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everybody says that nothing ever lasts forever, so I'm hanging on tight trying to keep it all tied together

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“Hey,” Piers says, limbs loose and hanging weightless at each side of his body, his smile tired and his eyes a little wet.

Morgana jolts in place, at the sound of his voice, caught in that frozen stare that’s visibly trying to parse what’s happening. There’s always a moment of indecision and doubt, when a pokemon’s traded or given away, an uncertainty about their place with their new partner and sometimes mixed feelings about leaving their old one.

Morgana takes a moment, careful and thoughtful like everything else she does, and then the roar echoes loud and delighted, before she throws herself at Piers, who immediately buckles under the weight and ends up lying on the ground, chuckling low in the back of his throat.

“Oh, I see how it is,” his old man says, watching the exchange from the sidelines, sitting on the small wooden steps leading up to the police station that would look very nondescript if it weren’t located in the particular route it was. “Him you hug, me you nearly tear an arm off.”

“She didn’t nearly tear your arm off,” Piers says, scratching roughly into the base of the spikes behind her head and letting her settle in place, basically blanketing him with her body.

His dad, because he’s his dad, rolls his eyes with a flourish and dramatically shoves the left sleeve of his robe up to the shoulder, so Piers can see the vicious scars along his arm, almost stretching from shoulder to elbow. They look old, but distinct enough to let Piers know the wound they originated from was not, in fact, a laughing matter.

“Taking an enraged tyranitar’s crunch head on,” he says, shrugging so the sleeve falls down in place, as usual, “not my brightest moment.”

Piers sighs and then smirks.

“I don’t know,” he says, careful to not look at him in the eye, “I still think I have the crown there, as your least brightest moment.”

His dad doesn’t laugh, doesn’t even smile.

He looks sad, instead. Melancholic. Piers hates his dumb robe and the stupid flecks of white he’s let grow into his hair, and the fact he gave him keys to the police station, all the way back when they chucked Rose into a hole, and invited him to visit, to… reconnect. He hates the fact he’s kept that key burning a hole in his pockets since then, writhing in place and feeling like sticking around and helping Marnie get her bearings as new Gym Leader was procrastination and not something he did out of love.  He just… he hates it and him and everything he feels about it, and above all the fact his dad outright refuses to give him a reason so Piers won’t have to feel like shit all the time.

“The last time you were here,” his dad says, tone wry, “you packed your bags and went right back home because your best friend posted a selfie with a shovel and you decided that meant he was being stupid and needed you to keep him from it.”

Which is… true, sure, but his dad doesn’t know Raihan, doesn’t know the lengths of stupidity he’s capable of, as far as Leon’s concerned. Sure, Piers had tidied up all his loose ends and decided to take up the invitation and come see his dad, fully prepared for take as long as necessary to clear the air and just. Make himself stop feeling guilty over the dumb key forever present in his pocket, like a stupid amulet or something. But then of course, Raihan and his shovel and the stupid pond he’d decided to dig because he’s hopeless and a moron and what was Piers supposed to do but go home and mock him for it? The fact Leon and Raihan had moved in together afterwards was progress that Piers could claim no credit for but between dealing with his dad and his dumb boyfriend and his dumb boyfriend’s knack to dump all his responsibilities on Piers because it’s not that different from Gym Leader work, really, the whole Kahuna business and being home, drinking beer and spectating Raihan’s disaster of a love life, well. There’s no contest, really, Piers knows which one he’ll take up any time.

“If I ask why you’d ever think I or her or both of us wouldn’t be proud of you, would you tell me?”

Piers hums and then smiles against better judgment, when Morgana nuzzles his face, pressing just enough for him to realize he’s pinned in place and not going anywhere unless he recalls her into her duskball. It feels like the kind of underhanded setup he should have expected, but for all he hates this – and him and himself and everything – he’s just. He’s tired. He’s not a child anymore, throwing a tantrum and hiding away in the caves beneath the stadium just so he wouldn’t have to see his dad. He’s not the brat that hid in Raihan’s living room every time his dad visited under the excuse of letting Marnie spend some time with the old man in her own terms.

He’s tired.

“Ma was a business sharpedo who built up the hoard that I nearly depleted after the accident, trying to keep the town afloat, and one of the strongest Gym Leaders in Galar history, and the one person on record to not only have said no to Rose, loudly and ferally and every bit as roughly as she damn pleased.” Piers tilts his head back, staring at his dad. “You’re… well. You. You don’t need me sucking up telling you who you are.” It’s supposed to make the old man laugh, but he doesn’t, staring down at him intent and focused, like this matters. Like any of this matters. “If I ever learned anything from you, dad, it was to not take chances on losing odds: there’s no way I live up to those expectations, so I rather not waste time trying.”

“Your mother was a selfish, vicious, reckless asshole,” his dad says, unrepentant. “I am a selfish, vicious, reckless asshole. Peas in a pod, her and I, you could say that’s why we loved each other quite so.” He laughs wryly, tilting his head sharply to the police station, and the small army of alolan meowths in various states of napping all over it. “We had that in common, in fact, that we have a type and that type is, I must insist, selfish, vicious, reckless asshole.” His dad tilted his head sideways. “You somehow managed to be neither of those things of your own volition. You took all that’s good in her and in me, scarce as it is, and made it yours. Why would we not be proud of you?”

Piers says nothing, looking away. He wraps his arms around Morgana’s neck and basks instead in the content rumble echoing from her chest.

“You should ask me for a rematch,” Piers says, after a long, long while, just as his dad stands up and begins heading back inside.

He gently pushes Morgana off until he can sit down, though she immediately curls around until her head is plopped right on his lap and he’s back to scratching the back of her spines.

“Oh?” His dad tilts his head, looking at him over his shoulder. “And what would I get, if I win?”

Piers makes a conscious choice to not look at him in the eye as he smiles.

“Nothing,” he says, shrugging. “But you’ll tell me how you met Ma, if you lose.”

His dad laughs, and for the first time Piers allows himself to admit it’s a very musical sound, not necessarily meanspirited and mocking by default.

“Oh very well,” he says, duskball already in hand. “But I shan’t go easy on you.”

Piers doesn’t point out he never has, really, in the spirit of making amends.