Warnings*: Slash, mild language, and violence.
Spoilers: If you've beaten the main story of BW, you're fine. There may also be eventual minor spoilers for B2W2.
Disclaimer: Pokemon definitely does not belong to me.
In case you missed it, this fic is majorly AU. Most differences are glaringly obvious, though there are many that are not outrightly stated.
* These warnings apply to the entire fic. Chapters with anything really disturbing will be given chapter-specific warnings.
Skies As Grey As Battleships
- Chapter 1: A Letter Long Expected -
The sky over Nuvema Town was a monochrome patchwork, a result of the ice-grey sunlight fighting its way through gunmetal clouds. Touya squinted up at the swirling grey masses, trying to figure out whether they were wisps of smoke blown in from the Castelia factories or simply signs of a coming storm. Not that it really mattered in the long run; cloud-watching was cloud-watching, after all.
He stretched out his arms, feeling the cool grass and damp soil beneath him. He continued staring at the clouds, creating increasingly nonsensical shapes out of the sky's behemoths. Fully intending to stay outside until dinner, Touya frowned faintly when his question about the clouds was answered and he was hit with a sudden deluge of water. Scooping up his rudely-awakened Oshawott into his arms, he sprinted towards his house, hastily knocking on the door and ignoring the fact that he was already soaked and so a couple more seconds wouldn't hurt him in the slightest.
Touko opened the door, failing to hide a giggle at the sight of her thoroughly drenched brother. When she saw Oshawott's disgruntled and confused expression, she didn't even bother to conceal her amusement. Touya could've sworn that her Tepig even snorted along with her.
"It's not that funny," Touya huffed, setting Oshawott down on the floor. Oshawott immediately set his eyes on Tepig, clinging to the heat-emitting Pokemon with zero intention of letting go any time soon. Tepig looked briefly annoyed as its metal collar clanged against the wooden floor, but soon settled down with a noise that sounded suspiciously like a resigned sigh.
"It..." Touko laughed, "it kind of is. You look li - oh!" She halted mid-sentence, evidently remembering something important.
"A letter came today."
"Is it from Cheren or Bianca?"
Cheren and Bianca were the only people Touya could think of who would send the two of them a letter. Bianca had been writing almost every other day - the rate at which she churned out letters was almost scary, actually. She hadn't taken the forced separation from her hometown terribly well. Though she tried to hide it, the bitterness in her letters was clearly evident.
Cheren didn't write nearly as often, mostly because being in the army didn't allow for much free time. Touya might have been worried sick about Cheren's safety, but that didn't prevent him from being impressed that Cheren had managed to finagle his way into the national army, given that he was still a few months below the minimum age limit of sixteen.
"Neither," replied Touko, her face growing serious and even slightly worried. Touya felt a chill creep down his spine.
"It's from the government."
"Have you opened it yet?" Touya asked, practically choking the words out.
"No," Touko fished the letter out from one of her pockets, "I thought we could open it together." She glanced quickly at Touya, gauging his reaction.
"Can I read it?" she asked slowly, carefully tearing open the letter when Touya nodded. Each found a seat, and Oshawott hopped up on Touya's lap while Tepig wiggled himself into a standing position.
"Touko and Touya Shiroguro," Touko taking a deep breath, "You have been drafted for work in the Castelia factories. Please arrive in Castelia no later than three days upon receiving this letter. Further information will be provided upon your arrival.
"And remember," Touko continued to read, eyes narrowing, "your compliance is mandatory."
Touko rolled her eyes, flipping the the paper around to show to Touya.
"Oh, wonderful, it even has Crane's photocopied signature on it," she spat, balling the letter into a crumpled mess and chucking it angrily to the floor.
"I'm not going."
"Touko..." Touya started, working to keep his voice level, "we have to."
"I don't want to go! I don't want to leave Nuvema, my friends, and Mom behind!" Tears pinpricked at the corner of her eyes.
"Do you think I want to go, either?" Extremely difficult to anger and generally level-headed, Touya was a stranger to yelling and screaming. Instead, his voice took on a cold edge, one that Touko recognized immediately.
"Sorry," she looked away from Touya, embarrassed for her behaviour and for upsetting her brother. "I didn't... I didn't mean to make you upset. But ..."
"I know," Touya interjected, calmer and almost apologetic himself, "It's just, there's no point in panicking now. Right?"
Touko nodded, wiping away the tears that had gathered. Then she closed her eyes, breathed in, and grinned.
"You're absolutely correct, Touya! Everything'll be fine." As quickly as it had changed before, her expression shifted again, her smile growing increasingly crestfallen.
"We have to tell Mom. I... I don't want to tell her."
"We could wait until morning," Touya offered, though if he was being honest with himself he would have preferred to tell her as soon as she walked in the door. It wasn't that he found the idea exactly thrilling; he just would have liked to get it over with.
"Thanks," Touko smiled. " But I know you'd rather not, so we'll go ahead and do it over dinner."
Touya, slightly taken aback, started to protest, but was quickly cut off by Touko.
"You dry off - I'll get started on dinner."
"I could - " Touya started to protest, but Touko, already halfway out of the room, continued walking at a brisk pace towards the kitchen.
"Nope! Besides, it's my turn, anyway."
Having since changed into a set of dry clothes, Touya was now faced with deciding on what to do for the next twenty minutes. Fighting the urge to offer his sister help - she preferred doing things herself, and would inevitably shoot him down fairly quickly - he settled for collapsing on the worn sofa and switching on the television.
Channel-surfing proved relatively unsuccessful; as usual, any given program was either heavily propagandized politics or news, or made for children. Or both, which Touya had always found disturbing.
Eventually he gave up, switching to the least-biased news channel he knew of. He watched as snippets of news rolled across the bottom screen, ranging from information on Orre's civil war to the ever-boring production statistics of Unova's factories to rumours about the Sevii Islands breaking their neutrality agreement. The reporter was currently covering a story about an underground Pokemon fighting ring that was recently busted by the police in Nimbasa City. Touya flinched slightly at hearing the news - he'd never seen any himself, but Pokemon fighting had always sounded horribly barbaric. After all, he figured, there was probably a good reason it was illegal outside of warfare.
A succession of knocks on the door snapped him out of his thoughts.
"I'll answer it," he called to Touko, flicking off the television and opening the door.
"Welcome back, Mom," Touya said, managing a smile despite the heavy feeling of black dread beginning to pool in his stomach.
"Hi!" Touko greeted their mother enthusiastically, her sudden appearance at the doorway causing Touya to jump in surprise.
"Hello to both of you," their mother smiled in return.
"Dinner's almost ready if want to sit down," Touko offered before slipping back into the kitchen. Once Touko had left, Touya's mother turned to speak to him.
"Is everything alright?"
"Um," Touya stammered, caught completely off-guard.
Seeing his confused floundering, she offered, "Touko seems different than usual."
"Well, that's -"
"Hey!" Touko poked her head around the doorframe, glaring at both of them in mock annoyance. "Everything's ready, so come on!"
Upon seeing the steaming bowls of ramen laid out on the table, Touya laughed despite himself. Without fail, Touko always made the same dish - admittedly with occasional, minor variations - every time her turn came up. Mainly, this was because ramen was extremely difficult to mess up, which was important given Touko's past history with cooking.
It had taken a while before Touko'd had been willing to admit that her cooking skills left a lot to be desired. When they were younger it hadn't been unusual for her to present him, along with Cheren and Bianca, various baked goods in an attempt to prove that she was a better cook than Touya. None of them had the heart to tell her that cookies weren't actually supposed to be black, although Touya remembered when Cheren had evidently had enough and moved to open his mouth. Bianca had stepped on his foot, and, ignoring his incredibly foul look in her direction - an expression that still threatened to make Touya crack up just from the memory of it - had complimented Touko's baking. Years of friendship had only driven home the fact that it was incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for Bianca to say anything mean about anyone, period.
Though that had changed recently, if the tone she adopted in her letters was anything to go by. Being forcibly removed from her hometown and transferred to a factory for the war effort probably wasn't doing wonders for her optimism. In fact, Touya suspected that she was likely worse off than she let on; since all mail was monitored, writing anything remotely treasonous was definitely out of the question.
There was an awkward silence as Touko stopped talking and glanced at Touya, silently asking if now would be an acceptable time to broach the topic they'd both been dreading. Seeing no objection, Touko looked straight at her mother and began speaking, none of her earlier fears and hesitations present on her face.
"A letter came today," she started slowly, making sure her mother was paying attention. "It was from the government. Mom, Touya and I have to go the Castelia. We need to leave tomorrow to make it in time."
Touya shifted uncomfortably in the dead silence, and Touko waited a beat before continuing, hoping for a reply.
"We'll call every day, and I bet you can even come visit! We'll only be a couple days away, so..." she broke off, getting more nervous the longer her mother went without talking. "Mom?"
"I knew you two would have to leave eventually," their mother finally said, and despite the slightly resigned tone of her voice Touya felt like sighing in relief at simply hearing her say something. "I'm just glad you don't have to-" she cut off, eyes widening as the unspoken 'fight' hung in the air like an anvil poised to fall.
Father had been killed in the Great War years ago, when Touya and Touko were only four. Touya could barely remember that far back; his early childhood memories were relegated to hazy snippets flitting in and out of dreams. Touko was luckier in that regard - while few in number, the memories she possessed of their father were vivid and almost tangible.
When he had grown older and realized that his memories had all but faded, he had turned to his mother for stories about his late father. And after his mother and stared at him, eyes hollow and brimming with tears, apologizing - I can't, Touya, I can't talk about him - he had approached his sister.
It hadn't taken long for the stories to cycle over and repeat, but Touya had never tired of hearing them. Touko had always been a wonderful storyteller - much better than he was - and even the most mundane memories had seemed important and fascinating when told by her.
"So am I," Touko laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "Mom, you know that isn't going to happen."
No one pointed out that the both of them were only two months away from reaching the draft age.
"... Of course not," she conceded, a shaky smile back on her face. "Have you packed yet?"
"No," Touya offered, "Touko was busy with dinner, and I was doing... things," he finished lamely, thinking that instead of watching television he could have actually been doing something useful.
"You mean you were passed out on the couch with Oshawott," Touko giggled, punching Touya playfully on the shoulder.
"I was watching the news." He really hoped he didn't sound like a petulant child.
Touko rolled her eyes. "Well, no matter what you were doing, we've got to pack."
"I'll clean up dinner if you'd like to start packing," their mother suggested. Touya began to protest and offer to help, when Touko all but dragged him out of the kitchen and into the hallway, yelling an energetic "Thanks!" on the way out. Noticing their owners leaving, Oshawott and Tepig, who had previously been dozing in the corner, both blinked drowsily and and stood up, racing after them.
Sighing in defeat, Touya followed his sister up the stairs, each entering their own room. Touya's room was painted a pale sky blue, a colour broken only by the occasional poster tacked to the wall. Bookshelves, all different shapes and varying shades of brown and grey, were pushed against the wall. A pile of neatly stacked sketchbooks lay next to a fairly ordinary night table supporting a lamp and alarm clock.
Oshawott hopped onto the bed, making himself comfortable amongst the dark blue sheets.
Touya pulled out a navy suitcase from his closet, dusty from disuse. He was just glad he wasn't stuck with a kid suitcase. Though Bianca had seemed perfectly happy with using her old pale pink Munna print suitcase, Touya was sure he wouldn't be nearly as thrilled under the same circumstances.
He plucked his clothes from the hangers, carefully folding and packing them away. Almost as an afterthought he threw in the only scarf he owned, a bright primary red and a gift from Touko for his thirteenth birthday. The loud colour - Touko's attempt to spice up his wardrobe with something that wasn't blue, white, or grey - had surprised him at first, but had grown on him to the point where he didn't mind wearing it.
After packing other necessities his suitcase was essentially stuffed, and he crammed in a couple of books, zipped it shut, and abandoned the suitcase at the foot of his bed. His messenger bag didn't have nearly as much room, but Touya still managed to fit his current sketchbook and a few other items inside.
Touya sunk onto the bed next to Oshawott, glancing at the clock next to him. It was later than he'd thought, but not really late enough to justify going to bed, ignoring the fact that he was completely exhausted from the day's events.
He closed his eyes, intending to grab a minute's respite before returning downstairs.
Touya woke up far too early to deal with a face full of sunlight and an Oshawott sprawled over his arm. The little Pokemon felt like a fuzzy tourniquet, and Touya quickly but gently slid his fast asleep limb out from under Oshawott. He wiggled his arm in attempt to restore circulation, spotting the imprint his Pokemon's collar had left on his arm. He'd always felt horrible about having to make Oshawott wear the metal band around his neck, as something so bulky surely couldn't be comfortable.
He noticed with faint surprise that someone had thrown a blanket over him, presumably to avoid the hassle of dragging him under the bed covers. He knew it was Touko's doing as soon as he saw the colour - the blanket had come from her room, sporting the same eye-popping red with a dash of pink as its walls.
Seeing the time of 5:37 on the clock, Touya sighed, and, knowing he wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, rolled out of bed. He went through his usual morning routine, brushing his teeth before showering and changing. By the time he returned to his room his clock read six and Oshawott was half-awake, blinking blearily at him.
Touya picked up Oshawott and walked quietly down the stairs, not wanting to wake up his sleeping family members. He set his Pokemon on the floor when he reached the kitchen and opened the fridge, taking out a carton of milk.
The cabinets contained only one type of cereal - the off-brand, blueberry flavoured Tympole Triskeles were themed around the eponymous Pokemon. Touko had bought it because she'd found the little, malformed marshmallow Tympole heads hilarious, but as they floated forlornly around the bowl Touya began to think that they were slightly creepy.
Touya came perilously close to choking on his cereal, sputtering something that sounded a bit pathetic and vaguely close to 'please stop sneaking up on me'.
"If you want people to stop surprising you, then you need to make it less fun for them," Touko laughed, snatching the open cereal box and pouring it into a nearby bowl. Evidently starving, she immediately began popping bits of it into her mouth, pausing every so often to not-so-subtly feed pieces to her Tepig, who oinked happily next to her chair.
Oshawott shot Touya a pitiful look, and suddenly feeling incredibly and irrationally guilty Touya tossed his Pokemon some of the cereal. In retrospect, he really should have put up a fight of some sort, he thought.
Like most mornings, Touya found it difficult to keep up with his sister. He was more of a night owl himself, and had never understood how someone could just wake up energetic.
"So, I was wondering if you'd like to leave now," Touko asked somewhat slowly, clearly hoping for an affirmative answer. "I think it'd be easier on all of us if we skipped the good-byes. Besides, it's not like we're going off to war, right? We'll be close by and able to keep in touch."
"Touya?" Touko prodded after a moment of silence.
The offer was definitely tempting, if Touya was being completely honest with himself. He was rarely skilled at dealing with comforting others, and he knew that if his mom started crying he'd soon follow, and then Touko would get upset because she hated seeing people cry and the whole thing would devolve into an emotional mess.
... But at the same time, the idea of absconding early in the morning without a farewell somehow managed to be an even more depressing prospect, and so Touya shook his head.
"Got it," replied Touko to his wordless rejection - he wasn't usually a big talker, and the morning exhaustion never helped. She didn't sound terribly thrilled and Touya felt a bit guilty for putting her through this, but for once she let it go and didn't fight him on the issue. If there was one trait they'd both inherited from their father, it was his sheer, unhalting stubbornness.
After fifteen or so minutes of mostly one-sided conversation, Touko cheerfully noted that the wait was definitely going to drive her insane and that it was pretty much time for their mother to get up anyway.
The half hour it took for the household to prepare for their imminent departure seemed far longer and far more painful than such a short amount of time had any right to be. With their suitcases in hand, Pokemon on their shoulders, and everyone gathered at the door, it all suddenly solidified and it hit Touya that this was, in fact, actually happening.
For a while, no one spoke. Touya shifted awkwardly, praying that Touko would break the silence. After a couple of seconds, his wish was granted.
"We're going to come back. This isn't permanent, we're not gone for good, and even while we're gone... well, with enough phone calls and letter writing, it'll be like we never left."
"And if no one cried right now, that would be wonderful and I'd really appreciate it," Touko joked, sporting her usual grin. Touya found himself smiling as well, and was glad that his mom was, too.
"I'll miss you both." Their mother hugged them, once individually and then together before letting them go.
"Have a safe journey."
"We will," Touko assured her, and Touya nodded in agreement.
"We'll call when we get there," Touya added.
"And write," Touko chimed in. "You'll have so many letters, you won't know what to do with them!"
After saying their goodbyes, the two stepped through the door and began the trek to Castelia.
Their mother waited until the door was firmly shut before she began to sob.
A/N: And so begins my first actual chapterfic that isn't just a series of one-shots. I've had this idea cooking for a while, and I finally pulled myself together and wrote the first chapter. The plan is to update every Sunday, but since I'm new to this chaptered story thing and I have a ton going on, realize that this may not actually happen. Worst case is that it'll be biweekly instead of weekly.
Anyway, N appears next chapter (which is, coincidentally, almost finished). There was just no way to fit him in the first chapter.
On a final note, the surname I gave Touya and Touko - Shiroguro - is just a mash-up of the Japanese word for "white" (shiro) and the Japanese word for "black" (kuro, which for linguistic reasons changes to guro).