Author's Note: This is... a strange one, I admit. Today was going to be a heavy writing day anyway, but I'd intended to write other things. But then this here plot put a gun up to my head and told me that this would be the one I was going to write. I obliged. After all, I wrote a HonorShipping short story earlier this year and all's fair in love and Morty-based pairings. I've never written SoulShipping before, but I do like it.
I'm not completely sure how I feel about the finished product, but I hope you can find something to enjoy in it.
When Morty opened his front door one mild afternoon and was greeted with the solemn proclamation of "The world will end just short of noon tomorrow," he was not entirely sure how to respond. Was there even a proper comeback to a prognostication of the world's destruction? Well, if the prophet in question had been from that Magikarp cult that was going door to door lately, then the obvious response would have been to slam the door in his face. If the speaker had looked troubled, lost, and hungry, then the proper response would have been to give them some money and direct them to Ecruteak City's homeless shelter. If the speaker had been one of his channelers from the gym, then the proper response would have been to pat them gently on the shoulder and tell them they were working too hard and needed a day off. But the prognosticator was not a cultist or a vagrant or an old biddy with an overactive imagination. No, the woman standing patiently on his porch, who had delivered that terrible message with not so much as a glimmer of panic in her voice, was someone who he had shared a few passing conversations with, but knew more by reputation than anything. Their positions ensured some level of acquaintanceship, but the distance they lived apart from one another made anything more than the most basic of familiarity unlikely.
He blinked, and, unable to think of a reply, decided to ignore it and reboot the conversation. "Sabrina," he said, trying to correct his balance, "what brings you to Ecruteak City?"
"The apocalypse," Sabrina repeated, undeterred by Morty's efforts to at least encourage her to ease into the subject. In fact, Sabrina gave the impression of being undeterred by damn near everything. Every word she spoke was in that same serene, matter-of-fact tone. Despite being jarringly lacking in emotion, he supposed her stoic attitude was somewhat admirable.
…Still, there are certain topics that require at least a somewhat heightened emotional state. Then end of the world was one of them.
"The… apocalypse?" Morty repeated uncertainly.
"Yes," Sabrina said, nodding gravely. "The Apocalypse. Judgment Day. End Times. Armageddon. Doomsday. The Final Battle. The Death Knell. The Day of Reckoning. The end of the world as we know it."
"And I feel fine," Morty muttered, taking refuge in pop culture minutiae where reality had utterly betrayed him.
Sabrina raised an eyebrow. You could never be sure, but Morty didn't peg her as the type of woman to pluck and maintain her brows. Which either meant that he was wrong about her or that she was born with perfectly shaped eyebrows. They were certainly good for arching in a manner to suggest dubiousness.
"Do you?" she asked.
"…I did this morning," Morty replied in a vague, faraway voice.
Sabrina surveyed him for just slightly longer than was comfortable or polite. Finally she crossed her arms and said, without any rancor: "I'm glad you enjoyed your morning. After all, there's only ever going to be one more."
"You keep saying that," Morty protested helplessly, eyeing the young woman with the closed expression before him, "but how do you know?"
"I have…" there was just a slight glint in her eyes, the first real sign that Morty had that there was something alive behind that stone wall of an expression, "…foreseen it. …Have you not?"
"I…" Morty searched his mind. Generally speaking, visions of the future (not to mention past, present, and that ever worrying other) came to him in dreams. He tried to recall any dreamed fragment that might foretell destruction, but his dreams had been blessedly undisturbed lately. "No. No, I haven't," he confessed.
"Hmm," Sabrina hummed. "…I had hoped that you might've." She lifted her gaze up so that she was looking over his shoulder into the room beyond the doorway. "Perhaps I could come in and discuss this with you further?"
Morty had to admit that conversations about the end of the world should probably be held with more solemnity and ceremony than that of a door-to-door sales pitch. …Not that he had much experience with such conversations, but nevertheless she was probably right.
"Yes, come in," he said, opening the door wider and stepping aside to let her pass. "I'll make tea."
…Because if there was one thing that the conversation desperately needed, it was caffeine.
The tea had been brewed and poured and its aroma was telling the scintillating lie that everything would be alright. Sabrina, who seemed completely unperturbed by the fact that everything would not be alright, was cradling the cup Morty had offered her in her hands.
"So…" Morty said, sitting down across from her, "what exactly did you see?" He prayed that she wouldn't reply with another string of synonyms for 'the end of the world.'
"Late tomorrow morning a freak solar storm will occur," Sabrina replied matter-of-factly. "Fire will rain from the sky; the earth's gravitational pull will be disturbed, sending temperatures skyrocketing; the moon will fall; and the seas will boil over with radiation." She stopped to take a sip of her tea. "This is quite good," she commented. "Is that cinnamon I taste?"
Morty ignored the tea compliment. He had bigger matters on his mind and Sabrina's answer had made him take back his prayer that she'd be specific. He was used to mixing with the supernatural, used to powers beyond his complete understanding, and no stranger to catastrophe but… this. This was something else.
"Can you really be sure?" Morty tried, his mouth dry. "I know you say that you saw it, and I believe you," he continued, cutting her off as she opened her mouth. "But I also know that even the best seers make mistakes. I've made plenty myself," he added, with a slight smile to show that he wasn't trying to criticize her.
She put down her tea cup and regarded him seriously. "My foresight has only been mistaken once," she informed him, "and that was because I let my pride and personal biases get in the way of what I was meant to see; that is not an issue this time. Obviously, I wish things were different."
Morty thought for a minute. In his day he'd seen more penny fortune-tellers and wannabe soothsayers than he could count. Sabrina wasn't one of them. She was a gifted psychic who outmatched him in more than one category and was probably skimming thoughts from the top of his mind with very little effort. She was one of only a handful of psychics whose reputations (at least in terms of accuracy) were unquestionable. As much as he clung to the idea that there was some other explanation for all of this, he knew that he had to take this seriously.
"What can we do?" he asked in a hushed voice.
"Not a single thing," Sabrina answered, leaving no space open for even the tiniest ray of hope to shine through. "A calamity of this magnitude can't be overturned by human hands—every living thing on this planet will die no matter what we do. The only option that this situation could possibly present for salvation is escape and colonization of another planet. But that is not something that we have the capability to accomplish yet—and I doubt that will change by tomorrow."
Morty wasn't exactly busting with ideas on how to quell a solar storm, nor did he think anyone on the planet could make deep space voyages and planetary colonization achievable in such a short period of time (even if they pulled an all-nighter to do it). But… he just wasn't willing to give up yet.
"Perhaps the government has developed something like that already that we just don't know about," he suggested. "That's what people say, you know—that they found some downed Clefairy ship sixty years ago and have been studying it to build UFOs."
"I don't know how much credence I'd give to conspiracy theories like that," Sabrina said with a very slight wrinkle of her nose. "But even if something like that does exist—do you think the ship could be prepared, provisions could be gathered, a new habitable planet selected, and passengers—even a select few—could be gathered and boarded in…" she pressed a button on her bracelet and a digital display came up, "eighteen hours?"
Anyone who dealt with ghosts on a regular basis had to get used to cold; but a shiver went down Morty's spine at the ominous introduction of that countdown. He stood up and ran a hand through his hair.
"We should tell people," he finally decided.
Sabrina gave a brief sigh. "Why?" she asked.
"Well, don't you think they should know?" he demanded.
"No, I don't," Sabrina answered. "There's nothing that they can do about it, so there's no reason for them to know. Telling people would just make their few final hours stressful—there would be a panic."
Morty didn't like it, but he knew that was true. If word got out that the world was ending and there was nothing anyone could do, it would be complete chaos. He knew that he certainly felt stressed after hearing the news.
…Which brought up the point of… "Then why did you tell me?" he asked. "Are you okay with my few final hours being stressful?"
She stared deep into the depths of her tea cup for a few moments, tapping her fingers on the table. "I am sorry for burdening you with the news," she finally said. "…I suppose there are two main reasons I came here to talk with you about this. Firstly, as I told you before, I thought that you might already know since I know that you are a very talented seer. And secondly…"
She trailed off. When she looked up at him again much of the roboticness had melted away. "…I had to tell someone. I couldn't be the only one who knew. I had to talk to someone who would understand this."
That snapped Morty right out of his own thoughts of how much happier he would've been if he'd never heard that prophecy. Yes… what had it been like for Sabrina to know. He'd heard it secondhand from her and still had his doubts… but she knew. She'd seen it. What had it been like to have the heavy weight of that knowledge and no one who could possibly understand it—knowing that if she told anyone she'd only be inviting others into her misery? But yet… a person would go mad if she had to keep something like that to herself. Anyone with the gift of second sight would feel that way.
"I understand," he answered.
"I hoped you would," Sabrina replied. Was there a smile there? If there was, it was microscopic.
A companionable silence passed between them.
"So… what do we do now?" Morty couldn't help but ask.
"…I suppose…" Sabrina began thoughtfully, "…everything we've ever wanted to do, but never found the time for."
That did make a certain amount of sense—grim though it was. Most things he could think of that he'd always wanted to do would take more than eighteen hours, though. "Like what?" he asked.
Sabrina lapsed into silence. "…I always thought I'd have more time to compose my bucket list," she offered up.
Morty sat down again with a sigh. "…Me too."
The seconds were ticking away—and there were only so many of those left.
"I guess this would be the time to spend with loved ones—enjoy the moments we have left with them," Morty suggested.
"My parents are vacationing on Cinnabar Island. I called them this morning," Sabrina responded with clinical efficiency. "I don't think I could be with them and not tell them what's happening, and they aren't interested in the future. Even my father, a not ungifted psychic himself, has always said that it's better not to know about these things. Besides," she added, "if I told them then I'd ruin their vacation."
Morty privately (or not so privately; it's hard to tell when you're with a psychic) thought that the incoming apocalypse would ruin their vacation more, but kept quiet on the subject.
"And you?" Sabrina prodded. "Do you have any loved ones you'd like to spend your last precious moments with? Your parents are dead, are they not?"
Morty froze at this and gave her a baffled look. "How did you…" He remembered again—psychic. "Are you reading my mind?" he asked. He'd joked before, but the idea was rather… violating when you put it out there for real.
"Not at all," Sabrina said dismissively. "I merely used logic. Most ghost-type masters have lost someone close to them—a parent, a friend, a significant other. It makes for a persuasive introduction to the spectral world."
Morty's hands went limp on the table. Yes, perhaps it was logical, but it was uncomfortable to have the starting point of his career so dispassionately dissected.
"I suppose it was," he said softly.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement. He turned to see a photo album floating swiftly through the air. He wasn't too surprised. In his household, floating objects were a regular occurrence. But still. They had company and it was impolite.
"Gengar, try to behave yourself," he scolded.
Gengar popped into existence next to him and looked persecuted. "Gennn garrr," it responded.
"What do you mean you're not—" Morty began, but then turned abruptly to Sabrina, whose hands the album had just landed in.
"Sorry," she said, opening the book. "I didn't feel like getting up."
Morty glanced back at Gengar who was looking far too smug. He had to remember that at the moment his already otherworldly household had gotten even spookier thanks to Sabrina. He made a mental note not to blame Gengar first in case of future incidences of telekinesis. …Though, knowing Gengar, he'd probably take that as a free pass to start piling up all the kitchen chairs.
"You look a lot like her," Sabrina said, pointing at an old photograph, "…your mother."
Morty sighed. He could protest his life's history being casually invaded, but there didn't seem to be much point in their current situation. "That's what people say," he said wearily.
Gengar, having cleared his name of poltergeist-esque mischief, made his way curiously over to their houseguest. Sabrina looked up at him—which was a good thing because ghost Pokemon tend to act out when they're ignored… though Gengar was good at finding reasons to act out no matter how much attention it got.
"Gennngar!" he said, by way of greeting. Then, as was his practice, he slid his face 360 degrees around his head, bringing it to a halt in its normal place—but with his tongue out. He blew a raspberry.
Gengar's face-making (and he had a great variety) generally had one of two effects on people. The first one was screaming terror and the second…
Sabrina let out a delighted giggle.
Morty felt his mouth drop open. Well… well, yes, that was the other effect. But… but he hadn't exactly expected it from Sabrina of all people. Not that he'd expected her to be afraid or anything. He wasn't sure what he'd expected, but certainly not that.
Seeing Sabrina laugh—not just smile! Laugh. It was… odd, unnatural, and more than slightly disturbing.
…He wondered if he'd get to see her do it again.
She patted Gengar, who was basking in the attention, on the head. "You remind me of someone I know," she said to it.
She turned to see Morty's slack jawed expression. "Is something the matter?" she asked.
He abruptly closed his mouth. "No," he said quickly, coughing to cover for himself. "No. …I mean, not aside from the end of the world."
"Ah, yes," she said, turning back to the photo album and closing it. "We hadn't decided what to do yet. Well, it at least seems clear to me that we won't be spending our last day alive with our families."
"We could go drinking," Morty piped up. He held up his hands in response to the look she gave him. "I'm not saying I'm even a drinker usually, because I'm not, but doesn't it seem like the thing to do? Have fun and forget what's coming for awhile?"
"I don't know about you, but I'd prefer not to have a hangover during Armageddon," Sabrina pointed out.
"That… is a good point," Morty conceded.
"Besides," Sabrina said, shuffling in a slightly uncomfortable manner, "…I get kind of gloomy when I drink."
"Well… we can't have that," replied Morty, who found it hard to believe that Sabrina—even discounting a few bizarre giggling anomalies—could get gloomier.
"But..." Sabrina began hesitantly, "I am rather hungry."
Morty turned this over in his mind. "Ecruteak has several nice restaurants…" He stood up. "And it doesn't seem like moping around here is a very good use of the last night on earth, does it?"
"I was thinking the same thing."
"It's been such a warm winter," Sabrina commented as they walked down the streets of Ecruteak City.
"Yeah," Morty said vaguely. It was amazing how even traditional small talk items could warp in Sabrina's mouth. Morty had been enjoying the mild winter. It was nice that it was still so warm so late in the year… but the prospect of the sun raining down on them sort of ruined it.
Sabrina reached over and tugged at his scarf. "It's not cold enough for this," she said, in a tone that others might see as accusing, but Morty was coming to recognize as curious, "and you were wearing it inside."
Morty tightened the scarf around his neck. "In my line of work, you've got to dress warmly."
Sabrina thought about that for a moment. "Oh," she said, arriving at his point. "Cold spots."
"That's right," Morty confirmed, impressed.
Of course, they weren't near any cold spots right now, so technically he didn't need the scarf, but he was used to it. Sabrina seemed quite comfortable in just a light jacket that she hadn't even bothered to zip up. Still, he thought the shirt was probably too summery even for the mildest of winter, what with her midriff showing and all.
…Not that he'd noticed her midriff or anything.
Between her outfit, her level expression, and her oversized techno-bracelets, she stood in stark contrast to the women of Ecruteak, who would make any excuse to break out their traditional kimonos. Among the robed crowd, she looked almost like a fashionable cyborg.
"I'm sure you probably would've had more fun staying in Saffron City," Morty thought out loud. If he had to spend the last day anywhere, Ecruteak would be the place, but that was because it was home. It seemed so ill-suited to Sabrina. "Ecruteak's a city that reaches toward the past, but Saffron embraces the future."
"There is no future," she said, bringing the whole conversation down. She tapped her chin with her finger for a moment and then amended, "well, no future for us, I should say. For humans," she clarified further. "The planet will recover though, in time. Perhaps it will even be able to support life again in tens of thousands of years."
Oh well. Morty realized he couldn't have asked for too much mild-mannered conversation with the end of the world looming. "Won't any humans survive?" he asked, still searching for some small particle of hope. "Even if there were only two, it could be enough to save the species."
"Which two did you have in mind?" Sabrina asked in a somewhat wintry tone.
"I—I wasn't implying—" Morty began, but stopped himself. "I meant just two in general. Male and female."
"Well, neither will survive," bubble-burster Sabrina replied. "And even if there was a pair of humans left, I don't think the species would last. Not enough genetic diversity. Plus," she added as an afterthought, "you'd be consigning their children to incest."
Morty nearly tripped over nothing. It really was upsetting that the world was supposedly ending because it was a real shame that he'd never be able to find out just how Sabrina's mind worked.
"So, why don't you have any friends?" Sabrina asked, apropos of nothing.
Morty choked on his noodles. He was still coughing and drawing looks from the other restaurant patrons when he asked: "…Why do you," cough, "think I don't have any friends?"
"Well, because you're here with me on the last night humanity will ever see," Sabrina explained. "If I had friends then I'd probably be with them."
Morty wasn't sure what was more awkward—the fact that her point was hard to argue or that she'd casually admitted to being friendless without any trace of embarrassment.
"I have friends," Morty said, "but…" Well, but what? It was just that… end of the world or not, it was impossible to imagine leaving this meeting in favor of seeing Eusine or Falkner. Was it just that he couldn't see them if he couldn't tell them everything that was on his mind? Was it guilt at leaving Sabrina friendless with such a dark proclamation hanging over her? "I see them all the time," he finished lamely.
"Oh," Sabrina said, bringing a pepper up to her mouth. Morty had never seen anyone eat so many hot peppers without betraying any sort of discomfort. The girl had to have ice in her soul. "That must be nice."
"Come on, you've got to have friends," Morty insisted. "I've seen you at the gym leader conventions and you're always surrounded by fans and students. The last time I talked to Will, he couldn't stop raving about you."
"That's very nice and everything," Sabrina said with a stiff smile, "but my Pokemon are my friends. Everyone else is an acquaintance."
She looked down at her bowl, evidently having managed some kind of… oh, not quite embarrassment, but at least an attitude that admitted to imperfection. "I've been trying to work on that," she said quietly.
And there it was. She was so… bad at this, and she knew it. Goodness knew that Morty couldn't begrudge her that—even if he didn't quite stand where she stood, it was still close enough to home. And 'my Pokemon are my friends' was a popular enough syndrome among high level trainers—particularly ones that went into seclusion, or had rough childhoods, or never really remembered to stop training. Yes, Sabrina had all the markers of someone who was fundamentally lacking at human interaction. And yet it wasn't… it wasn't a repulsive trait. It was jarring, yes. It kept him jumping back and forth between finding her funny, sad, and frighteningly impressive. But was that so terrible really?
"I'm sure you know it's difficult when you can see into the future," Sabrina confided. "Everything seems likes it's already been set up, and people are just running along on tracks. When the future is predetermined, there's no freewill. That's when people stop seeming like people." She paused. "You run into… trouble when you start to think of people as things."
'Trouble,' eh? There was that… bizarre rumor floating around about her turning people into dolls. He'd laughed that one off before but now, after talking to her, well… perhaps it didn't seem so ridiculous after all.
"The future is a little more… fluid in my visions," Morty explained. "To be technical about it, I don't actually look into the future. I can communicate with ghosts and ghosts can communicate with me. For ghosts, there is no such thing as time. Everything to them is happening all at once. So by communing with them I can see the past, the present, and the future… or the might-be past, present, and future… or other realms entirely. And it's hard to tell which I've seen."
"It must be interesting to talk to ghosts," Sabrina said. And precisely because she was bad at human interaction, Morty could take that comment at face value. It was the kind of thing that most people would say to be polite: 'What do you do? Oh my, that's interesting. Pass the wasabi.' But Sabrina meant it.
"You like ghosts?" he asked.
"I love ghosts," she said, serious as the grave.
"Oh?" He hadn't quite expected that.
"I owe a lot to one in particular," she explained.
"They're surprising creatures," Morty said with a smile. "And very lively for… well, the dead." He shrugged.
"They are," Sabrina said, with a barely suppressed twitch of her lips as though she was remembering something funny.
"Of course, talking about certain gifts that make it hard to make friends… it's difficult when most of the people you meet are dead," Morty said with grim humor.
"The dead are in the majority," Sabrina said, setting down her chopsticks. "And tomorrow…" she trailed off.
Morty wasn't about to let the conversation be plunged into doom again so easily. "So… what else would you like to do in beautiful Ecruteak City on the last night in the world?" he asked, injecting as much brightness and possibility into the statement as he could.
"Hmm," hummed Sabrina thoughtfully. "I suppose I always said that if I came to Ecruteak City that I'd like to see a show at the dance hall. But," she added, looking at him, "since you live here I'm sure you've seen their shows a dozen times and are already sick of them. I wouldn't want to make you sit through it if that's the case."
That was, in fact, the case. Actually it was more like two dozen times. It was one of Ecruteak's biggest tourist attractions and whenever Morty had a guest from out of town he'd have to watch the same show again. And no, it wasn't high on his list of ways to spend his time, particular if there wasn't much time left to spend.
"It sounds like a good idea to me," he said. "Funny, but I've actually never gone there in all these years."
The show really wasn't as much of a chore to sit through as he'd thought it would be. Sure, he'd seen that routine several times over, but Sabrina hadn't. She felt free to share her thoughts about the experience, and considering that Sabrina thought rather odd things, it was an all and all enjoyable evening. Or as enjoyable as an evening can be with the possibility of the apocalypse on the horizon.
It wasn't until they made their meandering way back toward his house at nightfall that he realized how precarious the situation was becoming. She had to come in. Of course, she'd come in. She'd left her bag there after all. And he'd made coffee and they'd talked awhile longer—about ghosts and visions and the prospective end of the world and getting right with Arceus as a result of it all. It had gotten late. Morty realized with some concern that he had no idea where she was staying for the evening. She'd come in through the magnet train and taken a cab to Ecruteak. Had she… had she gotten a hotel room?
He asked her as diplomatically as he could. She responded on the lines that she 'suppose'd that she'd better get one, since it was late and all. But weren't hotel rooms 'depressing'? How they're so impersonal and all the same? Wan't that a lonely place, she'd said, to spend the last night of your life?
And then he'd asked her to stay. Or, no, he hadn't asked her to stay. His mouth had, clearly without consulting his brain.
She'd given him a long, slow look. It was a probing look, made all the more intimidating by the fact that she might've actually been probing his thoughts.
And then she said yes. Without comment.
And… he just wasn't sure where things stood. On the one hand… this was just… a gesture from a friend. Stay here so you're not by yourself and don't have to be put out by getting a hotel room at this late hour. Completely innocent. Should this end-of-the-world prediction actually be true, it'd mean neither of them had to be completely by themselves at the end of things. And if Sabrina was mistaken, well, they'd cemented a friendship, right? That was something to be happy about.
They… they weren't going to… cement anything else, were they?
Only he wasn't sure… On the other side of all this… two people together at the end of all time? The last night in the world? Well… what had Sabrina said earlier when they were thinking of picking up dessert from one of the many stalls that lined the street?
"Tonight there are no consequences."
…A somewhat shivering thought.
And… and… she'd accepted his invitation for coffee! Everyone knows that 'coffee' is just a code word, right? Nobody wants coffee that late at night unless they have, well, reasons to stay up later.
…Did Sabrina know that 'coffee' was code? He doubted this was a situation she often found herself in.
He was hesitant to turn on the radio. He was sure that whatever was playing from Goldenrod would be something along the 'We've Got Tonight; Who Needs Tomorrow?' lines. …And… from a certain perspective, wasn't that okay? He wasn't sure that he believed Sabrina's prophecy but… if it was true…
Sabrina came out of his bathroom, having changed into her pajamas. It was fundamentally surreal to see her in them. In the afternoon he'd known her, he'd come to suspect that there was an iron core of resolve in her heart. Pastel should not have played into her wardrobe. The toothpaste green top and shorts that brought out the glimmer in her hair were all and all too precious for the woman they were on.
"Where am I sleeping?" Sabrina asked.
Morty had been hoping for a cue. He hadn't got one. What a… carefully worded question. He almost wanted to throw it right back at her: where are you sleeping?
He stood up and took a deep breath. "…You take the bed," he said. "I can sleep on the couch."
Sabrina frowned and he wondered, cursing silently to himself, if he'd read the situation completely wrong—been too cautious. What did she really want here?
"I'm the one that's imposing on you," she said. "I should take the couch. Do you really want a backache on the last day?"
"I don't think it matters very much," Morty said with a soft smile. "Anyway," he said, putting a hand on the pillow, "it's actually pretty comfy, so I don't mind. You're the guest, so you should take the bed."
She looked at him again—he wasn't sure if she was taking her time to read his thoughts or if she simply did it to make him uncomfortable.
"Alright then," she said, in an inscrutable voice. "Goodnight."
As he lay on the couch (not nearly as comfy as he made it out to be) and stared up at the ceiling, he still wasn't sure if he'd made the right decision. If these really were the last hours of their lives, shouldn't they have been… romantic? Shouldn't there have been drama? Shouldn't he have held her hand and told her that it didn't matter if the world passed away because he'd stay with her until the end? Was that what she wanted? Was that what she had expected? Should he have taken her into his arms and…?
No. No, that wasn't fair to her. Right now, Sabrina was as vulnerable as an indomitable person like her could get, lonely, and she thought the world was going to come crashing around her head in a few short hours. To make any sort of overture to capitalize on that would just be… well, just because they didn't have time to do this the right way, wasn't an excuse to do it the wrong way.
So yes. He'd made the right decision.
…Why did he feel so terrible about it?
Dawn rose on prophesied last morning. Morty didn't wake Sabrina. It had been a late night and it was probably better that she slept in. After all, it's no fun waiting for the sky to start raining fire.
Just short of noon… that's when she said catastrophe would strike. He was hoping that she'd sleep late—that noon would come and go and all would be well, and when she woke up she'd find that the world she thought was ruined was still very much intact. And then they could go on. Have a second chance—a chance to get this right.
But still, as he went outside to get the newspaper… he watched the skies. A calamity of epic proportions didn't seem to be around the corner… but who knew what would happen?
Now that the clock was ticking away… it was harder to doubt her prophecy.
As he picked up the paper he felt a strange urge to check his horoscope. What would he do if there was nothing there? Just a blank section where a prediction should be? No more future?
A familiar figure walking down the street took his attention away from that horrible thought. "Eusine!" he called out. "I didn't know you were in town."
"Research," Eusine said briskly, walking in the direction of the library. "I'm busy."
You might not be. For a moment… it was crazy, but he thought… should I tell him? Okay, it wasn't not for sure, but it was on good authority. If these were his last hours, should he really let his friend waste them in solitude? But what was he supposed to say? 'Woe be unto you and your house for the end is nigh!' That sounded… appropriately prophetic, but really wouldn't do. 'Hey Eusine… why don't you just… give you Dad a call? Tell him you're sorry. Life's too short to hold a grudge… and you never know… this might be your last chance…'
Morty was just about to open his mouth to impart… something; he wasn't really sure what, when his front door opened and Sabrina poked out her head. She'd woken up her own, but hadn't yet changed out of her pajamas. Perhaps she didn't intend to. After all, with a forecast like the one she'd given for the day… what was the point of getting dressed?
"Morty," she said, "I made coffee."
"Thanks…" he said vaguely, noticing the weird look Eusine was giving him.
He heard the door click shut. Eusine raised his eyebrows. Apparently Sabrina's appearance had done the impossible and distracted him from his earth-shatteringly important research.
"It's not what it looks like," Morty said.
"Isn't that what people say when it's exactly what it looks like?" Eusine asked, peering up at the closed door.
"Look," Morty began, not entirely sure how to explain, "we were just… she was only…"
"Did she tell you the world was going to end?" Eusine asked knowingly.
"No!" Morty responded, not actually hearing him, "We were just—" He stopped dead, processed Eusine's question, and stared at him, dumbfounded. "What?"
Sabrina was pouring the coffee when Morty came back into the house. If he was anyone but Morty, he could be described as looking like he'd seen a ghost. He didn't have the paper in his hand—he must have dropped it on the way. He honestly didn't seem that concerned with its whereabouts.
"The world… isn't going to end at all, is it?" he asked slowly, heavily.
She didn't have the decency to look abashed or surprised or even try to play it off like she was indignant that he'd even suggest that. Instead she just poured a generous spoonful of sugar into her coffee and said: "Of course it's not."
Morty pointed behind him, still lost in a sort of numb disbelief. "Eusine… he said you told him the world was ending last spring when he was in Saffron City."
Sabrina's blank expression grew slightly sour. "I did. Though it didn't turn out to be at all worthwhile."
"Is…" Morty began, affront and incredulity still duking it out in his mind, "is this how you pick up guys?" he demanded.
Sabrina shrugged. "I suppose you could say that."
"It is," Sabrina freely admitted. "But it is interesting… how people react when they hear the news. It's a test, really."
"A test?" Morty repeated helplessly.
"Yes," Sabrina said. "And you're the only one that's ever gotten this far. Congratulations."
Morty was hardly in a celebratory mood. "What were you testing me on? Gullibility?"
"Not really," Sabrina said. She began to count off on her fingers. "Item 1: You took me seriously. You didn't believe me completely," she added, cutting off his 'Aha!' moment, "but your doubts were out of optimism and fear—not because you thought my claims were ridiculous or my skill was lacking."
"Item 2," she went on, "you didn't abandon me. If you thought there was any credence to my claim, then it would've been easy for you to duck out on me—to spend time that you thought you had in limited supply with others, and write me off as not your problem. I gave you plenty of chances to do so. By the way," she added, "that's where your friend Eusine failed."
"Item 3," she said, pressing on even as he opened his mouth to comment, "You proved yourself compassionate and self-sacrificing. Even with a dire threat hanging over you, you cared more about my happiness than your own."
"So, you were looking for a gullible, codependent pushover?" Morty asked, finally getting a word in edgewise. It was uncomfortable to know that he'd passed the gullible, codependent pushover test with such flying colors.
"Item 4," she ignored him, "you were kind to me, but you didn't take advantage of me. All the while I stayed with you, you never behaved even slightly ungentlemanly even though you were provoked."
"Provoked is right," Morty cut in. "So you were doing that on purpose. Ungentlemanly behavior? Was that what you—" He cut himself off, but there's no use in biting your tongue around a telepath.
"…Morty," she said in a serenely dangerous voice, "if I was after ungentlemanly behavior then I would have let you know."
She took a drink of her coffee, as though she hadn't uttered a sentence that was not a threat, yet nevertheless sounded like a threat; as though she hadn't dragged him into a web of lies. He sat down across from her.
"I don't understand," he said heavily. "All this manipulation… all this lying… well, now that I've passed your so-called 'boyfriend test,' so what? How could you ever expect someone who found out about this to stick around?"
Sabrina sniffed. "Maybe I never expected anyone to get this far."
It was a rather lousy pronouncement about Sabrina's faith in mankind, and even amidst his sense of betrayal, it stung.
"Catastrophes happen in relationships," Sabrina went on. "You discover that people aren't who they pretended to be when you first met, that they don't respect you, that they care more for themselves than you, that they're creeps." She stared into her coffee. "So I decided I'd save time and have the catastrophe right at the start of the relationship. Anyone who fails might've stayed with me for… oh, maybe a year or so, but they would've left eventually anyway. The end of the world scenario is perfect for taking off masks… for showing if you're still a good person when there are no more consequences… and to test resolve."
"Resolve?" Morty repeated, frustrated in the face of her calm explanation of her unacceptable behavior. A thought occurred and his eyes narrowed. "…This is still part of the test, isn't it?" he asked.
"Everything's a test," Sabrina said cryptically.
"To see if I'll… let it pass, isn't it?" Morty asked, realization dawning. "To see if I'd let you get away with it."
"Not 'get away with it,'" Sabrina corrected. "To see if you are forgiving."
"This shouldn't be about me being forgiving," Morty said. "You're the one who lied here—haven't you already failed my test? Behaved like one of those creeps you wrote off for not playing your game the way you wanted them to? This isn't like a mistake you made—this is something you did with malice and forethought."
"Forethought, yes," Sabrina admitted, "malice, no. It was a short-lived lie and it hasn't done you any harm."
"I thought I might die," Morty said emphatically. He didn't see how that qualified as 'harmless.'
"Yes," Sabrina said, "and now you know you won't." She smiled smugly, "aren't you happy about that? Don't you appreciate the life you have much more now that you've had to face losing it?"
He did, damn it. But that probably made him more irritated with her than anything.
"Morty," she went on. It was a familiarity that had grown after their talks last night—the dropping of his name. He'd liked it before. "It wasn't that long ago that I lost control of myself completely. I'm not sure if you know how powerful I am, but I used to abuse it. I put my own mother's soul in a doll. I'm trying to be different now—but powerful people make powerful mistakes. My mother forgave me because she's my flesh and blood, but it would be a rare person who didn't have that connection to me that would've offered me forgiveness." Her eyes hooked into his. "I can't be with anyone who isn't crazy enough to forgive me when I do wrong."
Morty stared back at her, and knew she wouldn't blink first. This… this was absolutely insane. She was basically saying 'I'm a terrible person and I need you to understand and be okay with that. You still want to go out?' So how did he…?
"Last night wasn't fake," she went on. "I wasn't pulling an act on you and I told you the truth as best I could." She gave it some thought. "…Except of course for the end of the world stuff, which was obviously a complete and utter falsehood."
"So, you're saying 'I told the truth except for all of those lies?'" Morty asked incredulously.
Morty groaned. He wanted to claim betrayal of trust, but he was sure that Sabrina would claim she'd given him no reason to trust her in the first place. A manipulative, cruel test to weed out manipulative and cruel suitors? What kind of twisted logic was that? …It was Sabrina logic, is what it was. It was… efficient and to the point. And she occasionally forgot that other people had feelings. …But she knew that she had that tendency—and she knew that her insensitivity would hurt the ones she loved someday even if it was unintentional. So there was the test. A lie—not an especially harmful lie, but a devious and unnecessary one—one that would smart. To her mind it was a small test. She didn't want to settle for less than unconditional love. And she wasn't good with people.
Morty ran a weary hand down his face. The fact that he could see all that—that he understood it—was probably proof that he was just as crazy as her.
He turned around.
"I think you should leave," he said.
He didn't look at her, but he could feel her silence.
"But…" he went on, "…you made a good impression on my Gengar, and I'm sure he'd be unhappy if I sent you away."
She breathed out. He found it strangely gratifying to know that she'd been holding her breath—that the answer mattered that much.
"We wouldn't want to upset Gengar," she said.