Well, it's been a wonderful ride with everyone. Seriously. When I started this, it was just a scene in my head and a few scattered ideas, and look where I am now...
Thank you all, so much, for your wonderful reviews. And even if you didn't review, thank you, and I'm so glad I was able to give you some enjoyment, even if only for a little while.
So, here it is. The final chapter. This one is about as long (read: short) as the first one, and as is my common refrain, I'm not happy with it, but...
This is it. Please read and enjoy.
The first thing Bree heard after the gunshot stopped ringing in her ears was the cursing.
"Fuck! Ah shit, shit that hurts..."
And considering just who was saying it...
His face a grimace of pain, Cheren clutched his right shoulder, barely able to keep himself standing. Blood leaked from the bullet wound, ran between his fingers, and spread into his shirt and sports jacket, staining the clean fabric red.
"Cheren, are you okay?" Completely idiotic, utterly moronic, but she said it anyway.
The young man just glared at his best friend, or at least attempted to glare. "No Bree, I'm perfectly fine. Except for, you know, the bullet wound in my shoulder that I believe may have broken my clavicle or scapula. Though, considering the fact that every moment is nothing but pain, I should be grateful that I seem to have escaped nerve damage, at least for the time being." His right arm hung limp and useless by his side.
Only when Alder grabbed Ghetsis, who was still ranting, and tied his hands behind his back did Cheren allow hot tears to spill from his eyes. Bree would have run over to hug him, help him to the hospital, but with his shoulder there was no way she was going to risk it.
Besides, as Bree approached, Cheren said, "No."
"You heard me," he said, trying to gesture with his hand but stopping halfway through with a pained gasp. A few drops of blood dripped off of his fingers and onto the floor. "Bree, I'll be fine. If any of my main arteries had been shredded, I'd be bleeding out on the floor instead of talking to you right now. I just need to-aah!-get to the hospital." Cheren pointed with his good hand to the figure sitting blankly on the ground. "N needs you right now, more than any of us do."
"But my pokemon..."
Trying to smile, Cheren looked rueful more than anything else. "There's nothing you can do. It's all up to them."
Alder looked back, Ghetsis still snarling and bound. "They'll be fine," he said, before turning back to the fallen leader of Team Plasma and kneeing him. "Let's go, I'm sure there's a lot of cops who will want to ask you questions."
When they finally left, Bree approached N carefully, as if he were a wounded pokemon.
"Don't!" he cried out. "Please...I'm not fit to be the hero."
Somehow, seeing N so defeated and small was even worse than the near-insanity that he had driven himself into, that Ghetsis had forced him to be. "Oh, N..." Not bothering to listen to his protests, his assertions that he was no hero, Bree pulled him up and into a hug.
"No," she said into his dirty shirt, "Reshiram chose you on its own. You're a hero. You are nothing but a good, kind loving person, and we forgive you. We never blamed you. I never blamed you."
Draped over Bree, N finally allowed himself to break down and cry.
The storm had passed. The sky was clearing, deep blue night and pinpoint stars slowly emerging through clouds. The corner of Bree's shirt was smeared with N's tears, but the garment was probably a lost cause anyway.
N was sitting before the broken window, on the steps where the throne once was, Bree by his side. He was batting a crown back and forth in his hands, a crown that once slipped over his eyes but was now too small for him.
"Plastic," he said eventually. "It's plastic." Suddenly, he picked up the fake crown and threw it across the room, where it bounced against the broken wall and came to rest in a shallow pool that was once filled with water. N buried his head in his hands and his shoulders shook, but before he could break down Bree embraced him again.
When he calmed down, he stood up, shakily. He looked to the shattered window.
"I want to talk to you about something."
"Okay." Bree smiled. Cheren was right, N did need her more right now.
"It's about when we first met, in Accumula. I heard your pokemon, and I was shocked." He looked in her eyes. "I, well, I had never heard a pokemon say that they loved their trainer before."
Bree listened as N wrung his hands together. "I tried to brush it off, and then I...everyone, almost every pokemon I met thought the same thing. And then there was you."
N looked out the window, down at the hills below and up at the sky above. The sky was starting to become lighter.
"I can't stay here."
"I need to decide what to do next for myself. I...I..."
And Bree understood. Hell, she had been harboring the same thoughts herself. Except for her, there was nothing in Unova for N except pain. Nothing holding him back. Not a single pure, good, untainted memory here for him. He needed fresh air. He needed space. He needed to start again.
The boy king sat next to his usurper, twisting the beloved Menger Sponge in his hands, completely at a loss of what to do next, or what he was looking for, only certain that it wouldn't be found here.
But before he left, Bree needed to tell him something.
"N." And there was such force in her voice, that he had to look up.
"N, I need you to listen to me. Ghetsis was wrong."
"...I know. He was a huge meanie, the biggest meanie of all..."
"N, he was wrong about you. You are not a freak without a human heart. You are not incapable of love. He's the one who wouldn't know love if it slapped him in the face with a Seaking. N, you're the most loving person I know, you've done nothing your entire life but love and care, and..."
And. Looking into his eyes, his slightly parted mouth, Bree realized what she had to do.
Just like on the Ferris Wheel, several months and a lifetime ago, she kissed him.
N was expecting it this time, and so he lifted his arms around her neck and buried them in her thick hair. His eyes were closed, and Bree could feel wet tears still clinging to his lashes as they brushed against her cheek. Bree slipped her tongue into his mouth, and couldn't help but notice as his whole body froze at the new sensation.
And when he realized what she was doing and figured it out, he returned the kiss, clumsy and hesitant, but eager to do well and full of love.
They broke the kiss but continued to embrace each other, and N smiled.
He still wasn't entirely sure what he was looking for, but it just might be in Unova after all.
N released Reshiram and hopped on his back. The dragon was quiet, and even nodded respectfully to Zekrom as she released her bonded pokemon.
"I'll be back," he promised. "It's just that..."
Bree nodded. "I know." She would have dragged him back to Nuvema, or hopped on Zekrom's back and followed him around the world, but she realized just how much N needed this, needed to be free. He was like that caged bird in that poem, and now she had opened the bars, fixed those broken wings and taught him to fly again.
And so she let the breeze ripple his green hair, let an innocent laugh escape his soft mouth, let him smile and say, "The air is beautiful," let him fly off into the sunrise. Let him go.
Human and pokemon watched the white speck fade into the distance, and it was Zekrom who spoke first.
Why did you let him leave?
If she knew the answer, then so did Zekrom. But some things needed to be said outright.
"Because it's what he needed. He needed the space. He'll be fine." And she knew he would.
Then Zekrom asked a more pressing question. Do you love him?
Then why did you kiss him? Do you love him?
Did she love him? Really, truly love him? Hard to say. She certainly cared for him, and the potential for love was certainly there. And it was obvious that N loved her back. But actual love? Did she, Bree, love N?
Did it really matter?
She ran her fingers along the smooth stone of the Blitzle necklace. She already knew the answer.
"I kissed him because it was what he needed then, more than anything."
Zekrom didn't say anything as Bree looked back to the sky. Satisfied that N was gone, she turned around and ran back down, out of the oppressive castle and back into the sun. Back to her friends and her pokemon and Cheren on the stretcher and her pokemon in the emergency room and Bianca with her flashes of brilliance and her mother who saved her.
And, maybe eventually, to N.
It didn't matter right now if she loved him because he loved her and he needed that kiss more than anything. If she loved him, it would come with time.
But now her friends needed her, and that included her pokemon.
And she was sure that everything would turn out alright.
A/N: Sorry about the ending...
So yeah, Cheren got shot in the shoulder (and it is most certainly NOT Only A Flesh Wound), and N leaves because...yeah. He needs the space.
Again, thank you all so much for accompanying me on this wonderful ride.
And now, what you're all waiting for: Side stories and sequels?
Well, I'm starting college in less than two weeks, and that obviously takes precedence, so I don't know when I'll have another story. BUT, I have THREE ideas in mind!
1. A sequel to Alphabet Soup, tentatively titled This Must Be The Place. It's a sequel to Alphabet Soup. You'll find out the rest. :P
2. A prequel of sorts to Alphabet Soup, though I don't know the title yet. It's mainly going to follow Arty and Elesa from childhood to the time they become gym leaders, in a bunch of loosely connected chapters that can kinda be read on their own, though there will be a loose plot. Other characters will show up, but Arty and Elesa are the main focus.
3. A Unova Gym Leader Wiki, like OkonoMiyagi's, which you should seriously check out. And I got permission for it. It's also going to be set in the Alphabet Soup universe.
I don't know when they'll be up, but hopefully within the next few months.
Again, thank you so much for reading and enjoying my little story.