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Enigma

Chapter Text

It was the fifth anniversary of their hopeless search. Beer cans were popped open, golden foam frothing over and onto overworked hands, lights dimmed in sarcastic celebration. The air hung heavy with smelly cigarette smoke from the older, tired officers who sunk in plastic chairs and muttered their woes to each other. Younger officers loitered nervously by open windows, sucking in breaths of city air and traffic noise, holding cups filled with pretzels or overripe grapes.

The inspector rattled one of his empty beer cans against a plastic table. The murmuring and smoking ceased momentarily, all bloodshot eyes on him. “My good men and women, I applaud your bravery and patience during these last five years.”

A young freckled officer leaned against the windowsill and let out a laugh. Solemn nodding followed in a wave through the small crowd.

He raised his crumpled beer can high and addressed them, “Thank you for holding so adamantly onto nothing during our valiant quest for justice. Your fruitless efforts have not been wasted. Cheers!”

The officers raised and rattled their beer cans and pretzel cups at the truth, laughing with insincere joy. Two boys whooped and clapped one another on the back. Dull chatter spouted up again and attention was turned away from the inspector as he sadly shook the soundless contents of his empty can.
It did not feel like it had been five years. It felt like it had been a century, and yet, looking back on the busier days, it felt only like a week ago. They were essentially a cleanup crew. It was their job to do what no one else wanted to, what no one else thought they could do. Every member complained about it insistently. Team Plasma was an odd gang of ragtag rebels that dissolved years ago. Chasing a group of criminals dismissed by the world like a bad dream was not anyone’s idea of an ideal job.

Plasma had started off as protest group that bordered on cult-like obsession. Their obsessiveness grew, as did their numbers, and when no one took them seriously, they struck. Their turn to crime began to worry the public, and what was next happened too fast for anyone to comprehend. Dragons from storybooks came to life, a castle rose from the earth, and fear took the region by storm. It was put to a stop in a heartbeat, but the shockwaves affected the region for years. The police forces within Unova set to work arresting as many members and leaders as they could. This little station in Castelia City prided themselves on their job as the head of the mission, with their famed investigator Swartz, and it gave them even more press and recognition than they already had. It was their job to find two most wanted leaders of the cult: sage Ghetsis and the elusive figurehead “N”.

But, the job took far longer than they expected it to. Two years in and they only had a few headings on their locations, with the help of an Interpol member called Looker. Looker was eventually removed from the operation for being uncooperative, and communications with outside sources began to fade. That’s when Plasma had resurgence. They were more violent, more prepared, and not afraid to hide their terrorist intentions. The icy weapon created by Neo-Plasma was devastating. Once again, they were stopped in the nick of time. And once again, Castelia Station 5 was responsible for the major clean up.

The officers had only recently found Ghetsis. No information on the details of Team Plasma’s true intentions could be gleaned from him. According to ex-members, he was the mastermind schemer during the whole ordeal. It was too late when they got to him. The old man was too far gone. He had forgotten everything, and with disappointment, the inspector let him move off to a nursing home instead of wasting cell space. His three unusual body guards swore they knew nothing, and went with him loyally.
It had been five years. Each officer complained and asked one another when they would stop concerning themselves with a dead mission. They complained about their miserable lives and blamed the International Police for assigning them such an impossible task. In truth, the Interpol believed they had dropped it. Castelia Station 5 was forgotten. Deep down, everyone involved knew it. Blaming the Interpol was the perfect scapegoat for the dullness of Castelia crime and nostalgia for fame made them hang on until their knuckles turned white with strain.

Yet, everyone wanted it to end. Pointless hope promised that the last pieces of the attacks would fall into place.

It was impossible. The last piece was this enigmatic “N”.

He wasn’t even real.

All proof suggested one thing. There was no evidence that a person with his physical description, age, and name had ever been born. This “King N” was entirely imaginary. A fake figure created to intimidate the public, a fantasy to worship and to gather a following.

They were chasing a fictional being.

The last beers were taken from the blue cooler and downed. Smoke finally cleared from the room once the cigarette buds had been snuffed and the embers lay dying in the pan, allowing the breathless men and women to leave the windows and dump their empty snack cups into the overflowing trashcan.

Day shift officers left for the night in silence, taking their jackets and pokemon partners with them. Remainders settled back into their chairs or paced down the halls in whispering pairs as they waited for any call from a citizen in need.

A young dark skinned man rested against the wall and wished his visiting friend goodbye, waving him off with a bored hand movement, “G’night, O’Brian.”

“Night, Gödel,” smirked Hugh O’Brian as he slipped on his warm jacket before he stepped out into the early spring night, “Have fun staying up.”

Officer Gödel raised his eyebrows and tipped an invisible hat in sarcastic politeness to his friend. When the door closed for the last time that night, he crossed his arms and tapped his foot thoughtfully, dreaming of all the impossible things he wished to accomplish, until he nodded off to the sounds of a sleepy city.

“The hell. The HELL.”

Gödel awoke to the sound of Officer Skip swearing. His eyes took a minute to adjust with the bright spring light pouring white through the little square window next to him. The pain in his eyes lessened before the pain in his neck and legs did. That’s what he got for falling asleep sitting against a wall.

“What’s going on?” he yawned, approaching Skip, who was pacing back in forth with the station phone against his ear. He twisted the swirly black phone cord in his fingers. Gödel wished silently that they would update the tech in this dirty old place.

As soon as Gödel noticed the inspector sitting on the wooden desk with his head in his bony hands, leg shaking, he knew something at least decently important was happening. He made eye contact with Skip and then the woman with her arms crossed in the corner, begging for information.

Skip looked away with his thin brown eyes and continued his pacing, “Pick back up, pick back up. The absolute hell.”

The woman, Estelle Tucker, motioned for him to come over with her strong arms. Gödel slowly approached and asked again, under his breath, “Do you know what’s going on?”
Tucker blinked a few times and breathed in, as if preparing herself. She looked at him straight on and told him, “You won’t believe it, but…”

He nodded, urging her forward.

“We think we found N.”

Blinking in surprise, Gödel placed his palm to the side of his head, absolutely stumped. “The hell is right.”

Tucker was a tall woman, far bigger than Gödel knew he would ever be. Nearly bouncing with excitement, she seemed even taller than usual. She continued with contained vigor,
“From what I’ve heard, two officers found him during patrol early in the morning. He collapsed next to an alleyway from dehydration or something along those lines. Luckily your friend, O’Brian was it? Yes, well he lives nearby and they called him to help. I didn’t know he knew emergency aid.”

“Bless you, Hugh,” Gödel sighed, clutching his hands together and allowing himself to grin.

“They’re at an emergency room right now. We’re just waiting for a response,” she paused and they both watched Skip and Inspector Swartz fidget for a moment, “Damn, is this really happening? What if it’s a false alarm?”

“It’s hard to mistake just anyone for N.”

Tucker elbowed him, “Don’t get my hopes up.”

At last the line picked up, and Skip almost jumped out of his uniform when it did. He immediately chided the two officers on the other end, “Where the hell were you? I’ve been pacing around for hours! You’ve kept the inspector waiting!”

“Clam it, Skip, and ask them what’s happening,” snapped the inspector from his precarious perch.

After a while of tense silence and plenty of “Uh-huh” and “Oh” from Skip, he said “Good luck” and put back the old phone with click. He looked back up at them, his body stiff and eyes wide, forcing out his words, “They’ll be back within two hours.”

“With or without N?” demanded Gödel.

“With.”

The inspector and the officers already at the station rushed around excitedly for the next two hours. Garbage and pretzel crumbs where cleaned up from last night’s party as Skip tried to occupy his shaking hands. His growlithe happily assisted him. Almost all of the officers involved for the past five years were hurriedly called into the building by the nervous inspector. Most of them showed up as fast as they could.

Soon it was as busy at nine in the morning as it was on holidays. Someone would move the trash can to one spot, and another would move it back. Windows were opened and closed. The interrogation room was repeatedly checked and cleaned. They all felt quite silly getting this excited over one person. Especially if it was a false alarm. But, how often did anyone get to handle a fictional crime leader with magical powers?

Gödel however, despite his own energy, stayed with his arms crossed in the corner. He was as excited as the others, but anger and frustration also mingled within him. He couldn’t wait to give that man what was coming to him.

When the trademark red and blue lights flashed at the window, everyone fell quiet and still. Bodies stiffened, and the officers when to their places, either patrolling the mostly empty holding cells or loitering and talking with each other. The inspector sat at his desk, pretending to scribble away as he usually did. They weren’t going to act stupefied in that man’s presence.

The door beeped as it opened. Momentary stiffness rolled through the crowd, but they tried to remain relaxed. Skip found himself fiddling with the phone cord again. An older officer played with her belt. Conversations were hushed. The two officers took an eternity to get through the main door and into the open.

The two of them had N between them, cuffed, and they held onto his shoulders fearlessly. Hugh trailed behind them with an inappropriately jolly look on his face, still in his purple pajamas and his black hair sticking in all directions.

Most of them lost their composure and stared. There he was, the enigma, slumped between two of their officers with his head down in defeat. His long, curly, and unusually green hair hung over his face, hiding his features shamefully. His feet were dragging. The sight made the officers swell up with pride. Even the inspector peeked up from his papers.

“Take him to interrogation, I’ll be there in a minute,” Inspector Swartz grumbled.

The two officers nodded and dragged him to the room, Hugh following. Before Hugh slipped in behind them, Godel snagged him by the wrist. He hissed under his breath, “What do you think you’re doing? Wipe that stupid grin off your face.”

“I’m going in with them, of course. He’s still a little unstable; I need to be there just in ca”-

“No, you do not,” his friend reassured him hotly, “you’re not involved with this, Hugh. Go home.”

“Not involved? Are you serious?” Hugh said with disdain rising behind his unshaken grin, “Look, you’re not the only ones who’ve been looking for him.”

“I don’t care if you’ve been looking for him,” snapped Godel, “It’s not your job.”

“It doesn’t have to be about a job. I’m allowed to have a personal life, you know. Unlike you.”

He gently pushed his friend away from the interrogation door, “Shut up. You and your pop star girlfriend have been keeping secrets about this Plasma business. Don’t think we’re gonna let you in on it now.”

Hugh kicked him in the knee with his slippers, “Calling out my girlfriend now, Hilbert? You’re mature.”
It was Godel’s turn to have his wrist grabbed.

“That’s enough, you two!” hushed the inspector as he pulled him towards the door. “Godel, you’re coming with me. O’Brian, thank you for your help, but it’s time for you to go home.”

Hugh frowned as he watched his friend go into interrogation without him. He looked at the glass door for a moment, contemplating something, then rubbed his tired black eyes and headed towards the main door.

The two officers had been hovering awkwardly at the captive N’s side. The tall man had slumped into a chair and kept his face down, completely silent, fiddling with his necklace. When Godel and the inspector entered, N fell still.

The inspector dropped some papers onto the table and handed one to the officer to N’s right. Then, he gestured for Godel to step back. He huffed to himself, but did as he was told.

“You are N, are you not?” asked the inspector calmly from across the table.

Silence followed. Eventually, the curly haired man bobbed his hidden head. He began to fidget softly again with his necklace.

The inspector breathed out and shook his head, still trying to convince himself this was happening. “Now, N, we’re going to ask you some questions that we want you to answer sincerely. If you don’t cooperate, we’re going to have to do this the hard way. We don’t want to do that. Will you cooperate?”

To their surprise, he bobbed his head without a second thought.

The officer started to read from his paper nervously, struggling to make out the inspector’s hastily written questions, “Were you aware the police have been trailing you all this time? For how long have you known?”

His green head bobbed again. Letting go of the necklace with his left hand, he held up three fingers.

“N, we know you can talk. Please, if you’re trying to withhold information this way, it won’t work. We said not make this hard,” informed the inspector patiently, “There’s no point in hiding your face or voice at this point in time.”

This didn’t convince him entirely. He lifted up his head slightly and brushed back some of his hair. His eyes could be seen studying them from beneath curls and shadow. They were dark and heavy, ringed with the markings of many sleepless nights. This time, his hands moved passed his necklace and he started to mess with the bracelets he wore.

“What did you mean by three? Weeks? Years? Or hours?”

N’s lips trembled momentarily, “Year.”

“You sure he’s not still sick from this morning? I think he’s shaking,” whispered the officer without the paper. The other one shrugged and looked at the inspector wearily.

“You realize evading the police is a serious offense, don’t you?” continued the inspector.

The fallen figurehead nodded again, jingling his bracelets enough for Godel to hear him from the corner. Godel sneered at him. N saw this and slapped his wrist, putting both of his hands down in his lap silently. The officer to his right shrugged.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” the inspector sighed. He finally sat down in the chair and leaned towards the captive king, “Don’t pretend to be skittish with us, N Harmonia. We know who you are and what you’ve been involved in. And for future reference, don’t play dumb either.”

A grin suddenly cracked across his face. It was not clever, or mocking, or malicious, but rather confused and possibly concerned. He widened his eyes and grabbed his arms, forcing himself up straighter, saying, “I don’t know, I don’t know,” like a broken record.

“Alright, alright,” the inspector waved at the officer for the next question, “Only a few more questions. Clearly, he hasn’t recovered from this morning yet.” Swartz sighed regretfully at his hasty decision to bring him here, “Moving on.”

“Ah, um, yes… Ok, have you interacted with Team Plasma since you disappeared?”

A definite head shake was all they got.

“Why did you disappear from the scene of the attack and uh, never return to Team Plasma? If you’re telling the truth, of course. Be honest.”

“Had to,” N said and then held his breath.

“Why?” the inspector urged cautiously, “why did you have to?”

“Why? I needed to,” he sighed, “I had to because…just because.” N squeezed his eyes shut as if trying to block the conversation.
Godel huffed. This was going nowhere fast.

“This isn’t some joke, Harmonia. We need everything in detail. Tell us anything you have.”

“Anything you have? But there’s too much. Too much.” He opened his arms trying to show how much was too much, but then remembered he had cuffs on. He grimaced and quickly put his hands back down. “Sorry. It’s too much.”

“We’re prepared to listen,” assured the inspector. Gödel sighed and glares were shot his direction.

“Listen? Ok then, alright,” he took a deep breath, rubbed his eyes, and shook his head in attempt to clear it. “Sorry. Sorry, I just need to pull myself together. Ha.” He rubbed his eyes some more and tried to stop frowning. The police exchanged glances again.
Eventually he settled, although still hunching and fidgeting, this time with some odd puzzle cube. He tried to start a story, “Why I left was because it was too …too scary to stay. See. I had to.”

The inspector was confused, “What do you mean, scary?” The officers eyed each other. Godel crossed his arms harder.

His mouth was twitching into a pained smile again, “Um well, you see… I learned many things I did not know before. About myself. About the world.”
The officers nodded for him to continue.

“The world is beautiful and frightening. But, at least this one is real.”

Gödel snapped. He was already getting tired of this, “Don’t get all cryptic with us! Spill it.”

“Sorry.”

“Godel? Do you want to leave? Pipe down,” Swartz warned.

I took a minute for N to continue, as if he was waiting for something. When he started he sounded quite distressed, “Did you not know it was pack of lies? Everything that happened… You seem even more clueless about it than I am. How is that possible?” His face was twisted with pained confusion and he pressed his hands against the sides of his head, sighing, “My head hurts.”

Inspector Swartz stood up from the table briskly, making the two officers jump and N flinch. He shook his tired head and disappointedly pinched the bridge of his nose. “That’s enough for now. You two, bring him food and water. Gödel, get out, we’re leaving.”

Godel blinked, “What? Already? Come on, we just...”

“I said we’re leaving,” repeated the inspector, staring daggers into his subordinate. As he reached for the door that the other officers had already scampered through, he slowly turned back to N. “We’ll let you rest and eat for now. Once you feel ready, we’ll talk. And you will tell us the truth, you hear me?”

N, with residual pain remaining on his face, did not look at the inspector as they left.

Chapter Text

Everyone was disappointed when the inspector returned so quickly. They sighed and brushed it off, telling each other to be patient. An enigma that took five years to capture would take a while to crack into. They knew it would be a tricky going before they got answers. Before they got justice. They were prepared to wait for what they wanted, and they didn’t let a poor first impression get them down. Exciting things were bound to happen.

They were sorely disappointed again. For two days he only ate, drank, and slept. He stayed silent whenever the inspector tried to speak to him. He only got out of his seat to stretch or pace from time to time. After the first day of silence, the ex-officers Swartz invited went home.

“Call us if anything happens, old man” they said.

On the second day, most officers returned to their regular duties without reluctance, a stale tension hanging in the air. Hilbert Godel remained and loitered, as he usually did, taking jobs around the station. Swartz had not let him back in interrogation since the first time. He didn’t intend on ever letting him back in. Godel knew this, and hated it.

Officer Turner followed Godel out to the back while he lugged out the garbage, telling him all about what she thought. She had thought up a dubious conspiracy about this N being an imposter. Clearly, he was here for the food and the shelter, she said. He was putting up an act. Godel couldn’t tell if she was joking or not with the way her enthusiasm allows leaked through her tough exterior, and he blocked out her words.

That night, as the officers waited for emergency called, they took turns peering into the interrogation room. N had curled up sleepily in the corner. The inspector called them around his table to convene a meeting. He wanted some ideas on how to get him talking.

“He’s obviously recovered from his collapse a few days ago,” remarked Skip, “Two days of constant food and water are enough.”

“We need to get answers out of him, patiently, and gently,” said Swartz, leaning back in his chair. “It’s hard to manipulate him into spilling when we know next to nothing about him. I need some sort of weak spot.”

“Do we have to be gentle? He’s a wanted criminal,” a woman responded.

Godel and a few others nodded at this. A phone rang and few officers rushed off.

The inspector paused, listening to officers on the phone. A knife fight. He continued, “If we push him, he won’t speak to us. We have to start gently.”

The woman sighed. Thoughts held them all silent for a brief moment. Sirens went off as a car pulled out to respond to the call.

“He’s going to be a dead end, just like Ghetsis.”

“Maybe if we stop giving him food, he’ll talk.”

“We need Hugh.”

Eyes and heads turned to Gödel. His arms were crossed and his face was serious. “We need Hugh,” he repeated flatly.

Inspector Swartz sat up, his hands clasped, and looked expectantly at the brash officer, “Weren’t you about to knock his nose in two days ago?”

He sighed in defeat, brushing his hand through his course, brown curls, “I know. But Hugh’s the kind of person who would know what to do.”

“Why? Sure, he knows first aid, but what would that due?” questioned Turner.

Skip stared at Gödel when he asked, “He’s in kahoots with those ex-Plasma members, right?

“Ah, yes, I almost forgot,” the old inspector leaned back again, stretching his arms. “He would be useful, especially since he trusts us. If we told Plasma members directly, they’d flood in here to see their old leader.” He rocked forward and reached for the phone. “We should call him over.”

“Now?” Godel started.

“Yes, now,” Swartz held out the phone to him, “Our work doesn’t stop because it’s dark outside, Officer.”

Taking a breath, he took up the phone and dialed. Everyone took step back. Finally, something might happen.

“Hugh? Yeah. It’s me, Bert. Sorry about yesterday,” Godel muttered into the phone. “We need you over here. Now, if you will. N won’t speak.”

Hugh made it there in six minutes flat. At eleven at night. He wasn’t in his pajamas and slippers, thank victini for that luck, but he was quite disheveled. His collar was half popped up, half folded, and the buttons on his shirt were undone at the top. His socks were different shades of dark blue.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice,” the inspector said gratefully.

“No problem. Anything for a friend,” his smile appeared genuine, but the dissatisfaction was too blatant. He was still mad about the other day. Gödel looked away from him.

Heaving himself up, the inspector brought Hugh to the door and reached for the dull handle. “Please be stern with him, we’re not here to make friends,” Swartz warned gruffly, his eyes distant as he started to open the door.

“Hilbert comes with me,” Hugh requested adamantly, shooting a clever smile at Godel.

The inspector knew he wasn’t in the position to decline, so he nodded, adding huffily, “As long as Godel keeps his trap shut.”

“What the hell?” Hilbert whispered at his eager friend as the door quietly clicked open. Bewildered and reluctantly grateful, he stepped in the poorly lit room with Hugh.

Right off the bat, Hugh nearly disregarded Swartz’s warning. “N? Wow, it’s really you!” he remarked jovially as he cautiously approached the man curled up in the corner. “I’ve always wanted to meet you in person.”

“Hugh,” Inspector Swartz hissed.

Godel nearly face palmed at Hugh’s reaction. The wary pleasure in his friend’s voice made his mouth taste sour.

But his excitement did the trick, N lifted his head from his knees and squinted at the unfamiliar man in front of him. “Who..?”

“I’m Hugh,” he said, making sure to lose the smile and make his excitement more subtle. “I’ve come here to get you to talk.”

“Have fun with that,” N muttered, putting his head back on his knees and wrapping his arms tighter around his knees.

Hugh raised his head higher and put his hands on his hips, trying to take his stern character more seriously. When he spoke, Godel could feel the inspector tense up beside him, “I’m here on behalf of Rood, Concordia, and Anthea. Not for the police.”

When N’s head rose up again, shock had taken over his face, his eyes wide and his mouth in a wide, stiff line. “Oh my,” he exclaimed so quietly that only Hugh could hear, his mouth and throat too tense to raise his voice.

“Don’t worry,” Hugh advised the captive, “They’re not upset with you. They’d be pleased to know you’re still alive and oh…not exactly well, I suppose.” He rubbed his forehead.

N’s mouth softened. His eyebrows furrowed and he looked at the torn seams on his shoes. “That’s… quite a relief.” A moment later, he was smiling weakly.

“I hate to say this, but you need to tell these people everything, N. They need to know what happened.”

The inspector balled his fists, but let it slide without a word. His words were working.

“You’ll be fine. They’ll let you go if you talk. If you don’t talk to them, you can’t leave.”

Swartz nodded. Gödel followed with approval. Hugh hated to say it for a reason; he was lying up a storm, and it was working like a charm. N wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

“Fine,” he complied reluctantly with a wavering voice. N rose, clutching his arms and hanging his head so his face could be hidden. Without rushing, he dragged his feet over to the chair and slumped down, making himself seem small. “Why you need to hear this all again from me…I don’t know.”

Hugh headed to the door as he spoke, not caring to look back at N, fully knowing he would not lift his head, “The only truth they got was from Rood, and even he didn’t say much. He regrets that, N. He wants you to know that.” He reached for the handle. “N, be the voice of truth.”

With that, Hugh left the room grinning, walked passed the anxious officers waiting outside the door, and went home to sleep with a lightened burden.

“Hugh really pisses me off,” Godel muttered, granting him sharp glares from the inspector beside him.

Taken aback by Hugh’s defiant, but admittedly helpful speech, the inspector left the officer’s side and sat down with wobbly legs across the table from N. Blinking his sunken and heavy eyes, he remembered he had not prepared more questions and sat momentarily speechless.

The inspector reached for questions for a story no one had dared to explain.

N reached for the words to say it.

Chapter Text

“So,” the inspector began slowly after minutes of quiet. He forced the groggy saturation of intense silence out of his mind by taking a deep breath. “Begin,” Swartz spoke clearly, “on the day you disappeared. Don’t sugarcoat a thing. I’m experienced with criminals, N. I’ll know if you’re lying.”

“Criminals,” N repeated distastefully. He let his shoulders slowly hunch and his head fall lower, dripping his green curls on the tabletop. “That day was world shattering. Reality was warped in front of my eyes. I was caged and freed and caged again within the same day.” He shook his head at the confused silence. “You don’t understand yet. Not yet…no. Do I have to retell it? Do I have to?”

The inspector watched impassively as the man put his hands behind the waterfall of hair to cover his already hidden face, becoming stiffer. Swartz warned coolly, impatience and excitement tickling the back of his throat, “You heard Hugh. Tell us the truth about this mess and we’ll let you go.”

Gödel crossed his arms. He decided to play into the lies, although once he spoke, he wasn’t sure what he would say to encourage the man, “Uh…no more cages, alright?”

The inspector almost scolded him for his impulsive response, but under the dim light, N gently put his hands down and sent a small smile through his protective cover, “You’re trying to make sense of me. Alright then,” he lifted his head and gazed at Hilbert with troubled soft gray eyes, “You…I trust you.”

Blinking, Gödel adjusted his cap and dropped his gaze. Fine, if that’s how N wanted it to be. He’d play a long for a while. He’d make N regret this trust.

The inspector gave a rough little cough to bring the criminal’s attention back to him. “I’ll be more specific, what happened that day to make you run away?”

An avalanche of words pummeled the inspector and the officer. They skittered around like sparks, squealed like gears, and filled the room with snow. Swartz was scribbling down the responses madly, unable to keep up and catch the missing pieces that flew by. The truth spilled out. His sentences were confused and vivid, choked with equal parts utter misery and distant repulsion. Betrayal, machinations, dreams, manipulation, and fascination mingled together to create an abstract storybook of broken clauses.
Gödel stayed stiff and broad chested, but his eyes fell in and out of focus while his mouth betrayed his stoic façade. The sheer velocity of the thoughts N tried to convey all at once left him dazed. Once the blubbering truth slowed to a halt, the officer’s shoulders sunk. He hung like a wet rag, lifting a sagging arm to soothe the beating in his forehead.

The speaker, now silent, clutched his hands together stiffly enough for them to crack and whiten with the pressure. His head hung down again, hair billowing over his tired face. His voice quivered when he whispered once more, “That…was incomprehensible. My goodness.” Shaking the ache from his head, N loosened and apologized, “Excuse me for that.”

“N-no problem,” the inspector uttered uncontrollably, following his lead and shaking the ache from his own head. Swartz looked down at his rapid notes. They were readable, and he sighed, “Sounds like you had a lot to get off your chest.”

N bobbed his head, “And it was no business of mine leaking it on unsuspecting ears. Pardon my…uhm…exuberance.”

“It was absolutely your business,” Inspector Swartz stated strongly, returning to his dominating straight-backed stature. “You gave me exactly the information I asked for, the information we need. Albeit, more information than I expected.” He laughed a craggy laugh that Gödel could not place as jovial or bitter.

The inspector got up from his chair and brought the recovering officer to his side, heading toward the door. “Wait there, N. We’ll be back in a moment.”
Gödel heard N sigh irritably as they closed the door.

All eyes were on Gödel and the inspector when they stepped out into the bright world. Tension kept them all silent temporarily, but Skip piped up from behind the inspector’s desk, “That was pretty quick! How’d it go this time?”

The inspector held up his paper of discombobulated notes. Everyone watched it rise into the air like a flag. “He spilled everything,” Swartz announced. His voice was grim and almost disappointed.

A quiet cheer washed through the crowd, as they knew the fallen king still rested in the room beside them and they dare not let him hear. Silent high fives and shoulder punches were exchanged.

Tucker wedged her way through the lively crowd and next to the quiet Hilbert. The excited woman towered beside him and pegged him, “So what did he say?”

“Hell should I know what that joker said?” Godel hissed. “Damn guy’s mouth runs so fast and strong I could hardly comprehend him.”

The wide shouldered woman was nearly cackling, “Did O’Brian scare him outta his wits? Good ol’ Hugh.”

The short young man shook his head sourly, “Nah, he just spilled.” He blinked his brown eyes and looked up, questioning the sky beyond the ceiling. “Just went on about confinement and pokemon and dreams and irony and whatnot. What the heck should I know, man? I can’t make a thing out of that,” he lied.

“Sounds intriguing,” Tucker mused, hand on her chin thoughtfully.

“Whatever you say,” dismissed Godel.

“Officer Godel!” the inspector commanded loudly from across the room. Everyone hushed. “Get over here, in the office.”

“Whatcha do this time, officer?” teased Tucker, knocking him hard on the back.

“Who knows?” he said with dread creeping up his throat.

He slunk through the crowd that had begun their upbeat, but softened chatter again. Once he dodged through his workmates, he slipped into the first office in the hall. The name Swartz was printed on a piece of paper and taped precariously to the door. He really needed to hurry up and get his nameplate repaired.

Gödel sat himself down in the chair across from the inspector’s personal desk. It was a heavy reddish desk that was covered in boring paper weights and an endless supply of pens. He had adopted the desk in the open entrance of the building to better communicate with the officers. However, he hid away in his office when he needed quiet.

“I want to talk to you about this,” the inspector informed him as he slid his notes across the reddish wood.

“May I ask why?” said Gödel.

“You heard it too, that’s why. And saw it. The way N acted.”

“Did I really?” Gödel remarked.

“Don’t get smart with me, officer,” warned Swartz, furrowing his feathery brow. “Read the notes.”

It was essentially as Gödel had remembered. Discarded because of his supposed powers. Twelve years spent locked away in a room. He suppressed the pity that tickled behind his
ribs. He would not pity that man.

“And?”

“And this is not what we expected at all, was it? We’ll have to change our approach,” the inspector said sadly.

“You sound disappointed. What the hell did we expect from a coward who hid himself for four years? An evil genius? A crime lord?” Hilbert stated accusingly. “Look at us! How exciting, the heroes who hunted down a stuttering coward.”

“Traumatized and emotionally troubled human being,” Swartz corrected. “I know there’s something that makes you hate this man and everything he stood for. I’ve seen the look in your eyes for the past four years, Gödel. But we can’t approach him aggressively anymore.”

“And why are you telling me this?”

“Because you’re connected to this somehow, Hilbert. You and your friend, Hugh. I’ve seen and heard you two talking. I know these sorts of things.” The inspector looked at him dead on, “It’s my job to read people, after all.”

“I am not connected to anything,” Hilbert growled vehemently.

“Stop lying.”

“What do you want me to say? What would make you happy?” the officer threw up his arms. “It wasn’t even me that was involved, it was just a family member,” he lied.

“Yes, I know. Hilda Gödel,” the inspector said, “who was famous for preventing the downfall of the league and defeating Plasma. Disappeared two months after her victory for reasons unknown.”

“That’s the one,” Hilbert agreed, sadness building in his voice. “Can’t believe she left us just because.”

“Because why, do you know?”

Gödel crossed his arms and looked away, “Don’t pick into family business.”

“Gödel, this could be important information for both this case and her case,” Swartz urged.

Shrugging and sighing indignantly, he had to force the answer out of himself, “You damn well know it was N.”

Inspector Swartz picked up his notes and studied them. “Maybe she knew exactly what we did not.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Gödel huffed, sinking deeper into his slump. “I didn’t understand why she’d chase after a fictional being, but…” he paused reluctantly, “I guess now I know why.”

“We can’t keep N here any longer,” Swartz determined suddenly. Gödel was glad for the change of topic. “Clearly, he reacted poorly to being confined again.”

“Well, we can’t have him running off. Where else would he go?”

“Somewhere closed off, but not hostile. I’d say a hotel, but that’s too small and we need someone to watch him.” Swartz thought to himself for a moment, and then spoke, “A house of some kind.”

“Who would take him that wouldn’t be completely terrified or entranced by him? Someone staring at him constantly won’t help his nerves, right?” Gödel suggested distantly, reluctant to consider N’s needs.

The inspector put his hand to his chin and fiddled with a metal braviary paper weight with his other hand. He thought through the officers one by one and came upon a conclusion. “Someone who knows the truth.”

“Um, so you?”

The inspector almost laughed. “Not today, I’m afraid. Not sure my wife would appreciate me bringing him home with me. It will have to be the other person that was in the room.”

“Absolutely not!” gasped Gödel when he realized the tables had been turned.

“He said he trusts you,” Swartz noted.

Gödel put his face in his hands. He should’ve kept his big mouth closed.

Chapter Text

No one questioned the inspector’s choice to remove N from the vicinity. He told the officers that the man was still feeling sick and required a quieter environment to recover before they could continue the case. The sea of people nodded in disbelieving obedience and parted the way. Skip and a smaller woman escorted N to the cramped garage and forced the wary captive into the back of a police car. He was too tired to struggle.

Gödel nervously popped into the driver’s seat. The other officers returned to the station as he put his keys into the ignition. Inspector Swartz approached his window. Twisting the keys, the police car hummed to life and he rolled down the window to face the inspector.

“If he causes you any trouble, just call us,” Swartz said loud enough so N could hear the warning.

A sick feeling tugged at his stomach. “Yeah,” he muttered and quickly rolled the window up.

He backed up and wheeled down the street. The inspector watched him go, and then marched back to his office for some quiet.

The car’s clock said 5:30 pm in red numbers. Clicking the police radio on, he let the static buzz quietly in his ear as white noise. He avoided his thoughts for the time being; only concentrating on the road and the frequent pedestrians and pokemon. N was silent the whole ride.

Eventually, the car eased to its place in a crumbly parking lot next to an apartment complex. Officer Gödel got out first, briskly opening his door and then warily opening N’s. He adjusted his cap on his curly hair and cautioned his unwanted guest, “Keep a low profile.”

N pulled himself weakly from the back of the car. Immediately, Gödel latched onto his wrist and pulled him towards the building. As usual, N kept his head down. The daydreaming attendant on the first floor paid them no heed. They marched up four floors, N protesting the elevator, and finally came to Hilbert’s apartment. Gödel fumbled with the keys. Once he opened the plain brown door, he hastily ushered N through the door and flicked on the lights.

It was quaint and warm. Directly to the right was a coat closet, followed by the little kitchen. The whole apartment opened up into a square living room. It was furnished with a worn sofa behind a clear coffee table and across from a small television on a short wooden shelf. A lillipup ran in from the bedroom in the back. She skittered around her owner’s legs as he slipped off his shoes from his sore feet.

“Lillipup sure is happy to see you,” smiled N as he knelt down and put out his hand for her to sniff. She ran right up to him on her small golden feet. Pressing her wet nose to his hand, she looked up and yapped at him. “Oh, it’s nice to meet you Emmy. I’m N.”

This statement caused Hilbert to turn away from the coat hanger where he was placing his vest and hat. “You really can understand them,” he breathed with suppressed awe.

“Ah,” N pulled his hands to his chest and frowned, “Yes, I can.”

“I mean, I knew that. Everyone knows that,” Hilbert corrected as he returned his hat to its place for the evening. “It’s just that nobody believed it.”

The enigma smiled sheepishly. Emmy tried to scramble into his lap excitedly, and he slowly reached down to brush her head with his shaky, thin hands. Hilbert wasn’t sure why, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the gentleness the man demonstrated. Blinking, he turned from N and walked towards the kitchen to get himself a cup of water.
Ice clinked into his glass cup. He listened to the water whir from the tap, fill up his cup, and clear his mind. Taking a cold sip, he sighed and rubbed his eyes. It had been such a long past few days; he hadn’t realized how tired he was. Hilbert sluggishly made his way to the couch, scuffing his feet along the off-white rug, and sunk down with the cup clinking around in his hand. Habit caused him to grab the remote from the table and flick on the TV. Emmy bounded over and leapt into his lap.

Basketball was on. The Castelia Cottonee were beating the Driftveil Drilburs again. It wasn’t Hilbert’s favorite sport, but some nice background noise was always good. He tried to close his eyes to stop the headache forming in his head.

Despite his need for rest, nerves kept him from dropping his guard. N was here. He still couldn’t believe it. The thought made him both baffled and angry. He peeked towards the door.

The green haired man was still on his knees, just as he had been when Emmy was in his lap. He had been looking at the black and white tiles beneath him until he felt Hilbert watching. N looked up with his questioning gray eyes. Hilbert nearly shivered. Confused emotions bubbled beneath the crystalized surface of his stormy gaze.

“Um,” Hilbert said, “you don’t have to stay there. You can move around.”

“Oh, ok,” N sighed with relief.

It took him another few seconds to rise, and even longer afterwards to loosened the stiffness that dragged his body down. He slipped off his torn green sneakers with discomfort.

Within a minute, N ended up three feet away from the end of the couch, poking at the carpet and studying the basketball game curiously. Hilbert tried his best to let the man be.

Squeaking sneakers and observant announcer remarks blurred together with the movement on the TV screen. All Hilbert could feel was the tension in his limbs and the presence of the fallen king on the ground beside him. His lillipup looked up at him with her big puppy dog eyes, wondering why he was unusually nervous today. She put her cold button nose against his hand. Hilbert stroked her shiny golden fur gratefully. He didn’t need N’s powers to understand what Emmy knew.

Hilbert decided to leave N to his own devices. Getting up, Hilbert and his lillipup swiftly slipped into the tiled kitchen to find food for dinner. The TV was left on in hopes of blocking out the sound of his nervous movements as he dug around in the cabinets. He wouldn’t let N catch on to his wariness. First, he pulled out a bag of kibble for Emmy and poured it into her little red bowl. He promised to drop a bit of meat in there after he finished making his meal, and she wiggled in delight as she ate.

Next, he pulled out an orange ramen cup. Hilbert was never a particularly good cook. He had learned to make breakfast foods quite well, and he was proud of the way he made waffles, but anything involving the oven or boiling ended poorly. Long days and nights at the police station and patrolling the streets made him too tired to cook anything with effort. His cabinets were filled with cereal boxes, ramen cups, and soup cans. The refrigerator contained condiments, frozen foods, and pre-cut deli meats. It had been near empty as of late.

As he began to peel back the seal of his ramen, he slowed and opened the cabinet again. He pulled out another cup from the cabinet. The inspector had better live up to his promise and pay for N’s food expenses. Hilbert was not prepared to share with another human being.

When the microwave sounded, Hilbert noticed N twist his head slightly, momentarily curious about the sound. The cups steamed in Hilbert’s hands. He cautiously left the kitchen, trying to move as quickly as he could to get the heat off his hands while not spilling the ramen all over himself. Emmy had already scarfed down her food, and her dancing about his legs didn’t make it easier. One cup was placed at the far end of the dinner table closest to N. The other, Hilbert’s, was placed at the opposite end. He rubbed his burning hands together sorely as he marched off to get forks and napkins.

Sighing, he finally sunk down in his wooden chair to eat his meal. He could see the TV from his seat. Green and yellow confetti sprinkled the court and the cheering audience. Castelia won again. Though he lived in Castelia now, he had no particular allegiance towards their college’s basketball team. If Nuvema ever got itself a team, then he’d be interested. He blew on his noodles and wondered about sports some more.

Hilbert had already downed half of his noodles when he noticed N hadn’t joined him at the table. He quietly slurped what was left on his fork and watched the man sitting at the base of the sofa. N had his arms crossed and he hugged them tightly in unease. His head was turned slightly towards the table, listening for something. Hilbert wiped his nose, which had begun to drip with the heat of the soup, and tried not to let his nerves flare.

It had been quiet for so long, that he was afraid to break the silence. “Aren’t you hungry?” he question.

“Only a little,” N forced out.

“Emmy doesn’t eat noodles. That’s yours,” Hilbert explained tiredly, pointing to the end of the table.

N twisted around to look at Hilbert. His expression was mostly flat, but the slight bend in his lips was distressed. “Hmm, if you say so,” was his only response. He heaved himself up and took his place across from his host. It took him a couple minutes of poking at the noodles and reading the ingredients on the cup before he decided to drink the broth first.

By the time N started to eat, Hilbert had finished him noodles and quickly drank down his broth. He regretted this immediately. He sat awkwardly across the table from N with nothing to do. As much as he hated it, he need to get N to warm up to him. If he had to be stuck in an apartment with a skittish man who would watch him all the time, he’d loose it.

“Do you have any allergies I should be worried about?” Hilbert asked casually. “I don’t wanna accidently feed you anything that’ll mess you up.”

“Not that I know of,” N responded, moving around his food with his fork. “However, I-” he stopped thoughtfully, “I am vegetarian. I will respectfully decline anything with meat.”

“Oh,” Hilbert said distantly, “that makes sense.” If he could hear the thoughts of pokemon, he wouldn’t eat meat either. The concept almost made him shudder. Imagine knowing what your meat –he picked up his empty cup and walked to the trash can. He let the rest of his thought fall away with the cup. “So, no meat? Is that all?”

“All?” N wondered out loud, “I think so. I don’t eat much, so don’t get concerned. I get nauseous easily.”

Hilbert looked back at N. He was reaching down to Emmy, who had now settled on his feet. They had found the lost king collapsed on the side of the road. From dehydration and likely malnourishment. It was too ironic that a “king” now struggled with malnourishment. What a downfall he must have had. So many questions began to float around Hilbert’s head.

It was too soon to speak of these things.

“You should probably eat and drink a lot when you’re here,” Hilbert suggested. “We’re trying to help you recover from your incident when we found you.”

“Is that really why you brought me here?” N questioned with soft confidence. “I’ve mostly recovered from that.”

Hilbert blinked at the quiet man. He was beginning to understand how observant N was. Perhaps, he was as clever as the officers originally thought. Hilbert wanted to doubt it, but he could not. He had been so close to ruling Unova. His cleverness was evident in his eyes and his movements.

“That’s one reason,” Hilbert confessed. “Clearly, there is too much we don’t know about you. You do not react well to confined, hostile environments. The inspector wanted to get you out of there until we figured things out.”

N nodded solemnly. “Clearly,” he corrected him, “you are beginning to understand more than you think.” He grinned weakly.

It was Hilbert’s turn to be the silent one. He told N he was allowed to move about the whole house, except for the back bedroom, and then stalked off to the kitchen to clean whatever he could find. The enigma played with the Hilbert’s dog in front of the TV. Hilbert let the daily sports recap drown out N’s whispered responses to Emmy. The cups and plates needed to be reorganized, anyways.

It was 8:00 pm when Hilbert stopped messing around in the kitchen. N was half asleep on the carpet with Emmy curled up beside him.

“I’m cleaning myself up for bed. You can use the bathroom after I’m done. Take a shower or something,” Hilbert commanded passively. N had been stuck in that old interrogation room for three days straight. Who knows how long it had been since he had cleaned before that, either.
N nodded groggily.

Once Hilbert got out of his shower, warm and sleepy, he marched to his room and shut the door for some peace and quiet. His room was messy. Posters of famous trainers and comic book heroes covered his walls. His bed was only half made, and it was covered with shiny lillipup hair. Unfinished sketches of cartoon characters piled on his desk. If anyone came in here, Hilbert was afraid they’d think it was the bedroom of a fifteen year old boy, not a twenty year old. He doodled for some time and then fiddled around on the computer. All the while, he listened to what happened beyond his door.

N did not take a shower. He slept on the ground for an hour and went to the bathroom to splash some water and soap on his face and arms. Emmy brought her squeaker to him and played with him. By 10:00 pm, listening had become exhausting and Hilbert decided to hit the hay.

Peeking out of his bedroom door, Hilbert said with a yawn, “I’m going to sleep, and you probably should too.”

Emmy obediently trotted off into Hilbert’s room so she could curl up in the corner of his bed. Hilbert gave one last glance at N, who had figured out the TV remote and had flipped to a news channel, and flicked out the lights in the house.

Hilbert woke up two times that night.

Right before midnight, his body slowly pulled him from his deep, dreamless sleep. He had wrapped himself cozily in his soft quilt and Emmy had fallen asleep on his legs. He was too warm, and his body had woken him accordingly. Hilbert slipped from his bed, getting his leg stuck in the covers because of Emmy’s position. Catching himself with his hands, he was able to pull his right leg from her without waking her up. Sticky heat clung to his skin and he tried to wipe it away as he backed off from the bed. He pulled off his long sleeved night shirt. Maybe he should stop wearing long sleeves in the middle of spring.

As he paced his breathing and let the air cool him, he heard that the TV was still on. If N was still awake, then he wouldn’t have to worry about bothering him if he wanted a glass of water. He opened the door and stepped out. It was far cooler in the open living room. N barely budged, only peering out of the corner of his eye to see where the sudden sound and motion came from. He inched closer to the TV as Hilbert passed around the sofa to the kitchen.

He downed two glasses of iced water. Wiping the refreshing water from his lips, he sighed and shook the sweat from his coarse hair. He filled up the cup again and walked to the living room. He’d stay out here for a while until he cooled down. Hilbert wavered next to the coffee table before sitting next to N on the floor. N stiffened but did not look away from the TV screen, pretending to ignore Hilbert’s close presence.

Ice felt good against Hilbert’s bare chest. He let his eyes move from the screen and study N cautiously. A small frown was plastered on the lost king’s face. His eyes were wide and nervous, questioning whether or not to flicker to the person beside them. In the changing light of the TV screen, Hilbert noticed two thin scars on the bridge of N’s nose. The bags under his eyes contrasted with his pale skin.

Looking away before N would notice him staring, he mused over his own skin. In the dim light, Hilbert’s skin appeared especially dark next to someone as pale as N. Hilbert wasn’t as dark as many of the officers at Castelia Station 5, nor was he as dark as his father. Being biracial kept him somewhere between his father and his mother’s skin tones. His twin sister had the best of both worlds. Her skin was the same middle tone as his, but her eyes were a brilliant sky blue. Hilda was astonishingly beautiful. It made Hilbert wonder why she was enchanted by someone like N.

It’s not that N wasn’t particularly attractive. His gray eyes were beautiful, if not intimidating. And his curly green hair was certainly…unique. But, he didn’t fall into any of the conventional categories of fashion magazine beauty. Then again, Hilda was questionably asexual. Such appeal didn’t draw her attention. It was something else, something deep. Why would she chase a man she hadn’t even befriended all across the globe? Hilbert drank his cold water sourly. He didn’t care.
Eventually, N plucked up the courage to speak to the person beside him. “Couldn’t sleep?”

“Yeah, I could,” Hilbert said grumpily. “I just overheated, that’s all. It looks like you’re the one who can’t sleep.”

Smiling tiredly, N looked back to the TV. A bird’s eye visual of a grassy landscape panned across the screen, casting a dry green light across both of their faces. Herds of wild bouffalant galloped in a glorious mass of charging bodies through the dust. Orchestra music hummed behind soft narration.

“It’s fascinating how you see and hear the world,” N contemplated out loud. He watched the scene unfold on the screen intently and his smile remained steady on his distant face.

“Watching this…the music replaces the voices of pokemon.” He looked back at Hilbert briefly, “it’s so quiet.”

When N looked back at the screen, Hilbert quickly looked away and pretended to focus on something else. The condensation on his glass cup seemed distracting enough. Focusing on the cold, icy beads and the chill of his hands, he bit back his confusion. Hilbert felt awfully flustered and he wasn’t sure why. It didn’t help that he hated being flustered, particularly about N of all people. Conflict broiled heavy in his conscious. He gulped down some of the ice water to cool it. Hilbert had admitted N was not the person he thought he was. He then had to admit he was observant and thoughtful. And now he was fighting the urge to admit that he was fascinating.

Fascinated. That’s how Hilda felt.

Hilbert did not want to understand his twin sister’s motivation. He would not let his anger go. Not for her. And especially not for N.

And yet…why did he find this so difficult? He decided he need to let it go for now.

The air conditioning, the cold cup in his hands, and his thoughts had cooled him off enough to make him shiver. Silently, he placed his cup down on the coffee table and pulled his shirt back over his head. He told N to turn off the TV and get some rest, only getting a hum in response, and sulked back to his room. Sighing, he closed his door and collapsed on his bed beside his resting lillipup, avoiding getting under the covers again. The dark and the buzz of the TV quickly lulled him to sleep.
It was two in the morning when he was awakened for the second time. He woke up sharply from a forgettable dream and feared he had overheated again. When he realized he was still cool and comfortable, he noticed the yellow light streaming in from under his door. Hilbert rolled over onto his side to observe it, still dizzy and groggy from his dream. Movement and sound was the next thing he noticed. It was the sound of fast, light footsteps. Something clinked. His instincts made him shoot off the bed, bolt upright, but his dizziness made him stagger. He braced himself against the wall and waited for the throbbing to go away. Emmy stirred awake and sleepily watched him inch towards the door.
Hilbert cracked the door open, blinking in the lowlight of the lamp beside the TV. N stood, equally rigid and surprised, from behind the kitchen counter and stared with his silver eyes. After a few moments of frozen silence, Hilbert cautiously stepped out of his room. N then melted from his position and wilted against the counter, holding his head and muttering.

“What are you doing? Are you alright?” Hilbert asked in confusion. It was too early to be up and about.

“I’m alright. I’m alright,” he responded with a great frown before he picked up a glass cup from the sink. He turned it around in the air so Hilbert could see. It glistened and bubbled with suds. “I was just cleaning your cup so I could get a drink.”

N filled the cup with water, poured it out, and filled it again. After the fourth time doing this, he grimaced, put his hand to his forehead, and forced himself to put the cup down.

“OK,” Hilbert found himself saying. He wasn’t sure what to make of N’s behavior, but he was too tired to question it. “Well, once you’re done getting a drink, I’m going to turn the light off. I really need to sleep,” he yawned, “And you do to.”

N was gripping the edge of the sink and leaning over, trying his best to compose himself. “Sorry, the light woke you up, didn’t it?” he spoke with a flat tone.

“Yeah, it did,” Hilbert sighed, rubbing the back of his neck as he turned back towards his room, “Just keep it down in here, OK?”
Wobbling back to the couch without drinking water, the false king slumped down and clutched his hands together to keep them from trembling. Hilbert lazily approached the lamp and reached out to flick it off, “I’m turning this off now, go to sleep.”

“No, don’t!” N exclaimed in a shaky voice. “Please… don’t turn the light off.”

The odd pain in his voice made Hilbert turn his head. It was difficult pulling his thoughts from the sleepy fog in head, but he was able to sense fear in N’s voice. “Why not? Are you all right?” Hilbert questioned softly.

“I’m terrified of…of the dark. It’s scary.”

Hilbert blinked. So, N was scared of closed off spaces and the dark. He wasn’t surprised in the least.

He was grimacing painfully now, curled up in the corner of the couch, “Sorry…I didn’t mean to wake you up. I was just upset by the dark is all, but…if you can’t sleep you can just turn it off. I’ll be fine.”

Hilbert sighed. Clearly, he wasn’t going to be fine. Whatever he saw or heard in the dark had put him through emotional distress. He was shaking and before that had had been muttering to himself. If Hilbert was ever going to sleep again, the lights would have to stay on. He quietly informed N, “It’s OK, you can keep the light on.”

It was N’s turn to sigh, and with that he sunk to the carpet and curled up. Hilbert watched him as he lay wedged between the couch and the coffee table. What a waste of couch space.

As Hilbert turned towards his room, he saw Emmy wide awake observing the two men from the doorway. Hilbert returned from his room with his sheets. He threw himself on the couch and let the sheets spill from the couch to cover a part of his weary guest, who nearly jumped when it brushed him.

Emmy curled up behind Hilbert’s knees and quickly fell asleep. That little dog always had to sleep with him and make his life harder. Burying his face into the sheets in order to block out the light, he begged for sleep to pull away from his flustered thoughts.

A small gesture of kindness felt nice.

Chapter Text

Five days. It took five days for N to feel comfortable enough to finally shower.

Hilbert was relieved when he heard the water running. He poked his head into the bathroom, much to N’s cries of dismay, and snagged N’s clothes from the sink. It was painful to look at that man’s unhealthy and unclean state. If he was going to take a shower, then there was no way Hilbert would let him back into dirty clothes.

Zipping to the door after slipping on his sneakers, lillipup barking at his heels, he barreled out of his apartment and down the stairs. He jumped into his police car. N’s clothes got the back seat to themselves. He wheeled through the streets, cautiously under the speed limit. It took about five minutes of red lights and pedestrians to get four blocks down. Running would’ve been faster, but Hilbert didn’t feel like running around in public with some else’s boxer shorts. Maybe he should’ve brought a laundry bag.

He arrived at the laundromat and hastily made his way inside with the clothes. The jingle of the bell as he opened the door made him flinch. Several local faces smiled a good morning and then returned to lazily watching their clothes spin. Hilbert approached an empty washing machine. Fumbling for coins in his pocket, he dropped one of N’s socks. He grumbled as he slipped in his change, picked up the sock, and stuffed the clothes into the machine. Dazed, he picked a quick setting, poured in available detergent, and stepped back. Why was he doing this again?

Folding his arms, Hilbert sighed. Being heartless all the time wasn’t his style. It was hard to ignore someone’s plight. He was in the police force for a reason. It was his job to help people. And N… the story of his plight, from the beginning to end, seemed unreal.

It was like a fairy tale. An extremely twisted fairy tale. N was the prince trapped inside the castle walls, never let out to see the world. He didn’t turn out to be a cute and innocent prince like in the musicals. Being fed lies really messes with you. Even the angry, grudge holding Hilbert couldn’t deny this.

In that moment, watching the king’s khaki colored pants spin around in a washing machine, the guilt he held escaped his chest and moved up into his throat. He hated it so much, but Hilda was right. N was worth traveling the world to find. If anyone deserved to be called a king, it was a man as resilient and observant as N.

He lived in the world he once despised. His own people turned against him, his father tried to kill him, and he was forced to face the large and frightening world he knew next to nothing about. Despite all that, he woke up this morning, smiled, and showered in a stranger’s bathroom. That was brave. When Hilbert got home, he was going to hug him. Well, after he put his clothes back on, of course.

The clothes were moved into the dryer and Hilbert was sleepily rubbing his eyes when a familiar voice sounded beside him.

“Whose underwear is that?”

“O’Brian,” Hilbert whipped around, “what the actual hell?”

Hugh squinted his dark eyes at the clothes buzzing in the dryer. “The Bert that I know never wears tight white”-

“I hate that you know that,” Hilbert hissed with embarrassment. “Please shut up.”

Hugh chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck. His bead head was awful as usual and he wore a pair of baggy jeans and his pokemon shelter tee. It took Hugh one month to be kicked from the police force. He was too impulsive. The incident with a burning building and a bunch of purrlion kittens sent the inspector off the edge. Hugh quickly started his own pokemon rescue center, hence his t-shirt. Unfortunately, Hilbert and Hugh had been friends ever since.

His excitable friend continued, more curious than mocking, “No seriously, who’s at your house? You’re gay and it’s a guy’s underwear, so that must”-

“Alright, Hugh. Alright,” Hilbert said with a sharp rise in his voice. He put both of his palms in front of him and gestured for Hugh to slow down. “Chill out and I’ll tell you.”

The ex-officer blinked the buzzing from his head and remarked, “Maybe dark coffee isn’t the right choice for me.”

“You think? Tone down on the caffeine, buddy. I already can’t stand you when you’re tired.”

Hilbert raked his brain for a way to say N was staying at his apartment without insinuating anything. He just got over hating the guy. There was no way he was sleeping with him. Even if they did share a blanket. This was going to be difficult thing to explain in detail.

So, he decided to be blunt. “N is staying with me,” Hilbert stated.

A look of complete surprise washed over Hugh’s face. He let his empty laundry bag fall slack at his side.

Quickly, Hilbert corrected whatever thoughts were about to go through the bedhead’s brain, “Temporarily. On the inspector’s orders.”

“Ah. I see,” Hugh hummed, nodding and frowning. His eyes were still wide. Hilbert wasn’t entirely sure he was convinced.

“He was uncomfortable in the station,” Hilbert explained, “and his stress prevented progress in our investigation.”

“Ok, just stop before you make it worse,” Hugh chuckled and waved his hand.

They both laughed with each other. Sometimes Hilbert wished Hugh was still in his police squad. But, he mused, it was better to see him outside of work than toasted in some burning building. Hugh O’Brian had found his own way in life. He ran a pokemon shelter, had a rich girl friend, and a family that was still together. He accomplished more than Hilbert could ever dream to do.

“So,” his friend said, trying to pull himself out of his laughter, “how is N, anyhow?”

“He’s OK, I guess. He’s eating well and talking more.”

This pleased Hugh. He smiled, “That’s a relief. Hopefully he’ll get around to visiting Rood and his sisters some time. I haven’t told them yet and I can’t stand it.”

Hilbert bit his lip. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. The inspector wouldn’t like it if N got reconnected with his old followers. They’ll start protecting him.”

The dryer sounded. Gratefully, Hilbert turned away from Hugh to retrieve N’s clothes.

“Look, I get it. Getting over your grudge is going to take a while,” Hugh sighed. He slung his laundry bag over his shoulder. “Trust me, I know about holding a grudge.”

He listened to his friend silently as he popped open the round dryer door. Heat wafted in his face.

“Rosa told me N is a good guy. I believe that he is. I also know that those ex-Plasma members are good guys,” Hugh explained patiently as he watched Hilbert hover at the steamy dryer. “They made mistakes, sure, but they fully accept the blame and work to fix them. People like that can’t be all bad.”

Scooping up the warm clothing in his arms, Hilbert could not bring himself to respond to his friend’s thoughtful words. The soft, worn material of N’s black turtleneck brushed Hilbert’s chin. It smelled of citrus detergent and of the dirt and soot it had endured on a long journey.

“It’s alright to hold a grudge. Feelings take time to mend.”

Hilbert closed the door and slowly turned around. He kept his face down and let the warmth of the clothes suppress the conflict within him, “I gotta go, N’s still naked in my bathroom. And don’t tell me what I already know, qwilfish head.”

It was hard not to smile at that nickname, but Hugh’s smile quickly faded. He continued with seriousness, “It’s normal to let yourself feel angry about this, but just be aware those feelings may change one day.” Hugh noticed that his wash had finished and began to turn away. “And know that other people are mending too. Some may never stop mending themselves.”

Hilbert was frozen in place for a moment, caught between Hugh’s words and the smell of citrus and soot. The two friends faced away from each other. Quietly, he responded as he turned towards the door, “Things are already changing.”

Hugh stood motionless and quiet in front of the washer, observing his own clothes and Rosa’s with distant eyes. He did not move until the bell on the door jingled. Hilbert was gone.

By the time Hilbert had returned to his apartment, N’s clothes had already cooled. He fumbled with his keys and slipped in through the front door. Emmy greeted him by barking and chewing on his sneakers, which he promptly took off.

When he saw the clock, he swore under his breath. It was 8:00. He had left at about 7:15. That means he’d left N waiting in the bathroom for forty-five minutes. Hurriedly, he grabbed for the bathroom door. “N, look. I’m sorry”-

N nearly jumped out of his towel when Hilbert swung the door open. He was standing in front of the mirror. His shoulder was slipped from the towel, and his bare skin sported large claw marks that N had been observing through the swirls he made on the foggy mirror. When he saw his clothes in Hilbert’s arms, he sounded particularly distressed,
“What…what are you doing with my clothes? Those are mine.”

He handed over the clean clothes swiftly. N took them and held them to his chest, making the towel fall further off his shoulder. The fallen king wrinkled his nose and grimaced at the unfamiliar and strong smell of citrus. But, after a moment of holding them against his face, he decided the soft cleanliness was worth the strange smell. “Soft,” he murmured.

“I washed them. Unfortunately, that takes a while. Sorry for the wait,” Hilbert explained with a heavy sigh.

N nodded his forgiveness and kept the soft clothes against his face.

“I’ll—uh, let you change,” Hilbert said distantly as he backed out and closed the bathroom door. He wondered how many scars N had.

Hilbert plopped himself down on the couch and tried to blink himself out of his dreamy stupor while he waited.

“Phone,” N said from behind the door. “The phone rang while you were gone.”

His police nerves made him get up and immediately check the phone. It was the police station’s number. “Damn it,” he swore as he started listening to the message Skip had left
him.

“Gödel, make sure to bring N with you today when you get to work. Five days has been long enough. We need to continue questioning and figure out his penalty.”

“Damn it,” he said again.

“What?” said N’s muffled voice.

“Uh, we gotta go to the station today and do…some things,” Hilbert said hesitantly.

“OK, I’m coming. Just hold on.”

N tumbled out from the bathroom within the next minute. His fresh clothes and cleaned hair and skin already made his gray eyes look brighter. His hair was dark and heavy with water. Coils of green curls started to reform. He smiled genuinely as he put on his torn sneakers. “Let’s go!”

Hilbert’s smile was fake. He led him out the door and down the stairs. They passed the attendant in the lobby who finally noticed Hilbert had someone with him, but said not a word about the mysterious green haired man. N got to sit in the passenger seat this time. He seemed elated about it, and watched all the people go by as they drove.

Tension made Hilbert’s arms sore on the wheel. He couldn’t bring himself to look at N, who he knew was probably smiling about something and looking off into space. What sort of price would amount to all the property damage, threats, and political turmoil N and his people caused? A lifetime in jail and permanent community service. He couldn’t even begin to imagine the fines. It was hard to comprehend the pain that surrounded these thoughts. At least, it was when he was trying to concentrate on the road.

N must’ve caught on to his tension. Hilbert could almost feel the man deflate in his seat. But still, N said nothing and merely rolled down the window to let the air wash over his face. Hilbert did not stop him. If N was thinking about the same thing, the unfortunate king didn’t know how much longer he’d be free.

Breaking from his concentration, Hilbert briefly glanced at N. His smile was bittersweet as the city sound filled his ears. Sadness caused Hilbert’s throat to clench and he forced his focus back on the road. He wanted this to be out of his hands now. He wanted N to be treated justly. But, justice was so much different from this angle. His thoughts cried for him to act. He needed to act for N. He needed to act for himself. He needed to prove Hugh right. And he needed to act for Hilda.

If Hilda ever returned, she’d absolutely kill Hilbert for letting N go to jail.

He had to do something. But what could he do? He turned right and approached the station. A girl and her sawsbuck stepped onto the crosswalk and he hit his breaks. His heart pounded in his chest and his head started to hurt as panic began to tease him. How could he convince an entire station of police that a wanted criminal was a good guy?

The girl and her pokemon finished crossing the street. He slowly continued. What could he do? What could he possibly do to prove N didn’t deserve the fate they wanted for him?

He pulled into the station garage reluctantly. He hung his head and didn’t look at N as he got out of the car. N wordlessly walked himself to the door, fully prepared for the trial to come. Even N was out to get himself.

Change.

How did he change? What was it that made him hate N less? Hilbert followed N through the door. He would have to stand up and speak the truth.

They walked together into a crowded room of anxiously waiting police. When N appeared, they hummed and buzzed with excitement. Faster than Hilbert could take in, the crowd separated him from the captive king.

Skip ushered N towards the interrogation room, “We want to get this over with as much as you do. The inspector will be here in a minute.”

Hilbert needed to act now. Everyone’s attention was already diverted. He needed to do something impulsive. He needed to do something Hugh would do.

Blindly, he launched himself onto the large wooden desk, nearly knocking over the phone. He cried out, “Here ye! Here ye!”

That was the stupidest thing he could have possibly ever said, but it got their attention. He could feel the heat rising in his face and swore under his breath. That was a little too impulsive. His next phrase started as an embarrassed stutter, “So, I was thinking…I was thinking…”

Tucker rolled her eyes at him from the crowd. Skip covered his face in shame.

Hilbert took a deep breath and stood a little straighter. He just decided to let them have it, “Look! I’m gonna go ahead and say it; we are going to serve the wrong kind of justice today.”

Glances were exchanged. Skip still hid his face.

“Selfish justice,” Hilbert informed. “And I know a thing or two about selfishness.”

A few people nodded. Hilbert wanted to spit at them for agreeing with that statement, but that just proved his point.

“This man is not who you think he is.” He gestured to N, who looked utterly baffled.

Eyebrows raised. At least this was going to be interesting, whatever he was going at. The station 5 officers liked interesting. Tucker particularly.

“Call me out and boo me all you want, but this man, as much as I hate to say it, is a kind and humble human being,” Hilbert stated confidently. He flashed a smile at N, who was still awfully perplexed.

There were, of course, a few boos.

This caused Inspector Swartz to pop out of his office. “What the hell is going on here?” he mumbled. Looking up at the main desk, he quickly figured it out who was causing the ruckus.

“And he,” Hilbert paused in search of the right words, “is inspiring.”

N blinked, “What?”

“Even he doesn’t believe you! What are you spouting, Gödel?” someone shouted.

“Seriously, everyone listen to me! Especially you, N,” chided Officer Gödel. “If the person who hated N the most passionately out of all of you believes he’s a good guy, then you should too.”

That was true. Murmurs were followed by curious silence.

“He regrets all the things he did. He’s willingly here, turning himself in. He regrets all the stuff he did even though it really wasn’t his fault. Didn’t the inspector explain to you what happened?”

Confused glances were exchanged among some of the offices. The blank faces were already well aware.

“He spent his whole life imprisoned and brainwashed. He’s trying to rebuild his life. He’s a good person now. And now we’re gonna do what? Lock him up again?” Hilbert threw his arms wide in exasperation, “What kind of life is that?”

Skip took his hand from his face and retorted, “You’re emotional, Gödel! That has nothing to do with justice. So what if he had a bad life? He has to get punished for the wrongs he did. He must repay a debt to the country he tried to overthrow.”

“Debt? I’m sure he’s repaid some of it by now,” Gödel suggested in a hurried panic. He looked at N with begging eyes, “N, please. Please remember something good you’ve done. Just say it. At least make your sentence shorter.”

All the shouting Hilbert had done, the murmuring, and the gravity of the situation was making N’s brain short circuit. He tried to pick something out of his blurry past. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Hilbert…I haven’t done anything. I’m a terrible person, Hilbert.”

Officer Gödel wanted to slump over and cry out of frustration. N’s eyes brewed gray storms and he tried to focus on anything but the noise. He started to stare at the tears in his shoes.

“N, trust me. You don’t wanna do this to yourself.”

“Rosa,” he said suddenly, still watching the floor. “Rosa.”

“Huh? Like the actress?” Tucker chimed in. She was a movie enthusiast.

“I saved her. I saved her from Ghestis.”

This caused quite an uproar, causing N to shrink.

But, this was not the time for fear. N needed to be brave.

Five years. For five years, he avoided capture. He avoided it for good reason. Maybe he was struggling out there on his own, but his life was his now. N was truly afraid of having it taken away again, and this fear made him brave.

“Yes, I did,” N spoke. His voice rose and steadied. “When I heard about the ice weapon, when I heard about Team Plasma rising up again to show their true colors, I had to come back. I had to prevent what I had caused and save Unova. Unova is my true home. I couldn’t have it destroyed by liars like them.”

No one spoke. Gödel’s expression fell flat as he listened.

“Ghetsis was there with the great gray beast, Kyurem. Rosa was there too, trying to stop him. He was going to freeze her. Luckily, Reshiram and I showed up on time and stopped him,” N sighed and rubbed the back of his neck, “but after I saved her, Rosa ended up having to save me from getting killed in the end. By my own dragon, of all things.”

During N’s story, Hilbert had slowly sunk down and was now sitting on the edge of the desk. He smiled at N with relief.

N looked up at him with confused gray eyes, “Was that a good deed? I just didn’t want anyone to be hurt, that’s all. Does that count as a good deed?”

Someone clapped but was immediately shushed in the crowd. Tucker smiled, jealous of his encounter with the actress. Skip sighed and thought over the importance of that action. The murmuring picked up again.

Everyone fell quiet when Inspector Swartz stepped from his doorway and approached Hilbert with a stern look. “Off,” he commanded with a swift flick of his hand.

Hilbert slid from the desk and looked down nervously. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Slowly, the inspector turned his serious glare from the lowly officer to the wide eyed captive in front of him. He suggested flatly, “So, are you saying that you saved Unova from disaster?”

“Er,” N sputtered, “that sounds a bit too prideful for me.”

Swartz cracked a smile so big that Gödel and the other officers feared he would laugh. The inspector said, “You should’ve told us sooner. This changes some things.” He put a hand on N’s shoulder, “I contacted Alder and he got back to me this morning. As long as you go and visit him, he pardons you for your crimes.”

Hilbert nearly face palmed himself.

“Huh? Visit?” N was so baffled he set to jingling his bracelets nervously.

Skip nearly face palmed too. The inspector smiled as the officers grimaced in embarrassment.

Clapping started up again and it wasn’t stopped this time. A cheer rose and chatter followed. They were free of a five year burden. It didn’t feel so bad to leave it behind when it had such an unexpectedly happy ending. They were glad to move on with their lives. They were glad to let N move on with his, too.

After getting over his embarrassment, Officer Gödel looked up and smiled at the jovial crowd of his work partners. Change was good.

He blinked out of his happy daze when he remembered the small promise he made at the laundromat. Walking passed the inspector, he stood before N, who was looking out into space and avoiding the chatter.

Hilbert embraced him.

N was stiff and surprised. He felt like N wasn’t quite sure what to do, but Hilbert tried his best not to awkwardly loosen his hold. Change was good.
At that moment, anger still remained within him, but it was softened by newfound appreciation. This man was not an enigma. He was just another person struggling to mend himself.

Slowly and clumsily, N returned the hug.