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It's (Maybe) A Date

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When someone says ‘it’s a date’, they usually mean ‘it’s a plan’ with no romantic undertones whatsoever. At least, this is what Piers keeps telling himself as he waits outside the  Hammerlocke   Pokémon  centre.  

 Yesterday, he had agreed on this ‘date’ with  Raihan . After a sleepless night spent groaning into a pillow he had been determined not to come and if it hadn’t been for Marnie throwing him a clean pair of socks and a grin as soon as she woke up, he would still be in bed right now. Instead he’s sheltering under the awning of the building from the pouring rain and cursing his past self for being so stupid.  

The problem is that  if this  is  just a ‘plan’, a catch up with a friend, then he really shouldn’t have put this much effort into his appearance.  Ripped skinny jeans,  chunky leather boots and a t-shirt with a band design that’s probably not acceptable in polite company make an ensemble that’s definitely not his usual unkempt daily style. It’s more like a stage outfit, if he’s honest.  How embarrassing.  He’s  going to look like an idiot at best and a desperate single at worst.   

But what if this  is  a date? Does he even want that?  Even if he did, would he want that with  Raihan Piers hasn’t been on an actual date for years, what if they don’t work the same way anymore?  What if he’s expected to do more than go out for lunch?   

The rain is still  pouring. People bustle by, the occasional fan giving him a nervous smile, everyone oblivious to his internal crisis.  He closes his eyes and takes a long breath, lets it out as a sigh. He shouldn’t have come here. What a stupid decision.  Maybe if he calls a taxi now he can vanish before  Raihan  arrives.   

“Hey!   Piers!”  

And maybe  Tepig s  will start to fly. He opens his eyes to see  Raihan  jogging through the rain,  as bouncy and energetic as ever. It’s too late to run away, he’s going to have to grin and bear it.   

“Hi,” he says awkwardly, forcing a nervous smile  as  Raihan  comes to a stop under the awning.   

“Sorry I’m late!”  Raihan  says, rubbing the back of his head  sheepishly. “ Time ran away from me.”  

Lucky time , Piers thinks. He hadn’t even realised  that  Raihan  was late, too busy fretting.  He could have caught that taxi after all.  

S'fine ,” he says.  You, uh...”  

It’s now that he realises  several things at once.   

One is that he had completely forgotten how obnoxiously  tall  Raihan  is.  If he was to look straight ahead, Piers would be able  to see  up his nose.  From the other side of a battle  stadium i t’s not so obvious. Face to face like this ,  Piers feels almost backed into the corner. It’s... something.  He’s not sure what.  

And then there’s his outfit.  It’s exactly the same as every other time they’ve met.  His bright orange bandana that he probably irons,  custom designer shorts,  and that stupid hood that he hadn’t even put up for the rain.  He looks like a prat but, as usual, it suits him.  The outfit itself isn’t the problem. The problem is that he hasn’t  put in any effort at all, whereas Piers has put in too much.  

“Did I interrupt something?” he asks, the edge  to his voice borne of disappointment in himself rather than in  Raihan  

“What?”  Raihan   frowns at him for a moment and then his eyes go wide  i n realisation. “Oh, the threads? No, no, I just got caught up at the gym and didn’t have time to go home and change.”  

It’s believable.  Raihan  isn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.  But it doesn’t make Piers feel any less stupid.  He  runs a hand through a loose strand of hair that’s escaped his ponytail  and shrugs.  

“Fair.  

“Are you disappointed?”   Raihan  asks with a wink.  

The question floors him .   B ecause , he realises, he   is.  Maybe a small part of him had been looking forward to seeing  Raihan  scrubbed up.  Oh god. He’s horrified at himself.  

“What?” he scoffs,  hastily staring at his boots. “ No.  Why would I be-"  

“You look great, by the way,”  Raihan  interrupts. Piers chokes on the rest of his sentence.  

Eh?”  

“Never actually spent time with you out of the gym uniform before,”  Raihan  continues with a casual shrug. “I thought maybe your music video had some like awesome filters or something but turns out you don’t need them.  Damn .”  

Oh. Well. Piers hadn’t seen this coming. Getting complimented for his music and videos is one thing but for his looks, to his  face , is...difficult. Impossible.   

“No,” he argues awkwardly. “It’s not really...”  

Raihan  holds up a hand to stop him talking with the biggest, goofiest,  sweetest  smile Piers has ever seen.  

“Just say ‘thanks', okay?”  

How is he supposed to argue with that? He tries a few times, parting his lips soundlessly, and then looks down to the paving slabs beneath his feet and manages a half-formed mumble.  

“... nks .”  

“Atta boy.”  

Raihan  is still beaming like an idiot, as if  Piers’s  heart isn’t doing painful acrobatics in his chest. He really shouldn’t have come here. This was a mistake. If he keeps acting like this, then...  

“Ready for lunch?”  Raihan  asks, blissfully ignorant. “My buddy's place is just down the road.”  

Right. That had been the plan. Lunch at a new café. A lunch  date , his brain insists, and he digs his nails into his palm to shut it up.  

“Sure,” he says.  

“Awesome,”  Raihan  says, turning to begin leading the way. “You’re  gonna   love  it, it’s right up your alley.”  

“Cool.”  

Two seconds into the walk,  Piers’s  limited conversational skills dry up completely. He had been ready to talk about the weather, a good  Galarian  staple of polite conversation, and how it’s anything  but  dry but as they step out from under the awning of the  Pokémon  centre  Raihan  pulls a collapsible umbrella from one of his big hoodie pockets and ruins  Piers’s  plans.   

Soon he’s sharing an umbrella and meandering through the cobbled streets of  Hammerlocke Raihan  is close enough that Piers is able to realise that he smells good which is firstly embarrassing and secondly means he takes cologne to the gym for work which is  worse.  It’s probably in one of his stupid pockets, where his phone  should  be but instead it’s drifting around them, a third entity sharing the umbrella. Piers watches it spin, checks that it’s not taking photos, and then gets distracted by the way  Raihan  nods and waves cheerily to random people they pass, a benevolent king strolling through his kingdom. And if  Raihan  is a king then today Piers is a-  

Oh  god  he should have stayed at home.  

Raihan stays quiet as they walk, letting Piers take it all in. Piers is too overwhelmed to think about how thoughtful that it.  

The walk feels as if it takes both a million years and only a few heartbeats before Raihan brings them to a halt outside a storefront. It’s new, and sleek, and has a big ‘Opening Soon’ sign hanging on the door. Piers frowns.  

“I thought you said this place was open?”  

Raihan  knocks on the door and gives Piers a wink.  

“For us it is.”  

Before Piers can question this, the door is opened from the inside.  Raihan’s  friend, presumably. The man doesn’t look surprised to see them at all.  

“Welcome!”  

Raihan  grins, not missing a beat.  

“Hey, thanks again for doing this for us!”  

He glances towards Piers who swallows down an embarrassed shout and mumbles.  

“... nks .”  

private  café date. Oh no, oh god, this is not what he signed up for at  all.  Unless he’s on stage or in a stadium Piers hates being the centre of attention. They walk past rows and rows of empty tables and the silence is heavy, the sound of his boots on the black tiles seeming far too loud. Thankfully the proprietor sits them at a table near the counter, already set with menus and cutlery, and disappears. Piers glares at  Raihan  over the honest to god candle that’s being used as a centrepiece.  

Raihan  picks up his menu. Piers does the same. As one they lean forwards, menus shielding them from view.  

“You should have told me,” Piers whispers furtively.  Raihan  is undeterred.  

“It’s a surprise!”  

“I don’t  do  surprises!”  

“Aw c'mon,”  Raihan  coaxes. “Isn’t it great in here?”  

Falling for the bait, Piers actually takes a look around. There’s lots of dark marble and stone, dragon themed ornaments in the style of the gargoyles along  Hammerlocke’s  walls. The bar is lit in various shades of neon and backed in a wall covered in newspaper clippings. It  is  cool. It almost reminds him of home.  Bollocks.  

As if sensing victory,  Raihan  speaks again.  

“You get a sneak peek before the grand opening!”  

“But,” Piers protests, forcing himself to stop gazing around like an idiot and glare at  Raihan  instead. “ Why ?”  

“Because I wanted to show you something special,”  Raihan  says simply. “Since you came all this way.”  

It would be sweet if Piers believed it.  

“You wanted to show off,” he counters.   

“Maybe,” Raihan grins. “Is it working?”  

He’s a handsome bastard and he has a smirk that shows he knows it. A handsome bastard with good taste in cafes, apparently, or at least with a decent understanding of Piers’s tastes. It pisses him off just enough to be bold.  

“I don’t know, ” he says, raising his eyes to  Raihan's  with  the hint of a smirk on his lips.   “M aybe you should have dressed the part too.”  

Raihan’s  eyes widen  and Piers triumphantly watches as his jaw drops just a little.  The  downside is that his own cheeks are heating up and he feels like a colossal  dick.  He forces himself to flash a smile .  

“This is fine .  Better than somewhere crowded.”  

Somehow this makes it worse. The way Raihan is looking at him is so  soft  it’s embarrassing, as if he’s said something meaningful. Piers averts his eyes and tries again.  

“Thanks, Raihan,” he mumbles. “For setting this up. I know you’re busy.”  

Finally  Raihan takes mercy on him and laughs. Piers looks up to see him smoothing out his bandana, a gesture that would have looked nervous on anyone else.  

S'no  big deal,” Raihan says, raising his menu up again. “So uh, how about the mixed grill on page three?”  

As it turns out, the mixed grill on page three is delicious. So are the assorted starters Raihan orders, and the local craft beers he picks. While they’re waiting for the food and in between courses Raihan talks and Piers mostly listens. About work, about his  Pokémon , about his next video he’ll be uploading later, about the weather  finally.  By the time he’s finishing off his second beer, Piers is shocked to find he’s actually talking back, offering subjects of his own, and has been coaxed into a long ramble about music and aesthetics and the gang back home. The room is huge but Piers forgets about all that empty space, about anything other than the man sitting across from him. It’s...  

Well, it’s  nice . For a  time  he forgets to feel anxious about every little thing, stops questioning  what  this is and enjoys the way it’s playing out. Raihan is loud and embarrassing and forthright but he wears his heart on his sleeve and it’s comforting, not having to worry about ulterior motives or a higher agenda.   

The table is empty, their beers are finished, and Piers is leaning back in his chair in an  unfamiliar  state of contentment right up until Raihan reaches up to take his phone out of the air and point it towards him. Piers holds a hand up defensively.  

“Oi, I said no photos.”  

“You said no photos without permission,” Raihan corrects, peering over the top of his phone like a naughty schoolboy. “ So  can I?”  

He  had  said that, on the phone the night before. Cursing his weak past self, Piers sighs.  

“Why do you even  want  one?” he asks. Raihan has the decency to look embarrassed.  

“To remember this better.”  

That’s...cute. Fuck. Piers falls back on defensive teasing and raises an eyebrow.  

“Is your memory that bad?”   

“Please,” Raihan laughs. “I’m not  Leon . And I won’t share it around, I promise.”  

He’s telling the truth. A  Yamper  could lie more convincingly than someone with a face like Raihan. Piers takes a deep breath, pushes some flyaway hair out of his face, and nods.  

“...fine. But only one.”  

The instant click of the camera makes him jump. Eyes wide, he raises an eyebrow.  

“Aren't you meant to be in it as well?”  

“Not this one,” Raihan says, beaming with delight.  

“But-”  

“Come on, let’s bounce. There’s somewhere else I want to show you.”  

There’s a photo of himself, alone, dressed up, on Raihan’s phone. For some reason this fills him with nervous energy, he’s part horrified and part flattered, and while he can’t find the words to express this aloud he latches on to something else.  

“But we haven’t paid yet.”  

“I sorted it earlier.” Raihan says easily, getting to his feet and moving to stand beside Piers before offering him a hand. “Don’t panic.”  

Of course  he had. Piers can’t actually remember the last time a guy treated him to a lunch without making a grand show of it and asking for something less innocent in return. Taken aback, he reaches for Raihan’s hand without thinking about it.  

“You didn’t have t’do that,” he mumbles, getting to his feet. Raihan gives his hand a squeeze.  

Next time, lunch is on you.”  

That’s...reasonable.  

“...nks.”  

Raihan’s smile is so bright it’s  blinding  and so Piers instead watches his own shoes as he’s lead out of the café, mumbling a goodbye to the owner on the way past. He’s not sure if he’s meant to let go of Raihan’s hand or not and so he awkwardly holds on, giving him plenty of time to notice how big his hands are, how naturally they fit together. When was the last time he had actually held hands, for that matter? He focuses on working this out as Raihan tugs him back out into the rain, it being far less embarrassing than thinking about what he’s actually doing, in public, with Raihan.   

The walk to their next destination is just long enough for him to realise he genuinely can’t remember the last time he had held hands with anyone other than Marnie. It’s a little depressing.   

“Here we are!”  

Raihan leads him into a building while he’s spacing out which means it takes him a moment to realise where they are. The stone walls, the little information booth, the fancy rug on the floor...  

“The vault?”  

Raihan finally  lets  go of his hand and waves to the lady  manning  the information booth.  

“The coolest part of our city,” he says proudly. “Don’t you think?”  

It  kind of is, actually. Piers remembers coming here when he was a kid and being far too excited over all the dragon statues.  Spikemuth  has the grunge but  Hammerlocke’s  vault is goth all over. Somehow, Raihan had  known  and so Piers can’t bring himself to share the memory. He picks one safer for his reputation instead.  

“Yeah, I brought Marnie here a lot when she was littler.”  

It backfires. Raihan grins.  

“You’re really cute about your sister, you know that?”  

He  does  but people don’t have to say it. He opens his mouth to protest but Raihan interrupts him.  

“Bet she’ll be jealous of what I’ve got to show you. Follow me.”  

And  so  Piers does, still trying to think of some sort of manly comeback as he follows Raihan through a door secured by an access code and up a narrow flight of stairs. He lags behind enough that his brain happily points out that Raihan has fantastic calf muscles. Fervently hoping he can fall backwards down the stairs and  die,  Piers reaches the top of the stairs and follows Raihan into a room he’s never seen before.  

The floor and walls are bare stone, lit by braziers that hold actual fire instead of electric light. Scattered seemingly at random across the floor are remnants of broken statues, fierce dragons with missing limbs, heads without bodies, one huge human hand with no owner.   

It’s  incredible.  

Wow.”  

The word slips from his lips unbidden. He should say more, ask what this even is, but he’s too busy staring in wonder. Raihan reaches out to give his shoulder a squeeze and then steps away, hopping over to the hand and sitting himself down in it as if it’s some gigantic stone chair. It looks ridiculous. It looks  awesome.  Piers is at a loss for words.  

“So?” Raihan asks, although he must know the answer. “You  vibin ' yet?”  

Vibin ’.  Piers cringes but gives a grudging nod, beginning to walk slowly through the room and inspect  each  fragment of statue individually.  

“This isn’t on the tour, is it?” he asks, voice low.  

“Nope,” Raihan grins. “This is where they keep the bits they couldn’t restore well enough for the main collection. Kinda like a trash room, I guess.”  

“But this stuff is cool,” Piers argues softly, caught up in running his hand over the teeth of a stone dragon that are cracked and worn. “I’d pay to see it.”  

“I know, right?”  

Raihan is peering at him from over his shoulder and Piers meets his eyes. For a moment neither of them speak. Then Raihan smiles at him so warmly his stomach flips.  

“Some things are more beautiful when they’re a bit damaged, you know?”  

Piers’s  heart leaps into his throat and he turns away quickly.  

“You don’t  wanna  get them fixed up?”  

“Nope. They’re good  just  as they are.”  

He’s not wrong. Not about the statues, anyway. Piers isn’t quite ready to think about the other implications. Despite that, he finds himself drifting back to Raihan’s side. The room is small, he can only wander for so long. That’s as good an excuse as any to lean against the side of the giant hand, half-turned towards a smiling Raihan.  

“I love it,” Piers admits quietly. “Thanks for showin’ me this.”  

“I thought it might be something you could use,” Raihan says, a glint in his eye. “You know. For a music video or something?”  

“Huh?”  

Actually...he has a point. He’s never been anywhere quite like it. It’s got the right sort of feeling to it. Pump some dry ice in and get a good cameraman and it could make an awesome set. Piers hadn’t even been considering it.  

“Your last one was so cool, you know?” Raihan continues. “And you looked great. I thought maybe if you filmed one  here  I could help out or something.”  

Slowly some pieces fall into place. Piers closes his eyes and thinks back to how he had even ended up here. The video. The phone call. The gushing about his appearance. The  question . Raihan had been worrying about him, for sure, but this isn’t just a pity date to make sure he’s all right. Nor is it just an excuse to ogle him, Raihan’s kept his hands to himself all day.  

Piers isn’t sure how he feels in this moment. But he knows for sure that he doesn’t feel like a god damned Mimikyu.  

“Unbelievable,” he murmurs, lips twitching into a smile.  

“Huh?”  

He pushes away from the hand only to step in front of Raihan, looking him square in the face. The hand-chair is low and so for the  first time all day  Piers is looking down on him, in all his handsome, self-assured, stupid glory. This time, it’s Piers’s turn to grin.  

“Are you  tellin ’ me,” he says slowly. “That you did all of this so you could be in my next video?”  

Raihan has the audacity to laugh. And  so  help him but Piers thinks the sound is wonderful.  

“Mm,” Raihan hums, reaching up to where Piers had already been reaching for his hands. “Among other things.”  

Things like keeping Piers on his toes with surprises. Things like showing off his connections. Things like being thoughtful, and generous, and sweet. Or things like how maybe, just maybe, this has been a real date and he’s really interested in whatever they could be. He pulls Piers down gently until he’s kneeling over him, with a smile on his lips and a hint of a blush on his cheeks.  

“You’re an idiot,” Piers murmurs, leaning in and letting his eyes close.  

“You know it.”  

It’s the best first kiss Piers has ever had. Soft, and tender, and patient. Through his pounding rushing in his ears he hears the  tell-tale  snap of Raihan’s phone and reaches up to swat it away blindly.  

“It’s just for me,” Raihan laughs against his lips.   

“It fuckin’ better be.”  

Raihan presses his lips to the corner of  Piers’s  mouth.  

“Can I see you again?”  

Raihan has, probably, one braincell. Piers is happier than he should be that it’s currently being reserved for him.  

“Stupid.”   

“Is that a yes?”  

He answers by kissing Raihan firmly, it being preferable to having to listen to him talk. They stay that way for a while, trading kisses and murmured fond insults, holding hands and kissing until  Piers’s  knees begin to ache from leaning on stone. As he finally draws back, dizzy and red in the face, Raihan gives him a wink.  

So  about that collaboration video...”  

Raihan is ridiculous. Perhaps because of that, Piers listens to him talk and tries not to think about just what the hell he’s getting himself into.