The past few years caused Moon’s tolerance of Aloha weather to grow. Still, she sometimes longed for the cooler Kanto air and not the humidity that always plagued these islands. There were things Kanto didn't have, though. In Kanto there wasn't a Hau, Lillie, or Gladion. Moon wouldn't trade them for anything. Distance only made her miss them even more.
With every passing year Moon saw less and less of her friends. Lillie came back from Kanto a year ago but she was training; going around from island to island completing trials.
Then there was her brother. Gladion would visit from time to time to challenge her. Those times were becoming less and less frequent over time. Running the Aether Foundation full time now took up most of his energy.
Hau was the one she saw most often. He would come to challenge Moon or just to talk. Still, Moon wouldn't mind seeing more of him.
She, of course, was also at fault. Eight years as the Aloha champion provided little free time. Moon wouldn't trade a second of it but more time with her friends wouldn't hurt. When Moon's home came into view she realized that wish would be coming true. Now officially unseated as Champion left her future clear; at least for the time being.
“Moon, is that you?!” Her mother cried from up ahead. She literally shouted in excitement when Moon announced her departure from the Elite Four quarters and would be coming home. 'You can stay for as long as you want’ mom said.
Moon intended to stay for awhile. She needed to figure out what to do now that her time as Champion finally came to an end. An uncertain future did bring out anxiety but Moon also felt excited in a way.
She frantically waved to her mother now standing on the steps. “It’s me!” Moon ran the rest of the way down the familiar path. It seemed so long since she had walked down this trail. Her heart swelled at the memories it brought forth and even more when Moon finally stood face to face with her mom.
“Oh it’s good to see you again, sweetie!” Mom gushed, pulling Moon into a bone crushing hug. “How was your trip? I hope you and your pokemon have been eating enough. You look like you’ve lost weight! Come in and have some food. It’s never too late for dinner.”
A cry of agreement came from Meowth who had padded out onto the front porch after her mother. She hugged Moon’s leg, eager to get in on the reunion. “A small plate. I don’t think I can manage more than that,” Moon admitted weakly. “We covered a couple miles today without taking a break so all of us are pretty beat.”
Mom frowned at that, reaching up to lightly pinch her left cheek. “This is why I worry, Moon! You need to take better care of yourself!”
“I will, Mom. I promise!” Moon whined, pulling away in an attempt to avoid any further pinching of her cheeks.
She ate a plate as promised and then went to her room. Nothing was out of place. It looked the same as when Moon had first left years ago. Her mother took great care to keep everything in place. There wasn’t even find a spec of dust on any surface in the room.
Moon dropped her bag and flopped down onto her bed. The past few weeks of traveling home left little opportunity to sleep in beds. She stayed in the occasional inn but camping usually was the default.
The only time Moon left the familiar comfort of her bed that night was to let out her Pokemon. They spread out throughout the house; some outside and some inside. Nebby stayed close by and so did Incineroar. Moon shared a bond with all her pokemon but Incineroar started the journey with her on day one. He had grown well past the size of a Litten but it didn’t stop him from trying to curl up as close to Moon as he could.
For the first time in awhile Moon slept through the entire night. The past years weren’t easy on Moon’s sleep patterns. She enjoyed her time as Champion but now a weight felt lifted off her shoulders.
Like mornings from her childhood, Moon woke up with a face full of Meowth. It made a noise, playfully swiping at the covers. She let out a sleepy giggle at the familiar age old trick of her mother’s. Despite not wanting to leave her bed, Moon pushed down the covers and padded quietly into the kitchen. To Moon’s -not- surprise, Mom was awake and fixing food.
“Morning Moon!” Mom quipped, placing a soft kiss against her forehead. “How did you sleep?”
“Best night sleep I’ve had in a long time,” Moon admitted. Sometimes Moon’s nights were plagued of dreams of what happened to Lusamine. In her childhood home (in a sense) Moon felt safe. A false sense of security maybe but Moon clung to it nonetheless
Mom smiled almost knowingly but made no mention of it. She urged her to sit down and quickly placed a plate of delicious looking food in front of her. “Any plans after breakfast?”
“I thought I should go see Hau. He said he’d be staying at his grandfather’s place before I arrived. Even told me Gladion and Lillie would be making a trip here,” Moon explained. She couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of seeing her friends again; and all of them in the same place, too! It had been years since they were able to do that.
“He stopped by three times yesterday to see if you arrived yet. You should stop by after breakfast,” Mom suggested with a chuckle.
Moon nodded. She intended to visit Hau but Moon had no intention of rushing through her breakfast. This was the first time in a long time Moon tasted her mother’s cooking. She would enjoy it before any visit to Hau could take place.
After Moon finished eating, she dressed and headed out the door. Incineroar followed close behind. He probably wanted to see Hau as much as she did. Her pokemon made a loud roar when the Kahuna’s home came into view. Moon stifled a giggle at his excitement and continued down the path until reaching the door.
Hau burst out without any warning. He grinned at Moon, opening his arms for a hug. She gladly returned the embrace. “Moon, I have a serious question for you. When’s the last time you had some malasada?”
“It’s been awhile.”
“Then it’s settled! We have to go get some malasada!” Hau shouted firmly.
Suddenly Gladion appeared in the open door behind Hau. His eyes met Moon’s but flickered away after just a second. “Why are you loud so early?”
“We haven’t hung out with Moon in forever!” Hau pouted. He turned to Gladion, that pout still playing on his lips. “You agreed with me last night when I said we should get up extra early and spend the whole day with Moon. I think it was originally your idea?”
Gladion’s eyes locked with Moon’s again but like before he quickly broke the gaze, looking almost embarrassed. “It doesn’t matter who’s idea it was.”
“I appreciate you both thinking of me,” Moon said, giving Hau and Gladion each a smile. “It's never too early for malasadas but I just had breakfast. Let's wait until I'm done digesting it first.”
“I can go into town to get some!” Hau offered. He had that usual beaming smile on his face that held what looked like a hint of determination. Who was Moon to crush his dreams of eating malasadas with some friends?
She giggled. “That's fine. By the time you come back I'll be hungry again. Just no spicy ones.”
“One spicy malasadas for me and a sweet one each for Gladion and Moon!” Hau jumped off the porch and ran down the path. With the way Hau moved he'd probably be back in half the time it took a normal person.
Moon smoothed down her skirt before sitting on the second step. She sat down close to Gladion, a comfortable air flitting between them. Moon remembered when they met all those years ago. She didn't know what to make of Gladion at first but he probably thought the same of her.
His intentions remained a mystery until he showed up to help Lillie. Gladion always stood out compared to the other Team Skull members but only when he helped her and Hau battle their way to Lillie did Moon start to look at him differently.
Despite them being on different sides, he reached out to help Lillie and the Pokemon the Aether Foundation wronged. Moon cherished all the times since then. Every conversation, interaction, and even the battles. In those moments, Gladion let his guard down. She attributed it to the strong bond he shared with his Pokemon. It really did make those battles memorable and something she always looked forward too.
“So Hapu?” Gladion asked, breaking the comfortable silence surrounding the two.
Moon let out a breathy laugh. The emergence of Hapu as the new Champion of the Aloha region took Moon by surprise but a good one. She'd gotten much stronger since their last fight during Hapu’s first few days as Kahuna.
The battle would be a memorable one and not just because it ended with Hapu as the new Champion. They both battles fiercely and passionately. Moon felt proud of how hard her Pokemon fought.
“I always thought it might be you or Hau but Hapu is deserving of it. She's grown so much as a trainer,” Moon said fondly.
Gladion huffed. “I almost beat you the last time.” He referred to their last battle a few months ago. The two of them were on their last Pokemon at that point in the battle; Incineroar against Silvally.
She told Incineroar to use it’s signature move. Silvally went to block using protect but it failed. The move took out the already exhausted Silvally and if the protect had worked Moon had no doubt Incineroar wouldn't have been able to pull off another move like that for a second time.
“It was a good battle.”
He made a noncommittal noise that Moon took to mean he agreed with her assessment. “You… look almost relieved.”
“In a way I am,” she admitted. Moon didn't think she was that obvious but Gladion was perceptive. “Lillie says it’s a new chapter.”
Gladion scoffed. “Of course she would.” She could hear the fondness in his tone when he spoke of Lillie. It made her smile grow, drawing an odd look from Gladion. “You always smile,” he said suddenly.
“I do,” Moon said, emphasizing the words with a genuine giggle of amusement. “Are you annoyed with my constant smiling?”
The reaction from Gladion was instant; his eyes widened and he quickly shook his head. “No! I mean… no. I’m never annoyed with your smiling.” As he said this, Moon noticed a faint blush dusting Gladion’s cheeks. It stood out fairly obviously against his pale skin and in Moon’s opinion, looked adorable on him.
“So, you like my constant smiling?” Moon couldn’t help but tease. It wasn’t obvious on her but Moon could feel her own cheeks heating up. She was grateful the blush wouldn’t stand out as much as it did on Gladion.
He huffed and quickly turned his head. Moon caught the blush darkening, which only confirmed the idea that Gladion did indeed look adorable with a blush on his face. “Yeah.”
It was one, simple word but it had such an impact on Moon. She felt the blush deepen and knew it might even be pretty visible to Gladion if he happened to look in her direction. “I think your smiles are better. You don’t smile as often but when you do, it’s like finding a rare pokemon or herb. A lovely and welcomed sight.”
“You… are ridiculous,” Gladion muttered, eyes flickering back in Moon’s direction.
Moon let out an embarrassed giggle. “I know.”
At that moment, Hau decided to return with three malasadas in hand. Moon didn’t know whether to be annoyed or grateful by his reappearance.
From the look on Gladion’s face, he must have been thinking the exact same thing.
Her mother accidentally let the secret slip during Moon’s journey back home that a party was in the works. Moon agreed to act surprised when they showed up because Hau and his grandfather worked very hard to throw one in her honor.
“Mom, when should we leave again?” Moon asked long after returning home. The conversation with Gladion still hung heavily in the air. She could feel herself becoming flustered at just the thought of it.
She didn’t know what had come over her but when Gladion said he liked her smile. Moon wanted him to make sure he understood just how special his smile was to her so that was why she said what she said. The rare moments when he smiled were something Moon treasured.
Mom gently shook Moon, breaking her out of her thoughts. “Sweetie, I asked if you wanted to leave around 7:00 tonight. Is that a good time?”
“Y… Yeah that works mom,” Moon stuttered out.
“Where were you just now?”
“Thinking about being home… and stuff.”
“Stuff?” Mom made a tutting sound and then gave Moon a small, knowing smile. “There’s still plenty of time until then. Go take a look around town. Nothing’s changed but it will be a nice little reminder of home.”
Moon always felt like she had two homes; Kanto and Aloha. She spent a good portion of her childhood in Kanto but Aloha changed Moon’s life. If asked to choose, Moon wouldn’t be able too. “I think I’ll do that. My Pokemon could use the exercise.”
True to her mom’s word, Aloha hadn’t changed one bit. Moon welcomed the nostalgic feeling that hit her as she and her pokemon walked through the town. When Moon returned home, she spent time with her mom and rested.
Time passed quickly. Moon excitedly got ready before leaving with Mom. Her pokemon followed close behind with Incineroar, Nebby, and Meowth following right beside them. They didn’t have very far to walk. When they arrived, Moon didn’t even need to fake any amount of surprise because the first person Moon saw was Lillie.
Moon’s smile was instantaneous. “Lillie!” She ran towards her friend, who looked like she had quite the growth spurt. Lillie now had to be at least an inch or half an inch taller. Still, it didn’t make Moon to hesitate one second before she successfully to pull Lillie into a fierce embrace. “I thought you weren’t getting here until tomorrow!”
The hug was returned with vigor. “It was supposed to be a surprise. I wanted to tell you but Hau and Gladion made me promise not too.”
“It’s a great surprise,” Moon mumbled into Lillie’s hair, which was just as long as she remembered it being. It was a stark contrast from her short brown bob. “I'm surprised Hau managed to keep it secret!”
“Hey, I can keep secrets!” Hau protested, which earned a soft snort from Gladion. He pouted. “I can sometimes keep secrets…”
Moon and Lillie broke out into a fit of giggles. Eventually, they faded and the party took off.
At some point Moon took Lillie to the side. She rummaged through her bag until Moon finally found what she was looking for; Nebby’s pokeball. “I think this belongs to you.”
Lillie’s eyes comically widened to the point where Moon couldn't help but let out a laugh. “Moon, you can't!”
“I can and I did.” Moon gently pushed Lillie's hand away when she attempted to give her back the pokeball. She wouldn't change her mind. Nebby never felt like hers; not really. He always belonged to Lillie whether Moon had technically caught him or not. “I always intended to give him back to you. With me no longer being Champion and moving back home, it feels like the right time.”
“Moon… thank you,” Lillie sniffed, tears welling up in those blue eyes of hers.
She grinned. “Don't cry, Lillie. Go officially reunite with Nebby. I'll see you later.”
“She'll still end up crying and then Hau will start,” claimed Gladion who stood a few feet away.
“Eavesdropping, Gladion?” Moon teased.
“... No,” he huffed. “I only caught the tail end of it, anyway. Just figured you intended to give Nebby back to Lillie today.”
Moon only smiled, eyes shifting back towards the party. It was in full swing by now but she started walking in the opposite direction. “I think I'm going to take a walk.” She loved the way the island looked at night and hadn't found a chance to enjoy it yet.
“Leaving your own welcome back party? I didn't know you had it in you, Moon,” Gladion teased.
“You want to join me?” Beside her Incineroar let out a roar of approval. He was never far from her side. Like Silvally was with Gladion. “It looks like Silvally wants to join us too.*
They walked until coming upon a small waterfall. Moon quickened her pace, sitting herself on the grass a few feet away from the body of water. “I forgot how beautiful it was out here at night.”
“You came all the way back home because you missed the scenery?”
“Well it was a little more than that,” Moon laughed. “I missed everything about here… and I'll have a while to enjoy it. The Professor agreed to let me study pharmacology officially at the lab so for now, I'm home for good.”
Gladion didn't answer right away, looking like he was considering his words carefully before speaking. “Hau will be thrilled to hear that.”
“And then pull me into a hug that I'll never be able to escape from.”
“He will definitely do that.”
The image appeared clear as day in Moon's mind. She smiled, feeling thrilled at the idea of seeing Hau more often. However, the same couldn't be said of Gladion or Lillie. “How's everything going at the Aether Foundation? I heard about that recent rescue the foundation did of all those Slowpoke's being mutilated. That was an amazing thing you did, Gladion.”
Gladion seemed to flush from her praise and when their eyes locked, it darkened considerably. “Things have been busy but going well. And wasn't just me, Moon. It was the entire Foundation.”
“Yeah but I know how much effort you put into changing how everyone saw the Aether Foundation. It is amazing,” Moon told Gladion firmly. He seemed to be struck silent. When Moon was just about to voice her concerns out loud, Gladion leaned over and kissed her.
She didn't have much time to process it or let the shock set it because Gladion had already pulled away. “You kissed me.”
“I'm… sorry,” he winced, face beat red. “I shouldn't have done that but you, those words, and the smiling…”
Moon giggled. She saw Gladion about to question it but quickly silenced him with a kiss of her own. “See? You don’t have to apologize.”
“I’m usually not that blunt…”
“Well, I’m happy you were.” Moon had thoughts about kissing Gladion for awhile now but she could never quite work up the nerve; at least not yet. She smiled at the fact that Gladion beat her too it. “Do you want to go back to the party?” She asked suddenly.
The weather had dropped a few degrees since they came out here. Moon figured it was good a time as ever to go back to the party.
“Yeah. They might send out a search party soon.”
During the walk back, Moon twined her fingers with Gladion's. She couldn't look at him while doing it but after Gladion took initiative, Moon felt brave enough to do the same.
He didn't move his hand away like Moon foolishly thought he might. Instead, Gladion gripped her hand more firmly, giving it a firm squeeze every few steps they took.
The party had quieted some by the time they returned. Moon's eyes immediately locked with Lillie's. She looked surprised but then the corners of her eyes crinkled in the way they did when someone was amused or happy.
Gladion must have realized it first because he gently pulled his hand away. When it hit her, Moon squeaked in embarrassment. She couldn't believe she forgot that her and Gladion were holding hands!
“She saw,” he confirmed, a scowl appearing on his face. “I swear if Lillie starts squealing…”
At this, Moon was able to push aside the embarrassment and let out a laugh of her own at the image her mind conjured up of Lillie squealing. “We can duck in my house and hide until Lillie calms down?”
“By then she would have told Hau and we'll have to deal with him.”
The words may have sounded as if he were annoyed but Moon could clearly hear the fondness Gladion had for their friends. “Well, we can always hide out until morning. The couch is comfy.”
“Ah okay…” Gladion stuttered out.
She grabbed Gladion's hand with a shy smile and began to pull him in the direction of her home. Only when the house appeared in the distance did Moon let go of his hand. Moon’s thoughts suddenly drifted to the battle they had months ago.
They had enough space here to have another battle. Moon mulled over the idea for a couple seconds before voicing her suggestion to Gladion. “You and I never had a chance to battle before Hapu defeated me. What do you say to having one last battle? A one on one.”
They first formed a friendship through battling and with each one they had it for stronger. Moon thought now would great chance to battle; just for old times sake.
He quirked a smile, not looking one bit fazed that the question came out of the blue. “Sure you want to? You may have gone soft since retiring as champion.”
“You wish!” Moon grinned, sticking her tongue playfully out at Gladion. “Is that a yes?”
“Your on, Moon.”
In order to congratulate him, Moon gave Gladion a chaste kiss on the lips. When she broke it, Moon giggled.
Moon couldn't help but feel proud that she made Gladion turn that shade of red again. “You've always trained and fought hard. I'm glad we had one last amazing battle.”
“I think you like making me blush,” Gladion grumbled.
“Do you want to come inside for a bit?” Moon asked, avoiding his question with one of her frequent smiles Gladion admitted to liking just yesterday. “I think our Pokemon could use the rest. We could too.”
He huffed but ultimately have a nod. “You so enjoy making me blush.”
“Maybe,” Moon teased. She led Gladion to her room where some potions we're held. The two injured Pokemon who participated in the one on one battle gladly gulped down the potions. Eventually they curled up in two separate corners of the room. “They have the right idea.”
“That they do.”
Moon glanced over at her bed and happily sat down on the comfortable mattress. She opened her mouth to invite Gladion to sit down beside her but he did so without her even asking.
“So how long are you going to be in Iki?” Moon asked as casually as she could. The expression on Gladion's face told Moon he saw right through it.
Gladion huffed in amusement. “Your pouting just like Hau does.”
“I am not!”
“Yes… yes you are.”
“Now who's teasing who?” Moon asked, cheeks puffed out in fake annoyance. “And you never answered my question you know.”
He shifted on the bed, eyes locking with hers. “I'll be here for close to two weeks before I have to go back to the foundation.”
Moon shot a fury of questions about the Aether Foundation towards Gladion. She had kept up with it’s progress but didn’t know specific details. Gladion answered them all, never growing tired or annoyed with all the questioning.
The two of them talked well into the night until exhaustion took over. Moon and Gladion ended up laying on the bed together, sleeping soundly. By morning Moon had curled up against him, legs tangled together and the two practically sharing the same pillow.
She began to stir from her restful sleep when the door was opened. Moon’s eyes cracked open and found her mom at the door wearing one of those ‘all knowing’ mom smiles. Before Moon could react, the door was shut but once her sleep addled brain began to awaken, Moon finally comprehended what exactly just happened.
Moon buried her face in the pillow, swallowing an embarrassed whine because she didn’t want to wake Gladion. He remained asleep, snoring softly and with mussed hair sprawled everywhere. It caused Moon to lower her hands and smiled at the adorable sight.
She’d warn Gladion about the constant hugs and attention that his mother would give him once they emerged from the room later. For now, Moon was apt to let Gladion sleep and try to get some more herself.