He figures it out via an experiment. Not the kind he’s used to but instead the kind where his clothes are off, and he’s in a Kalosean apartment with someone whose name he absolutely will remember for years to come, even though he’ll pretend he won’t. Everything is an experiment to him, but these ones? These are the ones he doesn’t tell anyone about.
“Oh,” he says, after the fact. “Oh.”
And after a terse thank you in the morning, he and the other man agree to never speak of it again.
It comes out two years later, and all of a sudden, every tabloid in Kanto and Johto is talking about Bill’s sexuality.
“I don’t see why they should care.”
Bill leans back in his chair and turns his head away from the front page of the newspaper Lanette is showing him. Or, well, it’s not really his chair; it’s Lanette’s. After the whole thing came out with the [s]asshole[/s] one-night-stand in Kalos, everyone from Bill himself to the Cutting-Edge Technology Research Center’s PR department agreed that maybe he should lay low for a while until everyone lost interest in his story, and that meant secluding himself in a remote part of a region. Seeing as both Kanto and Johto were out, as everyone knew where the Sea Cottage was, he opted for the next best thing: Hoenn.
He doesn’t mind, though. Lanette never judges him for anything, and frankly, he could use someone who doesn’t judge him right now.
“Uh huh,” Lanette says. She eases back into her chair and sets the paper down beside her cup of coffee.
“I don’t,” Bill replies. “Why should anyone care what I do with my personal life, so long as I do my job?”
The truth is he knows damn well why, and he’s known all his life—or at least since he became a researcher and the administrator of the storage system. Everyone had a fascination with him: the child prodigy, the seven-year-old who passed Johto’s national college entrance exams with flying colors, the novelty just a few decades too late to be a part of PT Barnum’s traveling circus of freaks and anomalies. And now, now that he’s well over legal age and technically one of the most well-known names when it comes to pokémon training, he’s something else: a celebrity story just waiting to happen. Perhaps keeping his personal life a closely guarded secret didn’t help. It’s probably why people are right now scrambling for any hint that Bill isn’t as pure or scientifically obsessed as they thought. Humanity sells, so long as it’s not your own and all.
But the problem is the headline isn’t him. Sure, it’s semantics, but something about that headline bothers him. The label bothers him. He doesn’t have anything against gay people, don’t get him wrong, but the whole point of the experiment was … well, was to rule that out.
And he did. Just as he ruled out, in no particular order, literally every other gender one could possibly be sexually attracted to.
“Okay,” Lanette says, “I’m pretty sure you know that’s not true, but it’s clear that you don’t want to ta—”
“Lanette, can I ask you a question?”
Lanette hesitates. Then, she says, “Well, normally, you just do.”
He wants to smile at that, but he doesn’t. Not really. And Lanette’s smirk vanishes.
“Bill? Is everything okay?” And she knows nothing is (and he knows this); she’s just trying … well, she’s just trying.
“Lanette,” Bill says slowly, “I’m not … I’m not really gay.”
Her shoulders sink. “Okay … so, bi?”
“No. Not really.” He plays with the spoon in his cooling coffee. “I think … my question is … how do you know when ‘finding the right person’ isn’t possible?”
The question sounds so juvenile that even Bill doesn’t think it sounds like him. He kicks himself, wants to change the subject to something about pokémon, wants to retreat like he always does into something else, but Lanette reaches across the table and places her hand on his wrist before he can. And he straightens and decides to listen.
“No one?” she says.
He shrugs. “I’ve tried. I remember … I was with him, and we were just … well, you know. And I remember thinking, ‘Is this it?’” He laughs and throws the hand Lanette isn’t grasping in the air. “I was bored, Lanette. I couldn’t feel a thing. And I realized…” His laughter dies in his chest, and he sinks but doesn’t stop smiling. “I realized I can’t feel anything. Or … I can’t feel anything like that.”
“Oh. I see.”
Lanette doesn’t withdraw her hand, so Bill uses his free one to slip the spoon out of his cup and sweep the cheap porcelain mug off the table.
“Anyway,” he says. He takes a long moment to swig the too-bitter coffee. Lanette had never been that great of a cook. Better than him, sure, but that coffee is definitely burned. “It’s confusing. I was certain I felt something towards people, but not like that. Does that make sense?”
Lanette blinks, and then she says, “You do realize that romantic and sexual attraction are two different things, right?”
He does. He’s done some kind of research, after all. He would do some kind of research about it. It’s part of the scientific method, after all.
(Just as the last part is publishing one’s results.)
“I know,” he says. “I just…”
He trails off. He’s not sure what he’s saying. Of course Lanette would understand. She’s always understood him, ever since she bumped into him in Celadon University, said hi, and refused to leave his side since. And for that, he’s grateful. He feels awful that that’s all they are to each other—friends, that is—but on the other hand, he can’t think of a more perfect configuration. After all, he would drive her absolutely fucking insane if their relationship were to grow any more intimate than it is right now.
And she understands. Of course she does. So she pats him on the wrist and withdraws her hand, straightens up and sits back on her side of the table.
“It’s okay,” she says. “You don’t have to feel anything at all. You don’t have to get married and have kids, you know. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.”
It’s really not. When the public isn’t wondering about Bill’s sexuality, they’re expecting him to be sexual. He’s an adult now, and he’s done something with that amazing intellect, just like they were hoping. So the show must go on, right on into finding the Right Person his parents and his older colleagues and everyone else keeps talking about, the one that will magically change his mind about things and make him settle down and start a family. All so everyone—the tabloids, social media, the news—everyone finally has a satisfying fairy tale ending to his story. And some part of him is very, painfully aware that this is true and has been true since his PC first launched.
But he doesn’t disagree with Lanette. Part of him is scared to admit that she’s wrong, and the other part of him isn’t scared at all but still wishes beyond everything else that she’s right.
So he nods. Lanette freezes at this, and Bill knows at once that she can sense what he’s thinking. It’s two parts incapability of hiding his emotions and one part Lanette just knows him too well, and he’s afraid she’ll reach across the table and pity him again.
But instead, she says, “And if anyone has a problem with it … they can go fuck themselves.”
Bill nearly drops his coffee cup. Lanette doesn’t swear; that’s more Bebe’s and Cassius’s department. So hearing that curse tumble out of Lanette’s mouth spread a smile across his face. An actual smile this time.
“Was that a pun?” he asks.
“Wha—oh God.” Lanette turns bright red, as she always does when she’s embarrassed, and she covers her eyes with a hand. “No, Bill. No, it isn’t.”
And Bill laughs—genuinely this time—and eventually Lanette joins in, and all of a sudden, everything feels okay. Sure, he’ll have to deal with that tabloid some other time, but for now, he has his closest friend and an understanding between them of who he is and frankly godawful coffee, and Bill feels like he doesn’t need anything else, not even his work or a rare pokémon.