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Lumiose After Dark

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"Why are you dressed like that?" Clemont stares, pushing his glasses up on his nose, looking curious.

Meyer is sure he is looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable in his black suit, so it's quite understandable that Clemont asks. Meyer looks longingly at his overalls that lie crumbled on the floor. He pushes at it with the tip of his toe.

"I'm in charge of the electrical crew at the conference. It's, erm—"

Meyer shrugs. He'd much rather be with the workers, but he has sworn to Professor Sycamore that he'll oversee operations, making sure everything runs smoothly and has back-up, plan B, C and D, like he was some kind of Superman. If it was up to Sycamore, he'd probably have asked for a plan Z as well, but it isn't, thank Zapdos. There is of course the fact that Sycamore is right about Meyer being a superhero; the professor is still one of a small group of people to know about his masked appearances as Blaziken Mask despite the entire debacle with Team Flare. "Thought I told you?" Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. He's been busy, and Clemont has been traveling with Ash again, so maybe not? Meyer brushes a hair off the black sleeve. The fabric smells unused, not bad, just like clothes that have been in a wardrobe for a long time. Which it has, the suit. It's a small miracle that it still fits him like the day it was made for him.

"No, I don't think you did." Clemont squints, clearly straining to remember. "But that's OK. You know I'll be at the gym with Clembot the entire week, right?"

Meyer scratches his beard. "Yes. I mean, you are the gym leader, and there is a tournament." He can feel the usual tears pressing up, wondering why he is still surprised when it happens. "I am so proud of you, son! A gym leader and the head judge!" Meyer sniffles and pats Clemont on the shoulder. "So proud."

"Daaad," Clemont begs. "It's not a big deal. I'm—"

"I know. You're an adult. I'm so—" Meyer gets a grip. Clemont is right. He tends to be a little maudlin when it comes to his kids. But what kind of father would he be if he wasn't allowed to be proud of his wonderful children? "I should get going. The research conference starts in an hour, and my crew has been working all day, so I need to be there with them. Promised I'd be present at the keynote if anything goes wrong. At the lecture hall, I mean. Keynote speaker is some guy from Alola, Professor Kukui? You know him?"

"No, I haven't met him." Clemont's expression of curiosity reappears. "Ash told me a lot about him, but that's all. You know he stayed with Professor Kukui ten years ago when he went to that Pokemon school on Alola? What's his specialty?"

"Not sure." Meyer shakes his head. "Pokemon, probably, but apart from that…"

- 0 -

"That's my specialty," Kukui moans, pushing his finger in deeper, making— whatever his name was—moan again. Rubbing his dick against the boy's smaller cock, dripping wet from Kukui's come, the guy writhes on his fingers, eyes closed and mouth open and wet. Kukui wonders whether he should get the guy on his knees, licking him clean. The guy is beautiful, just like Kukui likes them: hot and handsome. He has pretty lips and lovely hair. Perfect to clean his fingers in, in Kukui's opinion. Then again, he has style. And the bellhop is going back to work, so it'd be unfair to him to make him look like he'd just had four fingers in his ass and a dick down his throat. Nevertheless, Kukui makes a quick end to it, curling his fingers just so, tugging at the boy's dick twice before he whines and spurts jizz all over the comforter.

"Good boy," Kukui praises. "You better hurry back to work before your manager misses you."

"But—" The guy looks at Kukui through dazed eyes.

"Yeah, it was great. Really. Now hurry," Kukui urges. He really doesn't want to continue the conversation, any conversation, beyond I'm coming and goodbye. He's been there once before, didn't work, not going there again. No heartbreak on his account, but a broken friendship, and a steady relationship is not something he'd even consider doing again. He misses Syc like hell, but not as the man he's sharing his life with. It's Sycamore the friend that Kukui misses. The bellhop with no name? Not even in the same dimension as Syc.

"I'm gonna shower," Kukui says. "I have to go." He lets go of the boy and gets out of bed. "You should too." He doesn't look back as he walks towards the bathroom and shuts the door behind him. Ten minutes and a shower later, the quick fuck is gone when Kukui steps back into the bedroom.

He isn't made of stone, but he can't help letting out a relieved sigh. If only he encompassed his—well, lovers might be too big a word, but 'fuck toy' sounds as if he doesn't give a fuck at all—with the same care and love he reserved for his Pokemon and his students, maybe he could try—

No.

He'd tried and failed. Twice. He swears he is not doing it again. First a broken marriage with a colleague. Then he fell for a guy, and at the time he had thought that it was... good. Syc turned out to be nothing more than a rebound. Kukui had hurt Syc's feelings, broken his heart and lost his friendship too. It was too steep a price. Maybe if he met the right guy it could work, but so far, there has only been a number of guys with no name but "yes you, fuck, right there".

Shaking off his somber mood, Kukui grabs a pair of boardshorts, holding them up to inspect them. He throws them casually towards the bed, grabbing them before they land in the wet spot. He probably shouldn't wear them anyway. He looks at them again. They are clean and nice. Black. Fuck it. He can wear them. He pulls them on, commando, and fetches a nice shirt with a pale pattern in white and green. He can button the shirt if he has to—it's still five steps up from his usual casual wear. He can't—won't—pretend to be other than he is. Besides, it's sunny and hot and entirely beside him why anyone would want to wear a suit. Leave that to the nice people who work in offices. Mareeps, all of them. He's a damned Pokemon professor; some level of eccentricity is definitely acceptable. And if not…

Kukui laughs and collects his hair in a bun and ties a string of leather around the small knot. He looks in the mirror by the door. Perfect. He puts on a pair of glasses but leaves the cap. He's the keynote speaker after all.

- 0 -

"Come over here, Thunder." Spark holds out a handful of popcorn. "Don't bother the nice man."

The nice man sighs deeply and tries not to drive the car off the road as the Jolteon takes off, jumping from his lap, managing to squish a part of his manhood that is not meant to be squished. Maybe Spark shouldn't have named the damned Jolteon after Zapdos. Willow is sure that the name somehow has had an impact on its behavior. "Spark, for the love of Zapdos, stop," Willow says, voice heavy with hopelessness and a tinge of pain. A ten hour drive with Spark, Thunder, seven Pidgey and, for some reason or other, two unhatched eggs, a Dedenne, five recently hatched Joltik and a Cutiefly that came in through the window and which Spark has refused to let go of. Willow regards himself as a patient man, but there are limits.

"Sorry 'bout that." Spark takes his feet off the dashboard and pulls Thunder into his arms. There are suddenly popcorn and Jolteon hair all over the place. "Ooops."

"Why?" Willow asks, not expecting an answer. He's not even sure who he is asking and it's a question he's asked a lot of times since he made the decision of promoting his protege to assistant and team leader. Also, the answers vary, depending on day, date or wind direction: Spark is exactly as unpredictable as lightning and twice as destructive—until he is not, and suddenly acts as the responsible, very able team leader that he is. When he is not acting like he's twelve and lets out a flock of Pidgey into one of the labs or some other prank.

"Why what?" Spark grins. "Thunder is always with me, the Pidgey are sort of new, so I can't leave them; they don't like the balls—" Spark interrupts himself, chuckling. "The Pokeballs. I'm sure they'd like mine."

"Oh God," Willow groans. "Could you not."

"Nah. Oh, and the Joltik are out of power, the Cutiefly is adorbs, Dedenne insisted, and I am so excited to see what's in my eggs, so I couldn't really leave them back home because what if they hatched and I wasn't there? Why are you asking? Something wrong with my Pidgey?"

"Apart from them not being in their Pokeballs, but instead fluttering around in the car? Nothing," Willow manages, face neutral. "You see, not everybody likes roaming Pidgey in their car, Spark."

"Really? That's dumb. Pidgey are cool."

"And also they are… leaky."

"Oh." Spark turns around, looking at the Pidgey that perch in a line on the backseat. "Guys, sorry about him. He's a bit prissy about the car, but don't worry. He sure understands that no Pidgey could possibly keep it in for ten hours. Just do your thing, OK."

"You are doing it on purpose, aren't you?" Willow refrains from yet another sigh.

Spark laughs. "You're too easy, Professor. And if there's any messes, I swear I'll clean everything. By the way, when are we in Lumiose City? Now I have to pee."

Willow doesn't say what he has to do. But it involves getting out of the car, drinking half a bottle of something with at least fifty percent alcohol in it, and getting away from Spark. Unfortunately the conference does nothing to make that plan come true, on the contrary. Sharing a room with Spark and his entourage of Pokemon for a week… It might have been a mistake to save and share. What one doesn't do for science!

Willow wonders if anyone will notice if he starts drinking right away.

He looks in the rearview mirror, meeting the eyes of seven curious Pidgey.

Well, that road is closed too.

Chapter Text

The auditorium is dead quiet despite the hundreds of researchers assembled there. Outside a flock of Pidgey chirps, saying their loud goodbyes to the day, all of them sounding cheerful despite the approaching dusk.

Looking up at the audience, Kukui continues his keynote speech. "The research done to determine whether the varied three-choice starter Pokemon across the regions are beneficial or the opposite, is still not conclusive. According to Structuralist scientists, the deconstruction of the tradition might have unexpected benefits, however, the pedagogically inclined researchers argue that there are distinct developmental benefits from encountering the unexpected in a set frame, thus allowing children to take the first few steps toward the splendor of becoming a skilled Pokemon trainer, starting in a safe environment. Further research on the area needs to be done; personally I test moves, attacks and their effects in such a safe environment, gaining invaluable data. So I count on you, Pokemon scholars and scientists, to help Pokemon and children alike by continuing to share your research results, not only today, but in the future."

Kukui takes a deep breath and looks around at the audience. There is no disagreeable faces, no hostility. Good.

"Thank you, honored colleagues. Pokemon Pedagogy is a line of study in fast development, for too long tainted by old-fashioned beliefs, and it has been a pleasure to share with you my latest findings." He closes the lid on his laptop and makes a small bow.

The applause is deafening. Kukui smiles, but makes the mistake to let his eyes wander, stopping as they meet Syc's. Kukui cringes. There are still accusations and pain in the almost-glare that his ex sends him. It hurts. It's his mistake, his flaws, that made Syc suffer, and it is clear that Augustine still isn't over the break-up. Kukui had hoped that two years that have passed had smoothed things over, but apparently not. Not that he blames Syc at all. On the contrary; it's all on him. The worst of it is that someone like Augustine Sycamore is too gentle to carry a grudge, and yet Kukui managed to make him do exactly that.

Kukui gets a grip on himself and tears his eyes away. He grabs his laptop, just to have something else to do, and steps down from the podium. Somehow the acknowledgement of his scientific work is not as much of a triumph when his personal life's biggest failure is paraded in front of him. He walks away from the podium, managing to plaster a friendly smile on his face. He returns to the row of seats, relieved to be able to turn his back to Syc.

Kukui knows he has to deal with this, sooner rather than later. It's a situation his usual laid back attitude can't save him from. Fuck it. If only Syc hadn't been so gorgeous and amiable it'd have been easier not to be in love with him. Kukui sits down, sighing. His life is so fucked up. First his divorce, then this. He desired Syc for being a man, loved him as a friend, but he was never in love with him. Kukui had been in love with the idea of being with a man. He had not been in love with Syc. Never with Syc.

Damn, he is such an idiot.

If only he could be satisfied with what he'd got, but he wanted all of it: the insanity of falling in love, the desire and the mad, mad thundering love, feeling the earth shake and his feelings torn asunder, only to mend again, turning into love. He wants his entire life to be swept out from under him by that one guy, the one. Then, and only then, he'd feel satisfied.

Until then, he'll fuck bellhops and professors, Pokemon trainers and hairdressers, and everything with a dick, a tight ass and a handsome face, promising nobody anything other than a good time for a night. And he refuses to feel guilty about it. He has enough guilt as it is.

Damned Syc.

- 0 -

Behind the rows of esteemed scientists gathered in the auditorium, Meyer is watching the last of the presenters make his closing statement. It was a good speech, in Meyer's opinion, the guy had been talking about kids and how Pokemon helped their development, and Meyer can't help thinking of Clemont and Bonnie, both of them grown up so fast. He misses having small kids, despite being a single father most of his life. According to the Alolan guy the type of upbringing they had hasn't been half bad, and for once, Meyer feels pride for himself, instead of his children. Not that he's not very proud of them, he is. He's looking forward to Clemont's battle—a master class show tournament, invitation only—if he can slip away to see it, and to Bonnie's presentation later. He'd like to hear that too. Might not be possible. He has promised Professor Sycamore that he'll be available all week.

If there is something Meyer wants, it is to be available whenever Professor Sycamore calls. No matter the reason. Although some reasons are more alluring than others, not that it ever came to any of those.

Meyer smiles. If the professor knew how he felt, he'd probably be appalled. Why would a stunning man, and a world-renowned Pokemon specialist to boot, be interested in him, a manager of an electrical appliances store? All right, so he is a superhero too, and he might have helped Professor Sycamore out on occasion, memorable occasions. The mere thought of holding the Professor in his arms, Meyers strong arms around Professor Sycamore's slender and beautiful body, makes all Meyer's longings flare. It has been years, and Meyer's longings have never waned.

Suddenly the suit feels way too hot and all too tight. Maybe there is something wrong with the aircon? Meyer knows there isn't; he checked it himself, like he has checked every vital electrical device or component everywhere. Nothing is going to ruin Professor Sycamore's conference. After all, being here every awake hour of the day makes it possible to be in the presence of the man he wants. It's not much, yet it still better than nothing. This way he gets to see Professor Sycamore's smile, maybe touch him or hear his laughter. Meyer knows he's screwed, but he'll take what he can get.

He unbuttons his jacket.

At the podium Professor Sycamore is making a few final comments, closing the conference for the day. Meyer is not sure where to go or what to do; usually he's confident enough, but this is as far from his usual habitat as can be. So he's an electrical engineer, yet… this is something different, a group of people that Meyer doesn't belong with. They are the superb creme de la creme elite of Pokemon professors. Blaziken Mask could have done it, stepped in here, feeling confident and calm, but Meyer without the mask and Mega Blaziken at his side is just Meyer, a middle aged store manager in a too tight suit, longing for a man who is so out of his league that there is no chance in a billion that anything will ever come of it. And worst of all, Professor Sycamore is probably straight as Sudowoodo, not that there has ever been any woman in his life, at least no one that Meyer knows of.

The applause is thundering. Professor Sycamore steps down and everybody sees it as a sign of getting up, walking towards the hall. There's a reception, Meyer has checked the conference schedule over and over to be sure he hasn't overlooked anything and he knows the schedule by heart. Unless something blows up, there will be nothing his crew can't manage; the worst that can happen is a light bulb that needs changing or a Rotom that needs to be extracted from an appliance somewhere at the research center. There's a dozen Pikachu ready to assist if they need a generator going; they became popular after the war, and they are handy little helpers. With the backup, Meyer knows he could leave, yet—

Yet there is something holding him back. He is fooling himself if he pretends not to know what. Or who.

Meyer allows himself a long look at the professor of his dreams. Professor Sycamore stands with his back to him, but Meyer can see something is wrong. Professor Sycamore's back is tense; he is like an animal waiting to either bolt or attack, whatever is necessary. The group of researchers that Sycamore is with starts moving towards the exit, and there is still this odd tension in his movements.

Meyer is suddenly worried, very worried. He wonders whether there is need for Blaziken Mask, because if there is, he is fucked; both Blaziken and the mask are at home. Determined to check on the professor, Meyer starts walking towards the same exit that Professor Sycamore is aiming for, scanning the surroundings for any possible threats. Everything is calm. Scholars sure aren't the most boisterous people. Again, Meyer scans the auditorium to see what causes his professor to be so tense.

Nothing.

Except.

Meyer looks again. The keynote professor is staring at Professor Sycamore's back, like it's turned on him on purpose. Frowning, he studies the other professor closer, not that he hasn't seen him, the guy used half an hour on a speech right in front of him. But now Meyer really looks. Professor Kukui is handsome and he knows it, Meyer can see it in the way he moves, languid and secure in his skin. Like he's royalty, someone who is entitled to walk into any room, castle or cabin. There is something to look at, Meyer will give the guy that. Tanned skin, a neatly trimmed beard and lush hair, tied in a bun. Body like an athlete, narrow hips and broad shoulders—muscle slide underneath the thin fabric of his Alolan shirt in a way that only predators move. Yeah, this Kukui might be hot, but his intense interest in Professor Sycamore leaves Meyer cold.

Then Professor Sycamore makes a half turn, like he senses eyes boring into his back, and looks at Professor Kukui.

It explains everything. The flash of pain in Professor Sycamore's eyes. The look on Professor Kukui's face, like he's been slapped. The coldness that replaces it, a shared snowfall glare from both of them, icy and sharp. Professor Kukui takes a step in Professor Sycamore's direction, hesitant, and then another. Professor Sycamore is like a deer caught in the headlights: it's panic in its purest form.

The noise in the auditorium drowns their words out. Professor Kukui smiles a sad smile, then bows his head like he's ashamed. Or maybe he's apologizing for something.

A breakup?

That professor has…. had… with Professor Sycamore?

Meyer shakes his head in denial.

Professor Sycamore is… gay?

It can't be?

But Professor Sycamore looks at the Kukui guy with eyes glazed over, his lips turned into a straight tense line of anger that doesn't disappear. Professor Kukui reaches for him and Professor Sycamore steps away from him so fast he's almost falling. Professor Sycamore's usual calm attitude is rattled.

Meyer isn't in doubt. That other professor leaves Professor Sycamore alone. Right now, or Blaziken Mask will be the least of his problems.

And Meyer is no longer in doubt that Professor Sycamore is no more straight than a circle, because as he moves down the stairs to save his Professor in distress, he can hear Professor Sycamore talking to Professor Kukui in a low voice.

"Do not apologize for something that you don't regret, Kukui. You broke up with me. You weren't in love with me. It is better this way. I have forgiven you. Let's leave it at that."

Professor Kukui's voice is low and sad. "But I am sorry. You were my friend. I want us to—"

"And you were my lover. Now neither of us have what he wants. Please, Kukui, let's not argue. Maybe one day—"

Meyer closes his eyes for a second, hesitating a few steps from the two professors. Lover. He said lover. No matter how pleasing the thought is, finally knowing that Professor Sycamore is minimally less approachable than he thought, it is not the time for perusing the implications. Meyer has more important things to do. He coughs loudly and walks up to the two men. "I'm sorry, Professor, we have a small emergency with the electrical system," he lies blatantly, "unfortunately it requires your immediate presence. In the, erm—" He points at the door. "Outside."

The tense line of his lips turns into a terse smile. "I see. Thank you, Meyer." Professor Sycamore glances briefly at Professor Kukui. "I have to go."

Professor Kukui nods. He raises an eyebrow as his eyes meet Meyer's. "Are you his—"

"Engineer? Yes. Now we have to go. My apologies. Emergency—" Meyer stops as Professor Sycamore puts a hand on his arm.

"Meyer, please, let's... just go."

Anything Professor Sycamore asks. Meyer nods affirmatively and turns around, rudely ignoring Professor Kukui. "Sure."

They walk through the crowd, Meyer removing any obstacles with a litany of 'excuse me' and 'emergency' and 'the professor must tend to a small problem; he'll be back later', effectively shielding Professor Sycamore from anyone getting close to him. A persistent colleague tries to separate them, stepping between them.

Meyer's displeasure flares. "Is there a problem?" He glares at the offending scientist who quickly backs off, clearly seeing something in Meyer's face that does not bode well for his continued good health. "Professor Sycamore will be back later." With no further ado, Meyer puts a hand on Professor Sycamore's back, making a half-turn, leading the him around the other researcher who is watching them, mouth agape. Meyer couldn't care less.

Conveniently forgetting to let go of Professor Sycamore, Meyer guides him through the hall, their steps quick and sharp across the stone floor. Now Meyer is glad he spent so much time here checking the wiring and the WiFi, he knows exactly where to go. "Down here," he says. "There's a small break room for the janitor down the hallway."

"Thank you."

The tone of voice is tinged with hopelessness, and it makes Meyer force down an urge to take Professor Sycamore in his arms and comfort him. He doesn't think it'll be appreciated. Instead Meyer hurries towards the break room, hoping that a moment of privacy and peace will help. Meyer pulls out the prox card and slams it onto the lock, opening the door to the room. It's small and cluttered, but clean and nice. Meyer hits the light switch with his free hand. A small lamp on the desk chases the darkness away, leaving it to lurk in the corners. Pulling the professor with him, Meyer lets the door slam shut behind them. The outside noise dies down to a low murmur.

Strangely, it feels only natural when Meyer stops and Professor Sycamore doesn't and the professor ends up in Meyer's arms. They stand in the dark, a clock on the wall counting the seconds with a slow tick-tock. Neither man moves.

"Are you all right, Professor?" Meyer asks softly. Professor Sycamore is far from all right. He looks thoroughly rattled, like his world just broke into little pieces. His expression is as dark as a Goodra raincloud. "Anything I can do?"

Professor Sycamore sighs deeply, bowing his head. It comes to rest against Meyer's chest. "I—." Then he sighs again. "No. Thank you."

"It's okay," Meyer says quietly, not missing the irony of offering comfort to Professor Sycamore as he mourns another man, another lover. Yet, the professor is his friend, and Meyer will do what he can to make Professor Sycamore smile again. "It's going to be okay. If you wanna talk about it…"

Professor Sycamore makes another shuddering breath, like all the emotions he's held back are threatening to come out. "It's… We've been friends for so long and I've never— You'd—"

Meyer takes a deep breath too. A chance. "If you don't think you can tell me because your heartbreak was caused by a man, don't worry. I'm fine with that. You being with a man, I mean."

"But—" Professor Sycamore's head whips up, wide gray eyes staring at Meyer. "How? I was so careful—" The deer-in-headlight expression is back.

"I'm not blind," Meyer says. "But I might think that you have been. I had my kids, and I loved their mother, but I'm, well… there is a reason you haven't seen me with a woman since then. I like men."

"You knew? All this time?" Professor Sycamore relaxes visibly, slumps and somehow ends up leaning against Meyer again like he was some kind of human rock. It doesn't elude Meyer that Professor Sycamore isn't the least shaken by his confession.

"Had no idea," Meyer admits. "But when I saw that other professor, Kukui…" Meyer's hand rests comfortably against Professor Sycamore's back, maybe pressing him a little closer. He doesn't want to let go, but he knows he has to. Professor Sycamore needs space to pull himself together, and a lovesick engineer is not a part of the equation. "I didn't like the way he made you look. The sadness."

Professor Sycamore clutches at Meyer's shirt. "It was over a long time ago. He never apologized. I needed that although I didn't know how badly. I'm not in… with him. Not any longer."

—not in love with him—

"Good," Meyer says, looking directly at Professor Sycamore, a second, two. "I'm glad."

Professor Sycamore swallows, then makes a small smile. "I am too. Old wounds still hurt occasionally but now... I—"

Meyer finds strength he didn't think he had, not even as Blaziken Mask. "I better go. Call me if you need me."

Gently letting go of Professor Sycamore, Meyer can barely stop himself from laughing. It's what he always tells the professor. Fifteen years of I can come over later. Call me if you need me. Anytime. Only now the offer isn't quite the same. And Meyer knows that if Professor Sycamore ever calls him again—unless there is some kind of outage—the following encounter certainly won't be the same, either.

Chapter Text

"Hey, Kukui, where did Syc go?" Spark almost throws himself at Kukui, as usual giving absolutely no fucks about proper etiquette. "I wanted to say goodbye to him before we return to the hotel—I have my little guys with me, and—

"Yeah, I heard them, thank you." Kukui shakes his head. He wiggles a finger at Spark. "Next time I'm invited to make a keynote, remind me to close the window before I start. What is it with you and those little loud nuggets?"

Willow knows Kukui well enough to know his deflections when he sees them. Well, Kukui had mentioned that he'd want to talk to Syc about their… past. Obviously it didn't turn out too well since Kukui has nothing to say about the matter.

"So is he here?" Spark rambles on, elegance of a rhino. "I wanna see his Mega-Evolution. The Garchomp."

"Yes, that's a fantastic idea; I'm sure he has a lot of time showing you the intricacies of Mega-Evolution, being Head of Conference and all." Willow keeps his tone of voice teasing, but he's serious. Spark is not chasing Syc to ask him favors. Plus, if Kukui just blurted out something deeply insensitive—which, Willow believes, is exactly what he has done—and made Syc uncomfortable, they should probably leave him alone. They can talk at another time; it's not like there won't be time for it during the week-long program, including dinners, drinks and not least, a tournament and a master class battle right after the five-day conference. They'll get a hold of Syc later.

"But—"

"You have Thunder, a couple of Joltic, Dedenne, all the Pidgey, and two eggs to take care of, Spark. And if the Cutiefly has decided to stay, then it is yet another. Shouldn't we see to them, you think?"

Spark changes mood and aim as fast as lightning, and sometimes as surprising. "Sure, let's go!" He pats on the backpack that he, for some reason that eludes Willow, has brought with him to the keynote speech.

Spark senses the look Willow sends him and turns around. "Eggs. I've been sitting on them to keep them warm. I think they are going to hatch tomorrow. They've been moving."

As scatterbrained as he sometimes seems, Spark is a very responsible person. Willow would never have chosen anybody but the best to assist him in his research and with the new trainers. Willow nods. "Let's get them back to a safe environment."

"Hey! I'm a safe environment," Spark argues and turns over a chair as he walks into it without looking where he's going. Luckily it's sturdy. "Oh no. Shit. Sorry. Go me." Spark rolls his eyes and puts the chair back on all four legs. He sends Willow a wide grin. "See? Totally safe."

Willow coughs. "If I owned an insurance company, I'd never to take your business."

"Oh, come on! Don't be so boring. You love me!" Spark says, winking outrageously at Willow.

There is that.

If Willow hadn't been so deeply and irrevocably in love with Spark, everything would've been so much easier.

- 0 -

Somehow Willow still manages to love Spark after getting into a car with him, Thunder and the seven Pidgey, none of which are in their Pokeballs. Thank Zapdos that there is but a short drive back to the hotel and that the car is not his own, but a rental. There are feathers everywhere, and Jolteon-hair enough littered over the dashboard for Spark to knit himself another Thunder.

Not that Willow would let Spark be in possession of any pointy objects such as knitting needles. Who knows what kind of disasters the boy could start with those?

Spark saunters through the hotel lobby in a flutter of Pidgey and with Thunder bouncing around his legs, too alike his partner for Willow to be comfortable. Willow is sure Spark and Thunder share a brain—which explains why the two seem to use only one half of the time. It doesn't change Willow's opinion that they are both annoyingly adorable, even though his patience with them and their antics is stretched to the breaking point far too often. How he has managed not to do something unfortunate to either is still baffling. Maybe it's the hassle of burying the bodies in the garden. Then again, Willow would miss Spark too much. And possibly Thunder who really is as adorable as Spark.

They get into the elevator, a carriage far too small to carry the flock of Pidgey and the Cutiefly to the sixteenth floor. Willow reconsiders his earlier thought: Spark is not so adorable when he decides it is a good idea to beat the world record for the most Pokemon in an elevator. But it is just one more annoyance in a long row of annoyances, courtesy of Spark and his entourage.

"Push the button," Spark tells Dedenne. The critter might have slept on the eggs to help keep them warm, Willow hasn't seen it all day. Of course Spark wouldn't use incubators like ordinary people. Dedenne makes a few sbzzz-sounds and zaps the button. Nothing happens.

"Could you please press the button yourself," Willow manages, pulling a Pidgey out of his hair, placing it on his shoulder where another Pidgey has decided to perch. "I don't think the panel can handle much more before it dies."

Neither can his patience, but he's not telling Spark that.

As usual, Spark's reply, and his most deadly weapon, is a perky smile and a wink. But he does what Willow asks, finally making the elevator move with a sudden jerk. He shows more insight than Willow thought he would, though.

"You're angry with me?" Another smile, a little insecure.

Willow shakes his head. "Just tired. I'm never angry with you, Spark."

"Why not?" Spark tilts his had and studies Willow, looking a bit like a cocky Pidgey.

"Would you like me to be angry with you?" Willow wants to know. He is not sure where this is going; Spark is acting weird.

Spark purses his lips before he makes yet another flashing smile. "Not really. Not… for real. But—" The smile doesn't leave his lips. "Sometimes I wonder what would happen."

Willow's brain decides to go into overload at the mere thought of being angry, but not really. Oh, the innocence. If Spark knew what kind of wicked thoughts that flashed through his mind that instant…

Willow manages a weak smile to cover up where his thoughts went. "You are too… I couldn't be angry with you at all and you know it."

Spark leans back against the elevator's mirror wall, inadvertently displaying himself in the most aesthetic way. "Sometimes I don't understand how you can be so patient. I'm obnoxious."

Willow frowns. It might be his desire for Spark that makes it sound decidedly as if Spark is being annoying on purpose. All the sudden teasing and taunting is… deliberate? No, it can't be. Spark is not that devious; there isn't a cunning thought in his head. Spark is transparent, open, never hiding anything, be it feelings or urges. That is what Willow likes about him, the flash of a smile, the life in his eyes, the stupid things he blurts out in between the sensible ones. If Spark knew his mind, the need, the way that Willow desires him—his heart and emotions more than his body, a body Willow does not desire, but desires to be the master of—then maybe Spark wouldn't smile so much.

"Just tell me if I'm boring you," Spark adds, sending Willow a strange look. "Was it something I said?" He holds up a hand. "Yeah, I know. It's always something I said. It's just that I never have a clue about what it was."

A Pidgey flutters up and takes hold of Sparks hair. It stares at Willow before it chirps at him angrily, like it really wants him to know how annoyed it is.

"Whatever did I do to deserve this?" Willow asks, hoping that nobody cares to reply. "Really, Pidgey?"

The Pidgey sends off another salve of angry chirps. Luckily the elevator stops and Willow steps out, not waiting for Spark and his Pidgey to keep up with him.

"Hey, Willow!" Spark is pleading as he runs to Willow's side. "It was something I said, then? What did I say?"

"Words. I'd like you to stop using words, just for half an hour," Willow finally manages, stretched thin by exhaustion and waning patience. He turns to Spark, key in hand. "I'm not angry, just tired, okay? Let me get a little peace and quiet while you see to the Pokemon."

"Okay," Spark agrees, his voice slightly disappointed. He pouts like he is annoyed by the uncharacteristic dismissal. Maybe he's right to be.

"Stop the pouting," Willow says and opens the door. "You are not twelve."

Willow heads right for one of the deep chairs, sinking down in it, letting out a tired sigh.

"Meh, you are dull," Spark complains, refusing to look at Willow. "Boring. Boh-ring." Spark manages to get the Pidgey and the Cutiefly inside, sending them all to perch on the back of one armchair. "He won't play with me," Spark tells the Pidgey as he arranges the eggs and Dedenne in a pile of blankets below them. "Thank you for taking good care of the eggs, Dedenne."

Dedenne seems satisfied and chatters excitedly as Spark pulls out some boxes of Pokemon food. He carefully distributes the correct amount and kind to the right kind of Pokemon, humming softly as he tends to his friends.

Willow closes his eyes and wonders if he's about to get the headache of his life. He opens his eyes again, studying Spark who is fussing over his Pokemon, and Willow realizes that his biggest headache is here already and probably won't go away anytime soon. Not that Willow would want him to.

Silence spreads as the Pidgey dig into their food. The Joltik occupy an electric blanket that Spark has modified, actually proving that he does have considerable brain activity when it comes to taking care of Pokemon. To be honest, Willow is a little impressed. The Joltik seem to thrive on human electricity, at least they are not attaching themselves to the other Pokemon to charge, so Willow assumes that they like Spark's inventive idea.

It's dark outside. Willow can see his own image mirrored in the window and behind it the stars, pale in the city lights, on the Kalos sky. Suddenly craving fresh air, he gets up and goes to open the window, letting in the pleasantly cool night air. He stays there, staring out into the night, soon foregoing that view to watch Spark, or rather his reflection in the window, as he works. The Pidgey chatter a bit before huddling together in one chair. Dedenne is already snoring on top of the eggs, full and content. Thunder is staring lovingly at the pull-out couch like he already knows that Spark is going to be generous and take that one and not the bed. Willow is inclined to forgive Thunder for the earlier mishap if he can get the bed, and not least, the bedroom instead of the pull-out.

Spark looks up, a bowl of Pokemon food in one hand, and meets Willows eyes in the dark mirror. He smiles widely. His nose curls, making cute little wrinkles that only adds to his charm. Willow sighs. Spark's smile is devastating.

It is also short-lived. Spark sticks his tongue out and makes a face at Willow before he continues to clean up.

Willow laughs, forgetting how tired he is. "You are begging for me to give you a good spanking," he jokes, trying not to think of how alluring that idea is to him. Spark has tried to drive him to the brink of insanity for years, and it is amazing that it still works. One would think that Spark really wanted that spanking to happen.

Spark turns around slowly. "I'd never beg for it," he says, the words oddly slow and teasing. Then he purses his mouth and flicks a Pokemon pellet in Willow's direction. His expression turns positively devious. "I'd save begging for later, Professor. For when you've given me what I deserve for being naughty."

There is no oxygen left in the room, Willow is sure. He sinks down to sit on the window sill, weak-kneed and breathless, waiting for the world to go on and his ability to breathe to return. The air rushes back into his lungs at the same time as Spark puts the Pokemon food down on the table and walks across the room, hips swaying, until he stops right in front of Willow. Right on top of Willow's toes, to be precise.

It doesn't hurt, but the surprise makes Willow grab Spark's wrist out of surprise. "What are you doing, boy?" he lashes out, "are you really that set on making me snap?"

Spark's smile is cruel in all its innocence. "Yeah. I might be."

"What do you mean, yeah?"

"What I said." Spark raises an eyebrow. It's a challenge. Willow can see it. It's a test. "Snap."

Willow's mind is blank. Empty. Spark can't possibly mean… Then Willow's brain goes into overdrive, images of what he would do if he really had Spark's consent. Oh, he dreamt of it, having Spark in his power, but never dared hope. He dreamed of Spark, of kissing him and owning him, about Spark being his to love and care for, but Willow never thought that it was ever a possibility. Only now… now Spark is challenging him, and Willow is halfway convinced that Spark knows exactly what he is doing.

"Oh, well," Spark says and turns around, making sure that Willow can feel it this time when Spark steps on his toes. "If you really insist on being so dull—"

The world turns on its head and Willow forgets all reservations, all the times he told himself to hold back, to never go there.

Spark's yanked around and pushed up against the wall in a second. He makes a surprised yelp, and Willow holds Spark there, body pressed against Spark's slender frame, hands on each side of his head, studying his face. Willow's fingers are clenched hard around Spark's wrists. Spark's expression changing from cocky to surprised to…

Spark swallows and looks up at Willow, mouth slightly open and eyes wide and soft. His breath is ragged, coming out in little puffs, like Spark has difficulties breathing too.

How they ended up here, Willow's not sure. He's not even sure this is what he intended, but now it doesn't matter. Spark is here, his body pliant and yielding under Willow's attack, letting Willow pin his wrists against the wall, for the first time neither challenging, nor fighting back.

"Why haven't you kissed me yet?" Spark whispers instead. "Don't you want me?"

Willow can't stop himself from laughing. "You have no idea." He tightens his grip on Spark's wrists, wanting to test how far he can go, if Spark really is on with the program.

Spark lets out a moan, keeping his hands where Willow put them, doing nothing to get out of Willow's strong grip.

Oh, Spark knows where it goes, and it is as much as a surprise to Willow as the provocations.

"You always liked me best when I'm obedient," Spark whispers, his mouth suddenly close, Willow not entirely sure whether he or Spark moved. Spark's breath is warm and smells of the coffee he drank before they left the conference. He tastes like it too. It's a light kiss to begin with, almost gentle, although Willow wants nothing more than to ravish Spark's mouth, taking out on it the longing and the need he's had for far too many years.

"I like you all the time," Willow manages, moving away, allowing himself only a small taste of what he is offered. "No matter what you do."

"Good." Spark might appear obedient and willing, but he sure hasn't lost his perky attitude. "So what are you going to do about it, Professor?"

Willow caresses Spark's hand with his thumb before he lets go of it. "Keep your hand where it is," he demands, testing the waters. He doesn't wait for confirmation, just registers that Spark is determined to stay obedient, not moving at all.

"Yes, Sir," Spark whispers sweetly, his lips glistening with the kiss Willow left there. "May I have another kiss, please?"

Of course Willow cannot deny Spark anything. Or himself. He presses his mouth to Spark's once more, this time pressing his tongue inside, a deep, demanding kiss, the kind of kiss that Spark might have begged for, a possessive and overpowering one. Willow lets his hand slide downwards, cherishing Spark's slender build, the way his lean muscle slide underneath his skin, the flex of muscle as he moves; a hipbone against Willow's stomach, a slender thigh against his own. Returning to put his hand over Spark's, Willow braids his fingers with Spark's, holding him against the wall, kissing him until he cannot breathe. Refusing to stop, but forced by the lack of air, Willow gasps, licking one final time into Spark's mouth, across his lips, biting them hard enough for Spark to whimper slightly. Willow withdraws, leaving Spark exactly as breathless as he is himself.

Willow lets out a deep, longing sigh, leaning in, then back, knowing they have to speak about this before it goes any further.

"I don't do one night stands," Willow manages, the first thing that comes to mind. He'd rather stop here if he cannot have all of Spark, all the time. Then the kiss would be a sweet memory, but not devastating, not breaking him entirely if he has to let go, knowing he can never have more.

Spark tenses. "That's not—" He looks up at Willow, doe-eyed. "I do. But not with you."

Willow nods. "What do you want, Spark?" He is not sure that Spark is mature enough to take this the right way, or to even care for a discussion about their relation. "If you are asking for—"

"If you think I'm asking for you to take care of me," Spark interrupts, hooking his leg around Willow's thigh, "then you're right." He pulls, forcing Willow to step closer again. He looks up, lips apart. "More kisses. More… us."

"This?" Willow asks, and tightens his grip on Spark's hands, hard enough to make it hurt.

Spark moans. "Yes… Oh, please."

Willow nods. He is not sure he could do it if he had to hide this side of himself, the side that craves these beautiful moans from Spark's pretty mouth. For some time, but not forever. Yet, there is a more important question to ask. Willow lets go of Spark's one hand again and slides his own slowly downwards, skimming over Spark's neck, his collarbone, down his chest. Willow leaves it there, right over the heart.

"And this?"

Spark's heart beats little rapid sounds underneath Willow's hand.

Spark gasps, takes in a deep breath and lets it out again. Silence. Another shaky gasp.

"I'm in love with you," Spark finally says, his voice pained, as if he's been holding on to the words for some time. "I don't know what to do."

Willow's smile is a mile wide and his heart feels like it's going to explode. "I do. And I promise to take good care of you."

Insecurity takes the place of the heated glance in Spark's eyes. "And— What—"

"Don't worry," Willow says, taking Spark's free hand in his. He kisses them, Spark's tense fingers, one by one. He decides to play with open cards. Nothing else will do, not here, not with Spark. Not with the way Willow feels. Not when Spark has put his cards on the table. Willow takes a deep breath before he speaks. "I'm in love with you too."

Spark's relief is a small happy moan, eyes lit up with joy. Then his lips are on Willow's. There are more kisses.

More kisses.

They are in love. There are kisses. They can talk about the rest tomorrow.

Chapter Text

"Love does not make you strong," Kukui says, underlining his statement with a glare at Clemont. "It makes you weak!"

"Whoa," Ash urges. "It's not that I don't see your point, but—" He shrugs. "How can you even— What about your students and the Pokemon? I mean, it's not like you hate the world."

"That's different," Kukui argues, putting his drink on the table. He's got a little too much, for which Syc is also to blame, at least indirectly. "Pokemon and students cannot divorce you." He regrets the words even before they are out, but somehow they just spilled over. He hopes that his pain doesn't show in the dim light of the dingy bar. He sighs, trying to come up with some kind of distraction, glossing over the depth of his emotions. How they even got here is a riddle; somehow the conversation went there, what with all of them unattached and in most cases none of them interested to pursue relationships.

"Aaaand maybe now is the time to change the subject," Clemont cuts in, saving Kukui the embarrassment. More embarrassment.

"No, no," Bonnie says. "Don't stop; it's just getting interesting. Kukui needs someone to take care of him. Isn't that right, Kukui?"

They stopped addressing Kukui as Professor two drinks ago so it doesn't bother him. What bothers him is that he is so obviously single that everybody and their little sister want to find him a wife. Before Kukui can refute yet another attempt, he is saved again, this time by Ash.

"Did you bring any Pokemon with you, Kukui?" Ash leans in and moves the bottle they are sharing outside Kukui's reach. About to chastise his former student, Kukui reminds himself that Ash is a grown up young man, not his student. The sudden disappearance of the bottle of Absinthe is a sign of that. Plus, both Ash and Clemont have a point. Kukui should stop before he blurts out any more nonsense. Or worse, agrees to Bonnie's suggestion out of politeness.

Pikachu jumps up on Ash's shoulder, letting out an exited, "Pika pika!"

Kukui closes his eyes for a second, determined not to think about poor Augustine, inadvertently being the source of his bad mood. Things didn't pan out like he'd wanted them, not for Syc, not for him, and on the bottom line, Kukui has to live with his decisions instead of blaming Augustine, who is merely the victim of his inconsistency when it comes to lovers. At least Kukui got to apologize to Syc, not that he feels any less guilty for what he did to him. Kukui was an asshole then, he knows he sort of still is one, but what can one do when the scariest word in the world is 'commitment'?

"Come on, handsome," Bonnie teases. "Ash asked you a question."

"Ah. Yes." Kukui ignores the compliment. Bonnie isn't flirting, more like… stating a fact. Also, as far as Kukui knows, Bonnie is only interested in mountaineering, Pokemon training, and in writing articles about her successful search for the elusive Dedennemite mega stone. Not in guys twice her age, luckily. Kukui would hate to ward off more friends, or whatever it is Bonnie and Clemont are, seeing that he met them two hours ago when Ash made the introduction. But Kukui likes them. A lot. He has listened to Ash speak of them for years, and he knows that Ash has been telling Bonnie and Clemont about him as well. He feels as if he knows them. Bonnie is smart and bossy, Clemont is bright and interesting to talk to, and Ash… well Ash is Ash, and their long friendship has never waned. As such, Kukui should have had a good time, going out for a drink, not being all gloomy, disappearing down memory lane, looking for something that was adequate at best, a failure at worst. He needs to get a grip, participate in the good-natured teasing.

"Sorry," Kukui sighs. "Long day." He fumbles in a pocket and pulls out three Pokeballs. "Come on out, guys!"

It's all fine, although Snorlax is a little too big for the bar to be comfortable. For anyone.

Ash tries to get out from under its considerable weight. "Help!"

Kukui hurries to send Snorlax back in the ball. There may be casualties after its appearance: Ash's chair isn't what it was before, that much's certain. Kukui gets up and helps Ash stand, at the same time making a quick temporary assembly of the pile of wood that was once a chair. One of the servers shrug and comes to pick up the remains, seemingly not fazed by the wreckage.

"That was your baby-lax? The tiny Munchlax you had when I stayed with you? It has evolved?" Ash is gasping more than actually speaking. Maybe Snorlax squished him a bit too hard. He clings to the table when he catches his breath.

"Sorry about that," Kukui manages before he laughs at Ash's expression. It feels good, letting out some of the pent-up emotion. "This bar isn't as big as I thought it was." He turns around, looking for a vacant chair for Ash, pulling one over from the neighboring table before he sits down again, this time in a much better mood.

"Size does matter," Bonnie says knowingly, smirking at the same time. "But your Rufflet is cute. She pets the Rufflet and digs out some Pokemon snacks from her pocket, ignoring Dedenne's annoyed Deh-neh-neh-neh, and offers them to Kukui's remaining Pokemon. The Rufflet jumps forward, hissing at the poor Arcanine, getting to the pellets first.

"Enough, Rufflet," Kukui chides. "Or you are back in the ball." He shakes his head. "It is like having small children. Shouldn't have brought her. Picks fights over nothing, and she drives Arcanine to the brink."

"She could probably do with a battle," Ash says enthusiastically. "I wanna battle—"

"Not tonight," Kukui hurries to say. No battling while half-drunk; that'll only lead to more misery. "If you are up to it, then tomorrow, after the conference program."

"Maybe the Elite Four should have asked you to battle in the tournament, Kukui," Clemont says, pushing his glasses up. "I wonder why they didn't; you're a really strong trainer."

"I don't have to tell you that it's a showcase, limited numbers, invitation only," Kukui replies. "I haven't battled in the leagues for years, not even after we got our own Alolan League. There are better trainers out there."

That leads Clemont and Ash into a discussion of who is the better league winner of all the participants. Kukui zones out a bit, drinking some water, clearing his head of the light buzz. He watches the other patrons going about with their drinks and chats, nobody he knows. There's a cute guy in the back, young and a little chubby. Kukui directs his attention to his glass of water instead. He isn't looking for someone to take back to the hotel, so he takes yet another deep drink of water, and returns to the conversation.

"I didn't fight in the leagues," Kukui volunteers, "not since I was in the Indigo. I was busy with Battle Royals. Four against four Pokemon, open to all trainers. I was a pro. The Masked Royal they called me."

Bonnie jumps out of her chair. "You are so cool," she exclaims before getting down on her knee, laughing as she looks up at Kukui. "Please take care of my brother!"

"Er, what?"

"He needs a husband. I tried for ten years to get a sensible woman to take him, but it didn't work. He said no every time. Maybe he needs a good man instead? You're a good man, please take care of Clemont."

"Bonnie!" Clemont hisses and tries to pull a laughing Bonnie up from the floor. "I'm so sorry, Kukui, she's embarrassing. I thought she outgrew it."

Finally able to push Bonnie back into her chair, Clemont glares at his sister. Kukui laughs again, really laughs. The entire idea is laughable, although Clemont is good looking. Kukui is not going there; he is not going to have an affair with the best friend of his former student and current friend. Not happening, if nothing else then because the victim of Bonnie's stunt looks devastated. Even if the interest was there, Kukui would stick to surefire one-nighters. Clemont is not an option even if he danced naked and barefoot in front of Kukui.

Kukui can't help it, though. He likes Bonnie, so he can play along for a second. "I'm not good enough for you?" he asks, sending Clemont a wide grin. "Or wrong gender, maybe?"

"Yes. I mean. No." Clemont blushes and glances at Ash a second too long before he looks back at Kukui. "It'd be fine. If I wanted someone, that is. Bonnie doesn't understand that I'm the gym leader, and I don't have time for a boyf—for—." He blushes again. "For—anyone."

Kukui chuckles. Oh, Bonnie understands well enough. It's entertaining. Maybe it's the crush on Ash that keeps Clemont so busy he can't be bothered to take a lover or wife? Although Ash is clueless on the matter, Kukui is sure. Yet Kukui cannot blame Bonnie for milking it for all it's worth. She's a clever girl.

Bonnie's grin is downright scary. "I wonder why you never invented something that could help me find the right, erm, girl for you, Clemont. I'd have been so much easier for me to be your little sister if you had."

This time Clemont smiles back, his smile an exact copy of Bonnie's. "Oh, but I have."

Bonnie's eyes widen. "You haven't? What's it called then? Admit it already, you don't have anything like it!"

"Sadly for you, I do. I invented it for situations such as this! It's called The Standard Emotional Compatibility Scanner."

"I guess it says what it does. Not getting any better with the names, big brother."

Kukui agrees, not that he knows what the thing is supposed to do in the first place, despite the name. "Then what does it do?"

"Explode, probably," Bonnie states matter-of-factly. "His inventions usually do."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Clemont bends down and pulls up his bag on the table. "However, the future is now, thanks to science!"

A strange-looking device lands on the table with a thump. It looks like a hairdryer with a small compass attached.

"I present," Clemont exclaims, "The SECS!"

"The… Sex?" Bonnie's face scrunches and she wails with laughter. "Okay, now I have to admit that it is one of your better names," she finally gets out between sobs of laughter. "I guess it really says what happens eventually if it finds a match. Let's see how SECS works, then." She dries her eyes, ignoring Dedenne's buzzing noises. "Scan someone, Clemont, come on!"

She regrets immediately, reaching across the table, getting a hold of the scanner. "No, let me! Let me!"

Clemont surprisingly gives it up without a fight. Kukui's Arcanine comes out from under the table to see what the fuss is all about.

"What do I do?"

"Set the dial to 1 if you want to see if there is anyone present compatible with you, to 2 if you want to check the compatibility between one person and another person present, or to 3, if you just want it to scan for potentials for another person than yourself, pointing at that person first, then turn on the meter."

"So if I set it to 2 and point at you, I'll find you a keeper?"

"Not unless you point at that other person, too, to determine whether we fit. You need to point at me, and the person you think is a match. 3 is for random searches for the person you choose," Clemont explains. "The last one isn't too precise, though. You should let me do it."

"No way!" Bonnie moves away, outside Clemont's reach, holding the scanner up so that Clemont can get to it. "I wanna scan you! Think of all the time this'll save me."

Kukui watches the spectacle in silence, split between being delighted and downright appalled. If only love was so easy as to point and scan. Amusement wins. "You can try me, if you want," he offers.

"Nah, Clemont first." Bonnie is stubborn if nothing else. She points the device at her brother with a smirk. "Sit still! Clemontic gear on!"

The scanner whirs and huffs, but nothing else happens. Arcanine ignores it and decides that the calm under the table is better.

"It doesn't work," Bonnie complains and shakes it. "What do I do wrong?"

"Nothing. Seems like I'm right when I asked you for the millionth time not to try and find a wife for me. There is none."

"Or boyfriend," Kukui adds helpfully. Helpful to Bonnie, that is.

"Oooh," Bonnie squeals and points the scanner at Ash.

"Pih!" Pikachu squeaks accusingly. "Pika-pih!"

Still nothing. Kukui could have sworn that Clemont looked at Ash as more than a friend. Perhaps not.

"All right, try me now; that might work better," Kukui offers as not to cause too much trouble with more suggestions. "Not that I think there is anyone out there for me, either.

"Argh, you are all so dense," Bonnie groans. "You could just ask me to find you a proper partner. But okay." She turns her attention to the scanner, fiddling with the dial and the cord, turning the dial. "So… point at Kukui, and then turn on the meter, right?"

Clemont nods. "Yep."

Kukui squints at the device as if it would suddenly reveal his entire back catalog of shameful encounters and similarly shameful broken relationships.

Bonnie concentrates, tip of her tongue out, obviously determined to make it work. She presses the meter button and the SECS whirrs and beeps and makes odd mechanical noises, the arrow slowly moving the entire 360 around the face of the meter. Then nothing. Nothing happens for a few seconds, and Bonnie is frowning, just about the press the button again when the SECS makes a loud screeching sound that makes the patrons at the other tables look funny at them. Rufflet jumps up, hissing and clawing at the noisy little piece of machinery, stopping only when Kukui grabs a Pokeball and zaps Rufflet back into it.

Suddenly the arrow goes nuts for real, rotating with high speed, once in a while pointing to the back of the room. Nothing is there, apart from the entrance, which seems to confuse the device, setting it in motion again, .

"What's in that direction," Bonnie asks holding the SECS away from herself. "Oh, the gym. But…"

The scanner whirs again, slow at first, then with increasing speed. It doesn't stop. This time it's making a total ruckus before smoke starts coming from it.

"Oh no!" Bonnie cries and shoves the SECS in Clemont's direction. He throws himself across the table and catches it, fumbling to shut it off.

"Phew," Bonnie groans. "That was close. You are getting better, Clemont. Your inventions don't quite explode anymore."

"How nice of you to notice," Clemont manages through clenched teeth. "You were the one who wanted to try it out, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah." Bonnie waves away the smoke. "Doesn't work, who cares."

Showing a remarkable and uncharacteristic sense of when to step in, Ash makes another deflection before the siblings start bickering.

"Oh, look at the time. Me and Pikachu better get back to the house. Bonnie, how 'bout you? Clemont, do you mind?"

"Really," Bonnie says, rolling her eyes. "I'm not eight."

"Nah, but we have training tomorrow, and you are preparing your presentation at the conference. We should go back and get some sleep." With Pikachu balancing on his head, Ash makes the move to get up.

Thus convinced, Bonnie grimaces and starts collecting her purse and jacket. She stops, one arm into it. "If I leave Clemont here with Kukui, it's like they have a da—"

"No!" both Clemont and Kukui cry at the same time, waking Dedenne up from its sleep in Bonnie's purse.

"Go away," Clemont growls. "I am not dating anyone, ever."

"I'll let you know when I find someone I care to be with," Kukui states. "But I do want to find that person myself. And it is not Clemont."

"Bah, you're so annoying," Bonnie complains. "Come on, Ash. Leave the boring types to themselves."

Bonnie pulls the strap of her purse over her shoulder, grabs Ash by the sleeve and hightails it out of the bar before they can chastise her even more.

"Oh, well," Kukui sighs and leans back in his chair. "She sure is set on getting you hitched."

"I don't even have time for inventions," Clemont says. "How could I make time for a family? Even if…" He looks down, as if he is thinking of himself in that particular situation.

"I suppose it's something you do when it really matters more than anything else," Kukui says. "Probably never mattered enough to me."

"But you were married?"

"Once. She had her research, I had mine. Didn't even live with her. Guess how often we saw each other, and how well that went. Since neither she, nor I was willing to make a change, there was only one outcome. I didn't want to give up my life for her. If I had loved her enough, then I would have at least offered to. I like to think I would."

"I think I could do that, give up everything for love. But as long as he—" Clemont shuts his mouth. "Sometimes I wonder what all the fuss is about."

Courteously Kukui refrains from asking about this… he. Instead he pokes at the dead SECS that lie on the table.

"Why did it act so erratically?" Kukui asks, somehow curious as to what could possibly make his scan so violent. "Is it because it couldn't do a reading?" It's a sound theory. Since Kukui's one true love clearly has eluded him his entire life, the man in question probably doesn't exist. Whether it is a good thing, or a bad… that's the question. Kukui doesn't think it might be too interesting in the long run, fucking everything with a pretty face and a pulse. What would it be like when he gets to fifty or sixty? Having his incompatibility confirmed erases the last slither of hope that Kukui might have harbored, which would save him the bother of thinking about true love and commitment once on a while. Anyway, he doesn't believe in it. The only truth about love is that it leads to heartbreak. His naive dream of falling madly in love with his one and only is but that: a dream.

"I don't know. It might not work, it might have malfunctioned, or it might have picked up a very strong signal. You didn't see anyone you know, did you?"

Kukui shakes his head. "No. And… it wasn't any of you, right? Not that I am interested, I mean. I like you, yet… you are all too young, and Ash was once my student." As if that ever held back anyone, but in this case it is true.

"Definitely not. It would have picked it up right away if it was one of us. It works very well on a short distance."

"Does it now?" Kukui cannot stop himself from raising a questioning eyebrow. "As I see it it sure doesn't pick up on the obvious."

"There is this." Clemont pulls back his sleeve. There's a thin bracelet around his wrist.

Kukui doesn't ask. Clemont will explain if he feels like it.

"My future is my own, thanks to science." Clemont makes a wide grin and pushes his glasses up. "It deflects the scanning rays. Since the scanner can't read me, it can't really search for a counterpart. Keeps Bonnie busy, no side effects. I'll let her have fun with the SECS until she tires of it."

Kukui nods and makes a similar grin. "Maybe Ash needs one of those nifty bracelets, too. Just to be on the safe side?"

Kukui has the satisfaction of seeing Clemont go red as a beet.

Bingo.

Chapter Text

Meyer is invisible. Not in the sense that he is hiding, or that he is actually invisible. But his overalls and his hat seem to have magical properties. Nobody speaks to him or notices him; he's is so obviously not a scientist or researcher, what with his toolbox and his oil-stained clothes, so he goes unnoticed. It's funny, Meyer finds, how a man his size can be overlooked. Now, Meyer doesn't mind. He is doing his thing, the researchers are doing theirs. As Blaziken Mask he appreciates stealth. He has a job to do. He is good at it. He looks after Professor Sycamore. And he's a good handyman too. No electrical problems have occurred under his watchful eye.

The last presentation for the day is over, and people are getting up. Some stay, speaking with the presenter about her topic of research, others seem to be busy getting to the refreshments, others again form small groups, speaking about this or that; Meyer can't hear. He probably wouldn't have a clue if it came to that.

He watches the assembly, scientists deeply dedicated to Pokemon research, as they mill around, engaged in enthused conversation on their area of interest. He appreciates it, just as he appreciates any form of dedication to a topic or task, like Clemont's responsible leadership at the Lumiose City Gym, his brilliant inventions. Like Bonnie's long, stubborn, and sometimes very dangerous search for Dedennemite. And as always, Meyer appreciates Professor Sycamore's dedication to his Pokemon and his research, still groundbreaking in the field of Mega Evolution.

To be fair, Meyer isn't needed here. The conference crew has everything under control and he could have left an hour ago. Yet, for some reason, a reason named Augustine Sycamore, Meyer hasn't had the urge to go anywhere. He'd be lying if he blamed the electrical system for his presence. Yet it is exactly what he is doing, creating a thinly veiled excuse to stay by checking the projector and the various cables for the umpteenth time, merely to have an explanation as to why he is still in the auditorium.

Presently hiding in a corner, trying to at least be discreet, Meyer nearly has a heart attack when a group of scientists steps up to him unnoticed, Meyer being all caught up in the pleasant pastime of thinking about his favorite Professor.

Professor Sycamore is the first to speak. "Dear colleagues, allow me to present Meyer. He is helping me with my research on occasion, and without his input and ideas, I would never have been able to research Mega Evolution on the level I do today. His insights have been invaluable to me. He also played a pivotal role in the defense during the attack on Kalos," Professor Sycamore says, "Meyer is very knowledgeable of battle mechanics. The Kalos League would not have been too big a bite," he states proudly, and to Meyer's distinct pleasure, as if it matters to him that nobody underestimates Meyer's abilities. "The Elite Four should worry if Meyer ever decided to challenge them."

Meyer feels a flush of happiness and warmth. They have been friends for a decade, more than a decade, but he never knew that Professor Sycamore thought so highly of him. It's true, most of it, although he'd have to shape up if he ever decided to go back into the League. With two Mega Evolving Pokemon he could do it if he had to, although Amphoros would complain a lot. She was never interested in battles to begin with, and Meyer would never ask of her to do them.

An older professor bows to Meyer. "I am Professor Oak. I have heard about you from Ash. I am so pleased to meet you."

The professor takes Meyer's arm and leads him into the throng of curious-looking researchers. Still too surprised to react, Meyer follows, trying to make sense of what is happening.

"I'm Professor Juniper. I would be interested in discussing the genetics of Mega Evolution with you. Professor Sycamore writes in his monograph on the relation between DNA in Pokemon and trainer that there are noticeable similarities. What is your view on a potential physical bond between human and Pokemon?"

Another Professor steps up and demands Meyer's opinion on another topic and just like that, Meyer is involved in a scientific discussion, discovering that he is easily able to follow it, even when it gets really specific.

"Seems like I spent a lot of time in your research lab," Meyer remarks to Professor Sycamore during a quiet moment. "Not a waste entirely."

Professor Sycamore smiles and leans in a little, voice low. "It would never be a waste, having you close." He sighs and squeezes Meyer's arm briefly. "You always help me discover something that I didn't see before. Sometimes it is the most obvious things that elude me. I think it means that you are irreplaceable to me."

Meyer's heart skips a beat. That is surprising. After their brief moment in the janitor's office, he hadn't known what to expect. But like Meyer predicted, something has changed between them. Yet it sounds like that something is… flirting?

Meyer turns and looks at Professor Sycamore, somehow hard of breathing, only to discover that Professor Sycamore is already studying him in turn. Meyer can't look away. Velvet eyes, a soft smile, open, inviting. Lips half parted. Meyer swallows. "I—"

"Yes?" The word is drawn out and velvet soft.

"Maybe…we…" Meyer is at a loss. Years of unresolved longing overwhelm him, leaving him stunned and incapacitated. With hands clenched, heart beating like mad, he takes the small leap. "I'd like to spend more—"

Another smile. "I'll call you. Tonight. If you are free—"

"Yes!"

The word is out, too fast, too loud, but Meyer doesn't care. All tension leaves him, replaced by anticipation, a steady hum of electricity surging through him. He reaches out, stroking Professor Sycamore's hand, just for a moment. But Meyer knows that the sensory memory of it will stay with him forever. "Yes, please."

- 0 -

Waiting for a call is usually a pastime assigned to young lovers to be, yet Meyer does not feel particularly young. He does, however, feel very much as a lover to be—at least he hopes he will be a lover, Professor Sycamore's lover.

He stares at the phone as if the call will come just by wishing for it. Although if that exercise actually worked, the damned thing would have alerted him an hour ago.

Meyer flinches, almost shocked when the phone finally blares, ruining the silence. He grabs the device, fumbling to answer. Finally he finds the right button, his hands feeling twice as big as usual, clumsy and rough.

"Meyer?"

Professor Sycamore's face pops up on the screen. He looks like he just came out from a shower, hair damp, a white shirt half open, leaving Meyer with a view that makes his throat dry and his hands wet.

"Yeah. Wait. I—" Meyer wipes his sweaty hand in the clean overalls, swapping the phone over. "Yeah. I'm… ready."

"You sound like your execution is awaiting you." There is laughter in Professor Sycamore's voice. He tries to hide a smile.

"Are you laughing at me?" Meyer can't help but smiling back. He is so lost.

"No, I—" There's a pause. "Not any longer."

"So—" Meyer begins, staring at the screen.

"Strange how you can be so determined as Blaziken Mask, yet—"

"You think I'm awkward, Professor?" It's half a joke, yet not.

"I think it might be awkward if you keep calling me 'Professor'. In the long run."

There is going to be a long run? Meyer lets out a relieved sigh. There is going to be a long run.

"So—"

"This conversation is going in circles, Meyer. Maybe you should—"

"Would you like me to come over?" Meyer interrupts, with every fiber in his body hoping that the answer is yes.

This time Professor Sycamore's laughter is audible. "Yes, please. That would be marvelous"

Meyer closes his eyes for a second, trying to contain his happiness. "I'll be there in ten minutes, Professor."

"Augustine." Sycamore's expression is one of eager anticipation.

Meyer smiles so widely it hurts. "Everything for you. Augustine."

"Thank you. And—"

"Yes?"

"Hurry, Meyer."

- 0 -

"I'm here!" The front door to Profes— to Augustine's—apartment is ajar, and Meyer pushes it open, not sure what to expect. The research lab is quiet, oddly enough; Meyer had expected it to be overrun by Pokemon scientists, but there is nobody here, at least not outside the actual labs.

"Meyer!"

Augustine still has that white shirt on and it is not any more closed than it was ten minutes ago. He looks good. He always does, in Meyer's opinion, but the white contrasts nicely with Augustine's dark hair. With the dusting of dark hair on his chest as well. Striding quickly down the hallway, Meyer cannot but appreciate the view. He's allowed that pleasure now, to watch Augustine openly, not hiding that he likes what he sees. Very, very much.

Augustine stops in front of him, not too close. "Are we going to talk about it like civilized men first, or—"

Meyer laughs. "No." It comes out like that, although he knows they should talk; it'd make sense to discuss what they both wanted or expected, where they should go from here, what it all meant. "No, after." Whatever 'after' is. Other than 'in the long run'.

"Good."

Meyer thinks Augustine looks positively predatory that instant, and he makes a small sound, pleased and excited both, for being the target of that hunger.

"How long?" Augustine asks, taking a step forward. He raises a hand. It's shaking slightly.

"Ten years. Longer." Meyer swallows. "When you called me to install all the wiring here. When you opened the lab. Almost fifteen."

"I can do the math." Augustine touches Meyer's cheek, gently, before he steps into his arms, just like that, like it is something they have done every day for all those years. Augustine looks up. "But I seems I was really slow at getting to the right result."

Meyer nods, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Impressive perception, for a researcher."

Augustine shivers as Meyer accidentally pushes his shirt aside, and their contact is skin against skin, Meyer's warm hand resting on Augustine's waist for a moment. It makes Augustine sigh, still content, as if he is soaking up Meyer's touch, longing for it. Meyer sighs too. He never thought he'd be here, Augustine shivering in his arms. But he is. He breathes in, the vague scent of soap and some kind of expensive aftershave, pleasant and not too much, mingling with Augustine's own scent, so familiar to him.

"Won't make that mistake again," Augustine says, sliding his arm around Meyer's neck. "I was sure you'd never look in my direction."

"And yet here we are," Meyer says before he does what he has wanted for more than a decade. He leans in and kisses Augustine Sycamore, finally, finally, allowed to touch him the way a man touches his lover.

There is nothing gentle or passive about Augustine's kiss. He gives as good as he gets, and Meyer makes sure that he gets what he wants.

Augustine tastes of desperation. It's in the way he opens his mouth to Meyer's tongue. It's how he presses his body against Meyer's, like there is no part of his body he does not want in contact with Meyer's. And Meyer understands. It's like a dam that finally broke, like everything they have been through, every hour they have spent together, every little intimate thing they have—things and events and moments that only they know about. Fifteen years, through war and through peaceful times… Meyer suddenly realizes how well they know each other, despite Augustine's blindness when it comes to his emotions. So Meyer doesn't hold back. He knows that Augustine will tell him what he wants or doesn't want. And right now…

With his arm around Meyer's neck, Augustine tries to get the overalls open. Meyer's hat has mysteriously disappeared. "Mmmh," Augustine moans when Meyer slides his fingers through his hair, tugging lightly as he forces Augustine to bare his neck so that Meyer can place wet, open-mouthed kisses along it, slowly moving his other hand to Augustine's ass.

It's a mighty fine ass, and Augustine makes a broken-up gasp as Meyer squeezes and pulls him hard up against his erection, almost lifting him off the floor. Another moan says that Augustine likes being manhandled. Meyer is happy to provide.

"More," Augustine demands, entirely in sync with Meyer's own urges. "Bed."

Meyer knows where the sofa is; he's been in and out of Augustine's apartment for so many years, so many times; he knows where everything is. Even the bed. "It's too far," he murmurs, lips on Augustin's mouth, lifting him up to carry him exactly as far as his patience allows him. It's ten feet. The bed is out of the question. Meyer wants Augustine. Now.

"Mmmh?" Augustine groans and wraps his legs around Meyer's waist. "Where?"

"Couch. Naked," Meyer says, his voice dark and rusty, arousal overwhelming him. "Want you right now."

"Ahh-oh. Yes. Marvelous." Tightening his legs around Meyer, Augustine breathes hotly into Meyer's ear, breath shivering, as if the mere thought of being thrown down and fucked on the couch makes him want it even more. For a moment Meyer wonders if they should be making sweet love in the candlelit bedroom, whether Augustine would rather—

No.

Three strides and Meyer leans over the couch, dumping Augustine on it. He has his overalls unbuttoned almost before Augustine hits the soft surface. Augustine looks up at him, eyes half closed, mouth open, lips kiss-slick and inviting. Meyer's heart skips a beat. With the overalls hanging on his hips, dick straining against the thin fabric of his boxers, Meyer puts a knee between Augustine's legs. His hands look too big on Augustine's slender thighs.

"I'll do it," Meyer says as Augustine raises his hands to unbutton… buttons. "Let me do it."

That Meyer claims the task does not stop Augustine from touching everything else. His elegant hands are on Meyer's bigger ones, moving up, testing out the slide of muscle underneath Meyer's skin, the bulge of his biceps. Augustine makes a delighted moan as Meyer, on purpose, flexes. He squeezes Meyer's arm again before he pulls at Meyer's t-shirt.

"Off," Augustine demands. "I want."

Meyer laughs and pulls the garment off, baring himself to Augustine's appreciative stare. Without being too obvious, Meyer makes sure to show off his abs and arms. If that is what Augustine wants, that is what Augustine gets.

"Meyer." Augustine's sounds very appreciative. "Oh."

"You like that, huh?" Meyer murmurs, unbuckling Augustine's belt. Meyer has no illusions about his looks. He is made of brick after all. And what isn't made of brick is hard as a rock. He can live with a bit of muscle fetish. Apparently Augustine likes a big guy and as long as the big guy is Meyer, he is not going to complain. "Good thing there is enough of me, then. In other places too."

Another moan from Augustine, a smile. Meyer gets Augustine's pants open, pushing his fingers along the lining, pushing and pulling, one hand under Augustine's ass, pert and tight and fitting exactly right in Meyer's big hand as he lifts him up to get the pants and underwear down and off.

"Maybe—oh—hmmm—" Augustine makes a needy whine as Meyer gets him naked, as naked as he care to for now, the shirt open and pulled aside, pants on the floor, socks still on. It's enough. "Wait." Blindly Augustine fumbles for the pants, one pocket, the other. "Lube." He holds the small bottle out for Meyer to take.

This time it's Meyer's turn to let out a small moan. "You sure?"

The look Augustine sends him says it all. Meyer is fine with that too. He waited fifteen years for this, and he's not protesting if Augustine wants to dive right in. Or let him do the diving, which seems to be the case. Meyer realizes he just assumes. "You wanna?" he asks, his mind lust-muddled already. "Let me, I mean. If you'd rather—"

Augustine spreads his legs wider. "I don't think so."

Augustine's hole is glistening from lube, loose and ready.

Meyer swallows, trying to stay upright as arousal surges through him like wildfire. "You… prepared?"

A nod. "Wishful thinking."

Leaning on one arm, on his knees, Meyer pulls down his overalls and boxers, pleased by the surprised gasp from Augustine. "Think you can take it?" Meyer asks, making sure once more before he opens the bottle of lube.

"Think I wanna try," Augustine manages, voice broken, eyes wide with surprise. He reaches for Meyer's erection. "Marvelous. Truly marvelous. All of you." There's a dazed expression on his face, awed, as he closes his hand around Meyer's hardness, not careful, but not too harsh, either. More like… perfect.

Meyer moans at the touch, sliding forward to kiss Augustine again, desperate for more, plunging his tongue into Augustine's mouth, the kiss wet and hungry.

Augustine lacks patience. He moves under Meyer, eager and willing, little needy sighs to accompany the kiss and the slide of their bodies. Exploring Augustine's body, his taste, how his skin feels, how his hair is silken and soft in Meyer's hand as he buries his fingers in it… Meyer is sure that he will never get enough of this. And Augustine looks up at him, eyes half-closed, unfocused, a smile flickering for an instant before a sharp gasp chases it away. Meyer stops, but Augustine doesn't, thrusting up to get Meyer closer, deeper.

"More," Augustine demands. "Meyer, I need… I, ah! Meyer, please."

Sinking into Augustine's tight heat feels like heaven. Meyer is careful. He can hardly breathe. He lies on top of Augustine, their hearts beating in sync with one another, a frantic beat of pleasure and this new and beautiful connection between them.

Augustine's breath consists of sharp little puffs, his body moving with each inhale, exhale.

"OK?"

"Yeah."

Augustine whimpers as Meyer moves again, thrusting deeper, harder. His hands are on Meyer's shoulders, digging in, sharp crescent-shaped pain on his skin.

The only sounds are their breathing and the lewd, squelching sound of too much lube. Somehow it drives Meyer further into the haze of lust that the pristine Professor sheds his calm attitude and turns into this erotic, sensual creature at night, giving himself up to be taken, an offering of such temptation that Meyer not in his wildest dreams had dared hope for it.

"Fuck," Meyer hisses as Augustine clenches around him, preventing him from moving. He studies Augustine's face, looking for signs of discomfort, but there are none.

"So… good," Augustine lets out, words separated by a weak moan.

Holding still until Augustine relaxes, Meyer distracts himself by sucking at Augustine's beautiful neck, skin so soft under his lips. It makes Augustine moan louder, moving again under him, hips gyrating, like he wants it in deeper. Meyer obeys. Of course he does. He pulls Augustine closer by the legs, cherishing the gasps and moans the manhandling elicits. Tense as a strung bow, Augustine lies, eyes closed, mouth half open, presenting the most alluring sight that Meyer has ever seen. He makes sure to suck another mark into Augustine's skin, right over the collarbone, knowing that he is making a claim here.

"Move," Augustine urges. "Meyer, please! Move. Don't…" Another moan. "Don't hold back."

"I'll give it my all, then," Meyer groans through clenched teeth, determined to give Augustine pleasure first, not to come until he is sated and done. And so he does, pulling Augustine's one leg up to get better access. The sight of his own big cock sliding into Augustine's willing body almost ruins Meyer's determination. The small cries that Augustine makes as Meyer slams in, over and over, do little to make him last.

"Meyer," Augustine repeats over and over, little moans and sighs littered between Augustine's begging.

"Yes, fuck!" is all Meyer can get out. He thrusts in. Hard. Harder. Harder. And Augustine follows him, coming undone, falling apart. There is pale skin, kiss-marked. Augustine's mouth. Warmth. Pleasure. A buzz of arousal. Cries. Pleasure, blinding pleasure.

"Meyer," Augustine breathes, his body tensing, shaking as the orgasm rushes through him, and Meyer fucks into him with all his power, watching as Augustine comes, drowning in pleasure.

There has never been anyone as beautiful as Augustine in the throes of passion, Meyer is sure, and he too lets go of the last remains of the control he has had on himself. With his lips on Augustine's mouth, it takes Meyer only one deep thrust to arrive at the brink of orgasm, the pleasure too much, and he comes, whispering unintelligible nonsense against Augustine's lips. A deep groan, and he pumps Augustine full of come, the warm fluid spreading between them. We ruined the couch, Meyer realizes in his hazy state of white-hot pleasure, not willing to do anything about it as long as he can stay like this, connected with Augustine, body and soul.

Making satisfied little noises, Augustine slides a leg around Meyer's thigh, physically preventing him from moving. "Mmmmhm," he murmurs into Meyer's ear, a long, pleased sound. "Don't go."

Not that Meyer intended to go anywhere anytime soon. "Won't," he says, his brain activity at a new low, entirely shot down by the intense release.

It takes time before Meyer goes limp and their breathing calms. It is like neither man wants to break the embrace, yet the brief gush of liquid between Meyer's legs makes it if not necessary, then more comfortable at least. If Augustine can ruin a sofa, Meyer can sacrifice his t-shirt. With a last kiss to Augustine's mouth, Meyer moves a little, enough to be able to fetch his discarded t-shirt from the floor.

"Let me?"

Augustine doesn't protest, and Meyer cleans them both, and the sofa for good measure, before he lies down again, spooning Augustine from behind, his sweat-cool back against Meyer's warm chest. He nuzzles Augustine's hair, breathing in the scent of him, cherishing every little touch. He feels like a man in a desert, finally finding water, not truly aware how parched he has been.

Augustine reaches back, softly stroking Meyer's thigh.

Meyer kisses his way from Augustine's silken hair to his cheek, pressing his lips against his jaw, over his ear, enjoying the closeness, the tenderness between them. The ease of it.

"You're going to have marks tomorrow," Meyer murmurs, mouth pressed against Augustine's love-bitten neck. "I'm sorry."

"I'm not." The sofa dips as Augustine turns in Meyer's arms, snuggling into his embrace once more as he lets out a content hum. Meyer can feel his smile on his skin, replaced by a kiss and a light bite, teeth scraping across his neck. "I have nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of."

"You—" Meyer frowns. With the Kukui guy that hadn't been the case? Not that he is going to talk about Professor Kukui now, not now.

"Oh. I didn't think." There is a tinge of sadness in Augustine's words. "I understand if you'd rather—"

"For a Professor you are not too clever," Meyer states, sighing deeply. "And for an electrical engineer, I am not too bright. Light's on, nobody's home."

Augustine laughs, a soft chuckle. "You are a brilliant engineer, so I won't offend you and tell you that your talents are wasted because they are not. But you could have been a great researcher, too, or a very good Pokemon trainer. But I assume that doesn't matter. We are making too many assumptions about each other all the time."

"If one of us finished a sentence once in a while, it'd probably help," Meyer says and pulls Augustine even closer, one hand caressing his back gently. "Or said outright what he wanted."

"Instead of keeping silent for fifteen years, you mean?"

This time it's Meyer's turn to laugh. "Funny how we're best friends and still we kept to ourselves that we both like men, or in my case, man. Should probably have confessed before, yeah. Because coming out, asking who I thought was a straight guy to be my lover, only to be shot down was precisely what I looked forward to," he adds slightly sarcastic.

"Touché" There's a pause. Then Augustine gets up on one elbow, staring at him without saying anything for a little while. "You want me to be your lover?"

"Boyfriend, lover." Meyer takes a deep breath. He protected the city, fought in a war, he became a superhero to keep safe what and who he loves. He is brave. He can do this. Fifteen years. They have known each other forever. Another deep breath and then one. "Lover, yes. Husband, in time. Not too long, though." Not waiting for an answer, he continues, "is a proposal outright enough for you?"

The answer, however, comes without pause. "Yes. And yes."

Augustine stretches and wraps his arms around Meyer's neck before he can make sense of the reply. "Yes, I want to be your lover. And yes. I want…" Augustine makes a shuddering breath, as if he is overwhelmed with emotion. "I know you, Meyer, better than anybody. You saved me time and again, and I you. You are my best friend. There is… there has been so much between us, and now that I finally see…" Touching Meyer's cheek, Augustine caresses it, feather-soft, like he wants to touch every inch of Meyer's face. Like he cannot get enough.

Meyer looks at Augustine's handsome visage, at eyes filled with joy. Maybe there is nothing to be afraid of after all. "Yes?"

"I think my love for you was homeless all these years. Maybe I was blind because I did not want to see: what if I fell in love with you and never managed to fall out of love again? What if I fell and never got up? I thought it was hopeless, so maybe I never allowed myself to fall, because the fall would be lethal: the love to kill all other loves. How could I have gone through life like that, loving you that much, believing that there would never be a chance for us? And—"

"And?" The word comes out like a newly hatched Pokemon, shakily and a little insecure.

"And yesterday… today… the ground shook under my feet and disappeared. It left me with nowhere to stand. There is nothing I can do other than to fall. I think I might have been falling in love with you for years, so there is no doubt now, no hesitation. I don't want to wait and see if it works with us, dating, I don't want to hide because I want to be able to show you that I want to be with you now. Not next week or next month, or at some point when common habit deems it acceptable that we declare ourselves to the world. I don't want to wait to get the man I have known half of my adult life."

"Known… yeah. Apart from that tiny little thing that makes it possible for you to be my lover. That I'm bi. You didn't know that. And I never knew that you are… whatever label you want to put on it, if any… interested in… me. In men."

"If that is the only secret there has ever been between us—"

"And I didn't tell you I was Blaziken Mask."

"There is that. More?"

Meyer thinks for a second. That is all he needs. He knows he didn't keep any other secrets from Augustine. Apart from his love for him and that hidden love needs no longer stay hidden. "I love you."

Augustine's content sigh says it all. "As for your proposal," he says, leaning in to kiss Meyer on the cheek. "I'm not certain 'lover' is good enough. I might like fiancé better. I'm in for the long run. I told you already."

Meyer's smile is so wide that he's not sure it can fit on his face. "Yeah?"

"M-hm."

"I like it better too." Meyer heaves a sigh. "A lot better."

Suddenly Augustine looks serious. "Bonnie and Clemont?"

"I'll tell them tomorrow."

"And you don't—"

"They love you too. Seriously, Augustine? They have known you from they were kids. You think my children—my Bonnie and Clemont—would be against us being together? I brought them up better than that. Besides, they adore you. Probably more than they adore me."

"Oh. Well. If you are sure, then—" Augustine's smile matches his own. Meyer realizes that it is damned difficult to smile and kiss at the same time. But it is possible. In the long run.

"Is that all you have to say?" Meyer finally gets out, breaking the kiss, eyebrow raised teasingly.

"No. I want to say that we are not staying on the sofa. It's disgusting. Take me to bed," Augustine demands, confirming the demise of the couch. "We are not done. We are very much not done."

Chapter Text

"I'm done," Spark declares as he puts down the eggs in the chair. The eggs rock slightly by themselves like the inhabitants are busy doing whatever Pokemon are doing in their eggs. "They are not hatching tonight. They are having a blast in there, so no wonder they won't leave. Some party. I guess I have to leave them to Dedenne overnight."

Dedenne perks up as Spark speaks of it. It looks at him and chatters its, "neh-neh? Den-neh-neh?"

"Yes, please. If you don't mind?"

"Deh-ne-neh." Dedenne buzzes and climbs into the deep chair where the eggs are wrapped in blankets.

"Sure, one or two?"

"Neh-neh."

"Right." Spark gets up and rummages around in his luggage. "Ah! Here they are." He holds up a box that smells slightly of Pinap. "Pokepuffs," he explains, letting Willow in on the conversation.

"So now you resort to bribing your Pokemon," Willow replies. "Not sure that's in the manual."

"Not sure there is any manual at all," Spark says, perky as always. "And if there was, do you really think I'd have wasted time reading it?"

Willow is very sure that if there had been one, Spark would have read every word, twice, and made notes for prosperity. Even if he pretends to be clueless, he isn't when it comes to his Pokemon friends. It is so easy to underestimate Spark—an error, though, that Willow never made. Except maybe when it comes to Spark's preferences in bed.

Willow smiles at the thought. Waking up early with Spark in his arms had been a moment of pure joy. They had done nothing but to kiss and fall asleep together, and Willow liked it that way. Spark too, it appeared, although they had not yet spoken about it. 'It' being what Spark would like in bed, and whether it would mesh with what Willow wants. Chances are that it might not. At least Willow will have this brief moment of happiness, a night with Spark sleeping soundly in his arms. But Spark's response to be Willow's to care for had been surprising which in itself leaves room for hope. Willow certainly hadn't counted on that. He gave up years ago, finding someone who would be content with what he offers. It's non-negotiable. In Willow's opinion, life's too short to compromise on that. Rather have nothing than to make do. Or worse, do things he dislikes.

The pleasant scent of Pinap Pokepuffs spreads as Spark bribes Dedenne into taking care of the eggs. Dedenne munches happily on one huge yellow 'puff.

"When is your presentation tomorrow," Spark asks as he pets Dedenne. "At 2, right?"

"Yeah." Willow raises an eyebrow, wondering where Spark is going with that. He fiddles with his folders and the small laptop on the desk, looking up again, at Spark.

"So we don't have to be there early?" Spark opens a widow, makings sure all his winged Pokemon can come and go as they please. They still aren't in their Pokeballs. The air is delightfully cool and flower-scented so it's no wonder they'd rather be out.

"What are you thinking about, Spark?" Willow leaves the pile of folders alone and walks across the room. He stops a few feet from Spark, hands on the back of the chair.

"Duh. Not going to sleep right away, of course." Spark rolls his eyes. "If I knew you were so slow, I'd never have fallen in love with you."

"If I knew you were so rude and misbehaved I'd have punished you earlier," Willow retorts. "And there is still the matter of your behavior yesterday." Willow is testing the waters, wanting to explore Spark's need for a strong hand. His need for submission. "It should be addressed."

"Is that so?" Spark comments, now with his back to Willow. He is rummaging around in this bag for something. He turns around, rope in hand. "You were saying?"

The second conference day's exhaustion is gone in a flash, replaced by a different feeling entirely. Willow stares at Spark, not sure he is able to hide his hunger. "Are you ready for it to go that far?" It's still surprising to Willow that Spark shares his urges, some of them at least. Love would have been enough, but that he can have Spark on his knees, his surrender too—that is amazing, something he had never dared hope for although he has imagined that particular situation more times than one. If only love will be enough. Love and submission.

Maybe Spark sees it in his eyes. Without words, he bows his head, holding out the rope for Willow to take. "Please, Professor Willow, sir."

That does it. Pictures of Spark tied up, Spark naked, the ropes digging into his soft skin, ropes around his body, his cock, his balls… Willow makes a deep sigh that could as well has been a moan.

"I need to be taught a lesson," Spark adds, eyes averted. "I need to be told. More than anything."

Arousal thunders through Willow's blood. He wonders for a second whether this is a wonderful dream, some alternate reality in which all his wishes came true. Willow does not want Spark's body, even though he finds it beautiful. He wants his surrender. His submission.

And Spark offers it to him, just like that, like it is the most natural, important thing in the world.

The chair between them is moved away with no attention to its continued state as an actual, useful chair. Willow is in front of Spark in a second. "You are not the one calling the shots here, boy."

Spark makes a small sound, somewhere between a sigh and a pained moan. It's beautiful. "No, sir, of course not. I'm sorry, Professor. I'll be good, I promise."

Arousal changes from a low current to violent jolts of lust. All for Spark. Willow's erection is rubbing against the fabric of his pants, wet spot uncomfortable yet delightful. With his eyes on Spark, searching for the tiniest signs of discomfort, Willow grabs Spark's wrist and pulls him close, hard, cruel. It elicits an arousing yelp. Spark moves against Willow, little teasing movements, his dick hard too. No doubt he really wants it. He might not have much experience, but he definitely knows how to play the game.

"Are you sure you know what you are asking for?"

"Yes, Professor." Spark bows his head again, releasing the rope as Willow pulls it from his free hand. "I do. I really do. What you said earlier. I need… to be—" Spark pauses, his voice merely a whisper. "I need to be taught a lesson, please. By you. I need—"

Willow is certain he had a backbone at some point, but Spark… oh, Spark. He could stop at any point, but to have Spark in his arms, being able to kiss him and tease him… to bare him, open his pants and undress him, making him ready to lie across his lap, waiting, nervous and ready for the hard slap of a hand… No, Willow is not going to say no to that.

"Look at me."

Spark's eyes are on him immediately.

"When you step into the bedroom, you are mine. You have misbehaved and there are consequences. Understood?"

"Yes, Professor." There is a hint of a smile, flashing across his lips. "I always was. Yours."

"I will punish you for your behavior. It is not going to be pleasant," Willow states, a surprised eyebrow revealing that Spark's declaration is almost too much for him to believe. "Are you aware what you are—"

"You didn't notice, then," Spark interrupts, all obedience forgotten. "that I want that as much as I want you? Yeah, I knew it, you're totally cluel—"

Willow shuts Spark up with a kiss. Some punishment.

Cocky, confident Spark melts into Willow's arms, pliantly offering his mouth up for Willow to take, his body following Willow's every move, soft as a wave. Spark's erection is the only hard thing between them, Willow only vaguely interested in it, and mostly because it makes him happy that Spark wants it so much that he is turned on by being manhandled. Spark is hard for a spanking, just as Willow's arousal is fed by the mere thought of having Spark naked across his lap, moaning and crying, aroused and willing. Willow dominates the kiss, relishing Spark's constant attempt to give more, to open more, to let Willow take everything he wants in a deep, wet devouring kiss, Spark's mouth his to use and kiss and bite at. Sucking at Spark's lower lip, using a little teeth, has Spark whimpering again. Willow lets go, not bothering to hide a moan of his own. "Still want it?" he asks, stroking Spark's cheek as if it makes it more real, or at least makes sure it is not a dream. He wishes to anything that's holy that Spark still wants it. Wants him.

Spark nods eagerly. "Yes! Please, Professor!"

Willow casts a quick glance at the Pokemon to make sure they are all taken care of and can be left to their own devices, before he turns his attention back to Spark. He breathes out, not realizing he'd been holding on to it. "Good."

"Grimer," Spark says."But I doubt it'll be necessary. You've always taken good care of me, Professor."

"What?" Willow frowns before it hits home. Spark knows the importance of a safeword. "Oh. Yes. Grimer."

Maybe Spark is right. Willow really feels clueless. Or maybe it's the surprising turn of events that has him entirely dumbfounded. That has to change, of course. Right away. Neither Spark, nor Willow wants Spark to be on top. Which obviously is a good thing.

With Spark's arm in a tight grip, Willow drags him into the bedroom, the door slammed carelessly behind them. Right now, all Willow thinks of is Spark, Spark, Spark. The sparsely lit space turns darker as the door to the brightly lit sitting room is shut, the darkness surrounding them like they are stepping into the darkness of Willow's urges. Deep rugs and heavy curtains keep out the noise from the street.

The bed is a wonder of white linen and cloud-soft down, the only bright place in the bedroom. With no further ado, Willow pulls Spark around and throws him on the mattress. It gives Willow a moment to collect himself, although the surprised gasp that Spark makes is too sweet not to enjoy.

"Take off your shirt and get on your knees," Willow demands, watching Spark closely for any signs of apprehension or discomfort. He's going in blind, not knowing Spark's hard limits. But Spark asked for punishment, so they'll go there gently, at least until the moment when Willow's hand lands on Spark's ass.

Without a word, but with a moan, Spark obeys nicely, scrambling to get on the bed properly, pulling his shirt off at the same time. On his knees, thighs spread slightly, Spark delivers another surprise by putting his hands on his back, eyes averted once more.

Willow's arousal stirs again. Spark's submission is a powerful aphrodisiac, arousing in a way that his body isn't. Willow steps closer to the bed, cherishing Spark's posture, the way his body is exposed so beautifully: the long lines of his legs, the way the muscles under his skin tense and relax when Spark keeps his position. "Good boy," Willow praises, his voice a little hoarse; Spark is every bit as beautiful as Willow had hoped for, the kneeling position enhancing the aesthetics of his slender build.

Willow can see a small smile flash on Spark's lips, gone almost before it blossomed; Spark is taking his position seriously. A reward is fitting, Willow thinks, before Spark is going to be punished. Good behavior must be reinforced. "Very good. So obedient when it matters," he murmurs, tilting Spark's face up with a finger, once, twice as Spark attempts to look down. "Good," Willow repeats as they lock eyes, Spark's eyes soft, his own hard, calculating, cruel, belying his emotions. "Is this what you need, boy? To have someone making sure your behavior is acceptable?"

"No," Spark replies, no resistance in his stance or in his eyes.

Willow freezes. No? No safeword, though. That's good. So it is something else, then.

Spark has the audacity to speak again. "Not someone. You."

Willow raises an eyebrow. "And?"

"Please take care of me, Professor." Spark smiles, strangely confident, but no less submissive: his position is still perfect, there is no arrogance or teasing tone, just honest need.

Willow thought he already did take care of his unruly boy. For three years, he has taken care of Spark, taught him everything he could, all the while he was falling, falling deeply and irrevocably in love with him, against all odds, against all sense and sensibility, wanting Spark exactly where he is now, on his knees, submissive and his. His forever, Willow hopes. Willow wants there will be more of this, more than Spark kneeling on the bed, giving himself up to Willow's care for a night or three. Spark confessed his feelings. They are in love. They want the same thing in bed, at least partly. It has to be enough.

It has to.

Kissing Spark through the night, soft words whispered in his ears, promises of love and commitment might mean nothing if Spark decides that he wants what Willow cannot give. If Spark doesn't understand how Willow needs this, and no more than that. But love and care is what Willow offers. Willow is not going to engage in acts that mean nothing to him. Neither should Spark. This is where it all could end, despite the feelings they have for one another.

Willow leans in, for now taking what Spark offers, one kiss, soft at first, then harder and deeper, possessive, pouring into it all the pent up longing that he has harbored for years. Again Spark becomes pliant in his arms, his mouth warm and wet as he lets Willow thrust his tongue in, swallowing Willows moans, Spark's mouth pressed hungrily against his own. For some time, Willow allows himself this, the absorption of Sparks taste and smell, the sensation of calloused fingers over velvet skin. Spark squirms and moans, whimpering as Willow finally pulls back. It's dizzying, having this kind of power. Willow takes a step back. Spark is willing, he doesn't need to ask: one look at Spark's face is enough.

"Take off your pants." Willow doesn't move, just stares down at Spark coldly, not letting his own flaring emotions show. "Now."

Another whimper leaves Spark's mouth. On his knees still, he fumbles to get his pants opened, pulling them down, still with his eyes on Willow, as if to register the smallest change in demeanor.

The sheets rustle as Willow puts one knee on the bed, leaning in to press another kiss to Spark's mouth. Spark's breath is coming in little quick puffs, the scent of mint and chocolate that hangs between them like an invisible treat lures Willow in once more to put a possessive kiss on Spark's lips.

"Beautiful," Willow whispers before he gets up, rope in hand. "So beautiful."

There is a smile hidden in Spark's soft eyes. He lets out a sigh as Willow wraps a few yards of rope around his wrists, not too tight, easy enough to get out of. There will be no pushing of borders tonight. Willow pulls the rope, only to be awarded with another pleased groan. Spark definitely likes that. His cock is hard. A string of pre-come hangs from the head. It pleases Willow that Spark is so aroused. That he stays aroused. That he gets the release he needs, the care that he wants. Even though said care turns out to be rough and painful. Being allowed to care for Spark, inflicting the pain he wants is arousing Willow in a way that the mere sight of a naked body, no matter how beautiful, never did.

Willow pulls the rope. "Come here, boy," he orders, pulling Spark closer.

Spark obeys willingly, carefully moving towards Willow, mattress dipping under his knees. Sitting down at the bedside, Willow turns towards Spark, the rope tight in one hand, another free to caress Spark's cheek, stroking his jaw, slowly, slowly down to his neck. One hand firmly around the nape of Spark's neck, Willow guides him down, face against the soft sheets, to lie across his lap. Spark makes a content sigh as Willow tryingly ghosts a hand over his ass, across his back, back down to play between Spark's thighs. Spark spreads them voluntarily, inviting Willow's touch.

Willow takes it. Spark is his to use and a slight squeeze of his balls is just the beginning.

Spark moans loudly, squirming in Willow's lap. His dick leaves a cool wet trail on Willow's pants. Willow smiles as Spark hisses a "please, please, please", almost inaudibly.

"Quiet, boy," Willow barks, swatting Spark's ass not too hard, hard enough to hurt. He doesn't mean it of course—he wants to enjoy Spark getting louder and louder until he breaks, content with what Willow did to him. He wants to listen to Spark's suffering until he can take him in his arms and comfort him, praise him and let him come down, content and satisfied. Willow pulls and squeezes again, twisting Spark's balls a little harder.

The moan, louder, goes directly to Willow's cock. He revels in the feeling, knowing he'll get more of it, Spark's submission a forceful aphrodisiac. What can Willow do other than to let his hand fall again, and again, and again.

Spark is tense, moving to get away, moving to get more. His dick rubs against Willow's thigh, rock hard, as Spark himself mellows under Willow's hand. Willow doesn't count. It doesn't matter if it is ten or twenty or hundred. What matters is Spark, Willow looking for the moment he falls apart, the moment when he needs Willow to catch him and put him back together again.

It takes a while. Moans turn to gasps and gasps to sobs. Tight muscles loosen. Spark sobs again, a sob tinged with pleasure. Willow stops for a moment, sliding his fingers into the cleft of Spark's ass cheeks, over his hole, teasing his balls before he closes his hand around Spark's dick, jerking it hard a few times, making that hurt too so that the pleasure doesn't take over. Not yet. Not yet. Spark lets out a beautiful mewl, exactly what Willow wanted from him. Spark is close, so close.

"Good boy," Willow praises, "taking it so good." He jerks Spark off, lighter this time, and Spark's whines become moans of pleasure. Then he stops.

"Please, Professor, please let me come," Spark begs, his voice muffled by tears. "I can't… I can't."

He is cut off by a hard smack; this time it is meant to hurt.

Another stroke, so hard it makes Willow's hand hurt too, then a second, a third before Spark falls into pieces, untouched, his come pumping over the floor, dripping down Willow's pants. Spark is crying out, the violent orgasm too much. He is sobbing and gasping for air, held up only by Willow's pull on the rope around his wrists.

"Good boy, so good," Willow praises again, deeply satisfied with Spark's pleasure. His own satisfaction is secondary, disconnected from Spark's, yet Willow is more aroused by Spark than he has been by anyone for a long time. Although Spark's body is beautiful it is his deep surrender that does it for Willow.

Willow decides that he wants release. That he will give Spark, but no more. Like Spark, Willow has his limits.

Spark is like putty in his hands, obediently moving with the push and pulling, sighing deeply as Willow kisses his tear-streaked cheek. With a finger under his chin, Willow studies Spark for a moment. His eyes are dazed, but he is still there, present. "Sweet boy," Willow praises, kissing Spark's mouth, eliciting yet another pleased little sound.

"Mhm?" Spark lets out, a fragile, wordless question.

"On your knees," Willow demands, supporting Spark as he weakly tries to obey. "Kneel for me, boy. I'll take care of you when I have marked you."

Spark's eyes widen, the daze of the orgasm lifting for an instant like it pleases Spark too. "Yes, Professor.'

Of course Spark doesn't know how rare it is for Willow to share his release, but somehow Spark, bright as he is, senses that it is… special. Willow doesn't mind being watched, though. It's the touch he doesn't want, the desire for his body, a desire he cannot return. But they can share pleasure, Spark and he, submission and dominance. So Willow unbuttons his pants, not putting on a show—nor does he drag it out. He concentrates on Spark on the floor, tied up, taken apart and waiting there for Willow to make him whole again. That is what Willow needs: soft eyes. Pain. Belonging. The pleasure that has turned Spark's pale skin rose-tinted. Willow's hand moves faster. His boy. His property. His lover. His. His.

"Oh, fuck," Willow groans, and comes, spurting over Spark's upturned face. "Fuck." He gasps for air, cherishing the heaviness of pleasure that surges through him, making him slump back into the bed, pants open, eyes closed. He pulls himself together, forces muscles to react and his brain to function. The best is yet to come. He reaches for the zipper and closes his pants before he fights the cruel grip of the soft mattress and sits back up. Spark has been obedient, still on his knees, smeared with Willow's come.

Spark's eyes are soft and tired, dazed. Perfect.

Willow cups Spark's cheek ever so gently. "You were so good, Spark. I'll take care of you, like I promised," Willow whispers, getting up, carefully helping Spark to stand on shaky legs. "Good boy."

Spark makes a small whine as Willow, arm around his waist, walks him towards the bathroom. "Thank you, Professor," Spark murmurs, slightly slurred, drunk on pain and pleasure.

Making sure that Spark isn't too dizzy to sit, Willow runs them a bath. He waits a moment, making sure the water isn't too hot. Spark, while not hurt, is going to be sore and his skin tender. Waiting for the tub to fill, Willow fetches some juice from the small courtesy bar, just a plastic glass with sweet-smelling Pomeg. Returning to the bathroom, Spark lets him hold the glass, gulping down the sweet-spicy drink like he's been parched.

Spark is quiet, uncharacteristically quiet. But there's a content smile on his mouth, so Willow bends down to kiss it, eliciting a tired sigh from Spark.

"'s good," Spark says, licking his lips. "Needed it."

Willow nods, not knowing whether Spark talks about the spanking or the drink. Both, perhaps. "You did." With a gentle caress, Willow leaves Spark, getting a bottle of bath oil from his toiletry bag, pouring a good amount into the warm water. The pleasant scent of pinap and maranga berries fills the bathroom.

"Come on, baby," Willow urges, helping Spark to stand. He leans against Willow, limbs loose and eyes heavy, looking like a Spark that needs to be pampered and put to bed—and if Willow has a say in it, they'll spend the night together, cuddling in the huge bed. If Willow has any say in it, that is how they'll spend their life. Not just tonight or the week.

Holding Spark tight, Willow grabs a washcloth, gently cleaning him of sweat and other fluids that need not go into the bathtub. Spark hums contently, his lips wet and warm on Willow's neck. Willow loves it. Kisses, tenderness, care, romance; all of it. With Spark.

"Will you keep me?" Spark asks sleepily, like it doesn't matter what Willow's reply is.

Not fooled by the casual question, Willow nuzzles Spark's hair, tightening his hold on him. After years of pining, there is no way that Willow will let Spark go. "As long as you want me to," he promises. "If you are sure."

"Mmhm. Of course 'm sure."

Willow takes a deep breath. "Even if I cannot give you more? No sex?"

"Eh?" Spark turns his head. "And what we just did? That's not—"

"Penetration. Sucking you off. I won't. And I won't let you. Not wired that way." Wondering whether he should do the entire song and dance explaining about his leanings, or lack of them, he is interrupted when Spark makes a decidedly derogative snort.

"I'm good, thanks. My ass hurts, I came like a champ, and my boyfriend is taking care of me. What's there to complain about? Told me you love me and that you'll keep me. Yeah, I'm good. If you don't want to stick your dick in me or have anything to do with mine… don't care. As long as I can get what you just gave me, I'm not going to switch that for boring vanilla dick. Plus, what would I want with some guy I don't love?" Spark makes a cocky grin, slightly marred by half a yawn. "I want you the way you are. After all, you take me, Pidgey and all, without … well, there was that time in the car where you weren't too happy with me and my 'mon, and th—"

Willow cuts Spark off with a kiss. Some things never change.

Some do.

Now Willow has a boyfriend.