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Breakfast. Eggs on toast with potatoes. Piers remembers it looked better without the grainy, orange-toned filter Raihan had posted it with.

 

It plays like a movie in his head.

 

He’d woken up to the smell of Raihan’s cooking. Bright, yellow sun shone through unobstructed windows, and so Piers squinted as he padded his way to the kitchen.

 

Raihan, clothed already, looked away from his sizzling pan to smile at Piers. “Sleepyhead.”

 

“S’not that late.” They kissed. Soft, just a moment. Gentle heat, like the sun-warmed tile on his feet. Like the feeling in the base of his chest. Piers rested back on his heels. “Smells good.”

 

“I’ll pass your compliments on to the chef,” Raihan said, still grinning, and then executed a perfect egg-flip. “Ooh—did you see that?”

 

“Mm.” Piers fixed himself a glass of water while Raihan filled their plates. They sat together at the table, and Raihan let out a low, quick whistle when Piers reached for a fork. 

 

“Phone eats first,” he’d said, and motioned for his Rotom to come take a picture of their food.

 

It was stupidly endearing then. Piers remembers laughing and kicking at Raihan under the table. It was dumb, undoubtedly, but so Raihan, and Piers couldn’t get enough of him. 

 

Even if the potatoes were underdone, he had to admit they looked good in the picture.

 

Piers checks the time stamp on it. One year ago. It feels like yesterday. It feels like a lifetime ago.

 

His finger hovers above the screen. This is dangerous territory, isn’t it? Looking through Raihan’s pictures like this?

 

He’d already made a commitment when he scrolled down this far.

 

Next picture. Piers almost laughs when he sees it. Raihan, shirtless, one hand up in a bicep-flex while the other held his phone in front of the mirror. Grade-A thirst trap.

 

Piers was there for this one, because of course he was. Watching him from under the covers, just at the right angle to see into the bathroom. 

 

“I can hear you laughing at me,” Raihan had said between pictures.

 

Piers pressed his face into a pillow. “Come t’bed.”

 

“Miss me already?”

 

That was a bit of an overstatement. They’d spent the whole rainy day together, holed up inside. Raihan picked a movie that they watched half of, and then it finished without their attention.

 

Piers hadn’t anticipated staying the night, but he hadn’t changed his mind just to sleep alone.

 

“Raihan.” Against the pillow it sounded more like “Rrrm-hrrm.”

 

“Alright, alright!” 

 

It was a few seconds before Piers felt the mattress dip and shake with Raihan’s weight, and then arms came forward around his torso. 

 

Warm. Solid.

 

Raihan.

 

His arm swept Piers’s hair into one section and out of the way from between them. Piers inched closer until their bodies were flush, and he sighed, overcome with contentment. Raihan’s heart beat against Piers’s back and his breath tickled his hair and even thinking about it is enough to calm Piers down.

 

It was so good, back then. So good that Piers has to stop thinking about it and scroll again.

 

Seeing himself on Raihan’s feed never gets less jarring. There’s something so intimate about this one, taken in his own apartment. Piers is looking down, blushing, no doubt, at something Raihan had said. 

 

Piers knows the reason it feels so intimate is because it had been. It was one of the moments when they sat in happy silence together, high on each other’s company, lazy and content and taking it all for granted.

 

Raihan’s legs were propped up on the coffee table; Piers’s were draped over Raihan’s.

 

The hottest day of the summer. His A/C was busted, had been for a while, so the windows were open. The posters on his wall fluttered to the same rhythm as the curtains, and Piers let it travel down to his fingers and through the strings of his guitar. It was a slow tune, gentle, something he‘d never play at a show. Didn’t matter. He was just messing around, and Raihan was looking at him like he was the sun and stars all wrapped up into one.

 

“I like that,” Raihan said, and hummed the last few notes terribly off-key while his thumb traced ovals into Piers’s bare calf. 

 

Piers huffed something close to laughter and looked back down at his guitar. He wondered when he’d ever start getting used to Raihan saying nice things about him. Today was not that day.

 

And just like that, the soft click of a camera. Piers’s head shot up. “Hey—“

 

Raihan was already smiling at his phone. “You look so cute, babe, I couldn’t help it.”

 

Piers felt a few things. Discomfort, quick as a Ninjask, gone before he could put a word to it. Then, the warmth of the pet name, seeping through his chest and forcing his eyes up to meet Raihan’s. He must‘ve been blushing even harder then.

 

Raihan always knew how to get him like this.

 

He waved his phone. “Mind if I post this?”

 

“S’fine.” Piers looked back down at his guitar and plucked a few notes. His leg felt colder without Raihan’s hand, now busy tapping away at a caption and whatever hashtags he’d milk from it.

 

Not that he needed them. Surely he knew that anything with Piers in it would drive their respective fan bases insane. The news of their couple status all but broke the internet.

 

Raihan had reveled in the spectacle. Piers treated it like a nuclear threat, barricading himself in his flat until things turned for the calmer. Marnie had laughed at him, at them. Turns out she’d anticipated this before Piers ever did.

 

So this picture wasn’t anything outrageous. Later, when Raihan had left, Piers finally looked at the post in its entirety.

 

     Lazy day in. Best view in Spikemuth.

     #serenade #mylove @piers061

 

Looking at it now, Piers feels the same swell in his chest that he‘d felt half a year ago. The only difference is that it’s twinged with a kind of sadness now, poisoned by circumstance, a gunk shot on full HP. He stares at his own face in the picture for a bit too long before moving onto the next.

 

Sunset. Orange and yellow and swirling purple danced atop the Hammerlocke skyline. Raihan’s face beamed in the lower corner.

 

His Rotom had done a good job with that picture. Of course, it’d helped that Raihan was at the highest point in the city, with the best view of the sleepy cobblestone streets below. 

 

It was beautiful. It was romantic.

 

It wasn’t really a great time for Piers to mention he was afraid of heights.

 

Their little area was fully enclosed with stone, anyway, but the fierce wind still made him shake. Raihan came up behind him and closed the distance, setting his chin atop Piers’s head, wrapping him in his arms and holding him stable. 

 

Piers reached up and met Raihan’s hands.

 

Hands that just hours earlier had pressed bruises to Piers’s hips and wrists before kissing them so gently that Piers had gone dizzy.

 

“Picture-perfect,” Raihan said.

 

Piers shivered. “S’cold.”

 

Raihan brought him closer, but it didn’t do much to break the wind battering Piers’s face. A silent beat passed between them. Then, “I love you.”

 

Piers stilled. Raihan could feel it, of course he could, but he was too nice to say anything.

 

Say it back say it back say it back.

 

He didn’t.

 

He was stupid; useless. Couldn’t get three fucking words out of his mouth. 

 

“I do,” Raihan said. Maybe to fill the silence. His lips pressed the side of Piers’s head. “You don’t have to say it back. I just thought you should know.”

 

And that was typical Raihan: validating things Piers didn’t even know he felt yet. Piers turned to face him, to press his face into his shoulder, and he wept. 

 

The last time he cried in front of someone, Marnie was seven, taken aback by an outright display of emotion from her unbreakable big brother.

 

Raihan didn’t ask questions. He held Piers until he was done crying, shushed him when he’d tried to apologize (“Don’t be ridiculous, I’m here for you”), held his hand as they headed back down the stairs together.

 

By then, Rotom had already posted the sunset picture. Tens of thousands had liked it already. They probably smiled at Raihan’s beaming face.

 

Piers looks at this picture and he all he feels is shame, deep, like a chasm in his chest. Shame that he couldn’t have handled that evening any better by just opening his fucking mouth. Shame that Raihan had to see him like that.

 

Shame that Piers’s blood still runs cold when he sees the next most recent picture.

 

It wasn’t surprising that it’d broken a record for most likes on the site. It had everything a fan could ever want; seven current gym leaders grinning at the camera in their unnatural habitat, pouring up together in some dimly-lit pub.

 

Gym leader bar crawl. Piers was very familiar. He knew it well from when he’d been one to participate. ‘Course, he couldn’t anymore. 

 

Milo held up two fingers behind Nessa’s head. Bea didn’t drink, but still made an appearance next to Melony. Gordie held up a pint in one hand and a thumbs-up in the other. An uncharacteristic blush spread across Kabu’d cheeks. And Raihan, his Raihan, with his signature wink to the camera.

 

Piers wished that was all.

 

But no, because as tended to be a common theme in the story of Galar, Leon was there too. Beaming, clutching Raihan’s hoodie sleeve, gazing into the camera with those deep, golden eyes.

 

Piers wished it hadn’t made him sick. That it didn’t, still, looking at it now.

 

He doesn’t remember how long it was before Raihan came in, but he was there to meet him, and Raihan steadied himself in Piers’s arms. Still at least buzzed, no doubt. 

 

“Did you have fun?” he asked Raihan’s grinning face hovering just above him. 

 

“Oh, yeah. You know how it is. Good lot, they are.” He presses his palm to the side of Piers’s cheek. Runs his thumb all the way to his chin. “How was your night, baby?”

 

Piers should’ve let it go. He was better than this. “Less eventful then yours, obviously.”

 

Raihan’s eyebrows turned inward. Inquisitive, not accusatory. “You alright? I didn’t think you wanted to go.”

 

And he was right. Piers didn’t. “It just would’ve been nice to be invited.” 

 

“I, just.” Raihan bit the side of his cheek. “Y’know, you gave up your gym to your sister and all. Thought you wanted to leave that life behind you.“

 

And Piers hears the unspoken. 

 

You’re not a gym leader anymore. You’re not one of us anymore.

 

Then came the storm. Words like hailstones came quick and battered bare skin.

 

“Well, Leon’s not champion anymore, is he?”

 

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, you know Gloria’s not old enough to come out with us.”

 

“And Marnie isn’t, either, but let’s not bother findin’ a replacement for her, now.”

 

“Are you jealous? Is that what this is about?”

 

“No, you’re not fuckin’ listenin’ to me.” He turned away, and something shifted within him. Regret, then fear.

 

He wasn’t not supposed to do this. Bitch about something small and start a fight. Idiot. It’s like he was trying to lose this.

 

Raihan was staring at the floor tile, heavy breaths pulsing in his chest. He couldn’t even look at him.

 

Piers felt like he was drowning.

 

“Forget it,” he said quickly, his voice softer than before. “I don’t want to keep talkin’ about it.”

 

“I want to talk about it!” Raihan’s eyes were locked on Piers’s then. It was hard not to feel intimidated by him, even after all this time, after a hundred soft kisses and quiet, gentle words. “What don’t you understand? I care about you. Fuck. Let me talk to you.”

 

Idiot, idiot, idiot. He fucked it up. He fucked it up. He was paranoid and he fucked it up.

 

“I should just go.” It was silent as he crossed the room to grab his bag, slung over the back of Raihan’s living room chair. 

 

He doesn’t know what he wanted. Maybe for Raihan to fight for him. To say something. Something that wasn’t

 

“If you think so.”

 

Leaving was a bitch. Stumbling down the stairs, eyes blurry, a knot in his throat, trembling like a leaf. Calling a Corvicab back to the outside of Spikemuth. Knowing that Raihan would rather sleep alone.

 

He was over the next day anyway, and it was familiar when Piers pressed his face to Raihan’s shoulder; it was familiar when Raihan’s arms came up around him. They didn’t speak for a while. One minute or ten, it didn’t matter. Just held each other.

 

It was early. Piers hasn’t slept. The first light of morning was barely seeping through Raihan’s blinds.

 

They went to the bedroom.

 

Piers knows that’s what they did best, anyway. 

 

Raihan pulled off their clothes and that was routine. They kissed and it was instinct. 

 

Piers’s hair was pulled from behind and he gasped like it was the first time.

 

Raihan was taking his time, running his hands down Piers’s back, pressing his thin fingers against the bones of his hip. Slowing his thrusts to relish Piers’s desperate whimpers, then wiping at his cheek with his thumb.

Like it was the last time.

 

He kissed Piers’s forehead when they were done, when Piers’s toes were barely uncurled and he was still shaking with the aftershocks. 

 

Raihan sat up. He crossed his legs on the bed, fixing his gaze on Piers. “We should probably talk about last night.”

 

Piers screwed his eyes shut. Counted a few seconds until his breathing slowed to something close to normal. “We don’t have to.”

 

“That’s just it. It’s like you don’t even want to talk to me.”

 

That stung. “Of course I do.”

 

“Just not about us. Yeah, I get it.” Raihan leaned against the bed frame and pressed his fingertips to his closed eyes. “You don’t want to talk about if you think things are going well. You don’t want to talk about your feelings when it‘s not.”

 

Piers’s mouth fell open, ready to be on the defense, but nothing came out. 

 

And Raihan wasn’t finished. “I love you. I love you, and it sucks. I love you and I get nothing from you because you can’t even understand that there’s someone who cares about you, so fucking deeply, and wants to hear what you have to say. And to make this shit work, and to be putting in all of the effort even when he gets nothing. It fucking sucks.”

 

All Piers could do is look at his own hands. He watched them tremble. He stared at the spot where the black polish had chipped and watched it turn to a watery pool, blurred by tears he couldn’t suppress.

 

Raihan was hurting because Piers fucked up. Because he didn’t love Raihan enough.

 

No, that wasn’t it. Of course he loved him. He loved almost everything about him.

 

But he couldn’t fucking say it.

 

“I’m sorry,” Piers said, and saying it made him feel small and weak, like he’d be better off sinking into a hole in the floor. He knew what this meant. Of course he did; he wasn’t an idiot. Or maybe he was, to expect something better. 

 

“Don’t be.” Raihan’s voice was softer now. “Hey, c’mere.” He reached for Piers’s hands, to pull him up or towards him or to offer some sort of comfort, Arceus knows what—and Piers flinched. Away. 

 

A tense second passed.

 

Piers met Raihan’s sad eyes and knew all he needed to know.

 

Even his own tongue tasted bitter in his mouth. He just wanted to hear Raihan say it.

 

“I don’t think now is the right time for us.”

 

There it was. Okay.

 

He blinked back tears for long enough to find his shirt on the floor. Okay. Pulled it on. 

 

“Piers.”

 

The rest of his things in another convenient pile. Grabbed those.

 

“Piers!”

 

He faced Raihan. 

 

Raihan, who had just barely kicked his ass in that non-dynamic battle but was courteous enough to buy him a drink, who’d invited him to stay at his for the night. Raihan, who had begged Piers for weeks to let him take him out on a proper date afterward, who‘d just laughed when Piers told him he had it a bit backwards.

 

Raihan, who’d kissed every inch of his skin, who’d held him and worshipped him far more than he deserved.

 

Raihan who was dumping him right now.

 

The Raihan in front of him looked tired. Exhausted by the feat of loving Piers, of putting effort into something that wasn’t worth a half of it. 

 

“What?” Piers asked, and there was a softness in his own voice that he didn’t expect.

 

Raihan looked sheepish. “I think this is better for you. I mean, for the both of us. And I would want to try again. If you’ll be up for it.”

 

Piers finished pulling on the last of his clothes. “I’m goin’ now.”

 

“I love you.” 

 

For fuck’s sake. If he loved him he wouldn’t be throwing him to the curb. “I’m goin’.”

 

The next morning, while Piers sat in the dark of his room in Spikemuth, Raihan had posted a picture of the sunrise. Same view as his last one; he must’ve gone up there to think. No caption. Unlike him, but this was a different time. 

 

Three hours after that, news of their breakup would hit the press. Piers never does find out if it’s his publicist or manager or whoever the fuck who ultimately leaks it. Figures he couldn’t expect to go a day without thousands of people breathing down his neck, bombarding his socials with comments and questions that he does his best to ignore.

 

Marnie brings a cup of tea to his bedside table in a silent, talk-if-you-want-to offering. He bursts into tears almost immediately and she’s shocked, understandably so, but pulls him into a hug and lets him sniffle into her shoulder.

 

He’s never felt more pathetic, and he hates that she has to see him like this. 

 

But as much as he hates to admit it, it feels good to let something out. 

 

“M’sorry,” he says when they break apart. “M’just upset. I’ll be okay.”

 

“Bein’ upset is okay.” She nods to his guitar in the corner of the room. “And it’ll make for a good song when you’re ready.”

 

That makes him smile a little. “Yeah, it will. Thanks.”

 

After she leaves, Piers picks his phone back up. The sunrise picture, right where he left off. 

 

He double-taps it. Watches as the white heart eclipses yellow Hammerlocke sky. 

 

Then exits the app and deletes it off his phone entirely. It doesn’t do much to slow the swell of notifications—check-ins from other leaders, emails, calls, texts, and the like, but Piers opens the drawer on his night stand and drops his phone into it. It closes with a satisfying thunk. 

 

It’s bleak in Spikemuth, always is, but he opens his blinds anyway and is almost choked by the cloud of dust that drifts off them. 

 

There’s a pile of Raihan’s stuff in the corner. Ultra balls that haven’t been used yet. The sweatshirt he wore before transitioning to his newest one. Piers picks it up and presses it to his face, breathing in the scent of him.

 

It hurts. It hurts like hell, and it takes a damn lot of willpower not to crumble to the floor where he stands. 

 

Raihan said he would try again someday. At the time it sounded like cliché breakup garbage.

 

Piers isn’t kidding himself. It still does. And it’s still gonna hurt like a bitch until Raihan either takes him back or realizes he can do better.

 

Piers drops the sweatshirt and crosses the room to his guitar. He sits with it on his bed and strums something. 

 

Sad, but okay.

 

He tries again. It’s a better few chords this time.

 

Sad, but good.

 

Maybe someday he’ll be.