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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.

Extra: Dave and Mia Discuss Family (AU)

Mia is wrestling with the arms of the man she dragged out of the closet when Jean screams, “Mia, look out!”

Mia whirls around at her warning and dodges to the side just as the man who killed Brian emerges from the door in the back of the room. He is the only one of the men to hold the gun steadily and without fear, and Mia kind of likes him for that, but she also knows he wants to kill her, and then it doesn’t matter that she likes him.

He fires a shot as she dodges to the right, then another as she swerves to the left. She can’t get any closer, but Jean takes advantage of his preoccupation with Mia to run up and sink her teeth into his hand. The man simply turns and shoots her, of course, without hesitation or even visible pain, but it still gives Mia the split second she needs: she lunges, arm raised in front of her, eyes fixed on his throat. The man looks back at her and starts to raise his gun again, but she knows he is too late to be able to aim before she strikes –

– and then there is a sharp, piercing pain in her back, and she stumbles and falls. The man from the closet must have managed to reload his gun, she realizes before her face smashes into the floor. She has no rational chance of outspeeding them anymore even if she can move, so she doesn’t try; she lies there still, instead, and watches the blood rushing from her nose, spreading, glistening.

She hears Felicia coming out of her Pokéball behind her, only to be quickly disposed of. Katherine could shoot the men, but instead she tries to threaten them into dropping their weapons, and of course they don’t and just shoot her down, both of them. Then Gabriel appears, shooting flames, as if that will do any good when there are two men there and he can’t get them both at once; they kill him, too. Mia lies on the floor as Jack sobs and pleads and dies, because all she would achieve by moving is alerting them to the fact she isn’t dead, and then they will shoot her again. The others don’t seem to understand that. How can they all be so stupid?

After they kill Jack, there is a second of silence before the man from the closet breaks into hysterics. The other man tries to soothe him, saying he was doing the work of God; she suspects without that distraction he would be double-checking that they’re all dead. It’s convenient that he doesn’t, but it frustrates her that he would let the other man’s breakdown distract him at all. He’s supposed to be smart.

She hears sirens in the distance and knows it might be the ambulance Katherine called. She would like an ambulance, she thinks; even breathing tastes like blood, and it’s getting difficult to focus through the steady stinging throb of pain in her chest.

-------

Dave doesn’t show up for work for a couple of weeks. It doesn’t seem like there’s any point in going to work – or getting out of bed in the morning, really – when they’re all dead. He watches bottles pile up around the apartment and tells himself out of habit that he should clean them up before he realizes that there’s no reason to even do that because there’s nobody there except him. So he leaves them alone as a fuck-you to anyone who thinks he’s obligated to do anything anymore.

He’s sitting and watching the most brain-murdering movie he can find on television when there is a knock on the door. He looks up, a vague sinking feeling in his stomach, not sure he wants to open it.

“Dave?” he hears Cheryl’s voice say. “Are you there?”

He groans, sinking deeper into his chair. Definitely not. She’s probably going to start telling him he’s being self-destructive and acting concerned, when really he’s just realized he doesn’t give a fuck.

“If you don’t work,” says Mia’s irritated voice after a second, “then you won’t earn any money and won’t have anything to eat.”

Like he really cares about food at a time like this – but it’s Mia, and apparently he’s managed to annoy her, so despite himself, he sighs and rises to his feet.

Cheryl jumps as he opens the door; then, slowly, her shoulders sag.

“Hi,” he says as he steps aside and lets them in. Mia walks over to the sofa immediately; Cheryl frowns at his bottle collection and murmurs, “Good God.”

He closes the door. “Do you like what I’ve done with the place?”

She sighs. “This isn’t funny, Dave,” she says, sounding very tired. “You haven’t been answering the phone. You could have been dead for all we knew.”

He chuckles at the absurdity of the suggestion as he picks up the bottle he was drinking from earlier and sits back down beside Mia. “And what the fuck do you care, anyway?” he adds as Cheryl settles into one of his chairs.

She crosses her arms and looks away. “Well, for one,” she says, “I have a daughter who inexplicably adores you. And for another, your absence is putting more workload on my husband.”

Dave snorts.

Cheryl looks at him for a long moment, but then just sighs and shakes her head. “Well, since you’re apparently just dandy, excuse me for a minute.”

She stands up and heads to the bathroom. Dave sits there for a moment and then turns his head towards Mia.

“If you don’t work, you won’t get any money,” she says, looking crossly at the television instead of at him. “And if you don’t get money you can’t buy food, or even beer. You’re being stupid.”

He really, really just doesn’t give a fuck about food. He’s properly cooked maybe twice since the incident and hated every minute of it. Even eating is a chore; in fact he isn’t sure when the last time he actually ate was (he doesn’t feel hungry, but that’s probably because he’s been filling the gaps with beer). But he knows Mia would think that’s absolutely loony, and he’d rather she didn’t hate him right now, so he just says, “I’m not planning to make this permanent.”

“That’s good.”

He’s not really planning to go back to work, either. He doesn’t think he’s planning anything at all. But he has a feeling she wouldn’t be any happier with that.

“You’re still upset about the others,” Mia says after a second.

“Well, of course I’m fucking upset,” he says, kind of surprised by the heat in his voice. “They’re all dead. If it were up to me, they’d fucking shoot everyone who just goes to work like nothing happened.”

He starts to raise the bottle to his lips and jumps as Mia suddenly lays her hand onto the palm of his other hand on the sofa beside him. She doesn’t look at him and just sort of limply leaves it there, but the gesture is obvious.

He blinks at her, several times. “What’s that for?”

“Human contact releases stress-relieving hormones,” she says, looking at him like he’s being exceptionally slow today. “It’s comforting.”

He stares at her and is too busy being impressed that she’s intellectually simulating something resembling normal human social interaction to explain to her that he doesn’t need that, so he just says, “Yeah. Right.”

He means to let go, but then he doesn’t. Some part of him feels like if he released her she’d just float away and die like the rest of them.

“Stop squeezing me like that,” she says after a minute, and he’s going to tell her he’s not, but then he realizes that he is and pulls his hand away.

A few seconds pass. “My mom kept worrying you were dead,” she then says, again not looking at him. “I tried to tell her you wouldn’t do something stupid like that but she wouldn’t listen.”

He thinks of the gun that has been lying on his bedside table for a while now and the times that he’s sat there and just sort of looked at it. “Yeah,” he says and takes a sip of his drink. “She worries too much.”

More silence. “You need to get a girlfriend,” Mia then says, and he chokes on the beer he was drinking; she goes on undeterred. “Jean is dead, and you don’t have any friends. It’s unhealthy to be without human interaction for an extended period of time.”

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he says when he’s finished coughing. “What are you now, my therapist? No, I don’t want a fucking girlfriend.”

“Or I could move in with you,” she suggests, ignoring him.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because…” He searches for words. “Because you’ve got parents and I’m not one of them, all right?”

“I like you more than my dad.”

“That’s not how it works and you know it.”

“It should be,” she insists. “There is no good reason to make people live with their families if they don’t want to.”

He waves a hand. “Putting up with people you can’t stand probably builds character, or some such nonsense.”

“That’s a rationalization,” Mia says. “You would never use that to argue we should start doing it if we weren’t.”

He cracks a smile, vaguely surprised he still remembers how. At least, when the others were slaughtered, Mia survived. He doesn’t have a daughter anymore, six unique lives that he created and watched and fought for and could have become anything are dead and gone and buried and rotting away, but at least she is still there, a constant, complaining about his argumentation like nothing happened at all. That’s something.

“Good point. You’re right,” he says. “And don’t get me wrong. I get you. I hated my parents.”

“I don’t hate them,” she responds. “I just like you.”

“Well, then you’re luckier than me,” he answers and takes a swig of his beer. “My parents were shit. If they’d had their way you wouldn’t even exist.”

For a fleeting moment he wonders what he might be doing today if the Pokémorphs had never existed, but he draws a blank; his imagination seems to be submerged in a dark void.

“Why?” she asks eventually. It takes him a moment to untangle what she’s referring to from the muddle of thoughts floating around in his head.

“They were creationists.”

There is a beat of silence. Mia looks at him neutrally.

“And, well. Did you know, when my mom heard about the whole debacle, she called me, crying her eyes out, about how I was… you know, treading on God’s territory or whatever the fuck, and begged me to ask divine forgiveness before it was too late so she wouldn’t have to see her only child go to Hell?”

Mia frowns. “What did you say?”

“I told her to go fuck herself.”

“That’s not an argument,” Mia says.

“You can’t argue with people like her.”

“What did she say?”

He sighs. “Nothing. She just hung up. Probably changed her mind about not wanting me to go to Hell.”

Mia considers it, frowning again. “Maybe she did that because you weren’t making any sense.”

“Somehow I doubt it.”

“Why?”

He sighs again, rubbing his face. “Most people don’t think like you, Mia.”

Mia turns away, looking dissatisfied. “You shouldn’t let them bring you down to their level. If nobody argues with them properly, how are they ever going to learn anything?”

“I’d already tried to argue with her, many times,” he says. “It just… look, just trust me on this. It was a lost cause.”

There is a pause. “If she thinks Hell is a real place and you’re really going there if you do something, it makes sense she’d try to convince you not to. It’s just like when you tell me not to do things because I’d go to prison.”

“Except for the part where prison actually fucking exists.” He can’t believe Mia of all people would take his mother’s side here; honestly it kind of hurts, or would if he could feel much of anything at the moment. “When did you start believing in sin and eternal torment?”

“I know that,” Mia says, a note of irritation in her voice, “but if she thinks Hell exists, she’d try to tell you not to do things that make you go there for the same reasons you tell me not to do things that make me go to prison.”

“And you’re an expert in those reasons, I imagine.” He picks up his beer again and takes a sip.

“You like being with me,” she says. “You keep finding excuses to get hotdogs with me even when you’re not hungry and don’t get one for yourself. You make conversation just to talk to me even when you don’t have anything interesting to say. You take me to see movies that you can’t even watch properly just because you think I would like them. You only do these things so you can be with me. And if I went to prison, you couldn’t be with me anymore, except during visiting hours. Maybe your mom liked being with you, and she thinks she’s going to Heaven when she dies, so she wants you to go there too so you can be with her.”

Dave snorts.

“But you also try to make things better for me sometimes even when we’re not together,” she adds after a moment. “So you just like knowing that I’m happy, too. Your mom is probably the same. You wouldn’t be happy in Hell, if it existed, so she probably doesn’t want you to go there even if she wouldn’t get to be with you.”

He’s silent for a moment. “Well,” he then says, “like I said, she probably changed her mind on that.”

“Only because you didn’t explain why you were mad,” Mia repeats, annoyance seeping into her voice again. “She’s wrong because Hell isn’t real, but she thinks it is. So when you got mad at her when she said she didn’t want you to go to Hell, she probably thought you wanted to go to Hell, and that doesn’t make any sense.”

He squeezes his eyes shut, thinking. His brain feels like sludge; he tries to look for a response but doesn’t get anywhere, and at the realization he can’t even bullshit his way through an argument with Mia anymore, a strange helplessness comes over him. For a weird, pathetic moment he feels like he’s going to start crying, before he beats down that feeling and shoves it behind some locked mental door where it belongs.

“You should call your mom and explain it to her,” Mia suggests after a minute. “Then maybe she can move in with you and you can work again.”

No.”

“Why not?”

“I hate her, she hates me, we haven’t even talked since then. The fuck do you think she’d want me calling her now about a conversation that happened ten years ago? I mean, if there was ever a chance she’d want to come near me again, I’m pretty sure I fucked that up thoroughly already.”

Mia looks at him for a moment. “You want her to talk to you again.”

“What the – no, I don’t. I just told you why I fucking don’t. Why are you playing fucking mother-son matchmaker today? Jesus Christ.”

“Those were all reasons why she wouldn’t want to talk to you. But maybe she’ll change her mind if you explain.”

Thankfully he doesn’t have to dignify that with an answer, because just then the bathroom door opens and Cheryl steps back out.

“Welcome back,” he says. “Great timing.”

Her gaze flicks between the two of them for a moment. “I was thinking,” she says. “Howard and I are going on a… trip. Do you think you could take the girls for a few days?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I just want some fucking peace and quiet, all right?”

She sighs, looks out the window for a moment. “Why are you doing this?” she then says as her gaze returns to him. “Are you trying to pretend it won’t affect anyone else if you drink yourself to death in here? Is that it?”

“That’s stupid,” Mia says, frowning.

“Yes, it’s stupid,” Cheryl agrees, a brief flicker of amusement passing over her face before she fixes him with an accusatory glare again.

He rolls his eyes and reaches for his beer. He finishes the bottle, then pushes it into the forest of empty bottles covering most of the coffee table and adjusts them to be straight. In the corner of his eye, they’re still watching him, waiting for a response, refusing to drop it.

Finally, he sighs and leans back in the sofa, glances back their way, and says, “You know, I’ve always wondered: exactly what the fuck about me makes me your go-to babysitter?”

Cheryl folds her arms, her lips tightening, but says nothing.

“Is it my Parent of the Year award from when I told Jean exactly where to go to get herself a nice bullet hole through the head? Or the bonus ribbon for getting five other kids killed with her?”

She blinks, the frown vanishing from her face and turning into wary alarm. “This wasn’t your fault,” she says as she unfolds her arms. “Is that really what you think?”

“Look, why don’t you just ask one of the others to –”

“There is no trip, Dave,” she says with a frustrated sigh.

“Well, problem solved, then.”

She looks at him for a long second, folding her arms again. “Take the girls,” she says at last. “You know it’ll help.”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell him,” Mia says irritably, and Cheryl smiles a little. “If you won’t call your mom or get a girlfriend, I’m going to move in with you. You shouldn’t be alone. It’s unhealthy.”

“Why is that even your problem?” he says. “Jesus.”

“Because I like being with you,” she says, her tone unchanged. “I like it when you’re interesting and make sense and tell me about science. When you’re upset and alone and refusing to work, you stop making any sense.”

He winces. “Mia –”

“And even when I’m not with you I still want you to be working and buying food and not just sitting here drinking beer. You want me to be happy, so you should stop being like this and let me move in until you’re better.”

He stares at her, a muddle of vague feelings twinging somewhere at the edge of his mind. Mia, Mia, Mia. At least she’s still there, telling him he’s being an idiot.

He sighs. “Fine,” he says and stands up off the sofa. “Go get Lucy. Maybe some edible dinner while you’re at it. Preferably something I can just stick in an oven for twenty minutes.”

Cheryl smiles slightly. “I’ll see what I can do.”

She looks at him hesitantly for a moment, then steps up and gives him the briefest of hugs before she turns and disappears out the door. He stares after her until Mia asks, “Is there anything good on TV?”

“Uh, I think there may be a nature documentary on 4? It’s a series. You’d probably like it. It’s about predators.”

“That sounds good.”

She reaches for the TV remote and he’s about to sit down with her when he changes his mind and turns around. He hesitates in the door to his bedroom for a moment, looking at the gun that still lies untouched on the bedside table, and takes a deep breath. Then he hastily enters the room, picks up the gun and stuffs it into the locked bottom drawer. Can’t have that out with kids in the house.

As he sits back down in the sofa beside Mia, she takes his hand again, and he lets her.

Page last modified July 14 2017 at 16:44 GMT