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The Scent of Home

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Sometimes, Marnie wondered what it was like for other kids.  Not often, mind – by and large, she loved her life. Loved her Pokemon, loved her brother, loved her town… all with a quiet ferocity that ran raw and deep.

And yet.  Throughout the years, sometimes she did wonder.

At some point in her childhood, it had hit her, for the first time, that there were kids who weren’t like her.  Kids who didn’t do their homework every day in the schoolyard, because the lights at home never worked.  Kids who didn’t cook their own meals, and who never worried about how much their grocery list cost.  Whose school supplies weren’t last year’s clearance, or a stub of pencil that no one else needed.  Kids who had parents at their teacher meetings, not a lanky, sarcastic brother full of adolescent scruff.

She loved her life.  But when she thought about it, she had to wonder. What was it like?

When she visited with the new champion, or with Hop, it seemed as if they always had family about.

Back when they’d first met, the purple haired boy spoke constantly about Leon.  It did get annoying, of course, but Marnie also found it comforting.  Normal.  Someone else who only talked about a brother; a sibling with the kind of flash and glory that made them seem so far away to everyone but you.

But then… after the Championship they hung out together sometimes, those of them that had made it to the end.  Hop invited them for a barbeque at his, and she realized his world was different, after all.

It was a big clean house, with a mum and a granddad and lights that always worked. The house of someone who got their own schoolbooks, someone who never had to share a room with their brother – even if their brother was never home.

It was a whole new universe, and it made her nervous, shy; ragged Spikemuth words stuck silent in her throat, and a flush eternally warming her cheeks.

They were so nice, so generous, so open.

It felt so entirely wrong.

 

Marnie remembered clearly the first night she’d ever slept in a room of her own.  It was just a year or two ago, really, long after Piers took over the Spikemuth gym.

Their old place finally sprung one too many leaky pipes and broken appliances, so after the traditional shouting and cursing match with their penny-pinching landlord, her brother had declared that he was done with the place, and they were moving.

Three weeks later, he’d been proud to show her their new flat – together, they delighted in windows that all opened, the bathroom that didn’t smell like mold, and best of all – the two rooms that opened off the kitchen space.

She’d been ten years old, and it was a strange feeling then.  To go to sleep in a room that didn’t smell like hairspray and zigzagoon musk – like Piers, if she was being honest.

She wondered whether Hop had ever shared a room with Leon, or his mother.  Surely at some point, right? All babies must have slept in someone’s arms once.

Marnie’s first memories of sleep were of Piers – her small body curled under his too-big jacket, and tucked close beneath his arm while he spoke to someone loud and raucous.  Close enough to feel the bumps of his ribs beneath her cheeks; close enough that her body shook with every quiet laugh or exclamation her brother made.

Close enough that all she could smell was hairspray and sweat and zigzagoons, and she felt like she was home.

 

Did people like Hop even know what their brothers smelled like?  Or was “home” to them just a certain place, with warm blankets and full bellies?

It seemed so foreign to her.  So empty.

 

To Marnie, home had always been Spikemuth, and Spikemuth was Piers.

Scrawny and jagged, sharp edges and gaunt cheeks.  Tired eyes in a face that rarely saw the sun, skin a pasty gray.

Marnie wasn’t stupid, she was aware her brother generally looked… bad.

Piers was a creature forged from need, from neglect, from hunger.  Always tired, always ragged; silent, loud, and surly by turns.  He was tall enough, and maybe in another life he’d have been strong.  But it was hard to imagine – in the life they had, he was wiry, pinched.  A body that had been given just enough fuel to grow up; never enough to grow out as well.  His strength was the kind you got when your only workouts were fistfights, or running away.

He was harsh, sometimes.  Pointed.  Abrasive.

He was Spikemuth, even to people from outside its walls.  And to them, those features were all they ever saw.

 

But to Marnie… he was all those things, it was true.

But also, Piers was kind.

Generous with what he had, and quick to pick a fight with those who weren’t, or scold them with bitter sarcasm.

He was loud parties and tired smiles: songs when nobody else would sing, but quiet when others spoke.

He was someone who bought his sister clothes for school, gave her lunch money – even if it meant he skipped meals himself, or scribbled his songs on old receipts instead of note paper.

He was hair ruffles and protectiveness; self-deprecation and jokes so awful that they made you want to slug him.

Piers had style, too – colorful and unique, even when it was made from nothing more than rags and sheer force of will.  He had presence, when he wanted to – sway.

Piers had standards, and he held to them fast, even if nobody else acknowledged them.

He was community.  He was family.

And that was Spikemuth.

That was home.