koyuki: (stock 」 chasing all my broken dreams)
/人◕‿‿◕人\ ([personal profile] koyuki) wrote in [community profile] southofreality2011-03-31 01:02 pm

we’ll follow death and all his friends (war!au, 2/4)

Title: we'll follow death and all his friends (2/4)
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3610
Genre: Angst/General
Series: Pokémon
Characters: Jasmine, implied Jasmine->Volkner, Volkner/Elesa
Warnings: war, violence, see more under the cut
Summary: War!AU. Johto and Kanto have always been at war. But war is never just about power or battles or countries, but rather the people who live through them. Jasmine has to be strong for everyone, even though there's no one to be strong for her.
A/N: This fic has an arc of time, so even though it's not autumn, that's why I'm writing about it (my shout-out to the southern hemisphere peeps maybe? ;D). Forgive me if it doesn't feel "fall" enough though; I wrote half of this in Morocco, which is definitely not cold or autumn-y. Proofed again by myself.

Additional Warnings: highlight for plot-sensitive details. war, violence, blood, animal/Pokémon violence and cruelty, character injury and death

one | two

we'll follow death and all his friends
02. slip through me like grains of sand

She climbs the stairs every night, the two hundred and seventeen steps to reach the top of the lighthouse. She counts the steps as they pass by under her feet, one, two, three... all the way up to two hundred and seventeen.

She likes this, the swirl of concrete stairs beneath her feet and the curve of the rusting rail that guides her upward. She likes that each step is the same, the same distance and same solidity between the first and the two hundred and seventeenth stair, each bringing her closer to her destination.

Right before dusk, she starts the flame and sets the top of the lighthouse alight. Then she steps back and watches through the western window as the early September sun sets over the sea, slowly losing itself in the low-lying fog as the ocean vaporizes the fire out of the sky.

She stays there all night.

She doesn't have to, but she does anyway, every night. Jasmine watches to make sure that the flame doesn't die.

There had been talk of an elevator once, before a war that started forever ago had drained all the funds away. For tourists, for the townspeople, they'd said, so they didn't have to climb two hundred and seventeen steps to see all of Olivine from the top of the lighthouse.

There had been a time, once, when the lighthouse was beautiful, when the white painted walls on the outside weren't dulled to a grey from all the soot and debris that drifted over from the warzone. When the handrails were a pristine blue instead of a flaking burgundy.

And there had also been a time once when the Mineral Badge meant more than a medal they threw at your feet for throwing yourself into the front line of gunfire. When her family, who'd run the gym, cared for the lighthouse, had been respected for what they did, not demanded of it.

Once upon a time, a lot of things were true, but Jasmine isn't so sure anymore. They tell her that Johto and Kanto have always been at war, but even if Jasmine doesn't know anything else, she's sure of one thing: she hasn't been alive since forever.

Jasmine has a pen pal, someone in Sunyshore City who she'd met once in her childhood on a family trip to Sinnoh. It was fitting; they were both the only children of the family who oversaw a lighthouse, a city, a sea.

Volkner had been so cold even back then, icy eyes that matched neither his sunny blond hair nor his youthful years. But Jasmine had taken him by the hand, forever ago when they had both been kids, and smiled. Show me Sunyshore... show me what you love about this city, she'd insisted, and he thawed a little under her touch.

I'd never see him warm up to anyone that quickly, Volkner's best friend had chuckled, but he was being kind at best. Volkner had barely said a thing when she'd asked if they could be penpals.

Volkner, she'd write anyway, again and again, before the war. I miss you. Is your family doing well? I'd like to see you all again. Maybe you can visit Olivine this time.

She'd send out her message through the lighthouse window on a postcard of the Olivine shore attached to a Pidgey's leg. Then she'd wait by the window days on end with baited breath for Pidgey to return with something - anything. And each time, when the tiny bird came empty-handed, she'd merely sigh and wait another few days to try again.

Then, she finally gets her reply. That time - the first time - Pidgey comes back shaken up, bloodied, and slightly worse for wear. Jasmine doesn't even bother reading it before pushing through the crowds at the Pokémon Center to find help.

When she finally settles down in a waiting room chair, exhausted and finally reassured that Pidgey will be okay, she finally takes a look at the letter.

My family was thinking about next month.

Jasmine trembles and lets herself mourn for a minute - and no longer - for all the possibilities that had died between the stroke of his pen and the words reaching her eyes. Then, she schools her expression back to what's expected, strong and determined, and reconciles with the reality that there would be no next month, if an ever.

War had already broken out.

Amphy is sick, so sick, mother tells her, there's nothing we can do, what shall we do?

The Pokémon Center... they can't heal Amphy, Mama?

Amphy needs a special medicine, baby, there's a pharmacist in Cianwood who can make it but we can't get there when Kanto has a blockade. Even the sailors, maybe they can get there, but how will they get back, there's no light without Amphy, what will they do?

Jasmine purses her lips and makes her choice, because someone has to. I'll do it... Mama. I'll keep the lighthouse... I'll look after it until Amphy is better.

The sailors, they're all so nice with their gapped teeth and their wide smiles crinkling around their eyes - even their slurred syllables tumbling a stilted concern to say the proper things around a girl like her.

Most of all, though, they're all so young, so young, they couldn't be much older than herself, and Jasmine can't imagine their wide smiles and crinkled eyes out on the wide blue sea fighting, dying, over anything.

They're all the same, all different, and none of them have ever introduced themselves to her, but she knows each of them anyway.

Miss Jasmine is so pretty, Buckteeth will start every time as she's making dinner for them. Then Curly Blond will say, Miss Jasmine, you remind me just of my sweetheart back home, and Glasses will chastise them and tell them to behave themselves. Then Baby Blue Eyes will say, What would we do if Miss Jasmine weren't the light of our lives? and the rest will all howl and laugh and dissolve into boisterous chattering.

And Jasmine will smile and keep cooking dinner because a home-cooked meal is the least she can do for these boys, the aroma wafting through their laughter.

And when she's setting their plates and serving their portions, she'll ask, Amphy's medicine...? and they'll all assure her, We're doing our best, Miss Jasmine. Jasmine's heart sinks a little, but all she has is hope.

Volkner writes back now, every single time, his letters delivered by a boy on a Pidgeot too old to be his own with eyes too sad for his years.

If she lets herself read in between the lines, she'd know it was pity. So she doesn't read that closely. Instead, she'll scan whatever he's willing to tell her - about Raichu or whatever mischief he's gotten into with Flint or, now, his studies in Unova - and Jasmine's lips will curve softly before she picks out another postcard to write back on.

We are all busy here, but well, she'll say. Autumn is always a little chilly, but Olivine is really beautiful this time of year. Maybe one day you can visit.

She doesn't know who she's trying to convince: him or herself.

Jasmine, sweetie, don't keep asking the boys about the medicine, they have enough to worry about, don't trouble them anymore, her mother says.

Jasmine doesn't understand. Mama... why not...? It's not for me, it's for Amphy... it's for them. The lighthouse is for them.

I know, baby, I know, but they have you, and for right now, it's the best - they have too many other things to worry about. For right now, it's enough.

The sailors, they're all so young, but even Jasmine can see their tiredness fraying at the edges of their laughter and Miss Jasmine, Miss Jasmine's.

Miss Jasmine is so pretty, reminds me just of my girl at home. We shouldn't bother Miss Jasmine, but what would we do if she weren't the light of lives?

Jasmine smiles despite herself, but stops, feeling her determination slowly coming undone. She bites her bottom lip. Maybe she shouldn't - maybe she doesn't have the right. But she doesn't stop. Jasmine doesn't stop asking.

It's not that she's used to getting whatever she wants, no, it's not like that at all. Even back then, back before the war, it was never like that. Jasmine could put aside her own hopes and dreams and needs and desires, but for others - for Amphy, who is sick - she would always fight for them.

Please help, please. Amphy is sick, so sick, there's nothing we can do... won't you help Amphy... please?

Buckteeth averts his eyes, and Curly Blond coughs and shifts nervously. Even Glasses is at a loss.

It's not that simple, Miss Jasmine, they try to explain. The blockade is too strong. Amphy is just one Pokémon. There's only so much we can do.

Jasmine's heart drops like lead to the bottom of the ocean, and her anger finally bubbles over.

You wouldn't do the same... for each other? For someone you loved? For... me?

Jasmine turns in a huff, dress ruffles tangled around her knees, and is out the door before she even bothers to see if anyone will answer. But Baby Blue Eyes finally catches up to her as she's on the fifth stair up the lighthouse.

Miss Jasmine, Miss Jasmine, he calls after her, I understand. I'll help you get that medicine for Amphy. No matter what it takes.

She stops mid-step and turns, finding the blue in his eyes almost too eager and hopeful. She nods at him once and before continuing her ascent, hand gripped tightly around the rusting rail.

If there's only one thing Jasmine's learned about war, it's this: always trust actions more than words.

When Jasmine climbs to the top, for the first time in a long time, she looks, really looks at Olivine. From the window, she can see the Pokémon Center and the line going out its door, all the anxious soldiers and sailors waiting for service for themselves and their companions. Then, against the side of the building, a few Sentrets or Rattatas curled up together, huddling against the wall - abandoned or waiting for trainers who wouldn't (couldn't) ever come back.

She looks past that, north, to the Miltank farm that hasn't put out MooMoo Milk in ages. MooMoo, she knows, is sick, so sick, just like Amphy, but what can they do?

Jasmine purses her lips and turns her eyes to the sky and the clouds hanging low in the southern horizon, the deflecting back on the city. It won't rain tonight, she knows, but it will soon.

She pulls out a postcard, the last postcard she has of Olivine from before the war. They didn't print them anymore. Though they always could, but what was the point?

Holding the postcard out at an arm's length out, she considers the picture's pristine, clear shoreline before shifting her gaze back out the window. From the distance, the reds and yellows of the October trees dot the scenery like an oil canvas; she tries to focus on that.

And not on the edges of the tide, which are slightly tinted with the blood that could never quite be washed out of the sand, or on the white walls of the buildings lined up against the beach, which are smeared brown with an immeasurable mixture of dirt and sorrow.

Maybe it's just the light, she lets herself think - hope, for a moment.

But, no, she knows better. Jasmine is young, still naive sometimes, and there are many things she doesn't understand. But she knows this: she hasn't been here since forever. And once upon a time, she remembers a city that was beautiful.


Elesa, Elesa, Elesa, Volkner writes.

He doesn't outright say it, but she's not stupid. It's not that she wants to see it, but she'd have to be willfully blind to not.

There's something almost like sympathy in the mail courier's eyes as he hands her the letter, but Jasmine isn't having any of that.

Keep your pity to yourself, she says, the words sliding off her tongue cool as steel.

There's a split second whiplash, but it's Jasmine who flinches back, jolted by her own words.

I... I'm sorry, she mumbles, turning away. The mail boy just shrugs, his blue eyes deep and unreadable. He retreats a bit into himself and breathes out quietly, his puffs of white breath the only thing keeping him from completely blending into the blue autumn-morning air.

I've heard worse... bringer of bad news and all. The corners of his lips curve up slightly before pressing together into a thin line. I've broken a lot of hearts that weren't mine to break. They both leave it at that.

Later, alone in the lighthouse at midday, Jasmine sits delicately balanced at the edge of her chair, fingers tracing each of the words written in Volkner's miniscule, messy script. Noting how carefully and delicately written Elesa was each time.

Elesa is vibrant, electric, Volkner writes, and the rest is so sweet even Jasmine feels a little sick from it. (Or maybe it's heartache.)

But this line makes her stop: Elesa's the light of my life. Maybe Jasmine shakes a little, but she quickly collects herself. Solid and stable; strong, like steel.

Love is war, she'd read once, in the books of her childhood before a war that started forever ago, stories that encouraged fanciful flights of romance. Jasmine is older now - better; she's had time to live for herself. Love isn't war - love is a luxury.

Only war is war.

Miss Jasmine, Miss Jasmine! the sailors clatter as they flood into her tiny kitchen in the gym. How've you been, Miss Jasmine? We've been good - I mean, well, that is. But good too, for you. They try to laugh, but even she can hear the fatigue choking on their chuckles.

Jasmine keeps quiet and stirs her pot, needing that extra moment to pull herself together. She knows how the game goes, how to play it. She hadn't stormed out. They'd never disappointed her. No matter what, nothing happened last time, nothing happened in between then, and no matter how tired, hurt, unhappy they were, it would always be the same. They were fine, all fine, everything was fine, and she would be fine too. That was the game.

You look as beautiful as usual, Miss Jasmine, Buckteeth says, though his heart's not in it.

Seeing Miss Jasmine is almost better than seeing my sweetheart at home, Curly Blond lies, his words laced thick with nostalgia and homesickness.

Don't be a bother to Miss Jasmine. She's too busy, Glasses remarks, but there's no bite to his words this time.

Jasmine pokes at a potato in the stew, waiting for the final punch line so she could get on with the charade. A moment, two, then three pass, fading into an uncomfortable pause. She waits, biting the inside of her bottom lip. Her head jerks towards them, and she finds all of them looking back at her with quiet in their eyes.

All of them except him.

Her heart pounds loudly in her ears, a patch of dryness caught in her throat.

She knows. She knows she knows she doesn't have to ask because she knows, but she doesn't really know. She couldn't ask anyway. How could she ask when she didn't even know his name.

Jasmine turns back slowly, the numbness running down her arms so cold that she can't even feel the rising steam from the pot.

Behind her, the sailors slowly move to set the tables for dinner, the clanking of plates and silverware against each other trying to stifle the silence. There's no laughter, though, or chatter. Just movement, and the chairs scraping against the linoleum floor.

Jasmine sniffles slightly, her hand wiping against the bottom edge of her eye.

Miss Jasmine - one of them tries, but she cuts him off.

Something caught in my eye, she explains quickly. Dinner will be ready in a minute.

The game has ended, though, she knows. It's pushed past a point to which they could return. That night, dinner is a silent and solemn affair.

For the first time, Jasmine doesn't ask about the medicine.

Oh, but Amphy is sick, so sick, there's nothing they can do, they haven't much time, and all Jasmine wants to do is curl up at the edge of Amphy's cot and cry.

Instead, she sits and pets Amphy's head, trying to soothe even though the medicines they do have aren't doing much.

Shh, she says, trying to calm both Amphy's weak cries and her mother's quiet sobs. Thunder rumbles low in the distance, and Amphy whimpers. Jasmine soothingly rubs circles on Amphy's back.

The storm... Jasmine, don't forget Amphy's medicine -

I'll get it, Mama, don't worry, she says. I just... have to take care of the lighthouse first.

Remember, the PokéMart closes at 8 -

I know, Jasmine says, the words coming out cool and harsher than she intends. I know, but the sailors... This is more important. Amphy still has some medicine left.

She walks out before her mother can say anything else though, and heads from the gym toward the lighthouse. She has so much to do, and no time to argue - start the fire in the lighthouse for tonight, run and get Amphy's medicine even though it's barely of any help, deliver it, then make dinner for the sailors again because they're leaving tomorrow, help out at the Pokémon Center because they're always short on hands, but check up on the lighthouse in between all that - make sure the flame doesn't die. And each time, she has to climb up and down each of the two hundred and seventeen steps, because there's no elevator, nothing else that would make it faster.

Jasmine doesn't mind because she knows she has to do this. Jasmine has to be strong for them, be strong for the sailors, for Amphy, for her mother - for everyone in Olivine, because she's the last one left. She has to be strong even though there's no one who will be strong for her.

Halfway to the lighthouse, rain starts to drizzle down. Jasmine pulls her cardigan on tight and walks faster.

By the time she gets there, she's half drenched and shivering slightly. Jasmine doesn't grab the handrail because the metal is too cold and tingly against her numb fingers, frozen by the November rain. She doesn't need it though because she's walked these steps hundreds of times, knows how solid each step is under her feet. One step, two, three...

Maybe it's because she's tired or she has too much to do and is walking too fast or her shoes are slippery from the rain, but this time, between the eleventh and twelfth step, her foot slips.

Jasmine gasps and her eyes go wide. She tries to grab hold of the rail, but it's already too late.

She falls.

No, I can still do it, she insists. I'm fine, I'm really fine. The cast will come off in a few weeks.

In the end, they let her be because there's nothing else they can do. They need her. They needed her to be fine, even if she really wasn't, because she had to be. Amphy is still so sick they're not even sure it'll make it through the winter, and who else could take care of the lighthouse?

Miss Jasmine, take care of yourself, the sailors all told her before they left, and she smiled and kissed each of them on the cheek.

I should be saying that to you, she'd replied.

Now, she climbs up the staircase to the lighthouse for them, slowly, with cast and crutches in hand. She has Volkner's latest (last) letter tucked neatly in her pocket, but she'd written a reply before even reading what he'd wrote, on plain white stationery.

I wish you happiness, she'd said, but told him it was too much, too much time and too many resources spent on this that she should be dedicating to something else.

It's not a loss because it was never quite love, she reasons, though she can feel regret tugging at the corner of her heart. But Jasmine has a will of iron, and her mind is already set on it.

If he writes back, don't bother delivering it, she'd told the mail courier. Thank you, but it's enough. Thank you for all you've done.

He'd nodded at her solemnly, and that was that. Now, his letter is all that she has left.

When she finally makes it to the top, Jasmine lights the fire in the pit. Then without hesitation, she tosses Volkner's letter and her last unused postcard of Olivine into the flames.

For Jasmine, autumn has always been the season of goodbyes.

She looks out the western window, waiting for the sun to submerge beneath the waves. It's a partly cloudy day today, but a few splotches of orange and red still manage to fight through the clouds and grey.

In a few weeks, it will start to snow. Jasmine lets herself smile a little, thinking about the tiny ice crystals disappearing back into the vast, wide ocean.

She breathes out evenly, the cool white breaths foreshadowing the cold months ahead, and finds herself sliding back into solitude. Jasmine wraps her sweater around her tighter, and prepares for the long winter alone.

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