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Old 09-26-2017, 02:39 AM
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Default Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Plasbad

Fic written for Serebii's Criminal Intent contest. Features two nobodies caught up in the affairs of somebodies.

Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Plasbad: Re-PLASMAAAAA'd Edition


Two young men stood side-by-side in the corridors of a massive, lavish castle. They were dressed in strange uniforms, resembling the armor of medieval knights, with an elaborate blue-and-black symbol on their chestplates. The young man on the left - black-haired, hazel-eyed, and sharp-featured, looked around at his surroundings, sighed, and shook his head.


"You'd think we'd spend more of our budget on our cause instead of buffing up HQ, but whatever."


He then turned to his companion, ginger-haired, blue-eyed, soft-featured, and shaking madly, grinning as if some cosmic force inside him was about to be unleashed full-blast.


"...You seem excited, Tom," said the first young man.


Tom turned instantly and energetically towards his companion and replied as if said cosmic force was in fact bottled up inside him the whole time. "Am I?! Roger, this is gonna be freaking awesome! You and me are gonna help save the world and every Pokemon under the iron heel of hu-"


"Yes, yes, Tom, this is gonna be a world-shaking event for a cause we both deeply care about and very much want to make a reality for the good of the world, but calm the fuck down. We've already been hired by Team Plasma but we're still waiting for an evaluation and debrief before we can actually get in on the action, and if you mess that up it's good-bye for the both of us. So just try to calm down, OK?


"Can I still do the skit wher-"


"Dear Cobalion, no. Act as serious as you can."


Tom then stood up unnaturally stiff and straight, saluting with an exaggerated grimace on his face. Roger sighed again. "Not like that. Just... Relax, OK?"


Tom finally shifted to a more-or-less neutral pose and expression.


"Perfect," said Roger, smirking.


Tom then noticed something out of the corner of his eye. "Hey! The evaluation person is coming!"


"Shit!" said Roger. "Do what I said!"


The two stood in position as a blonde woman, slightly older than they were but wearing the same uniform, approached them with a disdainful look on her face.


"Are you two the new recruits?"


Both Roger and Tom nodded.


"Alright then... Names?"


"Roger Guildenstern." replied Roger.


"Thomas Rosencrantz!" replied Tom in turn.


"Alright then..." said the woman, in a fashion so dry you could tell the exact multitude of times she'd done this before. She produced two Pokeballs, handing each to Roger and Tom with a similar lack of enthusiasm.


"These are the two Pokemon you'll use to further our cause. You can request more when you've been around long enough... Or liberate them from other trainers. Your choice."


Roger frowned. "Wait a minute. We're supposed to prevent Pokemon from being misused like this."


"Yeah!" said Roger. "We can't free 'em all if we stuff them in teeny little balls like everyone else does!"


The woman rolled her eyes. "We get that a lot. Unfortunately,people opposing our cause will likely use Pokemon against us, leaving us no choice but to use Pokemon of our own. The Pokemon used by Team Plasma will be liberated alongside everyone else's when the time comes."


"Oh! That totally makes sense!" said Tom.


"...If it's necessary and lets them be free in the end, alright," Roger said, looking down uneasily at his Pokeball.


"Alright then," said the woman. "You two are good to go."

Roger stared at her in shock. "...That's it?"


"Well, you got through the actual hiring process, didn't you?"


"...Point."


"Anyway, you two joined up just in the nick of time... We're having a big rally in Accumula Town in a few days. N, the King of Team Plasma, and his trusted advisor Ghetsis will be there."


"The King?! His most trusted advisor?!" said Tom.


"Yep. Welcome aboard, you two," the woman said.


With that, she walked off, not bothering at all to look back.


Roger stared after her blankly for a bit before turning to Tom, who had a huge grin on his face.


"This is gonna be great!" said Tom.


Finally, Roger smiled back.


"I sure hope so, buddy. I sure hope so."


--------


The two later had entered their, small, dingy room in the barracks, idly chatting before Roger happened to glance at the two Pokeballs they were assigned.


"...We should probably let them out."


"Oh? Oh yeah!" said Tom. "They're probably all cramped up in there!"


The two released their Pokemon, a Scraggy emerging from Tom's ball and a Golett emerging from Roger's.


"Scrag!" said the Scraggy, looking around wildly and chittering.


"Aw, this little guy's adorable!" said Tom.


Roger's Golett, by contrast, surveyed the room making buzzing sounds before fixing its eyes on Roger and giving a wary "Lett."


"Er, nice to meet you too?" said Roger.


Tom, meanwhile, was already hugging his Scraggy close, the Scraggy squirming to escape.

"You and me are gonna be total bros!"


"Tom," said Roger, gritting his teeth, "I know you're excited, but... these Pokemon are just our assistants liberating their kind from humans. Once that's taken care of we'll let them go because it's the right thing to do. So... Don't get too close."


"Oh, yeah, right..." said Tom, setting his Scraggy down, leaving the pantslizard to scurry off into a corner and look between the two humans in panic.


"It's just... I never had a Pokemon growing up, and eventually I found out it was a good thing all along thanks to you, but now that I actually have one it feels pretty... pretty sweet, you know?"


Roger stared at him frowning briefly before shaking his head and giving him a small smile.


"I think I know what you mean. We can go ahead and give them names for now then."


"Yes!" said Tom, pumping his fists. "You go first Roger!"


Roger blinked and gave his Golett a stare, who warily stared back.


"Um... Are you OK with Vladimir?"


After a slow pause the Golett nodded.


"Alright!" said Tom. "I gotta choose an equally funky one for mine..."


He turned to his Scraggy, who was still cowering in the corner. "How about Estragon?"


After an equally slow pause the Scraggy calmed down noticeably and nodded.


Tom then frowned and turned to Roger. "Say... You've never told me what got you into Pokemon rights. I mean, I know you got me into it, but-"


Roger's smile faltered and quickly gave way to an outright bitter scowl.


"I don't want to talk about it."


"But we've known each other for-"


"What did I just fucking tell you?! I'm not talking about it!"


He turned away from Tom to face a corner of the room, causing Vladimir to stare at him in confusion. Tom, by contrast, stared at him in worry. Estragon continued to look on cautiously but curiously from a corner.


"Just... Please. Don't ask." Roger said after a while.


Tom didn't reply, just sitting down and staring off into space himself, Estragon looking back and forth between them, now just as confused as Vladimir.


-------------


A bit later, Vladimir and Estragon had met up with each other.


"Your human called you Vladimir or something, yeah?'


"Something along those lines, yeah. And yours Estragon?"


"Yeah!" said Estragon. "And speaking of which did you get a load of those humans we were assigned?"


Vladimir paused. "I do not know what you mean by a load, but judging from your phrasing I suppose yes."


"I grew up with a bunch of mean humans who only raised me for battle potential, and I was so scared when I got snatched up by those Plasma guys!" said Estragon. "But these humans seem nice! And they want us to help them free Pokemon from mean humans like the ones who raised me!"


Vladimir shook his head. "All I knew before Plasma was Dragonspiral; I sympathize but cannot echo with your sentiments."


Estargon huffed. "Fair enough."


His Scraggy face scrunched up. "Speaking of which, I'm still confused about why our humans got to fighting all of a sudden when they first met us - It seemed kinda weird for 'em!"


"We can likely no ascertain the cause until we know them better... And we each other."


"Again, fair enough," said Estragon. "Besides, they - and we - are bound to do something important eventually."


---------


A few days later, in Accumula Town, the rally was going full swing, with Ghetsis giving a passionate speech to a large crowd while a similarly-large group of Plasma grunts stood behind him, Tom and Roger among them. While both were listening intently, Roger kept an eye on the crowd, while Tom's facial expression became increasingly annoyed as the rally went on.


Eventually, the rally ended, the crowd discussed anxiously what to do with their Pokemon, and Ghetsis and the various Team Plasma grunts quickly dispersed. Roger moved to follow them, but stopped and turned back to Tom, who was standing stock still with anger and frustration etched into his face.


"...OK," said Roger, "I never see you this angry unless you've got a pebble stuck in your shoe in a painful way or something, so what the hell is-"


"The king!"


"...What?"


"Lord N! He didn't show up at all!"


"...Maybe he had sudden kingly duties to attend to?"

"But he's the king, the guy supposed to lead us into victory to freeing all the Pokemon! I wanted to meet him! Oh, I'm so disappointed I can't even-"


Roger peered over Tom's shoulder.


"...Isn't that him right there?"


Tom did a 180-degree turn in under a millisecond and gasped in delight upon seeing a young man matching the description of N to a T. Said young man was rapidly approaching another.


"It really is him!" said Tom. "I'm gonna walk right over and-"


Roger immediately grabbed Tom and pulled them both into a pair of nearby bushes.


"Tom, hell no. He's probably doing something importa-" Roger said before they both noticed N had struck up a conversation with the other young man.


"Doesn't look like it..." said Tom.


"Look, let's just... Wait and see what happens," said Roger.


And thus the two enacted the age-old tradition of watching from the sidelines.


-------------




After a few minutes, N had gotten into a Pokemon battle with his partner, both had left, and Tom and Roger were both still sitting in the bush, trying to register what had just happened.


"...Okay," said Roger, "I didn't mention it before in case they heard us, but there was something I no-"


"That was so cool!" said Tom."


"Tom, I'm trying to-"


"Lord N made the first real stand against the vicious tyranny of humanity, and even though he lost this occasion, he has such grace and determination that when it comes down to the denouement of this vicious conflict he will surely emerge victori-"


"Did an Elgyem shove a thesaurus into your brain during that fight?"


"....Say what, bro?"


"...Never mind."


Roger then looked back at where the battle had occurred.


"Anyway. Do you remember anything Lord N actually said during that fight?"


"Nope!" said Tom, with a mouth-wide-open smile


"Figured. Anyway... Lord N mentioned several times he could hear what the Pokemon were saying during the battle."


"Wait, he can talk to Pokemon?! He's even more wonderful than I thought!" said Tom, quivering with excitement.


"Well, at the very least it makes him a better leader for our cause than that battle would imply. But on that note I'm curious about something..."


"What?"


"He said the things that the kid's Pokemon said surprised him... And for some reason I feel like that's significant somehow."


"More significant than your favorite TV show being canceled?" said Tom. "I know you went on for days when-"


"...We should get back to the others," said Roger.


Tom shrugged and the two headed off in the direction of their comrades.


-----------------


A few days later, Roger was sitting on his bed in the barracks reading a book, Vladimir peering over his shoulder trying to decipher the text.


This was all promptly interrupted by Tom and Estragon pouncing on Roger, causing his Golett to buzz in alarm and try to pry them both off.


"Agh!" said Roger. "What the hell was that for?!"


"We found it!" said Tom.


"Found what?"


"The King's room! Estragon helped a lot - he's the one who actually found the door!"


Estragon gave a "Scrag!" and churr of approval.


"Wait, you did? Did you actually go in? I hope you didn't interrupt any kingly duti-"


"Er, I actually got too nervous to go in..." said Tom with a sheepish grin. "I would have wanted you with me."


Roger sighed and pinched his brow with his fingers. "Probably a good thing, as I said he's likely very busy."


"Oh, he sure was! He was scribbling math equations on the floor with a crayon! Super seriously. It had to be something important!"


"Wait, math equations? On the ground? With a crayon?!"


"Yup! It must have been important!"


Roger stared at Tom, open-mouthed in disbelief, before turning to his Golett, who merely shrugged. At this, Roger turned back to Tom.


"OK, I changed my mind, I need to see this King of ours and find out what the hell is up with him. How'd you get to his room unnoticed, anyway?"


"Well..."


"Yes?"


"...You remember our senior prank in high school?"


-----------------


In a bright, pastel-colored room filled with all sorts of children's toys, the green-haired young man known as N had finished his mathematical scribblings and was laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, his mind lost in a myriad of rapidly-moving thoughts.


That is, until a Team Plasma grunt burst into the room brandishing a knife.


"Hey,Lord N,you want some fresh-baked brownies?!"


N yelled and crawled back in horror on his hands and knees only to see the Team Plasma grunt in question - Tom- was indeed also holding a pan of brownies.


"I'll cut 'em up while they're still hot, your highness!" said Tom with a grin as he started to do so.


Roger entered the room shortly after. "My apologies, your highness, he's a bit... Enthusiastic."


He proceeded to look around the room with a bewildered look on his face.


"...Is this some weird 'new wave' of throne room design going on here?"


N blinked. "Who... Who are you two?"


"I'm Tom! He's Roger! We're both dedicated to your goal of saving the Pokemon!"


"...What he said," Roger replied.


"...I see," said N.


He got to his feet. It was then Roger noticed that while N seemed very much aware of their presence he was also visibly nervous at it and struggled to maintain eye contact with either of them.


"Usually the only humans" -the last word tinged with a degree of icy resentment- "that come in here are Ghetsis... And Anthea... And Concordia... But you two are Team Plasma. And as you said you're on my side - and more importantly, the side of my friends."


"...Friends?" asked Tom.


"All the world’s Pokemon," replied N.


He started pacing back and forth.


"As far as I remember I've lived among Pokemon, up until Ghetsis took me in. In the years since he's brought many, many Pokemon to me... All beaten, abused, tortured, broken by humanity..."


By now his expression had hardened with anger, even as he kept pacing.


"That's why I've sworn to free every Pokemon from human tyranny, creating a perfect world of black and white. And I have a plan - an elegant formula, of sorts - to pull it off."


By now Roger's expression had hardened much like N's.


"We'll most certainly be behind you the whole way."


"Yeah!" said Tom. "We're the guys you can count on!"


"Thank you, both of you," said N, stopping his pacing to hesitantly nod in approval. Afterward, though, his expression grew puzzled.


"How did you get to my room anyway?"


"Extreme ninja skills!" said Tom, striking a karate pose.


Roger rolled his eyes. "We co-opted some tricks from an old high school prank and-"


"High school? Prank?" said N, blinking in confusion. "What are those?"


This time it was Roger and Tom's turn to blink in surprise.


"You... Don't know what either of those are?" said Roger.


"What about... Toasters?" asked Tom.


"I... Don't know what those are either," said N, shaking his head.


Tom furrowed his brow in thought. "...A calendar?"


"Not that either."


"...The Internet?"


"That sounds interesting, what's it for?"


"All sorts of magical things, but also mean arguments, porn, and terrible fanfi-"


At the last point Roger's expression became horrified and he promptly covered Tom's mouth.


"...Never mind. Is there anything else you need, your highness?"


"...Not particularly. You two can go if you want."


"Alright..."


Roger gazed at N a bit longer before solemnly turning around and walking out. Tom, on the other hand, stayed a bit longer, his smile returning.


"Nice to meet you, Lord N! Looking forward to helping you save all the Pokemon!"


He turned to leave, stopped, turned right back around to leave the pan of brownies in front of N, then hurried after his friend.


N watched them go, then cautiously removed a brownie from the tray and took a bite. His eyes widened, and he proceeded to gleefully consume the entire batch.


----------------


After conversing with N, Tom and Roger were sitting by themselves in their room, Vladimir and Estragon playing a card game with each other, when Roger suddenly spoke.


"You know, I like this King of ours... But he also seems kind of... off."


"Oh, how?" said Tom. "He seemed fine to me."


"Well," said Roger. "He's got all the right ideas about Pokemon liberation. But..."


"But what?"


"He has almost no outside knowledge of the world. None. And from what I heard him say about how he learned of Pokemon suffering combined with that makes me think he's shut himself up in that child's bedroom for years, possibly even until we saw him a few days ago!"


"That... is kinda weird," said Tom, shifting uncomfortably.


He scrunched up his face trying to think of an explanation. "Maybe he's got some crazy psycho side he needs to keep himself in that room for so it doesn't go out of control! Like-"


-------


N walked up to a random person, smiling.


"HI! said N. "My name is N! Do you know what the N stands for?"


"Er, what?" asked the random person.


N suddenly pulled a chainsaw out of nowhere and adopted a psychotic expression.


"No survivors!"


He leapt forward cackling madly with the chainsaw buzzing as the random person screamed.


-------


"...And then he goes on a murderous rampage culminating in-"


"Tom," said Roger, "tell me the truth: Are you hiding anything in your mattress, have you used it recently, and most importantly did you put it in N's brownies?"


"...No?"


"OK, good... It's just... I'm worried something fishy's going on here, but I'm not sure what."


Tom paused again.


"...Well, N still has the same goal we do, and believes in it as much as we do, right?"


"Yeah, true..."


"So we oughta still help him out, right?"


Roger paused himself for a while. "...Alright. But if something is up don't say I didn't warn you."


Tom frowned. "That's not the Team Plasma spirit..."


Their Pokemon looked at each other with concern.


-----------


Vladimir and Estragon had met up again.


"My human... No, Roger... He is having doubts..." said Vladimir. This is concerning..."


"Damn well it is!" said Estragon. "Me and Tom found the king of the Plasma humans doing all the liberating! We were making progress toward that!"


"Still, I cannot help but feel from what Roger said about that N fellow something seems off about him..."


"True. Plus, from the sounds of him on my end he's got the brains but needs a Pokemon partner to truly lead the liberation effort with him! Something tough from right here in Unova like a Zebstrika... Or maybe something from far away like a Pangoro!


He raised his Scraggy paws in the air.


"Heck, maybe even something.... Legendary!"


---------


A few weeks later, things seemed to have settled down. Tom and Roger were stationed in Nimbasa, specifically in the section of the amusement park containing the ferris wheel.


"Alright, Tom," said Roger, "We gotta stay focused; our mission here is to-"


"Hey, it's that meddling kid!" said Tom.


"Wait, where?! We have to stop him!"


"Near the ferris wheel, with Lord N!"


Indeed, the two were talking outside the ferris wheel entrance.


"Shit," said Roger, "Let's get there and help him squash that kid!"


By the time the two had run over, however, N and his companion had already entered a cart on the ferris wheel.


"What the hell is he doing?" said Roger.


"Who cares, we gotta follow 'em!" said Tom.


They rushed up to the next ferris wheel cart behind them and tried to pry it open as they were slowly lifted up with it.


"Tom, help!" said Roger. "I'm having a hard time undoing this latch - didn't you take a mechanics class in school or something?"


"I flunked it! I never paid attention in class!"


"I suppose you never did your homework eith- wait, got it!"


A fair bit of awkward scrambling and clambering to get inside later and Tom and Roger were in their cart, right behind N and his companion. The two had their faces pressed against the front of the car, trying to get a good look at what at what their leader and his supposed enemy were doing.


"What are they saying?" said Tom.


"He's telling the kid he's King of Team Plasma, Ghetsis is..." said Roger.


"We already know that stuff!. Anything else?"


"I can't really pay attention if you're shoving your elbow in my face."


"Your knee is in my crotch!"


The bickering continued until N and his companion's cart reached the bottom. At that point the two Plasma grunts managed to sneak out of their cart and suddenly appear behind N and his companion, standing in formation and making it look as if they'd entered the scene from somewhere else entirely.


"My lord N!" said Tom.


"You're safe, sire!"


N looked backwards slightly, recognised the two, and smiled.


"There's no problem. You're part of the people we brought in to help us save the Pokémon. So, you're under my protection, as well. Go, quickly, and let my battle cover your retreat."


The two nodded and started to make a hasty retreat when Tom got his turn to pull Roger into a pair of nearby bushes.


"What the hell are you doing?! He gave a direct order for us to retreat!" said Roger.


"He's having another battle for the fate of Pokemonkind! We have to watch!"


Roger groaned, only to stay and watch anyway.


-----------


After N and his adversary had completed their battle and gone their separate ways, the bush-dwelling Plasma grunts were once again contemplating what had just happened.


"...He lost to that kid. Again. This isn't good in the slightest."


"He was still utterly magnificent, though!" said Tom.


"Let me guess, you saw an aura of roses and sparkles around him the whole time?"


"...I don't get it."


"Figured. But what's more worrisome is that our king wants to apparently take over the Unova Leauge by force... which sounds less effective to our cause and more like a Pokestar Studios B-movie villain plot."


"That... is kinda funny..." said Tom, scratching his chin.


"But... it makes even less sense because as much as he can't stand up to that twerp, I know from all we see of him N genuinely cares about freeing Pokemon as much as we do."


"Well, if he does... We should keep helping him all the way, right?"


"Normally I'd say yes... but I've been seeing and hearing things making me think Team Plasma's not quite the Pokemon rights organization we thought it was... and that we're in way over our heads."


"Well, there's one thing we could do, though," said Tom.


"And exactly what is that?" said Roger.


Tom grinned. "Visiting N himself again, of course!"


-------


N was pacing back and forth in his pastel room full of toys again when Tom and Roger appeared suddenly at one turn of his stroll, causing him to yelp in surprise only to smile upon recognizing them.


"Ah, it's just you... Tom and Roger, was it? You were truly helpful in that Ferris wheel situation - I have to thank you."


"You're welcome, Lord N!" said Tom. "But Roger here wanted to ask you something!"


N turned, still smiling, to Roger. "What is it?"


"OK, your highness," said Roger. "First time we met, you told us a lot about what you didn't know about the outside world back then. Let's change the subject to what you do know from all the time you've been here in this castle."


N thought to himself a bit. "Some history."


"Like what?"


N's face hardened.


"Thousands of years ago... There were two kings, who ruled jointly alongside a nigh-powerful dragon-god Pokemon whose origins and name have been lost to time. However, the two kings grew conflicted over one's deluded ideal of humans serving Pokemon, and the other's righteous truth of Pokemon being free from humanity."


He started pacing again, with the same expression as before.


"The dragon grew conflicted enough between them to split into two new beings, and a war began that was only stopped when the lesser kingdoms of Unova were threatened. The kings called a truce, and both the truce and their dragons were passed on to their sons..."


The pacing and expression grew worse.


"Only for the Prince of Ideals to betray the Prince of Truth, seal his dragon somewhere within Unova, and use his own dragon to enact a tyranny of humans over mons."


He finally stopped, calmed down, and sighed.

"Ultimately, his own dragon was sealed away itself, but the tyranny remained... But I'm the one destined to stop it. And I full well plan on doing so."


By the end of it all Tom seemed unusually stoic. Roger, on the other hand, was utterly baffled.


"That's... That's not..." he said.


"Not what?" N replied.


"Just... no, it's not important. Thank you for sharing that with us, it was enlightening to our cause."


N smiled again. "You're welcome."


Roger quickly headed out. Tom, looking on confused, followed. N looked on confused at hem both before resuming his thoughtful pacing, more calmly this time.


-------


A few hours later the two had returned to their barracks, Tom was tossing a ball with Estragon while Roger was sulking on the corner of his bed, staring off into space, Vladimir pushing at him to snap him out of it.


Finally Tom turned to Roger, an uncharacteristic look of worry on his face.


"Something wrong, buddy? You've been this way since we last saw Lord N... Whatever it is, I want to help..."


Roger continued to stare at the wall, but after a while responded.


"At first... At first when we talked to him about his goals he seemed like everything we could have hoped for as a leader... But as we kept talking I started getting more questions than answers."


"Like what?"


"Did you ever actually pay attention in Unovan history class or- No, wait, I already know the answer to that."


"Okay then?" said Tom.


"Either way though... His summary of ancient Unovan history was pretty accurate... Except two things that were just plain fucking wrong!"


"Wait, what?!"


"First off, the first kings' conflict wasn't over Pokemon liberation; there was a wholly unrelated romanticism versus enlightenment thing going on there!"


"Romantiswhatsit and enlightenhooey?"


"...As N phrased it, truth and ideals."


"Oh, OK... But go on?"


"Second, past the point where the truce and the dragons were passed on to the king's sons... Everything he said was complete Taurosshit!"


"Wait, how?"


"The Prince of Ideals didn't do anything N said he did! What actually happened was that both princes ignored the truce and started the whole argument right back up again, and it escalated to the point both dragons pretty much blew up Unova!"


"Th-that's impossible!"


"Not for a pair of Legendary god-dragons. It took centuries for Unova to rebuild and recover after that."


Roger put a hand to his chin.


"Now if there's anything I learned from the Internet aside from over-the-top arguments, porn, and-" he shudders- "you know, it's that what school teaches you about history is often total Taurosshit itself. But even so I've never seen or heard an account anything like N's, and combined with the first thing... I feel even more like something weird's going on here."


Tom patted Roger, smiling slightly.


"Hey, cheer up, buddy; things are going just fine, from what I see. Besides, this isn't a video game or something where there's some secret evil mastermind pulling the strings on everything."


He chuckled to himself.


"Really, what are the odds of that?"


------


About a week later, Tom was playfully chasing Estragon through the halls of the castle when he suddenly bumped into a tall man with heavy robes.


The man, who Tom swiftly realized was Ghetsis, turned on him in an instant.


"You whelp! Watch where you're going so you don't disgrace your superiors!"


Tom panicked, stood straight and saluted, though trembled in fear the whole time.


"S-sorry, sir, it won't happen again I swear, please don't kill me!"


Estragon likewise hid behind his leg and cowered.


Just as quickly as he snapped, however - to Tom, almost too quickly - Ghetsis' expression became much softer and apologetic, though in a way that seemed vaguely plastic and artificial even to him.


"Dreadfully sorry about that outburst, young man; I should never treat a valued member of Team Plasma in such a manner."


"You're... Welcome?" said Tom, shifting nervously.


Ghetsis continued to smile at Tom, before adopting a more serious but still unnaturally serene expression.


"Tell me... What's your name?"


"Tom Rosencrantz, sir."


"A fine name, to be sure...But more importantly, do you believe in our cause?"


Tom smiled and nodded.


"Very much, sir! I'll serve Lord N to the end, sir!!"


"Yes, good, good; loyalty is always a most admirable quality... I'm sure you'll continue to do us proud."


Tom's smile faded a bit.


"Ghetsis, sir?"


"Yes?"


"I've heard from... the others you've taught Lord N everything he knows... Is that true?"


"Why yes, of course! He's my only, precious son, and the one destined to save all of Pokemonkind. Of course, there's the issue of that child he's so fascinated with poisoning his innocent mind, but I'm always ready to console him over his doubts from that. And besides..."


Ghetsis proceeded to actually grin, which Tom noted seemed a tad unnerving.


"Everything's going just fine in terms of our plans. Very soon N will have what he needs to defeat the Pokemon League and create the world I- no, we - always wanted."


His expression became more neutral again as he inspected Tom up and down.


"I do hope you'll join us for the occasion?"


"Yes sir!" said Tom. "Looking forward to the big party afterwards too, sir!"


"...I see. Alas, while this conversation has been fascinating, I need to plan something extremely important with N and the Sages. So farewell, Tom. Keep the Team Plasma spirit alive.”


He walked off briskly, not looking back, seemingly trying to get as far away from Tom as quickly as possible. Tom, on the other hand, frowned in disgust as soon as Ghetsis was out of sight.


"Something's really off about that guy..."


Estragon emerged from behind his leg, chittering and nodding rapidly.


"What should we do about it, though?"


Estragon put a paw to his chin in thought for a few seconds, suddenly raised said paw and uttered a "Scrag!" that likely translated to "Eureka!" and pantomimed a scowl and sulking posture.


"Oh, we should tell Roger?"


Estragon returned to his original posture and nodded vigorously.


"Let's do that, then!"


They both hurried back to the barracks.


------------------


"Wait, you actually talked to Ghetsis just a bit ago?!"


"Yeah! It was really unnerving!" said Tom.


"I'm probably gonna regret this but... More detail, please?"


Tom proceeded to explain everything about his conversation with Ghetsis. By the end of said explanation Roger's demeanor was even more dour than usual.


"...OK, now I know we're into way deeper shit than we signed up for."


"Wh-what do you mean?"


"N's isolation, his delusions, his plans - everything you said about Ghetsis pretty much confirms he knows about all that or possibly even orchestrated it all, and that he's hiding something truly nasty from everyone."


He shakes his head, then sighs.


"But I don't know if we can bail out at this point... If we just leave and someone finds out why we're really screwed..."


"But we can't leave! N still needs us!"


"Tom, I'm not even sure N himself knows what's really going on..."


"I don't care! Either way he needs our help!"


"Tom, this is serious, I-"


He was suddenly interrupted by another Plasma grunt barging into their room.


"Yo! We've got a team meeting in thirty minutes!"


"Wait, that soon?" said Tom.


"...What about?" said Roger.


"Apparently something about busting into a creaky old tower to find a legendary dragon-goddess." said the third grunt. "I dunno."


At his words Tom and Roger exchange a very worried glance.


Their mons, who had been listening in all the while, gulped, or the closest equivalent in Vladimir's case.


-----------


"I was right!" said Estragon. "That N guy's getting a Legendary to help him!"


He put a Scraggy paw to his chin. "Problem is with what Roger said a while back about Reshiram I'm not sure whether to be excited or scared..."


"Me?" said Vladimir. "Scared."


"Because one of Reshiram's awesome explosions might end up un-awesome and blow up Unova again?" asked Estragon with a gulp.


"Oh, I am not worried about Reshiram herself; I met her a few times, in days of old..."


"Wait you did?" said Estragon.


"Yes... She is kind, keen to sense out good and righteous people, and dedicated to her role as a goddess of truth..."


He paused.


"She was also admittedly judging from my few encounters blunt, a bad liar, had a self-righteous streak, and was more than a bit prone to abusing her phenomenal power over fire, but no one's perfect."


"Right..." said Estragon. "So what are you scared of if not her?"


"N."


"Huh? Why him?"


"Reshiram seeks those whose hearts are in the right place and are true to themselves... And N meets all of those qualities almost too handily. But Roger's doubts are making me doubt he shall carry out anything good from joining up with her the state he's in now."


"Well..." said Estragon nervously. "He's still got the right ideas, correct?"


"He might," said Vladimir. "What I worry of is the execution."


"I guess..." said Estragon. "But that's gotta wait until it actually happens..."


He started heading off with Vladimir. "Besides, didn't Tom and Roger want us to train up for something?"


----------


"...So are you ready to appease the Dragon of Truth, Reshiram?"


Alone in his room with Ghetsis, N nodded sternly.


"Yes, Father."


"Good," said Ghetsis, "I shall be off the-"


"Oh, Father, one more thing?"


"...Yes, my son?"


"There have these two Team Plasma grunts who have been awfully kind to me, could you pass them along my thanks?" said N. "It's been a while."


Ghetsis raised an eyebrow. "...How have they been kind to you, exactly? And what do they look like?"


"Well, one's got orange hair and blue eyes, the other's got black hair and hazel eyes... They've been coming into my room, telling me about all sorts of wonderful things like the Internet and high school and toasters... And they helped during the Ferris wheel incident too... And they were so attentive and supportive when they explained my cause... Oh, and one of them makes these delicious treats called brownies! You should try some!"


If N were paying more attention to Ghetsis' face he would have noticed his raised eyebrow twitch violently.


"That is all I need to know, I shall pass it along appropriately," said Ghetsis.


"Thank you!" said N, smiling.


Ghetsis walked out of N's room, made sure to close the door gently, walked into a corridor of the castle where he knew N couldn't hear, and screamed violently.


"No, no, no! First I had that impudent boy getting the wrong ideas into that freak's head and now some of my own rank and file may be interfering with them! This cannot happen!"


"Well, we suppose we can't let it happen, can we not?" said a whispery voice from nowhere.


Three ninja-like figures appeared out of thin air. Ghetsis visibly, genuinely relaxed upon seeing them.


"Ah, the Shadow Triad... I can always count on you to clean up any unsightly messes."


"We wouldn't be repaying you if you couldn't, Lord Ghetsis," said The First.


"What unsightly mess do you need taken care of this time?" said The Second. "Something about our own intervening?"


"There are two Team Plasma Grunts that may be very well be giving N the wrong ideas much like that meddling brat. If they directly intervene with him again I need you to ensure there are no repeat instances."


"Consider it done," said The Third.


And they vanished into thin air as quickly as they arrived.


-----------

A week later, Tom and Roger were idling around near the top of Dragonspiral Tower, waiting for something, anything, to happen.


"Remember, Tom," said Roger, "as much as we know there's something sinister going on here we've got to keep our cover and thus one, make sure N makes friends with the highly explosive goddess dragon, and two, beat the crap out of that kid if he gets up here, especially since N handpicked us to be this close to the top."


"Alright then!" said Tom. "Besides, there's a team of four guys below us, he'll never make it past that!"


"Tom, please, for the love of Cobalion, don't tempt fate."


"Sorry…” said Tom, shifting his body uncomfortably.


"...Roger?" he continued.


"Yes?"


"Remind me... The Pokemon N's trying to befriend... Her name's Reshiram, she's the great dragon-goddess of truth, and she can incinerate things with her mind?"


Roger blinked. "...Yes, as far as I know all that's correct."


Tom beamed. "Then I have the perfect thing to celebrate her joining our cause! A playlist just for her!"


He then pulled a "Portable Plasma Speaker" with a smartphone inserted out of seemingly nowhere. Said speaker was playing "Disco Inferno" at full blast.


Roger immediately yanked the music player out of Tom's hands and threw it over the edge of one of Dragonspiral's platforms. The music faded as the player fell before it was silenced completely by the faintest of crashes.


"Hey! Why'd you do that?!"


"Because I know for a fact that's the only song on the playlist."


Tom stared at Roger in confusion. "...Did you discover you have Psychic powers? Auric ones? Or those weird Ob-"


"It's a power I've had for a long time. It's called 'knowing you for years and well enough that's exactly the kind of stunt you'd try to pull.'"


Roger was about to retort when a roar that shook the foundations of the tower occurred, accompanied by a spike in temperature.


"Burn baby burn!" Tom cheered.


"Tom! Don't start singing it anyway!"


"I wasn't! And what's so bad about a musical celebration anyway?"


"One, we both know this is all heading in a direction that is decidedly not pleasant, as much as you're trying to deny it."


"...I- you- we..."


"Two, despite that, it's even worse if we screw up! If N, or worse, Truthy McBurndragon sees or hears you goofing off who knows what'll go wrong!"


"Me?! Well you-"


The two got into a heated argument that lasted for several minutes until Roger noticed something out of the corner of his eye.


"Um, Tom? As much as I hate interrupting one of our traditional bickering episodes, we've got company."


Tom himself turns to see the young man that had been hounding Team Plasma all these months was now standing directly before them, silently and stoically.


"Er, one moment sir?" said Tom.


He and Roger got into a huddle and began whispering to each other.


"Shit, it's him! I told you not to tempt fate!" said Roger.


"I know, I'm so sorry, what are we gonna do?!" said Tom.


"We prepared and planned for if we had to fight this guy, remember?"


"Wait... Yeah, now I remember!"


"Good. Now stick to the fucking script we planned."


The two simultaneously separated and turned to their adversary with smug smiles on their faces.


"So you've come this far huh, feeble Trainer," Roger said with the best he could attempt at an evil chuckle.


"Well you're luck's run out," said Tom, "Because we're the ones hand-picked by Lord N to take you down as awesomely as possible."


The two sent out their Pokemon, revealing both had evolved. Vladimir the Golurk cracked his knuckles while Tom's Scrafty beat his fists together.


"We've toughened up our mons just for you!" said Roger.


"Are you ready to face total domination?” said Tom.


Their opponent briefly broke his stoicness to roll his eyes and sent out an Emboar and Simisage.


"How crude; at least this should be easy," said Roger.


"Prepare for a pummeling!" said Tom.


------


Two extremely traumatic minutes later, Roger and Tom's mons were lying broken on the ground. The meddling trainer had already vanished heading in N's direction, as the two tended to their mons.


"Vladimir! I'm so sorry, I always wanted to avoid you getting hurt like this..." said Roger.


"You did good, Estragon, you did good..." said Tom.


Both mons staggered to their feet and gave their trainers a thumbs up, causing both of said Trainers to smile... before immediately turning on each other.


"You know, we could have won if you hadn't had Golurk Shadow Punch the not-really-a-Simisage," sad Tom.


"How was I supposed to know it was actually a Zoroark?!" said Roger. "And it's not like Estragon fared much better against that Emboar..."


"He barely got the chance to Dragon Dance before he got Hammer Armed right in the sweet spot; it wasn't my fault!"


Roger sighed. "Look, this is stupid, we should-"


Just then another roar echoes through the tower alongside a spike in heat, and the two Plasma grunts could distinctly hear the sound of something large taking off into the sky.


"He... He did it! I think N made friends with the dragon!"


"If he did..." said Tom, "It could turn out either very well or very badly..."


He thinks a bit to himself for a moment.


"But I think I know a way we could very possibly make things better..."


"Oh? Like what?"


Roger smiles a bit.


"What you started us doing in the beginning of all this: Have a good talk with N himself."


----------


Some weeks later, in what looked much more like a royal throne room than the child's playroom he used to frequent, N was having an extended conversation with a large, white-feathered dragon when Tom, Roger, and their Pokemon entered the scene. Roger's Golurk bowed in the presence of the Legendary, while Tom's Scrafty looked at her in awe.


Reshiram was the first to notice the four, regarding them rather curiously. N in turn noticed them soon afterwards.


"Oh, hello, Tom, Roger. I take it you're here to see Reshiram? She's magnificent, isn't she?"


Reshiram in turn greeted the others with a light, friendly growl.


"Er, well, partially," said Roger, "but-"


"Most definitely!" said Tom, presenting a surprisingly competent drawing of the massive white dragon.


Reshiram leaned in to inspect the drawing for a few seconds, then snarled viciously and incinerated it with a puff of flame from her mouth.


"Wait, why'd you do that?!" said Tom.


N blinked and turned to Reshiram. "Why did you do that?"


Reshiram huffed and gave a low growl. N nodded in response, turned back to Tom, and shrugged.


"Apparently they just can't get her nose right."


Tom stares for a few seconds before shaking and trembling.


"I... I'm sorry to have displeased you, my lady..."


Reshiram's expression softened and she gave an apologetic wave of her wing and a much softer growl.


"She says it's alright," said N.


After that, Roger's Golurk and Tom's Scrafty approached Reshiram and the three struck up a conversation of their own. Tom looked on for a bit, fascinated, before turning to N.


"What are they talking about, Lord N? They say you taught yourself Pokemon language..."


"I did," said N. "And well, Roger's Golurk is talking about the old days at Dragonspiral...."


"And Estragon?"


"He's... Asking her things like how big of an explosion she can make."


Tom beams. "That's my boy!"


Roger, who had been silent the whole time, finally approached N and spoke up.


"...Your highness?"


"Yes, Roger?"


Roger gulped, shook his head and continued.


"...Have you ever had any doubts that what you're doing with Team Plasma is really the right thing? Or at least, if the way you're doing it is the right thing?"


N listened intently, putting his hand to his chin and thinking a bit before finally giving a response. At the same time, overhearing the question caused Reshiram's attention to shift from the other mons to Roger and N.


"For most of my life... No. But..."


"But what?"


"That boy and his Pokemon... They filled me with doubts... His Pokemon seemed... genuinely happy to serve him and fight for him and didn't mind getting hurt like I always hated... It went against what I'd seen all throughout my childhood, and as I saw the world more in recent months, I saw more Pokemon like that, and felt like something was... wrong."


He shook his head.


"But Ghetsis... He's always reminded me that for every Pokemon like that there are many more genuinely suffering..."


He then turned to Reshiram.


"And you... When you joined my side, we bonded over many things, but most of all the truth I pursue you grew to pursue as well; the truth that humans should harm Pokemon no longer."


At this Reshiram made no sound, but instead smiled brightly.


N's expression on turning away from Reshiram, by contrast, morphed into a scowl as his tone of voice turned truly icy.


"That boy... as much as I liked him, thought he was different from the others who enslave Pokemon willingly... He was said to be the one to become the hero of ideals, the one who would summon Reshiram's counterpart Zekrom and provide my final trial to creating the world I dream of... But he still hasn't come close. If he truly is a false hero I'd be disgusted with myself for daring to think he'd somehow found a better way..."


The unusual level of malice and resentment in N's words sent a chill down Roger's spine. Glancing over at Reshiram he saw even she was unnerved.


"...But ultimately, the truth of that matter will take time to emerge. For now, I must focus on one part of the formula that will create the world I want: Defeating the Champion and using my influence to create a world where Pokemon will be truly free - truly perfect!"


Roger himself thought long and hard about how to respond.


"N... Don't get me wrong; I admire your cause and your determination and your good will towards it all... But don't you find some the finer details of your life... Odd?"


"...What?"


"You've been raised in a child's bedroom with only abused Pokemon for company most of your life, you have no knowledge of the outside world except for some skewed history, your plan to liberate Pokemonkind is eerily close to a straight-ought region takeover, and worst of all your own father seems to be trying to convince you those are all good things! Don't you see something's wrong here?"


N stares at him in shock before shaking his head.


"Roger... That's ridiculous. How could someone like you hold such delusions?"


"Me, the delusional one? You're the one trapped in your own delusions, and you need to get out of them for the good of yourself and everyone el-"


Roger was stopped by Tom putting his hands on his shoulders and glaring into his eyes.


"Roger. Not here. Not now."


"...T-T-om, what the hell? This isn't like you..."


"I don't care," said Tom. "We're leaving. Now."


He quickly escorted Roger out, their mons following more hesitantly. Both N and Reshiram watched them go, worry and conflict etched visibly on both their faces.


There was a distinct flicker in the shadows that went unnoticed by all.


---------------


Once Tom had dragged Roger back to their room, their mons following soon after, Roger immediately broke free of Tom's grip and turned on him.


"What the everloving fuck was that all about?! I was trying to help him!"


Tom's expression and posture shifted from uncharacteristically enraged to sulking and apologetic.


"I... I didn't want to see you two fight... I didn't want you to stop the goal we all had..."


He turned away from Roger and closed his eyes.


"Besides, even if I wanted to stop him... Even if you were right... You heard Lord N. Your words meant nothing to him."


Roger opened his mouth to retort, but paused before slouching on his bed in resignation.


"You're right. You're damn well right."


He buried his head into his hands.


"Cobalion damn it... We joined this whole organization to help Pokemon... To save them from millennia of abuse and slavery... But we just got suckered into helping something that'll bring disaster to all of Unova..."


He starts shaking uncontrollably.


"A-and to think I did it for her sake..."


"...Her?" said Tom.


Roger stops trembling, removes his head from his hands, and stares off into space for a while before turning back to Tom.


"I'm the one who taught you about Pokemon rights. I'm the one who helped drag you into this horrible mess. It's about time I told you why."


He stands up and hesitates before speaking again.


"...Her name was Hazel."


"Who was she?"


"She was a Deino... Battered, bruised, broken by an abusive Trainer... And to top it all off used for mass breeding for shadier circles... But since Deino have such bad reputations, I was the only one willing to take her in..."


He gave a smile wider and more genuine than Tom had seen in months.


"Once she trusted me... She was the sweetest, most playful Pokemon you could imagine. She was the first Pokemon friend I ever had, and I always made sure to keep her happy..."


The smile disappeared.


"But then she got sick... Terribly sick... The abuse she endured affected the inside of her body as much as the outside..."


Tears started streaming down his face.


"All I could do was watch her wither away until she drew her last breath..."


The tears stopped flowing as he shook his head.


"I tried to move on... But because of her death, I always believed Pokemon should be free from humans. That's why I convinced you that was the case. That's why we joined Team Plasma and unwittingly got ourselves involved in this whole mess."


Tom simply stood silently though the story, staring at Roger, his eyes watering.


"Roger... Roger, I'm so sorry..."


"It's fine. I should have told you sooner..."


"But the reason I stopped you is because Lord N can still save every Pokemon! And I want him too even more now so you get your wish for Hazel's sake!"


"Tom, it's all a lie!"


Tom staggered back at the sudden shout.


"What... But you... You were the one..."


"Back then that was different! We were a couple of buddies who joined what we thought was a honest Pokemon liberation effort. Now we're in a murky region-takeover scam and we didn't realize everyone's having the wool pulled over our eyes until it was too late!"


"R-Roger... N can still change things... He can still make everything right!"


"N's had the wool pulled over his eyes as much as everyone else has! He needs to be stopped!"


At that, the shadows flickered. Vladimir and Estragon backed toward their Trainers nervously but defensively.


"What is-" Tom started to say.


The Shadow Triad apparated into the room in just the right positions to corner Tom, Roger, Estragon, and Vladimir. The latter two whimpered in response.


"You two have stuck your little heads much further in than you should have," said The First.


"Lord Ghetsis doesn't like that, and we could just make you disappear. But you're both pathetic enough we'll let you off with a warning for now," said The Second.


"You can spectate N's bringing about of Lord Ghetsis' perfect world as much as you wish... But if you dare directly interfere again... You'll pay the price."


And they were gone. At this point Tom and Roger were clutching each other tightly.


"Wh-What just..." said Roger.


"Those guys... They wanted to kill us..."


Roger suddenly rounded on Tom. "This is your fault!"


"What?!" said Tom. "How is-"


"Your insistence on that N idiot, that horrible way you cling to some hollow, empty idea of hope... It's going to get us both killed!"


"Roger, you can't... N can still... we can still..."


"N can't do zilch but burn the world to the ground! And you can't do zilch, you dumbass, worthless excuse of a friend!"


At this Tom's tears welled up fully, and he ran off out of the room sobbing. Estragon gave a startled "Scraf!" and followed. Vladimir moved to follow, but gave the closest his species could to a scowl to Roger.


"Oh fuck off, you oversized action figure," said Roger.


He leaned exhausted emotionally and physically against the walls of the room. "Besides... the raid on the Pokemon League is all too soon... and most likely it's there where everything is truly decided."


--------------------


"Tom!" shouted Estragon, running through the halls. "Where are you buddy? Come back!"


He noticed Vladimir approaching from behind and turned on him with a scowl. "You! Why didn't you stop them?!"


"Stop them?" said Vladimir.


"Oh, look at you, trying to act all stoic as usual!" said Estragon. "This whole affair is a disaster! Tom and Roger had it bad and those ninja freaks showed up and made it even worse and now they've been torn apart! How can you be calm and neutral in a time like this?!"


"I am not neutral," said Vladimir. "I did not approve of Roger's actions. I especially did not approve of the dark trio's actions. But you must realize Tom and Roger are scared and in pain at the moment, as are you."


"Of course I'm scared!" said Estragon. "Everything's going up in flames, probably literally with Reshiram around! And Roger's right..."


He started tearing up. "We don't have any hope at this point..."


He was met by a surprisingly gentle hug from his Golurk companion.


"Easy now... Roger is wrong. Tom is right. Hope is the one thing we must cling to even in the darkest of times in order to survive them."


Estragon broke the hug and wiped his eyes. "Y-Yeah... You're right..."


"Tom and Roger are not ready for us yet..." said Vladimir. "This dark cloud over Unova must pass..."


"Well," said Estragon, "We'll keep hope it does."


--------------


In the throne room, N sat, waiting. He had already swept the Pokemon League and crushed the Champion Alder. He full well knew his adversary was approaching. He already had Reshiram prepare for a grand entrance.


What he didn't know was that two grunts were watching and waiting themselves, hidden in the throne room's nooks and crannies.


"...So you showed up anyway." said Roger, noticing Tom with a scoff.


"Well, of course I did," said Roger. "I'm not letting you or the Shadow Triad or anyone stop me from anything."


He sighed and looked over to N


"This is it... I'm not sure whether to be excited or scared..."


"Me? Scared," said Roger.


Soon after, the young man had entered the room, N had given a rousing speech, and Reshiram had made a dramatic entrance to face him. As N demeaned the boy's lack of his own dragon,
however, a black stone emerged from his bag and grew and warped into such a dragon, thick-scaled and jet-black to contrast Reshiram's white feathers.


"He really is the other hero..." said Tom.


"...You know, this fight's in a way not just a measure of which of those two are right," said Tom.


"Oh?"


"It'll show which of us is right as well."


Tom gulped, and the two of them went back to doing all they could do: Watch the spectacle from afar.


------------------


The struggle was over. N and Reshiram had been defeated. Ghetsis had revealed his true nature as the mastermind of Team Plasma, cruelly using N and the others as tools, only to be defeated himself. He was swiftly apprehended, leaving N and his rival to reconcile before N flew off on Reshiram and the other young man headed his own way.


The only two people left in the room where Tom and Roger, both trying to get a grip on all that had just happened.


"...I was right," said Roger, tears welling up in his eyes. "I fucking hate to admit it, but I was right. At... At least that kid stopped Unova from getting blown up again..."


"Lord N... What he stood for... What we stood for... It was just a lie..." said Tom.


He fell to his knees.


"I feel... Broken."


Roger gave him an aside glance.


"If it helps... I feel that way too. And after his whole life and worldview got torn down just now... N seemed that way as well."


Suddenly the Shadow Triad flickered into existence before them. Tom and Roger flinched, expecting the worst, but they quickly noticed the three looked as defeated as they.


"Even if technically, you did not break our verdict," said The First.


"And we have Ghetsis' state to attend to," said The Second.


"So consider yourselves unworthy of our attention... For now." said The Third.


They dissipated. Roger spit in the direction of where they had briefly appeared. Tom simply sighed and stood up again.


"I... I wish we could help N still..."


"It's too late for that now," said Roger. "The best we can do is put what he learned to heart ourselves... That Pokemon and humans truly are partners."


"Lurk," said a voice.


The two Grunts turned around to see their Pokemon standing not too far behind them.


Roger smiled. "You guys were there the whole time, were you?"


"Does that mean you wanna stay with us?" asked Tom.


Both Pokemon nodded, chittering and beeping


"Awesome!" said Tom.


He immediately rushed up to Estragon and hugged him, Estragon reciprocating immediately.


Vladimir, by contrast, tromped over to his Trainer and pulled him into a big hug with its massive arms.


Roger, after hesitating, returned the favor.


-----------------


A few years later, Tom and Roger, in normal clothes, were idling on a park bench, Tom playing video games and Roger browsing the Internet on a smartphone. Estragon and Vladimir were engaged in friendly sparring nearby.


Roger eventually looked up from his cellphone and sighed.


"What's wrong?" asked Tom.


"Just remembered it's been three years since our whole Plasma debacle."


"Oh yeah... Doesn't feel that long, though."


"Probably because last year Ghetsis tried again."


"Oh, right..."


Tom pondered for a second. "Any sign of N?"


"Some rumors of him helping stop Neo Plasma, but that's it."


Tom was silent again before shutting off his 3DS, putting it away, and standing tall with a grin.


"You know what I want us to do, then?"


"Something less outlandish than your stunt last week of trying to sell your "Drampa dung art" to the Castelia City Gym?


"Yes! We're gonna find N again!"


"...Not sure if less outlandish but first, why?"


"Well, first, it'd be an adventure, which would be cool. Second..."


His smile got a bit softer.


"He was our only real friend in Plasma... It'd be nice if we could see him again, you know?"


Roger pondered the second bit and eventually smiled.


"Alright, let's give it a shot."


He proceeded to scratch his chin.


"But he could be anywhere... How do we even look for him?"


"Vladimir can learn Fly, right?"


Tom pulled out a Fly HM. "Here ya go."


At this, Roger grinned. "Alright then. On an adventure we go."


--------------------


In a grassy field, a familiar green-haired young man was talking to an equally familiar white dragon.


Both were rather startled when a Golurk descended into the clearing and its passengers - two humans and a Scrafty - hopped off and headed toward them.


"N! Reshiram! We finally found you!" said Tom.


N backed away towards Reshiram, as she took a fighting stance.


"Who are you?! How do you know who I am?!"


"...Oh, fuck, you probably don't remember us." said Roger.


"...I did not think that part through..." said Tom.


"Why is always the most important parts you don't think through?"


"Hey! You only realized a few seconds ago yourself!"


At the sight of them bickering, however, N's eyes slowly widened.


"Wait... Tom? Roger?"


The two instantly stopped bickering and stared at N for a bit before reacting.


"He actually remembers us?!" said Roger, looking at N in shock and disbelief


"He actually remembers us!" said Tom, beaming.


Reshiram took a good long look at the two before giving a huff of recognition. N himself relaxed and smiled. "Good to see you two again."


"Anyway," said Roger, "a question related to us meeting up again... Why do you remember us, out of all those random grunts?"


N smiled, and Roger noticed he seemed far better at keeping eye contact than three years prior.


"There were many rank-and-file members of Plasma... Many didn't truly believe in the cause, and they joined Ghetsis when he resurrected the team... Others did, were loyal and learned the same lessons I did, continuing to help Pokemon, which someday I should come back and thank them for..."


His smile grew wider.


"But you two were some of the few to reach out to me personally, instead of just viewing me as a ruler... The few encounters we had, you two truly cared about me as a person... And so you stuck in my mind long after."


Tom was practically squirming with excitement at N's words. Roger was more subdued, but still smiling.


"Now," continued N, "a question of my own I'm curious about... why did you two join Team Plasma?"


"I joined because Roger taught me about Pokemon liberation!"


He frowned slightly.


"Roger had a kinda different reason but he-"


"No, I'll tell him."


Roger hesitated, but looked N deep in the eyes.


"There was a Deino named Hazel that was abused horribly in so many ways until I took her in... She was my closest friend until the effects of the abuse did her in... I joined Plasma to prevent any Pokemon suffering like she did ever again, but..."


He grew silent. N's demeanor had also become rather grave.


"Alder had a similar story... I called him weak for it and I'm disgusted at myself for it to this day long after he forgave me... But you..."


He put a hand on Roger's shoulder and smiled.


"I think Hazel would be proud of you."


Roger tears up and gives a small smile back.


N then turned to Tom.


"And finally... How do you make those delicious brownies?"


"Oh, just cocoa powder, flour, loads of chocolate chips, a bucket of love, and last but not least..."


Tom leaned in and whispered in N's ear.


"...Where do I find that one?" said N.


"I can tell you some good places," said Tom with a wink.


"Er, alright?"


Tom smiled mischievously, but suddenly frowned.


"...What do we do now?"


Roger shrugged. "Hang out a bit, talk about how our lives have been going?"


"Fine by me," said N. "You two are good practice for talking to other humans..."


Reshiram, who had been listening and watching the whole time, suddenly gave a low growl that caused N to turn his attention to her.


"Oh? You want some time alone with these two?"


Reshiram nodded.


"Very well."


N headed off. Reshiram, meanwhile, stared directly at Roger.


~Yo, former grunt of the century,~ said Reshiram's voice, echoing in Roger's mind.


Roger clutched his head. Wait, Reshiram? I thought only N could talk to you!


~N can talk to any Pokemon he wants. Most of us Legendaries, likewise, can talk to any human we want, though we usually don't make that too widely known.~


OK, but... Why me?


~Well, first off N's my best friend, and any friend of his is a friend of mine too. So thanks to you both for trying to help him out, and I agree with everything he said about you.~


Thank you, again.


~That being said... I'm feeling like you should give your buddy Tom some appreciation yourself. It seems like he's still a bit hurt over what happened and could use an extra push to show you care.~


...How do you know that?



Reshiram smiled mischievously. ~I'm the great dragon-goddess of truth that can incinerate things with her mind. I can pick up on these things.~


"Roger," said Tom, "Are you and Reshiram having a staring contest?"


Roger jumped, then calmed down and shifted sheepishly.


"Er, no, she's just... really fascinating, you know?" he said. "Anyway, Tom... Can I tell you something?"


"Sure, what is it?"


Roger paused, then took a deep breath before continuing.


"I know we bicker a lot and I have to always keep you under control and you never cease to baffle me or frustrate me or both... But I still care about you so much because you're a fun, sweet guy and you're one of the best friends I've ever had."


Tom's jaw dropped, and he remained speechless for a fair bit before speaking again.


"You... You really mean that?"


"Every last word. Really, in the grand scheme of things... We're both messed up. That's why we need each other."


Tom replied with a wide grin and a fist held vertically towards Roger. "Total bros?"


Roger grinned just as widely and bumped Tom's fist with his own. "Total bros."


With that Reshiram smiled and followed N, Tom and Roger immediately doing likewise. Having stayed on the sidelines the whole time, Estragon and Vladimir watched them go before turning to each other.


<Well, it appears that we have learned that the bonds of friendship can withstand great strife, and work past great differences as well,> said Vladimir.


<Also, make sure the seemingly well-intentioned organization you're in isn't trying to take over the world.> said Estragon.


<...That too, I suppose...>


And so the two mons headed off as well.


***


Alright, thank you for reading! I'm eagerly awaiting anyone's' feedback, but there's some things you should know, silly and serious:


First, the "Disco Inferno" gag is a homage to a similar gag in Myths Of Unova, a Nuzlocke comic of Pokemon White by the awesome and marvelously talented Kynim, and used with her permission. Go look up her art and Nuzlocke comics if you can, they're amazing - and the original joke in Myths of Unova is infinitely funnier than my version.


Second... Hazel's story is based on a real-life pit bull I worked with in an animal shelter years ago with a very similar story. So... This story is dedicated to her, and to all those other pit bulls who need a second chance.

Third, this fic was originally tied with Venina Silente's Overlord in the criminal Intent contest! Go check it out - especially since in honor of the tie Overlord is semi-canon to my Yangverse project!

Fourth, have some lovely illustrations of Tom and Roger here and here, by artists autobottesla and mustachossom, respectively!
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