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Jack and Gabriel Discuss Death [Morphic extra]

Discussion in 'Completed Fics' started by Dragonfree, Feb 12, 2015.

  1. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Hello! I haven't posted anything in a while. I am terrible.

    This is an extra to my Pokémorph fic, [thread=228940]Morphic[/thread]. That means it's about characters from Morphic and takes place after the end of Morphic. I would be posting it in the Morphic thread, except 1) Morphic has already been copied over to Completed Fics, so posting more content in the still-open thread would bring the two out of sync which is kind of awkward, and 2) this just happens to be a perfect fit for the current Fan Fiction Quarterly Challenge. It's technically about pretty universal themes, but it's going to make a lot more sense if you've read Morphic, and it references a bunch of spoilers. So I recommend reading Morphic first.

    (If you're going to read it without having read Morphic regardless, you should probably at least know that Gabriel is a Slugma Pokémorph and Jack is a Chinchou Pokémorph.)

    Contains swearing and, incredibly enough, discussion about death.

    This was originally written as a birthday present for elyvorg, who delightfully happens to share my enthusiasm for friendship and characters with massive issues. Happy birthday again!



    -------

    Gabriel’s smile faded, his gloved hand tightening around the cellphone, and Jack knew immediately that something was wrong.

    “Oh,” Gabriel said quietly, his voice empty. There was a pause. “No, I’m okay,” he said, too quickly. “I’m sorry. Bye.”

    Jack looked at his friend with concern as Gabriel removed the phone from his ear and put it down beside him on the bed. He didn’t look back up; he just stared at the phone, his fingers curling into fists around the bedsheets.

    “You really okay?” Jack asked carefully.

    “No,” Gabriel said without looking up.

    “Want to talk about it?”

    Gabriel shook his head. Jack felt a familiar pit forming in his stomach, the burning wish that he could help when he couldn’t really help anyone.

    After a second’s hesitation, he stood up, slowly, and moved to sit beside Gabriel, half-expecting his friend to object. He didn’t.

    “My grandma’s dead,” Gabriel said after a while, his voice faint.

    Jack’s heart stung. “I’m sorry.”

    “Everyone’s dying and I can’t stand it. My dad and Will and Mia and Felicia and Grandma and even you almost…”

    Jack looked away, his stomach twisting.

    “You know, sometimes I still think to myself, Where’s Felicia? And I’m about to call out to her when I remember, No, I don’t have a dog anymore, because Isaac Daniels shot her full of bullets.

    And it was Jack’s fault. Gabriel didn’t say that, wouldn’t think that, but it was. Jack had gotten used to the idea by now, in a way, but it still ached.

    “We could always get you a new Growlithe, if it’d…”

    “No,” Gabriel said immediately, and Jack wanted to kick himself. “Not… not now, anyway. Maybe someday.”

    There was an uncomfortable silence. Gabriel was looking unseeingly out the window. Jack fidgeted with his finger-webbing, wanted to tear it all apart and watch it bleed.

    He caught himself, took a breath and planted his hands firmly on the bed. “What was your grandmother like?” he asked, hoping to shift the topic.

    “I don’t know,” Gabriel said, still not looking at him. “Well, she was nice. Laughed a lot. She loved me, which was cool.”

    Jack nodded vaguely. All of his own grandparents had died before he was born or when he was very young; the primary associations he had with the word grandma were children’s books, whose sugary sweet representations of them never fit very well with the occasional nostalgic stories his parents told of their childhoods.

    “Of course,” Gabriel added with a sigh, “that was before the Alzheimer’s got bad. Last time we visited, she screamed when she saw me, so I guess…”

    His voice cracked abruptly in the middle of the sentence and gave way to sobs, his face twisting into a helpless grimace. Another pang of guilt struck Jack; he hesitated a wretched moment only to realize his arms were reaching around Gabriel of their own accord, and though he couldn’t help instinctively expecting to be pushed away, Gabriel hugged him back tightly until he’d calmed down and was breathing normally again.

    “Sorry,” Gabriel said when he released him, looking away again. “I don’t get why I’m like this.”

    “What do you mean?” Jack asked. “It’s perfectly normal to –”

    “Not that. I just…” Gabriel hesitated, shifting around uncomfortably on the bed again. “I didn’t cry when I heard Dad died.”

    Jack blinked, his mind flashing back to that night: his dad shaking him awake at two AM, his voice trembling as he told him the news; saying yes when asked if he wanted to come along to pick Gabriel up, feeling like this must be some sort of a twisted joke and surely Gabriel would confirm it with one of his wry grins when they were there; the hazy memory of getting dressed and briefly panicking over finding a shirt that didn’t have the inappropriate logo of some ridiculous video game on it (he’d almost broken down crying at the third one he picked up, suddenly convinced his entire life was composed of irreverent clowning around and he would never be equipped to deal with anything real, until his dad threw him a plain black one from his closet without comment); the car ride a blur of his father’s strikingly unusual silence, his tight lips, his fingers holding the steering wheel like they wanted to tear it apart; and then Gabriel, just quiet and a little out of it but insisting he was fine and didn’t need anything and being polite to his father like nothing had happened.

    Honestly, it had helped Jack: if Gabriel could act so stoic about it he’d felt like he could too. But he had wondered, some part of him regarding Gabriel as a ticking time bomb that was going to… well, he hadn’t known what, he’d had no idea what, but he’d felt sure some sort of outburst had to be coming. Even when Gabriel had walked out at the funeral he’d seemed mostly fine afterwards. Jack had never been entirely sure how normal that was.

    “Do you think it’s another side-effect of the Pokémon genes?” he asked when Gabriel didn’t say anything more.

    “No,” Gabriel said, shaking his head slowly. “The Slugma part of me didn’t do a hell of a lot until I fed it, remember? And even then… I just think that was all me.”

    A few moments passed in silence. Finally, Jack cleared his throat. “I don’t think it means anything. It’s not like you loved your dad less. People react differently to things. Maybe you just…” He searched for a suggestion. “Maybe it was shock. Maybe it didn’t seem real enough.”

    Gabriel nodded contemplatively. “That makes sense. I couldn’t really get myself to be sad, because I was too busy being angry something like that could happen.”

    “You didn’t seem that angry,” Jack said.

    Gabriel sighed, pulling off his gloves. “Yeah. I guess I’m good at bottling that up.”

    Jack watched as Gabriel rubbed some life into his face, mixing the cooling top layer of slime in with the brighter, warmer layer underneath, then reached down over the side of the bed into the bucket of sand that lay there and began to massage it into his skin. The awkward new routine had become practiced, methodical and dull in the time since Gabriel had returned from the hospital with best-guess instructions on how much sand he needed to remain healthy and how much would overheat him.

    “You don’t have to,” Jack said eventually. “Bottling things up doesn’t… doesn’t help.”

    “I guess not,” Gabriel said. He reached for more sand, closed his eyes and shuddered for a moment before he withdrew his hand and opened them again. He sat looking dully forward for a few seconds. “Fuck Alzheimer’s,” he muttered eventually.

    “Fuck Alzheimer’s,” Jack agreed.

    The corner of Gabriel’s mouth twitched upwards a little. “I guess it does kind of feel better to say it. Fuck death. Fuck human suffering.”

    Jack smiled. “That’s the spirit.”

    “And you know who can really go fuck themselves? The Church of Holy Truth,” Gabriel went on. “My dad and Will and even Mia were better people than any of you twisted murderous fucks. Fuck all of you.”

    Jack wanted to encourage him more, but his vocal chords had tied themselves into a knot. His fault.

    “And fuck you too, Dave, always trying to make everything about you.” Gabriel reached into the sand bucket again, buried his hand in it. “Fuck the Dangerous Nonhumans act,” he said loudly. “You know, I used to think this wasn’t that bad, but fuck that. Locking us all up like animals? You pieces of shit. We did nothing wrong.”

    Gabriel reached for the bucket with his other hand, and Jack felt hair rising on the back of his neck before he’d even consciously pieced together what was happening.

    “Most of all,” Gabriel said, his voice trembling, his skin glowing brightly, something wild and violent in his eyes, “fuck you, Isaac Daniels, I hope God is real and you’re burning in Hell right n…

    Jack grabbed his arm and wrestled it out of the bucket, only realizing as Gabriel struggled madly against him that it was hot, really hot, and then he’d let go and there was a scream that sounded like his own and his fingers were burning, burning.

    Gabriel stared at him, fire still dancing around his arms, but the weird glint was gone from his eyes. “Oh, God. Jack? Are you okay?” He hastily started to pat down his arms, trying to extinguish the flames. “I’m so sorry. What the hell.”

    Jack stared blankly at his shaking hands and realized some furious part of him was charging electricity in his antennae, wanted to strike back, wanted to win – and then he looked at Gabriel’s mortified face and it was gone. “I’ll be fine,” he said quickly. “It’s nothing.”

    “Are you sure?” Gabriel asked, wary. Jack nodded with all the confidence he could muster. His webbing stung painfully.

    “I’m sorry,” Gabriel repeated as he stood up, grimacing. “I knew there was a reason I bottled it up. I’ll get your dad; he’ll look at it.”

    Jack nodded wordlessly, the pit of guilt growing in his gut. As Gabriel turned towards the door, he blurted out, “I’m sorry I couldn’t help.”

    Gabriel turned around, looking blankly at him. “What are you talking about?”

    Jack averted his eyes. “Nothing I do to help actually helps you. I just make things worse.”

    “Jack.” Gabriel stepped back up to him. “You pulled me out of that sand. I could have hurt both of us a lot more and that was my fault for losing control, not yours. As far as I’m concerned, we’re even.”

    Jack’s heart stung again to remember that day, but he forced himself to nod.

    “As for helping,” Gabriel went on after a moment, his voice tight and unsteady, “I could never have dealt with any of this in the first place if it weren’t for you being there to cheer me up. And when things do get dark, I know you’ll be there to pull me out, because you’re my best friend. You’ve helped me more than anyone could ask for. You have nothing to be sorry about.”

    Jack stared at him for a moment, and Gabriel stared back, firmly, with absolute certainty in his eyes.

    “So if that’s clear,” Gabriel then said, his gaze softening, “I’m going to get your dad for your hands. Sorry about that, again.”

    Jack nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat, and watched his friend run out of the room, calling his father’s name.

    Strangely, he didn’t think his hands hurt at all anymore.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
  2. Negrek

    Negrek Lost but Seeking

    Ah, interesting. I have to admit that I'm more of a fan of the Dave/Mia dynamic than the one between Jack and Gabriel, but they do make good foils for each other, with their mutual self-hatred and despair but Gabriel tending to show it and Jack tending not to. Poor Gabriel, though. He just literally can't ever catch a break, can he?

    I think my favorite part was Jack's recollection of the night Gabriel's dad died, in particular the part where he broke down because he couldn't find a shirt that seemed appropriate; it's one of those weird human things where you handle the craziness of the situation until there's finally some small, innocuous thing that just makes you break down and lose control. I also thought you did a good job of giving the impression of the scene with only a few concrete and well-chosen details.

    I did wonder why Gabriel had the whole bucket of sand right there with him... my impression at the end of Morphic was that he was pretty uneasy about the effects his slugma side had had on him, which would make me expect that he wouldn't be comfortable having that kind of reminder (temptation?) so close at hand.

    Anyway, congrats on getting this done and posted. I'll go admire it again once you get it spiffed up with a proper doctype, too. ;)
     
  3. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Gabriel is a magnet for misery. He's like Jesse Pinkman.

    Thank you! I'm glad that went over well; I wasn't sure if the sentence of doom was going overboard. These sorts of things (the small, innocuous things that make people crack) have always been something that sticks with me when I consume fiction.

    Ah, I guess that wasn't clear enough. These days Gabriel rubs sand on himself multiple times a day; it's just normal routine that he inevitably had to get used to, and he's been able to do it just fine without incident ever since that time at the playground in chapter 14. The bucket is there for simple convenience. He lost control this particular time because as it turns out indulging in anger while sanding really brings out his aggressive Pokémon side (which really wants more sand).
     
  4. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly

    Happy birthday, Dragonfree!

    My memory of Morphic is admittedly hazy, so I had to go back and reread the last chapter to refresh my memory. (I also realized I never left a review, and even three years later, I feel guilty about that. Sorry - I really did love it!) With the events of Morphic in mind, I was really able to enjoy this.

    This is a really interesting moment to see between Gabriel and Jack. I really enjoy the dynamic between Dave and Mia, but I appreciate the very normal, human friendship between two kids who are just trying to figure things out and come to terms with their lives. (And really, isn’t that just the epitome of coming-of-age stories?) It makes me wish these kids had counsellors of some kind.

    I really like the way you focus on moments and details, like Gabriel’s grandmother panicking upon seeing him. Grandparents developing Alzheimer’s is so utterly normal, yet of course having that exist in a world with Pokémorphs will make things tough. A lot of family members of Alzheimer’s patients report being forgotten, but your own grandmother seeing you as a monster is another level of difficult and painful and I can’t help but love it. Jack focusing on the moment with the shirt really makes that memory feel real, too.

    I love the small bits of Pokemon that pepper the characters, especially their desire to fight, and their self-reflection on those urges. It kind of just makes me want a Morphic extra where they have practice battles against each other. Goodness knows they could probably use the exercise considering how cooped up they are.


    This sentence feels like it could be chopped up a bit. Maybe break it up after "tightly," also to give the impression of a bried time lapse since they're sitting there embracing for a few moments.

    I found the meaning here pretty clear, but I might suggest changing the first “he” to “Jack.”

    I wasn't entirely clear at first that the "them" was referring to his eyes, here.


    I really like your fic extras, and this was no exception. It felt very human, all things considered, which says a lot considering your characters are half-Pokémon monstrosities. Congrats on finishing this, I'm looking forward to more!

    ~Psychic
     
  5. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner Peace to the Mountain

    Yeah, rebound pets are... not something I would personally recommend.

    Thirded.


    I didn't realize just how much I'd missed these li'l dweebs, especially the lavablob. Think I've got some rereading to do, though sadly it'll need to wait.

    I'd wondered, from the moment he brought the sand out, if the topic of discussion was going to lead to him flaring up. Wondered just how safe it was for them to proceed. But I guess things turned out all right for them in the end, considering where that could have led. Hands heal. Houses... not so much.
     

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