20th March 2010, 3:35 PM
~ Nightmare ~
A/N: This is my response to a challenge in The Fanfiction Club, namely: 'You have a character in a locked room with a hostile Drowee using Dream Eater/Nightmare. What do they see?'
This fic is in the same universe as The Rookie's Handbook, at a later point in the timeline, and contains some subliminal references to things explained there; nonetheless it shouldn't be necessary to read The Handbook to understand it. Mucho thanks to Psychic for the beta, too~!
Rated PG-13 for suicide and swearing, including God's name being taken in vain, for those of you sensitive to that.
~ NIGHTMARE ~
His boots crunched on the stones of the driveway as he came up it, ’round the back of the house, and when he reached the end he stopped, surveying the backyard with faint surprise. His pa was always in the garden, lately, whenever Marcus came around, although Marcus was never sure if it was to pretend he was busy or to get out of the house while Marcus was there to see his mam and sister. Usually Marcus would come out to see him anyway, and sometimes they’d talk but mostly they wouldn’t, and even though sometimes the silence even became comfortable—the way it used to be—most of them time Marcus left either irritated by something his pa had said or bereft at the quiet sorrow and regret that hung over the man. Mostly it was a silence which his pa wanted to fill, but out of respect for Marcus’s feelings didn’t, and Marcus would sit there keenly aware that there were things inside his pa that his pa was trying to hide for his sake—and wish he could take them all away.
“Pa?” he called out, coming through the gate with a click of the lock, his boots heavy on the bricked walkway. Nothing; just the sound of the leaves rustling, green foliage turned faintly translucent by the sunlight—just his pa’s plants.
Guess he went inside. It was kind of hot today—not that it had ever stopped him before, but probably he just went in to get a beer, right? He was still allowed to have beer.
The back door was open but, checking his watch, he knew that Mam was probably still out with her friends. They always came together to knit or sew on afternoons like this … Bethy hadn’t been enthusiastic about the open invitation to join them once she hit sixteen. She had more plans with her life than just spending her time knitting for money to supplement the vet benefits. Wanted to go to college, his little sister, Bethy.
Knowing her, she’d make it, even if what she wanted to study had changed over the past few years. She’d wanted to go into photography, before, ever since she just barely a teen and taking photos of everything and everyone with that cheap camera she’d gotten for her thirteenth.
Now she was talking about journalism.
Guess I can’t be too surprised. Even though he had been, because when he first heard he hadn’t been sure how it related to anything. It hadn’t helped him, either; they hadn’t been on good terms lately. My fault, probably. Somehow it always was, and he was older, so he should know better than to spend time being on the outs with his little sister what with everything else going on.
No one was in the kitchen. Actually, it was dead quiet, so quiet he could hear the whir of electricity for the refrigerator and hear the television faintly from next door. Always had it up loud, they did. Didn’t seem to care if their neighbors liked it quiet.
Just … not this quiet.
“Dad?” Marcus called again, his gut slowly tightening with still-forming instincts that told him something was wrong—something that he didn’t know, couldn’t guess, except that his father should have been here but wasn’t answering. He wasn’t so far gone that he couldn’t answer—not yet.
Trying to breathe deeply, Marcus turned around from the stairs and went back outside, because the only place he could think of where his dad would be and yet not hear him calling was the shed, and that only if he was too focused to really hear anything else—which had happened more frequently lately. Yeah, that was probably it.
He was still telling himself that when he heaved open the shed’s door and stopped short on the threshold.
* * *
Marcus heard footsteps and rubbed his face with a longsuffering sigh, then lowered his hands to make an admirable attempt to blank his face before his father came in. He loved his pa, he did, it was just that sometimes and especially recently—
The door squeaked as it opened; Marcus should have oiled it again once it started up, but what was the point? He’d be at boot-camp in a matter of weeks. No one’d be using his bedroom then.
“There you are.” Pa sounded light-hearted; that was either very bad or very good, depending. The bed-springs creaked as the man sat down, but Marcus didn’t turn around for a moment, his eyes skimming quickly over the page of his physics textbook. It wasn’t exactly easy stuff to self-teach, and he hadn’t started training or even gone to a school for pilots, but when he did by God he was going to be ready.
When he’d finished reading the paragraph he put the book down with a thunk and turned to face his father. The man was leaning back on his hands, watching Marcus with an odd sort of intensity: hesitant almost, sorrowful, regretful even maybe. His face was weathered and lined, deeply tanned, and his greying hair was still cut short—not quite a crew-cut, but nearly so. When Marcus met his gaze he half-smiled wryly, his eyes crinkling.
“Working hard?” he asked with an odd mix of gentleness, amusement and pride.
“Yeah,” Marcus muttered, feeling his cheeks heat a little even though he really had nothing to be ashamed of … except that he’d never really spoken of his desire to be a pilot to his father and all of a sudden wasn’t sure how he’d react.
“It’s not about Navy life, is it, that book?”
There was a definite twinkle of mischief in his eyes now, and Marcus flushed deeper, then lifted his chin half in defiance. “What makes ya say that?”
Pa snorted. “Aside from the fact that you’ve been obsessed with planes your whole life?” He waved a hand around the room, directing the motion especially at the ceiling and all the models of airplanes and some helicopters that Marcus had put together over the years. The hand came down. “Y’know they have pilots in the Navy too,” he said.
“Yeah, I know,” Marcus answered, his tone half relieved, half cautious, his lips twitching slightly with an oddly shy smile. “Always wanted to know what it was like to take off from one of them carriers.”
“Frightening,” Pa said, deadpan, and Marcus snorted.
“That’s just ’cos you’re a pansy, old man.” He grinned, rubbing his hand over his close-cut hair a little sheepishly, a little self-consciously.
He seemed okay, Marcus thought with a bit of hope. Not, y’know, dazed or crazed or anything, not that he ever was, but at least he wasn’t being too focused or … or trying to talk about those things he said he’d seen …
“How long ’til boot-camp?”
“Two and a half weeks.” Marcus nodded half to himself. It wasn’t that he didn’t like the idea of being a Marine, or was even only doing it just to keep up the family tradition; it was just that he liked the thought of piloting more. But his family didn’t have enough money to send him to school again, not with only the vet benefits and Mam’s sewing and tutoring, and Pa having trouble holding jobs down for more than a few weeks to a month … either his employers found out he was, eh, troubled or his—obsession—kicked in and he started missing hours altogether. Add to that the fact that Marcus just wasn’t ready, ’cos in-between helping with paying for high school by working he hadn’t had the chance to study for the entrance exams. So joining the Marines it was, at least until Marcus decided whether he liked Navy piloting life or got up enough money to pay for the schooling himself.
“Well, we’ll just have to go camping sometime before then, eh?” Pa cracked a grin and Marcus’s heart skipped a beat, and for a moment he was torn between dread at being alone with the man for a week and excited at doing something they hadn’t done in two years but which had been all but tradition when he was a kid. He and his father were a lot alike, even though Bethy was the man’s favorite; she was Daddy’s girl. Marcus didn’t begrudge her that, but the camping trips were about the only thing Marcus and his pa shared together that was theirs and theirs alone, and … Marcus wouldn’t have said it out loud … but he missed them.
“That’d be great, Pa,” he said quietly but with complete sincerity.
“And maybe if we’re lucky …” Pa trailed off, his gaze drifting slightly, and Marcus’s heart lurched. A second later the man’s eyes snapped back into focus and his grin widened with some combination of feverish excitement and desperation. “Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll see something worth seeing, eh?”
Marcus cut back on a groan and resisted the urge to put his head in his hands. “Dad,” he said with as much patience and gentleness as he could possibly muster, because dammit he knew this wasn’t exactly fair but then life wasn’t and it wasn’t helping the man to cater to his deranged beliefs anymore. “We’re not gonna see anything. Not if we were camping out there for a million years.”
There was dead silence, and Marcus had to turn away from his father’s shock-widened—betrayed—eyes, spinning back to his desk with an uncomfortable clearing of his throat to shuffle inanely at the papers on his desk.
* * *
His heart beat slow but heavy against his ribs, as if it couldn’t quite decide that he was really seeing what he thought he was seeing, because really it couldn’t be true and there was just no godamned way—
The light spilled across the concrete floor, stained by years of soil and grime and people walking on it. It fell on the dark timber of the work-bench chair lying on its side on the floor, the tall backless one that was high enough for a ten-year-old to sit on without his feet ever touching the floor so he could watch his dad carve shapes out of wood to pin to the trellis.
It fell on the work boots dangling above it.
It was cut off by shadow at the shins.
Oh God …
It never even touched Jacob Surge’s face, slack and mercifully hidden in darkness over the thick vein of rope around his neck.
* * *
He looked peaceful. That was the first thing Marcus’s numb mind could really absorb, the first thing he could cling to, because he hadn’t really been peaceful for years, just desperate and driven and sad and regretful, all the time, so maybe it was better this way because at least he looked okay now …
It was a lie. It was the make-up they used to hide the bruises around his neck, and the soft lights lighting up the room, and the bunches of flowers and the perfume and the dark, polished wood.
Pa was still dead.
He turned numbly away from the casket, his cap under his arm and his dress uniform stiff and prickly. His eyes passed unseeingly over the people there with him, some of them old friends, a lot of them Navy men and their wives coming to pay their respects to the poor tragic Commander Jacob Surge who’d submitted to insanity. He didn’t need to look to see the subdued strains of relief on some peoples’ faces, or hear the quiet tones of, “perhaps it was better this way” and “at least his son can properly focus on his career now” and “oh his poor wife …”.
He didn’t look at the corner beside the casket. He’d already seen his mam, sitting beside her husband and staring blankly into the distance with a tissue in her hand and a box next to her and her makeup pristine because she just wasn’t crying. The tightness in Marcus’s chest every time he looked at her told him that deep down he didn’t think she was going to make it out of the dark place she was in right now.
He didn’t know how to help her out of it.
He caught a flash of movement, the back of a black dress hurrying down a corridor, away from the funeral, and followed.
She whirled on him, and the look on her tear-stained face, her makeup running, her lips contorted and eyes blazing with wild grief—it all made his heart clench suddenly, the first real thing he thought he’d felt ever since he found their pa dangling from the rafters of the shed.
“You bastard! You—th- this is y- your fault! Y- you—”
She dissolved into wrenching sobs and the pressure in his chest increased when he stepped forward to put his arm around her, but she lashed out, taking him by surprise and striking him on the chest, harder than she should’ve been able to given her size.
“No!” she shrieked, shoving at him violently, beating at him with her fists, and the hatred in her eyes made his breath catch. “It’s your fault! YOU ABANDONED HIM!”
* * *
“Lieutenant! LIEUTENANT SURGE!”
Marcus’s eyes snapped open, his entire body jerking as he drew in a harsh, strangled breath, his hands snatching at air. Someone seized his hand, gripped it, gave him an anchor to hold onto; it took a moment before he recognized Travis Murdoch, and the realization was shunted to the back of his mind almost as soon as it was made in favor of hauling himself from the weight of his memories. He was trembling, his clothes clinging to him with his sweat beneath his flak vest and all the sharp corners of his equipment digging into him; his head pounded, his breaths ragged and gasping.
He felt Travis’s steadying hand on his shoulder and paws on his legs, and automatically reached down at the soft, faintly curious and concerned “bibibi?”, his hand landing heavily on Raichu’s head. His heart and respiration eased, but the tremble in his hands and dizzying whirl of everything around him didn’t; he had to put his head between his knees, dragging in huge uneven breaths.
He unstuck his tongue. “What—what happened?”
Koga’s voice was so sudden that it made Marcus jerk, and when he looked up it was to find the ninja before him, his dark eyes studying Marcus so intently that for a moment Marcus was frozen in place.
Then the blond shook his head violently, sucking in another breath. “A bu—wait, a—a psychic?” His mind felt scrambled; he could barely remember all the names of the electric-types in English, let alone anything else.
Koga inclined his head once without shifting his eyes from Marcus, even though the blond wished he would. And then he did, stepping slightly aside so that Marcus could see the flurry of activity behind him. They were in the corridor, just a little under the stairs and out of the way; cops were swarming the house, double-checking rooms, and he saw two of them leading a third woman wearing a black uniform and handcuffs out into the yard. As soon as they’d cleared the door Marcus got a glimpse of yellow tape and police cars and an ambulance … and people flashing cameras … before the space was taken up by someone else.
“It put you under Hypnosis and then Nightmare,” Koga was saying, his voice a little distant, and his gaze slid sideways to pin Marcus to the wall. “Do you remember?”
Marcus bent his head, grinding his knuckles into his eyes and taking another, steadier breath; he was beginning to remember, yeah. He remembered the crunch of wood as Travis’s rhyhorn took out the front door and every other door between them and where they thought the Rockets might be hiding. He remembered taking the sharp angle in to the right, sweeping the room with his gun while Travis took the left, Rhyhorn still barreling straight down the centre and Raichu backing them up from the doorway, fast and inexorable so that the occupants wouldn’t have a chance to retaliate or hide.
They’d done it once, twice, three times, four—four rooms cleared (two of them occupied) before he came to the fifth, sweeping the room after Rhyhorn’s bulk had passed through the entrance and expecting Travis and Raichu right behind him—not that he didn’t think the Vermilion police weren’t well-trained, but let’s face it, they weren’t on par with SWAT and even a grease-monkey from a Nightstalker platoon who’d seen action, like Travis, was closer to being on par—
He remembered the blue glow of psychic power, something he would never get used to, remembered spinning to face it, his gun raised, his finger twitching on the trigger, and then—
“Did I get it?” was all he could think to ask.
“You did. Nightmare lingers, particularly on the … unprepared.”
“Just as well you did, Lieutenant,” Travis said gruffly. “It had a Barrier on the door. We couldn’t’ve gotten in otherwise, an’ Rhyhorn was taking a beating from the other Rockets.”
That’s right. He’d been warned about that tactic; put a Barrier right across the entrance and even smashing a door down wouldn’t break it, and all they had to do was watch the idiot in the lead stun himself by walking right into it. Or wait ’til some blundering fool walks right into the room and then snap it up, and you’ve got yourself a newly sworn-in gym leader who just couldn’t stay off the front-lines.
He inhaled slowly, letting the breath fill him completely before he let it out again and lifted his head.
“What’s our status?” he asked more calmly, though still gruffly, meeting Koga’s eyes. The ninja hadn’t been there in the beginning and now suddenly was, but Marcus wasn’t surprised by the man’s presence because he was only just sworn-in, less than two months ago, and aside from his two-and-a-half years of intensive training at an abandoned power plant he was otherwise a perfect stranger to the culture. That wasn’t even taking into account the fact that lately things were heating up and fast between the local crims and the law.
I have a God-awful sense of timing, joinin’ the League right now. Or maybe he had a God-blessed sense of timing; he hadn’t decided yet.
Koga tilted his head slightly in acknowledgement of everything Marcus didn’t say. “Minimal casualties for the League, two fatalities for the Rockets. No escapes.” A slight eyebrow raise.
“Congratulations, Machisu. You have just successfully completed your first mission as gym leader.”
Last edited by purple_drake; 18th April 2010 at 2:45 PM.