Author's Notes: I'm sure you already know the English equivalents of everyone's names. Place names and other miscellaneous bits of trivia are included in a woebegone list at the bottom of the page (whoo, footnotes!).
But never mind that. Musashi and Kojiro are much more in-character than previously, and my teenage writing style has been revamped to something a bit more consistent. More importantly, there's even a hint of a plot. A rarity for me.
I N S O M N I A
Kojiro's body was fatigued.
Yet … yet his mind was teeming.
He gazed upwards into the navy gloom stretched across a clouded sky, focusing on nothing in particular. Many zubat streaked across the sky playfully, through the low-lying rain clouds, and all the while he watched them attentively as they chirped and nipped the tips of each other's wings. Meanwhile on the ground, the clearing where he lay appeared devoid of any other life forms apart from him and a bundled sleeping bag some five metres away. The shadows cast across his usually elegant face made him look like a poltergeist sprawled out on the forest floor, for his cheekbones appeared gaunter than ever. Wisps of a mild breeze nipped at his exposed toes and caused his spine to tingle. In spite of this, he did not move. He was much too comfortable draped on top of his blanket. As snug as he was, however, his mentality was not at ease.
Another day, another fiasco, he mused sullenly.
Such was his life. Failure upon miserable failure.
He sighed. Today, the Jari-tachi managed to dispose of the thieves barely halfway through the Rocket Dan chant.
It took them no more than fifteen seconds.
An all-time low.
Sakaki's going to slaughter us.
It had been months … No, years since they had presented their boss with anything, whether it be pokemon or money or anything at all. The trio had nothing to show for the numerous times they'd been blasted into the stratosphere by that kid and his damn pikachu and the countless days they have doggedly tailed the Jari-tachi other than bruises, broken bones and a collective wounded pride.
A rustle caught his ear. He sat bolt upright, alert. Just like a tree; his body was rigid and at a standstill, yet his hair swayed gently, not unlike the delicate leaves overhead.
The light zephyr that had tickled his feet just moments ago had long retreated.
Petrified, his eyes darted this way. Then that. Breathing shallow and pupils constricted, he was suddenly aware of how vulnerable he had allowed himself to become. Being in a clearing, there was nowhere he could face that did not leave his back open to attack.
In these wild, wild forests, one had to be cautious. Anything could be out there. Things that Kojiro could not imagine, not that he desired to.
It was the same noise. This time, however, he was ready for it. He followed the noise vigilantly and his ears told him that who or whatever the source of the noise was had approached from his left.
Kojiro turned abruptly.
There it was. What surprised him most, however, was when it spoke.
His previous feelings of terror ebbed away, only to be replaced with relief.
"Still awake?" the shadow asked. Her voice sounded strained and the fringe of slumber lacing it was obvious. He instantly felt guilty for awakening her. Kojiro could faintly make out the silhouette of his partner; she was laying on her side, curled up under her sleeping bag, her forearm acting as a substitute pillow. Her entire form was shrouded in darkness, yet the light of the moon overhead caught her eyes and was reflected back into his own. He was surprised he hadn't mistaken her for a cat.
Musashi slipped out from under and picked herself up from the ground without warning and he could hear the swish of her arms against the plastic-like material of the sleeping bag. As his heartbeat resumed its normal pace, his stare was aimed in her direction as she stepped into the mellow moonlight. He adored the way the beams illuminated her heart-shaped face and willowy figure. Wisps of scarlet locks fell here and there, as her usual perfectly styled hair had been crushed out of shape as she had slept and now cascaded down her back. A subtle, drowsy smile played on her lips, which were stained in a deep crimson. Her eyes, meanwhile, were defined messily with smudged liquid eyeliner mixed with copious amounts of mascara and a heavy layer of foundation still remained smeared over her features. To the azure-haired boy before her, however, she still looked more stunning than anything seen.
She paused for a little more than just a second before collapsing at his side wearily and allowing a lengthy yawn to escape.
Kojiro was the first to speak up as he gave her an apologetic half-grin. "I am sorry for waking you."
She hummed flatly, rubbing her exposed shins at a Yadon's pace. It was then that he noticed that she, not unlike him, was still clad in their Rocket Dan uniform, with the exception of her ebony gloves and boots which were lying in a pile alongside his own. He pulled his blankets over her legs thoughtfully. "Where's Nyaaaa…" She had barely stifled another yawn. "Suu?"
"Out being a menace to the locals, I expect," he second-guessed.
She laughed half-heartedly. "Probably." There was a pause before she continued along a different vein. "I hope we can avoid those children again for a while, because -" She arched her back, stretching, "- we need a break."
"A break," he echoed. "A break would be nice."
Musashi threw a shrewd glance at the ground. "We are almost at Kogane City (2). It's on the other side of Ubame Forest (3)."
His answer came in the form of a rough exhale.
"It's nice city, Kogane," she continued, raising her eyebrows at him as if she were almost trying to prove a point to him. "Many trainers. Many pokemon to steal."
Kojiro sighed. "You think about work too much." He couldn't stop himself before he shot her an annoyed glance to couple his words.
"We could go shopping," she suggested with the slightest hint of a snicker. "I could buy you tights to match that skirt you like to steal from me."
Taken aback, he replied curtly, "Maybe you could." Regardless of his self-assured response, he crinkled his nose as red bloomed across it. She pushed his shoulder lightly with a smirk and took the opportunity to position herself closer. "There's a flower shop there, so I've heard," he added, hastily diverting the subject.
Musashi, however, didn't appear to have heard him.
"Kogane, Kogane," she murmured, pacing her memory. "What is there for us to do there?"
"There may be a festival."
"There may be."
"My mum and I used to live there."
"Really. In a little brown house at the end of a cul-de-sac, just a five minute walk from the pokemon centre."
"Wow. I wonder if it's still there."
He couldn't offer anything to say in return.
"She was a receptionist, my mum." The way she had said it … It sounded so … Kojiro fought to find the right word, but it scampered away into the night before it came to him.
Rehearsed? Not quite the word he was looking for. It'd do for now, though. Like she'd been practising the line for weeks in advance. He inclined his head to study her expression to find that she was already studying his.
"We've not talked like this for months."
"What do you mean?"
"Like this." He thought her answer vague and blamed her listless state of mind for her unhelpfulness. She peered up at his face and pressed her forehead into his shoulder affectionately. Kojiro was suddenly aware of her pale fingers brushing against the inside of his thigh through his trousers and blinked a few times in bewilderment. A wayward smirk stole his attention and a look that was far from innocent danced in her eyes.
There was something odd about their amity - he could never doubt that. Frequently, he found himself wondering if their friendship would ever – 'Or had it already?' he wondered - develop into something more. He'd fallen head over heels for his partner aeons ago.
Musashi, meanwhile … He had no idea how deep her feelings for him plunged. Nothing, including love, was ever simply black and white; her true feelings for him were hidden somewhere in the grey. She habitually sent him mixed signals. One moment she would be hanging off him, begging him, teasing him, and the next she would eschew him completely. In the end, he would often end up confused, provoking her to vent her frustration on him both verbally and physically. Other times, however, it crept towards the opposite end of the spectrum.
He had often heard Nyasu refer to their companionship as a 'friends with benefits' sort of exchange, and after deliberating this matter, could come up with no other way to explain the bond between Musashi and himself. They didn't exactly skip around proclaiming that they were a couple, but did certain things with each other that constituted a relationship: sex was frequent (which was as often as Musashi demanded it), as was bathing and changing together and general fooling around.
Nevertheless, the distressing thought that maybe … maybe she was just using him always plagued him.
Kojiro inhaled sharply as her hands wandered higher.
It was then that she sang playfully, "Koji-chan."
She hadn't called him that for years; probably not since their days at school, when this dilemma first revealed itself.
Five years before.
The afternoon was humid as the summer sun poured itself all over the grounds and buildings of Pokemon Seminar, encouraging students to escape the heat of the residence halls. In one such small room Miyamoto Musashi and Onodera Kojiro (4) could be found.
Kojiro usually loved summer and he considered it his favourite of the four seasons. However, the heat that it induced, he discovered, did not provide the adequate environment for studying. He had rolled up the sleeves of his crisp, white shirt and was irritated by the lack of ventilation his uniform trousers allowed. Sneaking a covert glance at Musashi, he instantly envied her. The girls' summer uniform consisted of a cream vest over a round-collar button-up blouse and a miniscule navy-blue skirt and was much better suited to warmer weather. Her black leather shoes and long socks lay in a woebegone pile at the door.
What made matters worse for Kojiro was while he sat at his desk in a wooden chair, she was sprawled on his sheets with her legs raised, ankles crossed and toes grazing the bottom of his roommate's bunk. The hem of her skirt had dropped to expose her underwear and the pale underside of her thighs, prompting him to wonder whether or not she had done this on purpose.
He pretended to be engrossed in his textbook (his eyes had adopted a glazed look and he simply stared at page fifty-six, his vision sliding in and out of focus), but could ignore her no longer when a slender hand slapped the surface of the desk soundly. Musashi's palm brushed his forearm for a moment before finding its target. Her index finder pushed the power button of his pocket radio somewhat roughly. An alternative rock song (5) unexpectedly filled the air and he heard her give a squeal of excitement that was instantly followed by "I love this song", as she rolled onto her stomach. Kojiro sighed heavily, twisting the volume knob significantly to the left, and shot her a fleeting glance. Musashi cocked her head at him, crushing her plaits.
"The final exams are tomorrow," he explained simply, "and it's sure to disturb everyone else."
She had abandoned her attempt to gain Kojiro's attention through unashamedly flashing him her undergarments and had swung her legs over the edge of the bed.
"You and I both know that we can name the base statistics of a hitokage faster than anyone in our year. I'll race you: if you beat me, I'll do whatever you please."
He doubted that she could and despite already having long prepared a lengthy mental list of all the things he could dream of her doing for him, he stowed his textbook in a drawer and crossed his arms before she could make a reach for it.
"When 'Musashis' are mass-produced, you see, and delivered to the general public, 'clever' is their default setting," he said. "'Kojiros', on the other hand, don't have that liberty."
He secretly adored the way she snorted when she suppressed a giggle.
"I need all the time I can get. I don't want to have to resort to stealing Pokemon to feed myself."
"Aaah, Koji-chan …You're so undeniably pretty when you try to be serious," Musashi cooed to him. At sixteen, pretty was what he was trying to avoid becoming the most.
"Please don't call me that. I'm not a girl."
"You look like one. Your hair's almost lavender, for one thing. And it's probably longer than mine. I'm honestly not surprised our classmates call you names and write those things about you."
"You needn't remind me."
She cast at him a most piercing stare and her expression was suddenly unreadable.
"Do you know what will stop it?"
He heard no noticeable signs of inflection in her voice as she said this, and consequently, was not sure whether she was about to present him with an answer or if she was looking for one. She loved rhetorical questions almost as much as he disliked them.
"What?" he asked tentatively. Despite the chorus pouring out of the radio, Kojiro thought that the atmosphere in their tiny dorm had become remarkably stagnant. And, in turn, even hotter. He swallowed nervously.
She continued to stare at him and hesitated at least ten agonising seconds before replying.
"I could let you screw me."
His heart skipped a beat for more reasons than simply utter astonishment. The redhead kept her gaze locked with his persistently. It was not until many moments later, when the impact of her words and the blatant manner in which she uttered them sank in, that a deep blush manifested across the bridge of his nose, spilling onto his cheeks.
Flicking her plaits over her shoulder complacently, she stood up and he instantly froze.
Kojiro's breathing quickened when she strode around his chair only to come to a halt before him.
She leant over to place a hand gently on his cheek. It was then that he noticed that she had shrugged off her vest and unbuttoned her blouse to the point that he could see a hint of pink material. He enjoyed the view she gave him of her developing cleavage before meeting her eyes.
It happened so quickly that he had no time to react.
In barely a flutter of an eyelash, he found Musashi straddling his narrow hips and running a hand affectionately down his chest. His jaw quivered, but she silenced him with two fingers while her other hand guided one of his own beneath her shirt, up a flat stretch of stomach and under her brassiere.
"I like you," she purred, giving his earlobe a gentle nip.
His heart somersaulted.
The phrase he'd always dreamt she'd speak were laced with the sweetest of poisons. It was one thing for someone to whole-heartedly confess utter adoration … and another to say the words for the sake of saying them. His drumming pulse and the bulge in his trousers from long before her proposition urged him not to back away now.
He thought he felt a hint of something soft and wet brush against his skin, and realised that opportunities like this never presented themselves everyday. When he grasped her hips and pushed them down towards his, she pulled back with a smile. She didn't seem perturbed at all with his lack of verbal reply.
And with that, Musashi pressed her ruby lips to his tenderly, all the while forcing as much of her against his torso as she could. She smelt like freshly laundered clothes, cinnamon, pencil shavings and every other wonderful thing he dared to imagine his best friend could smell of. It filled every crevice of his senses as she moved her lips against his, spiralling him into bliss. A tongue parted his lips to tease his and he returned the gesture uncertainly.
A number of seconds passed before he could taste her strawberry-flavoured lip gloss and Kojiro realised that he was receiving his first kiss. Another instant flew by as he also became aware of her hands lingering at his belt buckle. One started lifting the hem of his shirt while the other's fingers struggled with his fly.
He wondered if it was too late to name a hitokage's base statistics.
The light breeze from earlier had returned and he was reminded of his prior mental wanderings. He let another minute of prolonged silence ensue and, sure that she had nothing further to say, turned to her. "Musashi?" he said in barely a whisper.
"Kojiro?" She lifted her head from his shoulder and shifted herself into a more comfortable sitting position and wrapped his blanket around her tighter.
"I've been wondering …" he began awkwardly, despite the significance of the topic at hand. She appeared to listen to him fixedly and when her head was cocked to one side, his voice became much steadier. "How much longer will we be involved in this?"
His query seemed to catch her off guard, if only for a moment. She had swiftly turned her attention to twirling one loose strand of hair in her fingers.
"With trying to catch that accursed pikachu. With tailing a group of prepubescent children across goodness knows how many regions. With waking up each day knowing that we are going to fail."
Her shoulders buckled and she sniffled. He guessed that the cold must have gotten to her, but other than this, Musashi was silent.
"With the Rocket Dan."
"What do you mean?"
He sighed heavily. A slight quaver in her voice told him that she had no desire to touch on what was on his mind. Chancing the risk of getting slapped or worse, having her retreat back to her own sleeping bag, he chose to ignore this and pressed on.
"Do you remember when we first joined?"
"Do you remember when you told me that this was just temporary?"
"Do you remember when we made plans to leave after we had saved enough money to start earning a decent living?"
Musashi did not reply instantly. In fact, she seemed to loathe having to answer this question altogether and delayed it as long as she could possible, through breaking eye contact with him and continuing to feign interest in her hair. She glowered at him almost menacingly (somehow, it met a tree behind him rather than his face), though by the time he had reached forward to touch her forearm gently, her expression softened and she mumbled something. He was so sure that she had whispered, "I'm sorry", but he couldn't trust himself to assume this about her; it was very rare that she apologise at all, let alone sincerely. He reached forward to make contact with her again, but she flinched and turned away from him.
It was at this moment that the heavens decided to unleash their downpour, but neither moved even with the copious amount of rain now soaking them and the mud pooling at their feet. Kojiro's saturated hair clung to the side of his face and Musashi, likewise. Her mascara had begun to stream down her cheeks and along her delicate jawbone. She kept her gaze pointed down.
"Kojiro," she breathed at last, still refusing to meet his stare. "What is true happiness?"
It was an odd question, he thought. An even odder one coming from Musashi. A silence fell between them unlike any they'd experienced before. Then, after much deliberation, he broke it.
"I … am not too sure," Kojiro said slowly, choosing his words carefully. She was now staring blankly at him through the sheet of rain. "… Being financial stable … a long, healthy life with no illness … -" he flashed her knowing grin, "- finally catching that pikachu." She chortled, which encouraged him to shift closer again. She even let him drape his arm around her shoulders.
He took advantage of her abrupt change of mood and stared deeply into her sodden eyes, though he wasn't sure whether they were laced with tears or rain. He supposed the latter. Her mouth was hanging open slightly, almost expectantly.
"… To be with the one you care for the most," he whispered.
She wrapped an arm around his neck to bring his face closer to hers; he did not resist and felt her wet cheek press against his for a sweet few seconds before puling away slightly.
Her lips hovered barely millimetres from his own for what seemed like an eternity before she whispered, "Kojiro ..." He felt them graze the corner of his mouth with the third syllable of his name.
With the helping of a sudden hint of courage, his lips met hers for scarcely an instant and she dipped her head and his chin subsequently sank into a mass of tangled, drenched hair. A pair of arms loosely snaked their way around his narrow waist and he dropped his gaze to find that Musashi had buried her face in his chest. He raised a hand hesitantly to stroke her hair when he suddenly felt her shoulders convulse. It took him a while to realise the tears sliding down her cheeks and onto his Rocket Dan uniform, due to the fact that it was already soaked through. At this moment, she shifted much of her weight onto Kojiro's lap and sobbed miserably, muttering wretched things all the while.
A look of mild surprise took a hold of his features and he stopped himself before he could say anything. Instead, he cautiously guided an arm around her torso.
The rain grew more intense. But neither dared to break the embrace.
"Kojiro-oo-ohhhh," she howled. It was at this moment she lifted her chin to search his eyes pointedly and he became aware of himself becoming lost in hers. There was so much to be found in this one look: bitterness, sorrow, craving … maybe even something a little more?
"Don't ever leave me."
"Stay with me always."
He guessed that this was a good thing to say; he was barely aware of her pushing into his chest, forcing him backwards, and by the time she had succeeded in tackling him gently to the ground, Kojiro felt no inclination to stop Musashi from pressing him into the mud-soak grass further and bury her head under his chin. Their uniforms were probably needing a wash regardless. Her lips found the sensitive nape of his neck and she kissed his skin gently, hair dishevelled and fingers grasping the front of his shirt as she intertwined her legs with his.
When one of his hands found the small of her back, she paused, only to whisper into his ear tenderly as the rain pounded upon them relentlessly.
"Everyone in my life leaves me, one way or another. They always do and always will."
"I want you to be the exception."
"I will. I promise."
"I do have a reason for staying with the Rocket Dan."
Musashi trembled. He wasn't sure whether she'd shivered or sobbed.
"I just … I can't find it in myself to tell you just yet."
If I'm not mistaken, the Command/Ctrl-F function should poke them out of hiding.
(1) Onomatopoeia of the windy variety.
(2) Goldenrod City.
(3) Ilex Forest. Canon-wise, however, this story was not written to slot into anywhere in particular.
(4) Miyamoto for Musashi's mummy (I hope Miyamoto is a last name) and Onodera because it's puuurty.
(5) This was previously Gibbs by Shiina Ringo. Now I'm just footnoting for the sake of footnoting.
Love and lightbulbs,