It started with a toothbrush.
Cilan noticed she had accidentally left it behind one weekend in the guest bathroom. He called her when she reached the Opelucid Gym, and she shrugged it off—she could buy another one, a cheap one for a mere $2, to last the week before she returned to Striaton City, as she did every Saturday.
They had a system. A simple system, really, built on one basic principle: They were friends, and they wanted to spend time together. The issues, though, were time and distance. They lived in two cities, hours apart, and their daily lives were consumed by far too many obligations for people as young as they—18 and 21.
Both were gym leaders. He was a full-time student in two institutions: Striaton University and the Pokémon Connoisseur Academy. In one, he was pursuing an undergraduate degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences; in the other, he was in the fifth semester of the rigorous S-Class program. She was a not student in the academic sense, but she was apprenticed to the Championship seat that would one day be hers.
The obstacles through which needed to jump necessitated the system. Drayden agreed to let Iris leave every weekend for Striaton City, and he would manage the gym in her absence. Cilan felt guilty that it was she who had to endure the inconvenience of travel, but his responsibilities to the gym, the restaurant, and his schooling were suffocating, and Iris insisted she enjoyed the aerial journey via her Dragonite anyway.
The following weekend, however, she didn't pick up her toothbrush.
"I'm going to be here next weekend anyway, so it might as well just stay," she said with a wave of her hand. Cilan agreed; her reasoning was logical.
Then it was a drawer—just one. The guest bedroom was outfitted with a standard wardrobe, where she would keep a small set of clothes every weekend until she packed them up and took them back to Opelucid. Then came a Sunday when she decided to leave them be.
"It's such a pain to pack, unpack, and repack every weekend," she explained. "I might as well just leave a couple things here and do laundry when I need to. You don't mind, do you?"
He didn't. The "guest room," after all, had really become synonymous with "Iris's room."
Then it was a bed. His, specifically. They spent much of their time together in his bedroom, him working on an assignment, her watching one of his old black-and-white films on the television screen that hung on the wall. By accident, she fell asleep there one evening, and Cilan couldn't bring himself to wake her up, but he didn't want to make her uncomfortable either. So, he moved to her bed that night—and she chastised him the next morning.
"You could've just stayed, you know. The bed's big enough for both of us," she told him. "Besides, it's not like we were doing anything bad. We used to sleep next to each other in sleeping bags all the time."
He couldn't argue with that.
Then it was his room entirely. Not only did she have her own half of his bed, he made space for her in his wardrobe, and her toothbrush sat next to his in the bathroom connected to the room they now shared.
What happened only occurred to Cilan in the middle of the night, when he was only half-awake, and his fingers were kneaded through her hair, and her face was nestled in the crook of his neck, her breath warm against his skin.
She had carved a place for herself in his life, and he had welcomed her there. It had happened so naturally that he didn't flinch (at least, he didn't now; he might have the first couple of times) when she pulled her shirt over her head in the morning; he didn't get angry when she flicked running water in his face, a touch of toothpaste dripping down her lip; he didn't complain when she taste-tested lunch before it was ready as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder in front of the stove; he didn't hesitate when he pressed his lips against her neck as she laid beneath him in bed, their hands clasped together.
And even when Sunday night came and she had to leave, she lingered there in the weekdays that followed, in the skirt he found in his laundry, in the half-empty bottle of organic shampoo in his shower, in the very scent of her that permeated his bedroom—all reminders that she was now a part of his life, and an affirmation that she would return next Saturday.