolling his eyes as he grins, “is how you win against Professor Kukui of the Alola region. Did you see that, Trapinch? Learn from your evolved betters. A classic takedown move from my elite Flygon!”
He squints a little to see the comments against the glare of the sun.
[shirtless raihan!!!! thank you very much!!!]
[is that prof kukui?! omgomgomg I didn’t know they were friends!]
[OP have you not seen ANY of raihan’s streams?? when he goes to alola he always hangs out with prof kukui!!!]
“Oi,” Raihan says, raising an eyebrow. “Why is he prof Kukui, but I’m just plain ol’ Raihan? Have a little respect, will you?” He grins, his canine peeking out from his lips, and the comments go crazy.
[DRAGON RAIHAN!!! sorry for no honorific before!! prof kukui can’t compare to prince raihan!!! dragon raihan!!!]
[PAPA RAIHAN PLEASE TAKE YOUR SHIRT OFF MORE OFTEN!!!]
[+1 PAPA RAIHAN!]
[gym leader raihan, is that the trapinch you’ve been raising? it’s so cute!! the two of you look so cute together!]
[prince raihan please raise me too]
[+1 prince raihan please raise me too!]
[+2 prince raihan please raise me too!!!]
“Ah? I can’t raise all of you,” Raihan laughs, and tilts the phone down, showing them the Trapinch nesting in his lap, its large head propped up on Raihan’s thigh. “But yeah, this is the Trapinch I’m helping Sonia raise! She’s doing some sort of experimentation on how different environments affect the rate of Pokemon growth, or something. A lot of chemistry and biology involved. I’m not allowed in her lab after- well, you know why.”
[after prince raihan burnt down her lab, right?]
[wwww prince raihan was a bad scientist]
[you did your best in her lab!!! but now prof sonia won’t let you in again!! wwww]
Kukui wanders over, his entire body covered in sand, and sits next to Raihan, pressing their shoulders together and transferring the sand grains all over. “What’s up?” He asks, and peers at the stream. “Shit, you do this every day? How do you read all of them?!” There’s an incredulous expression on his face as his eyes rove up and down the screen, trying to keep track of all the comments flying by.
Raihan makes a face, clicking his tongue at the sand. “You’re getting sand on me,” he says, and shifts further away. Kukui smirks, the Flygon still hilariously clinging to him, and shifts closer.
“It’s a skill you’ll take years to learn.” Raihan eventually gives up. The more he shifts, the more sand sticks to his shorts and the underside of his thighs, and the Trapinch is getting fussy in his lap. He lets Kukui press up against his side, rolling his eyes at Kukui’s satisfied smile.
He may have let Kukui win the battle, but he’ll win the war.
Kukui makes a confused noise, and pokes Raihan in the waist, causing him to jolt and straighten. “They want me to- huh? They want me to take my lab coat off?” Kukui stares down at himself, then back up at the screen. “But I wouldn’t be recognisable without my lab coat.”
Iconic outfits make a brand. Raihan nods in agreement – it’s the main reason he even agrees to let Leon wander the streets in that get up of his. It’s an identifiable brand. But right now, they’re on a beach. And Kukui has abs to rival his own.
It’s not exactly rocket science.
“Well?” Raihan beckons at his Flygon, and his Pokemon extracts itself from Kukui’s back, padding over to sit at Raihan’s side, making chittering noises at the Trapinch in his lap. Without the Flygon hanging onto Kukui, nothing’s stopping him from taking his lab coat off.
Raihan stares blankly at him for a moment, before gently lifting the Trapinch out of his lap and placing it near his Flygon. “You give professors all over the world a bad name,” he tells Kukui seriously. “Sonia would slap you.”
Kukui shakes his head insistently. “Sonia is a nice girl. She wouldn’t attack me like that.”
“Too bad for you,” Raihan says, and stands, taking his jacket off and throwing it to the side. His Flygon reaches out, catching the tail end of the jacket in its mouth, keeping it away from the sand. He looms over Kukui, his 203cm towering over Kukui’s sitting self, and smirks. “She’s not the one here on a diplomatic trip.”
He dives, and Kukui shrieks.
Leon frowns, not entirely sure of what he’s watching. He always watches Raihan’s streams whenever he can, eager to catch up on his best friend’s life when he’s out of the country. Kukui is- he’s- Intellectually, Leon has always known that Raihan is good friends with Kukui. Kukui often features on Raihan’s stream, showing Raihan the sights of Alola, the secret places that tourists always struggle to find.
But they’re never done something like this? Like- press up so closely next to each other, like- play fight with each other, like- wrestle half-naked with each other, one fighting to strip the other-
They wrestle around on the sand for a while, Raihan attempting to rid Kukui of his lab coat, while Kukui puts up a semblance of a fight. Leon can tell that Kukui isn’t even trying that hard, just putting on a show. For who, he doesn’t know.
[SHIP SHIP SHIP!!!]
[PROF KUKUI AND PAPA RAIHAN!! CPCPCPCP!!]
“Hop,” he calls out, and his brother’s faint reply echoes from the living room. Leon stares at the screen, furrowing his brows. “What’s a CP?”
There’s a loud noise, like something fell, and Hop appears instantly in the doorway to Leon’s room, panting like he’s just run a marathon.
“Where did- where- give me a moment- where did you see that?”
“On the internet.” Leon turns his screen, showing Raihan’s livestream. “The comments keep talking about CP, or a ship?”
“Oh. Is that it?” Somehow, Hop looks incredibly relieved. “It’s just uh- slang for character pairing. Like they think two people would look good together and have chemistry and should date. Shipping just means the same thing, that two people should get together.”
“Huh.” Leon glances back at the screen, where Raihan has won for a brief moment, and is sitting on Kukui’s bare chest, grinning down at him. Something sparks inside his chest. “So, they think… Kukui and Raihan should date?”
Hop scratches the back of his head. He looks a little awkward, and Leon realises it must be strange for him to have to explain this concept to his older brother. “I guess?”
“Huh,” Leon says again, with feeling, and nods. “Thanks.”
By chance, he thinks, a strange bitterness welling up in his throat- by chance, is there any basis to that character pairing that the comments keep bringing up?