A/N: To anyone who has already read this fic - this is NOT a "new" chapter. I just edited the whole fic and all the chapters were WAY too long, so I had to change the way the story was split up, and add a new chapter. But of course, I'd love it if you read it all again - I did make many changes!
Thanks for reading, and please, don't forget to leave a review!
It was over. Everything, all the battles, all the fighting, all the death and danger and destruction.
It was all over. There was nothing but silence around her. The thing her mind registered was the sounds of nature, of Pokémon. Then came people. Everyone was starting to move, to realize what happened, to see that it had all ended. Next she realized that those two noises – Pokémon and people, shifting around through rubble – was all she heard. No more screaming, no more roaring forces colliding in the air.
Blinking through the blinding sunrise, Winona saw people either collapsed on the ground or barely on feet, too, staggering forward and staring around them. Winona glanced at the ground, seeing without comprehending, staring at all the marks left by the claws of the ancient Pokémon. Her arm trembled violently as she tried to push herself to her knees, but she finally made it, almost screaming out the loud and the angry pain that shot through her limbs.
A few feet away from her, one person wasn't moving, a man wearing the Champion's cloak. Steven, she thought at once, crawling over to help him.
But when she reached him, extending a hand to shake his shoulder – her gaze fell upon his face. The breath that she had been about to take seemed to stop on its way to her lungs, sticking tightly in her throat.
It was Wallace.
There was a long, still bleeding cut on his forehead, surrounded by yellow and purple bruises; dark blood stained his hair, his skin, and his clothes. His shirt was torn at the sleeve, revealing shallow but plentiful scratches all over his right arm, which was bent at an odd angle. Blindly Winona felt for a pulse on his left wrist, carefully avoiding his bloody fingers. Relief shuddered through her body when she felt a tiny beat under her fingertips. "Wallace," she said, tapping his face. "Wallace! Wake up. It's over."
He let out a small groan. Hurriedly Winona helped him to sit up as he opened his eyes blearily, apparently barely able to focus on her. "Winona?" he muttered. She nodded. "What – what happened?" he asked, his words slurred a little. He winced and put a hand to his forehead, but she forced it back down gently.
"You're hurt, Wallace. If you can stand – I'll help you to the hospital."
"No – you… what about you? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Winona said at once, though her head throbbed violently as she spoke. Placing Wallace's arm around her shoulders, Winona heaved him up, the two of them making their way towards nearest building that wasn't crumbling to pieces. There were already some other people there using the place as a temporary refuge and hospital. There were no doctors, but plenty of supplies, somehow, and someone pointed Winona to a torn, cushioned chair and a stack of bandages. She sat Wallace down in the chair and picked up a wet rag, cleaning the blood off of his face and arms, careful not to nudge his broken right arm.
"Do you know what happened to Sapphire and Ruby?" Wallace asked, closing his eyes Winona worked on him.
"No," she answered, worried. "I – I haven't seen them at all."
Surely, if the fighting was over, they would be here, wouldn't they? thought Winona. They would be, unless…
No. She could not think like that, not now, not when there was so much she didn't know.
Wallace shook his head wearily until Winona was forced to hold his chin to keep him still while she cleaned his cut. He stared past her, his eyes blank, filled with none of their usual cheer and sparkle. "They had better not be dead," he murmured. "Steven was a large enough loss for this mess."
Winona froze. "Steven is dead?" she blurted out, too shocked to stop herself. Barely a second later she longed to take back the words, seeing the pain flash across Wallace's face. Of course, she thought miserably. That's why Wallace has the cloak.
Wallace only nodded bluntly.
"I'm so sorry, Wallace," she whispered, her hand trembling a bit as she started to wash the blood from his arm. "I – I didn't know."
"There is always a cost," murmured Wallace. They didn't speak again as Winona continued her work, placing bandages over his forehead and crafting a makeshift sling for his injured arm. Her eyes seemed empty of tears now, and through the haze of disbelief and sadness, she noticed that Wallace's eyes, too, were dry, yet full of despair.
There was nothing more that they could do, she realized. Nothing except care for all they had left – the survivors, their friends. Each other. As Winona finished her bandaging, Wallace used his left hand to catch her slender fingers. Silently he brought her hand to his rough lips.
He still stared blankly at the ground, but he held her hand there, as if it were the only thing that could possibly be real. Winona closed her own eyes and did not draw away.
Collapsed in an armchair, Wallace blinked tiredly, smiling a little as he watched Ruby frozen on the ground in shock, while Sapphire jumped up and looked at the boy at once. Wallace couldn't catch their words, for there was a sudden, earsplitting roar as they woke, everyone in the room determined to make their gratitude. All the Hoenn gym leaders, Tate and Liza finally among them; the director; the entire Elite Four; Steven, a little more shaken up than most from his possession of the three Regis, but recovering; and so many others were there to thank the two Pokedex holders, Ruby and Saphhire.
In the end, it had been two children who had saved their region from destruction. They might not have done it alone – but they were the ones who did it. Two children.
Wallace tried to clap with his bandaged arm, but he felt a small, stern hand rest firmly on his shoulder. Looking up, he grinned weakly as Winona raised her eyebrow at him. Sighing, Wallace relaxed back into the chair, glad that Winona didn't remove her hand from his shoulder.
Oddly, when Ruby and Sapphire stared around the room, their mouths dropped when they saw Steven and Norman. Ordinarily, Wallace would have wondered. but he let it pass, grinning at Steven and shrugging weakly instead. He was too exhausted to think so hard.
Distantly he thought he remembered something happening to Steven. Was he hurt, perhaps, or missing during the battle? Regardless, wasn't important now, Wallace knew.
All that mattered was that they were safe and well. The war was over. Winona's hands were warm on his shoulders, and Wallace thought that, perhaps, the ending of such a fierce battle could quite easily inspire new hope in all who took part.
Did you fall in love with him again?
Sapphire's words, spoken so innocently and cheerfully, lingered in Winona's mind all throughout the long, dreadful wedding reception. Attending fancy parties was not her favorite thing to do. She stood alone at a side table, staring broodingly at all the dancing couples, a glass of champagne in her hand that she didn't feel like drinking. It was bad enough that the reception was still on the ship, as well – Winona could feel the boat swaying and rocking a little with the tide; it was quite unnerving. She didn't notice at first when someone approached her, took the glass from her hand, and set it down on the table.
"Would you like to dance?" said Wallace, offering her his arm and gesturing towards the center of the room, where all the other dancers were. "You look a little bored over here."
Winona studied him carefully. His face was as cheery and innocent as ever. She sighed. "I'd love to. Thank you."
Taking his arm, Winona allowed Wallace to lead her to the dance floor, her heart speeding up a little as they walked. Surely this was better than standing alone for the whole party, wasn't it? Wallace placed a practiced hand on her hip, held her hand, and began to move in time with the music. He was keeping a polite distance, she noticed.
He was taller than she was, so she had to look up a little to see his face. His lips barely turned up at the corner, that small, charming smile that she hadn't even seen him wear around anyone else. "Don't look so bitter, Winona," he said carelessly. "You can enjoy yourself anywhere if you try."
"These are all so ridiculous, these kind of parties," Winona said, not really thinking. "It's as if they are made to make every girl who doesn't have an attractive guy with her feel like a failure."
"Ah, you are not failure, my dear. You're just far more brilliant and sensible than the rest of them."
Glancing over at him, Winona saw the smile in his eyes. A familiar tingle ran through her body, and she heard Sapphire's words resound in her head once again. Had she fallen in love with him again after all? But everything that she herself had said to Sapphire was true, as well. It had been so hard, to always stand next to a man that claimed so much talent. How could she go through that again – the pain and the estrangement that had separated them for so long, ruined what had been so beautiful?
Without warning, Wallace's fingers brushed against her cheek, and he was suddenly close, so close that she burned with the familiar heat of his body next to hers. They had stopped dancing, the song over. All the pairs were beginning to disperse. Wordlessly, Wallace pulled her aside so that they were standing a little ways apart from the crowd.
"Sometimes," he whispered, his eyes not leaving hers and his hand resting warmly on her cheek, "it is better to not be so sensible, right?"
"Perhaps you're right," breathed Winona. She didn't remember telling herself to speak.
But it didn't matter anymore. Wallace leaned forward and kissed her, and only then did she realize just how much she had missed his lips and his touch. She burned for him again, just like she had all those years ago; her body and mind alight for the kind of happiness she had forgotten how to experience. She didn't care if it was a risk; she didn't care if there were people watching them now. All she knew was him – he made her smile, laugh, scream, cry.
He made her love.
Wallace was the one who would interrupt her life, tease her, move mountains to protect her, listen to her, love her. He just had that inexplicable effect on her that no one else did; his mere presence made her spirits lift. It seemed impossible that Wallace still loved her after everything she'd done, everything she'd said – just as impossible as it was that she still loved him.
With his lips warm and insistent against hers, Winona pressed herself closer to him, her arms over both his shoulders now. She felt his hands run through her hair, float over her back, settle firmly on her waist, just as he had done so many times before.
Glancing up at him, she smiled disbelievingly. "You're impossible, Wallace, you know that?" she said. "Just when I had been getting over you."
Wallace grinned. "I would never let that happen. I've been fighting for you for years."
"So you're sure, then?" he asked softly. "Despite everything, you're sure? Most things that made you leave haven't changed."
Behind the light teasing, she could hear genuine worry and tension in his voice. His eyes flicked between each of hers, as if he were trying to spot misgivings in one or the other.
Winona took a deep breath. "I'm sure. You're still so talented, so skilled, always the best in what you do. Still better than me – in those aspects. You're still the Champion. And you know what? I don't care anymore, Wallace. Not as long as you're always my Champion."
Wallace kissed her again, fiercely this time, delightedly, lifting her in the air as he did so. He stopped to speak only once he had left her breathless in his arms.
"I have always been yours, Winona."
Wallace woke suddenly, immediately aware of the empty half of the bed that Winona usually occupied. The sheets were still warm, and the door to their room was cracked open. They usually closed it before they got into bed for the night. Placing his feet on the cold wood floor, Wallace grabbed a robe and hurried through the quiet living room before reaching the cool, grassy outdoors.
As he had guessed, Winona was there, also wearing just a robe. She was staring at the stars. Wallace couldn't possibly count the number of times they had watched the sky together. Standing behind her, Wallace wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her neck, feeling her turn her head towards him and smile as she touched his cheek. She kissed him too and grinned against his lips, her eyelashes brushing against his skin when she blinked. "I didn't mean to wake you," she said quietly, sounding apologetic.
"I would rather be out here with you," Wallace replied. He hugged her closer and kissed the top of her head. Winona pointed overhead at the thousands stars and constellations.
"I came out here because of this. Watch."
Wallace looked up, but saw nothing vibrant or extraordinary in the still-beautiful night sky. He frowned, then looked back at her. "It looks the same to me. Though still gorgeous, of course."
He turned his face up to the sky with her, but it was difficult to maintain focus, for he found himself drawn - as always - to gaze at her instead. But eventually she pointed, speaking quickly and excitedly. "Look, Wallace!"
A tiny speck of light flashed across the sky. Another followed it shortly. And without further warning, all across the entire night sky poured a shower of shooting stars, dazzling and clear. Winona laughed, her eyes transfixed. She glanced from Wallace to the wildly sparkling space above them. "Do you see them?" she asked eagerly.
"Of course I see them," said Wallace. "They're brilliant. Beautiful!"
"They really are," breathed Winona. "I'm glad you woke up, Wallace."
"So am I."
Together they watched as the brief but powerful meteor shower came to an end. A few final specks traced final, bright trails across the night sky before all of the stars were still again, twinkling warmly down at them. Wallace kept his hands around Winona's waist as she leaned into him and placed her hands over his.
"I love you," he said. She kissed him, her eyes softly alight when she pulled away.
"Love you too," she whispered. "Come on. We should sleep at least a little bit tonight, I think."
Back in the warmth of their shared bed, Winona curled into Wallace's side, and he smiled, running a hand absently through her smooth hair. Glancing out the window, he wondered briefly if there would be any more shooting stars that night.
But then Winona's hand clasped his, and Wallace turned away from the window, kissing her on the cheek before closing his eyes as well.