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24 September 2010 @ 12:46 pm
in which I express my love for the sea ineptly  
WE JUST GOT OUR HOUSE HOOKED UP TO THE INTERNET TODAY YESSSSS YES YES.
So before I go make lunch, here's this month's fic for poképrompts.

Title: Once A Mighty Sailor 
Author: [info]illittorate  
Rating: PG
Verse: Game Gen III
Characters: Mr Briney and Peeko, with a cameo from May 
Summary: Somewhere along the way, he's stopped hearing the call of the open sea.


 

His earliest memories are of the sea. They are from so long ago that he almost expects them to be in black and white. They are not, of course; though they skip and scratch like an old, old movie, in his memories the sea is as blue as a jewel, sparkling in the sun. Blue as his mother’s eyes, blue as the empty skies.

And big. Impossibly big.

“How old is the sea?” he remembers asking, his childish voice high and piping.

“Older than people,” comes the reply.

He can’t believe it. “Older than Grandpa?” he asks, and yes, the sea is much older than Grandpa, but he can’t imagine that. Grandpa is ancient. Sometimes he swears and shouts, and this scares him, and sometimes he just seems lost. This scares him too. His Grandpa used to be a sailor. These days, the only thing he captains is a beaten rocking chair, as he sits on the porch glaring out at the sea.

*

The old man everyone called Mr Briney chuckled to himself. He supposed that now he was old enough to frighten little children himself, though he certainly wasn’t older than the to-and-fro of the ocean.

Supporting his stiff hip with one hand, he pulled himself to his feet and went over to the window. No, he certainly wasn’t as young as he had been, nor as spry.

“But I’m still spry enough to show those ruffians a thing or two!” he said aloud, and huffed his laughter into the empty room. Of course, it hadn’t been him that had chased away those Team Aqua grunts. It had been a ten year old girl.

*

When he is ten he begins his expedition.

“Be careful,” his father says, but his words are lost to the wind as the boy waves a slightly chubby hand and the tide catches his little boat. For the very first time, the boy is drawn to the sight that will call him for the rest of his life. With the land behind him, the sea is everywhere, uninterrupted, and it swallows him up without a thought.

For the very first time, this indifference excites him.

Hours later he is rescued, crying too hard to thank his rescuers as they help him out of the vicious rip. His Wingull doll is at the bottom of the ocean, along with his sandwiches, and his mother cradles him and worries that perhaps he had better make do with model boats for a little while longer.

Somewhere beneath, somewhere beyond his fear, he feels the call of the open sea.  It echoes.

*

Mr Briney looked out at the ocean. It was as still as glass today, but he had known it for long enough to pay no attention to appearances. Devilish thing, it was a trickster as much as a mother, a murderer as much as nurturer. Still, he remembered feeling that compulsion towards it. As a young boy, the sea had represented to him the limitless possibilities of his future; he could sail off to that horizon, and to a horizon beyond that, a horizon further still, and who knew what lay after all of the horizons had been exhausted?

He thought that the girl he had met in the forest had probably felt much the same way when she received her first Pokémon. All that potential. He almost envied her, though he was too good natured to have much of a capacity for the emotion.

He wondered whether her journey would end in tears and coddling, and recalled the look in her eyes and thought not.

*

As a young man he joins the crew of a merchant ship based in Slateport.

“Briney, eh?” asks the captain, looking him over. He nods and snaps off a smart salute, and the captain laughs and tells him to relax. As soon as they leave the harbour, he does. He leans over the side of the ship and breathes in. The salt stings his nose. It is the most wonderful feeling.

When he isn’t working, which is to say on those rare occasions he manages to sneak away from his jovial but vigilant captain, he returns to this point to watch the Wailmer and breathe in the salt air.

*

Living next door to the ocean had taken away some of the novelty of that scent, but Mr Briney opened his window wide anyway. It was as stiff as his old bones, and he had to heave it open with both hands. The cottage was soon filled with an ominous cracking sound, followed directly by a blast of fresh outside air. It carried droplets of sea spray and nostalgia.

*

They drop anchor in a town he has never seen before. The sea here is dark with its own wild beauty; it seems to move with a Linoone’s strange coiled grace.  He lands lightly on rough sand.

After eating more food than he feels is strictly healthy, he heads into the town. It is strange now to be on solid ground. Behind him he can hear the waves and feels the longing to return to them like a deep, deep itch he will never be able to scratch away.

“Oh!  I’m sorry!”

He looks around, confused. The voice is so sweet and fluting at first he mistakes it for a bird, and before he can work out what it is sorry for he has fallen over. The sweet voice laughs, and then starts apologising again.

“I’m sorry! Here, let me help you up!” A hand encircles his wrist and he is soon on his feet again and face to face with a beautiful girl. He starts to speak, but she has disappeared. A moment later she stands back up, holding something round and shiny in her hand.

“What’s that?” he asks. The girl is wide eyed and rosy cheeked, with waves of dark hair which are swept up onto the top of her head.

“It’s a Pokéball,” she says casually, and when he looks blank, adds, “you know. For catching Pokémon?”

He has never seen one before, but he nods as though he knows what she is talking about. She smiles. Her teeth are pearls.

“I just got back from picking them up. I’m supposed to try them out. Not, um, drop them on the floor so handsome sailors can fall over them.” He blushes, but so does she. He has an idea that she is being more daring than is characteristic for her, and doesn’t mind at all.

“I don’t mind at all,” he says truthfully.

*

The clattering of talons brought Mr Briney out of his reverie. His darling Peeko had landed on the windowsill. 

“Oh, hello there! Been off travelling again?” he asked, stroking the downy feathers on the back of her neck. She squawked and ducked her head. Mr Briney smiled. “Not making trouble, I hope?” Peeko made a noise that could only have been a Wingull’s approximation of a derisive snort, and hopped down onto the floor. She began pecking at the food cupboards. The message was very clear. Laughing, Mr Briney started to put together his friend’s supper.

Peeko knew him better than anyone. He didn’t know what he’d do without her.

“I’ll have to find a way to thank that May,” he told her.

Peeko flapped her wings and squawked again. He took that as agreement.

*

When they leave, the girl (he never does learn her name) stands on her tiptoes to kiss him. He feels for the briefest of moments – the gap between two waves – her breath on his face and the swell of her breasts pressed against him. Then she is gone and he is sailing once more. 

There are other girls at other harbours, and soon later he meets his darling. But he does not forget that girl. He does not forget those wide eyes and rosy cheeks.

The open sea calls him away. Its call echoes in his heart and mind.

*

“Some advice, perhaps,” he continued to muse. “Like, ‘make sure you go home every so often’, ‘don’t be afraid to ask others for help’, ‘keep your eyes on the tide’.”

Peeko flew up onto his lap. She cocked her head to one side, looking up at him.

“Don’t mind me, love,” he said comfortably. “I’m just thinking. I’m an old man, you know, thinking’s about all I’m good for.” She appeared satisfied with this, and spread her wings to fly up onto the table, but overshot her target and landed in a wicker chair, an undignified bundle of feathers.

“It’s difficult to fly inside, right?” Mr Briney asked sagely. Peeko gave him what she probably thought was a dirty look. “Yes, yes, I know it is.”

*

The day the storm comes starts out fine and balmy. The light breeze ruffles Peeko’s feathers, and she squawks as she primly rearranges them.

“Nice day, huh?” Percy says casually. Percy is well built and bearded, with an air of nervousness he never seems able to shake off. Sometimes he talks about Pokemon. He claims to know the secrets of the most powerful moves there are, and Briney believes him though he knows little of such things. He is a good man and a good friend.

Briney nods, and they both gaze at the sea until the reflected sunlight threatens to blind them.

The tempest comes later. No one is prepared for it, and the rain jostles for space in the heavy air along with the crew’s panicked shouts. “All hands on deck!” comes the cry, and he struggles to stand against the rocking motion that should be so familiar, but has been turned into something vicious. Something deadly. He scrambles up the stairs and opens the door onto a waterfall, frothy seawater in a place it does not belong, and above it a dark, cracked sky.

He is about to pull himself up onto the deck when something huge (a crate, a barrel? Something that has been dislodged) hits him and throws him back down the stairs. He hears a crack and feels a blossoming pain, and tries vaguely to make sense of the last few seconds, and then, penetrating the confusion, he hears the cry of a distressed bird. In a flash of white, Peeko shoots through the door and up into the sky. Soon she is far away from the doomed ship.  

*

Mr Briney sat down in one of his beaten old chairs and massaged his hip, thinking hard.

*

He does not sail again for a long time, though he dreams of the cold sea calling.

He wakes from these dreams with a deep ache in his healing hip that is worse than its occasional broken-glass agony.

Percy moves far away, to a different continent.

Peeko returns, sheepish and bedraggled, and he takes her in without question, not even wondering how she managed to find his modest house.

He feels lost (though, by Peeko at least, he has been found) and though he does not shout or swear, he does sit by the window and –glare? Perhaps – at the sea. He is not yet old, but he is a little scared.

*

“That girl,” he thought aloud, “she’s a trainer. Trainers like her, they all want to travel everywhere and battle everyone and catch all types of Pokémon.”

He poured himself a cup of tea and drank it in gulps, savouring the way the hot liquid filled him up with warmth and left a pleasant aftertaste on his tongue. As a second thought, he got up again and closed the window. It rattled disagreeably. The day darkened and it started to rain.

“Travelling all over the place,” he repeated loudly. Peeko made a noise of disapproval, having been dozing off, and he waved his hand dismissively. “Ah, stop your noise,” he said, not without affection. “Little traveller yourself.”

*

When he starts his second expedition, he is no longer a young man, but not yet an old man. The sea has eroded his youth and left behind only the hard lines of adulthood. It will not be long, he knows, before time erodes even that.

Still, the boat he has renovated with his own hands slips into the water readily enough. It bobs gently up and down. The waves are small in the cove by his house. Subconsciously, he may have made his home here for that very reason.

As he steers the boat towards the unbroken blue line of the horizon, he searches for the call he has been slave to ever since that first, disastrous adventure. His search returns nothing. This should be a relief, but the emptiness has left behind its own echo.

He looks up and sees his Wingull wheeling above him. Wingull are somewhat ungainly looking birds, but in flight Peeko is almost beautiful. He watches her dip and soar, invisible against the white clouds, and sets sail.

*

When May knocked on his door, he already knew what she was going to ask.

“For you, I’ll set sail any time!” he declared. “Now, where will it be?”

*

Over the years, sometimes they visit Percy in Kanto.

Once, he goes back to the route of his merchant ship, trying to find the girl with the wide eyes and the rosy cheeks, sure that she will have moved on, but wanting to go anyway. On the way, Peeko caws her warning down to him, and he sees the danger just in time. He could easily circumnavigate the whirlpools. Instead, he turns back and lets the wind fill his sails all the way back home.

He stays in his sea cottage. He puts out saucers of milk for the wild Zigzagoon and watches them with amusement. He goes for walks on the beach and waves at the locals while Peeko looks haughtily down at them from her perch on his shoulder. He sees Swellow swoop through the forest and over the sea, and thinks cheerfully about how elegant they are, and lovely in their freedom.

“Of course, they’re not as lovely as you,” he assures Peeko, and she chirrups her agreement.

He takes care of his boat, every now and then spending a good few months painstakingly repainting it. There is something subtly wrong about it which stops friendly passersby (mostly young trainers) from granting the boat the compliments it would otherwise earn. It does not look neglected as it bobs up and down in the meagre stretch of water it is allowed to occupy. It does look lonely. 

Mr Briney’s boat is waiting for him to hear the call of the open sea.

*

He hadn’t been in the boat for months, maybe even years, but as soon as he felt the rocking beneath his feet the years melted away. He was a young man again. No, more than that – he was ten years old again. The sea was bright and blue and inviting. He heard it calling in his old, aching bones.

Peeko landed smoothly on the prow, looking for all the world like some grand ship’s figurehead. She began to preen herself, dispelling the illusion somewhat. Mr Briney chuckled. May looked up at him and smiled distractedly before returning to her PokéNav. He didn’t bother explaining the joke to her. He wondered if she could feel it, the adrenaline and anticipation of beginning a brand new journey, of having all the world open and ready to be explored. But then, this was just one leg of her adventure, wasn’t it?

“I’m proud to be a part of your adventure,” he told her, and got a real smile this time.

This was his adventure too. Mr Briney left the harbour and headed for the horizon.

 

 
 
Current Mood: hungryhungry
 
 
 
zel: seeing is believing ♪baticeer on September 24th, 2010 05:15 pm (UTC)
omg, a fic about mr briney ///
this was so beautiful! i adore the way his memories are told in present tense - it really illustrates how vital memories are to elderly people, and how they reflect on the past. some of your descriptions are really beautiful in a simple way. you never overdo it with the description, and it makes the story flow quite nicely. oh, and i'd have to say this is my favorite line:
he could sail off to that horizon, and to a horizon beyond that, a horizon further still, and who knew what lay after all of the horizons had been exhausted?
<3

definitely memming this for future perusing~
sarah: Pokémon: Team Rocketghosted on September 24th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
thankyou! I made a very conscious decision to write the memories in present tense so I'm glad you felt it fit. And I'm happy to hear that it flows nicely because I'm always conscious of using TOO MANY WORDS.
Mr Briney is awesome! I mainly decided to write about him because my bff played Ruby for the first time ever last month and he just kept going WHY IS BRINEY SO AWESOME, HE KEEPS GIVING ME BOAT RIDES.
Bay Alexison: Attack!bay115 on October 5th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
Yay, a Mr. Briney fic! Like baticeer, I think you did well with the memories being in present tense. Normally I'm not a fan of present tense in stories (nor am good with them, lol) but it's a nice touch as the readers are right there in his past. Also his interactions with Percy, May, the girl, and Peeko are nicely done too. Lastly you did well with Briney's development over his love fro the sea throughout this fic. Awesome work!
sarahghosted on October 7th, 2010 01:28 pm (UTC)
Thankyou very much! I love the sea a lot so I wanted to get it right.
thundercow: candice ♥ibuberu on October 7th, 2010 11:07 am (UTC)
Amazing! I liked how you brought us through Briney's life in this fic alone, and you executed that so wonderfully. Your writing's definitely better from the last time, because I feel that the vocab doesn't fluctuate anymore, its really just there at the right time and place, and it makes the fic enjoyable to read (: My favourite parts were probably the girl with the rosy cheeks, and the storm where Peeko flies off - in both, the emotions and setting were really vivid.

And this is probably my favourite line: 'These days, the only thing he captains is a beaten rocking chair, as he sits on the porch glaring out at the sea.'

Nicely done! I loved this.
sarah: Pokémon: Team Rocketghosted on October 7th, 2010 01:33 pm (UTC)
Thankyou! Your comments are always so helpful. Taking a good week or so to write it obviously helped me write more consistently too, but your criticism was very useful.