His alarm sounded at an hour that had him cursing vehemently under his breath, certain he’d get a text about it later.
Leon always somehow knew when he was being less than a gentleman.
Raihan rolled out of bed, grumbling to himself as he vowed to never let the triplets talk him into staying late at work before a major deadline again, knowing it was a lost cause even as he leaned against the wall of the shower and almost fell back asleep.
Just half a semester to go and he would have certification to take his gym to the next level. He had been feeling so lost after Gloria had taken the region by storm. Leon had his Battle Tower, but he had admitted to feeling like that would run its course without his friends being able to go on that adventure with him.
“We’re too young to have midlife crisis,” Raihan had moaned as they lay on the floor of Leon’s office, both of them staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out what the hell they were supposed to do now. “Should we call Kabu?”
“No, he’ll say something terribly wise and we’ll have no choice but to do what he says.”
“Isn’t that the point?”
Leon shook his head, sitting up. “No, I don’t want to do something because it’s the smart thing to do. I’m so tired, I just want…I just want to start over a little. Not completely, of course, but I feel like so much of my life has been devoted to a certain way of battling, a certain way of existing really. I don’t want to limit myself to that now that I have room to try something else. I want…oh.”
Raihan sat up quickly, watching his friend’s eyes widen. “Lee?”
“I…I want to go back to Uni,” Leon said quietly. “I think Hop had the right idea, apprenticing under Sonia. I want to do what I couldn’t the first time. I want to take the classes I decide on and specialize in whichever types I like best. No one but myself in control of exploring where I might want to go from here.”
“Lee, that’s brilliant! Is Professor Chelle still there? She would take you on as a grad student in a heartbeat!”
Leon was practically vibrating in excitement as he called his Rotom out to look through his contacts. “Only one way to find out! This is bloody reckless but if I don’t do this now, I’ll end up talking myself out of it…”
Not only had Professor Chelle taken Leon on before he had finished speaking, she had immediately assumed Raihan would be coming with him and given him the name of another professor he might want to talk to.
“Oh, I’m not—” She hadn’t heard a word of it, sending him the contact information before signing off, practically floating at the news her favorite student would be returning.
They had sat silently for a moment before Leon had tentatively said, “You could, you know.”
“You could come back with me.” His eyes were practically shining, looking at Raihan hopefully. “I know you’ve already specialized, but you love classes! Think about it, mate! You’ve been going on for ages about bringing in more cross regional aspects to Galar’s challenge. And with the new Chairman being from Alola, I’ll bet every last pokédollar you could actually convince them to try! It will be exhausting doing school and the gym, but you’re no stranger to hard work. I know you could do it!”
“You’re mental, mate. There is no way. I’m too tired to deal with another round of Uni again. Put it out of your head.”
A month later, he’d been standing outside the historic school and wondering how this had become his life. Leon was a thousand watts of sunshine and if his face hadn’t been among the most well known in Galar, he was fairly certain an upperclassman would have come over to ask him if the sweet, unsuspecting first year needed help finding his dorm.
“I am not going to survive this. I hope Flygon toasts your arse when I’m gone.”
“It’s going to be fun!” Leon had said jovially, grabbing his arm and pulling him inside. “A Champion time, even,” he said, cackling when Raihan groaned and let himself be dragged into the building.
“Let the record show that I hate you so much.” This was going to be a nightmare.
It was the best decision he had ever made.
He sighed happily as he sank down into the seat beside Leon, accepting the caffeine he was being offered gratefully. “Ta, mate.”
“You’ll never guess who I saw when I was passing one of the lecture halls!”
Raihan practically spit out his drink, looking at Leon with wide eyes. “No. Absolutely not. If Hop is already teaching classes, I am out. You can’t make me—”
“Not Hop!” Leon said, though he got a faraway look in his eyes for a moment. “Wow, that would be something though, wouldn’t it? My little brother, teaching here. They grow up so fast!”
“It was Piers,” Leon said excitedly. “He was arguing with a professor about something, but I couldn’t hear them much. But it sounds like he attends classes. I didn’t know he went here!”
“Neither did I,” Raihan said, baffled. He tried to keep the grin off his face as he thought about their last encounter during the Dynamaxing incident. Piers’ flustered expression at his compliments had given him hope that his crush might not be so one-sided. It was almost fitting, he supposed, that Piers would be here, where Raihan had first heard his music.
He’d spent that night thinking about the singer with a hand shoved down his sweats and wondering how in the world he was going to face him in their next battle.
Leon shot him a knowing look before turning to the front as class started.
Raihan lived for classes, loved learning from some of the most brilliant minds in Galar and loved the challenge of the tightrope act he had to perform between the gym and his work here.
But for once, he didn’t hear a word that was said.
“Room for one more?”
He smiled widely when Piers nearly choked on his food.
He playfully put up a hand in his dragon claw pose. “The great and powerful!” His heart felt like it was glowing when Piers rolled his eyes and gestured to the seat across from him.
“Alright, Sir Great and Powerful, come sit and let me use your ridiculous height to get out of this thrice-cursed sun for a minute.”
Raihan laughed and angled his body so that Piers was more in his shadow, the singer sighing gratefully and swiping the sweat from his forehead. Raihan tracked a bead of it down the other’s neck and tried very hard not to think about chasing after it with his tongue.
“You know, I would have thought you’d be the ‘always cold’ type.”
Piers threw a half-hearted glare at him. “More of a ‘never met a type weather I couldn’t manage to be uncomfortable in’ sort.”
“Ooh, I’ve always wondered why you’re extra bitchy when I use Sunny Day.”
Piers flipped him off, and Raihan brought out his lunch, pushing a sandwich at the other without thinking about it.
“Hm? Uh, basic veggie sub I think? Mine has meat if you want that instead.”
“No, I mean,” Piers’ face did something complicated, like he was wondering if Raihan was right in the head. “Why are you givin’ it to me?”
“Oh. I always bring extras in case Lee or I are feeling hungrier than usual.”
“Leon is here?” Piers asked, head tilting as he glanced behind Raihan like the former Champion would appear behind him.
“Nah, not right now. He’s with one of the professors researching for his thesis. Which I should also be doing, but I heard you were around and I wanted to come see you instead.” He paused when Piers’ face immediately turned bright red. He watched as the singer reached towards the sandwich very slowly, as though he wasn’t sure he should.
“So you, uh, you both are goin’ to classes here?”
“Yeah, Leon wanted a new start after everything and I’m a sucker when he pulls his Yamper face,” he said with a grimace. “So I’m focusing on international studies and seeing about integrating some of the bigger battle specialties of other regions into the Challenge.”
Piers whistled low, nodding in appreciation. “That’ll be somethin’ to see if you pull it off.”
“What about you? I didn’t even know this sort of place was something you were interested in!”
Piers had a wistful look in his eye when he replied. “Didn’t get to go since I was raising Marnie and tryin’ to keep the gym open. Too expensive on top of not havin’ the time. And then things got worse with the city so in the end I figured I’d never end up gettin’ any kind of degree. I took free online classes for a while, but that wasn’t for me. Felt too strange to not see the people I was talkin’ to.”
“So as soon as Marnie took over the gym, it was all go?”
“Yeah. Wanted to take some music classes,” Piers said quietly, and Raihan sat back, surprised. “Did you know I couldn’t read sheet music? Not till last semester. Always learned by memory and just messin’ around until things sounded good. And while I know some of it already, havin’ music theory and a composition class has helped me improve my writing. I get into fights constantly with the profs, but they…” He swallowed hard, looking away for a moment. “They don’t make me leave or act like they know better than me. I like that I can argue with them and actually learn somethin’ from it. I didn’t know I even wanted that, but m’not givin’ it up for anything now that I’m here.”
Raihan’s insides felt warm at the thought of Piers feeling like he belonged somewhere. He’d only felt adrift in the world for a short time after everything had happened.
Piers had felt that way most of his life, and the dragon trainer couldn’t help but agree with anything that set him free of those feelings, even for a little while.
“I’m excited to hear where it ends up taking your music,” Raihan said, leaning his head on a hand and trying not to show how endearing he found the fact that Piers would turn his sub around every few bites to nibble at the other end, working his way to the middle for last.
“Didn’t know you listened to enough of it to tell the difference.”
“I literally asked you to sign my copies of your albums!”
Piers squirmed a bit, looking uncomfortable. “Thought that was just…you bein’ you.”
“What does that even mean?”
The singer looked him in the eyes, mouth set in a tight line. “Nothin’. Just that you’ve let a kid who was practically a bairn sign your trainers before. You let her scribble all over shoes that cost more than rent in the heart of Hammerlocke ‘cause she was cryin’ over losing a battle with her equally wee bairn of a sister.”
He remembered that. Still had the shoes, even. He’d said something about needing her signature for when she grew up and became the next strong trainer to watch out for. It had made her stop crying, even smiling as her sister helped her draw on the sides of his shoes and excitedly told him all about their battle and how strong the two of them were going to be.
“You go out of your way to make people feel special.” Piers was looking at the sandwich in his hands, and Raihan wanted to take the other’s face up in his hands to kiss the embarrassed blush tinging his ears pink. “No reason why that wouldn’t be the case here.”
Raihan called Rotom out, silently scrolling through his playlists until he found the ones he wanted. He showed Piers and watched the singer’s eyes widen when he saw how many of his songs were peppered throughout.
“I heard your music my first year here,” Raihan said, fighting back a blush of his own. “Got me through a lot of the first two years. Kept me awake when I needed to motivate myself to keep working and study more or to fall asleep when I was too anxious. I listen to ‘Narcissus’ on repeat even now. I didn’t ask you to sign your albums because I wanted you to feel special. I asked you to sign them because you are special.”
Piers’ eyes flicked up to his and held, his expression a fortress against Raihan’s ability to read it, so he didn’t try. Piers would always say what was on his mind eventually.
He looked out over the brick and grass, watching students come and go. They gathered in study groups while their Pokémon played. Some were out on the pitch battling while others cheered on the participants. A thousand memories could overlay any given moment here, and he was grateful Leon had talked him into coming back.
“Would you…want to come to one of the practice rooms and hear what I’ve been workin’ on sometime?”
He beamed at Piers, feeling his heart swell in his chest to think of Piers trusting him with the earliest stages of his music. “I’d fucking love that!”
Piers’ expression softened before he finished his sub and crumpled the wrapping up, tossing it into the bin. He stood up, stretching and taking off his jacket to tie around his waist. Raihan took in the sight of bare arms and the sweet curve of the singer’s waist and the hint of a smile on his lips. He’s so beautiful.
“Alright, I’ll let the department know to let you in so you don’t have to constantly fill out the forms. Come on then, I have class soon. Walk with me?”
Raihan practically leapt up, binning his own wrappers before he picked up Piers’ bag, slinging it over his shoulder along with his own. Piers’ incredulous look made him howl with laughter as they walked.
“What are we, twelve?”
“Please, twelve year olds don’t have this much game.”
Piers looked him over, a sudden realization on his face that had Raihan nearly pushing him up against the nearest building.
“Ah, I see. Is this you tryin’ to impress me then?”
“Depends,” Raihan said with a grin, walking backwards and trusting Piers to let him know if he was about to look like an idiot and trip over something. “Is it working?”
It was the absolutely wrong bet to make, and really he should have known when it came to Piers. All the air rushed out of him as he flailed and his back hit the grass, disoriented as the Chewtle he’d stumbled over shrieked at him angrily and scuttled away. He groaned and couldn’t help but cackle breathlessly when Piers started laughing, closing his eyes to try and dispel the dizziness.
They flew right back open when a weight suddenly dropped on top of him, and he stared up at Piers sitting astride him with something warm and entertained in his eyes and a smirk on that pretty, pretty mouth.
“So much game,” he said mockingly, tapping the side of Raihan’s nose with a finger. Fuck, but Piers’ body on his was dangerous, reaching up to hold his hips in place without thinking about it. “But you do impress me,” he said, voice soft. “You have for a long time.”
“Any chance I could convince you to ditch with me?” Raihan asked, smiling toothily when Piers raised a brow and shook his head.
“Not a chance in the world, dragon boy. I’m free at seven.”
“Proper rebel you are,” Raihan teased, leaning up to get close to Piers’ face, his intentions on his own. He thought he might faint when Piers let him kiss the corner of his mouth.
“Ugh, don’t even remind me. Formal education, tired enough to be in bed by 2a.m, studyin’ in the library. Kill me now, I’m becomin’ respectable.”
Raihan laughed and tugged them both to their feet, feeling giddy and more than a bit in love to think that Piers would actually let him take him out tonight. “Don’t think anyone could ever accuse you of that.”
Piers leered at him. “Flatterer, I’ve already said yes. Make it worth my while and we’ll see about everythin’ else. Get on with you, I’m already late.”
“Seven, then. Give us a kiss for the road?”
Piers smirked and dragged him down for the filthiest snog he had ever had in his life, the cheeky git.
“Will that do?” Piers asked when they parted, both panting a little, eyes heated and staring each other down.
“I am going to be useless and it will be your fault when my advisor finally tosses me out for not paying attention.”
Piers laughed and blew him a kiss before he sauntered off. “I’ll be in practice room 241. See you tonight,” he called over his shoulder.
Raihan threw a fist up as soon as the other disappeared around the corner, his excited yell startling the handful of Skwovet nearby as he ran all the way to his meeting.
The Pokémon eyed him as he moved further and further away.
Humans sure were strange.