Monsters Among Us
A Pokemon AU
Part I: The Olivine City Conference
And so we must be thankful
Despite false starts and bitter ends
Here and there we are grateful
To have our monsters among our friends.
“Come on now, loosen up. We’ve had a rough week; I’m not going to deny that. But that doesn’t mean we need to sit here all tensed up, either. Live a little, Thibault. I wouldn’t have brought you here if I thought you wouldn’t enjoy it.”
The man raised his cigarette to his lips and drew in a hit, temporarily illuminating the tip of his nose with an orange glow like the proverbial Rudolph the Red-Nosed Stantler as his eyes wandered across the smoky haze of the cabaret, his gaze lingering on any scantily clad waitress who happened to cross in from his peripheral. The man practiced what he preached, at least; despite his formal attire, everything about him was relaxed and casual. He’d put his feet up on the empty table chair in front of him, he’d loosened the bow tie he’d so painstakingly put together in order to get past the doorman, and as he lowered his light he released the smoke in a slow, lazy manner, adding the swirling, gray tendrils to the mass of others that already hung themselves thick in the air above him. Emile LaRousse couldn’t be more unwound if he’d tried to be, and tonight, it was his turn to have a little fun. So what better thing did he have to do than to spend his money in Lumiose City’s classiest venue?
And truth be told, it was one of the best places Thibault had been to. Pokemon weren’t allowed in many of the good places since they primarily catered to humans, but ever since the petition that allowed Kalosite Pokemon to work as entertainers passed, there’d been an increase in the number of clubs, theaters and cabarets that had redacted that rule…provided they arrived with their sponsor, of course.
It still seemed too good to be true, and so the Aromatisse sat as stiff as a board as patrons human and Pokemon milled around him, eyes alert for any suspicious looks from other humans or any police officers ready to capture and detain him for whatever infraction they could think to impose…they wouldn’t mess with him, he tried to tell himself. Both he and Emile were members of Team Flare, and important ones at that, and it just so happened that this particular cabaret saw a good number of members on a daily basis. They are sympathetic to our cause, he reminded himself. They care about me. They let me become an Administrator and gave me permission to use my powers, even though the rest of Kalos says that Pokemon should be something to be regulated and monitored. I’m safe here. I’m among friends.
“Thibault, are you even listening to me? Thibault!”
Emile’s eyes were off the floor now, and Thibault immediately snapped out of his reverie with a shake of his head, causing the collection of hoops in one of his ears to jangle with the movement. “Yes, sorry,” he replied somewhat sheepishly, red eyes quickly scanning the area one last time before coming to a rest on his partner.
“I said that you might enjoy this particular show tonight…it said in the marquee that they have one of the best Pokemon performing troupes since the petition. What better way to forget a week of failures than boozing up and enjoying beautiful women…or females, if you so prefer that term.”
Thibault shrugged, claws wrapping around his glass as he tipped the contents into his mouth. He would prefer not to argue with Emile, for he knew that any other tone short of portraying absolute rapture would spark too many questions, and the Aromatisse was not in the mood for an interview. He might as well pretend he was relaxing and having fun…after a few more drinks, that wasn’t hard to do.
Finally, the house lights dimmed and a single spotlight flickered to life, the operator swinging it towards the stage just as the cabaret owner, a middle-aged, portly woman who despite the years of stress in show business still managed to look and act 20 years younger than she really was, walked toward the center of the stage with her Jynx partner and took the microphone being handed to her by one of the stagehands waiting in the orchestra pit.
“Welcome!” Her voice rang out like a klaxon over the speakers, causing Thibault to flinch and set his ears back while Emile sucked in a breath so sharp his partner was afraid he’d draw his entire smoke into his mouth. After the hour of quiet, subdued conversation and hushed words spoken between patrons and servers, it was a little jarring to suddenly have this woman shouting into an amplifier as if the cabaret were actually a rowdy brawling stadium clamoring for the main event fight. “Welcome, one and all, to the Café Lumiére! As you may have heard, we have a special treat for you all tonight…the Fleur Ladies performing group has decided, for one week only, to appear and perform for all you lucky, lucky men and males here in Lumiose City!”
Applause roared about the house, and the matron waited for it to die down before continuing on.
“I’m sure you’re all eager to watch the show, so I’ll keep this short. Respect the ladies and keep your hands to yourselves, please! As always there is no flash photography allowed during the performance, as it can disorient the performers, and please, no tipping until after the show! Delilah and I will be around enforcing the rules, so boys, don’t think you can sneak one by us!”
A small ripple of laughter passed through the crowd, and Emile smirked at the comment. Thibault decided that he wasn’t going to chance trying the cabaret owner’s warning, and simply played with the stem of his glass as he waited for the house to quiet down again.
“Now, without further ado, I present to you the first act of our show!”
Again the house erupted into cheers as the spotlight dimmed, and Emile reached over to give his partner’s feathered back a heavy pat. “Like I said, you’re not going to be disappointed, Thibault. There’s someone in the headliner that I’m sure you’re going to like very much.”
“You said that the last time you introduced me to a female,” Thibault replied drily, causing his partner to chuckle. “And it turned out she was a wanted Kantonese criminal.”
“Oh, like you’re any better,” Emile quipped, stubbing out the butt of his cigarette into the ashtray on the table before fishing another from his jacket. “Now shut up and watch.”
“‘Shut up and watch’,” Thibault mocked his partner playfully, turning his eyes to the stage as a slow piano melody struck up from the orchestra and the spotlight flicked back on. There was no one on stage at the moment, but as the piano slowly picked up tempo, the curtains shifted in the way that always indicated movement backstage…then a leg appeared from behind the curtain (decidedly Pokemon), and the piano halted abruptly, a drum roll starting up to take its place.
Then the curtain parted, and Thibault’s breath caught in his throat.
She was beautiful.
Even dressed to the nines in the common cabaret showgirl attire, Thibault could see that everything she had done to spruce herself up only augmented the natural beauty that shone from beneath…the sheen of her feathers did not need the glitter she’d applied to make them sparkle in the stage lights, her eyelashes (much like his own) already plump and perfect enough to defy any application of mascara, and her voice…dear Arceus, her voice. The moment she opened her mouth, the male was immediately sold. She could serenade him for the rest of the night; for the rest of the week for that matter, and he wouldn’t care the slightest bit.
Emile must have noticed his reaction because Thibault could see him wink from his peripheral, but the Aromatisse was still too transfixed by the female onstage to care about his partner’s actions. Others had joined her, but Thibault was hooked on the amethyst girl with the voice like Sweet Honey, and to him, none of the others even came close to comparing.
Then she started walking down the stairs and into the audience, and Thibault’s ears began to flatten back as his face grew hot. Part of him, perhaps the intoxicated part, wanted her to come over to their table so that he could touch every part of her. He wanted to run his claws through that silky down, he wanted to taste that silvery beak. He wanted to smell whatever particular scent she used to identify herself, as Aromatisse traditionally had their own smell (along with the thousands of others they could devise at will) that was as unique as their name. But the other part knew that would be out of line, and if the club matron caught him breaking the rules, he would be shown the door very, very quickly. And then, Emile would never let him hear the end of that.
His eyes followed her just as quickly as the spotlight did, and he watched somewhat jealously as she flirted with some of the other males with their sponsors in the audience. Despite the fact that the patrons weren’t allowed to touch the performers, the performers were allowed to touch them, and this particular woman did so in an unrelentingly teasing fashion. She loosened ties, took men’s glasses to take her own drink, smoked lit cigarettes, touched her beak to snouts and noses without quite calling it a kiss…all the while it left many of them flustered and red in the face, while more than a few of them stood up and awkwardly made their way to the washrooms in order to take care of themselves. Thibault couldn’t blame them…it was torture, being so close to something so beautiful and not being able to reciprocate…feelings of love, feelings of lust, whatever was going on in their minds when that charming vixen appeared at their side.
And then suddenly, she was in front of him.
The female leaned forward as Thibault’s ears sprang straight up, his hoops clinking together as he tried to hide the nervous tremors that had suddenly overtaken him. She seemed just as calm and collected as she had been with the rest of the males, and it was no surprise to him at all when she reached a claw up to his neck, playing with the matching red bowtie he’d put on to match Emile. She fiddled with the petals for a moment before slowly undoing his knot, bringing her beak so close to his that for a moment, he thought she was going to kiss him, unlike the others. All the while she was singing in that sultry mezzosoprano tone…the world could explode right now and Thibault wouldn’t even notice, if only he could keep staring into those hypnotic, half-lidded eyes of hers.
Then she re-tied his tie, ending her song on a perfectly-pitched high note as she did so, discreetly slipping a piece of paper into his collar before pushing him away, hips wiggling a bit as she made her way back to the stage. Every bone in his body felt like it had been liquiefied; Thibault couldn’t even bring himself to applaud as the rest of the performers returned and the next number began. He was frozen as solid as a Glalie’s armor; he didn’t even think to reach for the piece of paper she’d given him until Emile looked over to him and pointed it out.
“Ahaha, looks like you’re one lucky male tonight, Thibault old boy,” Emile smirked, plucking the card out from beneath the Aromatisse’s tie and displaying the inscription: a name, embossed within a gold star.
“Esme,” Emile read for him, that smirk on his face growing into a wide, toothy, mischievious grin. “Must be her name. Scooooooore~!”
Thibault acknowledged his partner with only the slightest of nods, his eyes still transfixed to the Aromatisse performer…the one who was apparently called Esme. Perhaps it was the booze that was making him feel this way, but for this Team Flare administrator, tonight he had found someone who had stolen his heart away.
The Fairy rose suddenly from his seat, almost as if he were in a trance, his claw reaching out and plucking the showgirl's card from his partner's fingers as he turned on his heel toward the hallway where the girls and females were getting ready. Emile started to reach out to him, to open his mouth and ask him what he was doing, but if he'd said anything chances were Thibault wouldn't have heard him anyway. His course was set and he'd already been halfway there when the commotion onstage indicated the start of another act, but this time without that lovely Aromatisse hen performing. Pity...that fact alone made Thibault grow disinterested in the remainder of the show; though Emile was probably still watching like the horndog he was.
A flash of the Flare emblem pinned to his bowtie got him past the guard, and upon entering the back hallway of Cafe Lumiere the Aromatisse checked the card he'd been given one last time before beginning his walk, scanning the placards on the doors for the name that matched the one on the card. He hoped to find this "Esme" character, Xerneas be damned, and let her know just how much of an effect she had on him. Sure he was drunk...but he was drunk and smitten, and the idea seemed great in his mind.
After all, who could say "no" to a Team Flare Admin in this city?
“Darius? Tell me you’re not still sleeping. Come on; wake up, son!”
A burst of light illuminated the dark, messy room characteristic of a young child, causing a mass of blankets tucked in the far corner to let out a sleepy, protesting moan as the slender figure of his father picked around the varyingly colorful debris scattered about the carpet. The covers shifted as the one called Darius burrowed his head farther underneath his pillow, protesting all the while as his covers were ripped from his lower half and the harsh, artificial light of a ceiling lamp joined the assault of the natural light outside.
“With the amount of clutter about here, I would be tickled pink if you didn’t take twice as long as you have been sleeping to just get downstairs, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to put it into high gear today, son. So up and at ‘em!”
The pillow was lifted from his head and orange eyes opened reluctantly against the brightness, immediately causing the young Karrablast to curl up on himself as if he were a Sandshrew, with his tough, blue outer shell facing the predator that was his father in a late morning rush.
“You’re gonna get in trouble if you keep talking Poké to me,” Darius mumbled sleepily, raising his nubby hands to rub at his face as Hopper the Leavanny pushed a few of his son’s trinkets to the side, clearing a path for him even though Darius himself never had any problems picking through his own messes. “I thought Dr. Berkeley doesn’t like you 'speaking like a feral' all the time.”
“Well, Dr. Berkeley can think what he wants because he’s having a major conniption over the fact that we’re already going to be late for our meeting at the city hospital today,” Hopper replied, combing through various bureau drawers before pulling out a wash rag and soap that was specially made not to damage carapace before making his way out the door and down the hallway to the common bathroom. “I insisted we waited to take you to your bus stop like we normally do, but I wasn’t expecting you’d sleep in!” he called out over his shoulder. “So now we’ve got to drive you to school, and I suggest you hurry because in a few minutes you’ll be missing that as well! Get your things while I spruce your sister up, and be downstairs in five minutes, okay Darius?”
“Yeah, yeah…” Darius replied dismissively, hopping down from his disturbed blanket-pillow nest and stretching his arms up to the ceiling as high as they would go, letting loose a yawn that showed all of his fangs and even made the clamp on top of his head open wider with the exertion. Taking a quick glance over at the TV on the bureau across from his bed, he could see that his gaming system was still on, paused on the same map he’d been struggling to get across before he had dropped to sleep at about two AM...he was lucky Hopper hadn’t seen it, as he’d already been grounded twice for staying up past his bedtime and playing this game. The boy leaned over to shut off the TV. If his father found out that that's what he'd been doing--oh, Darius wasn't going to hear the end if it.
The young male took a step forward only to suddenly become encased in a swath of silk, which seemed to have descended on him from out of nowhere...that is, until he saw the Sewaddle staring down at him from the ceiling light. Damn it; he should have known. His sister Zephyr loved to ambush him whenever she could, taking advantage of the fact she can literally climb anywhere she would like in the house...true, she was only a baby and still getting used to her powers, but ever since she’d realized she could spin silk she shot it at practically everyone around, especially her older brother. Darius figured it was probably because she found it funny how hard it was for him to break free...stupid nubby arms and misplaced pincher.
“Darius, have you seen your sister by any chance?!”
He opened his mouth to respond only to have his father re-enter the room, take one look at him and put two and two together, shaking his head and reaching one of his blades up to allow Zephyr to climb down from the ceiling. “Come on now, you know you shouldn’t be spitting at your brother,” Hopper chided her, letting the young Pokemon crawl onto his shoulder before approaching Darius and beginning to cut him free. “Daddy’s running very far behind this morning, so I need you and Darius to be on your best behavior, okay Zephyr?”
Affirmative gibberish was the hatchling’s only response, and as Hopper finally cut the last of the silk away from Darius, the Karrablast shook himself off, making a displeased face at the residue left behind. “A little too sticky for you, hm?” Hopper replied as Darius leaned over to grab his backpack from the foot of the bed. “Consider it a wake-up call, son. Perhaps staying up all night on the television would do a number on your ability to be vigilant?”
When Darius looked up again, Hopper’s blade was pointed at the gaming system, the green light on the console betraying what the black TV screen did not. Darius’s expression turned sheepish as Hopper shook his head, motioning for his son to follow him as he headed for the door again. “We’ll talk about it later,” he sighed, reaching up to steady Zephyr on his shoulder as he made his way down the staircase. “I’m going to put your sister in the car. Meet us out there as soon as you can.”
“And who is to say, then, that the unrest will not proliferate? I say we take heed from the goings-on of the Kalos region and take action! We need to take special considerations in to what policies are going bad, and be sure they will not go south here!"
The raspy voice of Baird Auxin filled every empty space within Dr. Michael Berkeley's car, surrounding the four occupants with a sort of heaviness that somehow came through the words of the Shiftry themselves. As they chugged through the morning rush hour traffic of Goldenrod, Darius was positive everyone else was either listening to or watching the exact same debate take place. It was, after all, only a result of a bubble that had finally burst only a few weeks prior: the Kalos region was notorious for being the region with the most rules and regulations imposed on their Pokemon citizens; and as petitions and protests spiraled out of Lumiose City and into the hearts and minds of those who felt oppressed, many Pokemon were leaving their sponsors and taking action...some peacefully; but as of late, those who were deciding to illegally use their powers to fight for their cause had forced the hand of the Kalosite forces...and eventually those of other regions as well.
Baird was a representative of the Hoenn League, a group of powerful individuals who presided over their regions and worked to strengthen bonds between Pokemon and humans through peaceful negotiations...he was the Pokemon sponsored by Sidney, one of the more active voices of the league and usually the one with the most interesting things to say. He was known for having Baird go up and speak for him, as the Shiftry was a more powerful speaker than he...and today, the Leagues of the Pokemon world had convened at the Olivine Lighthouse complex to talk about the unrest in Kalos. As always, Baird called for peaceful and preventative measures, but as he finished speaking, it was plain to hear from the murmur of the crowd in the background that not everyone shared the same sentiments.
“None of this would have happened without the interference of Team Flare!” a deeper voice responded… it wasTartarus, the Aggron sponsored by Steven, the head of the Hoenn League. “They’ve been sponsoring nearly all of the protest movements, and you all remember that they took responsibility for the spice bombing of Restaurant Le Yeah...an act that we had all assumed, before it came out in public, was the deed of a disgruntled old man!”
While the commotion on the radio didn’t quiet down too much, Darius found himself chuckling a little over the fact that Tartarus had brought that up...true, it wasn’t a laughing matter, as spice-bombing a place like Le Yeah, with its multitude of Slurpuff chefs, was a disastrous act of malice. Slurpuff were typically very good cooks as they had the best sense of smell in the entire Pokemon world, but when they had been attacked by literally pounds upon pounds of curry spice packed into explosives, their noses had been ruined, closing the restaurant down and putting them and their sponsors out of work.
Cries of agreement echoed behind Tartarus’s statement, and as the moderator called for quiet, a tense silence preceded Baird’s rebuttal.
“True, Team Flare is playing a vital part in this uprising, as Team Plasma was a few years ago during the crisis in Unova,” Baird responded, not allowing Tartarus’s outburst to ruffle any more of his feathers. “And that is what the forces sent to Kalos are doing...keeping the peace. Remember, as I said, preventative measures; but we cannot negotiate without stable ground. I am well aware of the threat the criminal organizations are posing, but that does not mean we should assume everyone is working under the same motive.”
“So you shake with one hand and punch with the other,” Dr. Berkeley muttered, turning the volume of the radio down so that he could converse with his passengers. “Not a very good strategy, I believe, but if that’s what the Leagues think will work, I guess I can’t argue. I’m not a political expert, after all.”
Darius leaned forward in his seat, his eyes locked on his father as the debate droned for a while longer on low volume before a shift in the tone indicated a short commercial break. Hopper hadn’t spoken at all since the Doctor had tuned in to listen; he simply stared straight out the windshield of the car, a grim look settling uncharacteristically onto his features, sagging his antennae and causing his lips to purse. He never wanted to talk or hear about the Kalos unrest, and while Darius wasn’t around to know what it had been like in Unova before Hopper and his mother, Madlen had moved to Johto, he knew his father was still less than thrilled that the Unovan Defense Force had hunted Madlen down and drafted her into service, despite the fact that she had fought against protesters before and had even had a run-in with Team Plasma once or twice.
“You are supposed to be retired!” Darius remembered hearing his father say the night that his mother had gotten her deployment order. “You have a family to look after now, and you’re not even in Unova anymore. How dare they, tracking you all the way here and forcing you back into service, just because they felt that your fighting ruffians the first time around wasn’t sufficient enough!”
That night had been the night before Darius’s first day of secondary school; a few days after Zephyr had hatched as well. He remembered how livid Hopper had been for the days following up to her shipment, how Dr. Berkeley had gotten frustrated because for the first time, the Leavanny had refused to perform his duties...his own form of protest, as his kind weren’t inclined to violence. But Madlen couldn't refuse the order, and a few weeks later she was marched onto a ferry and out of Darius, Zephyr, and Hopper’s lives for the duration of a sixteen-month deployment.
That was eight months ago.
Darius leaned back and glanced over at his sister as the Doctor and his Leavanny partner lapsed into a stretch of tense silence in the front seat. Darius could see that Zephyr was blissfully unaware of what was going on...her gaze was fixed to the outside, and she seemed to be fascinated by how fast everyone and everything moved by, or perhaps she loved to look at the different varieties of Pokemon that could be found walking the streets of Goldenrod. Today, the object of her interest was the number of muscular and strange Pokemon climbing the heights of the Radio Tower, apparently making adjustments to the support structure: among the native Machoke, Machamp and their respective sponsors, there were also Unovan Gurdurr, Kalosite Dedenne and Pangoro, Hoennese Manectric, and Sinnohese Luxray and Drifblim. They were all working within their own specialties, with the fighters being relegated to heavy lifting, Electric types conducting the currents of live wires, and the Drifblim being used to hoist foremen in the air to inspect the work from above.
Darius had to wonder why the other regions just couldn’t be like Johto. It was in these moments where the Karrablast felt that seeing Pokemon and humans working together, the mix of powers being combined with human craftsmanship; it just seemed right and natural. After all, none of those construction workers looked oppressed. None of the humans ever yelled or made nasty faces or called them names. So why was that supposedly the case in other parts of the world?
“Can we stop listening to this do-nothing drivel?” Hopper finally spoke, reaching over to switch the radio off before Dr. Berkeley had a chance to respond. “If there was a chance in hell that the governments would call off the defensive forces and try to settle things peacefully, we wouldn’t be having this problem. Besides, I’m quite certain everyone is going to be talking about it at work anyhow, and I don’t want to hear it twice.”
He remained staring out the window until his vision went black and his face sticky, breaking Darius out of his reverie and letting out a disgusted cry when he realized his sister had shot him with silk again. The Karrablast cried out and scrambled at the material as the baby Sewaddle giggled innocently, prompting Hopper to turn around once more from his seat to see what had happened.
“Darius, you’re going to have to hold still if you want me to help you,” he replied, gently placing one blade against the blue Bug Type’s shoulder to steady as he used the side of the other to scrape the material from his face. It was a bit of an awkward position for him, and Hopper had to do his best not to accidentally cut his son if the car suddenly jerked or bumped, but eventually he got the job done...just as the Doctor pulled up to the front of Darius’s school, where the usual crowd of young Pokemon was already beginning to file inside before the second bell. That was just as well. Darius preferred not to have seen his friends with Sewaddle silk all over his face.
“Remember, we still have things to talk about when you get home,” Hopper reminded Darius sternly as the Karrablast grabbed his knapsack and opened his car door. “Important. Things.”
“I know, dad,” he replied quickly, hopping out the door and scampering out of reach before the Leavanny could grab him for a goodbye “kiss”...which was really just a touch of antennae-to-clamp, but to Darius was just as embarrassing as the lips kind. “Bye then...I’ll see you after school!”
“Stay awake this time, Darius! You know your schooling is going to be important later!”
“Yeah, sure!” Darius replied, knowing full well that the droning voice of Ms. Reacher was going to make him drop off in science class as it always did...he just had to make sure her partner Mensa wasn’t paying enough attention today to snag any stray sleep-pattern brainwaves.
As the blue sedan containing his father and his sponsor drove away, so began just another school day at the Goldenrod City Academy for Pokemon...Darius would go in, pay just enough attention to consider it exhibiting his best behavior, completely devastate everyone in PE class, and then fall asleep until the final bell rang. Easy peasy...definitely much easier than burying his face in a book like some brainy Psychic type. Just looking at a book made the young male yawn, and he would prefer to simply learn whatever he could garner when the class smarty-pants Danny raised his hand to show off.
Just as the second bell rang Darius ducked inside the school’s front doors...just in time to run smack into the thick of the crowd that had gathered at the front, the jeers and cries of a precious few group of mons in the center being egged on by the encouragements of the ones on the fringes...it seemed to be as if some sort of fight was going on, and none of the teachers had come around to break it up yet.
“Where do you think you’re going, stinky?” one of the fighters derided, a slight shift of the crowd indicating a punch had been thrown and it had connected with the victim. Laughter echoed all around as whoever was being assaulted let out a soft cry, followed by a string of words that Darius couldn’t quite decipher...it must be the language of another region, but the Karrablast couldn’t quite pin the exact one down. Geography was another one of his weak areas.
“You’re in Johto, princess, speak our words!” another Pokemon cried, and at the indication that the child being beaten on was a girl, Darius sprang into action. He shoved his way through the crowd, using his pincher liberally much to the distaste of those who refused to move out of his way...until he finally came across a pair of Bagon surrounding a very frightened Spritzee.
Normally, this wasn’t much of anything to note. Many different Pokemon often fought each other over type rivalries, and the young mons were especially prone to getting into fights with each other just because they were opposite types. But Darius was personally offended over the fact that it was these two males beating up on a female who wasn’t putting up much of a fight in the first place, and all in all seemed genuinely confused about what was going on. Dragon/Fairy rivalry or not, this wasn’t something he could stand by and witness with the rest of the crowd...so of course, he got the bright idea to take action.
Darius leapt for the nearest Bagon….and immediately blacked out as he was knocked against the Dragon-type’s rock-hard skull.