Rolling on her back, tail wagging faster than brown eyes could really see, the Herdier gave a happy growl as Touya scratched the furry belly. About ten feet away, a litter of four Lillipups chased after a red-haired woman who was trying to balance their bowls on two arms while tiny Pokemon bounced and yipped around her ankles. Noticing her distress, the colour-coded plastic bowls ready to topple over, a man yelped and ran over to take the two blue ones from her. "They're so energetic!" The woman observed, blue eyes wide as she stared down at the creatures. One of the Lillipups stood on its hind legs, and then did a little spin that consisted of hopping in a circle. The trick completed, it yipped up at her. "Awe…"
"Don't do it." The man warned, and with his elbow nudged the other volunteer towards the designated feeding area that kept the litter separated from each other and their mother while they ate. Chuckling at them, the brunet flopped onto the Herdier who was now trying to get away – her full attention on the bowls of food, ears twitching slightly at the commotion her offspring were making.
"No." Touya chided. Ears lowering, the dog Pokemon gave out a huff and just let her whole body deflate with a heavy, exaggerated sigh. About a month ago they had found her, half-starved and pregnant, wandering aimlessly in Nuvema desperately seeking food and shelter. About six months before that, using his reputation as the 'new hero' of Unova and the title of its new Champion, Touya was able to procure an old warehouse and with the assistance of the region's inhabitants and some of the old Plasma Grunts that had been genuinely trying to save Pokemon… they designed and built a shelter, together. It wasn't the perfect answer, but it was the best the brunet could come up with. A sanctuary where the abused, neglected, and abandoned Pokemon could find safety and comfort in. A safe haven for humans that wanted to be shown that even when shown darkness, anyone could find light.
Playing with the excess fur on Herdier's face, Touya mused over the shelter he found himself in charge of. They had volunteers all over the region, always on the look-out for Pokemon that needed rehabilitation and care. Initially Pokemon Centers had been designed for that, in a era long gone with time and development. But with the rise of Pokemon training as a career, the centers rapidly became more of a center to just heal travelers and their teams than anything else. Between the shelter and centers, though, things were changing. At least once a month all volunteers were checked up on to ensure that yes, they really were doing what was asked of them. A couple of times they found a few volunteers, some ex-Grunts, so far gone that they were just taking in any Pokemon they found, murmuring about how the creatures needed a home. They were too far off in their world of delusions to recognize wild Pokemon from abandoned ones.
Whenever a human was caught in the act of abusing a Pokemon, the shelter also took great care to ensure they could prove it. There was no sense in pointing fingers, and accidentally taking a loved Pokemon from their loving trainer. There was also a fine line between intentionally abusing, and simply not knowing any better. Educating was also part of their goal – there was a lot to be accomplished, actually. Sighing, Touya relaxed with the creature enjoying one of his few moments to himself. Ever since that day, since N left…
…the brunet just couldn't stop himself from working, wearing his mind and body out until when he did finally reach his bed he just fell asleep on it. Passed out, and slept dreamlessly until his alarm awoke him, reminded him there was another day of being busy. Since then, Bianca had decided that she wanted to be Professor Juniper's assistant. The blonde was surprisingly great at it, all smiles and happy greetings to the people and Pokemon that entered the lab. Mind a hungry sponge for knowledge and improvement, she took the books and pamphlets her tutor gave her everywhere. Sometimes when she visited Touya, he saw her walking into the ladies room with the book in hand, unable to stop herself even when he felt she really should have.
His sister, Touko, was still the free spirit she had been – especially because he returned her Braviary to her after his experience in the castle seven months ago. A month later, she presented him with a small egg that hatched into a Rufflet shortly after. That had been a challenge – raising the small creature while balancing a whole new job and life. At least his team was there, Lampent surprisingly excited to assist in raising the small bird. Touya shouldn't have been surprised by Touko's actions, but still… he wondered who the mother of the Rufflet was? Had Bianca owned a Mandibuzz, he would have assumed that was the other parent – particularly because more and more when he saw Bianca visit, so did his sister and it wasn't often they were seen together not holding hands.
Neither girl really said anything to him – but he could guess what happened between them.
As for Cheren… beneath the brunet, the Herdier gave a slight whine. "Okay, okay…" Touya laughed, rolling off of the creature. Pleased at her newfound freedom, she happily licked his face with her tail wagging rapidly all over again. As if there never had been a transgression of him denying her food, or of him laying on her as if she were a mattress rather than an animal. "Good girl." He whispered, scratching the sides of her face. "What a pretty girl, too." He added, chuckling a little when she started flicking her tongue out in distaste when accidentally catching his bangs. Pushing himself up, he ruffled the dog's fur atop her head and began leading the way into one of the feeding areas. With an excited, though dignified, trot Herdier was more than happy to follow after him. Touya was, after all, the one that found her and fed her and helped her with her puppies. Why would she do anything but follow him? She was a good, dedicated girl. She knew this.
Reaching into a bucket filled with some food, Touya took three scoops and put them into her bowl. Immediately Herdier stuffed her fuzzy face into the bowl, making slurping sounds while she inhaled her lunch. Smiling at her enthusiasm, he closed the door behind him and let her have personal space while eating. Though typically very friendly, Herdier had a tendency to show a more threatening, possessive side when it came to food after her trauma of almost starving to death. Trying to condition her out of that behavior was going to take a lot longer than a month, but it wasn't impossible. Just very far down the road.
There was a lull in the moment, and Touya quickly tried to cover up his wandering thoughts to things he needed to do today. He wasn't going to think about that day, or any of the days that followed after. Not going to think about how when he was in the hospital, against his will over a stab wound that looked far worse than it was, really… how Cheren came in there. Or how Cheren had called him a dense idiot, because Touya just couldn't understand why the other had been so upset on that day, so angry.
"I'm jealous, all right? Are you blind in one eye to not see that?" The black-haired teen scowled, his arms crossed and his cheeks a furious red while his brows furrowed. He had been both embarrassed and irritated – a strange combination on Touya's male friend. "I-I care about you Touya. Sometimes I really, really wish I didn't because you seem so intent on always hurting yourself. I hated that when I came in there, you were bleeding and in his arms and – and why were you even there? You could walk! Why would you…" Sucking in a deep breath, Cheren had tried to force himself to calm down while pinching the bridge of his nose. "No. No, I know exactly why don't even answer that. I don't want to hear it. I can't hear it, I should say." Slowly breathing out, he gave Touya an apologetic smile. "Sorry. I hadn't meant to come in here yelling at you… I'm sorry. Just… stop being stupid, all right? For my sake?"
Now, Touya was trying to shove the memory out of his mind. Personally, he didn't like to think that something so small as an unrequited crush between friends couldn't come between them as friends… but sometimes, he had the feeling it did. Rapidly, Cheren was spending more and more time training with Alder to become a Gym Leader. There was going to be an opening soon, and while the brunet did try to find time to hang out with Cheren as always… the other seemed uncomfortable, and never would unless there was a third person.
"Hey, Touya!" A woman's voice called, and he snapped to attention. Realizing where he was, he was bewildered to find he had been walking right out of the shelter – not even thinking about it, just getting lost in memories while his legs carried him wherever they wanted to go. Turning, he spotted Rowan who had been in the middle of giving baths to various Pokemon – all of whom had been enjoying it far more than she was. "Heading out?"
"N-no… I was just… lost in thought. I'll go back-"
"All right then, see you tomorrow." And then Rowan give him a look that he could only describe as her maternal one. The visage was blank of emotion, but somehow beneath it the brunet got the sensation she was trying to both glare and smile at him. For him, the only way to describe her as they worked together over the months, was she took her duties as a knight to Team Plasma literally – and now she was taking her duties as a volunteer the same way. Part of Touya still didn't know what to make of it, or how N had handled this treatment when Rowan worked for him instead. Flinching at the memory of that name, he meekly nodded to her silent orders. You've been working too much. Get your butt home before I knock you unconscious and make you – again.
Releasing Samurott from his Pokeball, wanting and needing someone to walk with and talk to, Touya began the slow trek to yet another temporary apartment. The shelter was located in Striaton, which was nice since it was so close to home, and Touya could have walked back to his actual house… but after sometimes a ten hour day of running all over Unova on his now-Braviary's back (his Rufflet evolved not too long ago), investigating potential abusive breeders, and just a general caring of the Pokemon at the shelter, the brunet was typically too tired to make the trek or ask it of his team. Noticing it was the middle of the day and they weren't doing anything of real importance, Samurott leaned over and hurriedly took advantage of the free moment by gently nuzzling his trainer's face. With a small laugh, the brunet wrapped his arms best he could around the creature's neck.
"Hey… it's been awhile, right?" Touya muttered, frowning slightly. "You guys haven't been really having fun, have you?" He sighed, reaching up to get that itch around Samurott's helm he knew the Pokemon could never quite reach. Eyes drooping, body sagging the creature gave a content sigh at the scratch. "We should do something about that… take a day off, go play somewhere. Oh! How does a ride in the Battle Subway sound? Get you guys some good exercise." He offered, and Samurott merely nodded his head lazily. "Hunh. Not very exciting, huh? Hmm. Oh! We could go to the musi-"
As if that were a threat, Samurott gently pulled away from his trainer to hurriedly shake his head. No no – anything but that! He seemed to say. Laughing, Touya put his hands on his hips. "Well then, what should we all do together?" The water-type shrugged. Personally, he didn't care what they did – so long as they did it with Touya and no musicals were involved. "Hmm. Then how about we get back to base, and decide there?" He offered, his Pokemon nodding in agreement. "No… let's go home." Staying at the temporary apartment was… lonely. At this, Samurott eagerly bounded around and slid his head between Touya's legs, startling the trainer and forcing the human onto his back. Struggling to sit upright while Samurott immediately began a power walk to Nuvema Town. When Touya was holding on and sitting properly, the power walk escalated into a canter.
All of Touya's team would agree – their trainer's mother was a blessing in human form. While she wasn't quite Touya, she was almost as good.
Slowing to a lazy gait as they strolled into Nuvema, Samurott made a beeline for their home. All of the lights were off, but the drapes were all open trying to let the sun in. Feeling the afternoon chill, Touya tightened his jacket around himself as they approached the house. It really did feel like these days the weather was turning for the chillier. Before Touya had his jacket with him everywhere in case he needed it, at his mother's request. Now he brought it everywhere because he never knew when the temperature would suddenly drop from five to ten degrees. Sliding off of Samurott's back, he let the rest of his team out, minus Zekrom (who seemed to loathe being let out for any reason outside of attacking something – exemptions being belly rubs and back scratches. That was the first time the brunet ever heard a dragon coo or purr).
When he turned the doorknob, he was a bit surprised to find it was left unlocked. Shrugging, he figured either his mother or Touko left temporarily and would be returning soon. Hopefully it was his mother – if she knew he was going to be home for the afternoon and night, she was bound to cook something delicious just for him and his team. Squeezing in behind him was Lampent, Reuniclus, and Rufflet. Scolipede and Samurott were too large to fit into the front door, both Pokemon hurrying around back to be let in there. Sliding the back door open, the two wriggled inside to lay claim to one of the many soft beddings left around for any large Pokemon visiting. That was why Touya's mom was held in such reverie – she went the extra mile to make sure it wasn't just her children that were comfortable when they were home.
As his team settled in, Reuniclus turning on the television to channel surf while Braviary would occasionally complain that the other go back, back to that one channel with the stuff… Touya went upstairs, figuring he could just use his computer to see if there were any events or festivities that might be fun for them. Entering his room, he wondered if maybe he should make a sandwich while waiting for his computer to boot up… only to pause and stare, his brain's first thought being: I don't need to boot it up. Because jumping like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, at Touya's desk on that very same computer, was N.
"T-Touya. Hello. I wasn't… informed you would be back home. Now. Today. So soon." N stopped, mouth working for a few seconds, flustered and startled to have been caught. In the act of… whatever it was he was doing on the computer. In Touya's room.
In Touya's room. On his computer. Saying he wasn't informed Touya would be back. A lot of words sprung to mind, a lot of things the brunet wanted to say – what are you doing here? Where have you been? Have you always been here? Were you waiting for me? Avoiding me? What are you talking about? Arceus, I'm so glad you're all right… because I think I'm ready to kill you for what you did you crazy lunatic I was so worried and scared and…
Instead of all of that tumbling out of his mouth all Touya could manage was, "What are you doing?" In a rather stupid tone, it sounded like to his own ears.
"What am I…? Oh. Yes. That." Mouth working again, trying to form sentences and remember how to communicate after being scared out his wits at seeing Touya of all people… though he supposed that wasn't entirely unexpected, given this was the brunet's room and all so how rude of him to assume the other would never come in and why would Touya knock on his own door it wasn't like he knew N was in there, of course not because N hadn't told him, no he wanted to surprise him and now all of those plans were…
…down the drain. Destroyed. Leave it to Touya to ruin all of N's careful planning.
"Yes, I was utilizing your computer's Excel program for putting together schedules and time slots I had been experimenting with and felt that a visual representation for your mother would assist her in understanding what I had been attempting to convey to her when I arrived last night-" N paused briefly, noticing Touya's eyes widen when realizing that his mother knew the green-haired man was there, and flushing in slight shame N simply continued knowing there was no going back now, "and had been hoping using some simple formulas and equations as analogies for what I was hoping to accomplish, though with your appearance now I suppose there is no longer a need for that…" And then it occurred to N how that sounded, and he rushed forward talking faster than he ever had before – so fast that, Touya quickly held up his hands.
"Wh-whoa! N! Slow down, I can't… I'm not even sure we're speaking the same language?" Touya squeaked, flailing slightly.
"…was I?" N paused, brows knitting together as he considered. Well, he supposed he was talking a little quickly but he understood himself fine. Trying to calm himself, though his nerves felt frayed and his hands shook slightly at having been caught, he took great care to talk more slowly. "What I am, was, trying to say is that I had been hoping to surprise you. I arrived here last night, once I verified you were not home, and approached your mother about an idea I had. She did not understand me. So I requested if I could borrow a computer to show her, and she said to feel free to use yours. Last I had heard, you wouldn't be home today and that you typically called before returning." He explained, his words spoken almost painfully slowly – but at least the hero of ideals had been able to understand him this time.
"Well… you certainly… surprised me." Touya admitted, though now he was both uncomfortable and unsure. "What… what brought this on? N… where have you been? Have you been…" There were cascades of words he wanted to use to finish that sentence, all of which were fighting for dominance. Ultimately, the brunet tried to make himself be more interested in N's doings, and less of questions that involved both of the teens. "Have you been all right?"
"I have been well, thank you." N gave a half-smile at the other. "While in my journeys, I have been hearing much of you. It has been… relieving to know you have followed your dreams. Or at least, I hope this was your dream?" At that, the green-haired man cocked his head to the side, inquiring if Touya really was doing what he wanted, or if he was just doing what he felt he had to.
"It's… one of many." The brunet answered, smiling a weakly at the other. "Start where you can, and work up from there… right?"
"I see…" Nodding, N took a few seconds to mull over that response before continuing. "As for what brought it on, I heard on a news station while I was in Hoenn that the Hero of Unova's birthday was soon. I wasn't entirely sure how soon they meant, as they specified no days and rather than risk missing it I figured I would come to the source of your birth – ah, your mother I mean," Touya blushed slightly at that sort of description being given to his mom, "before it happened, and surprise you with a visit on your birthday. It seemed like a nice idea, I uhm… even got you a gift. In my travels, I've been trying to understand both humans and Pokemon better, and from what I understand birthdays are celebrated with gifts."
"…you came here for my birthday…? N, that isn't for another month." Touya laughed, feeling a lot of his anger and frustration melting away with a strange sort of relief. In hearing, from N directly, that he hadn't forgotten about Touya at all. That while he may have been avoiding the brunet, the other didn't just forget about him or ignore his existence.
"I would rather arrive in Unova far too early, than to have missed it." N shrugged dismissively. "I've been… wanting to return home, as well. The other regions are fascinating, and the people interesting, but nowhere I've been can be Unova." As the man said this, Touya nodded softly to show he was listening. "…what are you doing home right now, by the way? From how your mother speaks, this doesn't seem to be very typical of you."
"Rowan told me to go home." Touya explained sheepishly. N's lips turned into a thin line, but he closed his eyes and nodded.
"Yes?" At his name, the man peered inquiringly at the other.
"I-I'm sorry about back then. When our friends battled… Reshiram and Zekrom, I mean. About… a lot of things, I'm really sorry."
"What is there to be sorry about?" N asked, confusion etching all over his face. From what he could recall, there was nothing Touya needed to be sorry. "If anyone should be apologizing, it should be I. Had I paid better attention to everyone around me, we could have avoided an almost cataclysmic fight. My father would have never had an opportunity to send his Shadow Triad in to harm you. In fact, sometimes I wonder if I had remained to counter-calculate my father's own ideas and plans, we could have used his formulas for escape against him to prevent him from running off into hiding, and out of the authorities' hands. Or is this the reverse-psychology that one Gym Leader with the peculiar name… hmm. I think it was Green? Yes. Green told me about, in which a person does or says something opposite of what they want in order to get the other to say or do what they what?"
"…what?" Touya stared at N. "Reverse psy…? N-no, nothing like that! No, I was just… uhm, I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable." He attempted to explain, fiddling with the sleeves of his trademark blue jacket.
"How would you have made me uncomfortable? Touya, I don't understand what you're apologizing for." N stood up out of the chair, leaning more heavily on one leg while crossing his arms. For him, it was easier to look down into Touya's eyes rather than up at an awkward angle from sitting in a chair. And he wanted the other to know N's full attention was on him, and only him.
"W-well…" Touya stammered, not really wanting to say it again. His cheeks flushed slightly, because now he was worried the other hadn't really noticed his words at all back then. Which shouldn't have surprised him – of course N would not have really paid that any mind. He had so much more to worry about – such as a father that was basically confessing he had been lying and using his own child all those years.
"Oh." N's brows rose up, his mind realizing what the brunet had been hinting at. He hadn't forgotten… but he also didn't really understand why the other would say sorry for being sincere. At N's face, Touya flushed deeper in a shame. At least he knew the other hadn't forgotten, he supposed. "About that, Touya…"
"Like I said, I'm sorry… it was stupid and selfish of me to say something like that when I did, I just… I couldn't stand the way he was talking to you, treating you. You didn't, you don't deserve to be treated that way… I just wanted you to know that you are worth so much more than he was making you out to be…" The more he tried to explain himself, the more ashamed Touya felt. It was as if he was trying to excuse his actions, and there was no excusing that, there just wasn't.
"Touya, why are you apologizing for that?" N inquired, his frown deepening the more he listened. "I appreciated you speaking up for me. Why would you be sorry for saying what you felt, what you believed in?"
"That… wasn't the time for…"
"It was the perfect time for it. Touya, please don't apologize for being the one honest person in that castle that day. Don't apologize for something like that. And never apologize for how you feel, though to be honest the only aspect of what you said that caused me some trouble is exactly what you meant by it. There are many types of love, and in all of them I have experienced I found there is no single algorithm that can explain it. In my travels I have seen more kinds, and not having experienced them myself I can't say I would understand it if confronted with it.
The one thing, above all else, that attracted me to math is that numbers can explain everything around us… everything except what we feel. It has been a comfort to me in the past, when I watched Pokemon lose themselves to sadness, giving up on life and I could do nothing to encourage them back into living. Into wanting to live. So please, don't apologize to me for what you did. If you want to talk about it, I am more than happy to – rather, I would appreciate doing so simply so I can understand better. I want to understand you, Touya. You've always tried so hard to understand me and others… please, give me the opportunity to try and understand you, now." Finished with one of his shorter speeches, N went quiet to wait and see what the brown-haired teen would decide.
Of all the answers Touya expected to receive, that was the single one that caught him off-guard. It had taken so much willpower, scared him so much to confess finally… and N had no idea in what way Touya meant the word "love" when talking to him, directly to him and no one else. Suddenly, he understood why Cheren had been so frustrated with him. But rather than let that cause him to react the way Cheren had, instead he nodded in understanding. If he was direct enough, there was no room for question. "How are you not sure?" He asked, deciding to pinpoint where the confusion was and go from there.
"Initially, I assumed you meant your feelings towards me were romantic, it came off that way with how you said it and was congruent with your actions and attitudes around me prior. But, then you added that you loved me as Zoroark had, and she has maternal love for me not romantic. Admittedly, while I was away I did ponder how either way you perceived me affected me, but ultimately I wasn't clear. I apologize if you felt that you explained yourself properly the first time, and I am here claiming you had not." N gave an awkward, uncertain bow in apology. He had never tried that action before, but he had seen enough people do it to him, it seemed only right to do so himself when the situation called for it.
"That's why." Touya murmured, and suddenly started laughing. "Haha… I mentioned her because I wanted to remind you it was more than just me that cared about you. I hadn't intended to make it sound as if she and I felt the same about you. I'm sorry for the confusion…" Letting out a relived breath, the trainer offered a warm smile towards the other. "But I do still love you N… romantically, I mean. Not platonically, or maternally… though since I'm male, paternally would make more sense than maternally. I don't expect you to say you love me back like that, but I do hope even if you don't you'll still stay? I've missed you…"
"I have missed you, and your friends, as well." N returned the smile with an equally warm one. "Thank you for clarifying." And they both went silent, Touya resuming fiddling with his jacket sleeves as he tried to make himself patiently wait for N to tell him if they were still okay; if they were still friends. Next to the computer, the green-haired teen mulled over the proper course of action now that there were no longer any discrepancies between what Touya meant and what N thought. Over the course of his journeys, his explorations, there he had learned any number of ways to respond. But which one was the best?
Cautiously he nodded once, and then with more conviction gave a more determined nod. "Yes. That's exactly right." Settled, he strode over to Touya who stopped playing with his clothes to stare up at the other. Without even offering a warning, N took the startled brunet's hands into his own. "I'm not very good at this. It's my first time, so I apologize. Ah…" N swallowed hard, because he was trying to convince himself in the middle of doing this that yes, he could do it. Unable to hold it back, Touya felt himself blush because N was awfully close and was talking about first times, was the other going to… was he… were they about to kiss?
"W-well… Touya. I-I know more about how to solve equations than people but… I think the only formula that will work for us, is that… you see… when we're together…" N could feel his heart pounding, and he was trying to stop his hands from shaking, and he was desperately hoping Touya didn't notice how sweaty the green-haired trainer's palms were becoming. When he had wondered if the other meant the affection was romantic, N studied how it affected him – how the thought made him feel and came to the conclusion that if what he felt for Touya wasn't love, then the real emotion when felt would surely consume him. But in all his past ponderings, not once had he felt this shaken. What was there to be afraid of? "I-in the sum of our parts… that is, I mean…" He had never been so flustered in his life. "I-it's far greater than what we added up at the start. I-it's kind of like addition, I suppose… th-the typical, one plus one… e-equals two… "
"N-N… are you-"
And the words came spilling out at a lightning speed, "Touya I'm not familiar with how relationships work but I've been informed multiple times that dating happens when two human individuals express a romantic interest in one another and I should like to ask you on a date even though I'm still very unclear what it exactly consists of and what different things mean on a date so if you would please go on a date with me and perhaps continue going on more dates with me until whatever our relationship progresses into it becomes." Flurry of words out, N was trying to keep his breathing steady but it was a complicated process for some reason. Blaming Touya would have been easy enough, but it wasn't really the other's fault that the green-haired trainer couldn't control his own body's responses to embarrassment.
The worst part was, he knew there was nothing to be embarrassed of yet still was.
"You are." Touya murmured in wide-eyed wonder. Lips turning into an amused grin, he gave a light-hearted laugh while reaching his arms up and around N's neck. "You just used song lyrics to tell me how you feel…" Unable to stop himself, Touya kept chuckling while his heart slowed from a hammering to just a regular beat.
"Wh… how did you know?" N wondered, trying to look down at the other through tousled brown hair. He wobbled some, the taller male attempting to reposition his center of body to keep them both from toppling over. Now that Touya's hands were no longer in his, N's own hovered in the air, unsure of where to go now. From what he had seen in movies… stiffly, he slowly placed his hands on Touya's upper back, left hand lightly patting the other in what he hoped was being perceived as affectionate.
"You were carrying a tune while you said it." Touya laughed, pulling back just enough so he could look up at the other.
"…oh. So I was." N blinked. Touya's smile was contagious, N feeling his bewilderment melting away into his own grin. "Was that wrong of me?"
"I don't think so?" It certainly contrasted starkly with how Cheren confessed to the brunet – that had involved a great deal more yelling. Much nicer, the shorter teen decided. "W-well… now what? Now that I ruined your surprise plans…"
"We find a place to date?" N suggested. Still more blushes and awkward grins, the two stared at one another just long enough to start laughing at how ridiculous they were both being. "I got it. We go to Castelia City, and we eat ice cream on the docks while watching the sunset. Actually, no… we find a Rapidash that is willing to join us-"
"No N, we do not need a literal fiery and white steed!" Touya laughed.
"But according to the movies, it's the most perfect and romantic of settings. Really, I think if I haven't already wooed you, afterwards you'll be properly wooed."
"Are you hearing yourself?"
"I prefer hearing you, really. I find I do most of the talking in our conversations, and I should like to hear your opinion a bit more often." N chided, pressing his cheek against the brunet's and earning another laugh.
"You have enough opinions for both of us." Came the retort. Wanting to be closer, N moved his arms lower to wrap around the brunet's waist. "Hey! Not too tight! I need to breathe!"
"You should be breathing with your thoracic diaphragm, not your belly." N responded casually, pressing his nose into brown hair and taking a deep breath.
"And stop smelling me!"
"Simply illustrating to you that you can take deeper, better breaths utilizing your thoracic diaphragm in comparison to your belly, it provides your body with a great deal more oxygen to utilize for-"
"Talking in almost constant run-on sentences?"
"I take great delight in math, not grammar."
"N…" Touya sighed, slumping against the other's chest and simply accepting that there was no verbally persuading the taller male to stop sniffing his head. "Why are you doing that, anyway?"
"Trying to imprint the scent of your pheromones in my mind. Everyone has a unique smell, though the scent is typically stronger in other regions I would rather not stick my nose in – such as your arm pits, and your more… ah, personal regions."
"Wh-what?" Touya squeaked.
"I-I'm not going to! Or are you upset because… uhm…" N couldn't finish even attempting to explain himself, as Touya quickly covered N's mouth with his hands. Trying to ignore the fact his face was red as a Darmanitan's rear, he took a deep breath.
"Let's not talk about pheromones. Deal?"
"Mm." With a sigh, Touya pulled his hands away while N simply frowned down at him. "I don't understand why-"
"B-because it's an awkward subject!"
"Yes, but it's also a very natural one and-"
"N. Please. You agreed to the deal."
"I didn't have much of a choice." N pointed out. Receiving a frown in disapproval, the green-haired man sighed with his shoulders slumping. "All right." And then the almost-discussion about pheromones and their locations left Touya feeling decisively embarrassed and N just a smidge sulky because really, he didn't see what the problem was unless Touya was offended that N didn't want to – "Touya. Do you have a scar?" He asked abruptly, a memory playing through his mind.
"A scar from…? Oh. Yes, I think so." Touya murmured, the recollection just the distraction he needed. Quietly, he wondered if the other did that on purpose.
"May I see?"
"Sure." With a careless shrug, and realizing the hug was one-sided once more, Touya took to wrapping his arms lazily around N's waist this time that way he didn't inhibit blood flow from reaching his fingertips due to an upwards incline. N's arms maneuvered to let one still hold onto Touya's waist, fingers grabbing the bottom fabric of the other's jacket and shirt to lift it up. The cold air hitting his bare skin, the brunet shivered and pressed against N more for warmth. The taller male's other hand used his fingers to try and pinpoint the scar. It was so faint that N had to squint his eyes to really notice the splash of white on pale peach. His index finger traced it briefly, surprised the skin there was still smooth. Perhaps because unlike so many of N's own scars, the injury hadn't happened often enough in the same area to harden the skin the way his were.
"Th-that feels weird…" Touya mumbled.
"Sorry…" N whispered back, momentarily curious and entranced. Had it felt strange because N's fingers were about as soft as a Purrloin's tongue? Or strange because it was intimate?
What are you doing? A deep, and rather disapproving voice growled. N paused in his movements, and slowly looked up to see Samurott glaring at him, with Scolipede peering curious behind him. Rolling into the room, beneath the legs and feet of the larger Pokemon, arrived Reuniclus who wanted to see what all the commotion was about. Much of N suddenly felt very childish, mostly because he was briefly under some kind of deluded belief that when he saw Touya's team, it wouldn't be while he was inspecting their trainer's scar.
And probably looking like he was doing something else entirely, having Touya's shirt half-lifted up the way it was.
"Please… tell me Zebstrika isn't in your party right now." N whispered in a shaky breath.
"He's not." Touya answered me softly.
"Okay." Though N was already figuring that Zebstrika wasn't – if the creature was, N would have already been dead. Noticing the glare from Samurott and the inquiring looks from Reuniclus and Scolipede, Touya laughed nervously and turned around in an attempt to defend the other male's honor from half his team.
"It's, uhm… not what it looks like?" Touya ventured weakly, and offered them a smile. "…what do they think it looks like?"
I think it looks like we need to be informed what he's doing back here, Samurott sniffed indignantly.
It's about time he came back, Scolipede sighed while rolling his eyes.
Why did you two interrupt them? It was about to get good, too… Reuniclus whined, flopping onto his back to stare up at the larger Pokemon with a pout.
"They want to know, mostly, what I'm doing here." N informed Touya. At this, the brunet nodded and began to explain, best he could, to his team while also politely requesting they inform the other two – Braviary and Lampent. When neither Samurott nor Scolipede moved, Reuniclus gave an exasperated sigh and squiggled between legs all over again to return downstairs. Lying down, with his head rested on his forelegs, Samurott gazed quietly at the two humans. His expression was the perfect example of an overprotective father watching one of his little ones play with that one kid with all the bad reputation.
There was a strange sensation of rejection and failure when N noticed the look he was getting.
"…he'll warm up to you again." Touya said softly, moving a hand up to offer some comfort and rub the other human's shoulder.
I will not.
"Will too." Touya stated absently, and N almost jumped.
"No, but I learned to read his expressions and body language fairly well. He tends to add extra exaggeration sometimes, just to be sure I know what he's trying to convey." Touya explained, and gave a warm smile. "See? You taught me a lot of good things…"
I still say I won't. And he also did lots of bad things. Samurott huffed, crossed his front legs, and then turned his head away from them to face Scolipede – only he was still watching them out of the corner of his eyes, and made no effort to conceal this.
"…where is Zebstrika?" It was bothering him, now that he knew the electric-type wasn't there.
"With Elesa, in Nimbasa. She actually really took a shine to him…" Touya smiled softly. "And he's become very close friends with her Zebstrika, as well. Petilil actually kind of became the unofficial mascot for the Pokemon Musicals there, too. We like to go there and watch her act, sometimes, to cheer her on." His words faded with his smile. "But… they're happy where they are, and that's what matters, right?"
"I see…" N murmured absently. Though unfortunate, he supposed it wasn't entirely surprising. A large part of N would always feel guilty about the incident; even if he knew there was no changing the past. Zebstrika's accident, and then spurring the brunet onwards to challenge N and all those Gym Leaders… in effect, N had forced Touya to do exactly what he once wanted all trainers to do – be separated from their Pokemon. Now that he understood better, recognized his own errors and their results, he could only feel regret. Had he not been so foolish, Zebstrika and Petilil would have never been forced to stay behind and simply wait. And keep waiting, until the day they were finally reunited with their trainer, only to realize both they and Touya had changed.
They all changed.
"Oh! N." Touya exclaimed. "We should go. Right now."
"We should go… on our date? Now?" N asked, furrowing his brows.
"Yes and no. You have… Zoroark somewhere, right?" Touya asked, brown eyes round and hope-filled.
"Of course. But what do you mean-"
"…yes, yes it is Touya." N began slowly, watching the other warily and trying to track down the brunet's trail of thought.
"I was thinking… you were right, about the ice cream in Castelia." Then Touya glanced over, noting that Scolipede and Samurott both subtly perked up at the sound. "We should all go. Together." At this, a wide smile splayed across N's face.
"And play tag while we wait?"
We're too big to play either game in the city… Samurott whined. Not wholly comfortable answering directly to Touya's team at the moment, N translated the complaint.
"Hmmm. He's right. Oh! N and I can get the ice cream together, and you guys can play together outside of the city while you wait!" Touya chirped, still smiling even as his starter pouted at him for even daring to make such a suggestion.
I don't trust what you two will do while you wait together… Samurott wailed, causing Scolipede behind him to begin sniggering. As N once more translated, he noticed the water-type was not voicing any problems with having an interpreter again.
"Wh-what do you mean, you don't trust what we'll do…?" Touya stammered, staring helplessly at his Pokemon.
Well, that is I trust you but I don't trust him…
"What's there to not trust?" Glancing between the brunet and Pokemon's miniature argument, N calmly observed from the sidelines, wondering if Touya did this sort of thing often – actually have a conversation with one of his teammates, and not even notice that he was. Only to walk away and assume it was just a one-sided discussion, not even realizing that some of the feedback the brunet was receiving could not be conveyed through expression or body language. Even more amusing was that Samurott didn't even notice it, either.
There was a sort of pride N felt at that moment, watching Touya argue with Samurott (should he have been so happy to see that?).
I want to go to Castelia…! Lampent's voice cried from outside the hallway.
"I think… we should perhaps get some ice cream soon." N laughed nervously. Nodding in tired agreement, Touya began recalling his team (many of whom sulked at being returned – but they all knew not even Zekrom was willing to fly all of them that far outside of a PokeBall). Heading downstairs, Braviary was still eagerly watching a cartoon. Noticing the two humans, the bird cocked his head at the unfamiliar face but still seemed eager to meet N. Introductions were given, and then lastly Braviary was returned – he was too young still to handle the weight of two humans on his back. Once outside, N and Touya held a game of rock-paper-scissors to determine whose dragon would give them a lift. When N had rock, Touya smiled and used his paper to hug the fisted hand.
"And that's why paper wins." The brunet joked. Calling out Zekrom, the dragon stretched its wings before peering around for any opponents – spotting N, its eyes narrowed before trying to feel out for Reshiram. Realizing its other half was still in a Pokeball, the dragon gave a distasteful scowl. "We're not battling. Just getting some ice cream." The black dragon snorted at this. I'm not a ferry service, Hero. Zekrom sighed, but reluctantly lifted both humans into its arms. Wings spreading, the dragon tore off into the sky.
"Touya?" N called out over the wind, holding on tightly to Zekrom's arm – admittedly a bit concerned that the ambivalence between the two dragon halves would result in him being dropped suddenly. Responding to his name, brown eyes turned to green ones and waited for him to continue. "While I was traveling… I heard a few interesting theories on Reshiram and Zekrom."
"Like… hmm. Before we were chosen as heroes, were there ever times you felt like a magnet around me?"
"No no, I heard you! I just don't understand what you mean! Your analogy!"
"Oh! Like… depending on what we were doing, sometimes you felt compelled to be near me, and other times repelled away?"
"Well, that's the theory. The dragon's can't just choose any person that has heroic qualities – that's why for so many centuries, even though many people have exhibited the typical aspects of a hero, Reshiram and Zekrom were never awoken." N paused, checking to see the brunet was still following. Touya gave a hesitant nod, his interest piqued. "The dragon's have to choose two people like them – kind of like two halves of a whole."
"Th-that's interesting…" Touya stammered. "So basically the idea is… Reshiram and Zekrom…"
"Can only be called together by two people meant to be together, yes. Two opposing beliefs, drawn together by being parts of a single entity."
"Hah… Touya, I would prefer to not think of you as a twin… more of, ah… soulmates, I suppose is the term?" N offered, once more taking a note from one of the few movies he had seen in his ventures. Turning scarlet, the brunet wondered if that really was the case, or just another theory. "There isn't any solid proof, of course… but I am curious – I wish to know the technical details.
"It's kind of funny, though…"
"My wanting technical details?"
"N-no… it's just, well… in a way, I kind of named the shelter after that same sort of theory." Touya stammered, looking to the side because if he looked down he would get nauseous and if he looked at N he would be too worried the other would laugh at him. "That in order for everything to work out, everyone needs to work together… even if not all of us carry the same viewpoint. And how even if something's broken, if you try hard enough you can help it come back together or even fix it entirely. So with all that in mind, I just sort of named it… Bits and Pieces."
Story Notes: The song that Touya caught N pseudo quoting was, "Mathematics," by Little Boots. And I don't think indirectly quoting the chorus from a song goes against the TOS. Just wanted to share that because the song always makes me think of NTouya.
Because it was mentioned way back in the first chapter, this story was actually titled, "Bits and Pieces," because the first chapter was written in segments. Also, because it carried with it implications of a deeper meaning. Just kind of threw that reference to it in the end because I could.
Many apologies if this wasn't as cute or fluffy as you all had been hoping - and sorry if you guys were disappointed there was no kissing! I'm a weird sap - personally view interaction and and cuddles as immensely more adorable and satisfying. So if you are rolling on the ground wondering, "WHY DID I READ EIGHTEEN CHAPTERS JUST TO SEE THEM HUG?" ...I am sorry. In the mass-edit I'll be doing in a month or so on this whole thing, might rewrite this chapter some to include. Which reminds me - if there was ANYTHING you wanted in it, or felt should have been included, or needed improvement, now is the time to give the head's up.
In this chapter, I tried to make it possible to leave off in such a way BW2 was still plausible. I'm certain there's an inconsistency with N returning, but eh.
No. No there will not be a sequel. J-just... no...
But yes, I will be continuing to write NTouya fanfiction... along with GreenRed fanfiction. But not in the same fanfiction. Maybe. Will be expecting you guys to also be writing NTouya fanfiction. Yes.
Special Thanks: Thank you so, so much to everyone that has been reading this massive bugger of a story. No, it isn't the longest fanfic out there (or even the longest NTouya fic), but there was a giant hiatus and the fact some of you are still reading means the world to me. You guys are fabulous and wonderful. Thank you to my friend Shadow Serenity 57 on here, who pretty much is always there encouraging me and listening to my two am nonsense while I write. Like, seriously words cannot properly convey how grateful I am to everyone who reviews. Blargh, if you want me to gush to you how happy you made me then I will be more than happy to send you a PM on here. You have all been incredibly forgiving and helpful and nice and sweet and made of all shades of win for tolerating my sloppiness at the end. And congratulations to you all, as well! You have just read about thirty or forty pages this week, and maybe twenty-four thousand words-ish? Give yourself a giant hug. Now if only fanfiction counted as an actual book, you guys could include this on your summer reading of stories finished.
Disclaimer: May I never be affiliated with or uphold ownership of Pokemon. For everyone's sakes and sanity.