Warning: this chapter is rated T for violence.
"So what do you think?"
"What am I looking at?"
"N!" Laughing, White gave him a playful slap on the arm. At this point, N no longer flinched in fear when he was touched, and had grown accustomed to White's method of play. The light taps and flicks in the forehead were only meant to be fun.
"What do you mean what are you looking at? Can't you see everything I've done?"
"No. You're still covering my eyes."
"Oh!" Embarrassed, the girl immediately drew her hands away from his face with a flustered grin. "So?"
Bewildered, N stepped into his room and gazed in wonderment at all of White's renovations. His bedroom was actually a bedroom now; topped with a pokeball shaped dresser for his clothes, a mirror, and even a table with new ornaments. The highlight of the entire room, and what was really capturing N's attention was his lamp.
The spherical light bulb stretched up to the ceiling, and wrapped around it was a glow-in-the-dark mew decoration. The stand to the lamp was golden, with engraved patterns traveling all the way down to the base.
"Oh, White!" N gushed, speaking through the cracks of his fingers in awe as he took in every gorgeous detail of his new room. "White, it's...it's simply wonderful!" He turned to the girl, staring silently at her in appreciation. Never in his life had his heart felt so warm, so touched. He couldn't remember the last time he was ever shown such kindness.
"White, how could you afford all this? Furniture is expensive enough, but all the ornaments—the lamp! Why have you done this for me?" Although White could see the gratefulness in N's eyes, she could also see genuine confusion. It broke her heart to know such little kindness had been shown to him in his life that he wasn't even sure how to react to this.
"Why?" The brunette's own cheerful tone was hushed now, and more sentimental as she placed her hands on the bewildered N's shoulders. "I think it's about time you were shown some kindness, N. And it's definitely about time you have your own room where you're comfortable."
His teal eyes blinking rapidly, N held back his brimming tears and did something he thought he'd never do. He hugged her.
White's breath hitched in her throat as N's warm arms embraced her tightly. His soft strands of hair tickled her nose and smelled of pine cones and spices. White's face flushed a bright pink as she felt the warmth of his body and heart wash over her in waves. Before she could return the gesture, N pulled back in embarrassment.
"I—so-sorry," N quickly rushed out. He was staring down at his shoes, eyes regretful and guilty looking. "I thought humans do that to show appreciation to each other." White realized that with not returning the gesture in time, she had made him feel uncomfortable. Part of her wanted to quickly amend this by hugging him right now, but she knew that would make the tension worse.
"N-no, it's fine," White said with a soft smile. "You're right. Humans do show appreciation that way."
The room lapsed into an awkward silence, which was thankfully broken by the sudden squeals of Fuu as the Samorott came barreling into the room in a panic. White and N's heart skipped a beat, until they saw the reason for the water pokemon's distress. Shadow was attached to his tail, nipping and tugging at it without a care in the world.
White burst out laughing, despite her poor pokemon's desperation as he shook Shadow back and forth rapidly. "It's good to know your new friend is getting along well with the rest of the pokemon! There's no need to coax that one out of his shell."
N blinked. "Bird pokemon don't have shells, White. Do you mean feathers?" White only rolled her eyes at him and abruptly started dragging him toward his brand new bed.
"Ever jumped on a bed before, N?" White winced in mid-bounce when she realized what she had asked. No, of course he hadn't. N had slept on the floor his entire life, and carpet normally didn't have much elasticity.
"No, I never have," N responded. "I always envisioned what it might be like though, and recall seeing some sort of jumping contraptions I'd see people on during my travels with Zekrom. They weren't beds though, they were circular."
"Trampolines," White told him, emitting a bubbling giggle as she bounced onto her back. "But in my opinion, beds are much better, for the simple reason that we have pillows!"
N tilted his head at her, confused. "Pillows? We use that to sleep at night, and support our heads. How could the fact a bed has pillows possibly make it any better than a trampoline, when a bed is only made for humans to slee-"
He was cut off by something light and plush slamming into his face and bouncing into his lap. Rubbing his face, he stared down at the pillow, and then back to the mischievous White. With a rare, and playful glint in his eye, N hurled the pillow right back at her.
So this was what a real bed felt like. It had a lot more cushioning and comfort than N's worn out cot had. It certainly had a lot more comfort than his skateboard he slept on every night. During these two years, N had slept on many different beds, but none of which were very comfortable. Often he'd just make a bed out in the wilderness with moss, twigs, or sand.
On the rare occasion he got the privilege to sleep in a worn out cot at a Pokemon Center that stunk of medication and rubber, but he'd hardly call it comfortable. For the first time, N had his own bed, and he finally had the privilege and joy to call it his.
So you finally have your own bed. The teen looked up from his velvet pillows to see Zoroark smiling down at him. Being a pokemon, naturally Zoroark hadn't been picky about where he slept, but he knew humans possessed this un-natural need to sleep on a cushioned surface. Humans were so picky.
"A bed in which you're welcome to sleep in any time," N responded kindly, giggling as his best friend gave him a playful nudge. "That won't ever change, dear friend."
This White girl seems to go to incredible lengths to ensure your happiness, Zoroark said, shooting N a knowing smirk. His friend, of course, remained oblivious to the look the pokemon was giving him.
"Because she's my friend?" N asked innocently. Zoroark shook his head. The kid was more naive than anyone the pokemon had ever met. "I think I should do something nice for White, but I'm unsure what. I can't cook, and White has forbidden me to go near another store."
Oh N, you're letting your woman run you already...
How about something like a bouquet of flowers? The Zoroark shrugged. From what he understood, human females seemed to appreciate weeds wrapped in pretty paper. Human customs were so peculiar. Girls love flowers. I'm sure it would look good on her new bedside table. The Zoroark squeaked as N abruptly yanked him towards him and hugged him happily.
"Zoroark, you're a genius! I'll get her some flowers! How can I thank you for this?"
By not squeezing my organs out of my body!
N wanted the flowers to be a surprise, but that was hard to accomplish when he seemed to spend every waking moment with White. She had insisted they tidy up the castle and make it more livable. N wasn't exactly opposed to that, but he needed to look for some flowers while it was still daylight.
"Five star hotels are going to be envious of this castle now!" White grinned. Gazing around at their refurnished home, N could only agree. They had tidied up the debris of rocks and rubble, and given the walls a few, new coats of paint. White had even hung up some pictures she had taken of her pokemon, family, and pictures of her and N.
"I wanted to plant some flowers outside of the castle, but I have a terrible green thumb," White sighed, not realizing how N's eyes were bulging out of his sockets. "It's more like a black thumb."
"You have a what?!" White stared as N grabbed and inspected her hand for this diseased appendage. With a loud laugh, she pulled her fingers out of his grasp and gently flicked his hat. "It's an expression, N. What it means is I love flowers, but I'm a terrible gardener."
"Oh." N relaxed. "You love flowers?" If he was a Herdier, his tail would be wagging. She loved flowers? His idea couldn't possibly be anymore perfect if he tried!
"N? Why are you grinning like that?" The teen snapped out of his daze and focused his eyes back on her. She was staring at him suspiciously, and N quickly wiped the smile off his face. He didn't want her catching on to his plan.
"Oh, it's nothing, White," he responded breezily. "I just...I'm happy with the way the castle looks, and...I deeply appreciate everything you've done for me." And you have no idea how much I care about you. The best part of this lie was that it wasn't a lie at all.
The grass plains outside Victory Road always looked so beautiful at night. The moonlight illuminated the grass and flowers, and made the small ponds scattered around sparkle, as if embedded with diamonds.
Night was always N's favorite time of day, for multiple reasons. The main one was that he got to be alone with his thoughts. This was especially true when he was the head of Plasma. Grunts pestered him every few minutes, as did Ghetsis. Even though he was trapped in one room most of his life, he'd hardly call it 'alone time'.
Toddling unsteadily on his tiny and wobbling feet was N's little Rufflet. White, her pokemon, and Zoroark were already dead asleep when N finally set out to get White some beautiful flowers to wake up to the next morning. Shadow, however, was a different story. Like all tots are apt to do, the infant bird would not settle down at his designated bedtime. As far as N was concerned, that was fine. He could use some company and reveled at the idea of bonding with Shadow some more.
"I love night time," N said quietly, to the baby. "The shimmering moonlight, how it becomes so quiet... It's the perfect time to be with your thoughts, and a nice walk outside is just so soothing. It takes away whatever stress you may have. Come to think of it, I wonder if there are any night flowers?"
Anyone that knew N well enough knew that paying attention was vital to be able to talk to him at all once he really got going, but poor Shadow heard nothing but a jumbled ramble of excited chatter. He stared up at his owner blankly.
N laughed and lifted a foot to gently ruffle the chick's feathers. "Apologies. White tells me when I really start talking I could go for hours and it's hard to follow me." He chuckled as the baby bird climbed up his arm and perched happily on his shoulder.
"What flowers do you think I should get White? Near the pond there are quite a few, but she never told me her favorite types..." With a look of amusement, he turned to look at Shadow, who was tapping his talon against N's shoulder. "I know this is an unlikely question, but do you know anything about girls? Maybe your opinion will help."
Chirping, Shadow leaped off N's shoulder and landed in the patch of plush blossoms. He flapped his wings rapidly, creating 'flower angels'.
Endeared, N shook his head with a gentle smile. "I love all pokemon, but you honestly have to be the cutest of all the friends I've ever had." N was confused when the chick didn't turn to him. In fact, now sitting up, Shadow didn't seem to be moving at all. Had he offended him?
"Shadow?" Perplexed, N waved a hand in front of the pokemon, expecting him to wave back. When he didn't, N really became alarmed. It was then that N realized the baby Rufflet was staring over his shoulder, and that's when N heard the echoing footsteps.
Slowly, the teen turned, and he wished he hadn't. Standing in front of them, towering at lease three feet over him and seemingly hundreds over Shadow, was a gang of trainers.
Just their appearances alone pierced N with the archaic fear he only felt from his own father. The narrowed, wrathful eyes of the trainers glared at him with the intent of murder. It was only now that N realized he wasn't wearing his disguise; stupidly, thinking that he was safe at night, he didn't bring it.
"Well, look who it is..." one of the men rasped. "It's his royal highness..."
Forcing the fear out of his voice, N straightened and stepped protectively in front of Shadow to shield him from view. "I no longer go by that title. I am N, and N only. Team Plasma has long since disbanded and I no longer associate myself with it."
As if he hadn't even spoken, the man only sneered at him. "We've been waiting to meet the King. I've been wanting to have a talk with you for so long, about a certain pokemon you stole."
N's teal eyes softened and grew sympathetic. "I am truly sorry about that. Hope shouldn't be lost though, as I know a few kindred spirits that once belonged to Plasma are taking care of pokemon whose owners they cannot find. You should check the missing board."
A fist colliding with N's cheek—followed by a sudden strike in the shin sent him down to the hard pavement within seconds. Dazed, the teen watched as Shadow hurriedly scrambled toward him and hid behind his hair.
The venom had left the trainer's eyes, and was now replaced by an intense pain. "Kindred spirits? Is that really what you call the sick beasts that just left my Sewaddle to die?" Tears clung to the corners of his eyelids as he spoke. "They took him...He was sick, and they didn't do anything about it! They didn't give him any medical attention! They let him die! You monsters just let him die!"
Tears flooded into N's own eyes, the man's words breaking his heart. Not all of the grunts had been misguided souls; some had been truly tainted by Ghetsis's evil. N could recall the cold shock and rage he had felt when he had been informed one of the grunts had beaten a helpless Muna for its dream mist. There would always be soiled apples amongst the pure and clean.
Shadow wasn't sure what to make of this situation. N could tell the young pokemon was terrified, but its frightened eyes peeked out repetitively at the glowering eyes of the trainers staring down at him. Despite wanting to remain civil and collected, N would stop at nothing if these humans dared to touch Shadow.
But N couldn't blame these men for wanting to rip him apart. He couldn't blame them for wanting revenge. He had caused a lot of pain during his time as King, and had only corrupted the world further rather than remedy it. These trainers wouldn't listen to reason. They wouldn't understand he meant no harm.
"There is...nothing I can do to ease your pain." N said softly. "I know that. I know I can't go back and change what I've done. Please know that Plasma-we-I never meant to hurt anyone. I only wanted to create a world of equality for both pokemon and humans! I didn't mean to disturb the balance."
The grisly man was stalking closer now, and N backed away immediately, only to find himself bump into the front of a shoe from another one of the men. He was surrounded, and he knew now that he was fighting for his life. He wasn't physically strong, he couldn't protect himself from this gang, and the only one who could was not even two feet tall and was cowering at his feet.
"No, you're right. You're definitely right." N was surprised at how gentle the trainer's tone had become now, almost soothing and sympathetic sounding. Were they going to let him go? "You can't ease our pain."
Suddenly, one of the members seized N by his collar and gripped onto his throat. The pain shot up his face from where the man's nails dug in and pierced his flesh; not enough to cause critical injury, but enough to cause the pain to worsen every second.
"So we're going to make you feel true pain."
Through his gasping and occasional choking noises, N gave a shaky sneer. True pain? These imbeciles had no idea what he had gone through in his life. They didn't know how N was treated by his so called 'father' White only knew a fraction of the abuse N suffered at that man's hands. Whatever this gang was going to do would pale in comparison to everything he had been through before.
The first belt in the stomach winded him, but N could barely feel the pain register when he saw the two other members and realized it: They were going after Shadow.
Thrusting his head so violently out of the man's grasp he nearly snapped his own neck, N managed to scream in desperation. "No! NO! PLEASE, DON'T HURT HIM!" Tears built in his eyes, but a harsh slap across the face sent N tumbling down to the ground. Well that certainly took him back...
N's knees throbbed from where they had hit the ground, and only now did he feel the blinding stomach pain, but the courageous teen shakily rose onto all fours. Before he could get one step closer to Shadow, the steel toe of a boot harshly kicked him back. This time, N slammed into the side of the cave's rocky wall.
Everything seemed slower and calmer now. N's vision began to dim as his consciousness gradually began to die out. Before his vision went black completely, N caught a brief glimpse of a certain dirty, shaking ball of feathers standing protectively in front of him.
Everything felt cold. The ground beneath him was cold, the air was frigid and sliced through his wounds. N was cold. He was cold and wet, but he didn't remember it raining before. He slowly managed to open his eyes.
The first sight that greeted him was the luminous moon. It was comical how there was such a beautiful and calm sight amidst this pain and chaos. For a moment, N simply laid there, captivated by the moon, and only blankly staring up at into the night sky. It would have been so easy just to lay down and fall back asleep.
"Shadow..." With a strangled cry, the injured teen pushed himself up onto his bloody palms and looked around. He almost hoped he wouldn't find the chick, because he wasn't sure if his heart would be able to bear the condition its body was in, if it were alive at all.
There he was. There, slumped against a rock sticking out of the earth. The filthy and bloodstained little ball of feathers lay limp and motionless in a heap. N emitted a cry that didn't even sound human as he disregarded the agony of his injuries and stumbled over to Shadow.
He turned the baby Rufflet over in his arms, and sobbed in relief when his weak eyes opened a splint and his little beak turned up into a smile.
Gathering the withered ball of feathers in his arms, N bolted back to the castle. His body screamed for respite from its own cuts, gashes, and bruises, but N ignored its pleas to stop and just kept running.
White was startled awake by the sudden, thundering slam of the castle's new door as it shook the entire structure. Darting to her window, White groggily peered out for any signs of a thunderstorm, but the night sky was clear and her windowpane devoid of any raindrops.
That's when the chilling sound of whimpering and stumbling footsteps touched White's eardrums. She hurried to the door and called out. "N?"
Horrified, N froze in his tracks, before backing up like a frightened animal, and stumbling back into his old playroom. He couldn't let White see him! Her voice was getting closer, and N feebly backed himself up into a corner and cradled his injured friend as he started to sob.
He had let it happen again. He had failed to protect a pokemon from the hands of a monster. He had failed as a trainer, and as a friend. He didn't deserve to have pokemon. He was no better than those trainers. He was a miserable failure.
"N?" White whispered, barely peeking into his playroom.
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" The echoing screech resounded through the dark room, and the entire castle. He balled up as much as he could with the injured baby in his arms, and ducked his face into Shadow's feathers as the fearful brunette came near.
White had to fight with N to get his face out of his knees and Shadow's feathers. No amount of prying with her hands could succeed in separating his face from his pokemon.
"N, lift your head. Please? Please tell me what happened! I'm worried about you."
Finally, she managed to raise his head, and at this point it took little effort; he seemed to have given up. White cried out in horror at the state of both the distraught, filthy teen, and his pokemon. It was clear for multiple reasons why N didn't want to look at her. His face was a mess of blood, bruises, and tears. His pokemon wasn't faring much better. White inhaled a shaking gasp at the blood matted in the Rufflet's feathers.
"N...dear Arceus, what happened to you?" White could barely recognize her voice through her trembling. "N, please calm down!" He was inconsolable, trembling, crying into Shadow and weeping over his failure against whatever monster had attacked them. Even though there was nothing definitive to say who their attacker was, White had a feeling it was no pokemon.
"I couldn't...I couldn't protect him, White," N hiccuped out. "I couldn't protect him...again! I-I couldn't save my friend! I let my friend...be hurt! I let it happen again!"
Now White knew it was a human that attacked them, and the reason for this breakdown was clear. After ages, after being lulled into a sense of security and being at peace with trainers, they had betrayed him. A pokemon being abused was N's worst nightmare, and probably brought back a torrent of unwanted memories. White felt sick. They had all convinced N that his fears were irrational and they failed him like this.
With nothing to say, White only wrapped her arms around the broken boy. He practically fell against her chest, and she leaned back against the wall, rocking him back and forth. The tortured sobs that tore from N's throat felt like they were dragging White deeper into her own personal hell. Even with the shaking teen's face buried into her nightgown, it didn't muffle the haunting noises as N whimpered and mewled like a wounded animal.
Even with the blood, bruises, and pain inflicted at the hands of the trainers, White felt like this was entirely her fault. She was the one to tell him that trainers didn't harm pokemon. She was the one to convince N that there was nothing to fear. It was she that provided him with the comforting thoughts that pokemon were safe with humans. She was the one that had shattered him like this.
The brunette's chest swelled with her own sobs, but for the sake of the broken boy and the injured chick, she needed to be strong. Running her fingers through his damp bangs in a motherly gesture, she softly whispered to him.
"N...what-what were you doing out of the castle so late?"
Watery, child-like eyes gazed up at her and broke her heart. "I-I...I-hic-wanted to get you some flowers."
Unable to hold back a sob, White stared down at him, covering her mouth. "What?"
"I wanted to g-get you some flowers," N managed to get out with a cough. "I-I wanted to thank you for everything you-you've done for me since you came here." His face seemed to twist in agony as the tears increased in volume. "I didn't know this would happen. I had no idea...they would be there!"
White finally started to abashedly cry. He had gone through all this because he wanted to get her some flowers.
At this point, Shadow's blue eyes cracked open slightly, and he gazed mournfully up at his trainer, wincing as every tear drop hit his head. Weakly, chirping at the pain it caused, Shadow still stood up and stretched his head enough to gently, and almost playfully peck at N's cheek.
Raising his head from White's drenched nightgown, N gazed down at his little companion, who smiled up at him, and embraced him, cuddling him up to his face.
There were only a few moments of sobbing before it was clear that both the injured N and Shadow had cried themselves to sleep. White gazed down lovingly at the two boys as they curled up peacefully into her chest. Their erratic breathing had slowly regulated and become more calm over the past few minutes.
White took this time to tend to their wounds. Awoken by the commotion, Zoroark had fetched her a medical kit from their new cabinet, and White spent the next few minutes treating the injuries. N and Shadow whined and fidgeted in their sleep, but thankfully didn't wake up. Bandaging the last of the cuts and gashes, White set down the kit. She rested her hand against the sleeping Zoroark's back, and barely shifted to a more comfortable position.
N's hand subconsciously gripped her own as he unconsciously mumbled, "Don't...leave..."
Even though his request had been unconscious and unaware, White's response couldn't possibly be more aware and meaningful. "I'll never leave..."
Her back throbbed as she leaned up against the stiff wall, but for the first time, White didn't care how she slept that night.
(I warned you it would be very sad. Poor N...I always wondered how he would react to seeing a pokemon-least of all, his own-injured by the hands of a human, after being told the likelihood of abuse was slim.
Anyway, read and review. This is probably one of my best chapters yet.
Next (a very happy and fluffy chapter) "Break The Eggshells"; White is tired of N walking on eggshells around her out of fear he'll get her mad at him for something, so she devises a plan to loosen N up a little.)