This story was written over the course of 3 hours at about 2 in the morning, and I must say I rather like it. It's sort of a prequel to my first TBS fic, but can be read alone easily. I think I'm falling in love with Lt. Surge. <3
This fic and more can always be found at my ff.net and my LJ
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Watching the World
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He watches the world through the bottom of a bottle. With a loud voice and loud steps, Matis Surge barrels through life like a dazed drunkard in a carnival, laughing and stumbling and picking fights as he goes. He drives Koga mad. Janine adores him, laughs at his jokes, plays with his Raichu, listens to his stories. It is for Janine, Koga lies to himself, that he tolerates Surge's friendship.
His Pokémon are much like him. As Electric types, they are unsubtle, brash and bold, rooting foes in place and threatening to stop their hearts with a painful burning zap. They smirk and laugh at the pain they cause, thoughtless and loveable. Surge says insensitive, ignorant things, disrespects their traditions, mocks him for following the old ways, and Koga will swear that their friendship is over because he can not handle the “Lightening American” anymore. But then Surge will appear on the doorstep with take out from Koga's favorite restaurant, or with Janine riding on his shoulders because he picked her up from school and walked her home and Koga will have no choice but to give him another chance.
When the heat increases and the humidity from the Kanto Bay grows unbearable, Matis Surge appears at Koga's door, clutching his bottle of rum or whiskey and a pack of smokes, grinning to hide the nightmares in his eyes and laughing to drown out the screams in his memories. The Southern War was hot and humid and though Surge is unable to admit it, he hates to be alone when the memories are at their peak.
Surge fought in the war, enlisting at 17 years old. On the rare occasions that he is quiet, pensive as he watches the rain fall or the sun set, Koga knows that his mind is in the trenches. For most men, war seems like nothing more than a dream, but Koga knows that it's a dream Surge struggles to wake from. So he drinks, and he laughs, and he talks loudly and teases him, and Koga snorts, barely tolerating it because the truth is that he's the same way. They may have left the past, but the past never left him either.
It was mid July, the heat buzzing around them as they drank. The drink that day was saké, Japanese rice wine, Koga's choice. At barely three in the afternoon they were both quickly approaching insobriety. Goldeen danced in the garden pond, and the air hummed with the swarming cries of Venonat and Caterpie. Janine was somewhere in the house, training or cleaning or reading. The peace was lost on Koga however, the silence obliterated by Matis as par the course.
“And then I told the guy,” Surge was saying, far louder than he needed to and nearly slurring the harder words, “if you touch my boots again, my Raichu here's going to remind you that the human body is 70% water and Thunderbolt is super effective.” He laughed loudly at his own story and ruffled the fur on the top of his Raichu's head. Raichu grinned and s******ed, lying in his trainer's lap happily.
“Very humorous,” Koga said dryly, clearly not amused. He took another sip of his drink, trying to focus on the flavor and not the memories it dug up. His father had always preferred tea, saying harder drinks clouded his mind, but his mother had enjoyed saké.
She would sit under their cherry tree, sipping her drink and telling Koga fairy tales, stories of a cursed Vulpix that would take the form of a young woman to seduce travelers, and Gastly that would light little lamps for the dead and lead them through the night. Koga could remember the night of his mother's funeral, sitting on his front porch drinking a bottle of sake waiting for the Gastly with their little lamps to appear and lead his mother's soul to peace. He was fifteen.
As the memory faded, it took him a moment to realize that Surge hadn't begun another story. Rather, he discovered as he looked up from his cup, Surge was staring at him.
“You seem pretty far away, buddy,” Surge said, tilting his head to the side. His sunglasses were askew, increasing the appearance of drunkenness from the American. “Everything ok?”
“Quite,” Koga said, setting his drink down. “I think I've had enough.” He stood up and headed for the door. Surge finished his cup of rice wine like a shot glass and stood to follow him. “Go home, Surge,” Koga said without looking at him, no longer feeling sociable.
“Hey, Koga,” Surge said, confused by the man's moodiness, though he should have been used to it by now. “Hey, sorry if my story wasn't funny.” He tried to laugh it off, but Koga didn't turn. “Koga.”
“I said go home. I have other things to do with the day than babysit you,” Koga said, harsher than he meant. “I've humored you enough for one day.” It wasn't Surge's fault that the memories the saké brought today were sad ones, but he needed to be alone now and the American didn't respond to subtlety.
Rather than taking the hint or backing down, Matis took one long step forward and grabbed Koga by the elbow. He forced the man to look at him. The rice wine had blurred the summer afternoon into a mishmash of memory, thought, and paper thing reality. Going home while the air shimmered in and out of flashbacks, so real and painful it was like watching his bunk mate die in his arms as the forest burns around him, the mud in his mouth and the blood in his eyes all over again, was an unbearable thought.
Koga fought to avoid Surge's gaze, because when he finally caught his eyes he saw the man's life painted there. He saw Matis as a boy who grew up with nothing, whose mother ran off with another man, who never had a girlfriend and who's father had no idea why that was, who ran away from home to escape himself and found the army, the war and Koga instead.
When Surge looked at Koga he saw a man who never revealed anything to anyone by choice, who sat in silence as his mother, his father, his tradition, culture, honor and wife faded away into the ink of history.
They stared at each other, Koga wanting to pull away, frightened by the honesty and bleakness of his friend's soul, Surge stubborn and unwilling to face the remaining daylight alone. The distance between them, the bubble of trust that two men created, the assumed promise that a certain line will never be crossed, blurred in the fog of drink, and Surge couldn't help himself. Koga was quick and smart and strong and tactful, but Surge easily had the upper hand in strength. He pulled Koga into a crushing kiss, his hands locking onto Koga's birdlike frame. The man had such thin bones, Surge was sure that's how he moved around so quietly.
The contact only lasted a few seconds before Koga, ever nimble, slipped his arm free and delivered a fierce and wicked punch to Surge's temple. Red in the face, the ninja panted, rage and humiliation bubbling through the cracks in his normally marble facade. Surge rubbed the side of his head, fighting the clenching pain in his chest for a few moments. The laughter that followed sounded genuine save for the bitter undertone that was all but unnoticeable.
“You should see your face!” Surge laughed, taking another step back. He looked over his shoulder. “Come on Raichu!” He summoned his Pokemon to his side. “Let's leave the old geezer alone. Koga's tired of us.” He picked the rat up and fixing his sunglasses. “See ya around, bud.”
“Uncle Surge?” Koga heard Janine say softly, catching Matis in the front hall. “Leaving already?”
“Yeah. Your Dad's already tired of me.” Surge laughed. The twinge of pain and foreboding was clear in the man's voice. He was forced to go home early. He'd get no rest that night, twisting and turning with the feverish nightmares, and there was nothing that could be done to stop it now.
“You're still coming to my school play on Friday, right?” Janine asked. “You promised. You'll come back Friday, won't you?”
There was a soft shuffle from the hallway, a quiet hug. “Yes. I'll still go.” Surge said. “Now, you behave, little lady. See you then.”
As the front door closed, Koga slid down to his knees, his hand covering his mouth. Heart pounding, face flushed, his other hand fumbled in the folds of his clothes until he pulled out the fading picture of his wife and held it close. Nine years since the Gastlys lit the little lamps for her. It was her face he still thought of as he fell asleep at night, her voice he still heard in his dreams. He took comfort in knowing that he still loved her. He must, after all. He hadn't moved on.
But when Surge had kissed him, all he had thought about was him, his feverish whispers in the medic tent where they had met in during the war, the cocky grin on his face when he announced he had passed the Gym Leader certification exams, the honesty in his eyes when he delivered the horrible tasting birthday cake he had baked for Janine that she had loved, the curve of his lips when he laughed at his own jokes, and that terrified Koga to his core.