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The end of the monsoon season brought Gladion back to Melemele on its last burst of cool wind.

He didn’t seem entirely pleased to be there, Hau had thought, but then again Gladion rarely seemed pleased with anything at all. He had a bit of warning, between talking with Mohn and Lillie at the Aether Foundation and the sparse messages (an improvement from years of no communication at all) from Gladion himself, and he’d taken to preparing for Gladion’s return with glee.

It’d been hard to live on his own, even though it’d been his choice to begin with. Hau had been raised in a noisy, warm house with all the company and love he could ever want. Though he knew it was time to go his own way, his own house felt incredibly lonely and empty at times, even with his Pokemon to keep him company.

In between challengers to the island, he found himself going all over Alola to prepare for Gladion and Silvally’s arrival. He’d found the biggest Pokemon beds he could and put one in the living room next to Raichu’s bed and one in the room that would be Gladion’s when he arrived. He put a large map on the wall of that bedroom, too, hoping to maybe coax Gladion into telling him more about his travels. There were also a few framed photos of their small friend group together on the walls around it. He may or may not have also experimented with making his own malasada, with a recipe courtesy of an ever kind Wicke at the Foundation hanging on the fridge.

Beyond that, however, Hau couldn’t figure out how to prepare for his friend. Gladion had essentially been a nomad his entire life and from what Hau had seen when he visited him last, he essentially lived out of a few bags, always prepared to leave and never totally attached to where he was staying. Hau hoped maybe he could change that.

Gladion’s reaction to his preparations, at least, was promising.

Still skittish as ever, Gladion had come into port around the first of spring when the monsoons had died down and Mohn returned to the islands of the Pelago once more. Hau had spent most of their first day dragging him to the malasada shop and mall (where they had found more of the odd Plates at the antiques store, of all places) before dodging multitudes of cousins as they made their way through Iki Town to Hau’s home. Gladion had seemed startled at the number of Hau-like relatives vying for his attention and had hung back as much as he could away from them but was for the most part unsuccessful. Silvally, surprisingly, had taken the harassment from his small cousins in stride.

His mom hovered at his side as they watched the kids harass Gladion by hanging off shoulders and neck, with one ending up in his arms somehow and carefully running small fingers over the rings in his ear. His mother had whispered something about how she was fine with him bringing a young man home, but that she’d never expected one this handsome, and warned him to keep Gladion away from his grandmother. Hau hushed her before Gladion could hear, but he still got an odd look. In the end, they’d walked away with pots full of food and well wishes (some in the forms of overly enthusiastic pats on the back, which Hau had to drag Gladion away from before he ripped out someone’s throat).

When they’d arrived at his house at long last, Gladion had been silent as Hau showed him around, taking it all in. At first, Hau was afraid that his friend didn’t like it and that he might up and move on to the another location (like the perpetually packed or seedy motels he’d stayed in before). He’d realized Gladion’s silence was quiet appreciation and, after Gladion had joined him on the couch that night and fell asleep with his head on his shoulder, gratitude.

For the first few weeks they danced around each other before settling into a comfortable routine. They’d usually eat breakfast together in the morning (Hau learned quickly both that Gladion was not a morning person and that making any comments on the wild state of his hair was invitation for a brawl) before parting ways: Hau to attend to his duties as Kahuna around Melemele and Gladion to either work with Silvally and the odd tablets or to look into whatever amalgamate of cells went into making the Type: Nulls currently in existence. He hadn’t made much headway, as Silvally seemed to actively avoid the Plates unless it was ordered by Gladion to interact with them. He’d shown Hau sketches of harnesses for Silvally that he’d thought up, but he hadn’t really gotten anywhere. There was some missing factor to linking Silvally and the Plates that he hadn’t found yet.

Faba was also fairly uncooperative towards both Lillie and Gladion digging through the labs; whether they actually controlling the Foundation or not had no bearing on the man’s temper and he seemed to actively impede their investigations. More than once, Gladion had needed to remind him of the fact that he and sister were co-presidents of the Foundation, not Faba (who had been knocked down from his role of branch chief, much to his chagrin).

Gladion would usually reappear at the house before Hau and would be waiting for him whenever he showed up in the evening. They’d then eat dinner and afterwards train or just hang out.

During this time, Hau made two very important realizations.

One, Gladion actually didn’t mind being touched. In fact, he seemed to crave it but was as skittish as Wimpods down on the beach when it came to it actually happening or asking for it. Hau noticed whenever they settled in for the evening that Gladion could usually be coaxed in having an arm around his shoulders or a hand running through his hair when Gladion lay his head in his lap as they watched something or read whatever Gladion had found that day on the Plates. On the nights that Hau didn’t initiate any small amounts of contact, Gladion would be oddly restless and frustrated, lashing out at both Hau and their Pokemon, until Hau offered it.

Two, Hau was starting to foster a not-so-small attraction towards Gladion. He’d always been fond of his friend, but he’d never really given it much thought when they were younger. They were both young and chasing after all the exciting things the world had to offer them. He’d hardly had the time to consider if he was attracted to boys or girls (both, turned out to be the answer) and hadn’t really noticed anyone around him. Now, he found enjoyment in his role as kahuna but at the end of the day craved the small quiet moments he had with Gladion.

On one of the occasions he was gone overnight he’d been absolutely restless, unsettled by what he now recognized as missing Gladion. Luckily, Gladion seemed thrown off by the wrench in their routine as well and spent most of that evening sending him pictures he’d taken that day: Silvally chasing after a Rattata in the yard, a complex DNA structure he’d managed to unearth from the labs at the Paradise that he thought might belong to Silvally, takeout from the mall, and finally, a picture of himself with Silvally half in his lap on the couch. His hair had fallen away from the right side of his face because of the angle the camera was at and Hau was free to see his bright green, if not somewhat sleepy, eyes. He’d stared at it for far too long with his heart racing wildly in his chest until Gladion had messaged him, wondering why he hadn’t responded yet.

Hau may have set the last picture as the background for his Xtransceiver.

For the most part, Hau ignored the crush. Other than the affection, Gladion seemed content with the status quo in their friendship and Hau wasn’t about to upset his friend’s delicate trust with his own stupid feelings. It was something of an honor for Gladion to trust him as much as he did, especially for him to seek physical contact on a regular basis from Hau. If this is what their relationship was going to stay as, then Hau was happy.

On Gladion’s fourth week back, their day had started off mostly normal. Gladion had been a little quieter than usual in the morning and not nearly as grumpy, but Hau figured that maybe something was on his mind. It was best to let him mull over it rather than bothering him. If Gladion wanted to discuss it, he would when he was ready. He was slumped over the counter when Hau left, huffing out a quiet goodbye when a gentle hand smoothed over the top of his head. There weren’t any messages that day which wasn’t entirely unusual, but with everything else it definitely hinted at a larger problem.

Hau could tell something wasn’t right the moment he walked in the door that evening, however. Their routine didn’t often change, mostly due to Gladion’s dislike of change in general. Usually, Gladion was on one of the couches at this time with Silvally’s head in his lap while he browsed through something on his Xtransceiver. Instead, he was greeted with the sight of Silvally curled up against Gladion’s door, ears pressed back against its head in a way he’d never seen before.

He hurriedly shucked off his sandals at the door and dropped to his knees by the Pokemon. His first thought was that it was hurt, but it tossed its head irritably as he ran his hands over its body, looking for injuries. It rose to its feet and looked at the closed door pointedly before heading to the sliding glass door and letting itself out, as if to say, “This is your problem now, buddy.”

If Silvally was fine, then where was Gladion? Hau swallowed the lump in his throat and got to his feet, raising a hand to knock softly at the door. There wasn’t a response, but Hau could hear something rustle inside.

“Gladion?” he called. Still no response. Worried, he tried the door handle and was surprised when he found it to be unlocked. He opened it part of the way and peered in.

The first thing he noticed was how dark it was for the time of day and realized that all the curtains were shut. The second thing was the harsh breathing coming from the bed. Letting himself into the room and closing the door behind him, Hau prayed that Gladion wouldn’t murder him for this intrusion. This was so out of the ordinary for his routine bound friend, though, that he couldn’t help but be extremely concerned.

As his eyes adjusted to the low amount of light, Hau could see a lump in the middle of the bed. He called out Gladion’s name again quietly, as not to startle him in case he was sleeping, but the bundle of blankets only moved slightly. Hau sat himself on the edge of the bed and pulled back the sheets covering Gladion’s head. Immediately, he could see what was wrong.

Sweat plastered Gladion’s fine hair to his face and there was a high flush in his cheeks. His breath came out in stuttering rattle as Hau pressed the back of his hand against Gladion’s forehead. He was startled not only to find his friend’s skin to be burning hot, but when Gladion leaned into the touch instead of flinching away like he expected. He whined softly when Hau drew his hand back and curled into where Hau sat on the bed. His eyes remained squeezed tightly shut, likely out of pain.

Hau bit his lip as he hesitantly stroked his friend’s head and thought. He wasn’t really sure what Gladion needed to recover, as he was obviously sick, but he didn’t want to leave him alone to go get a doctor. He also didn’t have the after hours number for the doctor in Hau’oli City, though he knew where she lived.

He moved to get up, but Gladion cried out and grabbed his list.

“Don’t go,” he rasped, his eyes open at last. He looked frantic. “Please.”

Hau leaned in and touched his forehead against Gladion’s in an affectionate nuzzle as he tried to pry his fingers off.

“It’ll be okay, Glad, I’ll be right back,” he told him softly. “You need to let me go first, though.”

“You’ll come back, though?” Gladion looked like he might break down at any moment and Hau’s heart seized painfully.

“I will, I promise.” Gladion released him and fell back onto the bed, breathing heavily. Hau stroked his head one last time before leaving the room. He shut the door quietly behind him and dialed a familiar number on his Xtransceiver. Luckily, Kukui picked up almost immediately.

“Yo Hau, what can I do for you?” he asked. Hau could see the curled tail of a Lycanroc pass by in the background of the call.

“I don’t have the number for the doctor in Hau’oli,” Hau said, peering past the image of the professor to Silvally on the deck. It seemed to standing guard. “Would you mind either messaging me her number or calling her for me?” He heard a sound from the bedroom. “Actually, calling her might be the best idea.”

“Sure, what’s up? Feeling under the weather?”

“Not me. It’s Gladion.” Kukui’s smile dropped.

“Poor kid, what’s going on?”

“I’m not quite sure, but he’s a little delirious at the moment, so I should probably get back to him as soon possible.”

“I hear you loud and clear. I’ll send her up your way as soon as possible, cousin.”

“Thanks, Professor. I owe you one.” With a wave, Kukui hung up. Hau turned to Silvally next and grabbed its Pokeball off the coffee table where Gladion had left it next to his Xtransceiver. He opened the door and Silvally turned to look at him over its shoulder. They stared at each other and Hau held up the ball. He could see the Pokemon’s body tense and its hackles begin to rise.

“Come on bud, don’t do this,” he whispered and aimed the ball at it. “We’ve got a visitor coming and the last thing she needs is a welcome like you gave me when you saw me at the Poke Pelago. Please make this easy on me and your buddy. He’s super sick.”

Silvally huffed, but didn’t bolt. Taking it as a sign, Hau pressed the button on the ball, recalling it. He sighed in relief and went back inside, locking the door behind him. He carefully set the ball down on the table once more before heading back to Gladion’s room. He knocked, mostly as a warning, and let himself in once more.

Gladion had propped himself up on the pillows and Hau could see that his eyes were glazed as he approached the bed once more. He was shocked when Gladion reached out and grabbed at his shirt, pulling him to sit on the bed before curling himself around where Hau sat once more.

Hau cautiously removed his Kahuna mantle and hung it over the headboard before laying down next to Gladion and opening his arms up. Gladion settled into them and buried his head against Hau’s chest. Extremely weird behavior for his friend, but Hau wrote it off to the fever. He pulled the blankets up around Gladion’s shoulders as he noticed him shivering and started to stroke his head again.

If this were any other time, Hau would have been ecstatic with Gladion cuddling with him. He looked forward to any affection he received from him and the odd domesticity that had settled between them fanned a small flame in Hau’s heart that cried for more. Having Gladion shivering and almost whimpering in his arms terrified him and made him feel utterly helpless. Gladion was usually so stoic that seeing him like this was downright frightening.

They lay like that together for a few minutes, with Hau stroking from the top of Gladion’s head down his spine and then back up again. Gladion had relaxed a little and had tucked himself under Hau’s chin. They both jumped when there was a knock at the front door. Gladion looked to Hau, who whispered quiet reassurances and untangled himself from Gladion’s grip.

The doctor at the front door looked as though she might have been a distant cousin of the Nurse Joy clan, but lacked any of the easy happiness in her face. Hau quickly invited her in and showed her to Gladion’s room. She immediately shooed him after seeing the state of his friend and firmly shut the door behind him. Feeling a bit helpless (and unreasonably irritated at being shut out of the room, if he were to be honest), Hau started to prepare dinner for the both of them. He wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong with Gladion but hoped he could stomach a light soup and a few bread rolls.

The doctor emerged just as he took the soup off the burner, shutting the door softly behind her.

“Well, it’s not too serious but he’s probably not going to be feeling well for a few days at the very least,” she told him. “It just looks like a common virus around here that usually everyone gets at least once when they’re young. You probably even had it yourself when you were younger. Is he from Alola?”

Hau grimaced and said, “Kinda. It’s a long story.”

“Well, if he hasn’t been on the mainland much or around a bunch of people like in Hau’oli City, then it’s no surprise he’s picked this up.” She set her large satchel on the counter and dug through it. “I’ll give you some over the counter medicine I have with me for tonight, and that should at least take the edge off of it, but I’ll write him a prescription so we can hopefully get that fever down and keep it that way. I doubt anyone’s open right now, so you’ll have to fill it in the morning.”

She handed him a bottle of colorful liquid and scribbled out the prescriptions before zipping up her satchel once more. “My number is on the top of those prescriptions. Call me if his fever gets any higher. He’s had his first dose of that already, so he should be feeling a bit better here soon.The best thing he can do right now is to get some rest and keep up on the fluids. He’ll get through this soon enough.”

With that, she took her leave. Hau sighed and examined the bottle. It just seemed like a pretty generic cold medicine, but hopefully it would help. He prepped a small bowl of soup and put it with some rolls on a plate, and released Silvally along with the rest of his team so they could eat dinner. It seemed unhappy with him but ignored him as it dug into the food.

After ensuring there wouldn’t be a brawl about food, Hau grabbed the plate off the counter and headed to Gladion’s room. He was still propped up on his pillows when he entered, but he looked a little more coherent.

“Hey,” Hau said as he approached the bed.

“Hey,” Gladion croaked back, pushing his hair out of his face and shakily reaching for the plate. Hau helped him settle it in his lap and watched him take a few bites before turning on his heel to get his own meal. He almost ran into Silvally on his way out of the room and was huffed at as he was shoved out of the way. He had to crack a smile at the Pokemon’s concern for his owner.

After cleaning up the scattered food bowls (it seemed that they would be pushed to all corners of the house, no matter where they started) and feeding himself, he popped his head back inside Gladion’s room. Gladion was fast asleep once more, his breathing mostly evened out and his face peaceful. Silvally had crawled on the bed at some point, but Gladion didn’t seem to have minded if the arms embracing the Pokemon’s neck were anything to by. It cracked an eye open as he approached the bed, warily watching him as he pulled up the covers around Gladion’s shoulders.

Hau spent the remainder of the evening alone, checking on Gladion occasionally to make sure he was alright. He hadn’t realized how much of his routine revolved around the man until he wasn’t there to be apart of it. Feeling at a loss for what to do, he rounded up all the Pokemon from where they had been playing outside in the last rays of the sunset and headed into his room. He shot a quick message to Ilima explaining the situation and asking him to take the helm for the next few days as he prepared for bed. Ilima replied back quickly, asking if there was anything he could do, but Hau thought that the Trial Captain’s presence might rile up Gladion more than necessary. The two had somewhat of a rivalry going on and the last thing Gladion needed was to feel like he should drag himself out of bed just to prove a point, whatever he thought it might be. Sending one more message to say, no, there wasn’t anything and wishing Ilima a goodnight, Hau flopped onto his bed and fell into a restless sleep.

 

Later that night, Hau woke to a strange whine cutting through the air. His eyes snapped open as his thoughts immediately jumped to Gladion.

“Silvally, you can’t come in here!” he heard Gladion hiss quietly. “Stay!”

The same whine floated through the air again and Hau realized with no small amount of relief it was Silvally he was hearing, not Gladion.

“Gladion?” he called out sleepily as he pushed himself up on his elbows and rubbed at his eyes. He could see his friend freeze for a second before he slammed the door in Silvally’s face. Another disappointed cry could be heard from outside before the clicking of Silvally’s talons against the floor announced its reluctant retreat.

Gladion slowly approached the bed and Hau could see his mussed appearance in the moonlight. He scooted over to make room and Gladion crawled into the bed next to him.

“I can’t sleep,” he finally said. “This really sucks. I can’t really remember ever being sick before at the Foundation.”

“So since you can’t sleep, I can’t sleep either?”

Hau saw a grin flash across Gladion’s face in the moonlight.

“Pretty much. If I have to suffer through this, you do too. We’ll call this payback for the night you kept me up at the Pelago.”

Hau groaned and flopped face down onto his pillow. He could hear Gladion’s soft laughter and couldn’t help but grin as well. He finally rolled over so he was face to face with him. He could still see a faint flush high on his cheekbones, probably leftover from the last vestiges of the fever that ran through his body. He started slightly when Gladion suddenly cuddled himself against his chest, head tucked under his chin. Hesitantly, Hau wrapped his arms around him and rubbed the sore muscles he could feel around Gladion’s shoulderblades. He made a small sound that quickly had Hau scrambling to imagine the most unattractive thing he could think of.

Like Nanu in a speedo.

“You have to be super sick still to be acting like this,” he mumbled into the blonde mop of hair. He heard a breathless chuckle.

“Maybe,” Gladion whispered back. “Please keep doing that? Everything hurts.”

Hau reluctantly obliged, chasing away the tenseness he could feel under his fingers and trying to calm down his racing heart. Unfortunately, Gladion seemed to have his ear pressed right over it.

Finally, Hau asked, “Gladion, why are you in here?”

He sighed, hot breath fanning against Hau’s neck and sending shivers down his spine.

“It turns out that fevers and nightmares don’t go well together,” Gladion muttered, refusing to meet Hau’s gaze.

Hau could understand that, at least. Gladion’s nightmares were horrendous to begin with. He’d quickly learned that after many nights of walking out and finding him awake and curled up on couch watching the moon outside. He’d never asked because Gladion didn’t offer to share but if he had to guess, they probably dealt with the scars that littered his head and chest. Hau tightened his embrace slightly, careful not to squeeze him too hard. Even now, he could feel the raised skin of the scars through Gladion’s shirt.

They lay like that for a while and Hau had almost drifted back off to sleep when Gladion squirmed slightly.

“Hau?” he heard Gladion quietly ask.

“Hmm?” he replied sleepily and nuzzled his face into Gladion’s hair before sighing.

“What if this wasn’t just because I was sick?”

Hau’s mind scrambled sleepily as he tried to think of what Gladion was talking about. “What do you mean?”

“What if I’m not just acting this way because I’m sick?” It took a second to click in Hau’s mind and he froze.

Oh.

As his exhausted mind gained traction, however, Gladion had taken his reaction as an outright rejection and tried to push himself away from Hau.  “Forget about what I said. Good night.”

“Gladion,” Hau said, the warning clear enough to stop him from pushing away. “Look at me.”

Though he stopped trying to escape from Hau’s grasp, he refused to look up. Careful to keep hold of him with one arm, Hau tipped his chin up to look him in the eyes with the other hand. His face was deeply flushed, almost as it had been during his fever earlier.

Gladion might have prided himself on his poker face that he presented the rest of the world, but his eyes could tell anyone what was going on under the seemingly calm surface. Right now, Hau saw fear. Fear of rejection, fear of being hurt, fear of being alone.

“I didn’t say anything, did I?” Hau asked, stroking a thumb lightly against Gladion’s cheek.

“No, but--”

“You just surprised me, that’s all.” Hau let his forehead fall forward and touch Gladion’s own. “If you’re wanting my attention, Glad, you definitely have it. The question is, what do you want from me?”

Gladion shakily let out a breath and averted his eyes.

“Is ‘I don’t know’ an acceptable answer? I hadn’t thought this far ahead. I didn’t even think I would be doing this tonight. Or ever.”

Hau chuckled softly and brought his other hand up so both cradled Gladion’s head.

“That’s perfectly fine. How about we take small steps forward and you can tell me when to stop?”

Hau’s heart almost leapt out of his chest when Gladion nodded slightly, shyly.

He leaned forward and nuzzled his nose against Gladion’s before he pressed their lips together in a chaste, barely-there kiss.

And then another.

And another.

“Is this okay?” he whispered. He felt Gladion’s face burning under his hand and heard the stuttering breaths escape his chest.

“Yes,” Gladion whispered back. “More? Please?”

Smiling, Hau pushed him from his side onto his back and leaned over him to kiss him once more. They started as quick, sweet pecks at first into heated, slick lip locks until Hau hesitantly ran his tongue across the seam of Gladion’s lips. Gladion parted them and shyly met Hau’s tongue with his own briefly before shoving him away. Hau was taken aback, concerned that he’d gone too far until Gladion curled on his side underneath him to cough into the crook of his arm.

Hau carefully moved back off of Gladion and lay back down on his side. Gladion peered  up at him after catching his breath, face still extremely red. Hau wasn’t sure anymore that it was purely from what had just happened, though.

“We need to stop for tonight,” he told Gladion quietly as he gently embraced him again. “You’re still pretty sick, it looks like.” Gladion whined softly in response before coughing again. Hau could faintly hear the rattle in his lungs again.

Carefully detaching himself from Gladion’s arms, Hau made his way back out to the kitchen where the bottle of medicine still sat on the counter. He measured out the dosage in the small cup on top of the bottle and grabbed a glass of water before heading back to his room. Silvally tried to squeeze through the door after him, but he managed to block its entrance. If Gladion didn’t want it in the room with him, then the Pokemon would just have to deal. He heard it grumble as it stalked backed off towards its bed in the living room.

Gladion wrinkled his nose at the medicine when Hau offered it to him, but downed it anyway. He immediately reached for the glass to wash it down.

“That bad, huh?” Hau asked as he placed the glass and small dosage cup on the nightstand next to his bed.

“Why don’t you take some if you’re so curious?”

“I’ll pass, thanks.” Hau lay back down on the bed and opened his arms up to let Gladion curl against his chest once more. “I really should make you sleep in your own bed since you’re sick.”

“I’ll just come and you wake you up again in a few hours.”

Hau laughed softly as he kissed the top of Gladion’s head. “That’s the only reason why I’m not making you leave.”

“Are you sure that’s the only reason?” he asked sleepily.

“No, of course not. Go to sleep, Gladion.” Hau shouldn’t have worried, though, as Gladion had slipped off to sleep by the time he finished speaking. Extremely happy, Hau pulled the blankets up over them both before letting himself drift back off to sleep as well. Maybe Gladion wouldn't remember any of this in the morning, or maybe he would regret it.

 But Hau could be happy with this, for just this moment.