So hey guys! 8D This was something I whipped up after listening to this song. I hope you guys all enjoy it~ I always found Marley to be an interesting character so... I hope I do her justice with this story |D;; Enjoy everyone! Reviews are much appreciated!
Dawn slowly rises with the tang of sea salt, uncertainly folding muted grays over pale gold. The harmonious cacophony of the Wingulls that had resounded so brashly yesterday is hushed by the murmuring lullaby of the ocean. The stars are long gone; they had allowed themselves to be stolen away by the jealous night without so much as a goodbye to Marley.
The girl wakes up to the quiet symphony alone. For a moment she is confused and her dreams spill into reality. Marley reaches out, a soundless name on her lips, and touches sand instead of fabric. Her hand freezes, withdraws, the muddled illusion broken. Home is nowhere near the beach.
Sleep hangs heavy on her mind as Marley sits up. She rubs her tired eyes with her hand, resisting the urge to lie back down. Tattered memories crawl back. She remembers watching the stars, but does not remember falling asleep, nor does she remember wrapping herself in such a tacky, flower-print blanket. She looks around and realizes with a start that there is a boy in front of her, stoking a fire.
A low growl rumbles and shakes her in the chest. Marley feels behind her and is greeted with a lick. Her Arcanine stares down at her with wide, puppy-dog eyes, panting happily. The boy looks up.
"Good morning. Want some eggs? They're scrambled."
It is a casual question, an anomaly of everyday routine, asked as if they were in a cozy house instead of a near-abandoned beach. She gently strokes Arcanine, making him wag his bushy tail. "... Okay."
The boy nods and dishes the eggs out onto makeshift plates. He looks more like an art student than anything else with his beret and white scarf, and he couldn't be anymore out of place on this beach. But there is something about the way he held himself, something that glimmers in those warm grey eyes that tells her that he is a veteran trainer, a soldier who has been through hell and worse with his Pokemon and survived, though he couldn't have been any older than Marley. As he holds out a plate of warm eggs, she can tell that he is a great cook as well before she takes her first tentative bite.
"I almost missed you out here," the boy says. "It's a good thing that my Empoleon noticed you." He pauses, and she knows that he is regarding her black and white dress with scrutiny. Marley leans into Arcanine and lets his warmth envelop her. It is too cold, even with the blanket and fire.
"Sorry for the trouble," she says, pronouncing the words carefully.
"It's not a problem. Couldn't leave anyone out in the cold like that anyway. I had a tent set up, so I was going to bring you in, but your Arcanine wouldn't let me."
At that, Arcanine gives a bark of pride, grinning in the way that only a canine could at his stubborn loyalty. Marley pets him and he whines, satisfied. "I don't come here often. This is my first time in a while," she adds as a slow afterthought.
"Same here." The boy holds out a hand. "Name's Lucas, by the way. Lucas Hikari."
Marley reaches out, gently squeezes it. He squeezes back and shakes. A brief connection, a temporary acquaintanceship is established. She relaxes, just a bit. "Marley."
"Pretty name. Mind telling me what you're doing way out here? You don't seem like the type of trainer who usually comes to places like this."
Marley hesitates. "If I tell you," she says, "will you help me?"
It catches Lucas by surprise. She can tell by the slight widening of his eyes, his hasty smile that melts into genuine concern. "Depends, I guess, on what it is. But I'd probably say yes."
Although she has made it clear that she will tell him, Marley takes her time. She thinks and chews, arranging her words into sentences that will do the least harm before she finally lets them slip out of her lips. "I am looking for a Pokemon."
A beat. Then: "That's it?"
It unexpectedly stings to hear her grand quest shrunk down to a single question. She looks down at the ground. "Yes," Marley says. "That's it." She pauses, cautiously continues, "I have to find it within a certain time."
"Oh. That makes sense then. When?"
Marley allows herself to smile. "Tomorrow," she says, and lets the word hang with desperate finality.
It is hard for her to remember when her journey had began. The days have long since melted into the nights, and the nights have long since oozed into the days. Her clock is gone since she disconnected her Pokegear, after its soothing rings have become a cumbersome annoyance on both her ears and heart. The only guide she has to time are the stars.
She has let the previous deadlines slip past her. Once, twice, but she will not allow it to happen again for the third time. This time, she is sure of its location. She will not fail this time.
Fate cannot be so cruel to let her.
Perhaps she is being unreasonable. It is a trait of hers that her father has always berated her for, but Marley has perfected the art of lying to herself. Fantasies are far better to embrace than reality. It is a universal truth, ever since that beautiful, horrible day when the flowers came into bloom. Spring, she has been told, is a symbolic triumph over death. She had believed in it once. Now she is unsure.
The sun has risen, and the sky is now a uniform blue, a disappointing transformation. Ordinariness has seized the world once more and the lulling melody of the waves is lost amongst the noisy gala of discordance of the Wingulls. The only remnant of the magical dawn is the cool ocean breeze that caresses Marley's skin as she climbs up the cliffs, rocks bruising her fragile hands. Arcanine is back in his Pokeball -- there is no room for the dog Pokemon to clamber beside her.
Lucas is thankfully silent as they climb. He does not ask any questions, nor does he probe her for conversation. Perhaps he has sensed her discomfort during their previous exchange. She feels guilty, like she has countless of times before, but she cannot find the right words to explain to him her discomfort of those very words. Silence is golden. It's best to keep it that way.
They reach the top. Lucas lays down, letting out a sigh. Marley sits beside him and stares at the mountainous landscape.
"This place is so nostalgic," Lucas says. He gains no response, and, having expected none, continues. "I can still remember when I first came here. I was so excited and nervous, you know? Victory Road was the stuff of legends to me, but I didn't realize what I had accomplished until I came out the other end. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried." He gives a wry smile. "I was finally here, at the end of my life's journey," he whispers softly. "I finally conquered the mountain, and it was amazing."
"The Pokemon League," Marley says unnecessarily, and Lucas shifts his gaze to her.
"Every little boy and girl's dream." He laughs. "At least, in my town."
Marley tilts her head at him. She says, "How did it feel after you became the Champion?"
"After?" Lucas asks, and he frowns. "Tough to say. I guess... lost's the word. Yeah, 'lost' pretty much sums it up. My mom called it my early midlife crisis. I thought that was pretty hilarious."
Those eyes of his have a different warmth to them now, a bittersweet and wishful longing to them. He is captured in a world of his own, swept away by some powerful and primal emotion that he easily yields to. Marley knows that look too well, as she has seen it a thousand times over in her own reflection and in the reflection of others. She makes her decision, says, "We have to go."
And when Lucas falls back to earth, to the monotonous present and agrees, Marley feels relief wash over her and she walks quickly in front of him, trying not to show that she had been scared.
Success is so close and yet so far. She isn't sure if she's willing to run to reach it.
It is, in a way, all her mother's fault. She has never been good at making new friends as she had never felt comfortable amongst all the careless words that people threw around in casual chatter. She is diagnosed by her peers and parents with a chronic case of shyness. She did not mind. The truth, after all, is the truth.
Her family had always been well-off, but not so well-off that it alienated them from the good old working-class people of society. Ordinary enough to approach, and rich enough to be jealous of. That was how their family could be summed up as.
And so, in the time she spent inside, wiling away her childhood, her mother taught her of the plants. Marley would sit with Growlithe by her side, learning of Paeonia suffruticosa and Rosa moschata. She learned of the dangerous bittersweet nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, and of its tasty cousin, Solanum lycopersicum, a wonderfully complicated name for the humble tomato. The plants whispered the breathless words that she dared not speak with their flushed colors and trembling leaves, and she loved them for that.
Her love for plants is entirely her mother's fault. It is because of that love that she accidentally made a friend.
It began with a simple mistake, like most accidental friendships. She was not supposed to wander away from her mother in the market, but the flowers sitting in that shop were so beautiful. And so, as she was silently studying the bouquets, admiring their pristine beauty, she saw a boy regarding her with the same silent reverie.
She smiled. He smiled. Neither of them made a move, but an intangible exchange has been made between them, an unspoken understanding agreed upon.
The next day, she came back. And the next. And the next.
Human emotions are strange and fragile things. That alone is the reason for her fears. In her entire life she has been afraid of saying the wrong things, least she probes some unseen wound. It is with her silence that she speaks the loudest with, though not everyone can hear and understand it. The boy was one of the few who could.
He never gave her his name and she never gave him hers. It was a strange way to play out a friendship, but it worked wonderfully well between them. She was free to sit wherever she liked, to admire the flowers whenever she wished, and the boy would only smile. At times he would take her to the back, to the greenhouse, and introduce her to their newest arrivals. Malus sylvestris, Smerinthus jamaicensis, and many more. But what captivated her the most was the wonderful book he had, a collection of the rarest and most beautiful flowers she had ever seen, all pressed between its yellowed pages.
He spoke softly, with reverence and kindness as he showed her his precious collection. He would guide her eyes toward each flower, to look closer at each perfect petal, to smell the faint, lingering aroma that it once held before it had been tucked away in a paper prison. At times his hand would linger on hers, but she didn't mind. It was wonderfully warm, like the sunshine.
And little by little, under her accidental friend's gentle care, the human flower known as Marley let down her petals and opened to the world.
It is only after they make good headway into the yawning tunnels of Victory Road that Marley tells him of the Pokemon, the Special Gift. Lucas stops, his flashlight bobbing in the darkness like a spear of light. "So you're chasing after a fairytale," he says, not unkindly.
She wants to tell him that her life has been a fairytale, with 'once upon a time's transformed into 'a long time ago's, with her in the middle of it all as the not-princess, captured by her prince and saved by the dragon. She has lived a fanciful life, and so she has earned the fanciful right to chase after lost dreams.
But the words escape her once more, and Marley simply says, "Maybe."
Lucas knows it is useless to suggest what he is thinking, but he suggests it anyway. "You could always buy the flowers somewhere else."
"No." The word comes out surprisingly strong. Marley flinches at its determined tone and looks into the darkness. "I made a promise."
Marley does not answer.
Lucas sighs, but the reprimand she braces herself for does not come. He merely moves on, sweeping his flashlight to and fro, saying, "If we want to make it out to the other side by sunset we should hurry."
It is too dark, and that is surprising. She has lived in darkness for most of her life, sitting in the shadows of her home, coming out only into the light to greet her precious plants. It is not a conscious choice of hers, to lock herself and familiarize herself with the dark.
The irony of the thought, that she could love the darkness and the sunlit flowers at the same time, makes her smile as she sticks closely to Lucas.
A thought occurs to Marley. "Why are you here?"
They come upon a fork in the road. Lucas turns this way and that, a pensive look on his face. He hesitates, then looks at her. "Which way?" he asks with polite detachment.
Marley closes her eyes, remembering the pages she had flipped through, the maps she had unfurled. "Left," she says softly. "I know why I am here. Why did you come here if you are already the Champion?"
She feels a stiffening in the casual air around him, and the haunted look, the wishful look, is all too visible in his eyes in the dim light that the flashlight gave to their surroundings. He scoffs, biding for time, and for once he adverts his gaze.
"Everything happens for a reason," Lucas says in a low voice. "Do you believe in that?"
"I believe in accidents," answers Marley.
Lucas gives a quiet laugh. "You're not the only one chasing fairytales, Marley. The only difference between me and you is that I caught mine."
Regret? Nostalgia? She cannot tell. He has suddenly become a closed book.
The air suddenly feels moist. The flashlight's reliable beam begins to dim. A strange fog is settling in. Marley presses closer to Lucas, more to prevent herself from becoming lost than from affection. Their fingers intertwine, the flashlight switches hands. His hand is warm.
"What in the world--?" she hears him mutter. He takes unsteady steps forward, stops. The skittering of rocks falling echoes uneasily. "Careful. It's a steep drop. Try to stay close to the walls. Follow my steps. You have any Pokemon with Defog?"
Marley shakes her head, realizes that he can't see it, says aloud, "No. Only Arcanine."
"All right then." The tension in his voice is all too clear. "We'll have to go slowly."
The words makes her heart skip a beat. He had said earlier that they would need to hurry to reach the other side by sunset. She had anticipated that she would be short on time, but she knew that now they would have little chance of emerging on the other side and in finding the Pokemon before the deadline passed.
Something inside her breaks, and she trembles. Lucas, who has been stepping along the rocky walls carefully, feels it but does not stop walking. "Listen," he says, "I told you I would help you, didn't I? There's more than enough time for us to find the Pokemon. We can do it, together." A squeeze. "No reason to give up when we're so far already, right? Stay with me here. It's not the end of the world. At least, not yet."
A joke, and a lame one at that. Marley wants to believe him with all her heart, but she cannot. Something bars her from doing so, and she chokes on her words when she tries to tell him. Only silence comes out, and it is a language that he cannot speak.
"You'll see," Lucas says confidently. "We'll--"
What they would do was left unspoken as she suddenly hears a yelp of surprise, the sharp crumbling of rocks. Marley is abruptly jerked forward, slammed into the hard ground. The flashlight is gone. All is in total darkness. She feels Lucas's lax hand slipping from hers and panic stabs her.
"Lucas!" she screams.
It was during spring when the boy left. It was a marvelous day. The sun was out. The flowers were in bloom.
She came like she always had to the store and finds it surprisingly empty. The air no longer smells like mulch. The stink of paint hangs heavy in the air. She sits nervously and waits.
The boy comes out with the book and smiles. He knows that she would come. He thanks her, but his family were never meant to settle down permanently in one place. They must be going. He will miss her.
The silence he receives in turn is the most hurtful of all. The boy opens his book and gently tears a page out. Her eyes widen as he hands it to her.
"Take it," he says. "I know it's not much, but here."
Dianthus gracidea. The flower of the skies. Of gratitude.
"Come back tomorrow," the boy says. "I'll be waiting for you."
But by then he is gone.
Marley remembers, she remembers everything as she clings to the lax hand of her friend for their lives. The black darkness blurs, her eyes sting, but she holds on. She does not know if Lucas is truly dead like the boy she knew so long ago was, she does not want him to be dead, he can't be dead, not when she has begun to open her heart to him, not when she has begun to grow again in the world she had ran away from. She feels herself slipping and grabs Lucas's hand with both of hers, struggling to pull herself up.
Bit by bit she rises. She hears the horrible shuffling of his body against the terrible stones, the breathless groans he utters. At last her strength gives way and she collapses.
Marley hurts all over. But she cannot stop now. She feels blindly in the dark until her hands brushes against Lucas's forehead, and it comes away sticky and warm, and she quickly bends down, listening for his breathing, pleading please, please, don't die please wake up--
"Ow," Lucas whispers.
She can almost laugh. But she wipes at her eyes instead with the palm of her hands. "... You talk too much. You don't pay enough attention."
"Well, my mom always did say I was a chatterbox," is the weak answer.
Marley laughs at that, but it transforms into a strangled cry, happy tears streaming down her face.
Lucas has hit his head, but the wound is not deep. When they finally make it out to the other end it is nighttime. Marley bandages him the best she can and they set up camp.
The stars twinkle down at Marley as she sits outside. She looks up at them, like she did the night before, and for a moment she is lost in the lovely heavens. The day is almost done. She has missed the deadline once again.
For some reason, it didn't hurt as much as it did before.
She hears footsteps. It is Lucas.
"... You should stay inside."
"This is nothing," he insists. "Been through worse, you know."
She does not doubt him, but she gives him a level gaze. Lucas ignores her and stares down the path before them. "Well," he says, "shall we?"
Marley is confused. He sees it on her face and he puts his hands in his pockets, smiling friendlily.
"It's why you're here, isn't it? To find Shaymin's flower for your friend?"
The sea breeze whispers past her, relaxing her. She twists grass beneath her hands, their cool stalks a blessing to her bruised fingers. Lucas is patient. He waits. Marley remembers that his hand had been warm, like the boy's. She believes in many things that are considered false, but she knows that if she trusts in them they would become true.
"... It's too late now."
Lucas laughs. She sharply looks at him, thinking that he is mocking her, but there is no scorn on his face. "I didn't get my head bashed for nothing," he says. "C'mon. There's still some time. It's not the end of the day yet. Let's find this flower!"
He sounds much too enthusiastic. Marley gives a small smile but does not stand up.
"... You don't know where to look."
"All the more reason why you should lead." Lucas holds out a hand. "Coming?"
Marley stares at it before sliding her hand into his. He grins as he pulls her up, his bright expression lighting up in the dark.
In the book that the boy had given her, there had been a map. On that map had been a sketch of a strange stone with equally strange symbols. She held out that worn page now out of her pocket, brushing her fingers across the pressed gracidea flower.
Marley looks up, and her heart skips a beat when she sees a flash of white in the distance. The page in her hand crinkles.
"See something?" Lucas asks.
Marley nods, not daring to speak. She takes careful steps forward through the wet grass, then breaks into a fast-walk, praying that what she sees isn't an illusion. Everything is cast out of her mind -- all that matters now is reaching that stone, the final door, the final hurdle...
The stone rests on a cliff overlooking the sea. Marley stands there, staring at it, and she feels a chill run down her spine. Something is wrong. She looks around her, but all she sees is the ugly brown of the stones, with not a hint of color. There are no flowers. There is no Shaymin.
She hesitates, then runs over to the stone. It feels smooth to her touch, almost warm. She rests her head against it, letting out a silent sigh, shoulders slumping.
"... Is this the place?" she hears Lucas ask.
"... Yes." The word leaves Marley's lips with difficulty. Her hand clenches into a fist. "Yes. It is." She turns around, forces a smile. "This is the end of my journey."
Lucas can sense her disappointment, but she does not care. He begins to say something, but Marley looks away, out toward the dark ocean before her, face blank. "'The Pokemon among the flowers...'" she whispers, leaning against the stone. It is real and solid, an anchor for her to cling on in the midst of her broken dreams.
She feels a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry," says Lucas.
Marley lets her eyes wander upwards, towards the stars once more. They wink at her, fellow conspirators in on a secret that no one else knew. The ocean sings its song, lapping at the shore in accompanying melody. She turns around, looking down at the page clutched in her hand.
"... It's fine," she says at last, raising her gaze to meet Lucas's. "It's not the first time."
Lucas frowns. "That doesn't make it any better."
Marley traces the petals on the pressed flower, and the smile returns. "... I'm happy that I made it here," she answers. "This place is beautiful." She hesitates, then tenderly lets the page go. It whirls in the wind, once, twice, then disappears into the night. Lucas watches.
"My time with you is drawing to a close..."
It surprises her, those words. It surprises Lucas as well.
"What do you mean by that?" he says in alarm.
Marley flushes. She is not used to saying so much, with such little restraint. But she continues to talk, and the words rise up from a hidden part of her, coming freely, flowing like a stream. "I... I don't like to talk. I choose my words carefully, but they may still hurt someone accidentally... when I think of that, I clam up..."
She takes a deep breath. "That's why I think this certain Pokemon is so wonderful. It's a Pokemon that conveys the feelings of gratitude in a nice way..."
It is gratitude that she has tried so hard to convey, tried so hard to say but couldn't. Something in her heart and in her throat had always prevented her from doing so, but as she looks into Lucas's eyes, into the memory of her long-gone friend, she feels it dissipate into a wonderfully tender feeling.
"I... thank you."
Lucas smiles. "Same here," he says softly.
And as Marley sinks against the stone, the smile stuck stupidly on her face, she catches a glimpse of a perfectly clear world when she closes her eyes, the veil of darkness finally lifting. She feels Lucas sit beside her and she lets him put an arm around her, relaxing between the warmth of the rock and of her friend.
Behind them, unseen to the two, a green and white figure scurries, a smile on its face. As it takes flight into the starlit sky, beautiful pink buds rise out of the barren ground, towards the heavens as they bloom into lovely flowers.