This is a work of fanfiction by Butterfree/Dragonfree/antialiasis and is not to be reposted without permission. This story is in no way official or endorsed by Nintendo, GAME FREAK, Creatures Inc., or The Pokémon Company.

Morphic

For more information on this story and a full list of chapters and extras, click here. Please note that Morphic is rated R (M if you prefer Fiction Ratings) for strong language, violence and other sensitive subject matter.

Chapter 9

The geneticist who had lost his daughter at the beginning of the book was the murderer, and at the end he shot himself.

Gabriel sniffed as he closed the book. He remembered his father describing what it was about and how he felt for that character when he had only just started reading; once Gabriel had started, he’d quickly also concluded that the geneticist was the most sympathetic character in the whole book. And then… Gabriel felt tears welling up in his eyes again and blinked them resentfully away. Why did he have to be such a wreck over this, of all things? A stupid book. Pathetic.

He looked dully at Felicia, sleeping on the other end of the couch, and reached over to pet her. He half-wanted to vent about it aloud, but didn’t really trust his voice for the moment, so he kept his mouth shut.

Jack came out of the kitchen, holding a platter with two slices of toast with marmalade, and turned towards Gabriel. The luminous ends of his antennae swished back and forth; Gabriel didn’t think it would ever stop being slightly comical. He smiled dryly as Jack made his way towards him, laid the platter down on the glass table and then threw himself down beside Felicia, scratching her ear slightly. “Want some?” he asked, indicating the bread. Gabriel shook his head.

Jack shrugged and took a large bite out of one slice for himself, eying the book that still lay shut in Gabriel’s hands. “Finished it?” he asked through the bread. Gabriel just nodded.

“How was it?”

“Good,” Gabriel replied emptily. “Really good.”

Jack looked at him out of the corner of his eye as he stuffed more bread into his mouth. “You’ve got…” he said, crumbs flying out over the table as he pointed to his hair. Gabriel extinguished the growing flame blindly with his hand, only remembering that he was still wearing his gloves after he began to smell singed leather.

“Crap.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Jack said quickly. “You can’t really see it.”

Gabriel looked dully at the black glove; while he couldn’t really tell where it had started to burn, that didn’t change that it was now smeared with his skin on the outside, quite undermining the purpose of wearing the gloves to begin with. He sighed, pulled them off and laid them down on the table with the dirty one on top of the clean one.

“So, uh…” Jack’s gaze shifted between Gabriel and the gloves on the table. “Magic?”

Gabriel looked at him, not really in the mood. “I’m no good at that game.”

“You can always learn more, right?” Jack looked at him hopefully. “Or, hey, we can watch Pokérus. I borrowed season four from Ben the other day.” He paused. “It’s not something you used to watch with your dad, is it?”

Gabriel shook his head. He had never been very fond of that show (even he could tell that the biology was markedly off in some episodes), but at least it was an excuse to spend a few hours killing time without actually doing anything. “Sure.”

Jack sprang up from the couch. “I’ll put them in the laundry basket,” he said, picking up the gloves. “Be right back.”

Gabriel was left alone with Felicia, unable to stroke her without getting the stupid slime all over her fur. He sighed and looked longingly at the slice of toast remaining on the platter; on second thought he was kind of hungry and would have liked to be able to belatedly take Jack’s offer and eat it. But without his gloves, the idea of eating something while holding it in his hands was less than appetizing.

He sighed, stood up and went to the kitchen to look for a knife and fork. He heard Jack returning, the footsteps suddenly stopping, and then the inevitable, “Gabriel, where’d you go?”

“Kitchen,” he called back, picking the cutleries carefully up before closing the drawer with his elbow and walking back out to the living room. “Do you mind if I eat the other piece of toast?”

“Oh,” Jack replied, sounding somewhat taken aback. “Sure.” He inserted the DVD into the player and then sat down at the other end of the couch, leaving the seat by the platter for Gabriel. As he sank into the red leather of the couch, Felicia looked up with an expression that begged for petting, but he could only shake his head and focus on his bread, which he finished within a few bites. He still felt hungry, but somehow unmotivated to try to get himself more food. He had barely noticed the beginning of the episode on the screen, but they were all kind of the same anyway.

He laid down the knife and fork, sat back and sighed. Jack gave him a brief, anxious glance.

“You don’t need to try so hard, you know,” Gabriel muttered.

“Huh?”

“Keeping me occupied.”

“Oh, it’s…” Jack began immediately, but trailed off and stared at the TV for a second; the fake nothing-is-wrong expression faded from his face. “Well, I just… I kinda worry about you, you know? I figured you needed something to keep your mind off things.”

Gabriel smiled wearily. “Thanks, but you do that better by just being you.”

Jack looked at him and then back at the screen, contemplating it; then he turned suddenly back to Gabriel and asked, “Do you mind if I ask my friends over to play DnD?”

As it turned out, this was the first evening since the incident that Gabriel could really enjoy himself; it was very relaxing to spend it as the wizard Gringalot on a quest to defeat Giratina as part of an unlikely team of travellers with an oddly modern sense of humour.

-------

Peter took a shower that morning. It was always a bit of a tedious affair for him to take a shower, since his wings, with their rather messed-up feathers, liked to collect a lot of dirt, and it was always a bit difficult to reach around to clean them.

When he was created, his parents had explained, a large part of the challenge was to see if they could modify a human to have six limbs, and because of this he had been one of the key morphs of the experiment – he liked to think he’d been the very most important one. To achieve this, they had introduced a gene recurring with minor differences in various six-limbed Pokémon species, such as Machamp and Charizard, that when disabled in them would prevent the growth of the third set of limbs. Naturally, he had also had the Taillow genes coding for wing structure, and they had made sure that they would be active in the right set of limbs. But they had missed something in the complex interactions of all those genes, because while the bone structure had accommodated the third pair of limbs reasonably, the wings themselves had ended up tiny and shrivelled and he had never been able to move them at all.

In other words, he was a failed experiment.

His parents had told him not to let that fact upset him; he wasn’t sure why it ought to and just found it kind of cool. They had also offered to let him have his wings surgically removed, but even if they were hard to clean, they were still cool, and they didn’t really get in his way since they were so small.

So Peter liked his wings, even if they were tiny and useless. When he was wearing a reasonably big T-shirt, people couldn’t even tell they were there, and while he was wearing his baseball cap, they couldn’t tell that he had feathers instead of hair on his head, either. He thought that was why he’d never had it as bad as some of the others – people could forget he was weird. He thought that was nice, too. Not that they couldn’t figure it out when he moved weirdly when he wasn’t concentrating, or in the showers in gym class, but they weren’t thinking about it all the time, like they were with Kathy or Gabriel. And that was why Peter had normal friends and they didn’t really. He was lucky. His sister was nice and deserved to have friends, but her rose-hands freaked people out, and whenever she started getting to know someone she grew up much faster than them.

He turned off the shower, stepped out of it and dried himself. A stripe of golden sunlight stretched across the floor from between the curtains, a hint that autumn hadn’t quite set into the weather yet. He quickly pulled on his clothes and opened the curtains, looking out at the countryside landscape of fields and trees; it only took a few notes of birdsong to draw him down the stairs and out the front door.

Peter had never liked being confined to closed rooms, after all.

He ran out to the Ponyta herd grazing in the north field, feeling energized just to know of all the wide space around him; he laughed when the startled Pokémon closest to him turned around, their manes flaring, and galloped to the other side of the field. “Lily!” he shouted. “Come over here!”

His Rapidash, who had been his starter Pokémon at the beginning of his journey that summer, looked up, her ears perked up, before trotting over to him. She was still the most powerful and his favourite of his Pokémon, even though his parents had told him he shouldn’t really have favourites because he ought to love them all equally for who they were. He had known her since her birth, after all, knowing she would be his starter Pokémon; the ones he had caught in the wild during the summer just weren’t the same.

Lily let him pet her for a moment, but then abruptly snatched the cap from his head and took off in a light run along the fence, neighing mischievously towards him. He broke into a sprint after her, laughing; he loved little more than running after her when she was teasing him, and she knew that well.

The wind rushed past his ears, comfortably cool but somehow numbing, and he felt the dew-coated grass blades stroke his ankles in an odd, blurry sort of sensation; something felt different, though he couldn’t put his finger on it. He was closing in on Lily and saw her turn her head slightly to see him before speeding up. And that was when it struck him that he was really, really fast. The realization made him laugh in exhilaration as he looked around and saw the trees whirring past – he hadn’t even been this fast in a car! – and turning at the corner of the fence seemed strangely easy and automatic. He felt himself gaining speed without really realizing how he did it, the Rapidash struggling to keep ahead of him, and then he miraculously caught up to her side; he flung himself into her without really knowing why, and the sheer momentum sent both of them tumbling into the grass. It was lucky it was soft.

He was still letting out short bursts of laughter when he stood up, intoxicated by the sheer amazement of what he had just achieved; his heart pounded in his chest and he was breathing in rapid gulps of air. He would end up with some bruises from this, he was sure, and his clothes were soaking wet from the landing in the grass. Lily was pushing herself to her feet; she shook her head, tiny droplets of water flying in every direction as her mane flared up indignantly. Peter picked his cap up from the grass beside them; it was too wet to put on.

The Pokémon looked at him with a questioning gaze.

“Lily,” he said after a moment, “I’m not sure, but I think I just used a Quick Attack.”

He grinned at her, and she tilted her head towards him with an unimpressed snort. He made sure she wasn’t seriously injured after the roll, gave her a pat on the neck and then walked back towards the house to tell someone.

-------

Cheryl waved to the police officer in the car parked a short distance away as she crossed the street. He raised a hand back at her, which told her he had gotten the message that she would be coming. That was good, she thought; she’d have hated to have to deal with convincing a policeman that she was not there to murder David Ambrose.

The only reason she’d come at all, really, was how horribly broken he had sounded on the phone begging for company. They couldn’t leave Mia and Lucy home alone at night – not at a time like this – so Howard was left with the girls, and she had gone alone. Now that she was actually stepping into the apartment building, she was having second thoughts; the drive there had felt a lot more unsettling than it sounded in theory, and despite good intentions, the presence of the lone police car outside did little to make her feel safer from lurking murderers.

But Dave was a friend, and Cheryl couldn’t turn her back on a friend, even if he was in all likelihood drinking and nighttime travel a bit dangerous.

The staircases were unlit and empty, the windows giving clear view out to the streets; the bright light from the streetlamps outside cast harsh shadows on the stairs. She could not help finding the large windows a little unnerving: too easy to see and shoot someone through, she thought as she hurried up the last flight of stairs. She knocked on the door of Dave’s apartment, throwing another glance at the window and the empty street outside as she did.

“It’s not locked,” she heard a muffled voice call from inside. Cheryl turned the doorknob and pushed the door open.

“Oh, God, Dave,” she muttered as she closed it hesitantly. Of course she knew Dave too well to have expected him to be sober, but the sheer number of empty cans and bottles standing on and around the table that Dave was sitting at still startled her; again she was struck with the feeling she shouldn’t have come. But pity quickly took over: she couldn’t just leave him like this.

Dave looked up. “Sorry I’m such a mess,” he said, his voice slightly slurred and full of self-contempt. “Thanks for coming.”

He pushed the chair opposite him away from the table with his foot; Cheryl walked slowly over to it and sat down. She wasn’t sure what to say; he looked at her, and she looked at him, wondering just when he’d last shaved, just how much he’d been drinking recently, just how little he’d slept in the past week. Again she felt sorry for him.

“I can’t fucking live like this,” he said at last. “Locking myself in to hide from some crazy fuck, not going anywhere without police watching over my shoulder. I’m going to go insane before they catch him, damn it.”

Cheryl looked away and nodded absent-mindedly. Dave, having been concluded to have been the primary intended target of the attack that had killed Brian, had the most extreme protective measures around him, but they all knew the feeling to some extent. The sudden lack of freedom was bad enough; the paranoia that automatically enforced it was even worse.

“Are you alone?” she asked quietly. “Where’s Jean?”

“Been staying with the McKenzies for a couple of days,” Dave answered. “Can’t fucking blame her, can I?”

A few seconds of silence. Then, “She’s going to be in that goddamn Sarah Hooter movie. Why did I sign the fucking thing?”

Cheryl shook her head. “It’s her choice, Dave,” she said. “They’re not the best books around, I know, but in the end it’s her life and her own decis…”

“Her decision, my ass,” Dave interjected with an angry motion of his hand that knocked a few empty cans off the table. “There’ll be thousands of fucking furries and pedos jacking off to her picture every night; how could she ever make an informed decision about that? More publicity’s the absolute worst fucking thing that could be done to her, and I signed a fucking contract to make her a kid star. Jesus Christ.”

Cheryl wished she had something reassuring to say to this, but she couldn’t really think of anything. Dave rested his head on his hands, fingers buried in his hair. “Fuck,” he muttered.

She looked at him in silence.

Dave looked up after a few seconds, took a sip from the bottle in his hand and said suddenly, “I haven’t gotten laid in fucking ages.”

Cheryl took a deep breath. “Dave,” she said gently, “you’re drunk.”

“I still like you, you know,” he went on, pleading entering into his voice as he ignored her reply.

“Yes,” she said shortly and wondered fleetingly if he honestly thought she hadn’t noticed. “I know.”

“Howard would never have to find ou…”

“Dave,” she interrupted, jerking her head back towards him, “that’s over. There’s a reason I married him instead of running off with you back then.”

Dave looked at her for a moment and then rested his his head on his arms again, looking down. “Right,” he muttered. “Yes, I’m drunk. Sorry. I didn’t mean it. It’s just… I fucking hate this.”

Cheryl took another deep breath. “I should probably leave,” she said.

“Yes,” Dave replied, shaking his head. “I’m sorry. Christ, I’m going to snap if they don’t find the fucker soon.”

She couldn’t help still pitying him as she walked out the door, plagued with guilty memories.

-------

A/N: The plot of Gabriel’s book is that of an Icelandic mystery novel (Tainted Blood or Jar City in the English translation), although the order of events described here is as they unfold in the film of the book. Mostly just a reference put in for my own amusement, but I’d rather give credit where it’s due before people start to tell me “You should really write that book!”

Page last modified July 14 2017 at 16:44 GMT