He got a glare in response, which, you know, he expected. Even the Twerp himself barely tolerated Team Rocket anymore, and Pikachu had never forgiven him for pretending to be friends last year. But come on.
“What? We’re stuck here for at least a few hours. Might as well make conversation!”
Pikachu told him to do something that only made it through the censors because humans don’t understand pokemon. Meowth was kind of impressed, actually, but still. Rude.
So he ignored it.
“I noticed your thunderbolts’re packin’ more of a wallop these days. Finally over whatever happened in Unova?” he asked. “What was that about, anyways? Both you and the Twerp were weird for months!”
In typical fashion, Pikachu took the hint that something was wrong with his trainer personally, and shot Meowth his best Leer while telling him it was none of his business.
Meowth ignored that, too.
“Well, whatever it was, the Twerp sure seems over it now. Back to trainin’ the best of the best pokemon. He’s been workin’ real hard lately. Don’t you lugs ever get tired of training?”
Pikachu stared at him and asked if that was possible. Said it was fun and demanded to know if that meant Meowth didn’t like battles, either.
“What? You crazy? Battling’s for chumps!” he said, staring right back at him. “It’s way easier to just use technology and gadgets to get what you want!”
Which didn’t actually make sense, as Pikachu pointed out. First of all, not everyone battled to get what they wanted, and second, when had that ever worked out for Team Rocket?
“Aw, lay off. I’ll have you know, before we started followin’ yous guys around, me, Jessie and James were some of the best pokemon thieves in Team Rocket!”
Pikachu’s response was an eyeroll, which was completely unfair given last year and how long they'd known each other. Meowth scowled.
“It's only ’cause you’re so freakishly powerful! Who gave you the right to be able to use that much electricity in a single shot?”
There was a long drawn out silence before Pikachu pointed out the extremely obvious. Meowth scowled even harder. “Gimme a break. You were powerful before you ever had anything to do with the Twerp.”
Pikachu gave him the look such a statement deserved. Meowth, for all his pretence, wasn’t human. He knew. They both knew he knew. Team Rocket had been following the Twerp for years and even Jessie and James knew there was something weird about him. If he didn’t know, it was because he was actively trying not to know.
Which, as it happened, most of them were.
“Oh, like you don’t do the same thing,” Meowth snapped. “Actin’ like you’re only with the Twerp ’cause you’re friends. Y’don’t fool me!”
Which was crossing a line, and Pikachu furiously leapt to his feet, already yelling, but Meowth just kept scowling. Everybody knew you didn’t mention the Twerp’s true twerpishness. Pikachu had made this fight dirty before he did.
“If you’re so sure that’s all it is, how come you’ve never told him, huh? Don’t act like he don’t understand you, I know he does!”
That stopped the yelling, and Pikachu went back to glowering. He insisted it was because Ash didn’t want to know, which might have been true but it wasn’t the reason and they both knew it.
“Which reminds me,” Meowth continued, slanting a look at him sideways. “That thing the Twerp can do with Greninja must bug you pretty hard, right?”
He asked why it would, which was a stupid question, so Meowth decided to answer it on the same level. “Yeah, you’re right. I mean, if my best friend and partner suddenly started spiritually and mentally syncin’ up with someone else I’d probably get kinda upset, but you—” He smirked at Pikachu’s black look. “—you and the Twerp have been together for years now. You got a special understanding. I mean, sure, you’re not the strongest or fastest on the team anymore, so it’s not like you’re his go-to battler anymore, but hey. You’ve got that super friendship thing going. It’s not like Greninja can practically read the Twerp’s mind or nothin’.”
It was actually kind of impressive how the rodent could look so absolutely murderous while coolly insisting it didn’t bother him. That Greninja was a good friend, and he was happy for it, and he was really interested to see Ash’s new abilities. It’s didn’t bother him at all. Why would it? He wasn’t jealous. Why would he be jealous?
Meowth set his cheek on his fist, smirking as only his evolutionary line could. He knew Pikachu too well to think Team Rocket could use this against him—any attempt would just end up with some gross over-emotional scene with both Pikachu and the Twerp in tears with a stronger bond than ever—but that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the drama.
And, Pikachu continued furiously, he wasn’t annoyed by it either. Because the Twerp got into crazy dangerous situations all the time. He was always risking his life for somebody. Always throwing himself in the path of danger or off buildings or into volcanoes with almost zero chance of survival so it wasn’t like Pikachu could actually be angry that now Ash was getting hurt in battles, too. Where humans are supposed to be safe. Where they have special boxes they aren’t allowed out of so pokemon know how to avoid them so the Twerp couldn’t get himself hurt.
Pikachu clearly needed to vent.
So, like any friendly nemesis would, Meowth let him vent, smiling, nodding, and making suitably agreeing noises when appropriate.
It was kinda fascinating.
After so many years, it seemed the whole thing with Zekrom—from Pikachu losing his electrical power to Ash being yet another Legendary’s Chosen Errand Boy—had finally pushed Pikachu to the edge. He was no longer okay with the Twerp’s habit of helping everyone and their growlithe with whatever issue they were having that day. Helping made Ash happy, so Pikachu wanted to help too, but sooner or later, Ash was going to help someone by digging and climbing into his own grave. And if Pikachu could be taken out of commission by one lousy shot from a Legendary, then how was he supposed to protect him?
Not to mention that not getting into the top eight—let alone winning—the latest conference had apparently been insult on top of injury. Their team could battle Legendaries but they couldn’t beat a few lousy trainers?!
So this, with Greninja not only becoming the Twerp’s go-to gym battler but also having this crazy power to meld minds with Ash to evolve, was proving a little harder to cope with than Pikachu would’ve liked.
Not that he said so, of course.
He ranted around the whole thing, insisting he liked helping people too and that he was so proud to have such a wonderful human for a partner. And he kept coming back to how he liked Greninja and he wanted it to be strong and blah, blah, blah.
Denial. It ain’t just a river.
“Y’know, not to butt in on your perfect friendship or nothin’,” Meowth said slowly, while Pikachu recovered from its rant. “But you ain’t told the Twerp any of this, right?”
Of course not. Pikachu made some vague excuse about the Twerp not being able to understand, and then reminded him that there was nothing to tell, anyway.
“Uh huh. You want I should tell him all that stuff there ain’t?”
Pikachu’s look of abject horror was answer enough even without the desperate refusal that followed.
For a few moments, Meowth just considered the situation. Not just him being stuck in a tiny room with Pikachu, waiting for either the nutso Chancey to come back or any of their humans to arrive and explain they weren’t sick, just slightly crazy. He considered how long Team Rocket had been chasing the Twerp. How many insane things they’d all been through. The fact that if things had been different, he and Pikachu would probably be really good friends. The truth that Meowth might occasionally admit to himself, but Jessie and James would go to their graves denying: they were all really darn fond of the Twerp. And neither he nor Pikachu would ever tell anyone about this conversation.
“Cards on the table here, Pikachu,” he said seriously.
Pikachu looked at him sideways.
“You remember that prophecy from the Orange Islands? About him bein’ the one the world turns to when it all falls apart?” he asked. “That weren’t no one-time deal. You know that even better than me.”
Pikachu’s ears fell, shoulders hunching slightly, but he didn’t say anything.
“And the other stuff we don’t talk about. The stuff that’s comin’ out with Greninja. Don't tell me that's all about Greninja, 'cause we both know it ain't. And it ain’t goin’ away neither.”
Again, Pikachu was silent as he looked away.
“But what you and the Twerp got, that’s special. That’s the kinda stuff pokemon like –” He stopped, then forced himself to continue. Cards on the table. “That’s the kinda stuff pokemon like me dream of. Think of all the pokemon he’s focussed on before – all those firetypes that needed special attention like. You outlasted all o’em.”
Pikachu quietly pointed out that none of them could do what Greninja could. Which was true, but…
“Greninja might be able to meld minds with him usin’ magic an’ all, but are you seriously tellin’ me you don’t know what the Twerp’s thinkin’ most of the time?” he asked. “I dunno, Pikachu. Magic is one thing, but you ask me, havin’ that kinda connection without it sounds way more important.”
Pikachu didn’t look around. But his eyes were starting to shine, and he quietly admitted he knew that. He knew all of that, it was just that it was hard to remember after last year. Both he and Ash had been so messed up, and it had seemed like they were dealing with something big every other week, and they didn’t really get better before they came to Kalos. But while in the past, Pikachu had always been the one to protect the other, less experienced pokemon, here Froakie had been the one to save him. Here, Froakie, then Frogadier, and now Greninja was the really powerful one who could always save the day. And that would have been okay, because it wasn’t exactly the most social pokemon, so Pikachu could have just taken care of everyone else in other ways, but he wasn’t the best at that, either! He couldn’t fly or glide, so he couldn’t help Noibat. And Bunnelby was better with nervous or scared pokemon.
So, Pikachu continued, breathing hitching, what use was he? All he ever did these days was ride around on Ash’s shoulder and send Team Rocket blasting off. And anyone could do that when the Twerp was around, Meowth had to admit.
“Yeah, it’s a tough break, gettin’ shunted to the side. I remember back when I first joined Team Rocket, I was the best of the best –” Meowth began, only to catch sight of Pikachu’s expression and stop. “But uh, you already know that story.”
He confirmed it, then sighed and looked away again. Meowth patted his shoulder companionably. “Look, buddy. Even if you are completely useless, Team Rocket still wants ya! No matter what the Twerp thinks, you’ll always be number one to us! So whaddaya say you get out while the gettin’s good and join –” He cut off again when Pikachu very slowly turned another Leer on him, and then said, in very careful and even tones, that he would fry Meowth with an inch of his life if he dared finish that sentence.
He laughed nervously, waving his paws. “Hey, you can’t blame a crook for tryin’! It’s kinda my thing, you know?” he said, then grinned and added, “Besides, it’s only the truth. Greninja’d be a nice consolation prize, but he’s only really special when you take the Twerp, too. And we’re even less likely to get the Twerp on our side than you!”
Pikachu huffed his agreement, but at least he didn’t look close to tears anymore. Still slightly murderous, but not about to cry, which was the best Meowth could hope for, given the circumstances.
They both looked up, flinching at the sight of a face in the darkened window of the door. They hadn’t expected anyone so quickly, let alone to see the Twerp himself.
“Pikachu, Meowth! What’re you two doing in there?”
“Pikapi!” Pikachu shouted, jumping to his feet. He waved, but Ash frowned, eyes darting up and around the room over their heads.
“Is Team Rocket here? Are you okay Pikachu?”
“Pikachu this, Pikachu that! You know, not everything I do is about catching this electric rat!” Meowth snapped, only to flinch again when Pikachu pointed out they’d only been arguing—and therefore locked up by Chansey—because that was exactly what Meowth had been planning to do. They frowned at each other for a second before Meowth surrendered, folding his arms and looking away. “Okay, so maybe that is what I spend most of my time doin’ but not this time! How about a little consideration for an equally trapped pokemon?”
“Hold on, I’ll get you out,” Ash said, and disappeared from the window for a few seconds before the door swished open. He then immediately ran in, hands spread in an invitation that Pikachu didn’t hesitate to take, leaping up and into his trainer’s arms. “Pikachu! Thank goodness, I was really worried!”
“Huh?” Meowth blinked at him. “We were barely locked up twenty minutes!”
“I just had a feeling something wasn’t right,” he said, reminding them all over again just how twerpish he was. Cuddle-time apparently over, he pulled away from Pikachu just enough to frown at Meowth again. “So if this isn’t some Team Rocket scheme, what’re you doing here?”
Meowth gave him the edited version, “Well, here I was, mindin’ my own business in the supply closet—”
Pikachu interrupted to point out he’d been trying to steal the whole thing, but Meowth didn’t wait to see if the Twerp understood.
“—when your Pikachu there came wanderin’ in and started accusing me of all sorts of lousy stuff! I, bein’ the honour-bound pokemon that I am, of course told it how crazy it sounded, and the stupid rat started yellin’! That’s when Chansey came in and started on some lecture about how pokemon should get along, and locked us in here,” he explained. “It said we could come out when we was friends again.”
Pikachu muttered something about the likelihood of that ever happening, and Ash chuckled, fingers twitching in a tiny scratch up Pikachu’s spine. Meowth tried not to feel jealous of such easy affection and just huffed.
“Well, I guess that’s okay,” the Twerp said. “Still, I’ll talk to Chansey and Nurse Joy – it shouldn’t’ve made assumptions like that, and no one should ever get locked up in a cupboard.”
Meowth settled back down, watching him curiously. He was never quite sure how the Twerp would treat him in these situations, especially not when he’d spent the last few minutes comforting the rat. Somehow the Twerp could sense these things.
Sure enough, Ash hesitated a second before crouching down in front of him, Pikachu clambering up to his usual place on the Twerp’s shoulder. “So… what were you doing in the supply closet? Did you need something?”
He blinked, then shrugged. “A few potions, antidotes and restores always come in handy. Never know when you’ll run out of berries.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. And I never remember to buy any,” he said, but frowned. “But you shouldn’t steal, and especially not from a Pokemon Centre. You know Nurse Joy needs everything she has.”
“Well, sometimes we need them too! What with you sendin’ us blastin’ off all the time! And it’s not like we can just visit Pokemon Centres whenever we get hurt!” he snapped.
“Well, maybe if you spent a little less money on giant robots and a little more on food and supplies, you wouldn’t need them!” he shot back, and Pikachu of course backed him up.
The fact they were right just made Meowth even crankier.
But before he could go putting his foot in his mouth, the Twerp turned away, rummaging in his pockets for a few seconds before pulling out a bundle of notes. Meowth stared at them, not least because it was weird for a pokemon trainer to be carrying money at all – most of them just used the credits on their pokedexes for everything.
Ash noticed his look and explained, “I was going to give this to Bonnie – she wanted to buy something for Clemont’s birthday.”
Which explained why he had cash, but not why he held it out for Meowth to take.
“Huh? You’re giving this…?” Meowth asked. “To me?”
“If you really need supplies, you should get them from the PokeMart like everyone else,” he said firmly. “Pokemon Centres need what they have. Okay?”
It still didn’t explain why Team Rocket’s greatest nemesis was giving him the money to do that, but Meowth had never been one to look a gift rapidash in the mouth. Besides, he’d known the Twerp too long to think it was some kind of trick. He was just today’s lucky recipient of Ash Ketchum’s assistance.
He took the cash in humble silence, and ignored Pikachu ordering him to be grateful.
The Twerp just looked at him seriously for a few moments, then rocked up to his feet and turned away, lifting a hand in a really lazy farewell for him. “See ya.”
It took until Ash turned and looked at him again before Meowth realised he’d been the one to call out. He panicked for a second, eyes darting everywhere but the Twerp, before it came blurting out. “Pikachu’s scared he’s not useful to ya anymore and that he’s gonna lose you to Greninja!”
And then, while both Pikachu and the Twerp gaped at him, Meowth turned tail and fled.