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Riches to Rags

Chapter Text

It didn’t happen the way I thought it would. I had expected it to be some huge and dramatic thing. I expected yelling and speeches and crying.

It was quiet. They didn’t even tell me themselves. I came home and the servants refused to let me in. One of the ones that had known me longer had explained the situation.

“Your Mother and Father found out about your… ah, ‘leisure activities’. They have disowned you.”

The words still rang in my head.

I wasn’t even allowed to collect my things, nor did they bother taking what I had on me.

Not knowing what I should do, I called Dexio and Sina. They were old friends of mine. Trainers. They worked for a professor. I never much liked training pokemon. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my pokemon, but I’m no good at battling. Luckily, my pokemon don’t seem too keen on battling either.

I spent some time with Dexio and Sina. They let me stay with them and for that I couldn’t thank them enough.

They asked me to come with them to Alola. They were going there on vacation, but they suggested that it might be good for me to leave Kalos. Rumors followed me everywhere I went. I tried to stay on the downlow. I wanted to reserve the cash I had as I didn’t know where I would get money, and Dexio and Sina happily provided me with food and clothes at no cost.

Neither of them commented on my mood. I didn’t talk much, I didn’t eat much. On the plane I held Espurr in my lap and pet them softly while I stared off into space.

Espurr had been a gift. One of our, their, family friends was a pokemon breeder. They have a lot of friends. The breeder had given me the egg about a year ago. A present for my 20th birthday. The only present from that birthday that I still had. I had received many grand and expensive gifts, but none had mattered to me very much. Mother had even commented on how unfitting the egg was as a gift. The pokemon breeder was more of a business partner than a friend, but my, that, family had known his family for a long time. He was the first man I had sex with.

I hadn’t been too picky. Any man who treated me like a person rather than a display of wealth. I would sneak out, go to a town where my family wasn’t as well known, stay at a hotel, and go to the bars and flirt. Flirting led to making out and that led to returning to my hotel room.

The pokemon breeder, Foster was his name, he was one of the nicest. He was sweet to me. I’ll probably never see him again...

“Ceras, Ceras, wake up, we’re here,” Sina whispered, shaking my shoulder gently.

I suppose I had fallen asleep. I looked out the window. There wasn’t much to see, an airport with lots of people, but I could see the ocean. Alola’s a group of islands.

We followed the other passengers off the plane and were greeted by hotel staff with exaggerated friendliness.

The hotel room was fairly small, two beds took up most of the space and there was a cramped bathroom by the door. Dexio and Sina left after leaving their luggage.

I was still holding Espurr and I let Absol out of her ball. She was a family pokemon. It was a tradition in… that family to keep Absol. She descended from a long line of Absol dating back to when they were royalty.

“Hey, old girl. How’s your arthritis?” I asked her softly. She grunted and laid on the bed. I wonder if there’s a pokemon center nearby. I could see if they have any ice packs.

I ran my hand down her back in long strokes before I returned her to her pokeball.

The Pokemon Center in this city was a short walk from the hotel. I passed Dexio and Sina battling a young trainer outside the hotel.

I asked Nurse Joy if she had any ice packs and she happily procured some for me. She was accompanied by a pokemon that looked like a flower bracelet.

“This is Comfey, he helps me take care of the pokemon.” Nurse Joy said when she saw me staring. She probably told a lot of tourists about that.

I thanked her for the ice packs and let Absol out. I placed an ice pack on each of her knees and stroked her back more.

Before leaving, I purchased some potions. They weren’t too expensive and I only bought a few. I returned Absol to her ball and walked back to the hotel.

When I got to the room, Dexio and Sina announced that they were going to Ula’ula Island to check out the pokemon league that the local professor was planning. They insisted that I go with them. I followed them.

We took a boat from the port. We arrived at a rural town with what looked like old stone foundations. The town was at the base of a large mountain. Dexio and Sina promptly went to the mountain, seeming to forget about me in their enthusiasm. Or they didn’t bother taking me, knowing that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it much. Not that there’s much I would enjoy.

I walked around the little town and eventually followed a winding path that led out of town.

Espurr perked up a little and I looked around for the source of its attention. In the distance I saw some punks in black and white harassing several trainers.

One of them pointed at me and came over to me, moving their arms weirdly.

“Yo! That looks like a weird pokemon.”

“They must be a tourist.”

“Yo! Rich boy! Wanna battle?”

“If we win we take your pokemon.”

I sighed. Espurr was young and weak, not good at battling, and Absol hasn’t been able to battle since her arthritis. I couldn’t afford to lose a pokemon battle. I had what many might consider a lot of cash, but I had no way of making more. Who knows how long this will have to last me.

“I can’t,” I told them in a monotone voice.

They seemed a little taken aback by my response and had to whisper--loudly--to each other, “Yo what do we do?”

“I don’t know, bro.”

“Let’s just take their money,” they agreed and turned toward me.

“Then you gotta give us your money.”

“I can’t,” I replied again.

“Wha-? You can’t just keep saying no. A rich boy like you must have tons of money!”

“I don’t.” I felt my eyes start to burn a little, but blinked it away.

They turned to each again. I didn’t bother to listen to them this time. Espurr prrped and looked up at me. I scratched behind it’s ears and it snuggled more into my chest.

“Yo!” I looked up. “You’re coming with us.”

And that’s how I ended up soaked in the rain wearing the only clothes I had left (the clothes Dexio and Sina lent me were at the hotel) standing in front of a broken down house covered in graffiti.

I had returned Espurr to its ball when we got into the rain. I didn’t have an umbrella and neither did these punks, it seemed. I didn’t want Espurr getting wet. I didn’t want my clothes getting wet either, but I suppose that can’t really be helped.

It’s not like I could argue. I wasn’t going to let my pokemon get hurt and it’s not like these kids were going to be able to rob me. I could have resisted. There were other trainers around, some of whom would likely lend me their aid. But I didn’t bother. It’s not like it mattered as long as I got to keep my pokemon.

The punks led me inside. The whole town was filled with punks wearing what looked like uniforms. Well, the strangest uniforms I’ve ever seen. The inside of the house was just about as bad as the exterior, if not worse. Two punks walked behind me and one in front. I was led up the stairs and around the roof. The front punk knocked on the double doors that stood in front of me.

“Yo, B! W gotta talk t’you about ‘bout somethin’!”

Grumbling could be heard and the door creaked as it opened.

The punk in front stepped aside. A very tall man, even with his slouch, stepped out. His hair was dyed white on top. His arms were tattooed with the symbol that everyone here seemed to be wearing. Around his neck he wore a gold chain featuring that symbol. He was everything Mother and Father told me to stay away from, everything they despised. I couldn’t help feeling a little turned on. My face blushed lightly.

The man racked his eyes up and down my body. I was wearing a light pink shirt with lace accents and white slacks. Nothing particularly fancy, but far more formal than anyone here.

He grinned, “Well, what have my grunts brought me?”

The punks, or grunts as he called them, seemed to miss his tone and fumbled over who told what.

“This kid refused to battle us or fight us!”

“So we brought ‘em with us.”

“What should we do, Boss?”

The ‘Boss’ laughed a little. “So, pretty boy, why did you come here-”

“We brought him here, B!” one of them interrupted.

“Y’all can scram, now,” he told them, looking aggravated. He turned back to me and his smile returned.

“Why don’t you come in?” He gestured to the room behind him. I obliged him.

“What brings you to the big, bad leader of Team Skull?” His condescension stung a little, one of the first things I’ve felt in days.

“I’m not a trainer and I can’t afford to be robbed by some punks,” some aggression leaked into my voice.

In an instant he had me pinned against the wall with his arm across my chest. His face was inches from mine, if that.

“Oh yeah? You think you’re better than us? With your fancy clothes and fancy accent and fancy luxury balls.”

His breath felt hot against my face. I was scared. And I really hope he doesn’t get much closer. I don’t know what he would do if he felt…

“You probably got some fancy pokemon, huh? Bet they would sell for a high price.” His voice got quieter, but by no means less intimidating.

I felt tears start to sting my eyes. I can’t lose my pokemon. They’re all I have.

“What did you say?” He asked. His grip on me loosened.

I hadn’t realized I said that out loud.

I felt a surge of anger.

“I said they’re all I fucking have! But if you want to take them from me, fine! You might as well just kill me if you’re gonna do that!”

His eyebrows scrunched together.

“Guzma, what’s going on?” The door swung open.

Guzma stepped away from me and he actually looked nervous.

“Plums! I wasn’t doing anything. What are doing in here?”

Plums looked at me, still up against the wall and her eyes narrowed at him. She sighed and turned to me.

“Hey kid, I’m sorry about Guzma. My name’s Plumeria.”

I smoothed about my shirt and fixed my hair the best I could. “I’m Ceras.”

She looked out the door. “Why don’t you take Ceras to change into some dry clothes?”

A pretty grunt came in and took my hand. She led me away. I looked behind me and Plumeria closed the door and her muffled voice grew fainter as we walked away.

~

“Guzma, what did you do? That poor kid looked just about to cry.” Plumeria put her hands on her hips.

Guzma looked sheepish at being scolded. “Well, he didn’t wanna battle the grunts and he called ‘em punks.”

Plumeria raised an eyebrow.

“And I may have roughed him up a bit…”

Plumeria just stared at him, eyebrow still raised.

“I threatened to sell his pokemon, okay? How was I supposed to know he was gonna be like that?”

Plumeria just sighed.

~

The grunt, Alli, helped me pick out some clothes. I asked if I could wear shorts like hers. I’m not fond of the basketball shorts. She obliged me. Soon, I was decked out in the Team Skull uniform. I hung up my clothes to dry in her bedroom. She told me she’d keep an eye on them. I thanked her sincerely. I let Espurr out of its ball and asked if she wanted to pet it. She was just about to but she looked past me. I turned around and saw Guzma standing in the doorway.

“Hey, kid, I’m- I’m sorry. Did you, uh, did you wanna join? Team Skull?” he asked.

I don’t know why, but I nodded.

“Kay, um, help him out,” he said to Alli.

She nodded, a huge smile breaking out.

Guzma left.

I turned away from the doorway to look back at Alli and she was looking at me with that huge smile.

“What?” I asked.

She giggled. “You’re blushing.”

“What- no I…”

I must have looked scared because she rushed to me and rubbed my arm. “Hey, it’s okay.”

Tears started to well up and I sobbed a bit. She pulled me closer to her and I cried into her shoulder. She rubbed my back. Espurr waddled over and tugged on my shirt. I didn’t respond so it sat against me.

I wiped at my eyes. “I’m sorry, that was probably weird for you.” I said.

“Oh it’s nothing. We’re here for each other. I know you’d do the same for me. I remember when I came here with my sister and this one guy, we call him our trans dad, he just hugged us. I told him about what happened and, of course, my sister didn’t say anything cause she’s mute…”

Alli kept talking and I fell asleep listening to her voice.

Chapter Text

I woke up to Espurr pushing my face.

“You’re hungry, huh?” I asked.

Espurr prrped in affirmation.

I looked up and realized where I was.

Rain hitting against the window, room covered in graffiti, and three punks, all looking at me.

Team Skull.

“Hey Ceras! Did you sleep well?” Alli asked.

I nodded and Espurr whined again, tugging on my tank top.

“Where can we get something to eat?” I asked, now juggling an impatient and hungry Espurr.

“Oh yeah! It’s about dinner time! Let’s go get some!” Alli gestured to everyone.

Oh, I looked out the window. Sure enough, it was getting dark. Jet lag is weird.

There were actually four grunts, but one of them was passed out on a bed. No one made a move to wake them, so I just followed the others.

Downstairs there was a conglomeration of grunts talking and eating. I followed as we made our way through this maze of a house and came to a kitchen. Several grunts were serving food. We got in the line, which, at this point, wasn’t very long. Dinner had probably started a while ago. Were they waiting for me?

The meal was not particularly notable. Mostly canned foods, most of which was cold. I suppose they don’t have the largest budget for food.

I asked one of the grunts serving food if there was any pokemon food. They shrugged and said they might be some in the kitchen. I looked around. There was a half empty bag of kibble in the back of a cabinet. I grabbed a handful and put it in a small cup. We walked out to the main area of the house, or mansion, they corrected me. It wasn’t much of a mansion compared to many of the castles in Kalos, but they don’t seem to have any castles here.

We walked back up to our room.

“Calla doesn’t like the noise.” Alli had said when we walked up the stairs.

Back in the room, Alli was telling the other two, Calla, her sister, and Declan, the other grunt, about what had happened.

“You know, men will treat women as receptacles for their emotional baggage, including women they’ve never met, and tend not to return the favor.” Declan told me, bluntly.

“Declan!” Alli scolded. “That’s not what happened! And you know that tons of people do that when they first come here.”

Now that I thought about, Declan was right. I hadn’t realized, but I would talk to the female servants about my problems, but they never told me about theirs. But that could also be due to them being servants.

Alli had decided to tell me about why all of them were here, except Declan because he had asked her before not to.

“Me and Calla came here after our dad yelled at her. She had trouble in school because she’s autistic and our dad was really mean to her. He would hit her, but not all the much. Hardly at all. So I decided that we were gonna leave and I had a friend who came here before so I decided we were gonna go here and then I already told you about Fenley, our ‘trans dad’. He’s really nice, you should meet him sometime. And Bailey,” Alli gestured toward the grunt passed out on the bed, “came here because their parents wouldn’t respect them being nonbinary.”

Nonbinary?

Alli noticed my confusion. “Oh! Nonbinary is when you aren’t completely a boy or a girl. Or maybe you’re a boy and a girl. Or maybe you aren’t a boy or a girl or don’t have a gender at all. Or you could be genderfluid and your gender changes. A lot of nonbinary people identify as trans, which is when you don’t identify with the gender you were assigned at birth.”

“How,” I asked. “How can you…?”

Declan interjected softly, “You don’t have to be a boy just because your parents told you that you have to be. My parents told me I was a girl, but I’m not. I’m a boy.”

I nodded but I was still confused. I didn’t know how to feel about it.

“You should meet Fenley sometime,” Alli resumed. “You would like him. Everyone likes him! He’s one of the oldest people in Team Skull, even older than Plumeria! But to be fair she’s only like 20 or something. But everyone is younger than Guzma; he’s like 24, I think. Oh, how old are you, Ceras? I’m 16 and Calla is 12 and Declan is 15 and Bailey is 17.”

“Oh, I’m 21.” I answered, trying to make it seem like I wasn’t that interested in knowing how old Guzma is.

“Wow! Another one over 20! You know you don’t look that old. I would have thought you were younger. You’ve got a baby face. So does Declan, but he doesn’t like it when I say so because it makes him feel dysphoric… Oh I’m sorry Declan.”

Declan sighed. “It’s okay, Alli. You know, you don’t need to tell everyone our ages. You sound like cheesy exposition from a dystopian novel.”

Calla did some sort of hand gesture to Declan. He sighed again and said, “I know, I know.”

Alli interrupted the interaction saying, “You sigh a lot, Declan. I should call you Sir sighs a lot.”

“You should specialize in Sigh-chic types.” I ventured to say. Everyone looked at me. Alli laughed abruptly and Declan and I followed suit. Calla flapped her arms a bit but she didn’t look happy.

“Wha- what’s goin’ on?” Bailey sat up, woken by the laughter, most likely, which only caused us to laugh--and flap--harder.

Bailey rubbed their eyes and focused on me. “Who’s that?”

“I told you this was Ceras. He was here when you came in.” Alli answered.

Bailey grumbled and went back to sleep.

Eventually they started to get ready for bed.

Declan cleared his throat, “Um, I’m gonna take off my binder, can you guys turns away?”

“Sure!” Alli said. The rest of us turned away as well.

“Declan wears a binder to-- oh wait, Declan can I tell him?”

“Yeah, okay, Alli. Thanks for asking.” Declan answered. “Okay you can turn around now.”

“Okay, so a binder squishes your breasts against your body to make your chest look flat.” Alli said.

I nodded. This was all so foreign to me. Is it a cultural thing? On second thought, it seems a lot of these kids were kicked out, so maybe not.

They continued to get in bed.

“Hey, I’m not very tired. I’m gonna go walk around for a bit.” I said.

“Okay,” Alli said and yawned. “Be careful when you get back. More grunts show up to sleep here. Don’t step on anyone.”

I nodded and walked out.

Many grunts were still up and milling about. I found one room where a group of them were playing video games. A lot of them stared at me. I feel so out of place here. In Team Skull. In Alola. What am I doing?

I wander around the mansion. I don’t want to get wet, but I like the rain. It’s soothing. Lots of old buildings have weird architecture that leaves little nooks and crannies. I always loved those. I always wondered if the people designing the building did it on purpose or if it was just an accident. I hoped this building had some of those, preferably near a window.

There was less commotion upstairs, as that’s where most of the grunts were sleeping, but the sounds of laughter and conversation still drifted up.

At the edge of a hallway where a pillar stood next to a wall there was a space between the pillar and window and wall. It wasn’t as closed off as I would like, but nooks like these are hard to find by windows so I took what I could get. I let Espurr out. It was sleeping. I cradled it in my arms. The heartbeat and breathing, although faster than a human’s, was comforting. I softly pet Espurr and listened to the rain. I watched the grunts outside. The rowdiest ones were outside. They ran around, throwing things, spray painting, doing little stunts to impress each other. But eventually even they grew tired, retreating to the smaller houses outside instead of inside the mansion.

The sounds from downstairs had petered out long before the grunts outside had gone to bed. Any light emanating from downstairs went out. The grunts the went upstairs to go to bed, albeit not many after I had found my hiding space, didn’t notice me. This was likely due to the dark and their exhaustion as opposed to this actually being a good place to hide.

I startled awake. It didn’t appear to have been for any particular reason until I looked over. It was Guzma. He looked away when I saw him. I was a light sleeper. It seems that Espurr had also noticed his presence, as it was awake and alert, staring at him. Espurr’s stare had a way of unnerving people, which was perfectly fine with me. Guzma shifted uncomfortably.

He cleared his throat and seemed about to say something, but, as if he didn’t know what to say.

I couldn’t really blame him. I didn’t know what to say either.

Eventually I got up and said, “Well, I suppose I should be getting to my room.”

Guzma interrupted me, “Hey, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed, even if you’re stuck up.”

I blushed a little, but I didn’t really understand. “Thanks… I think.”

“Don’t step on any grunts, they like to sleep on the ground,” he warned.

“Yeah,” I said. “Alli told me.”

“Yeah, I’m sure she did.”

Does he really know all the grunts? I wondered this, among other Guzma-related things, as I made my way to my room. I was careful to walk around the grunts passed out on the floor. Inside the room, which was all the way at the end of the hall, as it was, there was a higher concentration of passed out grunts. Many were lying on top of one another. I returned Espurr to its ball, not wanting it to get crushed by anyone on accident.

I wasn’t used to touching anyone while I slept. I never really thought people cuddled. Sometimes guys I slept with would stay the night, but I stayed on my side of the bed.

Maybe they should get some bunk beds. Alli was spread out across a bed and even hanging off the edge. On second thought, the bunk beds may not be such a great idea.

I was about to give up on sleeping in this room at all, but I noticed an empty bed. The was a note on it.

Words were scrawled across the piece of wrinkled paper in messy handwriting.

This bed is saved for Ceras, the new grunt.
-Alli

I doubted that just a note would prevent the all of the grunts in here from sleeping on one of the limited beds. Alli was nice, but not that nice. However, Declan, who was slumped with his back against the wall with a blanket loosely draped around his torso, might have. Though it was not because he was nice, that’s for sure.

Luckily these outfits were pretty comfortable. I took my shoes off and laid in the bed. The blanket from the bed had been stolen, however, I was neither in need nor want of one. Alola was hot, and the excess of bodies in the room did not help.

I curled up on the bed. Maybe my already depression-distorted sleep schedule would help me acclimate to the time change.

As sleep grew nearer, my mind gravitated to thoughts of Guzma-- and the rain. Fortunately, the thoughts didn’t carry the giddy energy that normally accompanied crushes, or I would not have been able to sleep. Just the image of Guzma staring at the rain. The moon had been bright, illuminating Guzma with a faint blue light.

Chapter Text

When I woke up, nobody was in the room. Not even Bailey. The room, however, was a mess. I got up and put my shoes on.

The clothes I came in were dry and laid on a bed near the one I slept in. They looked like someone had tried to smooth out the wrinkles but didn’t do a good job. I decided to change into them.

When I walked out into the hallway. The mansion was mainly illuminated with the gray light from the overcast outside, but there were some lights on. There a few grunts going around, carrying things, cleaning, and some were just milling around like me. I turned a few heads. It took me a second to realize that they were probably unused to someone wearing something other than Team Skull clothes in here. Or clothes like these in general.

I walked down the stairs and saw a grunt sitting in a wheelchair. Their eyes were closed and their head laid back on the top of the chair.

Suddenly she opened her eyes and looked right at me and said, “Hey, you were staring.”

Shit. “What? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… How did you know?”

She smiled. “I guessed.”

“Oh.” It was kind of a joke, but it made me feel bad so I laughed an awkward laugh. It sounded forced.

“I look really silly when I’m wrong, but people are a lot, so I usually end up being right. Some of the grunts think I’m a witch.” She laughed softly.

“I have chronic pain, since I know you were wondering.”

Oh. I mean, I was.

She continued, “But I still can walk and stand up, but it hurts. I have to have other people push the chair when it’s bad. And when it’s really bad, I can’t even sit up. But on good days I don’t use the wheelchair.”

Then she added after a pause, “Or I do but I move it myself. I feel bad always depending on people like that. It feels good to do things myself. Except my family would never never me use a wheelchair. They would say I still have legs and I can walk. Then doing things myself didn’t feel too good…”

I was quiet for a moment. I’m not used to people telling me so much about themselves, especially stuff like this.

After an awkward pause, I said “You’re- you’re still more than your… pain, or whatever.”

I’ve heard people say that. That’s probably good.

She giggled again, softly.

Maybe it wasn’t that good to say.

I could try a change in topic.

“I… I’m a homosexual.”

Since that’s what people seemed to do here. Tell everyone their life story.

She laughed again.

“Oh, sweet pea, I’m not laughing at you or because you’re gay. I’ve just… never heard someone call themself that. Straight people call other people that.”

Jeez, I suck at this.

She looked a little more sober when she talked this time. “Have people called you that?”

“Uhh…” The way she looked at me made me feel… weird.

“I’m sorry.” she said. “I know other people don’t like talking about themselves like I do. I feel less awkward when people aren’t pretending that they don’t want to know. I don’t tell everyone, but I live with the people here.” She paused. “You’re new here, huh?”

I nodded. I wasn’t really even trying to make eye contact. My dad would tell me no one would take me serious if I didn’t make eye contact. That people would think--know--that I’m weak.

“News travels fast around here. It’s like a spider web. When someone gets stuck here, everyone can feel it. You know, because of the vibrations,” she said.

Stuck.

In a spider web no less.

That feels about right.

“I’m- I’m gonna go take a walk. I-I don’t mean…” Wow, I’m really messing this up. I should just leave before I dig myself a deeper hole.

I’m starting to see how she was so good at telling when people were staring.

I kept walking.

Walking and walking.

I wanted to get away from that feeling. That feeling of being watched. I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. I just want to get away from it all.

I never even got that girl’s name.

“Hey. Hey!” A voice caught my attention. It took me a second to realize they were talking to me. I felt embarrassed knowing that they probably called out several times to snap me out of my thoughts. Hopefully the overcast would hide how how my face felt.

The voice belonged to an old guy wearing some sort of police uniform. It didn’t look as official as the police in Kalos.

“Are you Ceras?” His voice was low and monotone. He didn’t sound like he cared much. He even looked exhausted from just shouting a couple times.

“Why do you ask?”

“Some tourists had reported a missing person and you…” He looked me up and down. “Fit the description.”

Oh yeah. Dexio and Sina. I had completely forgotten about them. Dexio was a complete worry wart. And Sina would do anything for him. Even if he’s dramatic.

“Yeah, that’s me.”

The old man looked back the the wall surrounding Po Town, then looked at me. He raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. It wasn't too hard to imagine what he was thinking, but thankfully, he said nothing.

He walked toward what looked like a police station nearby. It was hard to tell. It looked hardly more than a building. Not like in Kalos. The police in Alola seem a lot more lax compared to in Kalos.

I assumed I was supposed to follow him inside.

This was definitely not a Police station.

There were cat Pokémon everywhere. It looked like someone had turned it into a house.

“Before you ask, no, I'm not actually with the police, not really.”

“Huh? Oh.” I said. I probably looked pretty stupid.

“I still get the radio transmissions and you disappeared by closest to by…” His voice turned to mumbling. I doubt he would have humored me if I asked.

They old guy muttered into a radio. I let out Espurr. It looked around with wide eyes and then waddled over to one of the cat Pokémon. I think they're playing? Maybe? I just hope none of them get hurt.

“Your friends will get here soon,” he told me.

I nodded. I guess I'm waiting here for awhile.

There were little Pokémon toys lying around, presumably for the cat Pokémon. I wonder where they all came from. Strays, I suppose.

I tried to get Espurr interested in one of the toys. The cat Pokémon were enthralled, but Espurr didn't seem to get the appeal.

Apparently the other Pokémon were much more amusing.

“Alright, it's time to go back in the ball,” I said after Espurr whacked one on the head.

“What kind of Pokémon are these?” I asked, trying to make some sort of small talk to pass the time.

“Alolan Meowth.”

What? “Meowth don't look like that. Not the ones I saw in books about Kanto.”

“That's why they're Alolan.”

I guess that makes sense. They did kind of look like Meowth now that I thought about it.

“So… what's you're name?”

“Nanu.”

I guess I'm not getting anything other than one word answers out of this guy.

I lied back and sighed. This is boring.

There was a knock at the door. I'm saved!

Without waiting for someone to open the door or even a response, the door opened.

“Oh we've found you!” Dexio cried. “Are you hurt? We heard about a villainous Team Skull whose base is right by here!”

So dramatic. At least Sina seemed unphased. She thanked the old man, Nanu, with a polite smile.

“Shall we go back to the hotel?” She asked, “You could clean up?”

Her suggestion sounded hopeful. I haven't been particularly consistent with my personal hygiene lately. What's the point? Nobody was telling me to and I didn't have to look clean for anyone.

But… A bath did sound nice. Even in a cramped hotel bathroom.

~

Dexio chatted about the things they had done and what had happened when they couldn't find me while we were on the boat back to Akala. I wasn't paying too much attention. Once we arrived back at the hotel, Sina told me to take my bath and to meet them in the lobby afterwards.

I walked up the stairs to the room. I didn’t want to take the elevator and it wasn’t very high up. Sina had handed me one of the key cards for the room to get it. I fumbled with it and it took a few tries to get the door to recognize it right. I stripped out of my, to be frank, filthy clothes. The rain can only clean so much. The pants had mud around the cuffs and were just dusty in general. The shirt was wrinkled and the material felt weird, likely from being wet. I wish I had a parasol for the sun here and an umbrella for the rain. I went into the bathroom to turn on the water for the small tub but I was sidetracked by the mirror.

I hadn’t really looked into a mirror since I was kicked out. Since I was disowned.

I didn’t feel sad. Or mad. Or anything, really. I just felt numb.

I hardly recognized myself. My hair was messed up. I had bags under my eyes. I was thinner. But there was something else. Something about my face made me look… different. Tired, maybe? But not quite. It was something more. But that look was not unfamiliar to see in my face, just more intense.

I remembered what I was doing in the bathroom. I bent down and fiddled with the faucet. Even the water straight out of the faucet here was warmer. I still had to wait awhile for the water to heat up to the temperature I wanted. When the water was right, I let the tub fill up.

When I stepped into the tub, I let out a sigh. I hadn’t felt nice like this in a long time. I just lied back in the hot water and tried to relax.

Inevitably, thoughts of my parents surfaced.

I woke up early that day. It was an exciting day. It would be awhile before the current nanny came to get me ready and I was too excited to wait.

I opened the door just a crack and stood on my toes peeking around to see if there were any servants around. There wasn’t. I tiptoed down the hall and I crawled behind the rail of this story’s balcony overlooking the ground floor just in case there were servants downstairs. I couldn’t contain my excitement when I got close enough to see their bedroom door and burst into a sprint and flung open the door.

They were still asleep. I moved as quietly as I could to the bed and crawled into the bed between them.

Not even a minute later, my father woke up.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing here?” he whisper-yelled.

My mother must have been awake as well by her alertness in her response, “Oh, just let him, Francis, he isn’t hurting anyone.”

“No, you’re always doing this! He gonna turn out like a sissy if you keep encouraging him to be such a momma’s boy! He needs to be a man.”

My parents got into a fight over that. I ran away. I had already started crying. I ran downstairs, hoping my father wouldn’t follow me, that my mother would, that they wouldn’t fight or yell.

I hide in one of the wooden cabinets in a hallway with plush carpet. The hallway led around the back of the kitchen to the servants’ quarters, so my parents rarely went there. It was where I went when I wanted to cry because nobody could hear me. I tried to keep it quiet.

The nanny was really mad at me when I came out and told her I was hungry. She left pretty soon after that.

The water in the tub had cooled to a lukewarm. I suppose I should actually wash myself.

I was used to having my routines scheduled for me. Hell, I was bathed by someone else until I was 13. I’m not used to independence. It was hard to tell what my father wanted from me, obedience, independence, whichever one I was, he wanted the other.

I rubbed soap on my body mechanically and washed my hair with the provided shampoo. I haven’t washed my hair in days, maybe weeks. It was greasy and probably looked gross. It will be nice to be clean.

I rinse off and get out. The towels here are too small. Wait, there’s still water in the bathtub. I should unplug it. I suck at this stuff. At living, I guess.

I don’t really want to put on the clothes I had just been wearing, but I don’t really have anything else.

I go to the lobby, I was supposed to meet Sina and Dexio there, I think. Once there, I look around a bit and see them, and their obnoxious tourist outfits, in the guest shop. I walk to them, grudgingly. They can be a bit embarrassing, but they’re kind of all I have.

Sina notices me and waves a little. When Dexio notices me he gives me one of those Alolan waves, except it’s exaggerated to the point of looking more like he’s a little kid doing motions to a song in some school play. “Ceras! Come here!”

I sigh and enter the gift shop.

“We’re going to buy you some clothes,” says Sina. “Try to find something you like, otherwise Dexio will pick something for you.”

Clean clothes would be nice, but the clothes here are tacky. Are there any nicer clothes in this region?

My choices are t-shirts and tank tops and shorts and sneakers. I suppose I should avoid white, given the current state of my stain pants. I pick a some assortment of clothes, a pair of shoes, and a small backpack. After they purchase the clothes for me, I escape to a bathroom to change. The clothes feel and smell weird. I wish I could wash them, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I walk around the edge of the hotel, trying to avoid detection. I don’t even look for them. If I see them, then they might notice me looking. Something about eyes. I got good at sneaking around trying to avoid my parents and servants.

I push through the doors of the hotel and take a sigh of relief. Before I even finish expelling air I hear…

“Yo, what the hell!?”

I startle and turn to see Guzma. Jeez, I forgot how tall he was. I gulp a little. It feels really loud. I hope he didn’t hear. He looks pretty mad at me.

“You can’t just do that! You waltzed in, insulted my grunts, insulted my team, and insulted me and I still let you join, and then you just fucking disappear the next day! You’re not even in uniform! What the fuck is wrong with you?!” He winced a little at himself after saying, yelling, the last part.

“I didn’t waltz in…” I mumble.

“What?” He glares at me.

“I didn’t waltz in,” I say, louder this time. “Your grunts took me.” Then as an after thought I added, “sort of.”

He stares at me a moment with his brows scrunched together. “Whatever, that’s not the point. The point is that as a member of Team Skull, you can’t just go running off doing whatever the hell you feel like, we got rules and structure. And responsibilities.”

“Yes sir.” I say absentmindedly, what I would say when father yelled at me. It was just easier that way.

“What the fuck did you just call me?!”

The demand rattled me. I had never had a response like that before. ‘Yes sir’ was the safe bet; it always worked.

“I ain’t no sir, not to you, not to anyone. If you really gotta call me some sorta title, Boss will do just fine, but nobody calls me ‘sir’.”

“Yes s--” I catch myself. “Okay, Guzma.”

“You just won’t listen, will ya?” he said. He was… grinning? Just a little.

And then it was gone.

He turned around. “Follow me, grunt.” he said.

I did. He glanced over his shoulder, to see if I was really following, I guess.

We walked to a town that looked straight out of an Old West movie from the region by Unova. We took side routes and stayed in the shade. I suppose he must have a bit of a reputation, being a gang leader, and he wanted to avoid any confrontations. I would do the same thing back in Kalos, especially around the castle I lived in. I always gave a fake name when I stayed at hotels. I wonder is Guzma does the same.

We followed a side alley to a place far from the main road in the town. Guzma shoved a Team Skull uniform into my hands.

“Alli said this was yours. You left it on your bed… or whatever.”

Why the ‘whatever’ at the end?

“Don’t change into this yet. Since you’re into casual clothes, I want you to do a job for me.” he told me in a hushed voice.

Chapter Text

Supplies.

Team Skull, a gang, needs supplies. Not crowbars or ski masks or anything like that. Pokemon food, brushes, soap, medicine.

“Why me? Why now?” I had asked. Stealing them makes sense, I suppose. No money. And even if they did have (stolen) money, who would sell to a gang?

Shouldn’t it be more organized?

“You’re here now and you gotta start paying your dues,” Guzma had said.

I wondered about the grunt who couldn’t move. Did she pay her dues?

“And we need a egg.”

“What?” I asked, uncomprehending.

“I need you to steal a pokemon. Not just any pokemon. A specific pokemon.”

Apparently there was a specific pokemon in the nursery that I needed to steal along with the supplies.

“For our sponsor,” he had said.

It was supposed to look like a big fluffy cotton ball with leaf wings.

He took me around the back and told me to try to find a way in. Once I found one, he was going to let out his Pokemon, a big spider pokemon, to distract the workers while I grabbed all the supplies I could carry, plus the pokemon.

The pokemon was easy enough to find. I grabbed it. It wasn’t very strong and it was very light. I needed to find its pokeball. This would be the hardest part.

The spider pokemon was wrapping up the poor farmhands in webs.

I still had some time.

The pokeballs were by the back door of the building. The only problem was that, when I knelt down to open the chest labeled “Pokeballs”, I realized it had a lock on it.

I stood up trying to find a key and knocked the chest over. The top opened and several pokeballs rolled out.

Thank Arceus for whichever poor kid left this unlocked.

Now I had to sort through the different pokeballs. Luckily, they had little labels stuck onto them. What was this pokemon called again? I looked at the different titles they had.

“Cottonee” one read.

That sounds about right. I tried it on the pokemon next to me and sure enough, it was. I shoved the pokeball with my other two and made my way for the fence.

Guzma saw me coming and whistled for his pokemon to come back. It had been holding a smokeball, so none of the people saw which way it ran. Guzma returned it to its ball and we ran.

Or, he ran, I should say. I had started to, but…

“Wait!” I called out, panting.

He turned and looked at me incredulously.

“What the hell is it?”

“I- I have asthma. I can’t run far.” I wheezed.

“Oh for the love of…” he muttered and picked me up.

To say I was surprised would have been an understatement.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I sputtered.

“Look, kid, we gotta get outta here. Got any better idea?”

I blushed and shut my mouth.

It was uncomfortable. His arms and chest hit against me with every stride and I was still trying to catch my breath. I didn’t have an inhaler anymore. I couldn’t afford it.

The worst part was that he was carrying me bridal style.

After a couple minutes we got to the coast and he put me down. There was a Team Skull boat by the shore, which we boarded. At least, it appeared to be a Team Skull boat based off of the black and white color scheme and skull motif.

Guzma went to where I’m assuming the controls of the boat are. There’s a grunt there, presumably driving the boat. I walked over to the front and sat down. I let the Cottonee out of its ball. It whirred, happy to be out of its ball. It didn’t seem too upset about the change of scenery. It didn’t seem to be too attached to anyone. Almost like a wild pokemon.

I held my hand out to it and it rubbed against me. It was so soft.

“Hey there,” I said as it burrows into me. I held it close, not wanting it to get caught by the wind as the boat starts to move. I look down at it. “Now why does Team Skull want you?” I ask, mostly to myself.

Guzma stepped up behind me and I startled. “I told you, it’s for our sponsor,” he said.

I raise an eyebrow. “Your gang has a sponsor?”

“Yeah,” he said, fixing me with a glare, daring me to challenge him. “What of it?”

I shrugged. A question for another day, I supposed.

I returned the Cottonee to its ball and stood up. It took me a second to adjust to the movement of the boat, but once I did, I moved to where Guzma went to the back of the boat.

“You need something?” he asked, not looking up.

“Yeah, does anyone at your gang have an ice type pokemon?” I respond.

“What do you need an ice type for?”

“For my Absol. She has arthritis and I don’t particularly want to be walking all the way to a Pokemon Center every day to get ice packs.”

He mulled it over a moment. “I don’t think none of our grunts got any, but you could get your own. There’s some in the Tapu Village nearby.”

“But… I’ve never caught a...”

Guzma looked behind me. “Looks like we’re here!”

He walked past me.