Chapter 1: the sun rises, the moon falls
Here it is, the promised (ish) spicy third installment.
The last segment of this was written some time after the other two, so there may be inconsistencies. (I'm not very consistent when it comes to writing in general. Sorry!)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He had done it at last. It had taken him eleven years, most of that time spent in grueling research, but Dulse finally had the means to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the truth behind Necrozma's condition.
The first person he'd relayed the information to was Phyco. The former captain of the Ultra Recon Squad hadn't believed him, still too wrapped up in the superstitions of their world - and, perhaps, Phyco wasn't that interested in the light returning, after having experienced it himself once or twice. Soliera was far more receptive of the idea, her optimism and joy palpable in the message she sent back to Dulse; she had already made plans to visit the world where Necrozma currently resided, in the hopes of acclimating herself to the light.
Of course, even if Necrozma did make a complete recovery, there was no guarantee that it would be during any of their lifetimes... but the hope for the future was enough, to the people of Ultra Megalopolis.
Unfortunately for Dulse, Zossie's reaction was the most exuberant of all. She decided that, after all the hard work he'd done, Dulse needed a vacation - and she mentioned this to the Aether president just two days after the report concluded.
Dulse would not soon forget Gladion barging into his office and telling him to "get out", then explaining to him that he was on forced vacation. There were a few things to be said about the president himself, but Dulse knew better than to disobey a direct order like that.
That was how he found himself sitting on a cheap plastic chair on Heahea Beach, staring up at the moon; it hung low in the sky, having just risen after the sun's departure.
"This is pretty great," Zossie said from beside him, breathing a long sigh as she leaned back in her seat. "We get to stay out all night, y'know. The staff at the hotel were all informed about us before we came."
For the time being, the two of them were staying at the Tide Song Hotel. Due to lack of space, they had ended up sharing a room - though this was not as much of a problem for Dulse as it would have been a year ago, thanks to his new relationship status.
"...Do you wish to become nocturnal?" Dulse, ever the logical one, pointed out the flaw in her line of thinking. "I thought you enjoyed the Alolan sun."
Zossie made a face. "Yeah, I enjoy it in small doses." She leaned forward again, looking over at him. "Besides, we're on vacation now. We can get back to a real schedule after it's over."
Dulse couldn't help the feeling that Zossie's eyes were wandering; he was dressed in 'proper beach attire', which consisted of nothing but a set of waterproof shorts that covered his lower body. It was more than a little embarrassing to be exposed like this, and he was grateful that there were only a few other beach-goers out at this time.
"It would be more efficient to work on that before it's over," Dulse pointed out, averting his gaze - he'd made the mistake of not wearing his visor. "If you want to do things that way, you should re-acclimate yourself in advance, to prevent interference at the workplace."
As he finished speaking, a young Alolan lady walked into his vision, her outfit almost as revealing as his. He ducked his head, hoping to avoid further humiliation.
"Hey, vacations are meant to be enjoyed!" Zossie refused to budge on her stance. "So what if it's hard to get back into the swing of things? I'm gonna take full advantage of this opportunity!"
Dulse pressed a hand against his forehead. "...If that is your decision, I can't stop you. I will be taking the reasonable route, myself."
"Which means you'll be staying up all night with me tonight," Zossie suggested, sounding more than a little excited about the prospect. "You can't fix a schedule that isn't ruined, right?"
There were times when Dulse wondered why he'd agreed to start a romantic relationship with this frustrating girl. Now was shaping up to be one of those times.
"There are ways to enjoy a vacation without ruining one's established schedule." Dulse folded his arms across his chest, still looking away from everyone and everything. "For example, during the day, we can-"
Zossie interrupted him with a raspberry. "No thanks!" She stood up and stepped over to his chair, leaning over him. "Vacation, for me, means enjoying the light without getting sunburned. I don't know what your definition is, but if you wanna be boring..."
Though she was an adult now, Zossie still displayed frequent bouts of childish mannerisms. Dulse often wondered if she would ever grow out of it, though he sincerely doubted it.
"Are you two together or something?" A third voice interjected - the same lady that had walked into Dulse's vision earlier. "It's not good to- huh?"
Dulse felt a pair of eyes studying him, even more intensely than Zossie's. He fought against the incredible urge to flee.
"Do you have... blue skin?" The young lady sounded genuinely curious as she scrutinized Dulse, and it was clear that she was interested in more than just the color of his skin. "How'd you get that?"
Dulse couldn't help the rapid flush that spread across his face. "...I was born with it," he said, his tone thick with embarrassment. "I'm from another world..."
"Oh, a real alien!" The woman's excitement increased by another level, and then she looked at his face. "Your face is turning even bluer! Is that a blush?" She paused, giggling. "You even have blue blood! That's so cool!"
"Yep, all of us do!" Zossie answered the woman's question, far too enthusiastic for someone who was ogling her boyfriend. "Our world doesn't have any natural light, so we adapted to our environment like this. That's also why we're out now - we get sunburned really, really easily."
"I was wondering about that, actually." Though she was still clearly excited, the young lady's tone softened. "I'm a bit of an oddball myself, so... I like to go on the beach at night. But to think that the reason is because you have trouble with the sun..."
Dulse lifted his head, and immediately regretted his decision; the Alolan girl was standing right in front of him, and Zossie - thankfully dressed in a much less revealing outfit - stood beside him. He looked away, covering his eyes with his arm.
"Well, my boyfriend has some funny ideas," Zossie explained, giggling. "He thinks he can go out during the day just fine. He's a bit of a workaholic, see... doesn't wanna ruin his sleep schedule."
"Oh, how admirable!" the young lady said, her tone shifting right back to enthusiasm. "You're one lucky girl to have a man like him... but I guess he takes things a bit too seriously, huh?"
"Yeah, so I'm trying to get him to loosen up a little." Zossie placed her hand on Dulse's arm, trying to pull it away from his face; he refused to let her. "He's always been like this... too serious for his own good. He's a great guy and everything, but like... sometimes you need to just kick back and relax!"
Dulse dared to peek out from beneath the illusory safety of his arm, and saw a devious smile spread across the young woman's face. He returned to hiding behind his arm, tightening his muscles so that Zossie couldn't pull it away.
"Well, I have a few suggestions," the Alolan said, mischief plain in her tone. "Are you sharing a room?"
Zossie's grip on Dulse's arm faltered. "...Uh, yeah, we are... wait, are you saying we should-" She cut herself off mid-sentence, her tone turning very flustered. "I- I mean, we've been together for nearly a year now and- like, actually, I've been thinking about asking him, but- oh, sorry Dulse!"
It was clear that Zossie had momentarily forgotten she was having a conversation like this in front of the man she was talking about. Dulse breathed a long sigh, and finally removed his arm from his face; at the very least, he wasn't the only one seething with embarrassment now.
"...Is that true?" he asked, after a brief pause; he had to admit that he was a little curious. "That you wish to... spend the night with me?"
Dulse didn't miss the Alolan lady's face turning red - a mirror blush to his own blue. He wasn't sure if she'd realized the unbelievable awkwardness of this situation, or if she was proud of herself for successfully counseling them.
"...yeah," Zossie responded, her usual exuberance somewhat dampened by her own embarrassment. "I- I mean, if you don't want to, then... but, like... since we're on vacation and... y'know..."
"I will consider it." Dulse looked up at Zossie, and noted that her face was bluer than usual as well; he had to admit, it was kind of cute. "...Though, perhaps you could have avoided this conversation transpiring in public."
"Yeah, um..." Zossie glanced over at the Alolan, rubbing the back of her neck with a hand. "Sorry about all this."
The young lady waved her hand. "Oh, no, it's no problem! I'm just glad you two can be honest with each other... even if it leads to conflict every now and then." A slight smile crossed her face. "I hope things work out alright between you two!"
And with that, she walked off; Dulse leaned back in his chair, allowing himself to relax a little. Even if that girl had good intentions, her presence had put him on edge, and he felt like that ruined the entire purpose of this outing.
"...Aren't you bothered?" Dulse inquired, once he was sure the young lady was out of earshot. "She seemed... interested in my body."
"Nah, she knows you're taken," Zossie pointed out, grinning. "She wouldn't have tried anything funny... not with me here, anyway." She placed a hand on his arm, leaning closer to him. "I don't mind people window-shopping, as long as they don't actually buy anything!"
Dulse blinked twice, somewhat confused by the analogy; he understood well enough what she meant, but why she'd chosen to word it like that was a complete mystery. "I... will have to keep this in mind."
"Seems like it bothered you a lot, though." Zossie quirked an eyebrow, and her expression turned devious. "Or were you just getting all hot and bothered?"
"I..." Dulse struggled for a response; he knew Zossie was teasing him, but he did want to answer honestly. After a long moment of deliberation, he decided on, "I would say it was both."
Truthfully, what had bothered him more than that young woman ogling him was his concern for Zossie's feelings. With that concern unfounded, he really was just hot and bothered, and that led him to consider the request Zossie had made.
"Maybe I'll have to hide the merchandise next time," Zossie suggested, continuing with the shopping analogy. "After all, it's rather delicate, and tends to deteriorate without proper packaging..." She gave a loud giggle. "...Sorry, couldn't resist."
"...please stop that," Dulse murmured, covering his face with his arm once again. He still didn't fully understand the analogy, but he knew Zossie was teasing him again, and her words brought heat to his face. "I'm not..."
"No, but you're super cute!" Zossie made another amused noise, then tugged on Dulse's arm. "You wanna go back to the hotel? We've been out here a while."
For once, her suggestion sounded reasonable. Dulse gave a small nod, then pulled himself out of the chair and looked over at her; he saw the mischievous glint in her eye, and suddenly found it very difficult to move.
Even though she didn't have a very feminine body, Zossie was still beautiful in her own way. The moonlight illuminated the flush across her body, painting her skin a deeper shade than normal, and her outfit - a simple one-piece swimsuit - accentuated the curves she did possess. The most stunning aspect of her was her legs, toned from her extensive adventuring across this world, and Dulse couldn't resist sneaking a peek-
The area between her thighs was visibly damp. No wonder she wanted to go back to the hotel.
"...Let's go," Dulse said, trying to ignore the shock of arousal that shot through his body at that sight. He still hadn't decided on his response to her request, and the last thing he needed was another reason to forget logic and indulge his body's desires.
He'd had to deal with that far too much in his youth, after all. This feeling had always served as an unwelcome distraction, and he didn't want to become addicted to it.
By the time they made it back to the hotel room, Dulse could no longer ignore his physical urges. The events that transpired on the beach had worn down his resistance, and he'd ended up following Zossie the whole way back - giving him plenty of opportunities to stare at her legs.
He was sure that she knew, too. His arousal was not exactly easy to hide.
"...Whoa." Zossie glanced back at Dulse as he pulled the door shut behind him; the already-present flush on her face deepened. "You, uh... you want me to leave you alone for a bit?"
"No," Dulse stated, shaking his head. "...I'll accept your request."
Dealing with this situation on his own would certainly be simpler, but all things considered... they were both sexually receptive, she wanted him, and on some level that he'd kept repressed for all this time, he wanted her. Even his more rational side recognized that this was an inevitable conclusion.
"Really?" Zossie sounded uncertain - perhaps concerned, wondering if this was what Dulse really wanted. "...I told you, you don't have to if you don't-"
He didn't let her finish the sentence. Pulling her close with both arms, he pressed his mouth against hers; she stumbled back, surprised at first, but then reciprocated, her hands grasping his shoulders as she deepened the kiss. It was more than a little sloppy - this wasn't their first kiss, but physical affection was more Zossie's thing, and she often preferred to stick with hugging or cuddling.
Dulse didn't care. If there was anyone in the world that he was willing to break his facade for, it was her, the woman he'd come to love.
It wasn't long before Zossie pulled away, gasping for breath; she met his gaze, enthusiasm clear in her eyes as she tugged him down onto the bed, laying beneath him in a rather submissive pose. Though she was certainly strong - stronger than anyone else could realize - she wanted him to take the lead this time, prioritizing his desires over her own.
"...Zossie," Dulse breathed, as he pinned her against the bed with both hands. "I wanted to apologize..."
"Don't worry about it," Zossie insisted, giving him a weak smile. "I know how you are... just, try to enjoy yourself tonight, okay?"
Dulse nodded once, then shifted away to remove his swimwear. "I intend to."
Once he was fully bared before her, the reality of his decision settled in. Anxiety crept into his thoughts, and he found himself looking away from her; she'd never seen him like this before, and no matter how much he trusted her, it still felt... strange to be naked in front of another person-
"Hey, Dulse." Zossie's voice jarred him from his thoughts, as she pulled his body closer to hers. "What do you think?"
Dulse looked down at Zossie, and realized that she'd removed her own outfit while he was distracted. He'd caught teasing glimpses of her form in the past, but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw now - her smooth skin flushed blue with arousal, her small breasts standing out against the moonlight, the slight patch of orange hair that coated her nether regions...
He'd expected to feel different, perhaps more nervous, but all he could feel now was simmering desire - an animalistic need to claim her as his own, no matter the cost.
"...we have to be careful." Dulse was reminding himself as much as her, the weak rational side of his brain pushing forward. "Let's not..."
Before he knew it, he was on his back, and Zossie was on top of him, pinning him down with her thighs. The sudden reversal of their position caught him off guard; he looked up at her, confused, as she just grinned in response. He wasn't sure what had gotten into her, and it was almost enough to drag him out of his haze of lust.
"You really like my legs, right?" Zossie observed, sounding triumphant. "You can enjoy them more this way!"
"Ah- wait." Dulse shook his head, placing his hand on her side. "I don't see how this position is conducive to-"
This time, she was the one to interrupt him mid-sentence. She shifted her position, just enough to trap his shaft between her legs, and began moving in a way that startled him at first; he hadn't realized how flexible she was, and the moisture from her own arousal made the friction far better than he'd anticipated. He didn't know when or how she'd prepared herself like this, but he couldn't ask her - even speaking seemed like a tall task at this point.
On reflex, Dulse closed his eyes and shuddered. There was an edge of danger to what Zossie was doing, and that just turned him on more - he trusted her enough to keep him outside of her, but he was close enough to her heat that it felt as though he could slip at any moment. It was just like her to take risks for the sake of a thrill, but he was in no position to complain this time.
"Ah- Zossie..." Dulse managed to say her name, and then she shifted her position again, pressing him even closer to her slit. He breathed a loud moan, his hand shifting down to her thigh as his hips moved involuntarily, his body chasing the sensation in a way that would have scared him if he was capable of being rational. As it was, his thoughts were clouded by the delightful feeling, far stronger than he'd ever experienced before.
Even just being with her had an incredible amplifying effect on his enjoyment of this act - and the fact that she was doing most of the work only made it better. As he looked up at her through half-lidded eyes, he noticed that her expression had changed; she looked more focused than he'd ever seen her before, and her mouth hung open just a bit.
Was she enjoying this, too?
"...How's it feel?" Zossie asked, sounding breathless, as she pressed herself against him. "Pretty great, huh...?" She breathed a gasp as her sensitive flesh contacted his directly, and her motions grew more erratic as she held herself above him, her fingers digging into the bedsheets below. That served as an excellent answer to his silent inquiry.
"Yes," Dulse managed to say, as he gripped her leg a bit tighter than he'd intended; she squealed in response, her thighs tensing as she began moving faster, and he wondered if maybe she had a thing for pain. The thought vanished almost as soon as it appeared, swept away by a new and far more intense sensation - she'd navigated one of her hands to his chest, and caught a nipple between two fingers.
The spark almost sent Dulse over the edge right then and there. He was already close, and her teasing - it took an immense amount of effort to maintain control, and he could feel himself slipping with every passing second. He retaliated by reaching up his own free hand, grasping one of her petite breasts, and the noise she made in response to that was the best thing he'd ever heard by far.
Zossie's own control shattered first. Her breath hitched and she threw her head back, moaning his name as her body shivered with the intensity of the sensation; when Dulse felt her fluids washing over him, his focus snapped and his mind was consumed by pleasure, his muscles tensing as he released - thankfully onto his own abdomen, due to the position they were in.
It all lasted far too short, in Dulse's opinion. When Zossie was spent, she flopped down on her side next to him, panting into his ear; he fell still, savoring the warmth that flowed through his body in the aftermath. There was a mess to clean up now, but he wasn't in the right frame of mind to consider that.
"That... wow." Zossie found her voice, though she was still out of breath. "That was... even better than I thought it'd be..."
"...it was," Dulse admitted, heat rising in his face. "I... enjoyed it, a lot. Thank you, Zossie..."
Zossie gestured to the pool of fluid on his abdomen. "I guess you did, huh?" She giggled. "Don't worry, I'll take care of this for you. You just sit back and relax, alright?"
For once, he decided to take her up on her suggestion. The experience, as wonderful as it was, had drained most of his energy, and he found it difficult to move now; he didn't protest when she pulled away from him, then returned with a towel to mop up the mess. He hoped, for decency's sake, that she'd chosen a white towel - he couldn't focus enough to look.
Once she was done cleaning up, Zossie settled herself beside Dulse, slipping an arm around him. He looked over at her, still blushing a little, and managed a small smile as he returned the gesture.
"...It looks as though I'll be sleeping tonight after all," Dulse murmured, resisting the urge to laugh. "Perhaps... we can continue in the morning?"
A shocked expression crossed Zossie's face for a split second, and then her eyes lit up. "Yeah, that's a great idea!" She leaned in, pressing her forehead against his shoulder. "You really are the best, Dulse..."
There were at least three people he could think of that were objectively better than him, but Dulse chose not to contradict Zossie's statement. He knew that she'd meant it as an affirmation of her affection, and that he shouldn't let his own feelings toward himself cloud his judgment - though, it was likely time to lay those feelings to rest anyway.
After all, even if he did fall into addiction, at least it would be with the one he loved more than anyone else.
"Good night..." Dulse reached his hand up, running his fingers through her hair - loose for once, though he didn't know when that had happened, and he didn't particularly care. "Please... wake me in the morning."
Zossie hummed her affirmation, snuggling closer to Dulse. "Yeah, I'll do that... sleep well, okay?"
She didn't need to ask; he was already drifting off, his exhaustion claiming him. His last conscious thought was of how comfortable it was to sleep by her side, entwined with her like this, and how he hoped that this was only the first time of many.
When Zossie woke up, the first thing she noticed was the blinding light streaming in through the window. She'd remembered to close the curtains last night, so the daytime sun would not be harmful; however, she was still quite sensitive to it, and she had to block her eyes with her arm as she pulled herself into a sitting position.
The room was a little messier than she recalled, articles of clothing strewn across the floor beside the bed. She was still a little tired, and couldn't remember all of what had transpired last night - until she glanced over to the other side of the bed, and saw Dulse's sleeping form.
At the sight of him, naked and only covered by a thin blanket, Zossie's mind flashed back to the events of the previous night. Never in a million years had she imagined something like that would happen; it was a dream come true when he accepted her request, and-
Just thinking about it made her body tingle with excitement. She wanted, more than anything, for the opportunity to do that with him again.
In her time traveling this world, Zossie had learned how to judge the time of day by the position of the sun or moon. It was late morning now, she guessed, and it came as no surprise that she'd ended up sleeping in; Dulse, on the other hand, was a different story. Most of the time, he was up before dawn, getting just enough sleep to sustain his body.
Either she'd worn him out more than she thought, or he had finally been able to relax enough to realize how tired he was in general. She hoped it was the latter, knowing how much he pushed himself - that was the whole idea behind this vacation, after all.
While he slept, Zossie took a moment to inspect Dulse's body. She peeled back the cover, careful not to disturb him; in her enthusiasm, she hadn't gotten a good look at him last night, but now she noticed that he kept himself clean-shaven, with only the faintest signs of magenta-colored hair across his chest. She suspected that had something to do with his uniform, and how it might cause him discomfort to wear something so tight-fitting without removing his body hair.
He was well-built, a sign of the one field where he did maintain his health properly. She could see the lines of muscle beneath his skin - not as prominent as some men she'd seen, but noticeable nonetheless, and she decided that she preferred it this way. After all, it wasn't just his personality she'd fallen in love with; he had always been attractive, with his eyes in particular always mesmerizing her in the best way possible.
Like her, he hadn't changed much over the years. Of course, he had already been well on his way to adulthood when they first arrived in this world, but it still amazed her how similar he looked to how he had back then; it wasn't a bad thing in her eyes, just an interesting fact that she took note of.
As Zossie moved the cover down a little more, Dulse stirred in his sleep, and she stopped for a moment; she wondered if she'd accidentally woken him up, but his breathing remained slow and steady, and he didn't open his eyes. She breathed a quiet sigh of relief, and continued to observe him-
She took note of the one place that she hadn't uncovered yet, and felt her face grow hot. There was a... tent in the covers.
Zossie had heard that men often developed erections in their sleep; it was a peculiar biological adaptation, and while it had been explained to her in detail a few times, she still didn't quite understand why it happened. This was the first time she'd seen it in person - it was surreal, almost, and she wondered how he would deal with it when he woke up.
Well, there was one surefire way to handle such an issue. It didn't guarantee that he'd do it, but...
"...Zossie?" Dulse's voice was quiet, and she almost didn't hear it at first; she looked up at his face to see that his eyes had opened partway, still looking a bit tired. A wave of fresh shame swept through her, unrelated to her seeing his little... problem.
"Oh, um... crap." Zossie looked away, coughing once. "Did I wake you up? Sorry..."
"I'm not upset..." Dulse pulled himself up slowly, looking over at her. "...I suppose I didn't realize how tired I was. I feel... much better now."
As grateful as she was that he was feeling better, Zossie had one major concern. "Is that... uncomfortable for you?"
It took Dulse a moment to figure out what she was talking about. He stared at her, curious and confused, and then realization dawned on him; his face turned a darker shade of blue, and he averted his gaze.
"It... is," he murmured, sounding embarrassed. "I would not say it feels the same as... how I felt last night, with you. However, that..."
Zossie studied his face, and her previous shame turned to amusement - and just a touch of curiosity. "How do you usually deal with it?"
"...The quickest and most efficient way." Dulse leaned back on the bed, and pushed the remaining covers off of himself. "If not... the cleanest. Would you like a demonstration?"
The suggestion hit Zossie like a ton of bricks. She still couldn't fully believe that she was in this situation to begin with, and now - now he was offering to touch himself in front of her, shy but willing, and her body heated up as she gave him a silent nod in response. If she was to be honest, there was nothing she wanted more right now... other than pleasing him herself, of course.
For now, she decided that could wait. His offer was a sign of trust, an affirmation of his affection for her; he rarely expressed it in words, preferring to do so through actions, and he had never outright said that he loved her - but she was okay with that, since he made it clear enough anyway.
Dulse took a deep breath, then let it out slowly; he looked up at Zossie as his hand migrated to his nether regions, still looking somewhat nervous as he slid his fingers around his shaft. She couldn't blame him - the mood was completely different from how it had been last night, more awkward and uncertain, but it was clear that he'd chosen to go through with his idea regardless.
"You know," Zossie said, as she observed him; he started slow, one finger stimulating the sensitive line on the underside. "I didn't notice this before, but yours is... pretty big. I wonder if it'd all fit inside me?"
Dulse shuddered, and his eyes closed partway; it wasn't difficult to discern that he'd imagined it himself. "You would... be surprised. With adequate preparation..."
"I guess we'll worry about that when it actually happens." Zossie had no plans for it herself, at least not in the near future - she was content with just touching him, or doing what they'd done last night. "You okay with that?"
"...Yes," Dulse managed, giving a weak nod. "There would be... consequences to doing that now..." He swept a finger across his tip, and moaned at the feeling; some moisture had gathered there, and he spread it along the rest of his shaft as best he could, limited by the aforementioned size.
...He really was big, Zossie thought to herself, as she recalled the clinical texts she'd read. Above average, at the very least, though she had no way of judging his actual size at the moment. Most of the people in Ultra Megalopolis would have laughed at her for expressing a sentiment like that, but she wasn't there - and her investigation of the more twisted side of this world had turned up a much greater interest in the subject.
"Feels good?" Zossie inquired, though it was kind of a silly question - he made it pretty clear that it did. "I mean, it looks like it does to me, but... just want to make sure, y'know?"
"It... yes, it does." Dulse closed his eyes fully as he began rubbing himself faster, his precision weakening; the flush across his upper body indicated that he was well and truly aroused now, getting into the flow of things, and Zossie wanted so badly to lean in and caress him - but she resisted, reminding herself that she'd have to ask him first, and she didn't want to do that when he was showing off for her.
That didn't mean she couldn't tease him, though. "How often do you do this, anyway? This happen a lot?"
"Ah-" Dulse tried to speak, but his breath hitched and he gave a moan instead; he made an effort to look at her, shifting into a massage as he spoke in a low, strained voice. "...it- it does. Most mornings... I have to..."
His breath hitched again, and Zossie guessed that he was close; she recognized the signs from last night, the way he reacted to every touch and tease, and it just made the urge to help him directly even stronger. Still, she resisted, watching as his movements reached a fever pitch, his mouth hanging open as he panted and moaned with every stroke.
It really was something else, watching the stoic and collected Dulse losing himself like this, letting himself fall apart before her; no amount of emotional suppression could hide his feelings from her, and with every passing day, it seemed as though he became more expressive, more trusting - but only with her, his facade going right back up when he was around others. She saw it as a privilege that he allowed her to see him like this, one that she was more grateful for than anything else.
It wasn't long before Dulse tensed up in climax, his eyes shutting once again as he gripped himself tight, his other hand grasping at the bedsheets as his essence painted his abdomen. The slight contrast of white on blue sent a spark of arousal through Zossie's body, and she noticed her own breathing growing heavier as she watched him come down from his high, his ever-frustrating hardness dissipating as he moved his hand away, relaxing against the bed.
"Looks like it worked," Zossie pointed out, giggling. "You want me to help clean up?"
Dulse gave a weak nod in response. "That... would be much appreciated." His face flushed. "...It was... more intense than usual..."
Zossie had already guessed that, but to hear confirmation from his mouth made her skin tingle. She pulled herself out of bed, and stepped into the bathroom to grab a towel; fortunately, most of the ones provided by the hotel were white, so that would prevent some potential awkwardness.
When she returned, Dulse had calmed considerably, looking as if he was ready to go back to sleep. It didn't come as much of a surprise - he was exhausted, far more than he'd even realized before this vacation, and the release of hormones from his self-pleasuring had caused him to relax more than he normally would have allowed himself to. It was similar to what had happened last night, with him falling asleep shortly after they finished, but Zossie wasn't about to let him sleep this time.
Instead, she cleaned him off, then propped herself up on the bed next to him. "Thanks for showing me your technique! I'll be sure to use it in the future."
"Hm...?" Dulse blinked up at Zossie, looking a little embarrassed. "Ah... yes, I suppose that was a learning experience for you as well... I- I look forward to it."
The flush on his face grew deeper at those words, and Zossie knew that he'd meant it. "I'll leave it up to you, but I hope I get to try it out soon..." She gestured at herself. "Speaking of techniques... watching you really got me going. Can I show you mine?"
This got Dulse's attention; he snapped out of his half-dazed state, and stared at her with eyes that were too wide for how tired he'd been before. "Your... technique...? I- I wouldn't be opposed... if that's... what you want to do..."
It was as close to a yes as she was going to get. Content with his response, Zossie sprawled herself out on the bed beside him, and wasted no time in bringing a hand between her legs; she watched him as he continued to stare, his eyes straying downward as she pressed a finger inside her slit, brushing against the sensitive spot at the front.
Just that light touch sent an intense spark of desire through her. She was even more turned on than she'd realized, and a small part of her wondered if she'd even be able to show him much; she discarded that in favor of stimulating herself, catching her nub between two fingers as she spread her legs apart in an effort to make her actions more visible.
"That's..." A mixture of curiosity and anticipation swept across Dulse's face. "Would... one finger work?"
Zossie slowed her pace, knowing that she wouldn't be able to speak otherwise. "Either way works... just fine... I just like it... this way better." She raised her free hand to her chest, caressing one of her petite breasts, and she had to resist the urge to close her eyes. "I switch it up all the time, though... so if you want to do it... the simple way, then..."
She trailed off then, returning to a faster pace of stimulation. One of her fingers slipped further down, tracing a quick circle around her entrance; she used the hand on her chest to touch her nipple, two fingers grasping the little protrusion as she switched to rubbing the more sensitive one below with one finger. It was half to prove her point, and half because she wanted to do something else with the other finger.
Zossie didn't miss the subtle change in Dulse's expression when she pressed the tip of her finger inside herself. She wondered if he'd imagined something else, something more intimate and special - that boy's mind was firmly entrenched in the gutter today, and she loved every second of it.
"You're..." Dulse's mouth hung open as Zossie began to move the finger in and out, her mouth twisting into a weak smile for all of two seconds before she gave a loud yelp instead, pressing against the nub between her legs with one finger. She wanted to savor it, to stretch this sweet moment out just a little longer - but her body disagreed with her, craving release to an extent that she couldn't resist it.
Once she picked up the pace again, it wasn't long before Zossie lost control. Her vision blurred and she cried out, her thighs tensing as an incredible surge of sensation swept through her; she gave herself a few more rubs, drawing out the feeling as her inner walls tightened around nothing, save for the tip of her finger that she had left inside herself. Her hand remained there for a while afterward, savoring the weak, lingering contractions that eased her down from her peak.
It was a little selfish, but she had trouble focusing on much of anything else right now. She wasn't sure if it was because of her boyfriend watching her the whole time, but that had been far better than she was used to.
"Zossie..." Dulse's voice jarred her from her momentary reverie; he sounded downright awed. "You are... truly stunning. Thank you for showing me this..."
Zossie moved her hands to brace herself as she sat up. "If you want to see it again, just ask..." She gave him a bright smile. "That was... pretty awesome. Can we do it again sometime?"
"Ah... yes." Dulse averted his eyes, and she noticed that his face was a most interesting shade of blue. "However, more importantly, I... believe that watching you may have defeated the purpose of..." He trailed off, shame clear on his face.
She knew exactly what troubled him. It wasn't a secret - and less so when she glanced down.
"Sooo... does this mean I can try out your technique?" Zossie offered, her smile broadening into a grin. Dulse gave a resigned nod, then flopped back down on the bed; the last of his resistance had shattered, his rational side too weak to continue working with the promise of more physical pleasure awaiting him, and that was just what she wanted.
He'd needed this for a long time, and she regretted waiting so long to give it to him.
Still, it wouldn't be fair if he didn't at least get the chance to return the favor. Zossie propped herself up beside him, using one arm to keep herself steady as she reached over to touch him with her other hand; as her fingers slid around his reignited arousal, she noticed how hot he felt under her touch, his pulse prominent within his engorged flesh. An involuntary shudder went through her body as she realized that this would be her first time stimulating him like this.
Dulse didn't miss Zossie's unusual position, and he slid an arm around her to pull her close, his lips brushing against hers in a brief gesture of affection. His other hand settled on her hip, moving forward just a bit, but he didn't move any further than that - a silent question lingered in his eyes, a request to show her how he handled her technique.
"Sure," Zossie responded, smiling, as she spread her legs a little. Dulse wasted no time in pressing his hand between her legs, his gentle touch sending a spark of delight through her body; this felt different, both from what had happened last night and the events that had transpired moments before, and she felt her heart begin to race in anticipation.
She kept a slow and steady pace, her fingers teasing his hardness with each stroke. She noticed it moving in her hand just the slightest bit, the involuntary tensing of his muscles serving as a reminder that he enjoyed her touch; she enjoyed his as well, his finger finding her sensitive nub as he leaned in to kiss her again, deeper and more passionate this time - but it didn't last long, as she broke away to cry out when he started flicking at the protrusion with his finger.
This wasn't her technique - it was one that he had devised based off of what he'd seen before. She felt herself tremble with each motion, the calculated strikes sending sharp bursts of sensation through her body, and it took all her effort to focus on stroking him in return.
"Wh-what..." Zossie managed to say, though her voice was strained from pleasure. "...What gave you... that idea..."
Dulse said nothing in response, and went back to rubbing her. She felt disappointed for a split second before he pulled her in for yet another kiss, his free hand trailing along her side, and she couldn't find it in herself to be upset; this moment was perfect, just them sharing each others' bodies, their inhibitions forgotten as they strove toward a mutual, glorious goal.
When they parted, Zossie took note of the fact that Dulse had started moving his hips in time with her hand's movements. He was really getting into it, and she decided to reward him a little; she traced the underside of his shaft with her thumb, noting the ridge there, and he shuddered and bit his lip in response, unable to fully stifle the moan that rose from his throat. He retaliated by pressing a finger inside her opening, rubbing along the front, and she didn't even bother to quiet herself as she yelped and stiffened with the feeling.
Just a few strokes later, she felt his body go rigid, and his arousal pulsed in her grip; she was treated to the incredible sensation of feeling him release, a series of clenches along his shaft as his essence sprayed across the bed and himself, and that was enough to send her over the edge as well. Her breath hitched as she tightened her thighs around his hand, eyes closing as her mind was overtaken by pleasure, and her inner walls tensed around his finger, eliciting a sharp gasp from him as he pulled himself away from her hand.
Ah yes, the refractory period. When Zossie's head cleared, she noticed that Dulse had once again rolled onto his back, his breathing heavy and his eyes half-lidded, and the blood had drained from his manhood, leaving him too sensitive to enjoy any further stimulation. She didn't suffer from the same problem - her lower parts still tingled a little, craving more - but she decided that she wasn't going to push him any further, knowing that she'd already worn him out all over again.
"I..." Dulse looked up at her after a brief silence, a slight panic in his eyes. "...I have to use the bathroom..."
Oh, right. "Go ahead," Zossie said, offering him a reassuring smile. "I'll wait for you."
Dulse gave a quick nod, then pulled himself out of bed and scrambled into the bathroom. Zossie had to admit that she was a little surprised; he must have been more desperate than he let on, and a small, filthy part of her wondered if maybe she should've just told him to relieve himself right then and there. It would have been a spectacle, for sure - but she also didn't want to cross too many boundaries with him, not when the sexual aspect of their relationship was so new and precarious.
As she waited for him to return, her mind began to wander. Between last night and this morning, she'd gotten to see a side of him she never even imagined existed; he was always so stoic and reserved, careful and calculated in his every action, and the thought that he could be so vulnerable was downright ludicrous. She'd anticipated him being quiet during sex - but he had proven her wrong in the most endearing way possible, his yelps and moans proving that he was quite capable of expressing himself in the heat of the moment.
The other interesting thing was how flustered he got-
"Zossie..." Dulse stepped out of the bathroom, still naked, but she noticed he'd cleaned himself off; he moved over to the bed and collapsed, sprawling himself out in a way that she couldn't help giggling at. He was even more tired than before - she could see it in the way he struggled to keep his eyes open - but there was one last concern that lingered in her mind.
"Hey, what about your sleep schedule?" Zossie recalled the conversation on the beach last night, an amused smile crossing her face. "Weren't you planning to try and maintain it?"
"...We're on vacation," was Dulse's simple, yet telling, response. It was the same excuse she'd used to disregard sleep schedules, and to hear it parroted back at her by him of all people made her collapse in laughter. She wasn't going to judge him for it, of course, but the fact that he'd changed his tune after just one night was absolutely hilarious.
Once Zossie managed to collect herself, she pulled herself close to him, snuggling against him; the least she could do was ease him into slumber. "Well... I guess I'll be waking you up later, then." She rested her head on his shoulder, laying one arm across his bare abdomen. "...Sorry for wearing you out like that."
"...That's a lie," Dulse pointed out, and he gave a weak laugh. "You aren't apologetic at all." He mustered the energy to slide his arms around her, the fingers of one hand running through her long hair. "Thank you..."
"You're welcome," Zossie whispered, and she said nothing else as she watched him drift off. There was something indescribable about watching her lover sleep, his prone form laid out before her, so helpless and exposed; she felt the urge to protect him, to watch over him until he woke, and she had to remind herself that he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself.
Despite that rational side of her, she decided to indulge her urges for a while. At some point in the day, she would need to get something to eat - and so would he, so she made plans to pick something up later on and, if he hadn't awoken by then, she would bring it back to the hotel.
For some reason, the thought of running errands like that during their vacation didn't feel anywhere near as imposing as her regular work, and she wished this week didn't have to end.
I've written a lot more for this, so I may be updating it. I did mention it'd be longer than the other two!
I have some ideas regarding Dulse's age that some people might not agree with. Let's just say that *in this universe,* he was in his late teens when the Ultra Recon Squad came to Alola.
Chapter 2: silver flowers
It's difficult being in a relationship with the highest authority of one of the biggest organizations in the world.
While this fic is primarily Dulse and Zossie, it's still a multiship fic!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The president of the Aether Foundation had changed quite a bit in the eight years since he was given the position. He had learned how to socialize with others to an extent, and how to run a massive organization - but there were just as many things about him that hadn't changed, even though he was an adult and not the rebellious teenager that Selene had known all that time ago.
For one, Gladion still kept his hair in the same style. It was a bit longer now, but he hadn't discarded the rather unique look he'd sported when he was younger. He still preferred to wear dark clothing, a sharp contrast to the others in the Aether Foundation... and he still pushed himself far too hard for the sake of others.
As much as Selene admired Gladion's selflessness, she couldn't help but feel that he needed to let himself relax sometimes. He was almost as bad as his favorite employee - the man from Ultra Megalopolis who had chosen to research Necrozma, and finally came to the conclusion he'd been looking for.
Some time ago, Selene had relinquished her position as Alola's champion to her older brother Elio, who had previously remained in Kanto for his own journey. She still had Necrozma and Solgaleo - Nebby - in her possession, but their battling days were over, as far as she was concerned. She just wanted some time to relax and think about things... and, of course, to help her famous boyfriend.
The two had been dating for nearly four years now, but the physical distance between them kept their relationship from getting any deeper. In addition, Gladion still often had trouble expressing his true feelings, another trait he shared with his favorite employee - it was no wonder those two got along so well, considering their similarities.
Though, Selene had noticed that Dulse seemed a little less uptight ever since he and Zossie had returned from their vacation, and she was curious as to what exactly had happened between them. She wondered if someone from the other world would be interested in girl talk...
This was what led the former champion of Alola to the office that Zossie worked in, at Aether Paradise. She didn't have a key of her own, so she had to knock on the door.
"Coming!" Zossie's voice sounded from inside, and just a moment later, the door slid open. She looked up at Selene, then blinked twice as she realized who it was.
"Alola!" Selene greeted, waving at Zossie. The blue-skinned girl returned the gesture, a broad grin crossing her face.
"And Alola to you, too!" Zossie exclaimed, exuberant. "What brings you here?"
The office's occupant stepped aside, allowing Selene into the room. She watched as the automatic door closed behind her, then looked around the office; the lack of windows made the space seem smaller than it was, but she understood the need for that particular accommodation in this case. The desk was cluttered, mostly with various printed photographs - were those pictures Zossie had taken on her journey around the world?
"Oh, I just wanted to chat," Selene said, after she'd finished inspecting the room. "Specifically about you and Dulse."
She didn't miss the blue tinge that spread across Zossie's face at the mention of Dulse. That seemed suspicious already...
"What about us, exactly?" Zossie tilted her head, looking confused. "I mean, he had a little trouble relaxing while we were on vacation, but... that's just him, y'know? He's not the kinda guy who likes to relax."
Selene shook her head. "I dunno, he seems to be a lot more relaxed now... I just wanted to know if you had anything to do with that." She smiled. "Call it curiosity, and being happy for a friend."
"Oh, um..." Zossie's face turned a shade darker. "...Well, actually, yeah. See, we've always had trouble sorting out our feelings for each other... he wasn't even sure about dating me at first. But thanks to the president's help, we were able to clear things up, so..." She fidgeted in place, clearly embarrassed. "I guess... you could say I helped him... learn how to relax?"
Her words, combined with her body language, painted an obvious picture in Selene's mind - Zossie meant a very specific definition of relax. The former champion's own face heated up at the thought, but it also gave her an idea.
"...I guess that's one way to do it," Selene mused, more to herself than anything. "If you're dating a guy who's really uptight, and has trouble relaxing..."
Zossie perked up at this. "Wait, are you asking for relationship advice?" She burst into a fit of laughter, doubling over as she supported herself against the wall with one hand; after a short time, she was able to calm down, though she still had some trouble breathing.
"What?" Selene stared at Zossie, wondering what that had been all about. "I figured that since Dulse and Gladion have their similarities..."
"Yeah, but... haven't you two been together longer?" Zossie pointed out, still amused. "You're... seriously asking me for relationship advice?"
"Clearly, you're closer with Dulse than I am with Gladion..." Selene breathed a long sigh. "Yeah, we've been dating for longer, but... sometimes I feel like he's just really hard to get through to, y'know? He doesn't want... to get more intimate."
"...I mean." Zossie took a short breath, then looked over at Selene, her expression uncharacteristically serious - a sharp contrast to how she'd been acting just moments before. "It took a forced vacation for Dulse to..." She cleared her throat. "What I'm saying is, you need to convince him to take a break somehow. I don't know the president as well as you do, but if he's anything like Dulse..."
Selene considered this briefly, and then her mind turned to a different issue. "Well, one thing that they don't have in common is emotional control. Dulse is really good at hiding how he feels, isn't he?"
"Yeah... I guess that's true," Zossie agreed, and she gave a shrug. "But that's probably a good thing for you. If you can just push the right buttons..."
"...I might accidentally make him angry, and then he'll want nothing to do with me." Selene breathed another sigh. "Gladion being so emotional isn't... really a point in my favor."
"That's why I said the right buttons." Zossie wagged a finger, and her face once again turned a darker shade of blue. "It actually wasn't as hard as I thought it'd be with Dulse... turns out he doesn't like feeling exposed, so I took him down to the beach one night, and this one nice young lady came over and-" She cut herself off, averting her gaze.
Though Selene had gone into this conversation with the intention of learning how to deal with Gladion, she had become genuinely curious. "And...?"
"...well..." Zossie made an effort to look back up at Selene. "We talked for a while, and I kinda... accidentally mentioned that I wanted to... y'know... and then he asked if I meant it and... well, one thing led to another and... yeah..."
"Wait." This time, it was Selene's turn to be amused - as lackluster as Zossie's explanation was, she now had a very vivid idea of what had happened. "So this random girl helped you two figure out your sex life? And it's all because Dulse was embarrassed being out in public like that?"
Zossie winced at the rather blunt description. "Well... um... yeah. Only... could you not put it like that? Please?"
"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone else," Selene said, offering Zossie a smile. "...Besides, I don't think this information is going to help me much. I was just curious."
"...You really are a pain, you know that?" Zossie groaned, shaking her head a little. "Was this even really about the president?"
"Yep," Selene replied, her smile widening. "I just need to figure out how to seduce him." She turned toward the door, then glanced back. "Thanks, Zossie. You were just the girl I needed to talk to!"
She didn't wait for a response as she stepped out of the office, leaving her friend making unintelligible noises. It was far from the first time Selene had engaged in a conversation like this with Zossie - and she was sure it wouldn't be the last, either.
More importantly, the ex-champion now had a mission on her mind. Pushing the right button on Gladion would be difficult, but Selene had faced worse in her time...
The employees at Aether Paradise often tried to keep their interference with the conservatory to a minimum. However, there were still things that needed to be done there; maintenance and feeding were round-the-clock jobs, due to the colorful variety of the conservatory's inhabitants. Mid-afternoon was an especially busy time, and Selene wondered if maybe she should have gone down to the docks instead.
Still, it was a great opportunity to let some of her own partners stretch out a little. Her Primarina had become quite well acquainted with some of the Corsola in the conservatory, and she stood some distance away and watched idly as it performed for them; a few other Pokemon had joined in on the audience, and the sight was almost enough to distract Selene from the task at hand.
During her conversation with Zossie, she had forgotten that the entire facility was closely monitored by security cameras. There was a chance that Gladion had already heard about the plan - and that would be a considerable setback.
Before she could start considering what to do, Selene was interrupted by the touch of a wet nose against her leg. She looked over to see that a large, fluffy dog Pokemon had taken an interest in her; once it was done sniffing her leg, it stepped back and barked, its tail wagging as it looked up at her.
Selene would recognize that Furfrou anywhere. It was the only one in the facility that had returned to its trainer after being released.
"Alola," came a soft masculine voice from nearby, and Selene turned to glimpse the strange, robotic wave that had become the Ultra Recon Squad's trademark so long ago. What was Dulse doing up here, at this time of day?
"Alola," Selene greeted him, waving back in the traditional style; she noted that he wore a similar outfit to the one he'd had when they first met. "It's a strange time for you to be up here, isn't it?"
"Ah, well..." Dulse gestured at his Furfrou, who had shifted its attention to Primarina's concert. "...It was getting restless. I couldn't focus, so I decided to bring it here..."
A smile crossed Selene's face at these words; though he'd been more than a little confused by its return, Dulse clearly cared quite a bit about his Furfrou. If its restlessness was enough to get him to stop working-
"What brings you here?" Dulse asked, fixing his gaze on Selene. He wasn't wearing his usual eyewear, and she was still impressed every time by the intensity of his eyes.
"Oh, well... I was talking about something with Zossie..." Selene considered how she'd bring this particular topic up to Dulse. He had been a major subject of the conversation, after all - and it wasn't exactly the sort of conversation one would have in polite company.
After some deliberation, she decided to be honest. "I was... asking her for some relationship advice."
"Relationship... advice?" A hint of confusion flickered across Dulse's face. "Is there some trouble between you and the president?"
Selene was a little confused herself; Dulse didn't seem like the type to be interested in this topic. "...I guess you could say that? Um, why do you ask?"
"I am simply concerned for your well-being," Dulse stated in response, as serious as ever. "I know the president well, and... depending on the issue, I may be able to provide some advice."
Well, this discussion had certainly taken an interesting turn. Selene wasn't sure what to say at first; she diverted her attention to her Primarina, who had concluded its performance - and launched right into another one. At the very least, she wouldn't have to worry about any prying ears overhearing the conversation... had Primarina done that on purpose?
"It's actually... kind of complicated." Selene turned back to Dulse, unable to hide the flush that had risen on her face. "See, well... Gladion is- I know he's the president of the Aether Foundation, and that's a difficult job, but I... still feel like he needs to take a break every now and then, y'know? He isn't alone in the Foundation... there are plenty of people who could take over for a while."
Dulse raised an eyebrow, then nodded. "Yes, he is a very hard-working young man..." He looked away, and a slight flush rose on his own face. "...Tell me, what was the nature of your conversation with Zossie?"
Selene guessed by Dulse's reaction that he already had an idea, but she decided to answer him anyway. "I just asked her what had happened between you two, and... she explained to me, um... what happened on your recent vacation..."
"...oh." Dulse's face turned even bluer at that. "I see..." He made an effort to look at her. "I'm... not sure if that sort of... strategy would work as well on the president... however, I..."
He trailed off, and Selene started to feel like maybe she shouldn't have started this conversation. Any sort of proper small talk would have been better than bringing up this subject to a man who had only recently started to figure out his own feelings.
"Sorry," the former champion said, and she breathed a short sigh. "It was... pretty stupid of me to bring this up."
Dulse shook his head. "No, that isn't... there is nothing to apologize for." A peculiar, indecipherable expression crossed his face. "You are a good friend, and I... am not entirely opposed to discussing this subject with you. If there is something I can do to help, then..."
"...yeah, this is gonna sound really weird." Selene tried to shake off her embarrassment; if Dulse really didn't mind, then she wanted to see what he would say. "I know I've known him for longer than you, but Gladion is- well... he's a little difficult to understand, and lately I kind of feel like... I don't understand him as well as I used to. You get him - you two have the same work ethic, and a couple other similarities, so... I guess what I'm trying to say is, can you tell me anything about how to... approach him?"
"I would not say that we are so similar," Dulse stated, as he closed his eyes. "A strong work ethic is a trait I share with many people in the Aether Foundation." He opened his eyes again, fixing them on her. "...That being said, President Gladion is in a league of his own in that regard. I have always admired him for it... I believe the best thing to do would be to proposition him directly. I have found that honesty is the most important factor - even if it was an accident when Zossie..."
His voice faltered, and he once again averted his gaze, blushing hard. Despite her prior reluctance, Selene couldn't help being amused; Dulse was certainly good at keeping his emotional responses under control, but when it came to things like this...
"Yeah, I guess that was the obvious answer, wasn't it?" A small smile crossed Selene's face. "Now I feel kind of stupid for not thinking of that earlier... thank you for the advice."
"When faced with a difficult emotional decision..." Dulse folded his arms across his chest. "I have found that, at times, rational thinking becomes impossible under those circumstances. The obvious solution isn't always so obvious." He offered her a smile of his own. "I have faith that you'll be able to get through to the president. Please... be patient with him, as Zossie is with me."
Selene resisted the urge to laugh. "If there's one thing I know about Gladion, it's that it takes a lot of patience just to put up with him." She glanced over at Primarina, noting that its second concert had ended - perfect timing. "I guess I'd better get going now... I hope things continue to work out between you and Zossie. You've made a big step now, y'know."
"I know." Dulse stepped over to his Furfrou, who had dozed off at some point during the performance. "It is a terrifying responsibility..." He looked back at Selene for one last time. "Farewell for now. I'd like an update later... if it isn't too much to ask."
Selene didn't respond, instead recalling her Primarina to its ball. She still didn't understand why Dulse had been so invested in that particular subject, or why he was curious about the outcome - perhaps he'd made some sort of fundamental misunderstanding of how human interaction worked, and ended up as one of the weird ones. Either way, she kind of liked the fact that she could talk openly with him about these things; people like that were few and far between, and a blessing whenever she met them.
It seemed as though both halves of the Ultra Megalopolis couple would be hearing the outcome of Selene's attempts at seducing Gladion...
As she approached the president's office, Selene began to feel nervous. The request she intended to make was a big step indeed, and she wasn't even sure how Gladion would react; given how serious he was most of the time, she wondered if he would just flat-out reject her. There were too many things that could go wrong here, and just thinking of the possibilities made her heart race with anxiety.
Perhaps she should have stuck with the indirect route...
The ex-champion stepped up to the office's door, and gave a light knock. She waited a moment, but received no answer; Gladion rarely answered a knock on the door, so that wasn't anything unusual, but it meant she had to use her voice - not something she was comfortable with, given her mental state.
"Hello?" Selene called out, as loud as she could. It wasn't very loud, and she wondered if Gladion had even heard her-
The door slid open, and Selene breathed a sigh of relief. Step one was out of the way.
"Selene." Gladion addressed her, not even looking away from the computer that he worked at - another very typical thing for him to do. The door closed behind Selene as she entered, and she heard a click that confirmed it had been locked.
"Can we talk?" she asked, as she stepped over to where he sat. "...There's something I've been meaning to ask for a while..."
Gladion made a noise of acknowledgment, but didn't look up from his work. "Go on."
"I... well... I just wanted you to know that I'm worried about you." Selene took a deep breath, bracing herself for the proposal she was about to make. "You're always working so hard, and... I mean, it's great that you're so dedicated, but... I think you also need to relax a little, and... well... what I'm saying is..." She swallowed. "...Can we have sex?"
The young president's response was immediate; he disregarded his work, swiveling his chair around to face her, and a bright flush rose on his face as he stared at her, slack-jawed. It was clear that he hadn't been expecting the request, and Selene's concern reached a whole new level as she realized that she might just get chewed out for this.
"...What?" Gladion's voice became very quiet. "You... you want... what? Are you serious?"
"Yep," Selene replied, nodding. "I... I've been wanting to ask for a while, really, but you've always been so busy... and, well..." She took another deep breath; this part was far more ludicrous than her initial request. "...I'd like to do it here, if that's okay."
Gladion didn't respond at first, still staring at her. She could tell that his brain wasn't running at its usual pace, her words catching him completely off-guard - and the blush on his face had only deepened at her second statement.
"...Let me finish this first," he said, after a rather lengthy pause. "It won't take long... a couple minutes at most."
Selene breathed out a long, heavy sigh, and the tension left her immediately. She was more than a little surprised that Gladion had accepted, and even if he wanted to get his work done first... it was a compromise she was willing to make. She nodded again, then stepped away to stand against the wall, watching as he turned back to his computer.
Sure enough, true to his word, the president's work did not take long to finish. Once he was done, he stood up and looked at Selene, then gestured to the lavish couch that occupied the far corner of the room; it had been there since his mother ran the Foundation, and he couldn't bear to get rid of it despite its impracticality.
"...I turned the security cameras off," Gladion stated, his voice faltering slightly. "I..."
"Are you sure?" Despite her intended goal, Selene hated the idea of forcing Gladion into something he didn't want; he'd had to deal with that far too much when he was young, and the last thing she wanted was to bring that trauma back to the surface. She couldn't tell how he really felt about the request, but she hoped that his rather sudden change in demeanor was a positive indicator.
"Now you're asking that?" Despite his mental state, Gladion retained his sharp tongue; it came as somewhat of a relief to Selene. "Do you think I would have said yes if I wasn't sure?"
Selene couldn't resist a giggle. "Point taken."
She moved over to the couch, seating herself at one end; she watched her boyfriend as he stepped away from his desk and joined her, scooting close to her once he was seated. Up close, she had a better idea of what he was thinking - she could tell that he was a little nervous, but a sense of anticipation and excitement had pushed forward as well.
It was rare to see Gladion like this, as he usually kept his more positive emotions well repressed. Selene wondered if she'd succeeded in pressing the right button.
"...You're insane," the young president murmured, as he pulled Selene close to him. "You really want to do it here?" A light shudder went through his body. "Do you have any idea what you do to me...?"
Before now, the answer would have been no. However, Selene deduced at this point that Gladion had some sort of kink - what it was, she wasn't sure, but it probably had something to do with office sex. She didn't have to look down to confirm that her suggestion had turned him on.
"I think I have an idea," Selene responded, her tone playful, as she shifted away to remove her blouse. "I gotta say, though... I didn't expect you to be this kinky."
Gladion inhaled sharply, his one visible eye tracking her movements as she undressed. "...I have my interests..." After a moment of staring, he began working to remove his pants; it was clear that he had his own ideas about this situation, but Selene wasn't about to oppose him.
After all, he'd agreed to take this step with her despite the demands of his work. It served as a reminder that even though he often acted like he didn't care, he was just as soft as always on the inside.
"I've got another request," Selene said, as she pulled her skirt down and tossed it aside. "After this, can we... stay together for a while?"
She half-expected him to insist otherwise. He was one of the most headstrong people she knew, and that fact mixed poorly with his fixation on work - but instead of the anticipated response, he gave a small nod, then averted his gaze.
"...I'll tell everyone I'm taking a break." Gladion's voice was low, and he sounded a little embarrassed. "I'll... leave out why."
"Oh, thank you!" Selene moved to embrace her boyfriend again, smiling at him; he stared down at her, his mouth hanging open slightly as he returned the embrace, leaning his forehead against hers.
Then she shifted a hand down, sliding it into his underclothes, and a shocked expression crossed his face for a split second - but the look on his face changed quickly when she found his somewhat stiffened manhood, her fingers clasping around it as she leaned forward to kiss him.
Gladion's eyes slid shut, and he leaned into the kiss as he braced himself against her; she began rubbing him, slow and gentle, as her free hand slid under his shirt to caress his chest. She had another idea in mind, but the fact that he'd only partially undressed served as something of an obstacle - she would have to make her own path.
After a moment, Selene broke the kiss, ducking her head down so that she could press her lips to his neck. Gladion's grip on her tightened a bit, and he made a soft noise that indicated his approval; it was nice not to hear him complain for once, a rare moment that Selene happily drank in.
"I'm gonna try something," the ex-champion murmured against his skin. "If you don't like it, just say so, okay?"
She pulled away, just enough to look up at his face. He looked somewhat vacant, slack-jawed and deeply flushed, his breathing heavier than usual already; he reached up with one hand to brush the fringe of hair out of his face, and a hint of curiosity flickered in his eyes. Curiosity was a good thing.
"...First, I wanted to let you know." Selene's tone was as serious as she could manage - just thinking about it made her feel very silly. "I've practiced for this. Extensively."
Before Gladion could respond, she shifted back and ducked her head down, pulling his shaft out of his underclothes; she pressed her mouth to the head, flicking her tongue out to taste it, and the noise he made in response was one of very clear approval. She felt him tense, and heard a sharp intake of breath as his free hand went right to her head, his fingers running through her hair.
"You're..." Gladion's voice was labored as he spoke. "...You really are insane..."
Selene decided to take that as a compliment; coming from him, it usually was. Applying some of her extensive training, she took a bit more of him into her mouth, massaging the base with her fingers - and that act elicited a sharp groan from him, his grip on her tightening further as he shifted his hips on reflex. Seeing and hearing him like this, already lost to sensation from just a little bit of mouthwork, was more of a turn-on than she could have ever imagined.
His taste was surprisingly enjoyable, too. He tasted of salt and something indescribable, a heady flavor that sent sparks of arousal down her spine with each lick. A thin fluid oozed out of his tip, and she made sure to lap it up as it came - an action that made him shudder, his breath hitching with every teasing sweep of her tongue.
"S-Selene..." Gladion hissed out her name between clenched teeth, and the hand on her head moved a little, his fingers tangling in her hair. "That- that's... you've been... training for this...?"
Selene hummed in response, then swirled her tongue around the head; he gave a quiet yelp, bucking into her mouth as his hand clenched in her hair. It was somewhat painful, but she didn't care - not when she'd proven herself able to bring him to this state. An ache of a different kind had settled in further below, and she pondered the merits of asking him to return the favor-
She heard him try to say something, but his breath caught in his throat and he just gave a loud moan instead. His shaft pulsed, and a jet of thick fluid shot into her mouth; she realized that he'd been trying to warn her, but failed in that endeavor, having been sent over the edge before he could say anything. She accepted his release as best she could, though it was a little difficult to swallow it - especially with him outright pulling her hair now, the last vestiges of control escaping him in his bliss.
It was somewhat uncomfortable, but Selene didn't care. Gladion's taste overwhelmed her senses, his essence sending a wave of heat through her body as she lapped up what remained, and she almost didn't notice when he pulled away from her, his softening manhood sliding out of her mouth. That had gone far better than she could have ever anticipated.
"What..." It took a moment for Gladion to find his voice; he was completely out of breath. "What gave you... that idea...?"
"...Oh, um..." Selene lifted her head, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. "I saw it online..."
"Online...?" A look of embarrassed realization spread across Gladion's face. "...And here I thought I knew you..." He gave a breathless laugh. "You pervert..."
The lack of bite to his tone indicated that he hadn't intended it as an insult. Selene gave him an awkward smile in response, pulling him into a loose embrace; she was grateful that he hadn't taken her confession poorly, though she wondered if it was because he'd be a hypocrite if he had.
"...I won't forget that." Gladion leaned close to her as he spoke, his tone betraying his joy. "You're completely crazy and I love you."
"Good," Selene responded, giggling, as she moved a hand up, brushing his hair out of his face. "I was hoping you wouldn't forget it."
"What about you?" A mixture of curiosity and concern flickered in Gladion's eyes. "How are you... feeling?"
Selene blushed, averting her gaze; was it really that obvious? "...I mean, doing that to you was- let's just say it really got me going... I, um..."
"No mouth." Gladion lowered his hands to her hips, then slipped one into her underclothes. "Just fingers... sorry."
It was a reasonable compromise, in Selene's mind; even if he'd accepted her going down on him, she didn't expect him to do the same to her, not when this was their first time doing these things with each other. She was surprised by her own boldness to begin with - no matter how much she trained, it could never prepare her for the real thing-
Gladion's fingers found her slit, and her train of thought screeched to a halt. She was sensitive enough that even a light touch was enough to blur her senses - and he clearly didn't intend to stop at that, as he pressed deeper with one finger while he leaned in to kiss her.
Selene's eyes closed, and she moaned into his mouth as he explored her lower parts, searching for the most sensitive places. She held onto him with both hands, gripping his shoulders as she made an effort to return his kiss; she had to admit that his multitasking ability impressed her, his touch unfaltering both above and below as his free hand moved to her chest. He gave one of her breasts a light squeeze, then shifted into a steady massage, his dexterous fingers applying just enough pressure to complement his movements further down.
It wasn't long before Selene had to break the kiss, gasping for breath as she made an effort to look at him. A curious look had crossed Gladion's face, and she wondered if he was concerned about how he was doing; she managed a small smile, and then her face contorted as his finger brushed against a particularly sensitive spot, sending a sharp pulse of sensation up her spine.
"Right there," she breathed, a shameless moan escaping her throat. "That- that's..."
Gladion didn't need to be told twice. His expression changed to one of concentration, and his focus shifted to that sensitive area; Selene dropped one hand to his side, then leaned against his shoulder as she gasped out her approval, her eyes squeezing shut as her hips moved of their own volition. She hadn't known what to expect, but having him touch her was far better than she could have ever anticipated - each sweep of his fingers, gentle yet precise, stoked a rising madness in her thoughts, a singular desire to chase that delectable feeling in all its mind-shattering glory.
Entranced as she was, she almost didn't notice when her climax came. She gripped him tight, shuddering as she bit his shoulder in an attempt to avoid moaning too loud; her thighs clenched around his hand, her hips rocking against his fingers as her inner walls tightened around the one he'd pressed inside her, and the last spark of her conscious thought realized that it was just about the most amazing thing that had ever happened to her.
But he didn't stop - even after she came undone, his fingers continued moving, and with even more vigor than before. She cried out into his shoulder, her voice muffled by his skin, and a dim comprehension of his intent flickered through her mind; he wouldn't stop until she was ruined, and her heart began to race in anticipation of what was to come. She couldn't wait to see just how far he could push her aching body.
"Selene..." Gladion whispered her name, just loud enough for her to hear, as he pressed his mouth to the side of her neck. "How does it feel to know that you've brought this upon yourself...?"
Selene was too far gone to speak, and so she just shuddered and moaned in response. She wasn't complaining at all; in fact, this was exactly what she had wanted, to push him to the point where he let go of all his inhibitions. The fact that it felt beyond amazing was just a bonus - though at this point, that tiny rational side of her had been overwhelmed by her need, and she let him know in no uncertain terms as her nails dug into his skin through his shirt.
Her second peak came just as abruptly as the first, and her whole body tensed in response as she let out a muffled yelp; she bit him again, the last vestiges of control escaping her as her mind was consumed by bliss. This time, the movements of her hips were jerky, her body wound far too tight - and she didn't care, willing to accept it if he continued to push her.
But he didn't. Instead, he waited until her muscles stopped clenching around him, and then withdrew his hand; her body went limp against his, and she struggled to catch her breath as she gave him a weak embrace, her strength having left her entirely. After a moment, he returned the embrace, and she noticed that the hand he'd used to please her was dry against her skin - had he wiped it off on his shirt?
"...Thanks," Selene managed to say, her voice quiet, as she gave his shoulder an affectionate nuzzle. "And... sorry for... biting you..."
"Everyone's going to know what we did," Gladion pointed out, though he didn't seem upset at all; in fact, he almost sounded amused. "...I'll let them figure it out for themselves."
He pulled away from her, a bit reluctant, and she braced herself against the couch as she looked up at him; a mixture of confusion and concern swirled in her thoughts as he stepped over to his desk, then typed out something on his computer. It took her a moment to recall what he'd said before, about notifying the rest of the staff that he was taking a break - and a wave of relief swept over her when he returned to embrace her once again, holding her as though he never wanted to let go.
"...You really don't mind?" Selene settled herself against him, her head resting against his chest this time. "Isn't it... kind of embarrassing...?"
"A little, but... I don't care." Gladion reached a hand up to her head, running his fingers through her hair. "Everyone here already knows we're together. This was going to happen at some point or other." He paused, taking a short breath. "...If anything, I'm glad that you did this. So... thank you."
Selene hadn't expected that reaction, but now that she thought about it, it made sense; perhaps when he was younger, Gladion would have been bothered by this sort of thing, but he'd matured enough to recognize that it wasn't a big deal after all. On the contrary, she was glad that he hadn't marked her - she didn't know if she could handle talking about this with anyone other than her close friends.
...Those close friends, of course, included Dulse and Zossie. She reminded herself that she would have to let them know about the outcome of this later.
"Let's make it a regular thing," Selene suggested, her face flushing at the thought. "I mean... we don't have to do it in your office every time, but..."
Gladion gave a soft laugh. "...I hope this means you're willing to do it here again."
Selene responded with a giggle of her own; the fact that he was into that still came as somewhat of a surprise, but she wasn't going to deny his rather amusing kink. "Of course we can still do it here... but I also want to do it in bed."
"Of course." Gladion gave her a light squeeze, then rested his head atop hers. "...Thank you again. I love you."
"I love you too," Selene murmured in response, smiling. "...And you're always welcome."
The two of them both fell silent, relishing in each others' presence. After what had transpired, Selene wondered if her concerns about her relationship with Gladion were ever well founded in the first place; he was just a busy man who had some trouble properly expressing himself, and she recalled that every time she took the initiative, he was more than willing to accept her terms. She just had to be more proactive - he would probably work himself to illness if he didn't have her to stop him.
With that thought in mind, a new idea came to Selene - of all things, a double date with Dulse and Zossie. She doubted that Gladion would accept that sort of arrangement, but it was worth a try, if only to see the look on his face. Perhaps she could ask later, after he got back to work...
For now, she was content just spending time with him, and giving him a break that he desperately needed. These quiet moments between them were uncommon, but they were also the most precious thing in the world to her; now that they'd crossed this threshold, she hoped that they would become more common.
As Selene began to doze off in Gladion's arms, her thoughts turned to how happy she was that she'd been able to know him, and how much she adored him through all his notable flaws.
When the sun had set, Selene went back up to the conservatory; she felt energized after her nap, and Gladion had returned to his work - with the promise that he'd stop early tonight, and perhaps they could spend some time together in the on-site mansion. This left the former champion with plenty of time to burn, and a very specific idea had developed in her mind as a result.
Necrozma often grew restless, and showing it to the world was not something Selene preferred to do. Here in Aether Paradise, things were a bit different... but there was only one place in the conservatory where the great prism could comfortably be released, and so she made a beeline for that spot as soon as she arrived.
The most impressive thing, Selene thought, was the fact that the two legendary beasts had reconciled after that incident eleven years ago. She recalled it clear as day - Nebby evolving into Solgaleo, then Necrozma appearing to take control of it by force and escaping into the Ultra Wormhole. Now, Solgaleo understood Necrozma's pain and willingly gave its light; Selene had won many a difficult battle with their combined aid, and even though she'd sworn off continuing to battle with them, she still kept them together whenever possible.
The brilliant form of the combined beast - Dusk Mane Necrozma, as Rotom had called it - appeared before Selene, standing on the platform at the far end of the conservatory. Its radiance attracted the attention of many of the conservatory's inhabitants, and even a few humans; they all came together to see the Blinding One, both curious and wary... but Necrozma was not here to do battle. Its shining eyes turned toward its trainer, and Selene recognized the silent question it asked - why had it been summoned here?
"...It's been a while since we've been able to spend time together." Selene reached up, placing a hand on the side of Necrozma's face. "I didn't want to go back home yet, so..."
Her answer was apparently satisfactory, and Necrozma lowered itself to the ground, resting in a sphinx-like pose. Selene seated herself beside it, then leaned against it; Solgaleo's mane was coarse, but she didn't care, just happy to be in the company of two of her dearest friends. Its warmth radiated through her body as she looked up at the conservatory's glass ceiling, watching the stars beyond, and a distant smile crossed her face as her mind began to wander.
However, her pondering did not last for long. Among the people attracted by Necrozma's light were two familiar blue faces - Selene hadn't expected them to be in the conservatory, and she was somewhat startled when she noticed them standing nearby.
"Huh?" Selene shifted her focus to the pair, intrigued. "Uh, hey there..."
"Alola, Selene!" Zossie greeted her first, with the traditional Alolan wave; Dulse, standing beside her, chose to use the adapted version, remaining silent.
"I didn't expect to see you here," Selene said, feeling just a tad embarrassed; she stood up, brushing herself off. "Um... sorry about Necrozma."
The great prism lifted its head at the mention of its name, and Selene placed her hand on the side of its head in response. Though it had always reacted well to Dulse, she hadn't seen it interact with Zossie before, and she couldn't help being a little worried.
"There's nothing to apologize for," Zossie insisted, squinting as she studied Necrozma's form. "You're its trainer now, aren't you?" She leaned forward. "Can I pet it?"
"Uh, I guess-" Selene couldn't finish her sentence; Necrozma stood of its own volition and crept closer to Zossie, lowering its head to inspect her. The blue-skinned girl reached out to place a hand on its head, and a peculiar, yet familiar, sound issued forth from the beast's maw - had that been Solgaleo's choice?
"...I think it likes you," Selene observed, giggling. "That's the sound it makes when I pet it."
A look of exuberant joy crossed Zossie's face. "Wow!" She ran her fingers through the combined creature's mane, and it echoed its previous sentiment in response. "This is awesome...! Hey, Dulse, look!"
"I see..." Dulse gave a small smile. "It appears the Blinding One has accepted both of us." He fixed his gaze on Selene. "Thank you for this. It's a rare opportunity indeed."
"Yeah..." Selene mirrored Dulse's expression as she watched Zossie pet Necrozma. "I was a little worried, but... I guess it can tell how you two feel." She paused, taking a short breath. "...You can come see it anytime you want. Just ask me, okay?"
"You don't have to tell me twice..." Zossie moved her hand, touching one of the two long spikes that protruded from Necrozma's head; her expression had changed to one of awe. "...I'm actually... touching Necrozma... do you think anyone back in our world would believe me if I told them this...?"
"Soliera might," Dulse suggested, sounding amused. "Other than that... I doubt it." His tone changed to one of concern. "...Careful not to burn yourself."
"Oh, it isn't too hot here," Zossie said, shaking her head. "I guess I should be worried about prolonged contact, but..." Her hand moved a bit higher on the spike, and she immediately withdrew it. "Okay, it's pretty hot there!"
"You can feel it?" Selene inquired, curious; she'd never felt anything more than a gentle warmth from Necrozma's body. "I've never burned myself on Necrozma... well, it's given me a bit of a tan sometimes, but that's to be expected, right?"
"Most curious..." Dulse raised a hand to his face, stroking his chin. "Perhaps since we are from the same world, our bodies react differently to the Blinding One's physical form... or perhaps it has changed somewhat to accommodate its trainer... this warrants further research."
"Well, as long as it doesn't get mad about it." Selene looked between the two residents of Ultra Megalopolis, and a thought crossed her mind that was very much unrelated to Necrozma. "...Anyway, why are you two up here?"
"...Ah." Dulse's hand fell back to his side, and his face flushed. "We were..."
"Going on a date!" Zossie finished for him, grinning. "I finished work early, and it was Dulse's regular break time, so I asked him out." She moved back to her partner's side, taking his hand in hers. "...You and Necrozma kind of distracted us, though."
Selene rubbed the back of her neck with a hand. "Oh, sorry about that..." She gave an awkward smile. "If you want, I can... well, leave you two alone..."
"...There's no need," Dulse insisted, shaking his head. "I am quite curious about how your encounter with the president earlier went."
"She told you?" Zossie looked up at Dulse, surprised. "Huh, you learn something new every day..." She turned her attention back to Selene. "Yeah, how'd it go?"
"Oh... well." Selene felt her face grow hot, and her voice lowered as she spoke. "...It went fantastic, actually..." She took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. "Y-yeah, he was curious, so... I told him about my plan. And... well..."
Zossie raised an eyebrow, then looked back at Dulse. "You were curious? About something like that?"
"Ah." Dulse cleared his throat, averting his gaze; the flush on his face had grown deeper. "...More than anything, I was concerned... but yes, also curious." He made a peculiar noise. "...My apologies, Zossie..."
"...I didn't know you had it in you..." For a long moment, Zossie's expression was indiscernible; then, she broke out into a grin. "So, did you help her?"
Selene decided to spare Dulse a small amount of embarrassment. "Yeah, actually... he did," she said, smiling. "Thank you for that, by the way. It was just the advice I needed."
"...I see..." Dulse made another strange noise; it seemed that was a habit of his when he was flustered. "I'm, ah... glad I could be of assistance." He made an effort to look at Zossie. "...Are you upset?"
"No, not at all," Zossie replied, her grin softening into a smile. "I'm a little surprised, but... actually, I'm happy that you're coming out of your shell." She leaned closer to Dulse, then glanced at Selene. "I guess I should thank you, too."
"Oh, it's nothing," Selene insisted, feeling a little embarrassed herself. "...I noticed you two have been a lot closer since you got back from your vacation. I'm glad you were able to work things out."
"I hope things go just as well between you and the president!" Zossie winked. "Maybe you can even get him to go on vacation...?"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Zossie." Dulse placed a hand on her arm, shaking his head. "...The president is still a difficult man. It may take some time for him to come to the same conclusion I did." He gave Zossie's arm a gentle tug. "If you'll excuse us, Selene..."
"Oh, uh... see you." Selene waved at the two, as Dulse began to coax Zossie toward the elevator; no matter how close they got, those two definitely still had their conflicts of interest. That was to be expected - everyone had their differences, and in particular, Dulse and Zossie were like night and day. Their relationship almost seemed like hard proof of 'opposites attract'...
Still, Selene's relationship with Gladion wasn't that much different. The level of vitriol was lower, but they did have their disagreements; there were still times when the former champion wondered what her boyfriend was thinking, and even though she'd mostly figured him out, she considered the possibility that things would always be like that between them.
As she once again seated herself beside her legendary companion, Selene considered what Dulse had told her before - be patient with him. She'd always known that Gladion required a large amount of patience to deal with, but now... Dulse's statement made a lot more sense. Being in this sort of relationship with such a stubborn person was an uphill struggle at times, and even if things had turned out well during their last encounter-
Selene breathed a long sigh, and snuggled into Necrozma's mane. She was definitely overthinking all of this - Gladion had accepted her request then, and there were few indicators that he would be as troublesome as her nerves told her.
She decided that she would revisit the subject in the morning, after a good night's sleep. She wanted to talk to the young president at length about this, but... now was not the time.
Unfortunately, this is the only bit with Gladion and Selene that I've written thus far. I've been intending to do more, but the blue people kept distracting me...
I have a lot of feelings about Necrozma, okay. Never before in my life have I wanted to hug a living prism so badly.
Chapter 3: trouble in paradise
A familiar face brings the promise of conflict - although no one involved ever hoped for it.
I'll be honest, I couldn't really get a good feel for her personality, even after I decided to pick up and play Ultra Moon for that primary purpose. If she's too OOC, I apologize.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Aether Paradise, being as large as it was, had plenty of room for dormitories on the premises; many of the employees lived there, only leaving on occasion for personal reasons. Among those who had chosen to remain on the artificial island were the two denizens of Ultra Megalopolis, though they did venture out more frequently than many of their co-workers - Dulse for field work and studying the various ruins of Alola, and Zossie to sate her still-lingering wanderlust. While they stayed at Aether Paradise, the two had separate rooms, a fact that had become somewhat of a problem in recent times.
Zossie, in particular, craved the closeness that sharing a room with her partner would entail. She'd gotten a taste of it on their vacation together, and now she just wanted more; the only thing that kept her from going to the president and directly asking him for better accommodations was her concern for Dulse's feelings, as she didn't know how her boyfriend would react to such an arrangement.
He hadn't been opposed to it while they were at the Tide Song Hotel, but those circumstances were... unique, and also far from intentional. If they moved together permanently, he might start to find her overbearing after a while.
The thought lingered in Zossie's mind as she paced outside the facility's main entrance, watching the sunrise. Though her skin had acclimated to Alola's light somewhat, she still often wore outfits that kept her well covered; her current attire was a variation on the suit she wore as a member of the Ultra Recon Squad, scaled up to fit her increased size since then. She kept her eyes covered as well, not wanting to risk the potential damage from looking at the sun - even the people of this world had issues with that.
Out of nowhere, a strangely familiar figure stepped in front of her, blocking her view of the horizon. Zossie took a moment to inspect the person - and when she realized who it was, she almost fell over in shock.
"S-Soliera!?" she exclaimed, as she tried to pick herself back up. "...Um, long time no see?"
There was no mistaking Soliera's visage; her long blue hair, just a few shades darker than her skin, and her well-shaped body that Zossie had always envied. She had remained in Ultra Megalopolis after the events eleven years ago, and even though she'd mentioned wanting to visit this world... what was she doing here?
"Greetings, Zossie," the older woman said, offering a smile. "It's been quite some time since we last spoke. How are you adjusting to this world?"
"...Yeah, I'm doing fine," Zossie replied, still a bit distracted. "Uh, what are you doing here?"
Soliera's expression changed, almost imperceptibly; she also had her eyes covered, so it was difficult to tell how she felt at a glance. "I wanted to visit this world, and see what it was like. I thought you already knew this?"
"That's not what I meant..." Zossie shook her head, and breathed a short sigh. "I meant, why are you here. At Aether Paradise."
"I wanted to see how my former teammates were doing." Soliera paused briefly, studying Zossie's form. "You... haven't grown as much as I'd anticipated."
Zossie groaned. "Don't remind me..." She glanced over at the building that stood behind them, then looked back at Soliera. "If you want to see Dulse, good luck. He got up early and went right to work... as always."
"...Seems he hasn't changed much, either..." Soliera made an amused noise. "You don't seem to share his work ethic, though. Why are you out here?"
"Thinking," Zossie said, as her gaze drifted back to the horizon. "Y'see... ever since he and I started working here, we've been living on the premises. Employee-only residences... but we aren't living together. It... hurts, you know?"
"...Pardon me?" The confusion in Soliera's tone came as somewhat of a surprise - had she really not heard? "Why do you want to live with him? Is there something you haven't told me?"
Zossie pouted, turning toward Soliera once again; she was glad that the older woman couldn't see her eyes. "You really haven't... all this time, and you really haven't heard? Didn't Phyco tell you?" She paused, taking a quick breath. "Didn't Dulse tell you?"
"The answer to that is clearly no," Soliera stated, sounding a little annoyed. "...Since I still have no idea what you're talking about."
"Fine then!" Zossie took another, deeper breath, in an effort to steady herself; the last thing she needed was to get angry over something as stupid as this. "We're together. Dating. In a romantic relationship. Alola-style. We have been for about a year now."
Soliera's frustration turned once again to surprise - clear on her face despite her visor. "...That sort of relationship? Why would you pursue..."
"Because we're living here, now." Zossie breathed a long sigh, then looked away. "...If things don't work out between us, maybe we'll go back to the old ways. I want to avoid that happening, though."
"I... well." Soliera coughed. "This is... a very interesting development. I have to say, I'm surprised..." She took a deep breath of her own. "And... somewhat disappointed."
Zossie braced herself for a lecture. She was well aware of how things worked in Ultra Megalopolis; romance was rare there, with people preferring to pursue a scientific approach to procreation. However, this was only on a rational level - it didn't prevent them from having feelings, they simply chose not to pursue them most of the time. Since Soliera had remained in their world, perhaps some of that bias still lingered-
"I will have to choose another mate, it seems," Soliera continued, sounding resigned. "If you two have an exclusive relationship... that means he's off the table."
"...What?" This was not what Zossie had expected, at all. "You mean... you had your eyes on him, too?" Her face grew hot. "Uh... well, okay then. I'm... sorry, I guess?"
"Oh, it's nothing to apologize for," Soliera insisted, shaking her head. "He's an excellent specimen... you're lucky to have him. And so are your future children." Her tone turned curious. "You... have mated with him, yes?"
Zossie didn't respond at first; she was too busy seething with embarrassment, wishing that she'd never come across her former companion. Soliera's perspective reminded her of why she didn't want to go back to Ultra Megalopolis - the people there regularly skirted around the subject of feelings, and Zossie had always stuck out like a sore thumb since the day she was born.
Perhaps once Necrozma's light returned to their world...
"...Yes, but not to breed." Zossie resigned herself to this situation, hoping that she'd be able to explain things in terms that Soliera would understand. "We did it to bond. We won't be having kids anytime soon - it's not why we're together. Okay?"
Soliera gave a slight nod. "Yes, I understand..." A hesitant smile crossed her face. "...I should apologize. I'm... unfamiliar with this world's traditions, and..."
"Hey, who are you talking to?" Zossie placed her hands on her hips. "It's totally fine to be confused. I was too, at first... and I think Dulse still is." She grinned. "It was just a misunderstanding... and, well, kind of a mutual one. I thought you'd be mad at me."
"...Well, these relationships do still sometimes happen in our world," Soliera reminded her, smiling a bit wider. "If I judged you for it, I'd have to judge everyone else as well... and that wouldn't be fair at all, would it?" She gave a quiet laugh. "I was just surprised... and confused. I would never have expected Dulse to..."
"He's changed a bit more than you think," Zossie said, her own expression softening. "...If you wanted him before, I bet you'll really want him now." She turned toward the building at the platform's center. "But! You can only have him if he lets you. I'm willing to be a bit more lenient with someone from our world, but he's the one who has to make the decision in the end. Got it?"
"I wasn't planning to..." Soliera breathed a sigh, then stepped a bit closer to the building's entrance. "...At any rate, I'd like to see more of this place. Could you show me around?"
"Yes, of course!" At this request, all of Zossie's previous mixed feelings were swept away by her excitement - this was the sort of thing she could get behind. "Just stay close by, okay? Your access will be limited because you're a guest, but I'll show you where you can go!"
She started off toward the entrance, glancing back just once to make sure Soliera was following her; even if they'd misunderstood each other at first, Zossie was happy to be reunited with an old companion - and one who seemed interested in this world, at that.
Plus, it had taken her mind off of the conundrum that faced her. As frustrating as their world's culture could be at times, it served as a reminder that anything could change in the future - it was better to wait and see if the situation stabilized before taking more drastic steps.
Perhaps she didn't realize it, but Soliera had helped Zossie a surprising amount with that series of misunderstandings...
After her tour of Aether Paradise concluded, Soliera decided to go to Akala Island. She'd heard of the Dimensional Research Lab in Heahea City, and wanted to see it for herself - an understandable sentiment, and Zossie was sure that Professor Burnet would be absolutely thrilled to see another person from Ultra Space. She had maintained communications with the two working at Aether Paradise, though it had been a long time since her last visit.
In the end, the visitor from Ultra Megalopolis hadn't gotten the opportunity to meet with her other teammate. However, once Dulse heard of Soliera's visit, he made a promise to see her at least once before she returned home; from the sound of it, Soliera planned to stay for at least a few days, to absorb a little bit of Alola's culture in addition to her own research.
Zossie couldn't help wondering if maybe that was because of their discussion that morning. Soliera had seemed rather shaken by the news of Dulse's relationship status...
It was late afternoon now, the midpoint in an unusually eventful day. Too distracted by her thoughts to work steadily, Zossie had elected to take a break; her co-workers, as well as her employer, had gotten used to her rather erratic schedule, and were willing to accept it on the basis that she was good enough at her job to compensate. She'd almost considered just taking the day off - working on a weekend seemed preferable to messing up an important report because she couldn't stop thinking about her living situation.
Of course, she hadn't mentioned that to anyone other than Soliera yet. After that conversation, it didn't seem like the right time anymore.
After leaving her own office, Zossie made a beeline for Dulse's. Bothering him was her favorite thing to do during her breaks, and there were a few things she wanted to talk to him about; if she was lucky, she would be able to convince him to take a break as well - he seemed far more receptive to that in recent times, a fact that she was very grateful for.
To her surprise, when she reached the office door, it opened before she even knocked. Dulse stood behind the door, his eyes uncovered and a curious look on his face.
"...Huh?" Zossie blinked twice, just to make sure that she wasn't seeing things. "You feeling okay?"
"I am," Dulse stated in response, his tone even. "I thought I'd take a short break." He raised an eyebrow. "It seems you had the same idea... though, that's hardly a surprise."
Zossie rubbed the back of her head with a hand. "Yeah, I'm having trouble focusing," she admitted, blushing a little. "I really wasn't expecting Soliera to visit, and... well, can we talk for a bit?"
"Of course we can." Dulse nodded, then stepped back. "...Is your trouble solely because of Soliera?"
Zossie stepped inside Dulse's office, then turned to close the door behind her. "Not really..." She turned back to Dulse, and breathed a sigh. "We had a... really weird conversation. She apparently didn't know about... us, and she was a bit disappointed, because, um..."
"Was she upset?" Dulse asked, a hint of concern in his voice. "...I'd hoped that she would not take after her father in that regard..."
"No, she wasn't upset, just... jealous?" Zossie really wasn't sure how to describe Soliera's reaction; it had been... unusual, to say the least, but maybe that was just because she'd been living in this world for too long. "She said something about having to find another mate... I think she had her eyes on you before we came here."
"...ah, right." Dulse's face turned a brilliant blue. "I had almost forgotten about those traditions..." He cleared his throat, then averted his gaze. "Perhaps I can still- if you aren't opposed to it... but, even so..."
Zossie shrugged. "If it's just once or twice, I don't mind." She moved closer to Dulse, placing a hand on his shoulder. "...Even if she's a friend, I can only compromise so much..."
"Then we're in agreement..." Dulse pulled Zossie into a tight embrace, resting his head atop hers. "...If it weren't for our world's traditions, I would not even consider it. I don't want any other woman besides you."
Those words, combined with his actions, came as quite a surprise to Zossie; she wasn't used to Dulse being this... possessive, and while she was more than a little flattered, it was also somewhat intimidating. He had always been an intense person, and to be the subject of his pure and honest feelings-
It was the best thing Zossie had ever felt, and she wanted more of it.
"...Whoa." Zossie returned Dulse's embrace, leaning against him. "Well, I won't make you do it if you don't want to..." She nuzzled his chest, closing her eyes. "How about doing me instead? That any more appealing?"
"You...?" Dulse pulled back, just enough to look down at Zossie. "I- I suppose..." He sounded flustered - always a good sign, in this context. "But, ah... where?"
For a brief moment, Zossie considered bringing up her concerns about their living arrangements; it would certainly be a more permanent solution to that particular issue, though not a guaranteed one. She ultimately decided against it - this wasn't the time or place to mention that, and she still had to think about it some more herself.
"How about here?" she suggested instead, a devious grin crossing her face as she met his gaze. "I did lock the door on my way in..."
Dulse didn't respond at first, and Zossie began to worry that she'd said the wrong thing; they didn't really have a lot of other options, but this was a rather odd place to do it, and perhaps he wasn't so thrilled with the idea. Maybe one of their dorms would be a better place-
"It will suffice." Dulse gave a small nod, then took a short breath. "We must take care to be quiet, though."
Oh, that was going to be difficult. Even when she was alone, Zossie often couldn't help herself - but the real problem here was Dulse, as she'd discovered during their vacation. As quiet and reserved as he was most of the time, his inhibitions dissolved entirely when he was with her; the sounds he made during sex were always music to her ears, a delightful treat that she wanted to draw from him as much as possible.
Yet another reason for them to request a shared room, she supposed. But for the time being...
"I hope you're ready to be really careful, then," Zossie teased him, giggling, as she stepped away from him; the standard-issue Aether employee uniform was not an easy thing to remove, so she started right away, peeling her gloves off first. "...And don't think I'm going to go easy on you just 'cuz we're in a public space."
"I wouldn't expect you to..." Dulse watched as Zossie pulled her leggings off, and fell silent for a brief moment; then, he shook his head, and spoke up again. "Perhaps we shouldn't... fully remove our clothes. It will be easier to-"
Zossie pointed at her top. "I kinda have to," she said, feeling a little frustrated - she still hadn't been able to convince the president to let her wear a different uniform. "You can just unzip if you want."
"...I will aid in your petition, then," Dulse suggested, clearly comprehending her predicament. "In that case..." He began to remove his own uniform, starting with the gloves as she had; she stopped undressing to stare at him, a little confused by this sudden change of mindset.
"Didn't you just say we shouldn't..." Zossie felt her face heat up as Dulse worked his way out of his suit; her eyes trailed down, taking in his bare skin as it was exposed to her, and she realized a little late that he wasn't even wearing any underclothes - a fact that only left her more confused. Why would he go without underclothes...?
When Dulse had finished disrobing, he gave Zossie a somewhat embarrassed look; his face was noticeably bluer than usual. "I... thought it would be unfair. We should be able to see each other like this..."
At those words, Zossie felt like her heart was about to burst. Even though it would be easier to do as he'd recommended before, Dulse still decided to show his body to her, for her sake - it was one of the many ways he expressed his affection without directly saying it, a reminder that despite his occasional standoffish attitude, he still loved her dearly and wanted to make her happy.
"...Guess I shouldn't hold you up, then." Zossie resumed her own undressing, a bit more hurried than before; a thought crossed her mind then, and she glanced around the room in search of somewhere comfortable to lay - she really hadn't thought this through when she made the suggestion to do it here, and she hoped that she wouldn't regret her decision.
Dulse didn't let her think too much about it. Once she was naked, he pushed her up against the wall next to the door, supporting her with one arm as he caressed her hip with his other hand; he kissed her, slow and steady, as he pressed his body against hers - a familiar touch that she sorely missed, his warmth sending delightful shivers down her spine.
Zossie tried not to moan too loudly as she reciprocated the kiss, her arms sliding around his waist; of all the places in this room, she hadn't even considered the wall, and now it seemed natural enough that she felt silly for not thinking of it. She could feel his heartbeat, strong and steady and just a little faster than usual - even if he hadn't been in the mood before, he definitely was now, further confirmed by the stiff, bare shaft pressing against her leg.
Nothing could compare to this, the feeling of her normally steadfast lover giving in to his desires because of her - and it had been far too long since they'd last had this opportunity.
"Ah..." Dulse broke the kiss, panting, as his hand shifted forward to settle between her legs. "...You ruin me, Zossie..."
His touch was cautious, as if he only just realized how far he'd taken things already; she shifted her legs apart a little, allowing him better access, and letting him know that he had nothing to worry about. Just being this close to him, seeing his naked body and feeling it against hers, was enough to arouse her - she had ached for his touch ever since that too-short vacation ended, and now, with a spur-of-the-moment suggestion-
Zossie bit her lip as Dulse's exploration grew more confident, his finger slipping inside her as he pressed the palm of his hand against her front. She moved one of her own hands forward, rewarding him by grasping his arousal, and he breathed a gasp when she began to rub him in time with his own ministrations; he'd talked about fairness before, and in her eyes, there was nothing more fair than giving back the sensation that he gave her.
"I missed this..." Zossie's voice was barely above a whisper, and she gave a breathless giggle as she leaned her head against his shoulder. "...Your hands are... still amazing..."
Dulse moaned in response, his hips jerking as she tightened her grip on him; he began moving his hand faster, shifting so that he could press his thumb against the sensitive nub at her front. The surge of pleasure that swept through her body almost caught Zossie off-guard - she braced herself against him, trying her hardest not to scream as her body shuddered, already teetering on the brink.
It had been far too long, and she was unbearably sensitive. Dulse probably didn't even understand what he was doing to her.
"H-hang on a moment," Zossie managed to say, her breathing labored; to emphasize her point, she stopped stroking him, even though it pained her to do so. "I can't... ah geez, this is too good... if you keep going like that, I..."
"...Sensitive?" Dulse slowed his pace, pulling back a little to look at her. "I see..." He lowered his voice. "Perhaps I can..."
Zossie realized too late what Dulse had planned. He switched over to a relentless pace, his other hand moving to grasp one of her breasts, and the new sensation drove her over the edge in no time; she muffled a scream with her hand, barely able to keep herself upright as she trembled with bliss, her inner walls spasming around his finger as he kept rubbing her, undaunted by her body's reaction.
His finger pressed deeper, searching for a specific spot, and Zossie wondered for a moment if she was going to pass out. He intended to test her limits - and see if he could get her off twice before she turned the tables on him.
"Wh-what... what's gotten... into you, Dulse...?" she panted, gripping his shoulders with both hands in an attempt to keep herself steady. "I'm... I'm not complaining... but... whoa..."
"...I missed this, too." Dulse lowered his head, his lips grazing the skin of her neck. "I want to do this... more often. Please."
It was as good an answer as any, and Zossie couldn't really say no. There was still the issue of how they'd keep doing this without a mutual space to call their own, but she tried to put that thought aside for the moment; more important was the fact that he'd found the spot he was looking for, and her body let her know that she was definitely not spent yet.
"Ahh- can't... talk right now..." Zossie's body shuddered again, an unintentional bit of emphasis, as his tongue flicked out to taste her skin. "Get back to me later...!"
He nipped her throat, just hard enough for her to feel, and her hand flew to her mouth as she screamed again, too far gone to control her voice. She was sure at this point that someone else had heard, and normally she wouldn't care, but this was something that could get them both in a lot of trouble and-
Dulse thrust another finger inside her, and Zossie forgot all about her concerns. He'd never used more than one finger before, and this made her wonder what it would be like to be completely filled up - just the thought sent another ecstatic spark through her body, and she fought to stay standing as her thighs tensed on reflex, her arm moving once again to brace herself against him.
"...Getting ideas?" Dulse's tone was unusually suggestive, and Zossie wished that she could say yes; instead, she just nodded, her mind too overwhelmed for any other response. He'd teased her a few times before, but it was a rare occurrence - and this time, she was close enough that it took all her effort to make it last just a little longer.
He traced a third finger around her entrance, and that was enough to shatter her focus entirely; her knees went weak as her body was overtaken by sensation, and she dimly noticed that he'd moved to support her against the wall as she shivered and moaned through her climax. It felt even better than it had last time, and she wished that it didn't have to end so soon, that she could just stay with her beloved forever and enjoy this moment with him.
Dulse withdrew his hand as Zossie came down, and despite her sentiments, she was glad that he'd chosen not to push her any further - she didn't know if her body could take it. Already, she had some trouble keeping herself upright, her legs feeling a little weaker than she was comfortable with.
"...Three fingers," Zossie said, once she found her voice; she still couldn't muster anything louder than a whisper. "That's... almost as much as..."
"I wanted to prepare you." Dulse shifted back, meeting her gaze; the look in his eyes was even more intense than usual. "...For next time."
"S-sorry..." Zossie felt a little embarrassed, knowing that he hadn't been able to go through with his plan. "I... well, I just couldn't- it's been too long, and I was-"
Dulse silenced her with a brief kiss. "...You enjoyed it, did you not?" He trailed a hand down her side, an affectionate gesture that made her heart skip a beat. "That's more important..."
"...And you aren't done yet, either," Zossie pointed out, mirroring his action - and bringing her hand to his front. "What was that you were saying about fairness?"
She slid her fingers around his shaft, tugging him close with her other arm; he gave a quick nod, then closed his eyes and leaned against her, breathing a quiet moan into her shoulder as she began rubbing him. It was hard not to feel bad for stopping earlier, even if she'd been rewarded handily for it - he was painfully aroused, even the lightest touches evoking involuntary shudders throughout his body.
"Sorry about that, too..." Zossie rubbed Dulse's back, tracing the line of his spine with her fingers. "...Wish I could really make it up to you in kind, but... y'know, male anatomy and all..."
Dulse took a quick breath, his hips moving on their own as she picked up the pace. "We can... wait-" He cut himself off as she gripped him tighter, shifting into a massage, and he let his breath out in a rather loud moan - it was clear at this point that he didn't care about being quiet, too enraptured to think logically anymore.
"...Speaking of male anatomy." Zossie directed her attention downward, eyeing his swollen manhood; the way it pulsed in her grip, responding to every little movement she made, gave her some very devious ideas - she wanted to kneel down before him and taste it, curious as to how he would react... but not this time, she reminded herself, as there would likely be more opportunities to do just that in the future.
Instead, she finished the more important train of thought. "You're going to make a mess, aren't you? We're gonna have to clean that up, y'know."
The effect of her words was the opposite of what she'd intended. Dulse bit her shoulder, letting out a muffled moan as his hips jerked and his shaft twitched; she was caught off-guard by the first spurt of his release, painting her leg with white, and she felt more than a little awkward as she supported him through the rest of it, his body going limp as he continued to moan into her shoulder.
He clearly didn't mind the thought of having to clean up afterward.
"...Wow, uh." Zossie moved her other hand, pulling Dulse into a tight embrace. "Didn't think that'd get you off."
"I... I was..." Dulse's voice was quiet, thick with embarrassment. "...that... that was shameful... I..."
He was downright humiliated, and Zossie felt bad for him; she had a feeling it wasn't just her words that had sent him over the edge, that he was already close when she'd said that, and that was no reason to be upset with himself - especially since he'd enjoyed it so much in the moment. The smear of his seed on her leg and the wall was a testament to that.
"Hey, I won't judge you," she insisted, patting his back in reassurance. "It's more important that you..." She gestured to the mess. "...had fun, right?"
Dulse shifted back, using one arm to support himself; he was still a little shaky. "Ah... well, it certainly was... enjoyable..." He took a deep breath, his face flushing dark. "...Thank you."
It was then that Zossie noticed something odd; Dulse's behavior wasn't as coordinated as usual, and his breathing was still heavy - indicators that despite what had happened, he was still very much turned on. A quick glance at his groin confirmed her suspicions, and her previous sympathy turned to amusement as she realized that he hadn't gone through the usual refractory period.
Well, so much for the problems of male anatomy. There was only one explanation for this - Dulse had trained himself to overcome his body's limitations, and he had done so without her knowledge... in other words, by himself.
"...I didn't think you were that type," Zossie teased him, as she reversed their positions. "You must've been lonelier than I thought, huh?" She pinned him against the wall with one hand, her other settling on his hip. "But, hey, this is awesome. This means I can really pay you back for what you did for me..."
"Are you upset...?" Dulse sounded hesitant, his shame clear even as she gripped his erection and began rubbing him once again. It seemed he was worried because he hadn't told her what he was doing with himself - but she wasn't about to reprimand him for that. It had been a very nice surprise, after all.
"Nope!" To emphasize her point, Zossie moved her other hand to his chest, where she began toying with one of his nipples; she recalled that he'd really liked that during their first time together, and wanted to assure him further that there was nothing wrong with his experimentation - especially not when it meant she'd be able to get him off twice in a row.
Dulse groaned in response, closing his eyes as he leaned against the wall; that delectable blue flush had spread from his face across his upper body, a testament to his enjoyment of this act, and Zossie couldn't resist the urge to lean in and kiss his neck. He looked fantastic like this, letting go of his inhibitions for her and her alone, the echoing reminder of his feelings returning to her thoughts over and over again-
She felt the same way about him. If some suitor from Ultra Megalopolis were to come to this world and proposition her, she would have no qualms whatsoever with turning the poor sap down - there was only one man she wanted to have intimate relations with.
"Zossie..." Dulse breathed her name in a reverent tone, lifting his hand to caress her side. "I... I want..." He trailed off into another loud groan, his hips quivering as she grazed her teeth against the skin of his throat. It wasn't enough to leave a mark, but that didn't matter to her - she just wanted him to feel good, and every little bit of stimulation would help with that.
"What is it, Dulse?" Zossie already had an idea of what he wanted - more of the same - but she decided to tease him anyway, knowing that he enjoyed it more than he let on. As if to answer her, his hardness throbbed in her grip, and she gave a loud giggle as she ran a finger along the underside; he cried out, his nails digging into her skin as he arched into her touch, an involuntary response to her relentless affection.
"...Please... Zossie..." Despite his condition, Dulse still managed to speak; his voice was low, thick with need, and his breaths came rapid and unsteady. "I-I'm... ah, please... don't- don't stop..."
He didn't need to say anything - she could tell already that he was close, and she didn't intend to stop until he painted her again. Her thumb swept across his tip, spreading the rather significant amount of moisture that had accumulated there, and his breathing stuttered as he slid his arm around her waist, pulling her close to him.
This time, his peak didn't come as a surprise to her; she lifted her head to watch him when he cried out again, his body stiffening as he released, adding a fresh coat of his essence over her leg. She eased him down with gentle touches, her hand moving away from his manhood when he finished - as tempting as it was, she wasn't sure if trying for a third would be a good idea right now.
"Better?" Zossie asked, once his breathing had settled. "...We can do it again later, if you want..."
Dulse found the strength to embrace her, resting his head on her shoulder. "...I would like that..." He took a deep breath, then let it out in a sigh. "I... needed this. Thank you, again..."
"You're always welcome..." Zossie returned the embrace, savoring his closeness and warmth; pleasing him had left her feeling a little tingly, but she decided that she could wait. More important was the subject that had been nagging at the back of her mind since that morning, a suggestion that she wasn't sure he would accept-
"I'd like to... make a proposition." Dulse pulled back, just enough to look at her, and a slight smile crossed his face. "Perhaps we should petition the president for shared living quarters?"
Zossie stared at him in silent shock as she processed what he'd said. Either he'd read her mind, which she doubted - there were no people with that ability from their world, as far as she knew - or he'd arrived at the same conclusion as her, without even discussing the subject with her. It came as somewhat of a surprise, but...
"I was actually thinking the same thing," she said, once she found her voice. "Well... that is, assuming we don't get fired for public indecency."
"...We can use this as a point in our favor," Dulse suggested, reaching a hand up to pet the back of her head. "If we had a shared dormitory, then we wouldn't have to... utilize places such as this."
Zossie breathed a long sigh; she really hadn't thought this through very well. "...I hope that works. You know the president..."
"He is more reasonable than you think," Dulse insisted. "We would not be the first case..." He averted his gaze, clearly thinking of something that had happened before Zossie came to work at Aether Paradise. She decided not to ask him about that, and instead pulled away from him, a little reluctant.
"Maybe we should get back to work," Zossie said, as she began to gather her discarded clothes; she stopped for a moment to wipe off her leg with a glove, which she then tossed aside to deal with later. "If we make ourselves invaluable, he won't have a reason to fire us."
Dulse nodded his agreement, and started collecting his own uniform - a simpler task, as his had fewer pieces. "...I would like to meet with you again tonight. I'll be out later than usual."
"Noted!" Zossie pulled her underwear on first - and realized that she hadn't ever gotten the opportunity to ask him why he'd chosen to go commando. Perhaps she could ask later, when the concerns of reality weren't weighing her down; for now, she had to prepare for the inevitable confrontation with the president.
At the very least, there was one positive aspect to her having small breasts. She didn't need to wear a bra - that would have been yet another unwanted piece to this annoying uniform.
In the distant past, Zostera had been a common sight in the other world's oceans. It carpeted the seafloor, feeding off of the dim light that filtered through the water, its slender blades providing shelter for all sorts of tiny creatures.
Now, as with many other things from that time, Zostera was rare. Only a few specimens remained, part of the ongoing research of aquatic species that took place in a handful of Ultra Megalopolis' biological laboratories, and the regular people were lucky to catch a glimpse of the beautiful seagrass that had once been ubiquitous. It was one of the countless casualties of Necrozma's loss, stolen from the world by greedy humans who could not even begin to comprehend the repercussions of their actions.
As she watched the waves lapping at the outer walls of Aether Paradise's main platform, Zossie wondered if her namesake grew in this world as well. Perhaps somewhere beneath the sea, there was a carpet of green that stretched along the coast, hidden from the prying eyes of those who lived above the water...
It would be easy enough to ask a scientist from this world, but she wanted to see it for herself, to experience the joy of knowing the plant she was named for. That was part of the reason she didn't want to use her actual name - it had always served as a solemn reminder of just how much her world had lost.
"...Hey, Dulse." Zossie turned to her partner, who stood a short distance away, his attention elsewhere. "D'ya think we could go scuba diving sometime?"
"Hmm?" Dulse glanced over at Zossie, curious; her inquiry had obviously distracted him from whatever he'd been thinking about. "Why do you ask?"
Zossie took a quick breath. "Well, I was just wondering if... this world had interesting sea plants, too. Like Solieria or Phycoschoenus..."
"...I see." Dulse nodded once, then turned to look at the sea. "I have often wondered, myself... perhaps if we find the time, then-"
He was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. Zossie glanced back at the same time as Dulse - and she froze in place when she saw who stood behind them.
"I've received a complaint from one of the employees." The young president of the Aether Foundation had his hands on his hips, a sour expression on his face. "They said they heard... suspicious sounds from your office." He glared at Dulse. "Care to explain?"
"Ah- well." Dulse lowered his gaze, unable to meet Gladion's eyes. "It was..."
"I haven't checked the footage from the security cameras," Gladion continued, disregarding Dulse's attempt at an explanation. "But I have reason to believe that you weren't working in there." He turned his attention to Zossie. "You went on break at around that time, right?"
"...Oh... yeah." A feeling of abject terror rose in Zossie's mind, and she struggled to continue speaking. "We were... um... yeah. Er... sorry?"
"You were...?" Gladion's expression turned dark. "Spit it out. I don't want any excuses."
"...Please understand." Dulse stepped forward, raising a hand. "We have been in... an intimate relationship for quite some time now. Our time together is limited, and... there are few places where we can have the sort of privacy we want..."
"And it was my suggestion," Zossie offered, hoping that she could at least take some of Gladion's scrutiny off of Dulse. "I... I wanted to... have sex with him. He just... said yes..."
"As I suspected..." Gladion shook his head, pressing a hand to his forehead; he didn't seem quite as upset, now. "...I understand that you two want to spend more time together. It's something I can relate to..." He sighed. "However, rules are rules, and we can't have you doing that in your offices. I'll place an order for a new shared dormitory - without windows."
Zossie looked over at Dulse, her fear forgotten; his suggestion from before had paid off, in a big way. "Did you hear that? The president said we can..."
"...Calm yourself, Zossie." Dulse folded his arms across his chest. "We've still been reprimanded. This is a mark on our record that we will have to work off."
"Yeah, but... still!" Zossie jumped up from her sitting position, and moved over to hug Dulse; his arms fell to his sides, his face flushing as she gave him an affectionate squeeze. "We just have to behave until then, and we're good to go! Plus we can..." She trailed off, humming in delight as she thought of the possibilities, unperturbed by Gladion's bemused stare.
"Your attitude is... relentlessly positive," the young president muttered, turning away from his two subordinates. "No wonder you're friends with Selene..." A hint of humor crept into his tone. "I won't mark you down this time. If you do it again, I might."
"Huh?" Zossie perked up at this, both surprised and confused; was Gladion really that soft? "Might? What do you mean by... ohhh." Realization dawned upon her as she recalled something that Selene had told her. "It's because you're into that kinda thing, isn't it?"
Gladion made an indignant noise in response, but chose not to say anything; instead, he stormed off into the main structure, leaving Zossie and Dulse alone on the platform. Zossie tried to resist the urge to burst into laughter - that was likely the best possible outcome for her remark.
"...Impressive," Dulse observed, sounding somewhat amused himself. "When he first became president, he would've fired you on the spot for saying that."
"So he's cooled off since then," Zossie noted, grinning. "I guess Selene's been a good influence on him, huh?"
"He has matured on his own as well, but... yes." Dulse grasped Zossie's arm in one hand, looking over his shoulder at the main building. "...Still, it would be best not to... repeat that performance. Would you come to my dormitory...?"
Zossie didn't miss the blue tinge that rose on Dulse's face; she knew exactly what he had in mind. "Like, right now?"
"You said that we could..." Dulse looked outright embarrassed now; even if he'd gotten better about it, he still didn't like admitting how much he enjoyed sex. "...so, yes, if you aren't opposed..."
"Thought you knew the answer already." Zossie disentangled herself from him, then started considering what the fastest route to his dorm would be; it was in a relatively isolated location, which suited him - and their purposes - well. "But, uh... not going back to my own afterward, sorry. I hope your bed's big enough to hold two!"
She was fairly certain that it wasn't, and that she'd end up sleeping in some ridiculous place outside of the bed, but she didn't care. Aside from the awkward conversation that morning, this had been one of the best days of her life, and she was willing to accept a compromise if she could end it on a note like this-
A thought crept into her mind, and she asked, "Is this gonna be the next time you were prepping me for?"
"...Don't say things like that in public," Dulse muttered, shaking his head. "I... think we should decide when we get there."
"You just propositioned me," Zossie stated, her tone flat. "What'd you think I was gonna say? You know I have no filter."
Dulse groaned, his embarrassment reaching a new and unprecedented level. "...let's just go. Please."
Zossie was more than happy to oblige; she decided that she'd teased him enough for now, and kept her mouth shut as he led the way back to his residence. If his abnormal display of stamina earlier was any indicator, tomorrow would be a late morning - and this time, she wouldn't be reprimanded for having her way with her boyfriend in one of his rooms.
After all, it had said in the contracting agreement that on-site dormitories allowed private activities...
Being a bit of an amateur marine biology nerd, I decided to do a bit of research after learning that the Ultra Recon Squad members were named after marine flora. I ended up including a nod to it in the fic, because why not.
Dulse isn't really *into* office sex like Gladion is, but he isn't actively opposed to it either.
Chapter 4: fear and assurance
When one comes from a world without light, one's perspective can be skewed in unanticipated ways.
I got sick and couldn't write for a while, but I'm back in action... for the time being.
This is where things start to take a more controversial turn - just keep in mind that these are aliens we're dealing with, and their way of life is vastly different from ours.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After what Zossie had told him about her, Dulse wasn't entirely certain about meeting up with his old teammate.
Soliera had decided to stay in the Tide Song Hotel for the duration of her visit to Heahea City. As she had no local currency of her own, Zossie had ended up paying for it; it wasn't really a problem, considering the fact that there wasn't much else to spend that money on, but it didn't help Dulse's skepticism much. No matter how much he trusted Zossie, he still felt that there was something very wrong about this whole situation.
So, rather than visiting her at her hotel room, he decided to meet with Soliera in public - specifically, at the beach just next to the hotel. That beach held some rather... mixed memories for him, but Dulse believed that it wouldn't be a problem if they went during the day, when there were plenty of people about and less room for that sort of conversation.
Unfortunately, Dulse noticed when he arrived at the meeting place that the beach had only a small handful of people on it. Those who were there already had their eyes on the mysterious blue lady that stood at the shore, most of her body covered in an uncomfortable-looking suit.
"...Greetings, Soliera." Dulse made an effort to be cordial; he still hated everything about this situation. "It has been a long time..."
"Ah, Dulse." Soliera turned to face him, a smile already on her face. "More than eleven years now, yes?" She looked him up and down, then nodded. "...You look much the same as you did back then."
"I have made every effort to maintain my physical health," Dulse stated, as he took a step closer to her. "Though much of my work is in the office, I do occasionally leave for the field... the uniforms given to the Aether Foundation's employees become rather uncomfortable if one does not keep their body hair trimmed, so-"
He realized what he'd said too late, and looked away, blushing. That was not the sort of thing one should bring up in polite conversation.
Soliera made an intrigued noise. "I think I see where you've changed..." Her smile widened. "Is this because of Zossie's influence?"
"...What are you insinuating?" Dulse's mind flickered back to the previous night - another long one, thanks to an untimely visit from Zossie - and he had to force himself to look back over at Soliera. "Do you wish to make this conversation about my relationship status?"
"Simply put, yes." Soliera crossed her arms over her chest, appraising him once again. "There are a number of questions I have that Zossie did not answer when I spoke with her on the subject. I thought you'd be more reasonable."
"I would like to make one thing clear." Dulse took a quick breath; he already felt frustrated, and wasn't sure how long he'd be able to tolerate this. "Zossie and I have discussed this subject at length. I am not an eligible mate for you."
He left out the part where they'd agreed to permit it once or twice - that wasn't something Soliera needed to know at the moment, and he didn't want this topic of conversation to last any longer than it absolutely had to.
"I'm aware," Soliera said, and her expression turned serious. "I'm not here to reprimand you, either... I am not my father." A hint of some indiscernible emotion flashed across her face, and then she returned to staring at him. "Call it simple curiosity. I would like to know when - and how - you two became so... close."
Dulse guessed that Zossie had told her about the actual duration of their relationship, and that she was more curious about when those feelings had started. He wasn't sure how to answer that one - he still hadn't figured it out himself.
"...For when it started, I can't say," he admitted, after a short silence. "I... still have some difficulty understanding my own feelings. Perhaps you'd be better off asking Zossie that... as for how, I believe it to be a natural occurrence. We have been... close, to some extent, for a long time now."
"So, you believe that your relationship developed naturally as a result of your already existing bond..." Soliera hummed, sounding intrigued. "I would imagine that living in this world, where that sort of relationship is far more common, contributed as well. Are you in regular contact with anyone else who is in a romantic relationship with another?"
"The president of the Aether Foundation," Dulse replied. "...Lusamine's son inherited the position some time ago. He is close with Selene."
Soliera nodded once. "Yes, your employer would be a regular contact..." She paused, pondering. "...And Selene, too... how interesting. I suppose it would be a natural development, then..."
"There are several other employees who are in a similar situation to my own." Dulse thought back to the time when he had been the one reporting his co-workers for public indecency - those days were over, as he knew he'd be a hypocrite for it now. "...The Aether Foundation is not what it seems on the surface. It never has been..."
"Others who wish to share living quarters?" Soliera inquired, raising her eyebrow. "...I suppose privacy is an important thing in this world, when it comes to such things as-"
"It is!" Dulse cut her off, shouting a little louder than he'd intended, and he felt a wave of shame sweep over him as he noticed how many people were watching them. "...So, please try to avoid that subject. We aren't alone here."
A disappointed look crossed Soliera's face. "...I see. My apologies." She averted her gaze a little. "Ah, did Zossie inform you of her interest in shared quarters? She mentioned that to me when I met with her..."
"It was an interest we both happened to have," Dulse stated in response. "She did not mention it to me directly, but I suggested the idea to her, and she insinuated that she'd been thinking of it herself." He forced down a smile. "After that, the president made the decision for us without either of us asking him to. It was... amusing."
Soliera perked up at this, and she gave a quiet laugh. "Well, I suppose that does solve your issue..." Her expression once again turned curious. "...Are you happy with her?"
"...That question is rather suspect," Dulse pointed out, his mood darkening. "To answer it, yes. She is... troublesome, and I cannot fully explain my attachment to her, but... since our vacation here some time ago, I feel at ease in her presence. She has helped me to focus better, and... to sleep better, as well. I only hope I am helping her as much as she helps me."
"You're getting the wrong idea." Soliera offered a smile, an attempt at reassuring him. "I wanted to relay the information to my father. Since I learned of the relationship between you and Zossie, that is all I could think of..."
Dulse realized what she was getting at, and calmed down immediately; her father had always been rather unreasonable when it came to that particular subject. "...I doubt he would take it seriously. He might laugh it off as young love... but I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors."
"He would be foolish to feel that way," Soliera stated, her eyes closing as she shook her head. "Your relationship is different from what happened with him. It's clear to me that you didn't rush into it." She looked back at him. "Thank you for the well wishes, regardless. My father is a very stubborn man... as you well know."
Dulse chose not to voice his thoughts on that matter, and instead just gave a small nod. "You are too kind..." A thought of a different sort rose in his mind; this conversation had taken a very different turn from what he'd expected, and now... "I would like to speak with you in your room, if it isn't too much to ask."
"...In private?" Soliera's face contorted, and she stared at him; she was clearly surprised by this request. "Are you... certain?"
"Yes." To emphasize his point, Dulse turned toward the hotel and began walking, only glancing back to see if she was following him. "...This also concerns Zossie, so I will call her when we arrive."
A blue flush rose on Soliera's face, and she said nothing as she started off toward the hotel herself. It was clear that she had understood the implications of Dulse's suggestion, and he almost felt dirty for saying it - but this had been their agreement, a compromise made based on the fact that while they rejected their world's culture, they still understood it.
If nothing else, Soliera deserved a chance before she sought another mate.
Zossie hadn't been surprised at all when she received the call from Dulse. She had been in her office at the time, working on a report regarding the artificial ecosystem of Aether Paradise's conservatory; she set aside her work immediately at the first ring of her phone, and prepared herself for what would be the most awkward conversation of her life.
She hadn't expected him to actually go through with it. However, she wasn't upset with him at all - a fact which she had to spell out for him more than once, given his nervousness. It was endearing in a multitude of ways, and helped to ease her own anxiety.
Some time later, Zossie received another call from Dulse, stating that he was on his way back. He tried his best to conceal how he felt, but she could tell from the tone of his voice; he was ashamed of himself, and terrified for how she would react. Her reassurances seemed like nothing in the face of his fear, so she decided that the best way to handle things would be to reassure him properly, in person.
She had already finished her conservatory report and started on another project when he arrived at her office. It was late in the day now, and she had already considered taking a break; her boyfriend was an excellent motivator in that regard, and she welcomed his presence.
"...Hey, Dulse," Zossie said, as she opened the door to her office. "How are you feeling?"
Dulse said nothing as he stepped in, closing the door behind him. He had chosen to put on his eyewear, perhaps in the hope of concealing some of his shame.
"Hey, it's okay." Zossie placed her hands on his shoulders, leaning up to look at him. "I told you it was okay. Don't get upset." She offered him a smile. "There's nothing to worry about, alright? We talked about this."
"...Zossie, I..." Dulse's voice was strained, as if he was trying to keep himself from crying. "...I shouldn't have- I'm sorry..." He pulled her into a tight embrace, his body shaking, and she realized that his efforts to remain steadfast had failed.
Zossie accepted the embrace, running her hand along his back as he sobbed into her shoulder. It was a quiet sort of breakdown, one that suited him too well; it was rare for him to get like this, and she always hated seeing him in this miserable state.
"It's okay, Dulse," Zossie repeated, her tone as soft as she could manage. "It's okay." She tightened her hold on him a little, still petting his back. "I'm not mad... if I was, we wouldn't be like this right now."
That seemed to appease Dulse's sensibilities somewhat, and he relaxed a little. "...Thank you. I don't deserve you..."
"Hey, don't say things like that." Zossie pulled herself away from Dulse, looking up at him as she removed his visor. "I'm just happy you consulted with me first. I didn't really expect you to."
"I had to," Dulse insisted, still a bit emotional; she couldn't tell if it was shame or frustration at this point. "I had to make sure that you... wouldn't be opposed to it. I didn't want to betray you."
Zossie took a moment to set aside his eyewear, then returned to embracing him; she wondered if her usual approach would help any, and figured there was no harm in trying. "So... how did you do it? Fondling? Penetration?" She waggled her eyebrows. "Oral?"
"What-" Dulse pulled away from her and gave her a flat stare in response, his face turning bright blue. "...Excuse me, what? What sort of question is that? And why are you asking..."
"Because I'm curious," Zossie said, matter-of-factly. "I want to know if you actually gave her what she wanted. I'm assuming she wanted you to try and get her pregnant, but... I could be wrong, y'know? I want to hear it from your mouth."
"...Zossie..." Dulse continued to stare at her for several seconds, and then he just shook his head. "...Your assumption would be correct. She intends to visit me again if it doesn't work."
"Well, here's hoping it does!" Zossie grinned, excited despite the subject matter. "That way, you can still contribute to... well, you know." Her expression turned devious. "Next question: did you enjoy yourself?"
Dulse went right back to staring at her. "...That is not a question you should be asking me." He shook his head again, growing more exasperated by the moment. "I enjoyed it on a physical level. I believe it would have been more satisfying if it was you."
"...I mean, if you didn't enjoy it on a physical level, that would've been a problem." Zossie's thoughts flashed back to the texts she'd read during her education, about the intricate anatomical details of sex - and then she recalled her numerous intimate exchanges with Dulse, and she couldn't help snickering at that. "As for the satisfying part... how about we test that theory later?"
"I... wouldn't be opposed, but..." Dulse's previous agitation fizzled out, replaced by concern; for such a normally stoic person, he was quite emotional around her. "Are you certain that would be a good idea? I would not want to..."
Zossie waved a hand. "If you're worried about contraception, don't be! I've already got that covered." She paused, taking a short breath. "...Unless you want kids, I mean. I can go off it if... well, you know what I mean. Besides..." She placed her hands on her hips, meeting his gaze. "If you didn't wanna go all the way, why'd you keep teasing me with your fingers, huh?"
"Ah..." Dulse's expression looped right back to shame, though it was a different kind this time - a fact she was grateful for. "If... I suppose that if you're already... then, in that case... that is why I was concerned... I didn't want to..."
His embarrassed stuttering was absolutely adorable, and Zossie had to resist the urge to pinch his cheeks. Instead, she settled for hugging him; he made a pitiful effort to return the favor, taking a deep breath in what she assumed was an attempt to calm himself.
"...Sorry, by the way," Zossie whispered into his ear. "I should've told you sooner that I'd started on contraception."
"No, it's..." Dulse relaxed somewhat, though he was still tense. "...it makes my decision much easier. Yes, let's- ah, in your room...?"
It would be some time until their shared residence was completed, and they would have to settle for each others' dormitories in the meantime; Zossie had discovered that Dulse preferred to switch things up, alternating between his and her residences, and they'd used his last time - meaning that his suggestion was one she'd anticipated.
"Sure thing!" Zossie moved back, glancing over at her desk. "I just gotta finish something up real quick, okay? It's pretty important, and I don't want to put it off too long."
Dulse gave an understanding nod, and a small smile crossed his face. "Yes, of course..." He turned toward the door, then glanced back at her. "I will meet you there. Thank you again..."
He left, leaving Zossie alone with her thoughts. Their arrangement was not traditional by any standards, and she'd expected to feel a bit more upset about her boyfriend having sex with another woman; however, her more rational side reminded her that this was a special circumstance, and his reaction to the whole ordeal had confirmed that she had nothing to worry about. He was far more terrified of the prospect than her, a fact that indicated his devotion to her.
It took only a small amount of deliberation before Zossie came to the conclusion that she trusted Dulse completely - and, strange as it was, she felt the same about Soliera.
Zossie's dormitory was, by now, a familiar place to Dulse. When he first visited, he had been surprised; there was some mess, but he'd expected far worse from her, disorganized as she seemed much of the time. He remembered asking her if she'd cleaned up just for him, and she shook her head, grinned, and told him that she wasn't that messy.
The modest-sized room was located on the surface of the facility, and it was one of the more easily recognizable structures due to its lack of windows. There was a small branch leading to a bathroom with basic implements, and a miniature refrigerator sat in one corner of the room - Zossie preferred to eat her meals in the nearby cafeteria, but she often had leftovers, as Dulse had discovered on his second visit to the room.
It was a little less extravagant than his own, and sometimes he wondered why she'd chosen to accept these living conditions - but then he reminded himself that she'd spent ten years traveling, and was likely used to far worse.
Of course, all that was moot now. As he entered his girlfriend's living quarters, Dulse recalled what Gladion had said to them; soon, they would be getting a shared residence, and he knew from his co-workers that such structures were quite a bit grander than the single dormitories - at least, they were for couples. That was part of why it took so long to build them, and why most people in this situation didn't wait for so long to request them.
Zossie was nowhere to be found, and Dulse guessed that she was in the bathroom. While he waited for her, he scanned the interior of the room, memorizing every last nook and cranny; this might be one of the last few nights that he got the opportunity to see it, before it was vacated and passed on to some other employee.
Even if he'd been in his own residence for much longer, he wasn't very attached to it. The biggest pro was the fact that it was out of the way, and the only person who disturbed him on a regular basis was-
"Ta-da!" Zossie burst out of the bathroom, dressed in minimal clothing - she wore simple lingerie that matched the color of her skin, and it took Dulse a second glance to notice that she was even wearing anything at all. He stared at her for a moment, his face flushing; he couldn't help himself, not after their earlier conversation.
"Ooh, looks like someone likes it," Zossie teased him, as she pranced over to the door and locked it. "I went shopping with Lillie the other day... she's got great taste!"
Dulse recalled the president's younger sister; she had been subjected to a great deal of emotional trauma from Lusamine, and for quite a while after he met her, she hadn't the first clue when it came to fashion sense. That had changed somewhat with Selene's help, but Lillie's tastes still left a lot to be desired - most of the time. This appeared to be one of the exceptions.
"...I wouldn't be so sure." Seeing that his girlfriend was already well prepared, Dulse began to strip himself; he was glad to get out of his uniform, especially considering the fact that he now had a... problem, thanks to Zossie. "This... appears to be one of her better choices..."
Once he was bare, a memory of what had transpired earlier flashed through Dulse's mind, and he froze. Even if there was no emotional connection, he had still enjoyed Soliera's body; his own had reacted a little too well, and that was part of what had brought on his fear. With that memory, a series of negative thoughts followed - he had betrayed Zossie, hurt her, cheated on her, and she had no right to forgive him as easily as she had.
As far as he was concerned, he didn't deserve to be naked before her like this. He didn't deserve the opportunity to sleep with her again, not after-
"Dulse?" Zossie's voice startled him, and he managed to look up at her. "What's wrong?" She moved close to him, placing her hands on his shoulders. "...If you don't want to do this, we don't have to..."
No matter how hard he tried, Dulse wasn't able to hold back his thoughts. "...Why did you forgive me?"
"Forgive you... huh?" Zossie looked genuinely confused at this. "There's nothing to forgive you for. You didn't do anything wrong. We've been over this a thousand times, Dulse." She pulled him into a tight embrace. "Are you still hung up on that?"
"I... why aren't you upset?" Dulse's rational side tried to tell him that he was being stupid, that Zossie was right - but his emotions ran unchecked, preventing him from using reason. "It doesn't matter who she is, or why... I was with another woman."
Zossie shifted back, just enough to look at him. "Okay, since you're not getting it through your head, it looks like I'm gonna have to spell it out for you." She took a deep breath. "One, it's Soliera. She's a good friend and former teammate of ours, and she's from our world, and I trust her. Two, you've already made it super clear that you didn't want to cheat on me. You asked me about ten times if it was okay, and then started beating yourself up afterward because you were scared that I'd dump you. If I wasn't mad at you before, I especially don't have a reason to be mad at you now."
"Zossie, I-" Before he could even finish his statement, Dulse was interrupted by Zossie pressing her lips to his. He was stunned for several seconds, his tangled emotions going haywire - and then he gave in and kissed her back, returning the embrace she'd given him. His rational side, once an enemy of his feelings, reminded him once again that he was blowing this whole thing way out of proportion; Zossie wasn't upset with him, she'd made that very clear on multiple occasions already, and if he didn't stop beating himself up, she was liable to get angry and then take out her aggressions on him in a sexual way.
It wasn't a thought he minded, but he preferred the idea of taking things in the direction they'd originally planned for tonight. Perhaps it would put his concerns to rest as well...
After just a short time, Zossie pulled away, and locked eyes with him. She had made her point, and that was the primary reason for her act; there were more important things to focus on now, such as the fact that she still had those lovely blue underclothes on, and with his nerves eased, the only thing Dulse could think of was how she looked under that thin fabric - a sight he was well acquainted with, having witnessed her bare form countless times.
For now, however, he wanted to let her take the lead. It reminded him a little of their first time together, when she had showed submission to him as a way to prove her consent; things were different this time, his emotions boiling hot as he separated from her and made his way over to the bed, exposing himself to her as she had done to him all that time ago.
"Well, at least that didn't kill the mood too badly." Zossie, ever the eloquent one, made this observation as she stepped up to the bed; she eyed him, her gaze sweeping up and down his body, and then she peeled off the article of clothing that covered her chest. She didn't need it - her breasts were small enough that support was unnecessary - but the sight still sent a jolt of excitement down Dulse's spine.
"...Was that Lillie's idea, too?" he inquired, curious. His girlfriend had never worn upper-body underclothing before, not even to entice him; this was a rare occurrence, one that he almost wished would happen more often, but with everything that had transpired today...
"It was," Zossie replied, grinning like a maniac, as she hooked a thumb into the side of her remaining underclothes. "She may act shy, but she's got a spicy streak, too."
Dulse watched, slack-jawed, as Zossie removed the last piece of her clothing; she stood there for a long moment, letting him admire the view - which he did, his eyes tracing the curvature of her body, a beautiful reflection of that which he had committed to memory. He could already tell how much she anticipated this, her skin lit up in a blue flush across her body, and when he dared to look lower, he noticed a hint of dampness between her thighs-
Before he knew it, his beloved was upon him, her hands gripping his shoulders as she once again pressed her lips against his. It was a deeper, more sensual sort of kiss, and he returned it to the best of his ability - he was still nervous, his darker emotions still lashing at the back of his thoughts, but he embraced her regardless, his arms sliding around her waist as he pulled her close to him.
"...Dulse." Zossie whispered his name against his lips, and lowered a hand to his chest; she pressed their lower bodies together, her thighs wrapping around his hips as she rubbed her heat against his arousal, and he shivered and closed his eyes in response. It was just like their first time, this direct yet safe contact - but her actions carried a promise of more to come, a reminder of why they had come to her residence tonight.
"Wait..." Dulse placed his hands on her hips, and gave her a gentle push, meeting her gaze. Eager as she was, the odds were that she wasn't prepared to take him yet; the last thing he wanted to do was stain his conscience further by hurting her, and the only way to avoid that was to make sure she was as ready as possible.
"Huh?" Zossie tilted her head, concern showing in her eyes. "Is something wrong... again?" She moved her other hand to his side, running her fingers along the skin there, and the look on her face changed to one of confusion when he shook his head.
"...I don't want to hurt you." Dulse moved a hand to her front, and narrowed his eyes as he pressed two fingers into her slit; she was certainly wet enough, his fingers finding no resistance as he began to stimulate her. "Please... let me do this for you first."
Zossie nodded once, then braced herself against his body as she leaned her head into his shoulder. He knew this part of her like the back of his hand now, having memorized every sensitive patch hidden within; this time, he ventured further with one finger, slipping it inside her tight entrance - and that simple act reminded him of what was to come, an image flashing in his head of a different part of him entering that same hole.
It still amazed him how his body reacted to such things as that, even without the promise of more - and now, he was so hard it was painful, his body crying out for release, but he was determined to be patient for now, knowing that she would hurt a lot more if he gave in to his urges.
"Th-thanks..." Zossie's voice was weak, her breathing heavy as she shifted against Dulse's hand; she bit his shoulder when his finger pressed deeper, seeking the well-concealed spot inside her, and his eyes closed as he forced himself to focus. She made it difficult, her very presence igniting every nerve in his body - in a way that hadn't happened with Soliera, a much-needed reminder that this was very different from the events of that afternoon.
The pain in his shoulder only spurred him on; he increased the pace of his strokes, his finger thrusting in and out of her as he shifted back to kiss her again. She moaned into his mouth, shameless, as she tightened her hold on him - and he noticed her clenching around his finger, a subtle tease that made his own neglected arousal ache even more.
Dulse's well-practiced emotional control was the only thing that kept him from snapping and taking Zossie right then and there. Though he was more than willing to break his facade for her most of the time, he needed to keep his cool now; he broke the kiss, taking a deep breath as he pressed another finger inside her, massaging her front with his palm instead. The last time he'd tried to do this, he hadn't been able to get up to three fingers before she came apart under his touch - acceptable then, but he had to confirm if she could handle that much at once.
Zossie, for her part, was completely enraptured. She rocked back and forth, trying to increase the friction from Dulse's hand, and her every breath was accompanied by some sort of lustful sound. Her grip on him was painful now, far too tight for his tastes, but he didn't care; he disregarded the pain, pressing on as he lowered his mouth to the side of her neck. He kissed her there, then thrust a third finger inside her - and, for a split second, she tensed up in a way that indicated discomfort rather than enjoyment.
It didn't last long. Once she adjusted, she made a noise that he recognized as encouragement - she was okay, he could keep going, and that made his heart swell with joy. His confidence renewed, he continued in the same manner as he had before; it was a bit difficult to fit that much inside her, what with how tight she clenched around him, but he didn't let that fact deter him as he massaged her inner walls, his other hand coming down at last to stimulate her sensitive nub with two fingers.
With the combined stimulation, Zossie lost herself in a matter of seconds. She shrieked into Dulse's shoulder, her body going rigid; the rhythmic spasms of her inner muscles were accompanied by a flood of her natural lubricant, coating his hand and dripping onto the bed below them, and she bit him again as her breath stuttered and her nails dug into his skin. It was spectacular, yet familiar - too familiar, and not enough for what he wanted with her tonight.
Once she relaxed somewhat, he pulled her down onto the bed with one arm, and used his other hand to guide his aching arousal inside her. With how wet and open she was, it wasn't difficult at all - but his thoughts cut off as soon as he felt her heat all around him, her still-fluttering muscles pressing against him, and the very concept of restraint became foreign to him.
Even if Zossie was on top of him, that didn't mean Dulse entirely lacked control. He gripped her hips with both hands, his own bucking up into her; she felt incredible inside, hotter and tighter than the more experienced Soliera, and she moved with him - she matched his thrusts with an enthusiasm that was so very Zossie, her form bouncing atop him as she tightened herself around him, teasing him whenever he pressed deep enough for it. When he looked up at her, he saw a bright smile on her face and the most adoring look in her eyes, and it caused his last remaining concerns to melt away.
She was where he belonged. She was the one he loved more than anyone, accepting him regardless of his difficult nature, showing him how to relax and enjoy life in this strange and brilliant world. Her happiness was infectious, radiating throughout his mind and soul whenever he was with her, a constant reminder that she loved him too - a wordless, shared affection that ran deeper than any physical connection, so intimate and special that he wondered how he'd ever gotten fortunate enough to meet someone like her. Even when he humored another woman's request for a mate, she still cared for him, still accepted him without complaint-
The surge of emotion that swept through Dulse blocked his mind to everything other than her. He pulled Zossie close to him, kissing her hard; she reciprocated with equal vigor, her hand tracing lines down his chest as she started to move faster, her teasing clenches becoming a little less voluntary with each matched thrust. Taking advantage of his position, he caressed her chest with one hand, and his other went down between them to stimulate the one part of her that wasn't getting attention - and the noise she made when his finger brushed across her nub made his own breath hitch, his arousal throbbing inside her.
It was all too much for him to handle. The physical sensations were one thing, but that emotional connection he had with her sparked something else altogether; it set his nerves ablaze, amplifying every touch, every caress and tease and shift of their hips, and he thought for sure that he was going to go mad. She surrounded him, her radiant warmth and her delectable heat mingling together in a way that burned through his every conscious thought, logic and reason having long been forgotten in favor of simple, primal joy - he couldn't get enough of this feeling, overwhelming as it was, and he truly wished that it didn't have to be so temporary.
"Ah...! Zos- tera...!" Dulse pulled away from her mouth, burying his face in the side of her neck as his hips jerked upward, pushing himself in as far as he could. His body shuddered from the force of his release, his eyes closing as he pulled her close with one arm - and she clenched around him a moment after, her own voice ringing out in his ear, although he couldn't discern what she had said or even if she'd spoken actual words at all. She drenched him with her own release, her stuttering contractions heightening the sensation even further, and he wondered for a fleeting moment if he would pass out from sheer bliss.
It took some time to come down; they were all tangled together, him inside her and with one arm around her, one of her hands on his chest while her other had somehow wound up in his hair, and it was everything he'd ever wanted and more. Once his breathing steadied, he made an effort to push her off of himself, and she caught on to it and removed herself instead, settling beside him on the too-small bed with a breathless giggle. Her hand found his, clasping their fingers together, and-
"Zostera," she murmured, just loud enough for him to hear. "...You called me Zostera."
Dulse froze as he realized that he had, indeed, called Zossie by her true name. "...I did." There was no defense for what he'd done, no sufficient apology; that was the one taboo in their relationship, the one line he'd never crossed, and now, in the heat of the moment, he'd made that terrible mistake. Zossie hated her name with every fiber of her being, her temper flaring whenever someone tried to call her by it, and he was sure that it was the one thing that could drive her to physical violence.
Thus, it came as a surprise to him when Zossie pulled him close, pressing her lips against his - a gentle touch that reminded him of the early days of their relationship, back when they were still figuring out their feelings for each other and how they wanted to do things, and he remained stock-still as she climbed atop him and rested her head on his chest, another sweet giggle rising from her throat.
"It's okay if it's you," she assured him, running the fingers of one hand down his side. "I don't mind you calling me that when it's just us. Don't beat yourself up over it, 'kay?"
Well, Dulse had certainly beaten himself up enough today. He accepted her affectionate gesture, his own hand rising to the back of her head; as he combed his fingers through her hair, he wondered again how he'd gotten so lucky as to have her, defying all logic and reason.
"...Thank you," he told her, his eyes closing as he savored her warmth. "Zostera."
The name still felt strange on his tongue, foreign and beautiful and somehow terrifying; for a brief moment, he thought that perhaps he'd misheard her and that she would get upset with him, but she dispelled his fear yet again with a quiet hum, her fingers tracing back across the line she'd drawn on his side. He was glad that she trusted him with her name, that single word which defined her more than any other-
"Owww." Zossie shifted in place, pressing her legs together. "I'm all sore now... you're still too big."
Dulse resisted the urge to laugh at her misfortune; it came as no surprise that she was sore. "...I don't recall you complaining when I was inside you."
"Yeah, but that was 'cuz it felt good." Zossie whined, rolling off of him and back onto the bed. "The moment's passed, and now it just hurts." She made another displeased noise. "Guess I gotta get used to it..."
"It should hurt less next time," Dulse pointed out, as he looked over at her. "...Perhaps my preparation was insufficient. I will make a note of it."
"Geez... so serious, even in the bedroom." Despite her condition, Zossie sounded amused; she found his hand with her own again, and gave it a little squeeze. "You're adorable, you know that?"
"No." Dulse took a short breath, preparing for his comeback; he laced his fingers with hers, and offered her a slight smile. "You are."
"That means we both are," Zossie pointed out, giggling. "The cutest couple this side of Ultra Space!"
It was a farfetched claim if he'd ever heard one, but Dulse was not about to contradict his excitable girlfriend - not when she had treated him so well, her patience with him unlike anything he'd ever known. These moments between them had taught him so much about the nuances of emotion, and he felt as if he understood her better than ever now; he knew when she was just trying to provoke a response from him, and when she was wrapped up in her own little world...
He'd never said those words to her that seemed so common among Alolan couples. He never felt the need to - his actions were enough, something she comprehended and accepted with no trouble at all. Perhaps it was time to change that, to add an extra layer of affirmation on top of everything else he'd expressed to her.
"...Zostera." Dulse spoke her true name again, and this time, it didn't feel so strange; rather, it felt pleasant, as though he'd been freed from a chain that had bound him for years. "I love you."
Zossie stared at him, surprise plain on her face; for what felt like too long, she was silent, her light blush the only indicator of what was happening inside her head. Her grip on his hand weakened, and for a moment, he feared that he'd said the wrong thing.
Then, she pulled herself atop him again, nestling against his body. "I love you too, Dulse."
It was a sentiment they'd both known for a long time, but speaking and hearing those words felt just as liberating to him as using her name. Her body, light as it was, offered a comforting pressure on his; he wanted to stay like that forever, with her close enough that he could hold onto her as he wished, and for a time, he was willing to indulge that feeling.
After a long and pleasant silence, Dulse reluctantly pushed Zossie off of himself, and stood up. "I have to return to my room."
"I know..." Zossie sounded disappointed, but she understood just as well that he couldn't stay there overnight. "Can't wait until our new home's finished. We won't have to run back and forth..." She got herself comfortable on the bed, and smiled over at him. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Dulse went over to his discarded uniform, and began to put it back on; he glanced over at her, longing, as his thoughts turned to their hopeful future. Soon, this wouldn't be a problem anymore - and instead, they would have to deal with all the issues of a shared residence, new and interesting troubles that he had been preparing himself to tackle with her.
It wouldn't be easy, but then again, nothing in their relationship had been. Ever since that fateful day at the Lake of the Moone, they had committed themselves to an uphill struggle, with every step being even more difficult than the last. Early on, he had feared that it would drive them apart - but now he knew that what they endured together only brought them closer to each other, and he doubted that this would be any different.
After he'd finished dressing, Dulse prepared to leave the room; however, he noticed that Zossie was looking at him expectantly, and stopped to look back at her. "What is it?"
"I forgot to ask you one thing," she said, grinning. "Was it more satisfying than being with Soliera?"
The answer to that question was plain as day to him now, and he responded without even the slightest hesitation. "Much more so."
And with those final, parting words, Dulse started off toward his own dormitory, content on a level he couldn't ever hope to describe.
I've had this idea in my head that "Zossie" is just a nickname and her real name is actually something much nicer. So naturally, I went with the most obvious option. (How she got the nickname is a bit more variable, of course.)
I might properly OT3 the Ultra Space kids in the future, but for now... well, I couldn't get this idea out of my head. Sorry!
Chapter 5: home sweet home
Even welcome changes can be difficult to handle - especially when one has known no other way in their life.
Oops, I accidentally my other Alola ship. Just a little.
(It probably won't be making a more detailed appearance in this fic.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The president of the Aether Foundation was quite a prestigious position. The Foundation was one of the largest organizations in the world, having branches in all the different regions; in addition to Pokemon conservation, they also dedicated themselves to all sorts of research, some of which was less savory.
However, with the change of hands, that dark side of the Aether Foundation had been systematically dismantled. After his experiences with Silvally, Gladion refused to allow such unethical testing to continue, lest another poor soul be created from nothing. It had been difficult to remove those elements, and he had to do it over the course of several years - but now they were gone, leaving room for a better, brighter future.
As close as she was with Gladion, Selene often wondered why he'd agreed to take the mantle of the Aether Foundation's president. His mother had groomed him for the position for some time after he returned, but that didn't mean he had to take it - after all, his rebellious streak was legendary, and it felt utterly bizarre to see him do what his mother wanted him to do for once. Perhaps it was just because Lusamine had changed as well... but then, why would Gladion take his dear partner back to its birthplace, which he had saved it from so long ago?
For her part, Selene wasn't so eager to do the same. During a quiet afternoon, she decided to take her own synthetic companion out for a walk; from her house, the path to Hau'oli City wasn't that long, and she led Silvally down the road, humming to herself as she went. This was something she did every now and then, not quite as proactive with her partner as Gladion had been, but it never complained once, just happy to see something other than the cold, dark reaches of the Aether labs.
There were times when Selene wondered how Gladion's own companion felt about his line of employment. She was sure that he still treated it with the same degree of love and respect as always, but there was always a deep, dark concern lingering in the back of her thoughts. Her own meetings with it hadn't shown anything unusual, but-
She caught a glimpse of blond hair at the city's entrance, and upon closer inspection, confirmed that it was none other than the Aether president himself. What was he doing here?
"Gladion!" Selene called out, breaking into a run; Silvally bounded beside her, keeping pace with her, even though its strength meant it could run much faster than her. "Hey there!"
Gladion looked up, and was caught off-guard by the force of his girlfriend barreling into him for a hug. "Wh- hey! What are you...!"
"It's been a while since I got to see you," Selene said matter-of-factly, and she gave him a squeeze. "I think I have the right to be enthusiastic."
"...Sheesh." Gladion returned the hug, shaking his head; despite himself, a smile crossed his face. "I see you're out with Silvally, too."
The artificial beast gave one of its bizarre, resonating cries in response to the president's observation, and Selene giggled. Her own Silvally was often just as excited to see him as his was.
"Yep, I was taking it out for a walk." Selene pulled herself off of Gladion, knowing that he would get upset if she tried to hug him for too long - he didn't like public displays of affection. "I've been trying to do that more often, along with..."
She didn't mention Necrozma's name, but Gladion knew well what she was referring to. As much as she loved her other companions, the great prism was definitely her closest.
"Down to Hau'oli City from your house..." Gladion's expression darkened. "That isn't enough. A walk around the city and back would be better."
"Well, I was just starting," Selene pointed out. "It's not my fault you were standing there." She gave a slight grin, watching as Gladion just scowled at nothing in response.
"...Are they still not getting along?" the president asked, after a short silence. He was, of course, referring to Silvally and Necrozma; it was in their nature not to get along, as one had been built to fight against the other.
Selene nodded once, her grin disappearing. "Yeah... I don't think that's ever going to change." She looked at Silvally, who had seated itself beside Gladion; it looked rather like a large puppy, if one disregarded the insectoid front legs and fish-like tail. "It gets worse when Necrozma's with Solgaleo, though. I wonder if there's another kind of rivalry going on there...?"
"Silvally isn't a dog." Gladion made an unamused noise. "That's just you projecting." A sentiment he'd echoed countless times, yet he still treated his own like a dog. His hypocrisy was adorable sometimes.
"I dunno, it gets along pretty well with Arcanine..." Selene giggled, half to herself, and then she decided to change the subject. "So, what brings you all the way out here to Melemele? Shouldn't you be back at Aether Paradise?"
"Well..." A strange expression crossed Gladion's face, and it took Selene a moment to realize that he was embarrassed. "I think you should ask Wicke."
The mention of his most compassionate subordinate was all Selene needed to figure out what had happened; he had been kicked out temporarily for his health's sake, much as he had done to Dulse after Necrozma's study concluded. "So you're on forced vacation, hmm?"
Gladion winced. "...Something like that." He shook his head, averting his gaze from her. "I thought I'd visit you and Lillie..."
"Well, you're always welcome to stay with me," Selene offered, smiling. "I talked to mom about it, and she said you can even stay in my room if you want. The bed isn't very big, but we can figure something out." She winked at him, hoping that he'd figure out her subtle suggestion.
"H-hey!" A bright flush appeared on Gladion's face; he had definitely caught on to her intent. "...Don't say things like that! At least not-" He cut himself off, and breathed a long sigh. "...I'm going to visit the professor's lab."
Without another word, the young president stormed off, and Selene watched him as he went; no matter how many times she did it, teasing Gladion like that never got old, and his reactions were always worth the effort it took to keep a straight face. He would be back - he always was - but for now, it was time to give him a little space.
So, Selene continued her walk with her synthetic partner, her mood boosted by the knowledge that she would get to spend some time with her normally distant boyfriend.
From the moment they'd first met, Lillie had been one of Selene's dearest friends. She still thought fondly of their time together during the island challenge, with all its ups and downs and nerve-wracking moments which were both and neither at the same time; the journey to help Nebby was one that Selene gladly undertook, all the way through its blinding, horrible conclusion.
The knowledge that Gladion and Lillie were siblings had not affected Selene much at the time. She didn't think much of Gladion then, dismissing him as a rude and frustrating boy who lacked anything resembling social skills - which he was, but Selene changed her tune soon enough after she realized that he also possessed a mile-wide compassionate streak. Now, the privilege of knowing both Lillie and her brother was something that brought great joy to Selene, and with the young president's forced vacation to look forward to, she was perhaps a bit too excited when she went to visit Professor Kukui's lab.
Despite plenty of opportunities to move out on her own, Lillie had decided to stay with her adoptive father, insisting that he was too reckless to live by himself. Even the recent, curious development between her and the new kahuna living in Iki Town wasn't enough to bring her away from her found family, and Selene had to respect that - to an extent, at least.
There would come a time when Lillie would have to make that decision, either for Hau's sake or for her own... and Gladion, in his infinite stubbornness, wasn't helping. He always avoided the subject whenever the four of them were together, and gave Hau as many scathing looks as he could spare.
Of course, now wasn't the time to worry about such details. Selene had her own ideas in mind as she stepped up to the laboratory's door; she noted that it seemed to be in disrepair again, and opted to knock on the wall next to it instead.
"Hello?" Lillie's voice drifted from inside, and just a moment later, she swung the door open. "Um, if you're looking for Professor Kukui, he's-" Her eyes went wide as she noticed who awaited her. "Selene?"
"Is the professor busy?" Selene raised an eyebrow; she already knew the answer to that question. "That's okay. I actually came here for the assistant." She gave Lillie a grin. "How's it going?"
Lillie stepped outside, closing the abused door behind her; it made an unpleasant noise as it shut, a reminder of its miserable state. "Everything is going well, thank you." A curious expression crossed her face as she looked at Selene. "Did Gladion visit?"
"He's staying at my place," Selene replied, feeling giddy; unlike her boyfriend, she didn't plan to hide her enthusiasm. "So that means he'll be able to see you more often, too."
"Oh..." A hint of amusement flashed in Lillie's eyes; while still often shy, she had grown somewhat more bold over the years. "So that's why he seemed so flustered when he came here. He really hasn't changed..."
"If you say he hasn't changed, I'll take your word for it," Selene said, giggling. "After all, you've known him for a lot longer." A thought flickered through her head, of a time when Lillie might be her sister-in-law - but she chose not to pursue that line of thinking, as it was too hopeful for the moment. "...Though, speaking of siblings..."
"...Is Elio going to be visiting, too?" Lillie inquired, her excitement clear in her voice; she had become fast friends with Selene's brother after they met for the first time. "Maybe we can all get together..."
"Yeah, I called him after I learned about Gladion." The idea of a night out with her friends and brother was certainly an interesting one to Selene, but she wasn't sure if she'd be able to arrange it on her own yet; there was a reason such occasions were few and far between. "He's already put challenges on hold... I hope everything works out."
"It will," Lillie assured her friend, smiling. "I'll help you with preparations if you'd like." Her expression grew distant. "...I guess those two won't be joining, then..."
For a moment, Selene was confused; then, she recalled something Gladion had told her recently, about a field expedition with the two from Ultra Megalopolis. Lillie had accompanied them with the hope of training in the medical field - and, from the sound of it, Zossie had helped her a little more than was necessary.
"I could ask them, but..." Selene breathed a long sigh. "...Good luck getting Dulse away from his office. The only time he'll ever do that is if you tell him to go explore some ruins instead."
"He did seem like that sort," Lillie agreed with a giggle. "And I'd imagine that Zossie wouldn't leave without him, either..." A light blush rose on her face, and Selene began to wonder just how much she'd learned about the two during their brief time together.
"Well... normally, she would." Selene felt a blush rising on her own face. "But, uh... they're going through a pretty important period right now. Getting used to living together and all..."
"Living together..." A distant look crossed Lillie's face once again. "...I'm surprised you haven't moved in with..."
It was a valid concern, but Selene was in no position to address it. There were still some things she needed to work out with Gladion before she even considered moving in with him; first and foremost was the issue of him being the president of the Aether Foundation, and her not wanting to be directly involved with such a massive organization. It was one thing that had set them apart for a long time, and no matter how much they cared for each other...
There were times when Selene envied the two from Ultra Megalopolis. They had been able to agree on an occupation that kept them close to each other at all times, and so they didn't have the same issue.
"I've... been meaning to talk with him about that, actually." It wasn't a lie, more of a half-truth; Selene didn't have the first clue how she would actually handle the subject. "Well, him coming to stay at my place is a good start... right?"
She didn't mention all the times she'd stayed at Aether Paradise. That was something Lillie already knew well about.
"I hope so." Lillie gave Selene an expectant look; it was weird being pressured by her of all people. "I want him to be happy, and you've helped him a lot with that..." Her expression turned wistful. "...There are some things I'd like to address with him, myself."
Selene thought back to the young kahuna of Melemele Island, who had only recently been able to take the position from his grandfather; she had been there for the ritual, standing and watching from the sidelines, and they'd shared a moment of amused surprise that Tapu Koko hadn't chosen her instead. It was a pleasant memory, but-
"Gladion still doesn't like Hau very much," Selene observed, shaking her head. "I thought those two would grow out of it when they became adults, but..."
"I thought so, too..." Lillie breathed a small sigh. "It's... probably some masculinity thing. I just want my brother not to get upset every time I'm with a man."
Selene gave a half-shrug. "To be fair, I didn't really expect you to start dating either. He's probably just reeling from the shock."
"M-maybe..." Lillie averted her eyes, looking embarrassed; it was clear that she also hadn't expected to start dating. "...I just... want everyone to be happy, and not have to fight. It's silly and idealistic, I know..."
"But that's how you are," Selene pointed out, offering a smile. "Your attitude has always given me the strength to keep going. During my island challenge, and since... you taught me the power of positivity - you and Hau both."
Lillie waved her hand, blushing. "You flatter me..." She glanced at the ledge some distance away, and the wistful expression returned. "...May I come visit your house? The professor won't be back for some time, and..."
"You're always welcome, Lillie." Selene held her hand out, and her smile grew wider. "First, though... there's an old friend of yours that's been begging to see you again. Would you come with me?"
"Nebby?" Lillie's eyes lit up, and she gave a vigorous nod. "Yes, of course! It's been so long..."
Even though it had become the majestic and powerful Solgaleo, Nebby still adored its original caretaker. That fact became obvious when the two were together; Selene had never seen so much adorable feline affection as when they'd first reunited after she stepped down from the championship. Of course, Nebby loved its trainer as well, but there was something different and special about the bond between it and Lillie - perhaps it was just because of how much the two had been through together, overcoming the most terrifying odds and always struggling to help each other out.
As Selene led Lillie out into the nearby field, she gave a silent apology to Necrozma for what she was about to do. It was temporary, but she hated the thought of the Blinding One being denied its light for any period of time - especially now that she knew the truth behind its condition.
The reunion between the five friends had been a resounding success. Selene had chosen the kahuna's house in Iki Town as their venue, though they'd spent most of the day outside instead; the arena was set up, friendly battles were waged, and the whole town joined in the celebration without prompting - led, of course, by the former kahuna Hala. He claimed that he only wanted the best for his grandson, to celebrate Hau's new role as the guardian's chosen.
Of course, it was just an excuse to party, but Selene wasn't about to stop them. The only one among the group who opposed it was Gladion, and that was normal for him; after a glass or two of some fruity alcoholic drink that was far too strong for such a low-key event, he relented and joined the festivities, though he still griped the whole way through.
After the moon had risen high in the sky and the festival booths were tucked away, all five of the old friends retired to the kahuna's house; there was plenty of room for them to stay the night, even with Lillie staying in her own guest room at Gladion's request. She didn't oppose the notion, but wondered why her brother was still so overprotective after all this time.
Despite how exhausting the day had been, Selene couldn't sleep. She suspected that Gladion had the same problem, as he'd made himself scarce; she wasn't about to go looking for him, knowing that he was the sort who needed his space, especially after an event like that. Instead, she decided to pull up her laptop, hoping that some mindless internet browsing would relax her enough to sleep.
Not five minutes after she started, she received a notification that someone was calling her. A quick glance at the ID revealed that it was one of the two alien residents of Aether Paradise - an unusual contact indeed.
Selene answered the call, and waited for the video feed to start up. She raised her eyebrow when Dulse's face popped up on the screen; he appeared to be in the new room that had been arranged for him and Zossie, though she couldn't see much behind him.
"Hey there," Selene greeted her friend, waving at the camera. "You having trouble sleeping, too?"
Though the dark circles under his eyes had faded somewhat, Dulse still often looked tired, and tonight was no exception; he gave a single nod in response, then narrowed his eyes. "...Greetings, Selene. There is something I wished to speak with you about..."
"With me?" Selene tilted her head, her natural curiosity surging; he seemed a little distressed, in a way that was abnormal for him. "Sure, what's up?"
Dulse took a deep breath, and let it out in a sigh. "You are... aware of the culture within Ultra Megalopolis, yes?"
It was something that he'd told her about quite a while ago, in response to an inquiry of hers. Selene hummed her affirmation, but said nothing, waiting for him to continue.
"...I fear I may have become a victim of that culture." Dulse's voice grew quiet, and he shifted his gaze, his discomfort clearer now. "You may already be aware, but... Soliera visited not long ago. She is staying in Heahea City, and will be for some time."
The mention of Soliera's name did pique Selene's interest. During her brief visit to Ultra Megalopolis, she had met the other two members of the Ultra Recon Squad; she hadn't gotten to know either of them well, but Soliera didn't seem like a bad person at all. Still, if she was the reason for Dulse's distress...
"Did something happen between you two?" Selene asked, and she couldn't hide the slight concern in her voice. "...She didn't... hurt you, did she...?"
"No." Dulse shook his head. "...No, she did not." He took another deep breath. "She has a poor understanding of the culture in this world. Before I left, she considered me a prospective mate... this has not changed, and I fear that it has actually grown worse. Therefore, Zossie and I agreed upon a solution... but..."
"A... solution?" An unpleasant sensation settled in the pit of Selene's stomach; she had an idea of where this conversation was going. "Don't tell me you..."
"...The solution was that I humor Soliera's request." Dulse looked away from the camera, and breathed a sigh. "I have no emotional attachment to her, and yet... I feel as though I have wronged Zossie. Even though I have been assured otherwise countless times, this unpleasant thought lingers..."
Oh, dear. This was not a situation Selene was prepared for; she knew that not all relationships were happily exclusive, that some people chose other partners for whatever reason - but she had never heard of an arrangement quite like this, and it took her a moment to wrap her head around it. From the sound of it, it wasn't like cheating, and if Zossie was okay with it, then there wasn't really a problem... was there?
"Are you sure you don't have an emotional attachment?" Selene raised her primary concern; she knew that Dulse had a bad habit of hiding his feelings, and she feared that he was doing the same here - perhaps even to himself. It would be an excellent explanation for the continued guilt.
"I am certain," Dulse stated, and there was no hesitation in his tone - a good sign. "When I am with Soliera, I do not feel the same as I do with Zossie. I do not long for her, mentally or physically... I am secure in saying that she is a friend and nothing more. If I did not have to fulfill her request again, I would be grateful for it."
Well, that was the end of that theory. Selene pressed two fingers to her temple, and a frown crossed her face. "...I guess it isn't that, then. Uh, do you feel like you've been... drifting apart from Zossie at all?"
"No, that is not the case." Dulse glanced over his shoulder briefly, then looked back at the camera. "The main cause of tension in our relationship now is my..." He cut himself off, shaking his head. "...We are still very close. If anything, this new living arrangement has drawn us closer... she reassures me every night, both emotionally and... physically..."
His face turned a darker shade of blue, and Selene had to resist the urge to giggle at that. It seemed as though things were going quite well in that particular regard.
"Well..." Selene recalled something Dulse had told her some time ago, about how the most obvious solution wasn't always what came to mind in these sorts of situations. "You aren't having trouble in your relationship, and you aren't developing feelings for someone else... maybe it's just anxiety? Plain, old-fashioned, stupid, irrational anxiety?"
"Anxiety...?" Dulse repeated the word, and comprehension flickered in his eyes. "...From the start, I have been afraid of losing what I have with Zossie. Perhaps this is merely the culmination of that, brought about by a change in environment... thank you, Selene. You've helped me more than you know."
Selene had a decent enough idea of how much she'd helped him, but chose not to contradict him. "That's what friends are for, Dulse. You're always welcome." She made an effort to see behind him, to no avail; all she saw was a white wall. "...Just out of curiosity, is Zossie there with you right now?"
"She is asleep," Dulse replied, nodding. "I'd hoped to bring her into this call, but I could not bring myself to wake her... I will tell her later." He gave a slight smile. "I hope that your counsel allows me to overcome this anxiety... I fear I may drive her mad if it does not."
There was a hint of humor in his tone, and Selene wondered if she'd just heard Dulse make a joke. It couldn't be... right?
"Well, uh... good luck with that." Selene stared at the screen for a few seconds more, then hummed. "Oh, and make sure to tell Zossie I said hi when you get the chance. I have to go now, so I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"...Myself as well. Your timing is impeccable." Dulse gave another nod, and scooted back in his seat. "Farewell for now, Selene. And... thank you again."
The call cut off on his end, and Selene closed her laptop; then, she looked over at the open doorway. She recalled closing the door when she came in.
"How long have you been there?" Selene asked, directing her full attention toward the young man who stood in the doorway - Gladion. "You know it's rude to listen in on other peoples' conversations, right?"
Gladion stepped into the room, and pulled the door shut behind him; then, he walked over to the bed, seating himself in such a way that it looked as though he could fall off any second. It was dramatic, silly, and everything Selene had come to expect from her boyfriend.
"That was Dulse," he stated, matter-of-factly. "...I heard him mention Ultra Megalopolis' culture."
"Are you having second thoughts about giving them a shared room?" Selene looked at Gladion, raising an eyebrow. "They're fine. Dulse is being irrational, and he recognizes it. It's something those two will have to work out on their own."
Gladion didn't look convinced. "...My position's a difficult one. I have to be careful about every decision I make." He hung his head, breathing a sigh. "I'm... not used to that. I've made a lot of mistakes since becoming president."
"We all make mistakes." Selene stood, making her way over to the bed from the desk she'd been seated at. "The way I see it, if Lusamine didn't think you could take her position, she would've kept it for herself. She's not too old to keep running the Foundation." She seated herself next to him. "Plus, this wasn't a mistake. I was just telling a stubborn, insecure guy that he had an anxiety problem... do I have to do it again?"
"That's not..." Gladion shook his head, and breathed another sigh. "...The reason I'm president now is because of that impulsiveness. It hasn't stopped... I haven't changed. I'm still too weak..."
Selene placed her hand on Gladion's face, and when he looked over at her, she gave him a long, hard stare in response. This wasn't the first time they'd had this conversation, and she was sure that it wouldn't be the last; as endearing as his stubbornness could be, it was also one of his greatest faults, and she was determined to show him that she could be every bit as stubborn - it was the only way to convince him to stop beating himself up.
"...I can't believe you," Gladion stated, after a lengthy silence. "How do you manage to stay so carefree, and relaxed, and- and..."
He pulled her into a hug, and Selene silently relished her victory. If he hadn't relented then, she would've been forced to resort to more drastic measures - measures that weren't meant to be used in someone else's house. She recalled the last time they'd gotten onto this topic, and how it had ended with no less than three Aether employees lamenting their young president's curious interests.
"Let me ask you something." Selene returned Gladion's embrace, leaning her head on his shoulder. "How do you manage to be so nervous and self-questioning after eight years in charge of the Aether Foundation?"
Gladion gave a short laugh. "...You know the answer to that." He pulled back, meeting her gaze, and a small smirk crossed his face. "Do I have to spell it out for you?"
"No need," Selene replied, grinning. "It's just because of a little mixed blessing you happen to have."
Indeed, his stubborn nature had served him quite well as president. Selene had heard of the many compliments Gladion had received from his subordinates over the course of his time in charge; Wicke in particular had nothing but praise for him, and even Faba had to admit that the boy was an excellent fit for the job. Though his mistakes were unquestionably frequent, Gladion had never done anything that couldn't be cleaned up with relative ease, and several of those mistakes had even ended up benefiting the Foundation in the long term.
"Mixed blessing... I guess that's one way to put it." Gladion gave another laugh, and then his expression turned serious. "What... exactly was going on with Dulse, though?"
Selene raised an eyebrow; Gladion must not have been paying close attention to the conversation. "It's a little hard to explain..." She took a deep breath. "...He and Soliera are... involved, I guess you could say in a professional sort of way? It's an Ultra Megalopolis thing. He feels guilty about it because of Zossie, but she's already told him it's okay."
"That's..." Gladion looked confused for a moment, and then he nodded once. "...I'll admit that I never really understood their culture. Even when he tried to explain it to me... but this sounds like something I shouldn't interfere with, so I won't. Unless something bad happens."
Selene breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you for listening! I didn't want you to make an actual mistake." She leaned against him, closing her eyes. "Besides... would you rather have to reprimand them for public indecency?"
Gladion made a very interesting noise that Selene could only assume was something between frustration and embarrassment; however, he didn't say anything in response, and just buried his face in the side of her neck instead. It was amazing how fast his demeanor could change, and even more so around her - she considered it a privilege that she had that effect on him, as silly as it was.
"Thought so." Selene gave a soft giggle. "Y'know... speaking of public indecency, they don't have as many qualms with it as we do. They still prefer privacy when it's available, but when it's not... they'll make do with just about anything. Sex isn't a taboo topic in their world."
"...That isn't something I needed to know," Gladion muttered, and she could hear the annoyance in his voice. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because," Selene said, and she lowered her voice to a whisper. "I'd like to take a page out of their book the next time I visit Aether Paradise."
Once again, Gladion fell dead silent, and Selene noticed that his hands were shaking. Her tease had worked - no matter how much he denied it, she saw right through him when it came to his mild interest in exhibitionism, and just the promise of such a thing was enough to get him riled up. For the time being, however, he would have to wait; Selene wasn't comfortable with taking things that far in someone else's house, least of all Hau's, and there would be plenty of time for that when they returned to her place.
"Anyway..." Selene pulled herself away from Gladion, yawning. "I think I'm going to try and get some sleep. You're welcome to join me if you'd like."
Gladion stared at her, almost scowling. "...You're a terrible person sometimes." He watched as she laid down on the bed, getting herself comfortable. "I don't know why I put up with you." Even as he said this, he joined her on the bed, snuggling close to her; it was an act, as it always was with him, and she still found it every bit as adorable as she had when they first got together.
Still, she didn't miss the sensation of something hard poking into her leg - concrete proof of her success, and perhaps an issue he would have to handle on his own later.
The first time Gladion visited Selene's house had been after he challenged her for the seat of Alola's champion. He had lost spectacularly, of course - she was an absolute demon in battle - but even his young and irrational self had been able to take it as incentive to keep training, knowing that perhaps he could best her one day. She'd invited him to her place with the intent of cheering him up, though it wasn't really necessary or even all that helpful.
However, he hadn't declined her invitation. That was their relationship back then - not quite friends, but still far from enemies, and their rivalry spurred both of them into becoming better trainers. There was no reason to say no when she was clearly trying to foster a deeper bond between them, considering everything they'd been through together.
And, as soon as he'd set foot in her house, Gladion began to realize why Selene was the way she was. He was greeted by her mother, a mirror image of the girl in terms of personality; they were both bright and cheerful, with a touch of a playful streak and a habit of teasing those they enjoyed the company of. At the time, Gladion found it insufferable, but he tolerated it as best he could - until that accursed Meowth took an unwanted liking to him, and wouldn't leave his side for the duration of his visit.
Selene had told him afterward that Meowth was an excellent judge of character, and must have noticed his soft side right away. Gladion tried to brush it off, but he warmed to the little creature by his next visit, much to his eternal chagrin.
After those first few visits, the two began to drift apart. Gladion took his role as president of the Aether Foundation, and Selene gave her own seat to her brother; they remained in loose contact for a while, not really seeing each other in person, until the day she decided it would be a good idea to ask her former rival out on a date - in typical unpredictable Selene fashion, an aspect of her that never changed one bit over the years.
Gladion remembered that time clear as day. He declined the initial offer, making his annoyance clear in his response; Selene waited a month and then asked him again, this time more heartfelt, and he couldn't bring himself to deny her after that. In the end, he was too soft on the inside, and she made a very compelling argument just by being her.
If he was to be honest, he'd developed a crush on her not long after the first time she trounced him in battle. He had always dismissed those feelings as childish and temporary, but they never faded, and instead grew stronger with age - until the culmination of their relationship, a surprisingly romantic moment at the summit of Mount Lanakila, just outside the Pokemon League.
This vacation was the first time Gladion had seen Selene's house since they began dating. He'd noticed immediately that nothing had changed, aside from the notable lack of filled boxes around the house; her mother must have finally gotten around to unpacking after all that time, a fact he found himself grateful for. Meowth was still there, and still as irritating as ever - not even a minute after he stepped in, the little cat was at his side, rubbing its face against his leg as though he was its best friend in all the world.
Somehow, it felt like home. Gladion couldn't explain why, but he was comfortable in this place, as if he belonged just as much as Selene. Her mother's doting nature reminded him of some glimpses from his youth, memories he'd almost forgotten in the trauma of his upbringing; she was warm in a way that Lusamine hadn't been for a long time, and it set the young president's heart at ease.
Catching up with everyone was an exhausting job, exacerbated by Selene's relentless enthusiasm about her friends and family. The day after the party in Iki Town was spent with the former champion dragging everyone around Hau'oli City, seeing sights that they'd all seen countless times already - and her company were almost as enthusiastic about it as the woman herself, much to Gladion's irritation. He was glad when the day ended and he had the chance to retire, tucking himself away in Selene's bedroom while she gave each of her friends a lengthy farewell; of course, she saved the biggest one for Elio, who had to return to the champion's seat as soon as possible.
Just as Gladion began to consider challenging Elio himself, his relative peace was broken by Selene, who saw fit to do whatever she wanted while she was in her house. Even if he was her boyfriend, she wasn't very courteous to her guest; she didn't bother knocking when she came into her room, likely with the knowledge that he could've been doing something private.
"...Are you done?" Gladion glanced up at the doorway, unable to bring himself to glare at her; he blamed it on how tired he was. "Think about knocking next time."
Selene gave him a blank stare in response, tugging the door shut behind her. "It's my home, you know," she reminded him, as she paced over to her bed and seated herself next to him. "Were you thinking of jerking off or something?"
Her bluntness caught the young president off-guard, and he felt his face grow hot. "...Y-you could've interrupted me! Doesn't that bother you at all!?"
"Nope." Selene shook her head, a too-pleasant smile crossing her face. "If anything, I'd want to join in if I saw that." She scooted closer, slinging an arm around his shoulders. "Unless you wanted to do it by yourself, of course."
Gladion made an indignant noise, though it was somewhat halfhearted. "You... really are something else." He breathed a long sigh, and leaned against her; it was too much effort to stay upset with her, especially after such a long and difficult day. "I still don't know how I ended up with you."
A rather untrue statement, he had to admit - he knew exactly how he'd ended up with her, and despite how aggravating she was, he didn't regret that decision. She accepted him in spite of his faults, always trying to help him through his occasional hostility, and while he wasn't one to state it openly, he was grateful for her lasting presence. He was sure that if it hadn't been for her, he would've been driven to madness as the president of the Aether Foundation, suffering a similar fate to his mother.
Of course, it wasn't too late for that to happen. Even if the Foundation's research into Ultra Wormholes had been cut off, there was still a chance that one of them would end up in the same situation as Gladion's father-
"Did you want me to leave you alone for a bit?" Selene asked, her voice soft. "I know how you are. If you need space, just let me know, okay?"
"...No, it isn't that." Gladion shook his head, closing his eyes. "I'm just tired. It's been a long day." He paused, and made an effort to look over at her. "Actually... do you mind talking about something?"
Selene's surprise was clear on her face; it was unusual for him to engage her like that. "Huh? Uh, no, I don't mind... what's on your mind?"
"I was just... thinking." Gladion took a deep breath, in an attempt to steady his nerves. "I know you don't want to join the Aether Foundation, and I'd never ask you to. But..." He let out his breath in another sigh. "...I'm tired of the distance between us. I don't want to be apart from you so much... I want to start thinking of a solution."
It was rare for him to be so open, but the mood felt right for it; he was on vacation, staying at her house, and he'd just had two consecutive days worth of outings with her and her friends. In addition, he couldn't stop thinking about the conversation he'd overheard last night - it was wrong to be jealous of his own employees, he knew that, but he couldn't help it. Despite the bumps in their relationship, those two were still ecstatic that they'd gotten the opportunity to live together...
"...Well, what do you suggest?" Selene sounded as if she'd been anticipating this, an ironic contrast to her prior surprise. "I've... been thinking the same thing, really, but it's hard to think of a solution when we're... well, like we are." She breathed a sigh of her own, and Gladion began to wonder just how long she'd been considering this.
"My mother still lives in the mansion." Gladion's words came slow and deliberate; despite his anxiety, he wanted to be clear about his suggestion. "I don't... always feel comfortable living with her. Our relationship has improved, but... it won't ever go back to the way it was before Father..."
He trailed off, unable to bring himself to mention that incident. Selene knew about it already - she'd seen the archives, heard the rumors, even met Mohn in person more than a few times. There was no need to push himself when just thinking about it pained him.
"You want to move away from Aether Paradise," Selene observed, and she gave a small nod; then, her expression turned thoughtful. "Would it be okay for a president to live somewhere else? You can always stay with me, if that's what you're thinking..."
Gladion hummed, considering her words. "...Well, Aether Paradise isn't the Foundation's only base of operations. We're a multi-regional organization." He fell silent for a short moment; the thought of staying with her was quite tempting, but there were still a few concerns. "Would your mother be okay with it...?"
"I'd be more concerned about your mother," Selene pointed out. "My mom is... well, she likes you. She kept asking about you after you became president and stopped visiting... she'd gladly accept you here."
She raised a fair point on the issue of Lusamine. Gladion's mother had always been overbearing, even before her fall into madness, and that trait of hers hadn't changed much; separation from her last remaining family member could prove disastrous in a multitude of ways, and he hadn't even considered that when he made plans to move out - yet another of his thoughtless, impulsive actions, and he wanted to scold himself for it. Yet, at the same time...
"Lillie keeps in touch with Mother still," Gladion stated, and he looked away. "I... think it would be alright if I did the same." A thought crossed his mind. "...Maybe that's what Wicke was preparing us for when she sent me off..."
"She's a very helpful assistant." Selene's expression brightened, and she tugged Gladion closer to her. "I mean... she keeps you from working yourself sick when I'm not around. I'll have to thank her for that the next time I visit."
Gladion couldn't help a small chuckle at that. "...Yes, she's a wonderful assistant. I don't know what I'd do without her." Wicke was his favorite assistant, really - but he wouldn't admit that out loud, of course. "I should thank her, too... for all of this."
"I just hope it pays off..." The thoughtful look from before returned to Selene's face. "...Um, actually, that reminds me. There's something I've been meaning to ask for a while..."
"Hm?" Gladion raised an eyebrow, looking at her; there was something about her tone that struck him as odd. "What is it?"
Selene met his gaze, and the intensity of her eyes almost made him flinch. "Well... we haven't had sex in a while. I want to fix that... if it's okay with you."
The words hit Gladion like a ton of bricks. He shifted away from her, eyes wide, as he tried to formulate a response; she always had a knack for bringing up that subject at the strangest of times, without even the tiniest bit of shame, and it caught him off-guard every single time. At least there had been some sort of build-up to it last night-
Was it because he was staying at her place? Was this some sort of attempt to prove her trust?
The thought of sleeping with her in her room sent Gladion's mind into a frenzy. Her mother was there, likely still awake if the sounds from outside were any indicator; there was also the little feline rascal that served as the family's pet, and its disregard for peoples' privacy - or at least his - was something of legend in itself. Had Selene locked the door to her bedroom on her way in? It hadn't seemed like it...
"...What?" After a too-long silence, that one word was the only thing Gladion could think to say. He wasn't entirely opposed to the idea, despite the numerous complicating factors; still, there was the overriding issue of the fact that it was her room, and he wasn't sure how comfortable he was with that.
"Sorry..." A light blush rose on Selene's face, and she looked away. "That- that was kind of a dumb thing to say, wasn't it? I, um... y-you can forget I said anything."
Gladion shook his head, a bit more violently than he'd intended. "N-no, that isn't... I'm not-" He cut himself off, pressing a hand to the side of his head; it was unusual for her to backpedal like that, and he wasn't sure how to respond, other than to assure her that he wasn't upset. "...I was just surprised. I... give me a moment to think about it."
"Oh!" Selene nodded, comprehending, and her somewhat tense form relaxed. "Yeah, um... sorry for springing that on you like that. It's just... well, I've been thinking about it ever since I saw you in town and... is it silly? To want to, well, sleep with you in my own bedroom..."
It was, but in a sharp contrast to his normal attitude, Gladion wasn't about to tell her that. He understood the reasoning behind her line of thinking, at least to some extent; they had been together for a long time, and there was a certain thrill to sharing each others' beds - an experience she'd only gotten to have in the mansion at Aether Paradise thus far, and in that sense, it wasn't fair at all. After all the times she'd slept in his bed, she deserved the opportunity to have him sleep in hers.
"...Does your mother know?" Gladion asked, after a short silence. His top priority now was to get the obvious issues out of the way; however she answered, it would make his decision much easier.
Confusion flickered across Selene's face for just a moment, and then she hummed. "Oh, you mean... does she know about us... well. Yeah, she does. I actually talked to her about this after I invited you to stay here." The already-present blush on her face deepened. "She's been teasing me about it non-stop..."
Secluded as he was much of the time, Gladion hadn't really caught many of the conversations between Selene and her mother - but that made perfect sense, from what he knew about the woman. "She's been expecting it, then?"
"...basically, yeah." Selene looked absolutely mortified. "I-I mean, I know it's important to be honest with your parents about things like this, but like... sometimes I feel like I shouldn't have told her. Maybe it would've been easier if she'd found out on her own..."
Gladion couldn't fully relate to her embarrassment; the only thing he'd ever felt when communicating such intimate things to his mother was fear, and occasional relief when she turned a blind eye to it. He felt a pang of envy, knowing that Selene had never been subjected to the terror of an abusive parent - but at the same time, he was grateful that she had such a positive relationship with her mother. His beloved would never know the pain of being treated as an accessory by her own family, something to be used and discarded later-
"What about Meowth?" With that concern out of the way, Gladion shifted his focus to his greater worry. "Did you lock the door on your way in?"
"...Actually, locking the door wouldn't work," Selene murmured, her voice quiet. "That Meowth is way too smart. It'd figure out how to unlock it on its own." She gave a weak giggle. "Mom had a stern talk with it about this already. It's not allowed to bother us when we're in my bedroom together. Whether it'll listen is another story entirely, but..."
Gladion recalled the moments that he and Selene had spent together in her room since his arrival, and came to the realization that she was right - Meowth had never bothered them when they were together, though it gleefully took any opportunity to bother him when he was alone. The obnoxious cat still worried him, even more so after what Selene had told him about its lockpicking skills, but he decided that he was a lot more comfortable now than before.
"Alright," the young president said, after a brief pause; he stood, looking down at her as he began to remove his clothes - starting with the long jacket that he'd worn ever since adopting his position. "...Just don't spring any surprises on me."
Most of the time, he wouldn't be opposed to her experimenting, but the circumstances were unusual now; he didn't want anything happening that would make him more uncomfortable, not with the ever-looming threat of interruption. The quick nod that she gave in response indicated that she understood this, and that helped a considerable amount with his nerves - as long as they kept to their usual fare, the only problems would come from outside.
"I'll save that for next time." There was a promise in Selene's tone, and despite himself, Gladion felt a slight thrill at the thought; next time was okay, as he had come to expect it from her. He paused midway through removing his shirt to watch her pull her skirt down, underclothes and all - it was as though she was trying to emphasize her point in the most roundabout and bizarre way ever, and it very nearly made him swoon.
This special girl had swept her way into his heart like a tidal wave, swamping his sensibilities at every turn, and he couldn't get enough of it - he couldn't get enough of her. There were times when he felt that he didn't express that to her properly, and now he wanted to make up for that in the only way he knew how; even if he'd told her that she wasn't allowed to surprise him, he had a surprise in store for her, one inspired by their first time doing this so very long ago.
"...Wait." Gladion finished pulling his shirt off, and he took a moment to watch Selene as she stared up at him in confusion; then, he pushed her down onto the bed, gripping her shoulder with one hand as he kissed her hard. She stiffened in shock for all of two seconds before she returned the kiss, looping an arm around his shoulders as her other hand went to his back, and he pressed his body against hers, relishing in her radiant warmth and the feeling of her pounding heart echoing through her form.
When he was out of breath, Gladion pulled away - and immediately put his mouth to use elsewhere, ducking his head down so that he could taste Selene's neck. She shivered under his touch, her hand moving to run through his hair as her other strayed a bit lower; he couldn't help a quiet moan as she caressed his rear, a gentle yet sensual touch that never failed to set his nerves ablaze.
He wondered if perhaps she would be amenable to a little further experimentation in that area... but not now. That was a question for another time, when they weren't bound by the closest thing one could get to reason in this situation.
Testing the waters, Gladion slid a hand under her shirt, his fingers dancing along her abdomen as he nipped at the delicate skin of her throat. Selene gave a sharp yelp, her back arching toward him as he explored a little further; his fingers reached her breast, and he gave her a few light touches along the underside before his hand covered the small mound, massaging it in time with the measured bites and licks he gave to her neck.
He wanted to make sure that she was marked this time, as retaliation for all the times she'd embarrassed him in front of the entirety of Aether Paradise. Even if only her friends and family saw it, that was still more than enough for him.
"Th-that's gonna bruise..." Selene whined, though she didn't sound all that upset; in fact, her voice trailed off into a moan afterward, her legs pressing together as the hand on his head dropped to her side. "Are you trying to...?"
"Yes," Gladion responded, interrupting her; he lifted his head to look up at her, and took a moment to admire her flushed face before he continued. "That was the idea."
He didn't give her the opportunity to respond. Instead, he ducked his head down, bringing his face to the area between her legs, and then he looked up to see her face; there was a hint of surprise in her expression, but she seemed to understand what he was aiming for, and her excitement was far more prominent - odds were that she had been anticipating this for quite some time.
His touch was tentative at first; he spread her thighs apart with both hands, and ran his tongue along the outer edges of her lower lips. Her scent was overpowering, and it took him a great deal of focus to keep his mind on the task at hand - even more so when her taste reached his senses, mild and sweet and nothing like what he had expected. She was already wet and swollen, her body demanding what he had to give her, and he almost regretted his caution.
Selene, in all her infinite patience, encouraged her somewhat apprehensive boyfriend. Her hand moved to rest on his head, her fingers running soothing lines across his scalp, and he questioned for a moment how he'd managed to end up with someone as wonderful as her. No matter how much she wanted this, she was still willing to wait for him to get ready-
Her soothing touch calmed Gladion somewhat, and he didn't make her wait any longer; his tongue pressed into her slit, running along the length of it before he settled at her front, licking the sensitive nub there. She breathed out a soft moan in response, her fingers finding his fringe and tangling in his hair - an odd choice, but she'd commented numerous times on how much she enjoyed his hair, so perhaps it was only natural.
Still, he wanted to taste all of her. His focus shifted from the front down to her opening, where he slid his tongue inside her; her inner muscles tensed, and an image of a far more intimate act flashed through his head, a momentary distraction that made him close his eyes as he tried to bring his focus back. Once he could think clearly again, he licked a stripe back up to her front, bringing a hand down to press one finger inside her instead.
"...You doing alright up there?" Gladion lifted his head, just enough to speak; Selene hummed her affirmation, encouraging him further with her hand, and he didn't bother saying anything else. It was a stupid question to begin with - she made it very clear that she was more than alright - but he was still a little nervous, and had to make absolute certain that he was doing the right thing.
Her delectable scent helped more than her words ever could; as he teased her nub with his tongue, he felt his body grow hot, her soft moans of delight sparking his desire further. His finger shifted inside her, pressing against another sensitive area, and she gasped as he began to rub her there, her fingers tugging at his hair on reflex - and then she moved her hand away, presumably because she didn't want to hurt him.
If he was to be honest, Gladion didn't care how much Selene hurt him now. He wanted her to show him how she felt, how much she enjoyed what he did to her; however, he also understood that she was a gentle soul, and accepted her unwillingness to pull his hair. He rewarded her by taking her nub into his mouth, suckling it as his other hand moved to caress her breast, and the moan she gave then was much louder - she wasn't ashamed at all, submitting to the sensation as she always had before, and it further stoked the flame that burned in his own body.
"Ah- f-faster...!" Selene's request came out in a breathless stutter, and Gladion obliged without complaint; he caught her nipple between two fingers, rubbing it in time with his strokes, and when he swirled his tongue around her nub, she cried out in response, shuddering as her hips shifted against his ministrations.
Just a few seconds later, her body went rigid, and he was treated to the always delightful sensation of her inner walls spasming around his finger. He didn't expect the rush of fluid that issued forth from her - that hadn't happened before, at least not to this degree, and he wondered if this act had triggered an unusual, if decidedly pleasant, response. He was grateful that, if nothing else, her fluid was clear; cleaning up wouldn't be quite so difficult, and she wouldn't stain the bedsheets too badly with her release.
Gladion pulled himself away from Selene, watching her as she came down from her peak. His pants were too tight now, and he decided to remove them to alleviate some of the pressure; she looked up at him as he did this, and a weak smile crossed her face - no doubt at the sight of how hard he was.
"...Want me to take care of that?" Selene found her voice, shifting into a sitting position. "The same way you took care of me...?"
Tempting as the offer was, Gladion wanted to say no. This had been intended as payback for their first time, when he was too nervous to perform such an act upon her in return; she hadn't gone down on him since then, their intimate moments always limited to simple touching, and as much as he missed the sensation, it didn't feel all that fair.
Still, his body disagreed with his reasoning, and he gave a slow and somewhat reluctant nod. Selene's usual energy returned at that; she sprung up from the bed, grabbed his shoulders and turned him around, pushing him down where she had been moments before. The sudden action dazed him, and he stared up at her in mild surprise as she just grinned back, satisfied with her successful reversal of their positions.
"Don't worry," Selene assured him, as she ducked her head down. "I haven't let my skills rust."
Gladion tried to say something, but his breath caught in his throat when she grasped his shaft with one hand, pressing her tongue to the tip. He closed his eyes, leaning against the bed as she trailed her tongue along the underside, teasing the sensitive ridge there; he wasn't as shameless as her, but he couldn't resist a small moan at the rush of sensation.
"Selene..." The young president hissed out her name between clenched teeth, his hand resting atop her head; he tangled his fingers in her hair, and she chose then to take him into her mouth - it took a monumental amount of effort to keep from pulling her hair, and for a fleeting moment, he wondered if she wanted him to.
His thoughts dissolved after that. Her mouth was just as he remembered it, warm and wet and overwhelming in the best way possible; she applied some suction as she licked, her hand massaging what wasn't inside, and it sent involuntary shudders through his entire body. Indeed, she hadn't rusted at all - it seemed almost as though she had improved since that first time, her stimulation more thorough than before, and he was sure that he wouldn't last long at all under her touch.
"Ah... s-slow down," Gladion managed to stutter out, his hand clenching in her hair. "I can't- I can't..."
Selene heeded his request, her mouth sliding off so that she could speak. "Too sensitive?" There was a hint of mischief in her tone, as if she wanted him to finish quickly - it wouldn't be the first time she'd encouraged that.
She didn't wait for his response, and went right back to sucking him; this time, she took more of his shaft into her mouth, and his body reacted on its own - an involuntary jerk of his hips that pressed him even deeper, and he wanted to scold himself for it, but she accepted the action without complaint, her fingers teasing the base as she moved her head back and forth, mimicking a different act-
It was too much. Her relentless attention drove him over the edge, far sooner than he'd anticipated; he bit his lip in an attempt to keep from screaming, his hand pulling at her hair as he shoved himself in as far as he could, unable to concern himself with her comfort. He felt her swallowing his release, an act that had no right to feel as good as it did - and it served as a reminder that she wasn't bothered by what he'd done, willing to accept the accidental pain he caused her.
His strength gave out, and Gladion collapsed on the bed, still trembling from the aftershocks of his climax. He felt Selene embrace him from the side, and heard her whisper something into his ear, but he couldn't decipher what she'd said; his mind was still blurred, his breathing heavy and his heart still pounding, and he wondered why it had been so much more intense than that first time so long ago.
It was true that they hadn't found the time to sleep together in a while, but was that really the only reason?
"...Repeat that?" Gladion asked, once he found his voice. "...I didn't catch what you said there..."
Selene giggled. "Oh, I was just asking if you enjoyed it." She traced a hand down his side, leaning her head on his shoulder. "I'm guessing the answer is yes."
Gladion hummed in response, but didn't say anything; instead, he turned to pull her close, one arm sliding around her waist as he used his other hand to caress her hair. There had been no unwanted interruptions, and he'd been able to enjoy an intimate moment with her for the first time in too long - now, her room put his mind at ease, his body relaxing against hers as he closed his eyes and savored her presence.
He was halfway to falling asleep when Selene's voice echoed through his ears once again. "I know you're tired, but this position's kinda awkward..."
It was true - their legs were hanging off the bed, and even in his exhausted state, Gladion wondered how he'd managed to relax enough to doze off in that position. He picked himself up, bringing her with him, and rearranged them both so that they were laying on the bed properly; it was a tight fit, but he didn't care, thrilled by the prospect of sleeping in her bed with her... and not on the floor by himself, as he had chosen to since his stay at her house began.
"Better?" Gladion snuggled up to her once again, making himself comfortable; it still felt strange sometimes, to let his guard down completely in front of another, but he'd already decided that if anyone could see him like this, it was her - the girl who'd captured his mind and soul since their first meeting so very long ago.
"Much better," Selene confirmed, returning his embrace. "...Thanks for... well, that. It was great..." She moved her mouth close to his ear, whispering. "...Do it again tomorrow?"
A light shudder went through Gladion's body at the thought, and he made a noise of affirmation. "...Sure. But only if you don't return the favor like that. I want us to be even."
"Oh, Gladion..." Selene gave a soft giggle, and then she pulled back to rest her head on his chest. "I guess I can compromise just this once. But after that... I want to taste you again."
"That's fair..." Gladion closed his eyes, his hand tangling in her hair yet again; tired as he was, he wouldn't be able to stay awake much longer, and he wanted to say one last thing first. "...Love you."
"Love you too," Selene said, and it was the last thing Gladion heard before he drifted off into a peaceful sleep - just the way he wanted, after everything he'd been through in his life.
A couple things:
-I know I keep bringing up questions that go unanswered. I'm sorry about that. I'll try and figure something out regarding the whole Silvally thing.
-Yes, I ship Lillie and Hau. Yes, it could have gone either way since Elio exists in this fic. But I decided to go with the ship I prefer over the one I know. Sorry!
-I had a lot of trouble writing the smut segment for whatever reason. It might not be up to my usual standards as a result, but I wanted to get it done - I've had that idea in my head since the first chapter with Gladion and Selene.
-Old habits die hard with our favorite edgy boy. He's probably slept in his office more times than he can count.
Chapter 6: dark nostalgia
No matter how much one adjusts to another home, it can be difficult to forget one's birthplace.
I really, really wish I would stop getting sick. It's interfering with my personal life as well as my writing, and it's just plain annoying...
Some potentially upsetting things are mentioned here regarding the arrangement between Dulse and Soliera.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Zossie stepped into her new home for the first time, the primary thought that crossed her mind was how much it reminded her of her living quarters back in Ultra Megalopolis.
The new dormitory was far more extravagant than either her or Dulse's old rooms had been; it was still a single room, but its much greater size meant that there was plenty of space for extra furniture or appliances - and, in the case that the two wanted time to themselves, there was space for that as well. The bathroom was also larger, with a medicine cabinet above the sink and a shower tub instead of just a shower, a dramatic improvement over the regular employee residences.
The interior was still the same stark white as the rest of Aether Paradise, though the bedclothes and desks provided some much-needed color. For some strange reason, the designers had decided that there should be more blue than usual in this room - perhaps intended as a reflection of the room's inhabitants, which was a silly notion at best, but Zossie didn't mind it one bit.
What she did mind was the fact that living in this room brought back memories of the time before she moved to Alola; she had lived with someone else before, though the context had been very different, and she was grateful that those days were over now. Her old roommate was a studious boy about two years younger than her, who kept to himself all the time and avoided her whenever possible - in other words, the exact opposite of her in every way.
Dulse was also Zossie's polar opposite, but in a different way; he had always at least tried to understand her, and there was a hidden warmth deep inside him that made its way to the surface on rare occasions. Those differences had drawn her to him from the start, and now, she loved the idea of living together with him.
Still, the nostalgia kept Zossie thinking about Ultra Megalopolis a bit more often than she preferred. She wondered how her old roommate was doing, if he'd decided to follow the calling of their world and buried himself in research; perhaps he had even contributed to the gene pool by now, though she was sure that someone like him would never have the same sort of emotional attachments as her. Then again, things could change a lot in this length of time...
She didn't even remember the boy's name, or what he looked like. Though, for some reason, she wanted to say that he had magenta hair - the same as her current roommate, and while it was not a rare color by any means, there was always the possibility of a connection in that cold, dark world.
With those thoughts occupying her mind, Zossie had some trouble focusing on her work, and she ended up stopping early one evening. Her latest project had to do with the recent addition of Mareanie to the conservatory; she was part of a group that looked into ways to keep them from preying on the already present Corsola, a task that had proven very difficult thus far. Due to the importance of this project, she hesitated to step away from it, but she knew that she would only cause more problems if she made a mistake because of her distraction.
Besides, the other group members agreed that Zossie needed to take a break from her work every now and then. Even if she possessed a natural immunity to Mareanie's venom due to coming from another world, that wasn't the only reason they'd brought her on for the project - her ingenious solutions to the more troublesome issues the Foundation faced were another valuable asset, and she couldn't provide them if she was compromised.
She didn't want to stray far from the facility, so Zossie went for a stroll around the platform's perimeter. The smell of the ocean calmed her, always serving as a reminder of the path she'd chosen; out here, there was always a steady sea breeze, perhaps a bit stronger than it would be on a natural island. The dying light from the setting sun wasn't so harsh on her skin, and she welcomed the quiet atmosphere of the evening - there were only a few others out and about, leaving her mostly alone.
Normally, she'd welcome the chance to mingle with her co-workers, but now was an unusual time-
"Excuse me." A familiar feminine voice sounded from behind her, only a short distance away. "Zossie."
Zossie turned around to face the person who'd addressed her, and her eyes went wide when she noticed that the woman had blue skin. "...Soliera? Uh, hi there, I guess..."
"It's been a while since we last spoke." A light smile graced Soliera's lips; while she wore the usual outfit of an Ultra Space traveler, her eyes were uncovered. "I've made plans to return to Ultra Megalopolis, so I wanted to say my farewells for the time being."
"Oh!" Zossie gave a quick nod; Soliera had stayed in this world for far longer than any of them anticipated. "Well, thanks for letting me know! You planning on coming back?"
"...I've grown intrigued by this world," Soliera said, and she gave a small hum. "I'd like to research it more... if it were my decision, I would stay here longer, but my father wishes to see me back..."
Zossie rubbed the back of her neck. "He's being unreasonable again, huh?" She offered a smile of her own. "Dulse is still working right now, but if you want to drop by in about an hour or two, he'll be done for the day. I'm assuming you won't be leaving immediately?"
"I'm leaving tomorrow." Soliera's expression grew distant. "...While I would like to see him again, I'm not sure he would like to see me. He was rather upset when we parted..."
"...Oh." Zossie felt her face grow hot. "Um... well, I don't think he was mad at you. He was definitely mad at himself... I had to talk him down. Again."
Soliera raised an eyebrow. "He was upset with... himself?" A look of genuine curiosity crossed her face. "It seems I've misjudged him... does he do that often?"
"Every now and then," Zossie replied, nodding. "He's just been really bad about it ever since... then. Like, way worse than usual. I'm a little worried, honestly." She breathed a heavy sigh. "...I've been trying to reassure him that I'm not mad at him, but Selene still had to step in..."
"Selene?" Soliera's expression changed to one of concern. "...How exactly did she step in?"
Zossie waved her hand. "It's not what you probably think it is!" She breathed another, shorter sigh. "Just... well, she had a chat with him the other night, and apparently she told him that it was just irrational anxiety. Which, y'know, I've been trying to tell him too, but I think he needed more than one person to tell him. He's calmed down since then, but I'm still worried... can you blame me?"
"From the sound of it... no, I can't." Soliera still looked concerned, and a hint of suspicion mixed into her tone. "Are you certain that there's nothing happening between them?"
"Selene's a great friend to us both," Zossie stated flatly; she was starting to get annoyed. "She's helped counsel us in our relationship from the start. Heck, if it hadn't been for her, we probably wouldn't have gotten together at all. I'm grateful that she was willing to help now." She paused, shaking her head. "Besides, she's got a boyfriend, too."
Comprehension spread across Soliera's features, and she relaxed at last. "...Ah, I'd almost forgotten. Dulse informed me that she's involved with the president of the Aether Foundation..." She gave a hesitant smile. "My apologies. I have been so concerned about you two that..."
"It's alright," Zossie insisted, and she couldn't help giggling despite herself. "It seems like you're prone to misunderstandings. If I got mad at you for that, we'd be here all day." She turned, looking at the horizon. "...We've been doing great since we moved in together. There's the problem of Dulse's insecurity, but... it's a lot easier to comfort him now."
"I'd planned to ask about that." Soliera joined Zossie in watching the sky, though she shielded her eyes with a hand. "It's good to know that your relationship is as strong as ever... this living arrangement allows you to be intimate more often, yes?"
"Yeah..." Zossie's eyes darted over to Soliera for a moment, and then she looked back at the fading sunset. "He's pretty needy, too... you wouldn't expect it just from looking at him, but he wants it almost every night." A thought crossed her mind. "Was he... like that with you?"
The way Soliera's body stiffened in response to that inquiry was almost comical. It was clear that she hadn't expected the question, and she didn't respond right away; Zossie had to resist the urge to burst into laughter, knowing that doing so right now would not have a positive effect - but it was still tempting.
"...I would say he wasn't." When Soliera finally spoke, her voice was quiet, and she sounded embarrassed. "That... seems a peculiar question for you to ask so casually. I suppose you've come to terms with this arrangement far easier than he has..."
Zossie gave a shrug. "It didn't really bother me that much... and he's just nervous because he's worried about my feelings." She closed her eyes, smiling. "He loves me a lot, and he's scared of ruining things between us by doing something he shouldn't... even though I keep telling him he's fine. It's honestly really sweet of him."
"No one can say he's lacking in devotion," Soliera agreed, humming. "...It's an admirable trait. I'm glad you two were willing to allow this arrangement... I know it must be difficult on you."
"It's the circumstances, y'know?" Zossie gave another shrug, and looked up at Soliera. "You're our friend, and we used to work together with you. You're definitely a trustworthy person... and since you're also from our world, we know what we're getting into. If it was someone from this world... say, Selene or Lillie, we would've both said no in a heartbeat, no questions asked. They're great friends too, but it's just... different."
Soliera met Zossie's gaze, and a light blush spread across her face. "...I appreciate your trust. I'll admit that I... am somewhat nervous about this as well..." She took a short breath. "It was never my intention to get between you two. I would've been more than willing to simply let my attraction go... there are plenty of prospective mates in our world."
"And none of them are like Dulse," Zossie pointed out, grinning. "He's one-of-a-kind, in a lot of ways. Since you already wanted him as a mate... I think he should be allowed to contribute." She raised her hand, wagging a finger. "Just keep the rules in mind! This is a temporary arrangement. If we change our minds in the future, things'll be different... obviously. But right now, you've only got so many tries."
Soliera rubbed the side of her head with a hand. "...Yes, you both have made that very clear." She sighed. "Honestly... I told you that I would have accepted it if you never made the offer in the first place. I would never dream of abusing this privilege you've given me."
"Just making sure." Zossie turned back to the horizon; the only sign that the sun had been there at all was a dim glow in the distance. "...I want you to talk to him before you go. And if you aren't comfortable with talking to him by yourself, I'll go with you."
"That... would be much appreciated, thank you." Soliera took a few steps forward, placing her hands on the railing that surrounded the platform. "There is... something I wish to address with him, but I would like you to be present for that conversation. It's important for you to know as well."
Zossie didn't reply at first, her thoughts turning to what Soliera wanted to talk about with Dulse. She was sure that she'd find out for certain sooner rather than later, but she suspected that she already knew - there were only so many things they could talk about that required her presence.
After a rather lengthy silence, the younger girl stepped up beside her former teammate, offering her a smile. "Then it's settled! Once Dulse gets off work, we'll both go talk to him."
"...What shall we do in the meantime?" Soliera asked, looking a little flustered. "I'm assuming you'd prefer not to go into explicit detail about your sexual exchanges with him..."
"Well... now that you mention it." A devious idea crossed Zossie's mind, and her smile broadened into a grin. "I could tell you what I've already done with him... or I could tell you new things I want to do with him. Which do you prefer?" She paused, resisting the urge to cackle wildly. "Maybe it'll give you some ideas for next time?"
Soliera's face turned a magnificent shade of blue, and she made a pointed effort to look away; Zossie gave into her urge then, unable to hold back her amusement. The best thing about this arrangement was teasing the confused visitor - something that Soliera could never have anticipated, as she still focused on the cultural differences of this world.
Though things would eventually go back to normal exclusivity between Dulse and Zossie, the memories from this bizarre time would have a lasting impact on all three of the individuals involved... and, despite everything, Zossie found herself completely okay with that.
By the time the two women arrived at Dulse's office, Soliera was thoroughly humiliated. As promised, Zossie had described to her, in excruciating detail, every aspect of her sex life with Dulse; she told her about the frequency and average duration of their copulation, the methods they'd tried with each other thus far, and - of course - her planned request for him that night. The last part was tacked on as an afterthought, as Zossie was still somewhat nervous about it, having never done anything like that with Dulse before.
Their conversation had earned them quite a few strange looks from the other employees that were out and about at this time, but Zossie disregarded it. Simply talking about the subject wasn't grounds for a reprimand, and she could worry about smoothing over relations with her co-workers later; she would explain to them that this was an aspect of her world's culture, and the visitor had not seen quite as much of this world.
It wouldn't be entirely true, of course - the main reason Zossie engaged in this topic with Soliera was for the purpose of embarrassing her, and hopefully also setting her at ease about the whole situation. Only time would tell if that latter purpose was achieved.
When Dulse stepped out of his office, a bewildered expression appeared on his face as he looked between Zossie and Soliera; Zossie was still trying to hold back her laughter, and Soliera still had a hot flush across her face. He turned to his girlfriend first, the look in his eyes demanding an explanation without words.
"...Oh, she was just asking me about us," Zossie said, grinning madly. "And I answered to the best of my ability."
Dulse looked at Soliera, raising an eyebrow. "Is this true?"
"...yes." Soliera's voice was quiet, her shame clear in her tone. "I have made a terrible mistake. Please remind me never to ask that question again."
"I... will not press the subject." Dulse cleared his throat, flushing a little himself. "...What brings you here?"
"There was something she wanted to talk to you about," Zossie answered for Soliera, her expression softening. "She said she wanted me to be here, too."
"It... regards our arrangement," Soliera elaborated, and she made an effort to smile. "More specifically... the results, if it is successful."
Dulse gave a single nod, then turned back to Zossie. "Is this... acceptable?"
"You don't have to ask my permission for everything," Zossie pointed out, placing her hands on her hips. "If I have any objections, I'll raise them... but it doesn't seem like this is something I'll object to."
"...Right." Dulse still sounded somewhat hesitant, but he nodded again and looked back at Soliera. "If... the arrangement is successful."
"I would like you to know your children," Soliera stated. "...All of them. I understand the reason you left Ultra Megalopolis now... and I think it would only be fair, if I bear your child, that you should know them as well." She closed her eyes. "I can't guarantee that you would be in regular contact. However, I feel that this is the least I can do, in exchange for you humoring my request."
Soliera opened her eyes again, meeting Dulse's gaze; Zossie took a step back, not wanting to interfere with the conversation. She wasn't sure how Dulse would feel about that offer, but as she'd expected, she had no objections to it herself - she understood Soliera's line of thinking, at least to an extent, and recognized it as the act of kindness she intended it to be.
After a long silence, Dulse spoke, a curious edge to his tone. "...I see. I appreciate the gesture, although I do not consider it necessary." He paused, and took a deep breath. "Is there a reason you wished to express this to me now?"
"Because I will be leaving this world tomorrow," Soliera responded, her own tone even. "My father demands that I return to our world. I... have not been in high standing with him lately, and I would like to avoid further damaging our relationship."
"That is... most unfortunate." Dulse's voice softened, and he gave another small nod. "Perhaps next time, you should invite him to this world... I am sure that he would have a change of heart if he were to see the light again."
"Perhaps..." Soliera sounded skeptical, but she seemed to consider the idea briefly; then, she diverted the subject back to her original topic. "...Have I offended you with my offer? That was not my intent..."
Dulse shook his head, though his expression remained neutral. "...No. I understand your intent, and I accept your offer." He looked down, averting his gaze from her. "...I have never had the privilege of knowing my family. I am not certain how to feel about the prospect of knowing my child..."
From her third-party perspective, Zossie had an idea of what was bothering Dulse; he loved the thought of getting to know his family, having never experienced that joy before, but he was also wary of the responsibilities that fatherhood would bring. Even if he didn't have to care for the child himself, it still daunted him - and she couldn't blame him for feeling that way, as she was definitely not ready to be a parent herself.
"...It's okay, Dulse." Though she'd hesitated to interject before, Zossie spoke up; she stepped closer to Dulse, placing a hand on his shoulder in an attempt to reassure him. "If this all works out, just focus on the good parts! That's what Soliera's trying to do."
Soliera hummed her agreement, but said nothing; she offered a smile, her own attempt at reassuring Dulse, whose distress was still very much apparent. He looked up at Zossie, and his eyes told her everything he didn't say - it wasn't so easy to overcome such trepidation, and he would need some time to consider how he felt before he made a final decision.
"Thank you for your honesty..." When Dulse spoke again, he addressed Soliera, his eyes darting over to her. "I will await your next report. I pray that it is a positive one." A smile crossed his face - still an unusual expression for him, but he had grown more accustomed to it in recent times. "...May the Blinding One illuminate your return..."
Soliera's expression brightened at those words, and she gave a single nod. "I promise to get in touch as soon as possible." She turned around, took a step away, then looked back at her two former teammates. "...I hope to see you again soon. Farewell for now... Dulse, Zossie..."
Zossie turned to wave at Soliera, and then gave Dulse a pointed look; he raised his hand, the closest to a farewell wave that he was willing to give at the moment. Soliera watched them for a moment longer, then walked away, her quiet footsteps echoing through the air.
"Let's get back to our room," Zossie suggested, once she was sure that Soliera was out of earshot. "There's... something I wanted to talk to you about in private."
Dulse raised an eyebrow, curiosity plain on his face. "...In private? Very well..." His face flushed, and Zossie couldn't resist the urge to giggle. She didn't have to ask to know what he was thinking of.
Zossie hooked her arm around Dulse's, and gave him a gentle tug. "...Two things, really, but one's more important. I think you can guess which one." She winked at him, grinning. "So let's get that out of the way first, yeah?"
Dulse said nothing in response, not resisting as Zossie led him back to their shared residence. She didn't want to admit it to him, but she was still rather apprehensive about the idea that had crossed her mind; it was, after all, something that had only come up once between them, and that had been in a very different - and far less personal - context.
Plus, there was another concern she had to address with him first...
The conversation with Soliera had left Dulse feeling more conflicted than he ever had before. He understood her intent well enough; she believed her offer to be one of kindness, a way of making up for the selfishness of her request. While it was kind, in a way, there was an emotional aspect to it that he doubted she'd realized.
Dulse was not ready to have children. When he humored Soliera's request for a mate, he had never imagined that she would turn it around on him like this - he had thought that she would leave the child as any other in Ultra Megalopolis, another orphan raised by the community rather than their own parents. He was used to that sort of detachment, as much as he detested it; in this case, it would have brought him comfort, and a small part of him resented Soliera for defying their world's traditions.
That woman was too compassionate for her own good, and she rarely comprehended the true scope of her actions. There was a reason Dulse had not chosen her as a mate before; he had feared her becoming too attached, and now, it seemed that his fears had come true in the worst way possible.
These worries hounded Dulse's thoughts all the way back to the residence he now shared with Zossie. He was sure that, empathetic as she was, his girlfriend would catch on to his discomfort - there was no need to express it to her further, and he hoped that whatever idea she had floating around in her head would be enough to distract him from his conundrum.
When the door clicked shut behind them, Dulse turned his full attention to Zossie, and addressed her in a manner that he had grown used to in recent times. "...Zostera."
"I know you're still upset..." Zossie breathed a long sigh, and paced over to the bed. "Just... try not to think about it too much, okay?" She plopped herself down, looking over at him. "Let's cross that bridge when we get there. We still don't know what's actually gonna happen."
"...This is true." Dulse hummed, nodding once; then, he moved to join her on the bed, seating himself next to her. "Perhaps a change of subject is in order... what did you wish to speak with me about?"
"Um." Zossie's face turned bright blue, and she averted her gaze. "Well. That's, uh..." She cleared her throat, and took a deep breath. "...I wanna blow you."
All of Dulse's prior concern dissipated, replaced by utter confusion. He took a moment to try and figure out what she had just said, and his brain fell short; he stared at her in silence for several seconds afterward, hoping that he could coax an explanation out of her, but she still seemed too embarrassed to notice. Once he realized that she wasn't going to elaborate, he pressed a hand to his forehead and spoke.
"...You want to do... what? Is this some sort of Alolan lingo?"
A look of comprehension crossed Zossie's face, and she gave a hesitant nod. "Oh... yeah. I probably should've worded that differently. It means... well..." She took another deep breath, and her voice lowered. "...Oral sex. Specifically performed on a man. But, uh... there's a problem with that."
At that explanation, Dulse felt his own face flush. As far as he was concerned, there were multiple problems with that; it sounded interesting in theory, but could potentially be troublesome in practice. While his body welcomed the thought, heating up with anticipation already, his mind was not so certain.
"What is... the problem you had in mind?" Dulse inquired, choosing not to voice his own concerns. "I would be willing to try, but..."
Zossie winced. "I'll tell it to you straight up." She gestured at him, blushing even harder. "You're too big. I can't fit all that in my mouth." A dejected sigh escaped her. "Maybe I should've practiced before bringing this up..."
"...Practiced?" Dulse's mind went right back to confusion - and just the slightest hint of curiosity. "How would you... practice for something like that?"
"Well... y'know." Zossie rubbed the side of her neck with a hand. "Long, thick objects. It doesn't necessarily have to be done with people, although that helps..." She shook her head, frowning. "I wouldn't do that. Not with anyone other than you. So... I was wondering if maybe you had a solution to the problem in mind?"
It was an interesting conundrum indeed, and despite himself, Dulse began to consider her request. The part about using inanimate objects for practice made sense, although it couldn't compare to the actual act; even if she had practiced that way, there was no guarantee she would be able to perform it on him-
His body's reaction didn't help matters any. He was uncomfortable now, his uniform far too restrictive, and it took a considerable amount of effort not to strip right then and there.
"I suppose that... it does not have to be penetrative," Dulse suggested, and he took a short breath to steady himself. "Until you are more... practiced, then perhaps it would be best to take things slowly." A thought crossed his mind, and he looked away. "...Though, even with practice... it may be difficult to accommodate..."
He trailed off there, a surge of embarrassment sweeping through him. It was true that his size was above average, and that had caused them some problems before - but she had adjusted now, and this was the first time it had come up in a while.
"...You'd be surprised," Zossie pointed out, and she gave a weak laugh. "But... right now, I definitely can't take it." She paused, considering his words. "So... just tongue to start? Er... that is, assuming we do this. Y-you don't have to..."
Dulse placed a hand on her shoulder, turning to face her. "As I said, I would be willing to try. And... perhaps I could attempt to return the favor in kind... I know little about these acts, but I am not opposed to them."
"R-really...?" Zossie's expression brightened at that; she looked up at him, her eyes sparkling with excitement. "That's... that sounds awesome! And, hey, maybe you can learn a thing or two... you can't know it if you don't do it, right?"
"Indeed..." Dulse stood, and began to remove his uniform; he watched Zossie as she did the same, a radiant smile plastered across her face. Though it was her most common expression, he still adored seeing her like that, a reminder of how he'd fallen in love with her - and of what continued to draw him to her through the trials they'd faced together, her relentless positivity always giving him the strength to keep going.
When they were alone like this, it calmed his nerves in a way he couldn't describe. He had all but forgotten the conversation from earlier that had been the source of his emotional turmoil, his dark thoughts replaced with a warmth that spread through every inch of his body; he wanted to thank her for easing his fears, but it was a redundant sentiment at this point, and so he decided to wait until after they were done with this.
Once he was undressed, Dulse seated himself on the bed again; a minuscule spark of uncertainty spread through his mind as he realized that he had no idea how Zossie intended to do this. It always took her longer to strip due to the complexity of her uniform, and those moments when he was naked and she wasn't always invited anxiety into his brain - thankfully not much, though it was still somewhat distracting.
"...I'm just gonna stop wearing this thing," Zossie muttered, once she pulled the last piece of clothing off. "I'm gonna show up to work wearing my old recon outfit. It's easier to get on and off."
"Perhaps that would be preferable..." Dulse recalled their visit with the president some time ago, and how it had ended with nothing resolved - Gladion had just said that he would think about it, and he hadn't mentioned anything since. It was somewhat infuriating, but it couldn't be helped; in the meantime, Zossie had grown more and more frustrated by her uniform, to the point where she'd suggested the idea of wearing her old outfit more than once already.
"Maybe next time..." Zossie positioned herself before Dulse, watching him intently; her frustration had dissipated already, replaced by what seemed like anxiety - a strange thing for her to exhibit, even in this position. "So... um... are you sure about this?"
"...I would prefer not to repeat myself." Dulse placed a hand atop her head, and did his best to give her a reassuring smile. "It seems as though you're more uncertain than I am. If you would rather do something else..."
"Sorry..." Zossie gave an embarrassed laugh. "Just nervous 'cuz this is my first time doing something like this... but I still wanna do it, so..."
She brought a hand up, slipping her fingers around his arousal in a familiar gesture; her touch was tentative, and it reminded Dulse of the first few times they'd done this - a long time ago now, but if he was to be honest, he couldn't blame her for being nervous now. As she'd already pointed out, it was something new, and they both had their concerns about how this would play out.
Before he could say anything else, she leaned in and began to lick him, slow and careful; her tongue was slightly rough, an unfamiliar sensation on his sensitive skin, and his eyes slid shut as she explored him through taste - her tongue encircled the head before she licked a stripe down the underside of his shaft, her fingers giving him a gentle massage with every motion.
"That's..." Dulse's voice came out strained; this was far more pleasant than he'd anticipated, and he had trouble focusing already. "Please... continue."
Zossie paused in her examination, just long enough to speak. "Guess that means you like it..." She pressed a kiss to the underside before licking back up, her efforts focusing on the tip; her actions became more confident, the last of her anxiety evaporating with his assurance as her massage became firm and deliberate - something that he preferred, a reminder of how bold and unflinching she was most of the time.
It was an incredible experience, and Dulse realized soon that he had to exercise some degree of control to make it last. The heat of her mouth was different from when he'd taken her before; the light pressure provided by her tongue sent euphoric surges through his body with every lick, the roughness only adding to the sensation - and he was caught off-guard when she grew bold enough to take a small part of him into her mouth, the sudden wetness almost too much for him to handle. The strokes of her fingers grew faster, and combined with the feeling of being inside her-
"Zostera, please...!" Dulse attempted to slow Zossie, his fingers tangling in her hair; it felt too good, and he feared that he would hurt her when he lost control. "S-slow down... I'm..."
His words fell on deaf ears. Zossie increased the pace of her stimulation in response, and he could practically feel the smugness emanating off of her; she had gone from shy and stuttering to excited and mischievous in just a short time, a change that was further confirmed by the adventurous touches of her other hand - she moved to caress the weight that hung at the base of his shaft, her fingers impossibly gentle compared to her rather rough strokes, and the combination of sensations left him lightheaded and struggling to warn her of his fast-approaching peak.
The only sound he managed was a choked moan as his body tensed, his hand in her hair clenching a bit too tight; the first spurt of his release hit the back of her throat, and she jerked away in time to let the rest land on her skin instead, though she kept rubbing him the whole time - an act that only heightened his bliss, his strength giving out as he fell backward onto the bed, still twitching a little in her grip.
"Uh... wow." Zossie sounded rather impressed; her hand withdrew from him after a few more teasing strokes, leaving him exposed to the air - and still rock-hard. "That... was pretty intense, huh...?"
Dulse peered down at her, and regretted his decision almost immediately - the sight of his essence on her face sent a jolt of fresh arousal through him. "...If you want the favor returned, then... don't do that..."
"Oh, I can wait." Zossie interpreted the meaning of his words with embarrassing ease - she knew him far too well. "But, uh... no mouth this time, 'kay?"
Without prompting, she wrapped her hand around his erection once again, and he gave in to the possibility that tonight was not going to be an even exchange. He took a shuddering breath as he watched her wipe the sticky fluid of his release off of her face, and then her other hand joined the first, coating as much of him as she could - and he had to look away then, the sight too much for his oversensitive nerves to handle.
"Zostera..." Dulse struggled to speak, already lost to the sensation. "...You drive me mad..."
It was an honest statement; she'd driven him crazy ever since they first met, and while the definition had changed somewhat over the years, the sentiment was still very much there. Now, he didn't mind it anymore - he welcomed the chaos that she brought into his ordered life, the disruptions and the unexpected suggestions that came at every turn, as he'd realized at some point that, in a bizarre and inexplicable sense, her influence grounded him. He had always felt empty before, lost in the emotionless chasm of his own world, and now-
"Psyche," Zossie said, her amusement clear in her tone, and then she began cleaning off the seed she'd smeared across his shaft with her tongue; he was caught off-guard once again, his body reacting in kind as he shivered and bucked his hips, and he came to the conclusion that her prior statement had been deliberate - she wanted to surprise him, to drive him even crazier, and he couldn't bring himself to reprimand her for it because of how much better it felt when she spiced things up like this.
"Zostera- aahhh...!" Dulse's attempt at saying her name trailed off into a sharp cry as he went over the edge again; he moved his hand from her head in time to grasp the bedsheets instead, his eyes closing as he released with unexpected force - he felt a hot stream land on the side of his face, just reaching his jawline, and the rest left streaks across both his upper and lower body. Seconds later, he felt her cleaning him up with her tongue, starting low and working her way up at a slow, deliberate pace.
After she licked up the smear across his face, she moved to whisper in his ear, "So that's how you do that."
Breathless as he was, Dulse wasn't able to respond at first. He wondered if Zossie had been trying to get that to happen for some time, and only met with success after using her mouth; he had his own list of complaints with that goal, mostly the issue of how much of a mess it made, but it had felt fantastic, so he was willing to let it slide this time. At the very least, she had the sense to clean up afterward - but she had used her mouth to do so, and he wasn't sure how he felt about that detail.
"...You wanted me... to ejaculate... on my face." Once he found his voice, Dulse made sure to emphasize each word as much as he could. "What sort of goal is that...?"
"I mean... it's pretty hard physical proof that you liked it," Zossie pointed out, as she rested her body against his. "...I guess it was kind of a weird goal, though. Sorry about that."
Dulse breathed a long sigh, too exhausted to counter her point. "...You shouldn't apologize when you don't mean it." Despite his words, he gave her a loose embrace, and a slight smile tugged at his lips; no matter how insufferable she was, she was right in one regard - he had enjoyed it, perhaps a bit too much.
"So... bad idea?" Zossie inquired, sounding somewhat tentative - a peculiar contrast to her prior behavior. "Or can we do that again sometime?"
"I would encourage you to practice," Dulse replied, after a short pause. "...I would not be opposed to repeating this." To emphasize his statement, he pressed a kiss to the side of her neck, and relished in how she shivered at that.
"...Sure, I can practice." Zossie gave him an expectant look; she must have caught on to the meaning behind his gesture. "But for now..."
"On your back." Dulse pulled himself away from Zossie, feeling a bit reluctant; he reminded himself that what he planned to do next would more than make up for any loss of contact between them. "That position is much more conducive to..."
He trailed off, watching as she complied with his request; he took a moment to indulge himself in the sight of her naked body, something that he had seen countless times before - but it never ceased to impress him. She hadn't changed much since she began working with the Aether Foundation, her slender form belying an impressive level of physical strength that she had made sure to maintain ever since ending her adventuring days.
She may have been different from most women - more petite, and with fewer curves - but she was beautiful in his eyes, and that was all that mattered to him. Her hair color, rare as it was, would not have been considered a desirable trait in her own world; they would see it as a sign of unreliable genes, a mutation that was unusual and unhelpful, and he wanted to prove them all wrong, that her magnificent hair deserved to be passed down-
Where had that come from?
"...Zostera." Dulse spoke her name, partially to distract him from his own thoughts and partially to direct her attention toward him. "Please let me know if my performance is unsatisfactory..."
Before his nerves could stop him, he ducked his head down, spreading her legs apart with his hands; he glanced up briefly, confirming that he had indeed caught her attention, as she had a bright smile on her face and an encouraging look in her eyes - she trusted him, and wanted him to know that she didn't care if he botched this or not.
After all, even if he discovered that this was beyond his capability, he could at least say that he'd put in the effort to attempt it. That was all Zossie had asked for - the dedication that she knew Dulse was renowned for, always doing everything he could to achieve his goal, regardless of what that goal might be.
Cautious at first, he pressed his tongue against her slit, tasting the outside; he was surprised to note that she had a mild taste, just a little stronger than the rest of her skin, and he considered the likelihood that she was just as meticulous about her personal hygiene as he was. It seemed an odd trait for her, but he wasn't complaining - one of his many concerns with this act was the issue of cleanliness, and that was clearly not something he needed to worry about with her.
Dulse gave a few more tentative licks, his thumb tracing a pattern on Zossie's inner thigh; he slid his tongue inside, testing to see how she would react, and when she placed a hand on his head, her fingers running through his hair, he understood the meaning of the gesture immediately - she wanted him to continue, and to pick up the pace before she grew impatient.
He complied with her request, running his tongue through her slit as he moved to the front; he found her nub with relative ease, noting that it was stiff and swollen already, her arousal fueled by the acts she'd performed on him. He circled the little protrusion with his tongue, and brought a hand down to her opening, pressing a finger inside - and the gasp she breathed was music to his ears, a sound that he always loved hearing from her in this context.
"Yeah, that's... that's perfect..." Zossie spoke in a breathless voice, her thighs tensing as Dulse's finger found the sweet spot inside her. "Ahh- keep... keep doing that..."
Her encouragement spurred him on, and he took her sensitive nub into his mouth, sucking on it as he pumped his finger in and out of her. She cried out, shameless, as her body shivered and her hand clenched in his hair; she pulled her hand away from his head after that, muttering an apology that was interrupted midway when he slid another finger inside her, pressing against the walls of her entrance.
She had adjusted to far more than two fingers, but she enjoyed the stimulation nonetheless, a sharp moan escaping her throat as she grasped at the bedsheets with both hands. Dulse's eyes flickered up toward Zossie's face, and he wondered if there was any way he could caress her chest as well; even if she liked this, he felt as though he wasn't doing enough for her, convinced that there was always something more he could do to heighten her enjoyment-
"Dulse...!" Zossie called out his name, her voice shaky, as her back arched and her thighs clamped around his head; his hand on her leg was the only thing that spared him from being hurt as her inner walls spasmed around his fingers, her release coating his neck and upper body. He was grateful that, as a female, her sexual fluids were easier to clean up than his own - though the sensation of being sprayed like that was always a welcome one to him, a sign that he had succeeded in pleasing her.
"...Zostera." As he pulled himself away from her, Dulse spoke her name, a small smile on his face; he wasn't sure if she wanted more, but after what he'd done, his jaw was a little tired, and he doubted he'd be able to repeat the performance. This was a field he needed practice in, though he knew that she would be willing to accept that sort of training.
"You... you did great," Zossie whispered, breathless, as she reached up a hand to tug him close to her. "...That felt amazing... I- I want you to... do it again sometime, if that's okay..."
"Another time, yes." Dulse leaned against her, supporting himself with one arm while he placed his other hand on the side of her head. "I... believe this is an art we must both practice. I would love for nothing more than to please you again, but..."
"You're... tired already?" Zossie gave a short laugh, her arm sliding around his waist. "Yeah, you need practice... that's way too little mouth stamina." Her face flushed a bit, and a shy smile graced her lips. "...But if you want to use your fingers..."
A hint of mild annoyance flashed through Dulse's mind at her tease; he disregarded it, shifting his position so that he could slide a hand between her legs. "...Are you certain?"
"You know the answer to that," Zossie pointed out, her smile broadening. "...When I'm with you, one is never enough..." She leaned up to press her lips against his, a gentle, fleeting touch that lasted less than a second - and it left him craving more, the slight soreness in his jaw no longer a remote consideration.
As he pressed his fingers inside her, Dulse captured Zossie's lips with his own, unwilling to let that light touch be the only kiss they shared. His other hand moved from her face to her chest, caressing her breast as he nipped at her bottom lip - and she caught on to his intent, moaning into his mouth as she deepened the kiss, holding him close with both arms.
He slid two fingers deeper, filling her entrance as he ran his thumb across her nub. She shuddered, breaking off the kiss to yelp into his shoulder instead, and he didn't mind - he'd gotten what he wanted, and now he could focus his full attention on pleasing her. He ducked his head down, mouthing at the side of her neck, marveling at the feel of her pulse beneath her skin; it was rapid, a clear indicator of her excitement, and just what he wanted to feel.
Dulse's teeth grazed Zossie's skin, and she yelped and gripped him tight in response; her thighs tensed around his hand, her inner walls clenching as she shifted her hips against his fingers, and he had to take a short breath to steady himself - even if she'd eased him twice, seeing and hearing and feeling her like this never failed to spark his own desire. From the start, she had always been willing to give in to the sensation, and while it had taken him some time to reach that point himself, he adored that eagerness, that simple joy she took in his every touch-
"...Zostera..." Dulse closed his eyes as he spoke her name yet again, a word that he'd grown addicted to since she gave her permission for him to use it. He recalled vaguely that there was a time when he feared falling into addiction; that time was long past now, and he embraced it instead, just another aspect of the unique and wonderful flavor of madness that his lover instilled in him.
Zossie reacted to her name as well - she, too, had grown addicted to hearing it from him, the one person she trusted with it, and her body trembled beneath him as she tried to muffle a scream against his skin. He rewarded her further with an increase in pace, his thumb outright massaging her sensitive nub as his fingers curled inside her, brushing against the sweet spot that he had grown familiar with; he felt her clench around him again, the muscles in her abdomen tightening, and a hot spark of lust shot through him as he realized what that simple, telling act meant.
She bit his shoulder as she peaked, a shuddering cry rising from her throat as her inner walls rippled around his fingers; though not as prolific as her first release, she did produce a small amount of fluid, coating his hand as he continued stimulating her, determined to draw out her pleasure for as long as he could. When she shifted her hips away, he withdrew his hand, recognizing that she didn't want more right now - an unfortunate thing, he thought, considering the fact that his own arousal had been reignited.
Still, it wasn't urgent. Dulse moved to embrace Zossie, one hand resting atop her head while his other arm slid around her abdomen; she gave him a weak smile, her hand clasping around the arm that he held her with, leaning into his touch when he began to run his fingers through her hair.
Then, she spoke, her words slow and deliberate - and the greatest surprise he'd heard from her in a long time.
"...I want to visit Ultra Megalopolis."
Dulse blinked at Zossie, confusion mixing in with his astonishment; not only was that an odd sentiment to express at this time, it made even less sense coming from her, the one who had been quick to disown her world after finding this new and brilliant one. He understood, to an extent - he had been feeling nostalgic himself as of late, for reasons he couldn't quite place a finger on, but he hadn't expected her to feel the same.
"You... want to visit Ultra Megalopolis," Dulse repeated, after a short silence. "...Why? And... why now?"
"Nostalgia," Zossie replied, and she breathed a sigh. "This room... it reminds me of the place I used to live, just a little. I don't really want to go back, but... I can't stop thinking about it, so... maybe going back just for a little while would help." She looked away. "...And I also... kinda wonder how everyone's doing back there..."
At the mention of Zossie's old living quarters, Dulse came to an intriguing realization; she was right about the similarity between this dormitory and many of the residential arrangements in Ultra Megalopolis. Perhaps that was why he felt nostalgic - the same reason as her, though he hadn't come to that conclusion as quickly, and it made him far more inclined to agree with her.
"We can arrange for a short visit," Dulse suggested, as he resumed petting her. "...More than a few days might have an unwanted effect, but going there is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. I would advise that we go on a proper vacation afterward."
"Yeah... that sounds like a good idea." Zossie made a soft noise, her eyes closing at his gentle, affectionate touch. "And... sorry for bringing that up now. I've been thinking about it for a while, and I wanted to get it off my chest."
"The timing is certainly unusual..." Dulse gave a short laugh, and then his hand trailed down to the side of her neck. "I believe I'm not yet done for the night... would you prefer for me to..."
Zossie's eyes opened once again, and she fixed him with a mischievous look. "Nah, you don't need to deal with it yourself." She pushed him down on the bed, climbing atop him with a broad grin on her face. "Only thing I ask for is that you pet me like that again when we're done... 'kay?"
It was an acceptable compromise, and Dulse answered her with a silent nod; he still didn't know how he'd been so blessed as to have her, with her excitable and playful personality that hid an impressive level of patience - she always humored him, never shying away from his requests, no matter how unreasonable they felt to him.
If her demeanor indicated anything, tonight was going to be a long night - and, more than ever, he embraced the promise of delightful madness that she brought with her.
Yeah, so, I'm going to be completely honest. I'm not sure how I feel about this plot with Dulse and Soliera. I think I'd rather just write something that's either pure exclusive Dulse/Zossie, or a proper OT3. This weird middle ground is making me a bit uncomfortable.
Still, I have ideas for it, which means I'm probably going to keep writing it. Unfortunately.
Also, yes, I'm not all that great at writing guys going down on girls. Or girls going down on girls, for that matter. It's just not my forte, and I apologize.
Chapter 7: eclipse
A grave mistake is made, and well-hidden feelings are exposed as a result.
Yeah, okay. I'm gonna be straight up with you - this chapter is going to venture into some dark territory. If you want to skip it entirely, feel free. I plan to summarize the events of this chapter in dialogue in the future, with the exception of one little twist which I'm sure anyone reading/following this fic has already figured out by now.
I have no idea how this fic went in this direction, but I'm starting to consider doing an alternate follow-up to "the moon reflecting the sun" that would have less drama, less Soliera, and probably less Gladion and Selene too (unfortunately).
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The one who greeted Dulse and Zossie when they arrived in Ultra Megalopolis was the last person either of them wanted to see.
After the Ultra Recon Squad was disbanded, its captain took on a position of authority within the district of the city that surrounded Megalo Tower, providing his wisdom for all who were willing to hear. Phyco's position had taken its toll on his body; he looked even older than he had when the other two last saw him, with a few more wrinkles on his face, and he seemed to have lost some weight. The latter in particular was concerning, as he had always been a slim man.
More than anything, however, his anger seemed to have magnified. After welcoming his former comrades to the city, Phyco gave each of them a pointed look of disapproval - he had learned of their relationship already, and while he was somewhat more lenient due to their position as ambassadors, his feelings on the subject hadn't improved one bit.
For her part, Soliera was far more understanding. She offered to let Dulse and Zossie stay in her residence, apologizing in advance for the lack of privacy; it was a gracious offer regardless, and they both accepted without complaint. Zossie reasoned that it shouldn't be that hard to keep it in their pants for the few days they planned to stay, though Dulse was a bit more skeptical - he knew Zossie too well, and Soliera's presence would undoubtedly have some sort of unwanted effect as well, considering their arrangement.
The city hadn't changed much in the eleven years since its two former residents left. The black shroud above Megalo Tower still loomed, a reminder of the events that had thrust this world into darkness; one of the taller buildings was undergoing maintenance, covered in scaffolding that matched its cold exterior, and a few of the panels that reflected the central tower's light had been readjusted, casting part of the city into shadow. It wasn't unusual for that to happen - as bright as Megalo Tower was, its light was limited, and could only be utilized so much.
As he walked the streets of the colossal city, Dulse came to the interesting realization that he had to let his eyes adjust to his surroundings. Though he spent much of his time in the windowless rooms at Aether Paradise, his body had acclimated somewhat to the natural light of the radiant world; now, in the dark world that he had been born in, he felt like a stranger - an alien, much as he had when he first came to Alola.
It was a surreal feeling, and one he decided immediately that he didn't like. As far as he was concerned, Ultra Megalopolis was no longer his home - he had discarded almost everything from his old life, replacing it with the brilliant warmth of another world, and being here reminded him too much of the arrangement he had with Soliera.
Despite the amount of time that had passed, Dulse still recognized some of the people in the city. Many of them looked very similar to how they had back then, but there were a few that he could only recognize by their faces and mannerisms; he hadn't befriended many people in this world, always remaining distant toward others, and he had never been treated as unusual for it - a fact that he had come to hate with every fiber of his being. That sort of behavior shouldn't be encouraged-
"Excuse me." As if called by some unseen force, the woman that was housing him stepped up beside him, fixing her too-blue eyes on him. "...May I speak with you?"
Dulse gave a small nod, and met Soliera's gaze. "What is it?"
"I was curious as to how you felt," Soliera said, her tone even. "It has been quite a long time since you last stayed here for any significant length of time. I would imagine that living in another world would change your perception of this one."
"...My body and mind have both been altered by Alola." Dulse took a short breath, and stepped up to a nearby post; he stopped there, his eyes scanning the city. "Though I was born here... I do not belong in this world anymore."
Soliera made an intrigued noise, and she stopped next to the same post, still looking at him. "Zossie is... quite set in her own opinion of this world. Do you know why she wanted to come back?"
"It was because of our shared living space..." Dulse recalled the conversation he'd had with Zossie not too long ago, about how her nostalgia haunted her every day. "It is quite similar to the living quarters offered to the people of this city. I can't say that she was the only one feeling nostalgic."
"Nostalgia..." A slight frown appeared on Soliera's face. "I'm surprised that Zossie would feel nostalgia toward this world. If she were doing it for you, I would understand, but..." She shook her head. "If I'm to be honest, this is a bad time for someone like her to return."
Dulse thought back to the earlier exchange with Phyco, and hummed his agreement. "...I'm somewhat surprised myself, but I am in no position to question her feelings. As for the captain..." He paused, closing his eyes. "I would be inclined to agree with you."
While he was the captain of the Ultra Recon Squad, Phyco at least made an effort to overcome his prejudice; there were more important things to focus on, and some of his own inner curiosity made its way to the surface when he learned of the radiant world's inhabitants. With those concerns out of the way, and the stress of his new position wearing on his mind, that old prejudice had resurfaced stronger than ever.
However, more than anyone else, this situation was difficult for Soliera - she was, after all, Phyco's once-beloved daughter.
"I will do what I can to convince him," Soliera stated, though she didn't sound very confident - her father's stubbornness was legendary. "In the meantime, know that most of the people in this district do not share his bias."
"This knowledge does serve as a small comfort..." Dulse looked back at Soliera, and he noticed a small blemish on her exposed collarbone; she had tried to cover it with makeup, but it was still clearly visible to his practiced eyes. "...Have you taken anyone else as a mate?"
"...Yes and no." Soliera averted her gaze, her voice becoming quiet. "I have... for the purposes of stress relief, engaged with a few men in recent times. However, I have avoided the potential for reproduction with them... you are currently my only candidate in that regard."
Dulse was sure that Soliera intended to comfort him with those words; however, her explanation had the opposite effect, and he had to take a deep breath to keep himself calm. He had hoped that she would find another mate at some point, someone else to provide her with the genetic material she wanted - but in a cruel twist of fate, she had decided that he was the only one she desired for that purpose.
Had he been cursed by the Blinding One for the experiments he performed on it over the course of the past eleven years?
"I see..." Dulse's tone was a bit harsher than he'd intended; he took another deep breath, then nodded. "I... suppose that your position would create a lot of stress. Have you truly not considered anyone else?"
"There are few men who can match your genetic potential," Soliera replied, no longer hesitant. "I want my offspring to be as exceptional as you are. Is that not reason enough to select you over any others?"
"...I suppose." Dulse struggled to keep his emotions in check; every word she said carried an implication that he despised, and he didn't want to get into an argument in the midst of the city. "However, I would like to remind you that my body is not yours to claim. Zossie and I have made this agreement to humor you... but we have also agreed that there is a limit to what we will tolerate."
"I understand that as well." Soliera hummed, then took a few steps away, her attention turning to a nearby group of people standing on the sidewalk. "As... disappointing as it is, I will not pursue you any further after our contract ends. I do not want to interfere in your relationship any more than I must."
Dulse bit back an accusation that she'd already interfered too much, and instead gave another small nod. "...I appreciate your consideration, and wish you the best of luck in your future... endeavors." He glanced at the group, curiosity taking root despite his frustration. "Do you know them?"
"They're part of a research group that I've been working with," Soliera said, and a smile crossed her face. "We have been studying aquatic flora extensively for some time now, and many of us wish to visit Alola to compare the flora there with that of this world. However, transporting large groups of people between worlds is currently very impractical..."
"...Zossie might be interested in that..." Dulse recalled a conversation he'd had with his girlfriend some time ago, one which had been rudely interrupted by the president. "Perhaps it would be more practical for us to do some of the studies, as we have already adjusted to life in that world. We could bring specimens of flora here."
"That is an excellent idea," Soliera agreed, her smile broadening. "And if it's you two... perhaps you could find a way to make it into a bonding activity as well? Though my understanding of that world is limited, I have heard that scuba diving is a popular form of entertainment..."
Dulse resisted the urge to laugh. "Yes, that is one thing she has suggested to me already." A thought crossed his mind, and he couldn't resist a smile of his own. "Though it may not be necessary. I have heard that in other regions, Pokemon are used as mounts to dive beneath the water, allowing their trainers to breathe underwater... Selene is from Kanto, so she may know more about that. I will have to ask her when we return."
"How fascinating... Pokemon are truly incredible creatures." An intrigued look crossed Soliera's face. "Such a thing seems impossible by conventional science, and yet... they are similar to the Ultra Beasts, correct? This radiant world is... there's so much research potential there, I can hardly wait to return..."
Her excitement reminded Dulse of the days of the Ultra Recon Squad, back when the two of them worked together to scour Ultra Space for answers. She had congratulated him and Zossie when they first discovered the radiant world, and encouraged them to search for what Necrozma wanted there; her own focus remained always on Ultra Megalopolis, but her curiosity about Alola had started even back then, growing over the years into something pure and genuine.
There was a time when Soliera was one of Dulse's few close friends. While they did have their disagreements, she often looked after him during their collaboration, and had nursed him back to health on those occasions when he worked too hard and fell ill. It was no surprise that she'd developed feelings for him - feelings that she had never acted on, too concerned with pleasing her father to even attempt any sort of closer bond, and now...
"...Focus on opening your father's heart." Dulse returned to a subject they'd discussed countless times before, usually out of Phyco's earshot. "His position as district manager has taken a clear toll on him... if he continues down this path, I fear it may have an impact on his health as well. That level of anger is... problematic."
"Yes, it seems I will have to prioritize that..." Soliera's expression turned grim. "He has already said that he will not permit me to return outside of my current field of research. It's... unfortunate, but unsurprising."
Dulse reminded himself that, no matter what their relationship was now, Soliera was still his friend; he hated seeing her in such turmoil, her desperation to prove the light's worth to her father leaving her in a truly sad state. Perhaps that was why she had started seeking a mate now - she wanted to put her own feelings to rest, in some twisted effort to maintain her relationship with her father, who seemed to care less for her by the day.
She had once known warmth, but had it torn from her at a young age... and now the light she had lost seemed forever beyond her grasp.
"...Next time I visit, I will invite Selene," Dulse stated, his thoughts turning to the Blinding One's current condition. "She is the one person I know who may be able to aid you..."
Even if Soliera's efforts to sway Phyco failed, there was still one last resort. He had not seen Necrozma's light since the incident eleven years ago, and the context then had been a dangerous one; with the differing circumstances, a taste of that brilliance might be enough to change him for the better, a reminder of that which he had once fought for. There was also a chance, however slim, that Necrozma visiting this world would be beneficial to it as a whole - perhaps it could not yet return the light it had stolen, but its very presence could have some substantial effect on the city's residents.
"Yes, that sounds like a fantastic idea," Soliera agreed, her smile returning. "I, too, would like to see the Blinding One again..." She glanced back at the nearby group - her research group - one last time, then gestured toward the building that housed her residence. "For the time being, I'd like to retire. There is... something on my mind, and I believe the discussion with the rest of my group can wait..."
Though he was curious, Dulse chose not to pry; instead, he nodded, and turned toward the building as well. "...I will join you. I'm concerned about Zossie... she told me that she wasn't ready to see someone yet. She did not specify who."
"Ah... I see." Soliera's smile turned knowing, and a hint of amusement invaded her tone. "Perhaps I should attempt to give you two some privacy, then."
Dulse's face flushed, and he shook his head, but said nothing else; knowing Zossie, there was the very real concern that privacy would be a necessity, but he tried not to think too much about that. Instead, he started off toward the building, wracking his brain for the number that marked Soliera's residence - though he was sure that there was no need to remember it now, there was always the chance that he would have to find it while she was away.
Their conversation, as with many others in recent memory, had left him conflicted. Returning to speak with Zossie wasn't just for her sake - it was for his own as well, as he needed a distraction after exchanging with Soliera.
The space that Soliera lived in was closer to an apartment, with a small central living area and a single bedroom branching off from it; one of the walls in the living area had a sizable curio shelf installed on it, displaying an assortment of souvenirs from her journeys through Ultra Space - including a handful from Alola, the distinctive hand-crafted trinkets standing out against the stones and crystals that made up the rest of the collection.
When Dulse arrived at the residence, he saw Zossie inspecting the curio shelf, her focus intense enough that she didn't notice him at first. He waited for a short moment, then stepped over to her and cleared his throat, startling her.
"H-huh!?" Zossie turned to Dulse, and a light blush spread across her face. "Oh, um... sorry! I was just... well, Soliera's got some really cool stuff here, so..."
"These souvenirs are... interesting," Dulse agreed, nodding once. "That petrified branch in particular... you and I have both visited the realm it came from."
He recalled that time clear as day - a short trek through a hot, sticky jungle, the flora just as dangerous as the massive creatures which prowled the wilds, and they had decided to turn back as soon as they'd gathered enough information. Clearly, Soliera had been braver... or perhaps more fortunate.
"Yeah..." Zossie winced, her own unpleasant recollection obvious. "Don't wanna think about that place. Not going back there. Now that the Ultra Recon Squad's gone, no one can make me."
"...There is something else I wish to discuss." Dulse placed a hand on Zossie's shoulder, meeting her gaze. "Who was it that you didn't want to see?"
"Oh... um." Zossie shifted in place, and she forced a smile; even with the change in subject, she still seemed uncomfortable. "I think I came across my old roommate... he looked a lot like you, just... younger." She shook her head, closing her eyes briefly. "And no, it wasn't you. I can tell you apart from anyone else, even someone who looks a lot like you. Call it instinct, or intuition, or... whatever."
Dulse took a moment to process this information; it was certainly possible that her old roommate was his younger brother, at least in terms of genetics. Having never met his family, he doubted that he would be able to bond with any of his siblings, even if he came across them somehow - it was a troubling thought, and not one he wanted to dwell on for long.
"Well... that would explain your unwillingness to speak with him." A soft sigh escaped Dulse's throat, and he pulled Zossie into a hug. "Remember that he is part of your past. You don't need to return to him if the thought makes you uncomfortable."
"...He and I were never close, anyway," Zossie murmured, her arms sliding around him as she buried her face in his chest. "He spent all his time reading, and barely even talked to me. You're so much warmer... and cuter, too."
Dulse was certain that she referred to emotional warmth, though he liked to think that she meant his physical warmth as well. "It is thanks to you that I was able to discover that part of myself... if you hadn't come into my life, perhaps I would have turned out like him."
"Nope, you two were always totally different," Zossie insisted, her grip on him tightening just a bit. "You were always okay with friendship. I don't think the idea ever even crossed his mind... at least, back when I knew him." She giggled - a welcome sign that her discomfort had eased. "Besides, like I said... you're cuter. Way cuter."
"I'm... not sure how to respond to that," Dulse admitted, his face flushing. "Though I do appreciate the compliment..." He pulled back to look at her, and took note of the grin that she bore. "You seem to be feeling better... was my aid satisfactory?"
Zossie tugged his head down with one hand, planting a short kiss on his lips. "Yep, thanks! That was just what I needed..." She shifted away from him, her voice growing quiet - and just a bit shy. "But, um... if I'm not going out again today, I should probably take my hair down... it's probably a total mess by now, and..."
"...And?" Dulse raised an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued; it sounded as though she wanted something from him. "Did you have a request?"
"I... well..." Zossie averted her eyes, her embarrassment clear on her face. "...I was hoping that... you'd help me brush my hair. It's long enough now that... doing it by myself is really hard..."
Her request was not entirely out of left field; though she'd never asked him to help her with her hair, she made a strong point in regards to the trouble she had with it. The way she acted while making the request was the unprecedented part - she had already performed all sorts of sexual acts on him, and now she got flustered over asking him to brush her hair of all things.
It was, by far, the most endearing thing he'd ever seen her do - and that was an impressive feat.
"I would be glad to," Dulse stated, after a brief silence. "...In fact, I will encourage you to make that request more often. It is something I can help you with..."
There were times when he thought their relationship was a little one-sided. Zossie was a wonderful girlfriend, having taught him a great deal about the nuances of emotion; she gave so much to him, and he feared that he just wasn't giving enough back. Now, with such a small thing as maintaining her appearance-
"There you go again!" Zossie gave a loud giggle, as if dismissing his concern. "You know you don't need to help me all the time, right? I'm a big girl... I can take care of myself." Her expression softened, and she made her way over to a nearby chair. "...But thanks all the same. I'll be sure to take you up on that offer."
Dulse followed her, watching as she seated herself and began to undo her braid. "...I simply wish to help where I can. You do so much for me..." He turned away from her to scan the room, searching for the bag that held her belongings; he spotted it on a nearby end table, its bright colors standing out against the dark shades of the room.
"I have to," Zossie insisted, her eyes following him as he searched through her bag for her hairbrush. "You're a total mess. I don't know how you handled yourself before I met you." There was a hint of teasing in her tone, an indicator that she didn't intend it as an insult; he wouldn't have taken it as one regardless, too familiar with her quirks to be offended.
"...With a great deal of caution." Dulse found the hairbrush, and took a moment to inspect it; just like all her other belongings, it was brightly colored, and he questioned the practicality of such a thing. "I would not say it was a comfortable life, but I survived."
He returned to the chair Zossie sat in, positioning himself behind her; for a short moment, he was distracted by the visage of her hair, wavy from her preferred hairstyle. Its length was impressive, reaching past her waist, and the coloration was a sharp contrast to her light blue skin-
Dulse pushed aside the memory of what had happened just a few nights ago, not wanting to be distracted from the task at hand. It was a wonderful memory for certain, but now was not the time to think of such things.
"Yeah... sounds like life in this stupid world." Zossie made an annoyed noise, shaking her head a little. "It was the same for me, honestly. I didn't think I'd ever find a purpose in life... so I just didn't bother looking for one. The Ultra Recon Squad was my ticket out of here, y'know?"
"I find that difficult to imagine..." Dulse began running the brush through her hair, watching her for any signs of discomfort; there were a few tangles that he had to work out, and her response was not quite as strong as he expected - she winced a little, but didn't attempt to pull away. It was clear that, with how long her hair was, she had grown used to this particular issue.
"What, me being depressed and hopeless?" Zossie breathed a short laugh, interrupted when the brush reached another knot. "...Yeah, I guess it does kinda sound weird, looking back on it. I always just... tried to think happy thoughts. It was the only way I could cope... and eventually, that just became my whole personality. I liked it better that way."
Dulse remained silent for a short time, still working the brush through Zossie's hair. He was sure that the darker aspects of her past were not something she shared freely, and that her admitting this to him was a sign of her trust toward him; the knowledge flattered him, but the thought of her having such a sad mindset in her youth made him hurt in a way he couldn't describe. She hadn't been that old when he first met her, just closing in on her teenage years, and her suffering had occurred before then...
The idea of such a young child finding no meaning in life was horrifying, and the fact that it didn't surprise him even more so. That was life in Ultra Megalopolis - people were forced to learn how to take care of themselves far too soon, discarded by their parents shortly after birth to be raised by the community until they could think for themselves. He had been a similar case, but he didn't recall reacting to it quite as strongly, his mindset allowing him to dedicate himself to work instead.
"...I'm glad that you overcame it," Dulse said at last, pausing in his brushing to place a hand on her shoulder instead. "However, I believe that your... current personality must have always been a part of you. You wouldn't have been so troubled otherwise."
"Maybe it was..." Zossie gave a half-shrug, and leaned back in her seat. "I've tried to forget a lot of stuff from that time. There were things I just couldn't forget, but..." Her voice trailed off as he resumed brushing her hair, her eyes fluttering shut; when she spoke again, her tone was soft. "...Wow, that feels nice..."
"...It does?" Dulse was grateful for the opportunity to change the subject, somewhat disturbed by the discussion of her past. "Perhaps I should ask you to do the same for me, then." It wouldn't be the same, of course - his hair was short, and he didn't style it - but the thought was still somewhat enticing.
"Yeah, it's awesome..." Zossie breathed a sigh, and opened one eye to peer up at him. "I wouldn't mind doing that. I mean, I've already-"
The bedroom door opened, and Zossie jolted from her relaxed posture to glance over at it. Soliera stood in the doorway, a hint of surprise flashing across her face before she gave a short laugh, her mouth quirking upward in an amused smile.
"Am I interrupting something?" the blue-haired woman inquired, as she stepped over to them. "...It seems you two were quite busy yourselves..."
"...She wanted me to brush her hair," Dulse responded, shaking his head. "Considering the length of her hair, I felt that she was justified in asking for help with it."
Zossie gave a quick nod of agreement, grinning from ear to ear. "Yep, you don't need to worry about us! Just a little grooming is all. Thanks for checking in, though."
Despite himself, Dulse felt a bit irritated. He knew that Soliera couldn't have known about this, and that her interruption had been unintentional; that didn't change the fact that he'd gotten into it, enjoying the act of brushing his lover's hair almost as much as she did, and the rather rude distraction had taken him out of that comfortable state.
Still, there was nothing to be done for it. Zossie's hair was well-groomed by now, and any further brushing would be unnecessary; they could always find a different bonding activity, though the ones that involved the removal of clothes were off the table.
"I suppose I should apologize..." Soliera watched as Dulse pulled away from Zossie, moving to return the hairbrush to its proper place. "At least you weren't engaged in a more compromising act... though, I would have left you alone if that were the case."
"Apology accepted," Dulse stated, though he didn't feel as though he fully accepted it. "...I would advise you to be more careful in the future. We have absorbed a great deal of Alolan culture, and privacy has much greater value in that world." He returned to Zossie's side, watching her as she ran her fingers through her hair - a test to see if his efforts were sufficient.
"Yes... I understand." Soliera made her way over to the small kitchenette that took up the far side of the room, glancing over her shoulder at the couple. "...Do either of you have any further plans for today?"
"I'm not feeling all that great, so I'm staying in," Zossie replied immediately, though her tone indicated otherwise. "How about you, Dulse?"
"I will be staying with you." Dulse moved behind her once again, placing his hands on her shoulders; he leaned forward, his chin resting atop her head as he began to massage her - a spur-of-the-moment idea that he hoped she wouldn't reject. "...Like you, there are some people I would prefer not to encounter yet."
"I suppose I'll start on dinner, then..." Soliera turned her attention to the kitchenette, and began rummaging through the cupboards. "...Please, don't mind me. Continue on as you have been."
"You heard her..." Zossie leaned back, her eyes half-closing as she relaxed at Dulse's touch. "And please don't stop that..."
"...Do not allow yourself to get too excited, Zossie." Dulse closed his own eyes, relying on touch to guide him as he massaged her; it felt strange not using her true name when they were together, but with Soliera within earshot, that simply wasn't an option. "We aren't alone."
"Yeah, I know, but..." Zossie breathed a soft sigh, shifting in place just a little. "...It's Soliera, and we're in Ultra Megalopolis..."
Her words ventured into dangerous territory, and Dulse chose not to respond at first, focusing his full attention on the physical act he performed on her. He wasn't sure how he felt about the prospect of that yet - the thought did make him a little uncomfortable, and yet at the same time...
If it was Soliera watching, then perhaps such a twisted demonstration could help to prove a point to her. There was a certain thrill to that idea which Dulse could not deny, no matter how hard his rational side pushed back against it.
"...I will think about it," he said at last, his voice low. "However, remember that you said we could... keep it in our pants for the duration of this visit. If it's at all possible, I would prefer to adhere to that."
"Right, right..." Zossie gave a quiet laugh. "I almost forgot I said that. Sorry."
She didn't sound very apologetic - then again, she rarely did when it came to this subject. For Dulse in specific, part of dealing with Zossie's antics involved humoring her requests to take him to bed; he enjoyed it most of the time, and even turned it around on her with shameful frequency, but there were too many issues with it right now, and he still had to properly consider how he felt about it.
"When we return..." Dulse lowered his mouth to Zossie's ear, whispering. "...I will make it up to you. I promise."
A light shiver ran through Zossie's body, and she gave a single nod - then burst into giggles, likely amused by his tease. No matter how many times he heard it, he loved hearing her laugh, a pristine sound that signified everything about her; the darkness she faced in the past had not defined her, instead shaping her into the beacon of hope that she was now.
She had always been like the sun, radiant and beautiful and so very warm, and living in that brilliant world with her had only cemented that fact in his mind.
In all her life, Soliera had never felt so conflicted as she did when she entered into this... arrangement with Dulse. She had her own feelings to consider, of course; she had always found him attractive, not only as a prospective mate, but also as a person - he was hard-working, strong-willed, and possessed an incredible kindness that he kept hidden away most of the time, a sad result of the environment he had been raised in.
However, Dulse was in a romantic relationship. Despite the depth of her feelings for him, Soliera didn't fully understand what such a relationship was like; she knew that they remained exclusive, straying outside of the breeding culture that Ultra Megalopolis had developed, and that they were rooted in intense feelings and an emotional connection that was far stronger than even the closest friendship. The man she had developed an interest in had chosen another for his mate-
No, that was not the right word. Simply calling them mates understated their relationship, significant as it was, and Soliera didn't want to insult them like that. She had heard the term lover passed around a few times while in Alola, and that seemed like a far more fitting description - it certainly matched the intensity with which Dulse and Zossie treated each other when they were together, their gentle caresses and soft whispers showing a level of affection that words alone could not do justice.
Soliera had been perfectly willing to discard her own feelings for Dulse after seeing how he was with Zossie... and then he had made that offer, one which, in her already damaged emotional state, she couldn't bring herself to pass up. That afternoon had rekindled feelings she'd tried so hard to forget, her heart aching for someone she couldn't have - someone who had never felt the same, and made that fact terribly clear in his subsequent actions.
Still, it was for the better in the end. Her father would never approve of her falling into the trap of romance, having been a victim of it himself; she already had a deep emotional connection to concern herself with, one which seemed to grow more frail by the day.
Now, an unexpected visit to the lightless world had led Dulse and Zossie to stay in Soliera's residence. She had been the one to offer them shelter, of course, but a small part of her regretted that decision; now, there was the ever-looming reminder that she could never truly have the man she loved, his body and soul taken by one of her own former comrades. She delighted in seeing them together, their conflicting personalities resulting in a surprisingly intriguing bond - but that did not ease the darker feelings that lurked beneath the surface of her thoughts.
The second day of their stay had been a busy one, with the two venturing out into the city to see the sights. Soliera had served as their guide, but chose to stay out for some time longer after they retired; she had her own business to attend to regarding the research group she had joined, as well as a few small errands to run before she returned to her residence.
When she did return, nothing seemed out of the ordinary at first. Dulse and Zossie were nowhere to be found, and Soliera assumed that they had gone somewhere else; she went about tidying up the main living space and putting away the things she'd obtained during her trip, thinking little of the couple's absence. They could take care of themselves, as they had made clear upon moving into their shared residence-
The bedroom door was ajar, and Soliera's curiosity spiked at that. She had told them that they could rest in her room while she was away, so she made her way over to the door and peered inside - only to be greeted by a most unexpected sight.
Zossie looked as though she had just woken up, and Dulse was curled around her protectively, his arms holding her close while he watched her. At the intrusion, he turned his attention toward the doorway, his eyes going wide as he met Soliera's gaze.
"...My bed is hardly large enough to house two," Soliera pointed out, a smile crossing her face. "I'll admit I'm impressed that you found a way."
"Hey there," Zossie greeted, raising a hand as she grinned back at Soliera. "Yeah, I guess Dulse didn't like the idea of me sleeping by myself in someone else's house. He's a little overprotective."
"I'm right here..." Dulse tucked his face into Zossie's side, an uncharacteristic frustrated groan rising from his throat. He had never been so bothered by light jabs like that before - it seemed as though the radiant world had changed him far more than expected.
"Well, regardless..." Soliera took a step back, preparing to leave the two to their own devices; they had both requested privacy on separate occasions, and after the hair-brushing incident yesterday, she intended to give them just that. "If you decide to... utilize my bed for your own purposes, then please at least make an effort to be quiet. I would prefer it if the neighbors did not question me as to why both a man and a woman are engaging in such activities within my residence."
Zossie made a face. "Uh, we weren't planning on..." Her expression changed very suddenly, as if some brilliant thought had crossed her mind. "...Well, actually, if you don't mind us using your bed, then..."
"We... have discussed this at length." Dulse lifted his head again, his face flushing hot as he spoke. "It is... becoming more difficult to hold ourselves back. We long for each other deeply, and while we do wish to offer the courtesy of... not utilizing this residence for our own purposes..."
Something about the way he said that set Soliera on edge. It was as if he had some expectation in mind - something that involved her, for whatever untold reason. She settled on the privacy concern, an understandable sentiment for their predicament.
"I'm more than willing to vacate the premises," Soliera stated, after a brief silence. "You don't need to hold yourselves back on my account. I'm well aware of how sexually active you two are."
"Yeah... there's a bit of a problem with that." Zossie pulled herself away from Dulse, sitting up; a smile that bordered on malicious had appeared on her face. "Y'see... this is your residence, and you shouldn't have to leave just because of us. So we figured... why not just do it while you're here?"
Soliera caught on to the meaning of that explanation far sooner than she wanted to. She had heard part of their conversation yesterday, and while she had assumed it was simple banter, her assessment now appeared to be incorrect; they had genuinely considered such a lecherous thing, perhaps with the sole excuse that they were in their own world and privacy wasn't as much of a concern.
There was also a possibility that this idea was related to their arrangement somehow, a thought that Soliera chose not to explore for the time being - she had to figure out an answer to the issue as soon as possible.
"I... see." Soliera cleared her throat, averting her eyes. "In that case... well, I suppose it would be more comfortable for you to use my bed... I'm assuming that you want me to... watch?"
"...Please." Dulse sounded a little breathless, his eyes half-lidded as he pushed himself up. "Considering the circumstances... there is no need to vacate, and perhaps Zossie would find it... exciting."
That sounded more like an excuse than anything, but Soliera was sure that, at the very least, such a display would excite her. She had been in a similar situation a few times before, though those incidents had occurred while she was staying at another's residence - a case of a man who had selected multiple mates, herself included, and she'd enjoyed the experience more than she wanted to admit.
Against her better judgment, Soliera conceded to the request. "...In that case, there's no need to hold back on my account. Show me... everything."
They didn't need to be told twice. Dulse was the first to undress, the simplicity of his casual outfit making the task easy; Zossie took a bit longer, her own attire not designed for quick removal, and she gave her boyfriend a silent plea for help about halfway through. Soliera wondered why she'd chosen something like that - it didn't seem to be a popular style in the other world, and anything that wasn't simple and practical was seen as wasteful in this world.
And, as Dulse began to work Zossie's top off, Soliera noticed that she wore underclothes - a simple, light bra that matched the color of her skin, something that seemed completely unnecessary on her rather small breasts. The only logical explanation was that she wore it to entice her lover, though the frantic nature of their undressing ensured that he didn't have time to appreciate it.
Once the two were both undressed, Soliera took in the sight of their naked bodies; she had not seen Dulse's that well during their first courting, as he had opted to avoid fully removing his clothes, and he was even more attractive than she realized. His skin tone seemed to have changed, so marginal that it was difficult to even discern at first glance, and while his muscles were toned, he wasn't overly large - an average, but still fit and delightful, form. As he'd mentioned in one of their prior conversations, he kept his body hair trimmed, save for his somewhat dense pubic hair.
Zossie, for all her energy and enthusiasm, was still just as petite as ever. Her form was slender, her musculature just barely visible beneath her skin, and she didn't have much in the way of curves; her most notable feature was her legs, toned from her adventures across the radiant world, and Soliera was sure that those legs could be used to great effect - though Zossie wasn't really her type, she couldn't help but admire those gorgeous thighs, and the light patch of orange hair that lay between them-
Soliera turned her attention away from Zossie, reminding herself that she was not here to watch a woman. Though she had learned some time ago - much to her chagrin - that she was attracted to females, it was not an exclusive attraction, and thus would be staunchly opposed in this world. Only the most daring of individuals would choose to endorse such behavior, and she didn't want to be distracted by thoughts of the pair who had awakened those feelings.
Instead, she watched Dulse. She watched him as he stretched out across the bed, his too-lovely body on full display; she watched him as he leaned over just a little to pull his lover close, whispering something in her ear that was too quiet to decipher. She watched as he ran his hands along the petite girl's body, his touch gentle and affectionate even in these circumstances, his adoration for her showing clearer than ever when they were both nude, exciting each others' bodies in anticipation of the main event...
That dark emotion Soliera had been feeling as of late crept into the back of her mind. The way Dulse treated Zossie was so far removed from what she was used to from him that he didn't even seem like the same person anymore; his soft side, usually so well hidden behind his stoic facade, was far too prominent now, his mouth teasing his lover's skin with the utmost of care - and when Zossie responded in turn, her lips pressing against his for a fleeting moment before she kissed a line down the side of his jaw, that darkness in Soliera's mind grew stronger, blotting out her conscience.
She could never have him. He was bound to another, permanently outside of her grasp. Even if he had humored her request, that was a temporary thing that he regretted ever agreeing to.
Envy. The dark emotion that Soliera felt was envy - she was jealous of Zossie for taking Dulse away, jealous of the radiant world for changing him as it had, angry with her own world for making her question herself like this. It was an ugly thing, a reminder of her human vulnerability, and she tried to push it down as soon as she could.
The damage had already been done. Soliera could no longer focus on the situation with any degree of clarity; she watched, her heart racing, as Dulse pulled Zossie atop him, his sweet caresses never stopping - even as one hand strayed lower, pressing between the girl's legs, teasing out a soft gasp and a short moan from her. Foreplay that seemed necessary, given the difference in size between the two.
Zossie was undesirable. Her body was not fit for bearing children, too slim and frail. Her hair was an anomaly, a color that should never have been allowed to spread in Ultra Megalopolis, so rare that there were probably only a few dozen others in the entire city who shared it. She was too emotional, having never developed the control that was all but necessary for life in this world. She looked and acted so much like a child, even in her adulthood...
And yet, at the sight of that despicable girl being pleasured, her head thrown back as she moved her hips against Dulse's hand, Soliera felt her body grow hot. A familiar wetness between her legs, soaking through her underclothes. A burning tension in her lower body, aching to be relieved. Her breaths becoming heavy, her blood demanding more oxygen as it fed her stimulated flesh.
It didn't last long. Zossie, sensitive as she was, cried out and shuddered, her form collapsing atop Dulse as he touched her, his fingers sliding out of her when he was sure that she was done. He wasted no time in replacing his fingers with his own neglected arousal, pressing inside her with an astounding level of care, and she took a shaky breath and smiled as she began to move atop him, undaunted by his considerable size - a seamless transition into intercourse, as though the two of them had done this countless times before, their motions practiced and calculated like nothing Soliera had ever seen before.
She couldn't help herself. Her hand slid between her legs, her fingers pressing against her sensitive nub, already stiff and wanting just from watching them. The hot pulse of sensation that shot through her at that simple touch made her knees weak, and she had to lean against the doorframe to remain standing as she rubbed herself, her half-lidded eyes fixed on the display before her.
Dulse had his hands on Zossie's hips, supporting her above him while she rode him; her gaze met his, her fingers tracing lines across his chest with each shift of her hips, and the way he shivered and breathed her name in response to that touch was another new and unprecedented thing - Soliera had never seen Dulse this passionate before, giving himself both body and mind to the sensations of sex, his facade forgotten altogether as he started to move his own hips, somewhat restricted by their position.
It was curious that they'd chosen that position in the first place. Dulse was certainly strong enough that he could take the lead, even more so when he was with someone like Zossie - and yet he chose to defer to her, laying beneath her while she controlled the pace of their copulation. Perhaps it had something to do with the difference in their size, his own gentle nature toward her preventing him from dominating when he could potentially hurt her by doing so; the thought was sweet, too sweet, and it sent another pang of dark envy through Soliera's mind.
If it was her in that position, he wouldn't need to defer to her. He wouldn't be forced into this weakened state out of concern - he would be able to use logic and reason instead, knowing that with someone bigger and stronger, he wouldn't need to be so careful. He deserved someone more on his level, not this tiny, pathetic brat who needed special treatment just to mate-
Her malevolent thoughts did not prevent Soliera from enjoying the spectacle. She watched as Dulse's breaths grew rapid, his movements more erratic as he said something meant only for Zossie's ears; the orange-haired girl leaned forward in response, panting out a few whispered words against his skin, one of her hands migrating between her legs to stimulate herself - until he moved his own hand there, taking the place of her fingers in a gesture that was far too kind, and the weak smile that crossed her face for a split second showed how much she appreciated it.
From her position, Soliera could see clearly the moment Dulse reached his climax; he bit back a moan, pressing himself into Zossie as far as he could, and the rhythmic contractions of his release were almost enough to send Soliera over the edge herself - and then Zossie followed him, her body shuddering as her inner muscles clamped down on Dulse's shaft, milking him for every drop of his essence, and that was when Soliera forgot everything and gave in to her bliss.
It lasted for far too long, and when she came to, she was on the floor, just barely sitting up with her free arm against the doorframe; the couple on her bed were still joined, Zossie slumped against Dulse as he ran his fingers through her hair, his eyes closed as he basked in the afterglow. Soliera managed to push herself to her feet, wiping her messed hand on her pants as she tried to look away from the sight of the two before her.
It had hurt so much to watch them, and yet, in the end, Soliera found herself regretting those dark thoughts. They had come from an irrational part of her mind, a foolish and selfish aspect of her that she had never even known existed; she didn't want those thoughts to define her, less so with the reminder that despite everything, Dulse and Zossie were her friends - both of them. The vile things she'd thought about Zossie in particular revolted her, to the point where just recalling them made her sick to her stomach.
Without another word, Soliera turned and left the bedroom, closing the door behind her. She turned instead to the bathroom, where she cleaned herself up; she paid special attention to her face, as though splashing water on herself could ever hope to rinse those thoughts away.
Ever since the world's light was lost, the people of Ultra Megalopolis had calculated day and night by the passage of time alone. With no sun or moon to judge from, they decided on their own fixed schedules of activity and rest, each period denoted by descriptive terms.
Needless to say, the waking hour after that event was an awkward one.
Dulse awoke with a mild headache, another physical reminder that he no longer belonged in this world; he and Zossie had slept on the floor in the main living area, leaving the bedroom for Soliera. It was a small consolation after what they'd both subjected her to the day before, and he still wanted to apologize properly.
As he pulled himself out of the makeshift bed, he noticed that his former teammate was already awake, preparing breakfast in the kitchenette. He watched her for a short time, then massaged his temple as he made his way over to the dining table and seated himself.
Even when she caught his eyes, Soliera did not say anything to Dulse. She went about her work in silence, almost as if disregarding his existence; a pang of discomfort struck him, and he realized that he would need Zossie's help to clear the air - she had always been better at these sorts of things, a significant advantage to her overly social nature.
When he noticed his lover stirring from her own slumber, Dulse breathed a small, relieved sigh. His thoughts had been scattered since that incident, his own concerns eased only somewhat by the fact that he was not alone in that regard - all three of them had their own private issues with what had taken place, and now seemed as good a time as any to work out those issues, at least to an extent.
"...Ugh." Zossie ran a hand through her hair, wincing a bit; it was clear that she, too, suffered from some sort of physical pain. "Haven't felt like this since that one night out with Karina..."
The name wasn't one Dulse recognized, so he guessed that it was someone Zossie had met on her prior adventures. He also guessed that the night out in question involved alcohol, which, to his eternal chagrin, had the same effect on people of both worlds - he had been inebriated once himself, and it was an experience he didn't care to repeat.
"Good morning, Zossie." Though there was no way to tell if it was actually morning, Dulse greeted her that way out of habit, offering her a small smile. "I suppose you're also suffering the effects of transitioning back to this world?"
"Yeah..." Zossie groaned as she picked herself up, trudging over to the table. "Not feeling too great in the mental department, either." She plopped herself down in the chair next to Dulse's. "Soliera up for talking?"
"I don't know," Dulse answered, as he turned his attention back to the blue-haired woman. "She... hasn't said anything yet."
After a brief silence, Soliera turned away from the kitchenette; whatever she'd prepared didn't look all that appetizing, but it was sustenance, and that was all that ultimately mattered in this cold world. As she carried the plate over to the table, Dulse caught a glimpse of its contents - small, neatly-cut rectangles of paste that held together clumps of some sort of meat, and he recognized the breakfast specialty all too well from his time living in this world.
While there were more enjoyable alternatives available, Soliera had opted for the most basic thing possible, and Dulse couldn't comprehend why. Perhaps she was still upset with her guests over what had happened yesterday...
"...Actually, I wanted to apologize," Soliera stated, as she placed the plate on the table. "I'm... well aware that I did not voice my thoughts to you, but... during the act, I felt... conflicted." She took a short breath, seating herself before she continued. "There were also some very negative thoughts mixed in, but I won't detail them to you... please keep in mind that those thoughts do not reflect how I feel about either of you. They were simply something that happened in the heat of the moment, and nothing else."
"Oh... yeah." Zossie gave a quick nod, then stared at the plate of food. "I, uh... I kinda got caught up in the moment myself. Totally forgot we were doing the thing until... well. Sorry about that."
Dulse had the same issue; after they started, he had scarcely noticed Soliera's presence, and was rather grateful for it in retrospect. "...I concur with this sentiment. I believe that... perhaps we should make an effort to put this incident behind us."
"...Yes, that seems preferable," Soliera agreed, her eyes shifting between the two. "I... have been making lapses in judgment with troublesome frequency as of late. I do hope you won't hold it against me."
"No, we totally understand." A genuine smile crossed Zossie's face - she had perked up already, in her typical fashion. "You've been dealing with a lot lately, and the stress is probably getting to you. It happens to the best of us... right, Dulse?"
"...Indeed, it does..." Dulse recalled a time not too long ago when he had gotten himself stressed out over the arrangement with Soliera; he had since discarded that irrational anxiety, but he understood quite well what stress did to one's mind. "Mistakes can be corrected. There is no need to dwell on them."
"Yes, this is certainly the case..." Soliera looked as though she was pondering something herself; the expression did not last long, as she turned her attention to the breakfast she'd prepared instead. "...By the way, I would suggest that you wait some time before eating. I've discovered that they're much better cold."
Stunned as he was by the abrupt change in subject, Dulse was very confused when Zossie burst into laughter; he took a moment to process the information, and came to the conclusion that there was no harm in taking Soliera's advice. He hadn't cared before visiting the radiant world, but now that he'd had a taste of their food...
"I will keep this in mind," Dulse stated, nodding once. "Though... perhaps you should have prepared something more... substantial."
"Substantial... ah, yes, I'd already forgotten." A hint of disappointment flashed across Soliera's face. "Unfortunately, I doubt I would be able to prepare anything as enjoyable as that world's food. I also lacked the necessary ingredients... so, with due apologies, you'll have to settle for this."
"Don't worry, I already prepared for this," Zossie said, her expression bright. "Besides, there's also some pretty nasty stuff in the other world. Just go to Castelia City in Unova and you'll see what I mean." She took a short breath. "Oh, not the Casteliacones. I meant the... other stuff. Those cheap back-alley restaurants... things like that. You'll know what I mean if you ever go there."
"If I ever visit that region, I will keep that in mind." A small smile graced Soliera's lips - an unexpected positive expression, contrasting her prior behavior in every way. "Thank you for the advice... it's very much appreciated. More than you know."
For his part, Dulse was utterly relieved. After an incident like that, the fact that they were able to make normal conversation like this set his mind at ease; it seemed as though both women had taken his advice of putting it behind them, their own feelings on the matter matching his. He hadn't wanted this to cause too much tension - it was, after all, a mistake that he'd agreed to it in the first place.
Mistakes could be corrected, he repeated to himself, as he listened to the words exchanged between Zossie and Soliera, though he didn't make out much of what they said, too distracted by his own thoughts; this arrangement had caused a great deal of trouble already, but when it was behind them, they would hopefully view it in the same way as they did yesterday's incident.
I've mentioned it in another fic, but my idea of Ultra Megalopolis is that they're fine with people who have opposite-sex or same-sex attraction, but not both. I don't remember why I decided this, but I stuck with it because it's a good plot device.
Also, Karina is what I name the female protagonist in Pokemon Black. I didn't like any of her official names, so I went with that one. It's more of a little shout-out than an explicit cameo, so you can disregard this if you want. (Yes, I have extreme gen 5 bias and I'll freely admit to it.)
Chapter 8: silent moonlight
Some fears cannot be easily overcome - but one must persist in trying regardless.
I think we may be closing in on the end of this fic. I wasn't sure if it was even going to have an end when it started it... but then again, I never expected it to develop a plot, either. If I can, I'd like to get at least two more chapters out, but we'll see how that goes.
Also, here's your reminder that yes, this is still a multiship fic. Alien drama aside, we've got a protagonist and her favorite president to deal with still!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Altar of the Sunne stood, tall and imposing, just as Selene remembered it; she had visited this sacred place a handful of times in the past, including once during her island challenge - when everything went wrong, and she had to travel to Ultra Megalopolis in order to stop Necrozma's rampage. Her visits since had not carried the same weight, always simple adventures through the vast expanses of Ultra Space, with little at stake other than her own safety.
She had never traveled alone. Not only did she have her team by her side, there was also the presence of the legendary beasts which hailed from the lightless world, their guidance never failing to calm her during her journeys; still, the mere act of scaling the staircase to the altar carried a unique pressure, a reminder of the power which lay concealed within that towering stone.
This time, Selene had brought someone else with her. Though he didn't like taking time out of his rigorous schedule for any reason, Gladion had agreed to accompany his beloved to the altar this time; they were both worried about the two visitors from Ultra Megalopolis, the results of their trip yet uncertain. Today was the day that they were scheduled to return, and yet...
"...Are you okay?" Selene asked, turning to the young president. "You've been quiet the whole way here..."
"I'm... nervous." There was an unusual hint of emotion in Gladion's tone; he didn't often let his guard down, and this seemed to be one of those rare occasions. "The Ultra Wormholes... you've been through them before, right?"
He had witnessed some of the Aether Foundation's past research on the wormholes, but had never been through one himself. He had no reason to - he wasn't as adventurous as her, and while Silvally had been designed to fight the Ultra Beasts, its primary purpose was to defend this world from them, rather than battle them on their own turf.
"Weren't you the one who told Hau?" Selene pointed out, offering him a smile; he really was nervous, if he'd taken to stating the obvious like that. "Besides, it's not like you're going through it yourself. We're just going to stay here for a bit and see if those two make it back... and if they don't, I'll go there myself."
"...Remind me why I agreed to come with you," Gladion muttered under his breath, shaking his head. "If you hadn't dragged me out here, I could've-"
The air before them cracked open, revealing a rift in the fabric of space; Gladion flinched, taking a step back as he watched the wormhole open, his fear plain on his face. Selene reminded herself that, aside from the Aether Foundation's research, he had been traumatized by the Ultra Wormholes in the past, having lost his father to one - he had every right to react that way.
In retrospect, it was odd that he'd agreed to come, but he was here now, and it was clear that he needed reassurance. She moved over to hold him, her eyes fixed on the rift as she awaited the messenger that lived on the other side.
As if foretelling the impending arrival of the moon, Lunala swept out of the wormhole, its glow illuminating the altar in the setting sun's stead. Atop its back were the two visitors from Ultra Space, dressed in outfits that Selene had not seen them wearing in a long time - the uniform that had been issued to the Ultra Recon Squad in days past, and one she had donned during her own travels. It was designed to protect humans from the radiation of Ultra Space, ensuring their safety while moving between worlds.
Zossie was the first to leap off of Lunala's back, landing with practiced ease upon the ancient stone floor; she glanced up at Dulse, who looked more than a little uneasy, and offered her hand to him - which he gladly took, allowing her to help him down. With its two riders safe on the ground, Lunala returned to the Ultra Wormhole, its echoing shriek piercing Selene's ears as it disappeared back to where it came from, the rift closing behind it.
"Selene?" Zossie, in her typical fashion, was distracted from Dulse's plight as soon as she noticed the other two standing nearby. "...President Gladion? Why are you here?"
"Selene was worried about you," Gladion stated, and he pulled himself away from Selene, huffing. "...Since you two are my subordinates, I figured I'd come along, too."
"Uh-huh." Zossie didn't look convinced; she saw through Gladion just as easily as Selene did. "Well, we're back now. It was a pretty interesting trip, not gonna lie... I'm probably not going to go back anytime soon, though."
"I am... in agreement." Dulse pulled himself to his feet, still looking somewhat unsteady. "Ultra Megalopolis has changed little... returning there made me... rather uncomfortable."
Selene raised an eyebrow at Dulse's behavior; something was not quite right. "Um, what's wrong?" she asked, her concern plain in her tone. "You don't look so good..."
"Oh... he gets motion sick," Zossie answered for Dulse, as she looped an arm around his to support him. "He's never been good with the Ultra Warp Ride. Thankfully, he hasn't puked on me... yet."
It was clearly intended as a joke, but Dulse shuddered in response to her words; Selene looked away, almost feeling like she should reprimand Zossie for making a remark like that when her boyfriend was compromised. Already, it seemed like he was struggling to keep the contents of his stomach inside him-
"I may be able to offer some suggestions." Gladion stepped forward, garnering the attention of both Dulse and Zossie. "It's probably not the same as riding in an airplane, but I know a few people who get airsick, so... I'll contact them and ask for advice later."
"...My thanks," Dulse stated, his voice weak. "This is... something I have struggled with for a long time... it was an obstacle when I was with the Ultra Recon Squad. I have... improved somewhat over the years, yet..."
Zossie ran her hand along Dulse's back, leaning against him. "We've all got our strengths and weaknesses. Don't beat yourself up over it, 'kay?"
"It's certainly an unexpected weakness," Selene said, giggling. "I know a few remedies for motion sickness myself... so between Gladion and I, we should have this sorted out just fine." She paused, a thought crossing her mind. "...Well, assuming they even work on people from your world, but I figure there's no harm in trying."
"We aren't that different," Zossie pointed out, a smile crossing her face. "The last time I came down with the flu, I tried a medicine made here and... well, it made me feel worse for a day or two, but I got over it way quicker than usual. That means something, right?"
"...Yes, I remember that." Dulse picked himself up again, looking a bit stronger than he had before; the distraction tactic appeared effective. "I had to take time off to help... you called me five times before I arrived at your dormitory, and thanked me around eleven times while I was there, in between lamenting your decision to take the medicine."
Zossie's expression turned sour, and Selene resisted the urge to laugh; she had always found the exchanges between those two amusing, and that hadn't changed one bit in the years that she'd known them. In her eyes, they made an excellent couple - playing off each others' strengths, working together as seamlessly as friends who'd known each other all their lives... and bickering like they were already married, a constant aspect of their relationship that had existed long before they became lovers.
Part of her wondered if marriage was even a thing in their world. If romance was rare to begin with, it seemed unlikely, but perhaps this was some sort of bizarre exception...
"...It seems we may have to do some further testing," Gladion mused, and he breathed a long sigh. "Maybe we can get that Soliera on board... she seemed like a proper crazy scientist to me."
"Well... I don't know if that's an option right now." Zossie turned her attention away from her boyfriend, fixing it on the president instead; she seemed relieved by the change in subject. "See, Soliera's got some family issues... she probably won't be coming back for a while. She's part of a research group, so maybe we could go and ask one of her colleagues... they were pretty interested in this world."
"She won't be coming back?" Selene felt a pang of disappointment at this; she'd hoped to learn more about the mysterious woman from Ultra Space. "I see... it must be pretty serious, then."
"We'll welcome any volunteers with open arms," Gladion offered, and Selene could see a smile threatening to make its way onto his face. "We can accommodate for their unique needs, and provide them a proper living space for the duration of their stay. If there's anything they want to research while in this world, we can help them with that, too."
"Yes, that would be most appreciated..." Dulse gave a short nod, then turned to Selene. "I would prefer not to return for the time being... even as a messenger. May I make a request?"
"You want me to go there," Selene observed, picking up on his intent. "Well... I don't really have any big obligations back home, so... yeah, I can do it. Necrozma probably wants to see its old home, too."
"...Thank you." Dulse looked more grateful than he should have been, but Selene didn't question it; she just smiled at him, grateful herself for the opportunity to help a friend in need. Aside from his hardened feelings toward his own world, she couldn't blame him for not wanting to go back so soon - she didn't suffer from motion sickness herself, but she was acquainted with a few people who did, and knew that it was a most unpleasant experience indeed.
Zossie glanced back at the altar briefly, then gave a short sigh. "We should probably start heading back soon..." A curious look crossed her face. "...Did you two walk here?"
"Partway," Selene replied, her hand automatically going to her waist - where she kept her Ride Pager. "We can fly back on Charizard if you'd prefer that. I'm sure two can handle four, right?"
"I dunno, Dulse is kinda big..." Zossie shot a pointed look at her boyfriend, who just frowned in response. "I'm just teasing! Yeah, we can both fit on a Charizard. I've got one myself, y'know."
"You do?" Dulse's expression turned from irritation to surprise in a split second; the fact that there were things he still didn't know about Zossie was impressive, considering how open they were with each other. "When did you...?"
"On my Ride Pager, silly!" Zossie held up the item in question, a triumphant grin on her face. "Although... it did come straight from Kanto, so if I really wanted to, I could probably use it for battle, too. The rules don't say anything about that, right?"
Selene couldn't help a giggle at that. "I don't actually know, but... you're from another world, so I don't think you should be bound so strictly by our rules." She paused, realizing that in all her time knowing Zossie, they'd never battled - even after the alien girl's adventures across this world. "Actually, speaking of battling... we should do that sometime, Zossie. I don't think I've ever seen your team..."
"I don't like losing, though..." Zossie whined, sounding more like the pre-teen she'd been when Selene first met her than the grown adult she was now. "It's not much of a battle if you just curbstomp me."
"I'll go easy on you," Selene suggested, a knowing smile crossing her face. "...I won't use Necrozma."
"That's not what I meant..." Zossie pouted. "You'd still beat me easily even if you weren't using Necrozma. You're just too good at this whole Pokemon battling thing..."
Selene gave a small nod. "Yeah, but it could be a learning experience for you! No pain, no gain... right?"
"...We should get going." Gladion stepped forward, clearing his throat. "If we stay here too long, we might attract an Ultra Beast's attention. Since Lunala used its power..."
That was an excellent point, and it was enough to distract Selene from her exchange with Zossie. She was sure that it wouldn't be difficult for her to fight off an Ultra Beast by herself, but she didn't want her alien friends to get caught in the crossfire - they were far behind her in terms of battle skill, and being from Ultra Space themselves, they would be prime targets for the beasts.
"Yeah..." Zossie glanced at Dulse, preparing to activate her Ride Pager. "We'll go on ahead, and you two can catch up... okay?"
Dulse and Gladion both nodded at the same time, and Selene recalled how she used to compare them often; the differences between them were far more prominent now, but they still possessed some notable similarities, and seemed to have developed a friendship despite the difference in their positions. Gladion wasn't much for preferential treatment when it came to his employees, but with the way he treated Dulse, perhaps he was willing to make an exception.
"Well, see you at Aether Paradise," Selene said, waving as the ride Charizard swooped in. "Stay safe out there!"
Zossie waved back, her expression bright; then, she turned once again to her boyfriend, who seemed a little reluctant about the idea of flying again so soon. It didn't take her long to coax him onto the beast's back - and once they were off, Selene noticed that Gladion had a look of slight confusion on his face.
"...Aether Paradise?" the young president inquired, raising an eyebrow at Selene. "Didn't you want to go back home?"
"I want to catch up with them," Selene explained, offering him a smile. "I'll head home afterward... unless you want me to stay at the mansion with you."
"I... think I'll take you up on that offer." Gladion blushed, turning his head away so that he could look at the floor instead. "I sleep better when you're around."
It was, of course, an excuse. Gladion still sometimes had trouble admitting when he wanted to spend time with Selene, though he'd gotten better about it in recent times; this was a particularly stressful time for him, as he was preparing to move out of that mansion altogether, and despite what had happened between them in the past, he worried about his mother - who hadn't accepted the idea at first, requiring some coaxing to give in.
Looking back on it, Selene saw where both Gladion and his sister had gotten their stubborn streaks from. Lusamine was probably the one woman in all the world who could match or even exceed Selene's own stubbornness - and she wasn't sure how she felt about that yet. It was a surprise that the former president conceded after only a few attempts.
"Then, let's not keep them waiting." Selene prepared to activate her own Ride Pager, though she kept her eyes on her boyfriend while she did so; some of his apprehension had dissipated, and through the blush on his face, he managed a small smile - an expression that was still a little unusual on him, but he had been doing it with increasing frequency as of late, and she wondered if she had herself to thank for that.
The odds were that Gladion was the highest maintenance boyfriend Selene could have picked, and yet she didn't regret it one bit. He had improved so much in the last few years, ever since she started dating him - and now, with him moving in with her, another thought had started to drift through her mind.
She would wait some time before asking him, of course. He needed to get through this transition first, and she planned to help him as much as she could with that.
When Selene arrived at Aether Paradise, she expected to encounter the two former members of the Ultra Recon Squad; after all, the plan was for them to go on ahead and meet Selene and Gladion at their destination.
What the former champion hadn't expected was for her alien friends to pull her aside and ask her to visit their dormitory. She had objected at first, believing that she wasn't allowed into those sorts of places as an outsider - to which Zossie reasoned that if the president accompanied her, there should be no objections, an observation also confirmed by Gladion himself.
After arriving at the structure, the first thing Selene noticed was that the interior was stark white, the same as everything else at Aether Paradise - but there was an unusual splash of color inside the room as well, in the form of light blue bedclothes and a pair of similarly-colored desks. An assortment of different items in all the colors of the rainbow were strewn about the room, including a bright yellow and orange hairbrush that had hints of matching orange hair tangled in its bristles. There was no doubt in Selene's mind that it, as well as the other colorful objects, belonged to Zossie.
It wasn't quite what Selene had expected from an Aether dormitory; she had anticipated something more ordered, a tiny space designed to accommodate those who lived in it and nothing more. Instead, the room felt more like a small apartment, and the air about it was surprisingly comfortable - perhaps just because of the pair that made it their home.
Still, there was one big question Selene had in mind. If Dulse and Zossie just wanted to catch up with her, they could've done so on the exterior platform; there had to be a reason they'd taken her to their dormitory instead. Gladion, in his typical fashion, looked unamused - he must have been thinking the same thing.
"...Why did you want me to come here?" Selene inquired, once the door closed behind them. "If we'd stayed outside, I wouldn't have to have Gladion supervising."
"It's... well, it's because of what happened during our visit." Zossie fidgeted, averting her eyes; a light blush had risen on her face. "But, um... we'll get to that later. Dulse?"
"...Not a great deal happened while we were there," Dulse explained, though he also seemed somewhat uncomfortable. "We had an encounter with Phyco... the captain. I'm not sure if you're aware, but he has... issues with people in intimate relationships..."
That sounded familiar to Selene, but she chose not to pry; instead, she focused on the more obvious problem. "Sounds like it was rough... I'm sorry you two had to go through that."
"Yeah, and he's district manager now..." Zossie breathed an exasperated sigh. "That means he's basically in charge of the part of Ultra Megalopolis surrounding Megalo Tower. The only funny looks we got were from him, but maybe that was just 'cuz he actually had the courtesy of not telling anyone we were together."
"I have no doubt that his influence has spread." Dulse closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Such prejudice is rare in our world - almost as rare as intimate relationships themselves. However, when those who hold it achieve a position of power, it can be... difficult for those beneath them."
Gladion chose that moment to speak up. "If intimate relationships are rare in your world, wouldn't more people be opposed to them?" He seemed curious - an odd thing for him to show, considering his usual confusion about everything regarding Ultra Megalopolis.
"Perhaps... that is how prejudice works in this world." Dulse opened his eyes again, looking over at the young president. "Many of the people in our world consider such negative feelings to be wasteful and pointless. Even if it's unusual, a person in an intimate relationship with another is still just as valuable as any other... the only issue is that they will not contribute to the gene pool as readily, and there are plenty others who have that same issue."
"Most people who are prejudiced have a reason for it," Zossie continued, nodding once. "In Phyco's case, he was in a relationship when he was younger, but it ended badly. That's a pretty common reason."
This also sounded familiar, but again, Selene chose not to pry. "...So he's bitter because of how his own relationship turned out... maybe he's also afraid that other people will turn out the same as him?"
"That is part of it, yes." Dulse hummed his agreement, then glanced over at Zossie. "Fortunately, he seemed somewhat more lenient in regards to us. He did not lecture us, nor did he reject us... he claimed that as we are technically no longer denizens of Ultra Megalopolis, we are exempt from his judgment."
"That... sounds pretty fishy to me." Selene frowned a little, but she decided not to pursue that line of thinking too far. "Say, you were there for a couple days, right? Where'd you stay?"
The question prompted an extended silence from both Dulse and Zossie, and Selene worried that it was the wrong thing to say. She couldn't think of why that would be a problem, but she was sure that they had their reasons; they had both been acting odd since they arrived again in this world, and she couldn't help feeling a deep concern for them.
"...We stayed with Soliera," Zossie said at last, her voice quiet. "She offered to house us, and... well, we accepted."
The mention of that name explained a lot about why the two were acting so unusual. Soliera had been an issue in the past, and Selene had no doubt that she had caused another issue by housing the pair; the former champion began to question her own stance on that alien woman, as she seemed to be nothing but trouble thus far.
"What... did she do to you?" Selene couldn't keep the worry out of her voice - she was half-ready to go to Ultra Megalopolis herself and interrogate Soliera. "Did she hurt you...?"
"No, no, no, you're getting the wrong idea!" Zossie waved her hands, shaking her head; she peered over at Gladion, growing hesitant. "Um... is it okay if we talk about... sex stuff?"
"...What?" Gladion met Zossie's gaze with a blank stare of his own, his face turning red. "Why are you asking me? I'm just here to make sure Selene doesn't get in trouble!"
"I think she's worried about bothering you," Selene pointed out. "She knows how you are..." She turned her attention to Zossie. "If you're asking me, then... I don't mind. It wouldn't be the first time, at any rate... it's a little embarrassing, but if it's important to you, then..."
"Okay... well." Zossie took a deep breath, then let it out in a sigh. "We, uh. We had a two-and-a-half-some."
"A what?" Selene blinked twice; she had never heard of this term before, and wondered if Zossie had just come up with it on the spot. "Um, what does that mean?"
"She... watched us," Dulse elaborated, looking rather embarrassed. "It was agreed upon beforehand, but... afterward, the three of us agreed unanimously that... it was a mistake." He breathed a small sigh of his own. "Given the circumstances... there was no need for us to make that arrangement, and yet... we did regardless."
"She... watched..." Despite his own reservations, Gladion pitched in; his face turned even redder, and Selene realized that he was interested - very interested. Perhaps it was an extension of his exhibitionist streak, and something he wanted to try himself...
"...Oh." Selene gave a quick nod, feeling her own face heating up. "Um... well, that... would make things pretty awkward... is that the other reason you two didn't want to go back?"
"Yeah..." Zossie pressed a hand to her forehead, groaning. "I don't think Phyco knows, but if he does somehow find out... well, let's just say it'd be really bad for all of us..."
"To put it simply... we would not be allowed to remain as ambassadors anymore." Dulse lowered his gaze, shaking his head. "...I pray that Soliera has the sense not to tell him..."
"So... if Phyco knew, and you went back there, you'd... have to stay." Selene understood why this bothered the two so much; they had both made it clear that they intended to stay in this world, and being forced to return would be unbearably stressful - but there was one other concern that crossed her mind, after learning of the troubles Ultra Megalopolis currently faced. "And... if you went back there, he'd find some way to split you up... since he's in charge of the district, and was also your boss before that..."
Zossie shivered. "Yeah, pretty much, and... one more thing." She looked to Dulse, her arm slipping around his. "I've, uh... been on birth control for a while now. Because... well... hopefully obvious reasons. That wouldn't go over very well, either... I don't want to think about what might happen if he finds out."
"...That's absurd..." Gladion took one step forward, and Selene noticed that his hand was shaking. "That level of punishment just for being in a relationship...? If I ever meet this Phyco, I'm-!" He cut himself off, shaking his head violently; it was clear that the implications of this conversation had gotten under his skin, in a most spectacular fashion. "...Until further notice, you two are not allowed to go to Ultra Space. Not until this situation is properly cleared up."
It was a rather extreme measure, and Selene felt more than a little concerned about the ramifications. Even if her two alien friends wanted to stay in this world anyway, barring them completely from Ultra Space felt unfair; it was, after all, where they were from, and there was always the possibility of them wanting to return in the future. However, neither of the pair seemed at all disturbed by this ultimatum - in fact, Zossie looked thrilled.
"Thank you so much, Mr. President!" the orange-haired girl exclaimed, as she rushed over to Gladion - and stopped just short of hugging him. "Since you're our employer, your authority should supersede Phyco's... meaning we won't have to stay there!"
"...It is a rather extreme measure," Dulse noted, echoing Selene's unspoken sentiment. "However, it would prevent a district manager's authority from extending to us." He turned to Zossie, the faintest of smiles crossing his face. "We wouldn't need to worry about Phyco at all. It seems you need to educate yourself on the law in our world."
"Oh... right." Zossie turned back to Dulse, and hugged him instead. "But either way! I don't mind staying back here while we get all this sorted out. It means I get to stay with Selene, and the president, and all my other friends..."
Gladion raised an eyebrow at this. "...You consider me a friend?" He grimaced at first, though the expression soon turned into a small smile. "I'll... make sure no one else hears that."
"You big softy..." Selene nudged Gladion with her elbow, a smile of her own crossing her face. "I guess this means I'll have to serve as their messenger for a while... and if Phyco gets too testy, maybe I can teach him a lesson or two."
"Just... try to go easy on him," Zossie insisted. "He might be unreasonable, but... he's still a good person on the inside. We just need to figure out how to heal his damage."
"Yeah... he didn't strike me as that kind of person when I met him." Selene recalled her first visit to Ultra Megalopolis, back when Necrozma was still a threat to both worlds; that was when she had met both Phyco and Soliera, though she didn't get to know them very well then. "He probably just needs a few reminders. I'd imagine that being in a position of authority like that is stressful, and... maybe the stress is just getting to him."
"...We're going, Selene." Gladion turned to the door and opened it, fuming. "Come with me... back to the mansion."
Selene felt a little upset herself that her boyfriend was so insistent on ending the conversation there, but she didn't oppose him - she had the feeling he needed to be talked down. "...I guess I'll see you guys later, then. Thanks for... explaining all this to me, and... try not to let it get to you, okay?"
"Bye for now!" Zossie waved, and then she glanced at Dulse - who mirrored her action, but said nothing. "And thanks again, President Gladion! We'll be sure to work extra hard to show our appreciation!"
Once the door closed behind her, Selene allowed herself to be lost in thought. She'd known that Ultra Megalopolis was often as cold as it was dark, but she had never anticipated something this serious; though it wasn't a small mistake that the three of them had made, it was something that they were clearly willing to put behind them, and they didn't want it to affect their relationships with each other - yet the knowledge alone was enough to get them in serious trouble, perhaps even tearing apart the lives they'd built for themselves.
It was unfair in too many ways to count, and Selene was glad that her two alien friends had made the decision to stay in this world. Here, they wouldn't face the same repercussions - and they would have to keep it secret for a different and far less serious reason.
As Selene suspected, the part of the mansion Gladion took her to was his room; there were a few small boxes scattered about, containing his most important belongings, but he wasn't a very materialistic person - he'd discarded that trait after leaving home, as having too much stuff interfered with his wanderer lifestyle, and he never really regained it. This was, of course, something of a positive for Selene, as she was the person he planned to move in with.
However, that time was not yet. The president still had some things to take care of before he moved, his mother chief among them; though Lusamine had conceded to his request, she had her own issues with Gladion leaving the mansion, and had voiced those concerns all too clearly - both to him and Selene.
At the very least, the former president seemed more reasonable than she was eleven years ago...
Now, his family troubles were the last thing on Gladion's mind. He pulled Selene aside, the door closing behind them as he gripped her shoulders with both hands, and the glint of anger in his one visible eye told her all she needed to know. He was, indeed, still riled up from his subordinates' explanation of their plight.
"...Gladion, please." Selene tried to reason with him first, her own hands moving to rest on his waist. "I know you're upset, but this is a little unreasonable... believe me, I'm upset too, but that's no reason to be so-"
"They need my help," Gladion hissed, even as he pulled her closer to him. "And that Phyco is... I don't care what he's been through in the past, he has no right to treat his subordinates like that. Mother may not have been the best example, but she at least taught me that much."
"It's a different world," Selene pointed out, as her hands drifted up his sides. "Over there, they... wouldn't see a problem with that." She paused, recalling Dulse's explanation about the rarity of prejudice in their world. "...Or maybe they would, and he'd get overthrown as a result. I don't know how it works there, either... but it's obvious that Phyco's a rare exception."
"It doesn't matter," Gladion insisted, his grip on her tightening. "Those two are my... they're my subordinates. And... you could also say they're my friends." He took a short breath. "Either way, they don't deserve to be split up just because of some idiot in charge... so I'm not going to let them."
Selene leaned in, her face almost touching his. "And that's all they ask for from you." Her hands moved to his back, where she began to rub gentle circles in an effort to calm him. "There's no need to be so angry with someone you'll never meet... let me handle him. Please."
"...I might still meet him." Gladion's grip loosened a little, and a look of deep concern crossed his face. "I'm not letting you go there alone. Not this time."
"Huh?" This statement surprised Selene; she knew how he was with the Ultra Wormholes, how he still feared them because of the trauma they'd caused him in the past. "...Why? You do know what that entails, right?"
Gladion cleared his throat, looking away. "...I know exactly what it means... and I don't want you to go there, either." His hands fell to his sides. "...But that's not an option. You have to go... so I'm going with you. And if I meet Phyco while we're there... I'll tell him that he has no right to control my subordinates."
"We don't even know if he knows yet," Selene stated, shaking her head. "And if you say something like that, it might tip him off. We need to focus on making him realize his own mistakes first..."
It was just like Gladion to make impulsive decisions like this; his years of presidency hadn't changed his more aggressive tendencies, and this wouldn't be the first time he'd charged headlong into a situation - far from it. Selene understood his concern for Dulse and Zossie better than anyone, but she knew that this reckless path was the wrong one, and was liable to get them in more trouble, rather than helping them.
"I..." Gladion took a step back, and breathed a long sigh. "...I'm still going with you." The expected response, really - even if he realized the problem with his plan, he was still stubborn to a fault, and nothing Selene said would change that.
"If you think you can handle it, I'll take you with me." Selene moved forward, tugging him into a loose embrace. "The Ultra Warp Ride is... daunting. The only reason I did it myself was because I had to - I was the only one who could stop Necrozma. I've gotten used to it now, but for someone doing it for the first time... and especially someone who's afraid of the wormholes to begin with..."
Gladion stiffened, a look of shame replacing his previous concern. "...It's an irrational fear. I know that what happened to Father was... rare and unprecedented... I have to learn how to overcome this fear... and if Lunala's guiding us, it shouldn't be as dangerous..."
"...Then, I'll help you," Selene said, her voice soft, as she leaned in to move her mouth close to his ear. "We'll have to get a suit for you... I don't know if Dulse's old one will fit you."
"That's..." Gladion's body went slack in her grip, all the tension leaving him at once. "...I wouldn't want to wear his, anyway." Despite the mild irritation in his tone, there was an underlying sense of relief; he had discarded not only his anger with Phyco, but also his fear of the wormholes - for the time being, as it would likely resurface again the moment he saw one.
"Feeling better now?" Selene inquired, not moving from her position; there was one more thing she wanted from him right now, and she hoped that he would get the message. "Or do you still need some reassuring?"
Gladion's response caught Selene off-guard; he shifted away from her at first, an unreadable emotion flickering in his gaze for a split second before he pulled her toward the bed, reversing their positions just in time to pin her down with both hands. His legs trapped her waist, and a barely-concealed hunger burned behind his one visible eye - he had gotten the message, loud and clear, and perhaps he did need a little more reassuring.
"Call it what you want." His voice was low, need creeping into his tone as he leaned in close, his breath hot against her face. "...I'm going to take you properly this time."
It wasn't difficult to discern what Gladion meant - something that Selene had been preparing for since that first clandestine visit to his office, even going so far as to start on a contraceptive regimen. She'd told him about that a while back, but he still had reservations; this was the first time he'd suggested it himself, and she could only guess that the reason he'd waited this long was because of his own concern for her.
Now, as riled up as he was, Gladion had forgotten his reservations - and Selene was finally in the position she wanted to be in.
"Wait." Despite her eagerness, Selene was still capable of rational thought, and she had her own concern to address. "You can't just go in dry, you know. I'm a girl... I need to be prepared first."
Gladion's expression changed to one of mild embarrassment, a flush creeping up the sides of his face. "I- I know that. Are you going to let me touch you?"
"This preparation has to be extensive." Selene wiggled out of his grip, just enough to pull her top up and expose her chest. "It'll hurt if I'm not ready... but I don't need to tell you that, do I?" She pulled down her lower attire next - underclothes and all. "I have to be loosened up... that'll make it hurt a lot less. Do you know what that entails?"
"...No," Gladion admitted, and the flush on his face deepened. "What... do I have to do?"
"Go all the way," Selene responded, her tone soft and all too sweet. "Make me come undone."
That was something Gladion had done countless times before - both with his hands and, on a few occasions, his mouth. It was familiar territory for both of them, a small comfort before the main event; he answered her request with ease, his lips meeting hers as he moved one hand to her chest, running practiced fingers across her skin as his other hand rested on her hip.
Selene returned the kiss, her arms slipping around his neck; she noted the slight tent in his pants, pressing against her leg, and wondered if he would be able to get through this without having to take a break. He always got himself all worked up when he was with her, and had proven himself unable to maintain control when she touched him - an acceptable trait normally, but it could prove to be a bit of an issue with the act they'd planned for tonight.
Of course, it wasn't a huge issue for her. She had come to accept her boyfriend's quirks, his unique problems always presenting a delightful challenge; her main concern was for him, knowing that he had a fair amount of pride and would likely get upset with himself if something like that happened. With that in mind, she began forming a plan to calm him in that situation, though she didn't get very far before he pressed his fingers between her legs, washing away her coherent thought with a simple touch.
It was something they'd done countless times before, but that made his touch no less exciting. Selene's eyes slid shut as she broke the kiss, burying her face in Gladion's shoulder instead; she breathed out a quiet moan as his finger brushed against her sensitive nub, a gentle and tentative touch that felt more like him testing the waters - and, deeming her ready, he continued to touch her there, the sweeps of his finger combining with a chest massage that almost made her forget the reason for her request.
"...Use your fingers," Selene managed to say, her voice shaky as she attempted to guide him. "Put them inside... stretch me out..."
Thankfully, Gladion was a fast learner. He followed her directions, starting with a single finger as he switched to rubbing her with his thumb; his dexterity never failed to amaze her, each stroke fueling the fire that burned inside her, and she bit down on the cloth covering his shoulder - a preferable substitute for her biting his skin, which she had done too many times to count, embarrassing him every single time.
"Two fingers?" Gladion asked, as he pressed a second inside; his fingers were long and slender, well fit for the detailed work he did, and excellent at pleasing Selene - but they did not compare to a certain other part of him, which she would have to adjust to regardless. This preparation was just so that he wouldn't hurt her too much, and she was still a little apprehensive about the main event.
"Three... at least," Selene answered him, her body responding positively to the intrusion - for now. "More is better... it helps to get me ready- ahh!" She couldn't finish her sentence, her breath hitching as he nipped the side of her neck in a successful effort to distract her. The anxiety she felt was diminishing, replaced by delight at the wonderful sensations he gave her.
"...Sounds like I'm doing a good job." There was a hint of smugness in Gladion's tone, a reminder that he was not at all nervous about this - he just wanted her, his conscience clouded by emotion and arousal, and she was grateful that, at the very least, one of them wouldn't be hesitant going in. His eagerness in the bedroom was always a trait she found endearing, ever since she'd first propositioned him all that time ago; he allowed himself to get caught up in the moment, all semblance of self-control dissipating when she touched him, his legendary determination showing through when he touched her-
A third finger pressed inside, and Selene thought she was going to pass out. She had anticipated some discomfort at being filled so much, but it was the opposite - with his fingers curling against the sensitive spot inside her, and his thumb still stimulating her nub, her mind was overwhelmed by the sweet sensation, blotting out the last of her concern. A familiar tension coiled inside her, her body growing desperate for release, and it took all her effort just to hold it off a little longer.
He whispered something in her ear that she didn't quite make out, and that action snapped the last of her self-control. She shuddered, tugging him close with both arms as her inner muscles clenched around his fingers, the intrusion more satisfying than ever; she was dimly aware of her body producing a spray of fluid that coated his hand and arm, a delectable thing that just made the feeling even more intense.
Dazed as she was, Selene didn't notice her boyfriend's actions - not until he penetrated her, pressing himself in without even the slightest bit of hesitation. It stung a little, but his preparation had been sufficient to prevent even more pain; she moved her hands to his waist, encouraging him with a soft touch as she met his gaze. She knew that he would not be gentle, having given himself over to his lust, and she looked forward to what he had in store for her.
Gladion did not wait for her to adjust. He began to move, each shift of his hips driving him deep inside her, and his hands supported him on either side of her head; she leaned up in an effort to kiss him, and, enthralled as he was, he accepted the gesture, meeting her lips with a frenzied passion that surpassed even what she had come to anticipate. It was wonderful - he had finally let go of his inhibitions in the most spectacular way possible, his half-lidded eyes and the guttural moans that rose from his throat a sign that he was enjoying this a lot.
The pain from his initial entrance had faded, replaced by a hot spark of pleasure every time his hips met hers. He was rough and demanding, showing little care for how she felt - and yet she enjoyed it regardless, her hips moving to match his thrusts, her legs spreading apart as she accepted his unrestrained pace. One of her hands moved to caress his rear, still covered by the fabric of his pants; desperate as he was, he'd only bothered to expose his arousal, and there was something strangely appealing about doing this with some clothes still on-
All too soon, Gladion shuddered and threw his head back, a loud, ecstatic moan escaping him as his hips bucked hard; Selene felt the curious sensation of his seed pouring into her, his hands shaking as he fought to keep himself steady above her. In a sense, she had anticipated this - he hadn't bothered to maintain a proper pace, instead letting his desire control him, and while she had enjoyed it, she wasn't quite close enough to finish with him.
It took a moment for the young president to come down from his early high, and once he did, a look of abject horror appeared on his face. He knew that she wasn't done yet - it wasn't difficult to figure out with him still inside her.
"Selene, I-" Gladion prepared an apology, but Selene placed a finger to his lips, offering him a smile; then, her hand moved down to stimulate herself, chasing the peak that she had been denied. His expression shifted, changing first to surprise and then to utter fascination - though his own arousal had started to fade, he remained inside her, unwilling to part with her just yet.
It didn't take long for Selene to finish herself, catching her lower lip between her teeth as she shuddered around him; it wasn't quite as good as it would have been if he'd done things properly, but it still sent a hot wave of ecstasy through her body, providing her with the relief she needed. She waited for the last few tremors to pass, then pushed him off of herself - he seemed reluctant to leave, perhaps feeling somewhat guilty over his mistake.
"...It's okay," Selene insisted, as she pulled her humiliated boyfriend into a loose embrace. "I... honestly kinda expected that to happen. You just need more practice, so... don't worry about it, okay?"
Gladion didn't seem fully convinced, but he returned the embrace regardless, relaxing against her. "...Lost control of myself again," he muttered under his breath, sounding a bit annoyed. "I'll make it up to you next time."
"I still enjoyed it." Selene moved a hand to the back of his head, petting him as she leaned her face close to his. "And... clearly you did too." She giggled, pressing a gentle kiss to his lips before she pulled away, her eyes meeting his; she didn't want him to berate himself over this, as it was a common misstep that she had prepared for from the start.
"That... that's not the point..." Gladion's protests were silenced when Selene's hand shifted to his face, caressing his cheek as she brushed aside the fringe of hair covering his one eye. He leaned into her touch, his eyes fluttering shut as he accepted her reassurance; she leaned in once again, brushing her lips against his in another kiss, the fingers of her other hand tracing a line across his still-clothed back.
"Give it some time, and then we'll do it again," Selene offered, a mischievous smile gracing her lips. "We have all night... and you shouldn't have the same problem again."
"...You're still insane." Gladion moved in to kiss her this time, though he didn't attempt to deepen it; he raised one hand to her shoulder, fixing his gaze on her. "And I still love you for it."
"That's a good thing, because..." Selene slid her thumb across his cheek, fluttering her eyelashes at him. "I love you too. Even when you don't stop to think things through."
Gladion laughed at that, his previous unease gone; he pulled her into a tight hug, then shifted away, leaving only a small distance between them. "...It won't be long now. I can't wait to move in with you..."
It came as a slight surprise that he was willing to show his excitement so openly, but Selene didn't mind it at all - it was a delight to see him like this, his soul bare before her in a way that he only offered to one other person. His troubled past had left irreversible scars, and she was glad to be responsible for even the smallest part of his healing.
"I can't wait, either..." Selene closed her eyes, her mind wandering; once he settled into her house, she could make her proposal, certain by now that he would accept it. His dedication to her had become downright fierce in the past year, their relationship growing stronger than ever, and she suspected that he had the same thing on his mind - a promise to spend their lives together, bound by the sacred will of the tapu.
Ever since she moved to Alola, Selene's life had taken an unbelievable turn - and she intended to stay here until her last breath, enchanted by the love she'd gained on her journey.
Gladion stirred awake to the eerie silence of the Aether mansion, his mind somewhat blurred from exhaustion. He glanced beside him and saw Selene, naked save for the blanket that covered them both, and the memories from last night came rushing back - a night that he had enjoyed more than any other.
He recalled how he had ushered her back to his room after a troubling conversation with the two residents of Ultra Megalopolis; he'd vented at her, and she'd accepted his demand to accompany her to the dark world. Somehow, the conversation had drifted from that - and he had made a humiliating mistake, his body going against the wishes of his mind when they engaged in proper sexual intercourse for the first time.
She had forgiven him for it, easing him down from his distress with all the grace he'd come to expect from her. He had removed his troublesome clothing some time after that, and they spent the rest of the evening fully in the nude - he would not soon forget what happened afterward, the most delightful and thrilling experience of his life.
They had coupled twice more after the first time, with a necessary pause in between; those times had gone far more smoothly than the first, and he got to experience the joy of reaching climax with her. Their exhaustion got the better of them both afterward, and they fell asleep by each other's side, huddled under the blankets together - it was a fitting end for such a splendid night, and even now, he didn't want to leave her side.
Still, as the president of the Aether Foundation, Gladion had too many obligations to lay in bed all morning. His body protested, but he began to pull himself up - and then Selene stirred, a cute noise rising from her throat, and he decided that maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to stay in for a while.
After all, he would be leaving this mansion soon, with all the memories - both beautiful and terrible - that it had brought him. Last night was special for more than one reason, and he wanted to savor that atmosphere for as long as it lingered; he laid back down, slipping his arms around his beloved as she slept, undisturbed by his actions.
He closed his eyes, burying his face in her unkempt hair. She'd taken it down at some point during the night - he couldn't remember when, but she had combed out those lovely braids with her fingers, and then allowed him to tangle his own in her locks. He guessed that it had happened after the second time they made love, though there was no way to tell for certain without her input.
The scent of the shampoo she'd used was all but gone, replaced by the heady aroma of sweat and oil. He made a note to ask her if she would be willing to bathe with him later, as that was something they couldn't do as readily at her house - one of the few things he would miss about his life at the mansion. Still, to him, she smelled delightful; that mix of scents was a firm reminder of what had transpired last night, hard proof that she was now his... and vice versa, though in retrospect, his heart had belonged to her since the day they first met.
Another sleepy murmur escaped Selene, and Gladion chuckled at that; she was exhausted, still in a deep sleep after her lover had moved around so much, his indecisiveness always a problem whenever he was with her-
The voice from the room's entrance jolted Gladion from his trance, and he lifted his head to look over at the open doorway. Lillie stood there, her eyes wide and her mouth hanging open, a hot flush across her face as the bag she had been carrying slipped from her grasp and fell to the floor.
"...Lillie?" Gladion crept underneath the covers, his own face growing hot. "Why are you...?"
"S-sorry," Lillie stammered, as she took a quick step back. "I... I got something for you, and... w-well, I didn't think you'd still be in bed and... I- I'm sorry for, um, interrupting..."
"Leave it beside the door," Gladion mumbled, almost unable to hear himself; he drew the covers over Selene, burying his face in his pillow. "...And get out... we'll talk later..."
Despite the fact that his voice was muffled, Lillie seemed to comprehend what he'd said. "Y-yes, um... okay, I'll do that, and... sorry again..."
The sound of footsteps and skin against fabric reached Gladion's ears, followed by the door slamming shut; he dared to lift his head from the safety of the pillow, blinking at the small package that rested beside the door. He wasn't sure what Lillie had gotten him, but he made a mental note to thank her for it - later.
"...Huh?" The commotion had apparently been enough to rouse Selene, and she blinked a few times as she looked over at the door. "What happened...?"
"Lillie happened," Gladion stated, his voice flat. "She didn't knock on her way in." He tugged Selene into his arms, even less willing to part with her now - her presence offered him comfort, and he needed that after being seen naked by his little sister.
"Oh... whoops." Selene almost looked amused. "I'm surprised she's visiting at all... but I guess she really wanted to see you, huh?" A sly smile crossed her face. "Not like this, of course, but... I hope you plan to talk to her later."
"Yeah, I told her that..." Gladion breathed a long sigh. "...And don't say things like that. It's embarrassing." Despite his words, he tightened his embrace, leaning his head against her shoulder.
"Even better," Selene teased, giggling, as she returned his embrace. "You're always so cute when you're embarrassed." She pressed a kiss to the side of his neck. "...Say, since Lillie isn't here anymore, how about we pick up where we left off?"
Gladion wanted to protest; he still had his duties to consider, and he needed to get up so that he could get ready for work. Yet, like a siren's song, Selene's voice drew him in - her soft breath on his ear, her too-warm body, the scent of the previous night's activities still clinging to her, a quiet promise of more...
He cursed himself for falling into her devious clutches so easily, and pulled back to smother her mouth in a searing kiss. If this was what she wanted, then he would give it to her - over and over again, until she realized the depth of her mistake in making that offer.
I don't follow the manga, but I did see a panel in which Dulse got motion sick because of Zossie's terrible Lunala piloting skills. I found it amusing enough to implement here. (By the way, I do get motion sick myself, so I sympathize with him on that front.)
I apologize for not detailing all the sex that happened between Gladion and Selene (writing those scenes gets tiring after a while), but I will not apologize for the bit where Gladion blew his load early. Nor will I apologize for Lillie walking in on them.
Chapter 9: the stars our home
One's greatest suffering is often that which is kept within.
I struggled really hard with this chapter, and I'm not 100% sure about how it turned out. I *may* go back to revise it later, but don't hold me to that.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Preparing for the trip had taken quite a bit of time and effort. In particular, there was one factor which gave both Selene and Gladion trouble; he didn't want his mother to know where he was going, and so explaining the situation to his substitute had been somewhat of a challenge. Thankfully, the substitute in question was Wicke, so she understood the young president's troubles, and agreed without complaint to keep the knowledge from Lusamine.
By contrast, constructing a new suit for Gladion was easy. They used Dulse's as a base, after Selene explained the key difference between the male and female uniforms - a difference which left Gladion blushing and unable to speak for the duration of that particular consultation. He went on to complain repeatedly about having to wear the suit while trying it on, though only Selene had any idea of why he complained.
After the necessary arrangements were made, Selene escorted a very nervous Gladion to the Altar of the Sunne - the agreed-upon meeting place for any messengers from the other world, Solgaleo and Lunala included. Aside from the energies of the altar making the area unstable enough for wormholes to open with relative ease, there was also the fact that it had been where Selene had gone to Ultra Megalopolis from, and while not a strictly necessary detail, both sides came to the conclusion that it just felt right.
However, once the pair of would-be travelers arrived at the altar, Selene noticed that her boyfriend felt anything but right. He was far more nervous than last time, his hands trembling as he climbed down from the ride Charizard that had taken them there.
"...Gladion," Selene addressed him, once she'd climbed off the beast herself and sent it away. "Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
"Why do I have to wear this?" Instead of answering her, Gladion turned his attention to the recon suit he wore, plucking at the fabric with the fingers of one hand. "It's uncomfortable... and..."
"It protects you from the radiation of Ultra Space," Selene replied, as she placed a hand on Gladion's shoulder; reassuring him from this point onward would likely be impossible, but she still wanted to try. "Without it, something bad might happen to you... like what happened with your father."
The mention of that incident was enough to silence Gladion's complaints; his hand dropped to his side, and he fixed his gaze on the stone floor beneath them instead. "...How does the messenger know you're here? Do you have to call it?"
"If it were anyone else, the answer would be yes." Selene took a short breath, every nerve in her body tingling with anticipation - the messenger in question would be here at any moment now. "But with Necrozma's master... it just knows."
As she finished speaking, the fabric of space tore open before them; Lunala emerged from the newly-formed wormhole, the glow of its body not quite so prominent against the daytime sun. Its attention turned to the young president, a curious expression forming on its face, and Gladion took a quick step back in response to the messenger's scrutiny.
"It just wants to know why you're here again." Selene offered him a smile, in an effort to calm him down. "Don't be so scared, okay?"
She knew the words would fall on deaf ears; she'd never seen Gladion so tense before, his fear consuming him at the prospect of going through the wormhole himself. Lunala seemed to understand his trepidation, and turned its attention to Selene instead, a silent inquiry visible in its third eye - it wanted to know if it should return and get the other messenger instead.
"No, you're fine," Selene responded, as she met the beast's gaze. "He... has a bad history with Ultra Wormholes, but he wanted to come with me this time."
Lunala did not respond at first, staring at Selene as it read her mind - an act that was meant to confirm the truth of her statement, and something she'd undergone countless times before from her own companion. After a short silence, it screeched, turning once again to Gladion; it wanted to know if he was truly willing to follow through with his desire, anxious as he was.
"...I'm going." As he spoke, Gladion's hands clenched into fists. "I need to make sure that Selene's safe... and I need to overcome my own fear. I... have to be strong."
The answer seemed to appease Lunala, and it turned, lowering its form so that the two travelers could climb atop its back. Selene took Gladion's hand in her own, rubbing a pattern on the back of his hand with her thumb, and she gestured to the messenger with her own hand - it was now or never.
"I'll help you," the former champion offered, still smiling. "It's not really any different from riding Charizard, but I know you're..."
Without any further prompting, Gladion moved to climb atop Lunala, shifting a bit once he was seated; he glanced back at Selene, his previous terror replaced by steely determination - a far more common expression for him, and one she always preferred seeing, even more so in this context. She knew that he was still afraid, and that the extent of his trauma meant he would never fully overcome that fear, but the mere fact that his drive to carry out his original plan took priority was a huge step in the right direction.
Selene seated herself behind Gladion, holding onto him as she waited for Lunala to guide them through the Ultra Wormhole; she wondered if his determination would endure through his first experience with the Ultra Warp Ride, unsettling as it was. The odds were far greater that he would be an even worse mess by the time they arrived at their destination - though she hoped, for his sake, that his experience wasn't the same as Dulse's.
As Selene had claimed before, the Ultra Warp Ride turned out to be an utterly terrifying experience. Gladion had always been afraid of the Ultra Wormholes, ever since his father was lost - but he had not been prepared at all for going through one himself, despite his extensive efforts beforehand. The sensation of going faster than light, colors and shapes flashing past him in an instant with nothing but a thin barrier of cosmic energy separating him from oblivion-
He was glad when it was over at last, the avatar of the moon slowing to a halt as it entered the white wormhole that marked their destination. In retrospect, being the one in front wasn't such a good idea after all, and a sense of intense relief swept through him when his feet were on the ground again.
Said destination, on the other hand, was terrifying for a very different reason. Gladion had known of the lightless world's existence for a long time, even before the two who hailed from it came to be his subordinates; he had never once given any deeper thought to what it was like, believing that he would never see it in his natural lifetime.
The sky was concealed by a swirling, pitch-black shroud, much the same as the one that had appeared over Poni Island when Necrozma attempted to steal Alola's light. The primary source of light was a massive tower, every inch of its surface covered with glowing panels and mirrors that reflected its cold radiance across the vast city; all of the other structures were reminiscent of skyscrapers, constructed from a material that had the appearance of obsidian, and each of them had a crystalline mirror at the top to match those on the central tower.
It was unlike anything the young president had seen before, and he was perhaps even more frightened than he had been at the prospect of entering an Ultra Wormhole in the first place. A pang of sympathy flashed through him as he recalled his two employees back home - they had been born and raised in this bleak world, and if Phyco got what he wanted, they would be forced to return here for an indefinite period, drowned in darkness after finally getting a taste of the sun.
"...This is Ultra Megalopolis." Gladion scanned his surroundings for the second time, noting that the streets of the city overflowed with people - there were more people here than he had seen even in his own world's largest cities. "You weren't kidding..."
Selene offered her hand to him, the same reassuring smile from before crossing her face. "I wouldn't exaggerate about something like this." She, too, scanned the city - but for a different reason, he guessed, as she had been here before on a handful of occasions.
A single individual departed the crowd, and Gladion recognized her as soon as he got a better look; the woman who approached them was Soliera, the same former member of the Ultra Recon Squad who had visited Aether Paradise during her stay in the radiant world. A colleague and friend of Dulse and Zossie... and one of the reasons for their trip to Ultra Megalopolis.
"Greetings." The wave that Soliera gave them was reminiscent of the one that Dulse insisted on using every time he greeted someone. "I welcome you to our world... Mr. President." A curious expression appeared on her face as she turned her attention to Gladion. "What brings you here?"
"A couple of different things," Selene answered for him, her own expression becoming neutral as she looked at Soliera. "But... mostly, he was just worried about me, and didn't want me to go alone."
"Ah, Selene." Soliera turned to the former champion, her lips curling into a subtle smile. "It is most fortunate that you are here. Though I must ask... are the other two coming?"
"...No." Gladion shook his head, one hand clenching into a fist. "They won't be coming back until I let them."
"Gladion is... concerned about his subordinates," Selene explained, her voice quiet. "He heard about what happened while they were here, and... he may have overreacted a little."
Surprise flashed across Soliera's face for a split second, and then she gave a small nod. "...I see. Perhaps that is for the better..." She cleared her throat, a blue flush rising on her face. "In that case, I... have a message for them."
Gladion took a step back, not wanting to interfere any further than he had to. He had a feeling that this had to do with the arrangement between Soliera and Dulse - something he had made an effort to stay out of from the start, as he didn't fully understand it, and didn't want to butt into a private affair. It hadn't affected Dulse's work performance, so it wasn't that important in the long run.
"A message for them?" A placid smile appeared on Selene's face. "Well, I am here as a messenger, so... what is it you wanted to tell them?"
"The arrangement is... over." Soliera averted her gaze, the flush on her face growing deeper. "I am... that is to say, our first attempt was... successful. There is no need to continue..."
Selene was silent for a long moment, and then comprehension spread across her features. "Oh!" Her smile broadened, excitement plain on her face. "That's great news... congratulations!"
Despite himself, Gladion was curious; he looked between the two women, his attention settling on Selene. "What does she mean by that?"
"She means she's pregnant." Selene glanced over at Gladion, still smiling like mad. "And Dulse doesn't have to... well, do her anymore. He's off the hook."
While that seemed like excellent news, particularly for his subordinate, Gladion recalled something about Ultra Megalopolis' culture - the one thing that he understood with disturbing clarity. "...Are you certain that he's the father?"
"Absolutely." There was no trace of hesitation in Soliera's tone. "He is the only man I have... engaged with in such a manner during this window. I plan to do a genetic test to confirm it, but I have no reason to believe that the child could be anyone else's."
Gladion decided not to think too much about her explanation - there was an implication in there that made him slightly uncomfortable. "...In that case..." He turned to Selene. "I'd like to deliver that message. As Dulse's employer..."
"You feel obligated," Selene said, finishing his sentence for him. "As long as Soliera doesn't mind, I don't see a problem with that." She turned back to the woman in question. "Is this okay?"
"Actually... I'm inclined to agree with him." Soliera gave a slow nod. "So, no, I have no objections. However... this does bring me to another issue." Her expression became unreadable. "While Dulse and Zossie were here, they made arrangements to bring samples of aquatic flora to this world for a comparative study. Seeing as they are now... barred from access, this is no longer something they can carry out, and my research group still has an interest in the study..."
"...What a coincidence." Gladion's thoughts turned to his own research plans - there was an important medical study to be done, for the sake of the two who had come to live in his own world. "Is there anyone in your group who'd be interested in... being a subject for chemical testing? We need to know if medicines from our world are dangerous to people from this world... and we can help with your study in exchange."
"Chemical testing, you say..." Soliera's expression turned curious. "...I know this is somewhat of an imposition, but might I request that you stay here for a few days? I can't answer you immediately, and I'm sure you would prefer not to travel back and forth between here and your world for the answer."
"Actually, we'd already planned for that," Selene replied, before Gladion could say anything. "We have a substitute for the president in place, and she's been told that she may have to hold the position for a while. Do you have any recommendations for where we could stay?"
"There are a few options, but..." Soliera placed a hand on her forehead, looking somewhat exasperated. "In order to minimize your exposure to standard rations, I would suggest that you stay with me. While there are alternatives, many of the people in this world lack any semblance of taste."
"We'll take it." Gladion didn't know what standard rations meant, and given the look of this place, he wasn't sure he wanted to know. "Can you show us there?"
"Of course." Soliera turned away, gesturing for the two to follow her. "You might have to sleep on the floor. I don't have proper accommodations for guests, and... unless you don't mind sharing a bed that's meant for one person, then..."
Selene gave Gladion one of her trademark mischievous glances, and he just shook his head in response. For his part, he was more than willing to take the floor - he'd slept in worse places in his youth, and at the very least, this was indoors and out of the elements.
To his infinite relief, Selene seemed to get the message, saying nothing as she took his hand and led him after the alien woman who had offered to house them. There were a couple of questions that Gladion wanted to ask Soliera, but those could wait until they were safely in the privacy of her dwelling.
In retrospect, it made sense that Soliera's residence was an apartment. The way that the vast city was built offered little space for larger housing, and the population density ensured that such structures would be undesirable regardless.
The small living space somewhat resembled the shared dormitory back at Aether Paradise, though its color scheme was, for all intents and purposes, a complete inversion. The interior walls were the same color as the building's exterior, with some sort of smooth, deep blue material used as the flooring; a tiny window on one wall allowed some of the light from Megalo Tower inside, though the main room's primary source of illumination came from a set of light panels installed in the ceiling. The greatest difference was that Soliera's apartment had a separate bedroom, though neither of the visitors chose to enter it, respecting the owner's privacy as best they could.
Selene wanted to ask about Phyco, but Soliera explained the situation without prompting - as far as she knew, the district manager was unaware of what had transpired, his only concern being that Dulse and Zossie had safely returned to their new home. This knowledge came as an indescribable relief, though Gladion was still more than a little miffed, unwilling to back down on his promise to chew out Phyco.
The young president wasn't too keen on exploring, however. When Soliera offered to give the couple a tour, he insisted upon staying inside for the day; Selene, in her infinite concern for Gladion, elected to stay with him and keep him company. Soliera told them afterward that she had some errands to run, and would be away for some time - and that left them alone in her apartment, with only the sounds of the city to keep them company.
Gladion paced back and forth across the floor of the main room, while Selene made herself comfortable on the sofa that stretched across the far wall. She wondered what her boyfriend was thinking; he didn't need to be here, his decision to join her made from an irrational state of mind, and he seemed more uncomfortable than she'd ever seen him in this dark place. She wondered if he regretted his choice, wanting nothing more than to return to their world and forget that any of this had ever happened-
"Let's have sex."
The simple statement cut through the relative silence of the room, leaving Selene in a state of mild shock. It wasn't the first time Gladion had made that request of her, though he didn't initiate often; their location was what made it a surprise, as he was always reluctant to engage in such acts while in an unfamiliar location - and this was an entirely different world.
"Here?" Selene managed to ask, once she gathered her nerves. "Are... are you sure?" She wasn't opposed to the idea - she knew about Ultra Megalopolis' culture, and was sure that Soliera would understand - but the fact that he'd suggested it in the first place was beyond bizarre.
"...I'm nervous." Gladion stopped pacing, turning his full attention to Selene. "I need a distraction, and... no one here would care, right?"
A couple of different thoughts flashed through Selene's head, but one in particular stuck out; if he was nervous, that was liable to make the act more difficult, and she doubted that it would be a good way to relieve his anxiety. Still, if he had suggested it, he must've been in the right mindset for it...
"Well, yes, but..." Selene's face flushed. "I know how you are... are you really sure that you're okay with it?" She repeated her previous question, her concern running deep enough that she still had a few reservations.
"Just say yes or no," Gladion stated, his tone sharp. "If you're uncomfortable with doing it here, I won't force you." He never did - despite his rather pushy attitude, he always backed down on those occasions when she said no, rare as they were.
Selene rubbed the back of her neck with a hand. "I'm fine with it, but... I didn't really expect you to..." She gave an awkward smile. "I guess... if it really doesn't bother you, then... sure."
The next problem was their attire. While they had brought spare outfits along, the two of them were both still dressed in their travel uniforms; Selene had plenty of experience with getting the suit both on and off, but she wasn't sure if Gladion fully understood how to work it. She brought herself to her feet, prepared to show her companion how to undress.
To her relief, he seemed to have figured it out on his own. His suit came off with relative ease, and he watched her while she followed him; there was a sense of relief in the mutual familiarity of their nudity, but she could tell that his nerves had gotten the better of him - despite the fact that he'd been the one to suggest this, he didn't look like he was in the mood at all.
"...Are you really sure about this?" Selene repeated again, as she stepped closer and pulled him into a loose embrace. "If you want to back out, I'll help you-"
"I'm sure." Gladion cut her off, leaving no room for argument. "Just... please help me get ready. You're good at doing that." He returned her embrace, his hands sliding down to her hips, and she caught a glimpse of want in his eye - she deduced that his true reason for making this request was more because he craved reassurance from her, something to anchor him in this strange and unsettling world.
With that thought in mind, Selene leaned in to kiss him, her lips touching his in a chaste gesture at first - but she wasted no time in deepening it, her arms settling around his waist as she ran her fingers along his lower back, and he returned the kiss with all the passion he could muster. It was familiar, safe, a reminder that she was here for him and wouldn't let him go; she wouldn't let him suffer the same fate as his father while traveling Ultra Space, the unwavering barrier that guarded him from slipping into the vast unknown.
When she broke the kiss, Selene moved one hand forward, her fingers dancing along the sensitive skin of Gladion's inner thigh. He leaned into the touch, his form trembling as he braced himself against her, moving one of his own hands to her shoulder; she felt a slow but familiar change, his body heating up as blood flowed into his half-hard manhood - a good first step.
"Feeling any better?" Selene leaned in to whisper in his ear, her breath tickling him as her other hand shifted to caress his firm backside. "Or do you need more help?"
A quiet moan rose from Gladion's throat. "This- this is fine..." His hips jerked, pressing himself against her as he made an effort to continue speaking. "Just... don't stop touching me."
With his stiffening shaft pressing against her thigh, Selene didn't have much room to keep her hand there; she traced her fingers across his hip instead, pressing a kiss to the side of his neck - and then she grazed her teeth along his skin, eliciting a somewhat louder moan from him. She was sure that he would complain later if she marked him, but the temptation was strong, just to see him melt under her touch.
He started moving his hips, rubbing himself against her leg, and she gave in to that temptation; she bit him, eliciting a louder yelp from him as he gripped her tighter, and the sharp intake of breath that followed his vocalization indicated that, for the time being, he was not at all opposed to her leaving a bruise or two. With that in mind, she moved her mouth back up to his ear, and-
"Humping my leg, hmm?" she teased, her voice still low. "It doesn't take much to work you up... you're so eager already."
It was the right thing to say. After just a few more motions, Gladion pushed Selene back onto the sofa, pinning her with his hands and legs; he loomed over her, his eyes tracing her body with a familiar hunger, and he lifted one hand from her shoulder and trailed it down to her chest, caressing one of her small breasts with a surprisingly delicate touch. His gaze settled on hers as he leaned in to kiss her, deep and demanding and everything she wanted in this moment - and he moaned when she returned the kiss, a sign that he was more than ready now, her words and actions breaking through the barrier of his anxiety.
Still, she didn't stop touching him. The fingers of one hand ran along his side, stopping to massage his hip; her other hand settled on his chest, straying to the side a bit so that she could brush her thumb against his nipple, and he broke the kiss to mutter something indecipherable against her shoulder. His teeth grazed against her skin, providing barely any advance warning before he bit her, hard enough to leave a matching mark on her - and she shivered as his tongue ran over the spot, sensual and soothing at the same time, a reminder of his reason for doing this.
His efforts had worked, her body heating up to match his, and she let him know this by pulling him close; when he felt her flushed skin against his, he lowered his wandering hand between her legs, running a finger along her slick lower lips. He pushed himself away, enough so that he could shift his position - and a very different part of him replaced his finger, his heat pressing against hers for a split second before he hilted himself in a single motion.
Selene still wasn't quite used to the feeling of Gladion inside her; it didn't hurt, but there was a small degree of discomfort, and she stopped her caressing to place a hand on his shoulder. He got the hint, remaining still as he moved to kiss her again, and his own gentle touches resumed - one hand on her chest, the other on her hip, both stimulating her sensitive skin with the utmost of care, and it didn't take her long at all to adjust to the intrusion.
When she was ready, she moved her hips, signaling that he didn't have to hold back anymore. He started slow, pulling his mouth away from hers to trace her jawline with his lips; his motions were closer to sensual grinding than the rough and fast pace she was used to, and she wondered what had inspired him to treat her like this. It felt amazing, and she was far from complaining, but it was unusual for him - especially because of how they'd gotten into this situation in the first place.
"Ah, Gladion...?" Selene glanced down at her lover, who had taken to lavishing attention around the spot he'd bitten before. "What are you doing...?"
"Taking it slow," Gladion answered her, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "I wanted to try it..." He punctuated his statement by nipping her skin again, a soft groan rising from his throat as he used both hands to brace himself against her.
Selene shifted beneath him, finding a position that allowed him to press deeper inside her; she felt the noise he made in response to that, his body shuddering as he started moving faster, the slow grinding changing into a more familiar act - as usual, his self-control was limited, and she was surprised that he'd tried to set a slower pace at all.
Perhaps next time, she'd encourage him to do that properly. For now, they were on a deadline - there was no telling when the apartment's owner would be back, and Selene still wasn't sure how Gladion would react to being interrupted during the act. She knew that he had a mild exhibitionist streak, and that he'd expressed interest in being watched before, but-
"You-shouldn't-have-done-that." Gladion punctuated every word with a harsh thrust, pounding into her at a relentless pace; he lifted his head to look at her, and she noted the strained expression on his face - she'd set him off in a most spectacular fashion, all of his prior worries washed away by a singular need to claim her.
For her part, Selene enjoyed the fact that he could penetrate her deeper in this position; he struck all the right spots, setting her nerves on fire with each rough motion, and her body welcomed the brutal pace he set. She would be sore for some time afterward, but she didn't care in the heat of the moment, responding more than anything to his loud, delighted moans and heavy, labored breathing - he had lost himself to the feeling, his movements becoming unsteady as he leaned his head against her shoulder, moving one hand between them to stimulate her with his fingers.
With that addition, it didn't take long for her to come undone; she breathed a sharp gasp, trembling as her thighs tensed around his waist and her arms encircled him, pressing his body against hers. His breath hitched a split second after, and he whispered her name against the skin of her shoulder as he emptied into her, his own form shivering from the intensity of the feeling.
And, before either of them properly finished, a voice called out from the doorway.
"...Well, that answers a number of questions."
Selene's attention snapped to the apartment's entrance, where she saw Soliera standing there, her gaze fixed on the scene before her. Gladion lifted his head as well, and a curious expression crossed his face - he didn't seem as upset as he should have been, all things considered.
"How long have you been there?" the young president demanded, though his voice was still somewhat weak - he didn't sound anything near threatening, especially considering his position.
"I only just got here," Soliera responded, as she stepped into the room. "My timing was... unfortunate. I'd like to apologize." She turned away from the couple, making her way over to the kitchenette so she could put down the bags she carried.
"You could've waited a few minutes..." Selene whined, a little annoyed by the sudden interruption. "...Or at least had the courtesy not to say anything..."
"...Give us some privacy." Gladion pressed himself against Selene, as if that would do anything to salvage his pride. "We... need to get cleaned up and dressed. I don't want you watching us do that."
"Very well." Soliera stepped away from the kitchenette, turning toward her bedroom door - she did not glance once at the pair on the sofa. "You can use the bathroom if you need to. There's something I'd like to sort out... I'll be in my room."
She disappeared into the bedroom, leaving Gladion and Selene alone in the main living area. The former champion breathed a long sigh, leaning back against the sofa as her lover picked himself up; there was one question she needed to ask him before it devoured her conscience.
"I thought you'd be more upset," Selene pointed out, her voice low. "What gives?"
"...I wish she'd caught us sooner," Gladion admitted, his face flushing. "It would've been more exciting that way..."
Selene pressed a palm to her forehead as she sat up, shaking her head. It was an extension of his exhibitionist streak - for how little he liked the company of others, he was impressively perverted when it came to the idea of being caught in the act.
"I'm not going to dignify that with a response." Selene pulled herself to her feet at last, and, recognizing the potential for him to sass her, added, "Beyond what I'm saying right now."
Gladion didn't say anything in response, and instead made his way over to the bathroom. After a moment, Selene followed him, her mind straying into dangerous territory; she wondered if that bizarre punishment would extend to people from the other world, and if Soliera would even be interested in humoring Gladion's kink.
Selene pushed down the thought, knowing that it was unreasonable - and, if she was to be honest, she wasn't fully comfortable with the idea. As much as she loved Gladion, she had to draw the line somewhere... and given the nature of the kink in question, she had no doubt that he would accept her decision.
While she was in Ultra Megalopolis, there was one more thing Selene wanted to do.
Ever since her arrival in the world without light, Necrozma had been acting strange. The ball that contained it would shake from time to time, as if it wanted to get out; she wasn't certain what the problem was, but she guessed that it wished to see the tower it had once called home. A reasonable request, of course - due to her position as the city's savior, Selene had free access to Megalo Tower, able to visit its top floor whenever she wished.
During the waking hour of her third day in Ultra Megalopolis, Selene went to the tower. She wondered if Necrozma had healed enough to restore this world's light, or if that would take longer; she had done all she could to ensure that it had access to the energy it needed, monitoring its progress to the best of her ability after Dulse's study ended. There were times when Solgaleo needed to rest, and Selene was fortunate enough to have her own Lunala in her possession - the child of her dear friend, born after a trip to a parallel world's Lake of the Sunne.
Lunala's light was not as strong as Solgaleo's, but it sufficed for Necrozma's purposes - it was still able to maintain its true form, its impressive might unchanged from when it took Solgaleo. This visit did not see the great prism in its Dawn Wings form; Selene had just switched the two not too long before she arrived, with Necrozma taking control over its preferred source of light.
At Megalo Tower's summit, Selene allowed her companion out of its ball, and it stepped upon the crystalline floor with unusual grace. Its glowing eyes scanned the area, flickering once or twice before it seated itself at the center of the platform, glancing once at its master.
Then, the prismatic core which served as Necrozma's brain emerged from its body, its glow bright enough that Selene had to look away. When she glanced back, the beast was in its true form, its light radiating across the sky - and piercing the shroud that loomed over the tower.
For a moment, the world was bathed in light once again... and then, Necrozma faltered, its form blackening as it collapsed upon the floor. Selene hurried to its side, concern flooding through her as she watched it separate from Solgaleo, returning to the husk-like form it had been in when it first appeared in Alola.
"Necrozma..." Selene spoke the great prism's name, her hand coming to rest on its cold body. It turned to face her, bracing itself against the floor as Solgaleo approached, nudging Necrozma with its nose.
It had tried, but its effort had been futile. It was not yet strong enough, its damaged body unable to bring light to an entire world. Selene worried that its attempt had caused it more harm, that it had set itself back by some degree - and that was the last thing she wanted, after everything she'd done to help Necrozma.
She waited in silence, watching a most curious interaction between the two legendary beasts. Solgaleo placed a paw upon Necrozma's body, concern clear in its eyes; it activated its third eye, its body glowing bright as it attempted to offer some of its radiance to the weakened prism. Necrozma raised one of its clawed limbs in response, as if reaching out for Solgaleo - but with Necrozma so weakened, the two could not fuse again without their trainer's command, and she was too busy worrying over both her companions to even think about retrieving the N-Solarizer.
"Selene!" A familiar voice called out, and the former champion glanced back at the pathway leading to the platform; Gladion rushed to her, a mix of emotions visible on his face as he looked her over - and then he turned his attention to Solgaleo and Necrozma, still locked in their strange dance.
"Why are you here?" Selene asked, a little surprised by Gladion's presence; most people weren't allowed here, and she didn't realize he had the same privilege as her. "I thought that..."
"Soliera let me up," Gladion stated in response, though he didn't turn away from the sight before him. "What happened here? Why is Necrozma...?"
Selene shook her head, and breathed a long sigh. "It... tried to restore this world's light. The light that it took so long ago... but it wasn't strong enough, and I think it hurt itself trying." With her focus returned, she began rummaging through her bag, searching for the device Colress had given her. "I... need to get them back together."
"...I'm surprised." Gladion watched as Selene fished the device out of her bag, holding it up. "I didn't think it had the conscience to do something like that. To sacrifice its own health for the sake of the world it stole from..."
Selene waited until the N-Solarizer did its work, pushing Solgaleo and Necrozma together; once the two were one again, she turned back to Gladion, a bright smile on her face. "It's actually a lot more compassionate than it seems. The reason it was so aggressive when it came to Alola was just because it was in pain..." She placed the device back inside her bag. "...It was starving, really. It had been for a long time, and it was desperate for relief. Now that it doesn't have to worry as much anymore, its old personality is coming back."
She turned back to Necrozma, moving close enough so that she could place a hand on the side of its head. It gave a low hum in response, a sound that resonated through its body; Selene felt it as much as she heard it, and those strange vibrations reassured her - her companion was still with her, still conscious and in control of itself, and if it had injured itself, that wound would heal with time.
"...The bond between you two is impressive," Gladion observed, sounding more than a little intrigued. "It's almost like how Silvally is with me..." He looked between Necrozma and Selene, and out of the corner of her eye, she saw a hint of a smile on his face. "Looking at it like this, it's hard to believe that thing's a god in its own right."
"That... reminds me." Selene recalled her legendary companion, her thoughts turning to an issue that had crossed her mind every now and then. "When you went back to Aether Paradise... how did Silvally feel?"
Gladion didn't answer at first; for a long moment, he stared at the floor, almost as though he was lost in thought. When he lifted his head again, his previous expression had vanished, replaced by a pained look.
"It... didn't want to go," he said at last, his voice just audible over the ambient hum of the tower. "It hadn't forgotten that place, or the people who worked there... who created it and tormented it. When I took charge of the Aether Foundation, that changed its mind, but until then..."
"...Changed its mind?" Selene raised an eyebrow, her curiosity getting the better of her. "What do you mean by that?"
Gladion breathed a long sigh, pressing a hand to his forehead; despite the gesture, he seemed more relaxed now. "I'd already told it that I planned to dismantle that part of the facility when I became president. It must have realized what that meant - it wasn't going back there, ever."
"I see..." Selene gave a single nod, and she offered Gladion a smile. "Silvally trusts you... and even if it had bad memories of Aether Paradise, it was able to overcome those feelings to be with you." She thought back to how they'd gotten here - the disturbing experience that was the Ultra Warp Ride, and how he'd been determined to undergo it for her sake. "...Just like you with me."
"Aether Paradise and Ultra Wormholes..." Comprehension flickered across Gladion's face, and his hand dropped to his side as he met her smile with one of his own. "...Thanks. As long as I keep that in mind... I think I'll be fine going back."
"You're welcome..." Selene turned toward the pathway that led to the tower's summit; she didn't want to stay here for too long, as the place held some of her own disquieting memories. "So, was that any more reassuring than what happened the other day?"
The two had agreed afterward that the incident in question was a mistake, just like a certain other event that had transpired in Soliera's apartment. Gladion made a frustrated noise in response, but said nothing; he bolted off toward the pathway, and Selene had to hold back her laughter as she followed him - that was a very definite yes, and she would likely have to apologize later for bringing it up.
Despite Necrozma's failure, Selene felt as though a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. The man she loved had taken steps toward overcoming his greatest fear, and she planned to continue helping him with that - and when the time came, she hoped that he would join her in glimpsing this world's forgotten sun.
1. Lunala is a psychic type. I'm assuming by extension that it has mind-reading abilities. This also (obviously) applies to Solgaleo.
2. Chemical testing on humans is unethical, but they don't really have a choice in the matter, so it's kind of a lose-lose situation. The best they can do is try to help a little in exchange.
3. I need to stop doing that to these two.