Notes: This is kind of a pet project of mine, and it needs to be ripped apart by anyone and everyone who knows what they're talking about. Main question I have for anyone who feels like putting on their beta's hat: is the subtle characterization used fitting for the characters or am I failing to get my point across?
Disclaimer: Pokemon is copyrighted to Tajiri Satoshi and Sugimori Ken.
Timeline: “Patchouli” follows the basic timeline of my personal fic-verse, which takes place around the same time as the second-generation games, but also shares some elements of the Pokemon manga.
Warnings and Rating Information: Rated PG-13 for brief mentions of incest, as one mentioned family is about as inbred as the European monarch families.
“I suggest that you keep your hands to yourself,” Sabrina said in a monotone, not bothering to turn around to look at Surge.
The Lieutenant sighed, sticking his hands back into his pockets. Can never surprise a psychic, he thought, somewhat ruefully.
“Thank you. Next time I shall remove them.”
“Happy holidays, Miss Telas,” Surge said hopefully. Sabrina did not deign to return the compliment as she stepped up to the door.
Ringing the bell would have been superfluous; Sabrina merely allowed herself to emit a mental suggestion that the door to Indigo Hall open, and the door allowed itself to be persuaded. There were many advantages to having a psychic in the Elite, a psychic who, like herself, disliked noise.
Sabrina stepped into the great foyer of Indigo Hall and shrugged out of her long black trenchcoat, allowing it to be taken by the mute First Elite, Will. The two psychics nodded to each other respectfully.
Good to see you, sister.
And you, Sabrina returned.
The others are in the library. To the left.
And, sister- his mental voice hesitated. If I may. A pleasant surprise to see you here. I hadn’t thought that such gatherings as this would be to your liking.
Sabrina shrugged. Better than spending the evening with the Clan.
Will’s eyes widened behind his mask. Perish the thought.
Consider it extinguished. Will you be lurking out here all evening?
No, I suppose that I shall be dragged into the festivities sooner or later.
By Morty, I suppose.
Will allowed himself the slightest of smiles. Most likely. Yes.
Another reason to stay out of a Gravekeeper Clan… party. The word felt strange to her mind. I suppose Mother still has not reconciled herself to the thought of your partnership.
At least I am the disappointment to the family’s heritage, so I am not useful as breeding stock, Will said bitterly. Morty is otherwise.
I should not worry about that. This particular line is so inbred that it is no longer useful in that respect. The family history of insanity. The Clan is likely to see your partnership as simply another representation thereof.
Karin poked her head into the hall. “Are you two going to stand out there thinking at each other all night?” she asked. “Because if you are, I could see fit to shove both of you out into the snow and not tell you, Will, that a certain blond-haired man came in the back and is looking for you.”
Will’s eyes lit up. If you’ll excuse me- he said quickly to Sabrina, and slipped into the air.
Karin walked over to her older sister and placed a hand on her shoulder. “About time I saw you. How’re you doing?”
“All right, I suppose,” Sabrina said, fighting her natural reticence. “And you?”
Karin shrugged. “I’m alive, no thanks to Mother, who insists on maintaining ‘polite correspondence’ which basically means that she’s telling me to come home and start work on propagating the family line, not that this particular family line needs propagation. I suppose you and Will were just talking about that?”
“Mother is not planning on forcing him to-“
“No, nothing like that,” Karin assured her, taking Sabrina by the hand and walking towards the library. “In fact she thinks he’s useless, for which he’s profoundly grateful and I’m profoundly envious. No, it’s the two of us that she has high hopes for.”
“I imagine she is rather upset with you.”
“Are you not still involved with that man from the Dragon Clan?”
Karin blinked once, confused, then laughed. “Oh! Lance? No. Hell no, are you kidding? That was a one-time thing. Years ago. He’s with Lorelei, and it’s about time too. Two of them are dumber than doornails when it comes to romance. Even after that, Lorelei still didn’t get it.” Karin shook her head.
Sabrina tried to think of a suitable response to this as they turned the corner into the library.
“Watch out, Bruno hung mistletoe over the door again, the meat loaf,” Karin warned her, and Sabrina ducked neatly to the side. “I love you, sister, but not that much.”
“Likewise,” Sabrina said. “Leave that to the males of the family.”
Karin stopped dead, and looked at her sister, amazedly. “Was that an actual joke? Maybe there’s hope for you after all. Anyway, I’m out of here. People to see, things to do, punch to spike, you know the drill. Catch you later.” She gave her sister a quick hug and vanished, as capably as either of her psychic siblings, into the crowd.
So what now? She had obliged her familial duty by greeting and speaking with her relatives (save Morty, but if she knew her brother, Will was doing that quite well by himself.) She did not intend on indulging herself at the punch table. There was only one person with whom she could imagine conversing, and he was absent. Sabrina allowed herself a sigh and the smallest glass of red wine, and reconciled herself to spending another long evening sitting in the corner, watching holiday revelry.
Her usual corner, the darkest to be found in the library, was already occupied by a leggy Houndoom and an Umbreon, curled up together. The Umbreon was asleep; the Houndoom blinked balefully at Sabrina, clearly telling her to go away and leave the two to their own devices. Not wishing to start an argument, Sabrina nodded to the two Dark-types and headed to the adjacent corner.
The psychic stopped and turned, sighing to herself as she recognized the Celadon City gym leader. “Good evening, Erika.”
“So good to see you!” Erika chirped, ignoring Sabrina’s obvious discomfort and hugging her anyway. “I hadn’t thought you’d be here tonight. How are you?”
“All right. And you?”
“Oh, fine, fine. I haven’t seen you in ages!”
“How is your daughter?” Sabrina asked politely, struggling to remember the name of the girl. J- something. Or C?
“Wonderful,” Erika gushed. “Following in her father’s footsteps, but as long as she doesn’t Toxic any of my plants by mistake; you know we Grass types are half Poison anyway.”
“I suppose she is not here tonight?”
“Oh, she is, she is; they set up a separate area for the children so they don’t get bored. Unfortunately there aren’t any other little girls for her to play with, just Lorelei’s son and young Falkner, but she takes after her father in more ways than one; she can hold her own.”
Sabrina nodded, not knowing what to say to that.
“Anyway, I should get back now; I just wanted to give this to you.” She pushed a small cloth package into Sabrina’s hand. “Happy holidays! So good to see you.”
Sabrina waited until she had sunk into the well-cushioned chair in the corner before opening the sachet, and sighed as a familiar scent reached her nose. Herbs. I should have known. Even so, the aroma was pleasant, neither overly sweet nor dry. She pocketed the sachet and took a sip of her wine.
It was looking to be a long night.
In the midst of the revelry, very few of the Gym Leaders and Elite gathered noticed when the door to the library quietly opened, then shut again. The quartet of singing Jynx absorbed the attention of most of those partiers who weren’t either drunken or taking advantage of holiday spirits both mental and liquid to pursue other interests.
Sabrina, who had no taste for singing Jynx or hung-over mornings after, had a perfect view of the door. Moreover, though the person making the entrance was hiding in the shadows, she had already hypothesized his identity, simply because of his not-so-conspicuous absence earlier in the evening.
Giovanni, she greeted him. Good evening.
From across the room, she saw a hand reach from the shadows of a bookcase and pick up a glass, pour itself wine, and salute her.
Sabrina sipped her own wine and teleported another chair into the corner. If she knew Giovanni Matricciani, he would have even less interest in singing Jynx than she. Sabrina, at least, could assign a slight professional importance to the half-Psychics. Giovanni would simply think that, as one of the few Pokemon who would have no trouble dispatching his Nidoqueen, the Jynx would have better things to do with their time.
Sure enough, as the Viridian Gym Leader and part-time megalomaniac slipped into the chair beside her, she could just barely hear him muttering such compliments as “frivolous” and “wastes of talent.”
“I claim no responsibility for that travesty,” she said, keeping her voice quiet. “My suspicions place all blame on Misty and Erika.”
“Is not the one on the right one of Lorelei’s?”
Sabrina shook her head. “I think not, or Lorelei would be here. The one singing alto is one of my brother’s, but I suspect that both Silence and Will were bullied into it. Silence prefers Perish Songs over caroling.”
“As do I.” Giovanni allowed his lip to twitch upward into one of his trademark smirks. “He named his Jynx ‘Silence’?”
“They understand each other perfectly.” She couldn’t help but twist her words the slightest bit defensively.
Giovanni raised a hand slightly. “No offense meant, of course. I imagine they both make up for their vocal shortcomings with sheer ability.”
“Silence is not mute. Merely reticent.”
“Rather like someone else in the family.”
Sabrina ignored the jibe. “It is a surprise to see you here.”
Giovanni shrugged. “Nothing better to do. I thought that it might do well for credibility to at least show up. The same reason you’re here, I suppose.”
Sabrina shook her head. “Family.”
“Ah, yes. The famed Gravekeeper Clan. Or, should I say, the famed Gravekeeper Clan matron?”
“I know your grandmother, and so empathize.”
“Mother?” He sounded surprised. “You’re older than you look, then.”
“Perhaps.” She sipped her wine again, then set it down on one of her crossed knees.
The Jynx finished their latest song in a display of harmony that, to anyone who cared about them, seemed heavenly. They accepted the applause graciously, with plenty of bowing, and Silence slipped away as the remaining three began a new song.
“Hmm?” Sabrina looked down at her hands. “Oh.” She’d been fiddling with the sachet that Erika had given her. “Something from Erika. Herbs.”
“May I?” He held out his hand, and Sabrina handed the sachet to him. He held it to his nose and inhaled, raising his eyebrows. “Patchouli?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Patchouli. Also passionflower and-“ he inhaled again- “rose hips, I think.”
“I would not know,” Sabrina said. “I did not realize that you enjoyed flowers.”
“Exposure,” he said shortly, jerking at a thread of the sachet.
Delia, Sabrina thought.
“Very interesting combination that Miss Hanata has given you.”
“Keiban, now,” Sabrina corrected.
Giovanni sighed. “I always hate to refer to her by Koga’s surname. She doesn’t deserve it.”
“They seem to get along. And she says the child is following in the footsteps of her father, at the very least.” Then she blinked. “And why so?”
Giovanni stared at her a moment before understanding her right-angle turn of conversation. “The combination of flowers? Think of the name. Passionflower.”
Sabrina touched her temple in an expression of dismay. “She did not.”
“It appears,” Giovanni smirked, “that Miss Hanata wishes for you to indulge in some sort of romantic endeavor.”
“I am afraid that it will not be granted,” the psychic said stiffly. She lifted her glass for another sip of wine, then realized that the flute was empty. She set it on the carpet beside her chair.
Giovanni opened the drawstring of the small cotton bag, sifting the contents with one long finger. “Yes, passionflower, patchouli, and- yes, roses. Sabrina, she’s given you a dried love potion.”
“Dear Mew,” Sabrina muttered.
“I was not aware that she was present this evening.”
Sabrina did not dignify that remark with a reply.
“So,” Giovanni said, stretching backwards in his armchair. “How were you planning to spend the evening?”
“Sitting in the corner,” Sabrina said. “As is usual. And you?”
“I was hoping to escape the notices of our dear hosts. Unfortunately I believe that I was spotted. Hence, the sitting in the corner.” Giovanni grimaced. “Sighted by a mere child. And not even Koga’s.”
“Which one, then?”
“The worst possible, of course. Lance’s son. He came blundering around the corner with some plush toy, saw me, and ran off.”
There was a long silence, as Giovanni downed more of his own wine.
“He will not tell,” Sabrina said suddenly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Lance’s child. The one that saw you. He will not tell his father that he saw you.”
“How do you know?”
Sabrina tapped her temple.
Recognizing the psychic capabilities which had made Sabrina so useful to him as a Rocket Elite, Giovanni simply nodded. “The child is discreet?”
“Perhaps that is better.”
Sabrina, laconic as usual, was silent.
The trio of Jynx finished their final song and dispersed to the sound of applause. Someone turned on a radio to fill the silence and a few people got up to dance. Sabrina was quite pleased to see that her own relations were not amongst those wasting their energies.
Beside her, Giovanni let out an ungentlemanly snort, and Sabrina looked over to see the cause of this uncharacteristic display of disdain. Giovanni didn’t spare the source of his annoyance any words; he merely jerked his chin in the direction of one of his three most trustworthy employees, Koga, slow-dancing with his wife.
Sabrina shrugged. “They have been married for eight years.”
“I have never gotten used to the sight of Koga behaving like… like…”
“Like a member of normal human society,” Sabrina finished.
“Yes. I have never seen the up-shot of this ‘normal.’”
“There is much to be said for being on the fringes,” Sabrina said absently, watching the couples dancing, colors flashing, hair and eyes and clothing.
“Agreed. Yet there are times when it would seem to be a disadvantage.” Hearing her silence, he continued hurriedly. “I mean that… have you never wondered what life would be like, spent out of solitude?”
Sabrina toyed with the strings of the sachet of herbs. “It seems that the costs would outweigh the benefits of indulging.”
“The benefits being?”
She paused, and for a moment he thought that she would not answer. But then she spoke, her voice so low that he almost missed the word. “Companionship.”
He raised his eyebrows. “I was not aware that you were fond of people.”
“I am not,” she said, leaning back and closing her eyes. “I see and hear too many things to fool myself into believing that the indulgence of interactions with humanity in general is worth the cost.”
“And yet you wish for companionship?”
“If there is such a thing as intelligent human companionship- the sort of companionship that recognizes my particular… peculiarities, then, yes, that might perhaps be worth the price paid.”
“You mean someone who does not fear you,” Giovanni guessed.
Her nod was barely visible in the dimness. “Yes.” She sighed. “It sounds… foolish, I know. After all, fear can be such a useful feeling to inspire. And yet… have you ever felt that for once in your life, you would like to know someone around whom you could let down the walls?”
“I’m not sure I understand you,” he said, draining his wineglass.
“Someone who would understand you for who you were- who you are- and accept that. Who would not be afraid. With whom you could have a discussion and not worry about the consequences.”
He hoped that Sabrina could not sense his surge of emotion at that, and ruthlessly squashed it. “It’s not worth it,” he said, somewhat gruffly. “It doesn’t last.”
Sabrina leaned back again, recognizing her mistake. Delia, she diagnosed to herself. Again. And it hurts more than he cares to show.
“For the time that it does last, though. Is it worth the indulgence?”
He shrugged, awkwardly. “Better to ask one of them,” he said, jerking his head toward the makeshift dance floor and the apparently happy couples. “It seems that there is some benefit.”
“Yes. But they are not solitary, as… as I am.” As we are, she added silently.
“Ask your brother, then. Wouldn’t he know?” Giovanni’s voice was almost bitter. He sighed. “I… apologize. That was uncalled for.”
Sabrina didn’t answer, instead teleporting one of the wine bottles from the table. She caught it neatly and handed it to Giovanni.
He raised his eyebrows at her, but poured himself a full glass anyway. “Thank you. And you?” he asked, offering her the bottle.
She was poised to shake her head, but stopped. I can indulge for one night. “Thank you.” He topped off her glass as well, and she sipped at the contents.
“Shall I take this back?” he asked, holding up the bottle.
She shook her head. “I doubt that anyone will notice its absence.”
“True.” He paused, searching for a topic. “I didn’t know that you were much of a drinker.”
“I’m not. A once-in-a-while indulgence, nothing more.” She paused. "It is a type of poison."
"But, as your element, like mine, lends you superiority over poisons, you are immune to the... aftereffects. I see." Giovanni smirked, raising his glass slightly. "Well then. To immunity."
The corner of Sabrina's lip twitched upward. "Immunity," she repeated.
They had refilled their glasses again by the time that the great clock behind the refreshments table announced one in the morning. Giovanni jumped slightly at the deep booming that had interrupted their silence, and looked around. Though the makeshift dance floor in the center of the room was still occupied, the library had emptied somewhat in recognition of the hour.
"Late," Giovanni observed.
Sabrina nodded. "Celadon or Saffron tomorrow?"
"Actually, I gave leave to most of the forces for the next two days. All of those who didn't need discipline. A bit of rest might do them good. The others will report to Celadon, probably whining." Giovanni raised an eyebrow. "You're included on the inactive list. I suppose for you it will be Saffron?"
"Celadon," Sabrina replied. At his look of surprise she elaborated: "No challengers at the gym. Less noise in Celadon."
"Hmm. I had thought you'd wish to go home."
"I can train equally well in the Celadon base as in Saffron’s, if I won't be in the way of the other activities."
Giovanni shrugged. "I'm sending them all out elsewhere for training. The base will be nearly empty." He interpreted her raised eyebrow correctly. "I'm staying. Paperwork and training. You're welcome to join me if you'd like."
Sabrina thought for a moment. A once-in-a-while indulgence, nothing more. "I would like that."
Giovanni stood and offered her his arm. "If you're planning on returning to Celadon tonight," he explained hastily.
Sabrina nodded, but gestured towards the back of the library. "Back door," she explained.
With a nod to the sleeping Houndoom and Umbreon in the opposite corner, they made their way past the bookcases to the rarely-used back door. Sabrina coerced the lock into releasing, and, once they had passed through it into the back hallway, shut it again with the same absence of noise as it had opened. Giovanni allowed Sabrina, more familiar with the centerpiece building of Indigo Plateau, to lead the way.
At the great wooden doors leading outside, they stopped. Sabrina retrieved her black trenchcoat from the hall cabinet. "Until morning, then?"
"Yes." Giovanni reached into his pocket. "You were about to forget this."
Sabrina took the sachet of herbs from him. "Thank you." She surprised both of them by wryly adding, "I think."
Giovanni smirked, and held the door open for her. She stepped out, seemingly oblivious to the cold blast of air in her face, and prepared to teleport. She stopped, and turned to face Giovanni on the landing.
"You're returning to Celadon this evening?"
"Would you… like to take a short-cut?" she asked, extending her hand.
"Please," he said, taking it.
They teleported, allowing the soft sweep of snow to erase their footprints.