Disclaimer: My name's certainly not affiliated with Pokémon –not unless I want to be sued .
Story: All Ash Ketchum has ever wanted was to be the best. Ash's dream was to be the unbeatable, greatest and grandest Pokémon Master there ever was. So now of legal age to get a Trainer's license, Ash can start the road for just that. Problem? Ash is a girl. And the world is full of perverts as her mother had warned and so Ash Ketchum the girl must become Ash Ketchum the boy.
Set as an AU.
Spoilers: Probably.
Warnings: Perverts, raunchy humor, weird humor, craziness, etc…
Pairings: Reverse Harem Genre along the vein of Fushigi Yuugi, Ouran High Host Club, Negima! (regular harem), Love Hina, and other Ken Akamatsu works, with fanon Harem twist of multiple partners. Most guys are reoccurring unrequited or "character of the day" crushes, but a select number are permanent requited guys. Hence, Ash with a lot of people (mostly one-sided), Ash/Lance, Ash/Steven, Ash/Giovanni, Ash/Lt. Surge, etc. for sure.

Loyal to the Game
Chapter Fourteen: Masks and Phantoms

Sabrina turned everyone, even her mother, back to normal. Ash was tackled by Misty and Brock, followed by Lt. Surge lifting her out of the two's arms and hugging her himself. When she finally set her feet down again, she was pulled into a gentler but just as firm hug by Oak. And then she peeked at Giovanni, who gave her a small smile and then, hesitantly, opened his arms. She threw herself into them and hugged him tight.

"Someone's having a happy reunion too," Brock noted, and Ash turned in Giovanni's arms to see Sabrina being happily embraced by her mother and father. She smiled slightly, glad that things turned out for the better.

Sabrina saw her looking over and broke off from her parents, smiling gratefully as she started to walk over. Ash did the same and they met in the middle.

"I can't thank you enough," Sabrina said honestly. "You…you helped me. A lot. From the moment you came to this city, I just had a feeling you'd be special."

Ash blushed brightly. "I'm not really…"

Sabrina's eyes twinkled. "Actually, you really, really are. Have you ever heard of something called Aura?"

Ash blinked, as did most of the others there. However, Giovanni, Oak, and Sabrina's parents knew what that was, and consequently turned to stare at Ash.

"No, I don't think so…"

Sabrina's lips upturned into a rare grin.

"I'll help you. Because you have a very rare gift, Asheila."

Ash could only wonder what she meant by that.

Norman checked his PokéNav again, still seeing no sign of May contacting him. He was near to Saffron City, and he had been hoping that his daughter would have contacted him by now. She was still stubbornly staying silent, refusing to say even a word of greeting.

He was wrecked with worry.

Deciding to find something to watch to pass time by, he filtered through the top videos being shared on the internet and stumbled across a separated segment of the Beach Beauty and Pokémon Costume Contest that May had continuously watched back at home. It featured who the person thought was the top three, and started from number three and counted down to the number one contestant. Norman had finally watched it, though he thought it was a little too much like the Pokémon Contests he had never really thought much of.

When he reached the number one contestant, Norman froze and quickly pressed pause before the video could continue. Of course. Ash Ketchum.

His first glimpse of her when he'd been teasing May had captured his attention. Her voice was pretty and she was pretty. In fact, she put on a wonderful performance along with her pokémon. But he'd been distracted and managed to tear his attention away, and focus on his distant daughter and then his meddling wife. When he'd returned back to May and decided he'd watch it with her, and try to spend time with his daughter and connect, he hadn't expected to fully get into the performance, especially with his dislike of Pokémon Contests.

But May kept playing just her performance and he kept getting more and more drawn into her performance with each replay. And then distracting and inappropriate thoughts began entering his head, and when he began entertaining the thought of taking her out to dinner, he drew the line and forcibly took himself away from the deep daydream her performance had put him in. By that point, May had played Ash's performance a total of twelve times while Norman had been with her. He'd then excused himself and practically ran from the room, hiding himself away until he finally went out to get food…by which time, May had disappeared.

He was hesitant to play her video again and get drawn in once more.

He hesitated a little more, before he made a quick decision and he pressed play. Then he was listening to Ash's voice and she was staring at him and smiling sweetly, and it was almost like she was singing to him and the performance had been for him. He wondered if May felt something like this, like all of that girl's focus had been on her, and maybe that's why she'd spontaneously decided to up and go travel to meet the pokémon trainer.

He still wasn't quite sure what May had been thinking or what had been going through her mind as she continuously watched Ash Ketchum, but he did know that he felt content to bask in her presence, even through a video. He liked her smile, the way her face lit up in genuine happiness, how kind she seemed to be (even through the screen), and especially how well she was in tune with her pokémon. Maybe she could even get May to like pokémon a little more.

Maybe then she could help Norman not feel as awkward with his own daughter.

"Home sweet home," Wallace, Contest Master and current Sootopolis Gym Leader, sighed happily as he entered his home.

He whipped off his cape and headed to his kitchen, quickly fixing himself a small meal to eat as he started to settle into his home and start to relax. He let out his Milotic, who happily cooed at him before filing into the living room and curling in his favorite spot near Wallace's armchair.

"Are you hungry, my love?" Wallace cooed right back. "I'll fix you something to eat as well then."

Once he'd settled into his seat and was comfortable, he turned on his television, hoping that his DVR managed to record the Beach Beauty and Pokémon Costume Contest. He'd been gone awhile, making special appearances at events and Contests, with some interviews, that he hadn't been able to catch the annual, traditional Kanto contest. Finally with some downtime, he was hoping to watch it now and see any interesting, unique, or even just entertaining performances that might have come up.

He watched all the way through, enjoying himself, and then had to make himself stop short as he watched the last performance. Now this was a beauty…

He liked her style. She had presence as well! And the story weaved into her performance and costume, along with that beautiful Seviper, who performed elegantly along with its mistress…

The Wallace Cup was coming up soon, and taking place in Kanto. If only he could find out where she was and convince her to take part of it…

He wondered how much more she could shine.

May had spent a few days looking around Vermillion City, caught between exploring the new and large place, and also asking around and trying to see if anyone had seen Ash around there. She was so far disappointed in her lack of luck, but she was enjoying herself and the sights. She'd even managed to try the city's famed House Steak platter.

Still, she wished she had some clue if Ash had passed through already, or had yet to come to Vermillion City. She didn't even want to venture out, considering her lack of pokémon to keep her safe while traveling. She really wished she wasn't feeling so helpless right then. At least she had the weather going for her. Since her arrival, the skies had been nice and clear, and sun wonderfully bright. It wasn't too hot, and there was a good breeze in the air.

May passed by the Vermillion Gym, where she paused and stared at it. Ash was a pokémon trainer. So maybe this place would know, might remember her –if she'd already been here. She awkwardly stood in front of the gym for a few seconds, before she decided it was worth a shot. She entered it and was surprised and disappointed to see it was empty. Maybe if she came back another time…

"Hey, can I help ya with somethin'?" a young man, maybe late twenties, came around the corner, wearing gray shorts and a t-shirt and had a towel around his neck. "Are ya here for a gym battle?"

May blushed in embarrassment. "N-no. I was hoping to ask someone here a question about a, uh, past challenger."

His eyebrows furrowed. "I guess I can help ya with that. Let's head on to the back, where the arena is. I just got back from a run and I'd like to get some water before talkin' with ya. Just to warn ya, a lotta people come through here and I don't really keep track of them. None of us really do actually," he scratched his head awkwardly.

When May nodded, he led the way and quickly found his water bottle, taking a few quick gulps before turning to May expectantly.

"Oh, um…I was wondering if you knew if a girl came in and challenged you. She's pretty small, dark hair and eyes…um…pretty face, has a Pikachu –"

He cut her off. "Ya wouldn't be talkin' about a Ash Ketchum, would ya?"

"You know her!" May beamed at him, inwardly relieved. "I didn't think you'd know her name, so I was just trying to describe her. Does that mean she's passed by here?"

"Sure did. Won a badge fair and square. Pretty impressive, that girl was. Why'd ya wanna know about her?" he asked her curiously, after remembering back to that exciting battle.

May's face flushed a deep red. "It's…complicated."

He sighed. "Hey, look. It's early and there's no battles scheduled for today. So unless some random challenger wants to come in and challenge the gym, I'm free and ya can take all my time. Why don't ya explain it all to me over food? How about over breakfast?"

"Er, okay," she mumbled, her stomach growling at her.

"Good! I'm starving!"

When he led her further back, there was a small living area, complete with couches and a TV, a kitchen sectioned off behind the entertainment area, and an entrance that led to a bathroom. It had plenty of space and seemed comfortable.

"Ya cool with bacon and eggs?" he asked her, while getting a pan out.

"S-sure," she agreed, feeling awkward in the situation she was in.

"So…ya wanna get started on explainin'?" he asked casually as he started to cook.

She wrinkled her nose, but sat down at the table and began talking. By the end of it, he whistled and shook his head.

"Ya got a…odd family," he said, trying to be…nice about it.

"Yeah, I know we're strange," May mumbled.

'Messed-up, dysfunctional, abnormal…' were all words he'd use instead. Oh, he could go on.

"Anyway, I got it. Ya wanna chase after her though, huh?"

May cleared her throat uncomfortably. "Yes. I just…I'm not a pokémon trainer, I don't have pokémon with me, and I don't know where to start."

"Uh…Well, first things, I haven't introduced myself. I'm Remy, substitute gym leader," Remy introduced himself, though he confused her by what he meant about substitute gym leader. "You're in luck. The actual gym leader of this gym is out traveling with her. He's got an antsy Jolteon around here that wants to make his own way over to him, so why don't you take him and use him for protection? Jolteon will agree to it, especially since you'd be making your way to where Luc is."

Her eyes widened. "R-really? Can I?"

"Sure," Remy shrugged. "Jolteon is about ready to just go off on his own. Might as well travel with you."

It was like May's luck was going strong. If only it would last long enough to get her to Ash soon.

Steven hummed, going through the papers. His workers looked at him strangely, but he didn't pay them any attention.

"Sir?" one of them decided to be brave enough to come towards him.

"Hm?" Steven distractedly answered.

"Shall we head to Lavender Town?"

Steven blinked and then looked at him in askance. "What? That's like going backwards."

His workers looked at each other in confusion.

"But…that was the itinerary," someone else spoke up hesitantly.

Steven hnned, grabbing a certain paper. "Ah, this." He then promptly began ripping it up cheerfully. "It is no longer relevant."

Everyone gaped at him.

However, as far as Steven was concerned, he was redesigning his travel plans to be in match to wherever Ash was heading. Admittedly, he had thought of something like this as part of the new changes to the product tour he'd been thinking of, back when he first met her. Only, he hadn't been able to find a way to keep in contact or find out where she was going to next.

But now Steven had her number, and it was off to Celadon City they go.

Ash scrunched up her nose. "Like this?"

She reached over and grabbed the canister of gel from the table and was about to dip her hand in to scoop up a glob of it, when Giovanni snatched it from her.

"No! You don't use that much. Your hair will end up shiny and greasy and/or hard as your metal helmet," Giovanni rolled his eyes.

"What's going on here?" Lt. Surge poked his blond head into the surprisingly spacious bathroom. There was a shower, toilet and sink, along with the small single bathroom outside of there.

"Giovanni is teaching me to slick my hair back," Ash grinned at him.

Lt. Surge blinked and looked at Giovanni.

"She's too recognizable as a guy, similar to when she's normal," Giovanni grumbled. "Some more differences to her male alias will help differentiate and look different from how she normally looks."

"…Alright," Lt. Surge mentally shrugged it off. Besides, if it was up to him, he wouldn't have Ash dress up at all. With him, Giovanni, and the others around, any so-called perverts Ash's mother was worried about would run far away. He pointedly ignored how he and the others would probably qualify as something for Ash's mother to worry about as well. "Anyway, when you're done, Sabrina said she'll come after and you two can practice a little more on your Aura usage, and then go out for last minute time together."

Ash nodded and went back to focus on Giovanni, as her blond friend left them alone.

Giovanni sighed and held up the canister. He showed her the appropriate amount of hair gel she was supposed to scoop onto her fingers, surprisingly very little, and then he was gently tilting her head up by placing the fingers of his other hand under her chin and lifting it up. His other hand softly threaded through her hair and she could see her hair moving back, and then he kept her head there for a minute before letting go. She moved her head back to a normal position, and saw that her hair had stayed slicked back.

"Normally, I just get a little on the fingers of both my hands and then run them through my hair back," Giovanni explained. "I like this brand because it normally doesn't make one's hair shiny or greasy looking, or feel hard."

Oh, Ash knew that already. She could silently admit that she'd wondered how Giovanni's hair was able to stay slicked back for so long and so well, and look as natural and feel as soft as it did. She could also admit to herself that she snuck a feel at his hair one time to find that out.

"It's magic gel," she muttered in awe, poking at her hair and giddily feeling how soft it still felt, and not at all greasy.

Giovanni rolled his eyes again. "Anyway, you should also come up with a sort of…persona for your male alter."

Ash looked at him curiously. "Huh? What do you mean by that?"

"Well…why don't you create an entirely different separate identity and personality for your male disguise? Come up with a name, characteristics, etc." Still, he felt rather uncomfortable explaining this. He would prefer she wouldn't, but at the same time he really would feel much better if Ash did get used to and used her male persona when she wasn't with him –with all of them, he meant. He wasn't happy or comfortable with her going out on her own and getting all sorts of who knows who approaching her, like those Colress and Steven men she told him about.

Although, he actually recognized just which Colress she met, and had managed to pilfer the man's number from Ash and contact him. They were in the midst of negotiating "contracts and terms", despite no physical written words being involved, and now (even with Colress working alongside that infantile Team Plasma group) Giovanni had the man interested and on the verge of agreeing to work with him. It was great irony and a wonderful success for him that he managed to pinch an intelligent and sharp-minded individual from a rival group, in such a way that though Colress worked for Team Plasma, he was also now unknowingly working with Team Rocket.

He grinned smugly to himself, mentally patting his back for a very successful find. Ash raised an eyebrow and decided it was best not to ask.

She tugged at his sleeve and gestured at the mirror, and he began showing her all the little differences she could do to change her hairstyle.

A little after that, Ash dressed in her normal skirt and shirt and went to go find Sabrina with Pikachu, only to find the psychic patiently waiting for her outside of the jumbobus.

"I see you all are already settled into your bus to leave," Sabrina glanced at the bus.

Ash gave her a small smile. "Yeah, we'll leave later. But that's not important right now! What is is that I'm with you and we're spending time together! So let's go."

She weaved an arm around the psychic and Sabrina led her to a small clearing behind her gym. This was where Sabrina had been taking her for the past two weeks, training her in how to at least try accessing her telepathy and empathy part of her abilities. By then, Ash knew the routine and settled herself comfortably on the grass, while Pikachu leaped off her head and waited. Sabrina sat down in front of her, letting out Kadabra, and then Ash was attempting to meditate while Pikachu scowled and stared at Kadabra, refusing to blink or lose focus.

Honestly, Ash didn't know if Pikachu was attempting to focus his mind and exercise his mental abilities with her, or win a stare off against Kadabra and recoup some lost dignity and win something against it, to pay it back for Pikachu losing against it.

Ah! She was losing track again and her mind wandering…

For at least half an hour, Ash focused on meditation. Then Sabrina was working her mind hard for the rest of that hour and the half of the next. Afterwards, Ash finally managed to drag Sabrina around the city, whereas Sabrina clasped hard onto Ash's arm.

The older and taller female was uncomfortable, but also happy to be more out and about around Saffron, compared to before when she would stay secluded in her gym. She could see people glance over and recognize her, surprised to see the gym leader outside of her gym, but Sabrina was inwardly happy to note that they were all excited and some of them even waved at her. She gave small waves back, but it seemed even that was enough for them.

Her hand was squeezed and she looked to see Ash smiling up at her. Her cheeks colored a bit.

"You look happy."

"I am happy."

And that was the truth.

By the end of their time together, Sabrina was the happiest she'd ever been in a long time, and held a matching Pikachu plush to Ash holding Pikachu.

After dropping off Sabrina at the gym, with the gym leader happily clutching onto the Pikachu plush she'd bought for the older female, Ash had been about to head back to the jumbobus. However, something else caught her eye and caused her to stop in her tracks.

Ash frowned, seeing a dark-clothing covered man harassing a couple. A familiar red R was emblazoned across his chest, and she instantly knew that he belonged to the same organization that the Rocket Trio were a part of. She'd seen a few others dressed like him around the city, boldly walking around and similarly harassing others. When she'd asked Sabrina, the gym leader admitted she knew about their presence, but hadn't really done anything against them or about them, especially considering she used to be willingly sequestered in her gym and didn't care about anything outside of it. Or hadn't cared.

Deciding against confronting him directly, though she itched to just storm over and battle the guy into submission, Ash instead decided to sneak after the guy. After the guy had finished harassing the couple, he began to walk off and Ash trailed behind at a distance. She tried to keep a good distance away, as well as keep to walls and hiding behind things to keep from being seen and noticed. She managed to trail him all the way to the Silph Co. building, where she stared at in confusion.

There had to be a reason why so many Rocket people were just walking around (daringly at that), and something must be connected to the Silph Co. building. She saw a few more Rocket people enter the building, and knew for sure (even more than her gut feeling) that the Silph Co. building was in the middle of all of this. Reaching up, she rubbed Pikachu's side and he looked down at her from his perch on her head.


"I'm thinking of doing a very, very stupid thing," she murmured to him.

Pikachu reached down and patted her cheek comfortingly and she looked up to see him looking supportive.

"Let's do this?"

"Pika Pi!"

Well, Ash never denied she was crazy.

Going over to the entrance, she peeked in and saw that it was empty. Taking a deep breath, she went through the entrance and looked around in paranoia. She should probably call one of the others by now, but she didn't want them to get caught up in this. Plus, it was easier to sneak around in a small number. If worse came to worse, she had them on speed dial.

Finding the entrance to the stairway, Ash decided that was her best bet.

Proton was proud to say that despite everything and all the setbacks and obstacles, that the Team Rocket operation in Saffron was doing well. He had done well enough on his own, heading and maintaining the operation of taking over the Silph Co. building, and basically a takeover of the city. Rocket agents were freely walking the streets and now the Masterball was soon to be in their grasp, as well as the Silph Co. itself.

He was damn proud of the work he'd done in Saffron, even if it had taken awhile to get to this point. Hell, he was hoping this would be a chance for him to shine and outdo the likes of that stupid Archer. Maybe he'd get a promotion soon enough. He was high enough in the ranks, but he wanted to be the best in the organization. To do that, he'd have to topple the likes of Archer and Ariana.

In terms of ranking of the Executives, it was Petrel, him, Ariana, and then Archer. If he could get those two out of the way, he'd be number one in the organization, outside of the boss…

"Sir, sir!" he heard his walkie-talkie burst out into chatter and he scowled, snatching it from his belt.

"What?" he snapped into it.

"There's…there's this girl! She and her Pikachu are defeating everyone left and right! She's heading your way!"

Proton cursed. "Useless idiots!" he insulted his grunts angrily.

Damn it all, everything had been going so well. Now this newest snag, and it just had to happen when the boss had come to check up on things and personally wrap things up.

He whirled to face the stairwell, hand darting to a pokéball at his belt. He'd show this intruder. He wasn't going to let some stupid little girl come in and ruin things for him. Hearing the loud stomping coming up, he deduced she was close. He began to wear an excited grin. It had been awhile since he'd had a good battle. Hopefully, this dumb girl would be a challenge.

A small figure darted through the entranceway and skidded to a stop in front of him, and Proton finally got his first glimpse of this intruder. He nearly gaped, before inwardly berating himself and contorting his mouth into a sneer.

Fuck it, he was expecting some snot-nose little brat, not some cute teenager to come tromping through the building to face him.

He twitched and forcefully reminded himself that this was his operation and he wasn't going to let her ruin it for him, cute girl or not.

"Who the hell are you, brat?" he spat out, forcing more venom into his tone than he'd managed in the beginning.

She unexpectedly grinned, though it turned scarily shark-ish the next moment. Her Pikachu, just as scarily, copied her (which kind of made it even more scarier that it did so).

"The name is…Red! Remember it!"

The battle, as it turned out, was rather short. Honestly, he hadn't expected to be so badly beaten at the end of it. Yeah, he only had his Zubat and Koffing, but they'd served him well enough against others.

This girl demolished him.

A part of him now understood his subordinate's fear on the walkie-talkie. Another part of him relished this fight and wanted to come back stronger, challenge her again and try to win the next battle.

When she left him behind, ready to go up to the next and last floor and having taken the card key for the elevator that would lead her there, his hat shadowed his face as he stared in shock at the floor. He reached for his walkie-talkie and switched it to a private channel.

"Sir? We have a problem."

Giovanni smiled, pleased at his achievement. Team Rocket practically owned the city and in no small amount of time, he'd acquired many developmental plans from the company, as well as the fact he was about to own it and the plans and prototype for the Masterball.

All he had to do was finish up here, and he could meet back up with the others as if nothing had happened, like he'd promised Ash he'd come back after a few "errands." Once he'd cleaned up and finished his business, he could finally stop being agitated about his plans here in Saffron.

"Sign here," Giovanni practically purred, though his new voice decoder hid that.

He slid the contract over to the disgruntled president, the man glaring at him, though his vision was probably hazy due to the decoder's secondary feature of adding a psionic wave that distorted the affected's vision of the wearer. It was perfect for Giovanni in getting around.

He was suddenly interrupted with the crackle of his walkie-talkie, and he looked down at it irritably. Reluctantly retrieving it, he waited for Proton to respond and tell him whatever it was that had him in a snit this time.

"Sir? We have a problem."

And then he was close to having a heart attack when he was hearing about some girl –with a Pikachu –running about the Silph Co. Building and defeating his Rockets left and right, and having just defeated Proton and about to head to where Giovanni was.

He could not let her know who he was.

If he was honest with himself, he'd long ago resigned and decided he'd keep his true identity from Ash. Because he knew that was exactly who it was that was running amok and causing havoc amongst his Rockets.

And he swore he'd never let her see the dark side of him.

Not sure if Ash's new psychic-like abilities would allow her to see through his decoder's effect, he looked around the room rapidly, and saw the convenient set of leather gloves and a porcelain mask off to the side on a chair. He didn't care how or why they were there, he just grasped at them quickly and put them on in a hurry, feeling odd about the mask in particular. Good Lord, it felt like he was playing Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera.

That thought made him grimace from under the mask, considering that would mean that Ash was his Christine.

In any case, he could only bless whoever up there, that Ash was (unfortunately most times, fortunately for this time) a horribly oblivious girl and unobservant towards a lot of things, Giovanni waited for her there for their inevitable confrontation.

After all, he had nowhere else to go but to stay and face her.

Despite his wishes, it seemed that she was entangled in yet another of Team Rocket's plans. Perhaps…like the Phantom, he could use this as an opportunity to help nurture Ash and even test her.

Something of worth had to come out of this.

"So...where do you think Ash is?" Misty asked, shuffling her cards. "It's been awhile. Do you think she's still with Sabrina?"

Lt. Surge shrugged, growing bored with playing Poker. He'd been hoping Ash would be back by then and they could watch a movie together, just like that one night at his home.

"Giovanni's not done with his errands either," Oak noted.

Misty grew a mischievous smile. "Maybe those two are together right now."

Lt. Surge and Brock hung their heads in gloom, while Oak frowned and felt strangely unhappy about that.

"Suckers," Misty muttered under her breath, shuffling her cards again. Maybe she could use their newfound depression to win this round…

Meanwhile, a certain trio were outside of the window of the Silph President's office, wearing window cleaner outfits, and pretending to clean windows as they looked inside.

"I can't believe the twerp is doing something so reckless," Jessie muttered.

"Are you kidding? The twerp's middle name is reckless!" Meowth huffed.

James worriedly fretted, watching the boss tense up and tensing up himself. He had been repeatedly wiping the same spot on the window for the last few minutes.

"This is exactly what I was trying to warn the boss against," James moaned. "Ash is going to get all hurt about the boss and who he is, and then she's going to cry and be all sad and –"

Jessie looked at him sympathetically, before looking back into the office with a resigned air.

"I know, James. This really sucks. It's been a really lose-lose situation for the boss from the beginning anyway, though. It's not like he could tell her who he really is, especially from the beginning. She'd leave him and stay away. But he can't reveal it now either, 'cause she'll end up hurt and that'll still happen. He's just going to have to end up just keeping it secret from her, if he's going to stay a…a friend," because none of them were too sure of what their boss was to the girl, despite having a feeling that they daren't really voice aloud and knowing how he felt (even if he wasn't acknowledging it).

"Should we jump in?" Meowth asked, though they weren't sure whose side they'd join, despite that was their boss himself in there.

Jessie snorted. "Tch, no way in hell. That's an explosive situation just waiting to happen."

It was for the best really. They were going to stay as far away as they possibly could, while keeping an eye on what was happening.

Besides, this was between the boss and the twerp.

When Ash stepped out of the elevator and came face to face with who that Proton guy said would be the boss of Team Rocket, she didn't know what she was expecting. All in all, the guy in front of her almost seemed normal. He was tall and wore a crisp, tailored suit that was extremely darker than his brown hair, reflecting an inky black. He wore gloves that were dark as well. The only thing off about him was the porcelain ebony mask that covered the upper part of his face.

He stepped away from who she guessed was the president of Silph, moving around the desk and a little closer to her.

"So…you're the one causing all this trouble," he said, though his voice seemed odd. There was…an electronic tone to it? It made it hard to distinguish and recognize his voice, which was probably what he wanted.

"Who are you?" Ash narrowed her eyes at the man. Pikachu acted oddly, staring intensely at the Rocket Boss.

He tilted his head slightly. "Me? Why just call me…the Masked Man."

Ash hovered her hand over her pokéballs and watched him warily.

"And who are you?" she could just tell his tone was amused.

"I'm Red," she declared, recalling the name she picked out to hide her real name. Honestly, she admitted she had just picked it by staring at the dark red R of her first opponent, who had asked her who she was after she'd defeated him.

It wasn't original, but hey! Who was going to connect Red to Ash? It was a freakin' color!

For some reason, this seemed to further amuse the other.

"Very well, Red. Why don't we paint the world red together? Rocket red, that is," he asked, and she bristled. She felt uneasy though, when she felt while seeing Pikachu deflate unhappily for some reason.

"I'll never join you!"

"Never is such a strong word," he drawled, the electronic tone grating on her. "Fine. Then let's just paint the world red in another way. Rhydon! Go!"

He casually grabbed a pokéball from a pocket and tossed it in front of him in a relaxed manner. A huge Rhydon then came out, roaring and ready to face Ash. Ash hid her gulp, and rapidly swiped a pokéball from her belt.

"Milotic! Let's go! Water gun Rhydon immediately!" she ordered, and as soon as she came out of her pokéball, Milotic shot a blast of water at Rhydon.

"Rhydon, dodge it," the Masked Man indifferently ordered, and Ash couldn't believe the speed in which the Rhydon moved away, easily dodging the Water Gun without a care.

"Rapid spin around while using Water Gun again! Try for a large range so you can hit it," Ash quickly thought up.

"Keep dodging," the mysterious boss of Team Rocket calmly told his Rhydon, and it did as he was told rather easily.

"Don't give up, Milotic!" Ash said desperately. "Use Bubblebeam to cover the room. It can't escape that!"

Team Rocket's boss observed her curiously, and while Rhydon dodged as much as it could, eventually the whole room was covered with bubbles that ended up hitting and hurting Rhydon.

"Now Sonicboom to halt it further," Ash quickly ordered her Milotic, while the Masked Man just kept staring.

Though it hit Rhydon, who became confused and was angrily thrashing around, the Masked Man didn't seem worried.

Instead, he just told Rhydon one thing. "Takedown."

And even confused and thrashing about, Ash was amazed to see it calm enough to focus on her Milotic and head straight for her rapidly.

"Water gun!" Ash screamed out, hoping it would stop the pokémon in its tracks. And since it was heading in a direct line, it would be a surefire hit. And it did hit –only for Rhydon to plow through it and tackle Milotic brutally, causing her pokémon to crash against the wall behind her.

Ash winced and quickly recalled Milotic, whispering sorry and a good job to her.

"Pikachu, Thunderbolt!" she said in quick succession, taking advantage of all the water that had coated Rhydon in the meanwhile.

However, to her admiration, Rhydon moved out of the way and Pikachu's electric attack hit the window behind them, shattering it. All of a sudden, there was a loud roar of a different kind, and a helicopter flew down and hovered next to where the window once was. The middle, which bore a big red R, slid apart and revealed the entrance to the inside of the helicopter.

The boss of Team Rocket calmly recalled his Rhydon and took a step towards the helicopter, before halfway turning back to her.

"Let's finish this some other time, shall we?"

He strode the rest of the way into the helicopter and stepped in, continuing to be calm and collected. The helicopter began to slowly drift away from the once-window.

The Masked Man added one last quip, smirking coolly at her. "Until next time…Red."

The helicopter flew off, with the airborne craft's door sliding close and hiding him from her view. Ash scowled and continued to glare out the open space.

"Thank you so much," the President of Silph brought attention back to himself. He stood away from the desk and walked over to her, smiling gratefully. He grasped her hand and shook it firmly. "If it wasn't for you, I would have lost my company and everything else Silph has worked so hard on these last few years. Please –is there anything, at all, that I can do to repay you?"

Ash, taken aback, nervously laughed. "No, no! It's alright. Besides, I'm a loyal Silph Co. customer! Kanto pride, right? Eheheh…."

Honestly, she wished he wouldn't make such a big deal out of it. She had only just wanted to help out…

"Even more! A loyal customer," the man grinned widely. "Please accept this. It's better kept safe with you, than for someone else, or even Team Rocket again, to come try to steal it once more."

He handed her what looked like a pokéball, only it was in black and dark purple, and there was an M elegantly embossed onto the top.

"This is what my company has been developing for the past two years. It's called the Masterball," the president told her gravely. "Team Rocket really wanted to get their hands on it. You see, the Masterball has a 100% catch rate. It will catch a pokémon every time, without fail. However, this is currently the only one in existence at the moment. Please, take it. And it would also be nice if you could tell us, once you use it, how well it does."

Ash accepted it in shock. She had half a mind to refuse it, but she didn't think he would accept her refusal.

"Furthermore, the least I can do is give you and your family lifetime discounts of Silph products," he continued on. "Your parents, are they home? As a minor, I understand I may have to tell them, but as they're included, they would come to know anyway."

"Er…my mom's probably home," Ash was close to mumbling. "I don't know where my dad is."

"Oh? Do you have his contact information?"

Ash inwardly winced. "Um, what I mean is that he left. A long time ago. I…haven't heard from him since."

The president looked aggrieved. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring up something so sensitive."

She shrugged, trying to be indifferent about it. "No, it's fine. It was a long time ago, like I said. I hardly remember him now."

Still, perhaps he could do something about this. To further repay her, maybe he could look into the whereabouts of this missing father of hers…

Outside of the would-be window, a few floors up, the Team Rocket trio grumbled and cursed the helicopter that had forced them to rapidly and inhumanly reel themselves higher, avoiding a collision with it and most of the blast of winds. And also avoid blowing their cover and revealing their presence there, especially to the boss (who they definitely didn't want to know that they'd been spying or had been there at all).

"Damn that green-haired bastard!" Jessie screamed at the skies. "I don't know who he is and I don't care that he's part of the Team! I'll get him back for this!"

They were, after all, about to fall off of the barely hanging on platform, with both ropes on one side having snapped and leaving them to hang precariously on the ropes of the other side.

James just whimpered. Where was Ash when you needed her?

As Giovanni stepped onto the helicopter, his smirk fell away and he felt exhausted. His shoulders drooped as he leaned against the helicopter's door, placing his forehead against his forearm.

Proton said nothing about his boss' state, or the odd accessories that Giovanni now wore. He quietly flew the helicopter and then headed to a nondescript spot nearby, so he could land and the boss could head back to wherever he'd planned to be.

"Sir?" he asked once they'd landed.

"Report back to base," Giovanni ordered harshly. "Archer will take care of the rest. I will be continuing my ongoing…business in the meantime."

Proton nodded obediently and was about to start the helicopter again, when his boss said something that made him pause and grin madly to himself.

"Good job on your work here, Proton. You did well, and the end of it wasn't your fault."

He left as a happy subordinate, while Giovanni morosely stared off into space. He shook his head and began his rather long trek back into Saffron City and to where their transportation lay in wait, waiting for him.

After getting to the city and hailing a cab, he got out of the vehicle closer to where the jumbobus was parked and decided to walk the rest of the way. Probably a five minute walk left to where it was, he was assaulted by a very unhappy Pikachu, who jumped onto his head and hung upside down to look into Giovanni's face.

"Pika! Pika Pika, Pikachu! Pika Pikapi!" he kept chattering unhappily at Giovanni, body sparking electricity.

Giovanni picked Pikachu off of his head and uprighted him, holding him and ignoring the slight pain of the electricity sparking against his hands.

He smiled solemnly. "So you recognized me, did you?"


Giovanni sighed and placed his forehead against Pikachu's, closing his eyes tiredly.

"Please don't tell her. Please don't," Giovanni murmured.

Pikachu quieted down, staring at him.

Giovanni hung his head, still holding Pikachu.

"I can't let her know who I am. Please, Pikachu. I can't lose her," he finally admitted his only real fear, something he hadn't felt in a long, long time.

For a moment, everything was still and silent. And then Giovanni felt a soft paw gently patting his head. He lifted his head and looked up to see Pikachu looking sadly at him.

Maybe the electric mouse didn't fully understand, but at least he understood how Giovanni really felt.

"Let's get back to the others, shall we?"

Giovanni shifted Pikachu into his arms, and held him more securely, and his Persian let himself out of his pokéball, choosing to walk beside his owner and comfortingly rub up against Giovanni's legs every once and awhile.

Ash wasn't sure what was wrong. As soon as Giovanni had come back, he greeted everyone normally (if stiffly) and then proceeded to isolate himself away from everyone, gazing out the window with an unfathomable look. Pikachu, who had mysteriously disappeared earlier and had come back in Giovanni's arms, was now cuddling up against her, while watching Giovanni. Giovanni's Persian was lying by his feet, rubbing his head against the man's legs when the feline felt like it.

"You look worried," Oak whispered, reaching out and brushing her hair behind her ear.

She looked at him and gave him a small smile. "Do I?"

Oak laughed quietly. "You do. Go over to him, if you're so worried, Ash. It'll bother you until you finally do something about it, so just do something about it now."

Ash's smile grew a bit and she nodded at him, before getting up and heading over to Giovanni, holding onto Pikachu as if it would give her confidence. When she got closer, his head turned and he was looking at her, still looking odd.

"Something wrong?"

Ash pursed her lips and shook her head. Instead, she silently but stubbornly plopped herself into the seat right next to him.

Whatever was his problem, he could deal with it while she was right there with him.

Giovanni had kept to himself, feeling very aggravated and tired about the whole thing. He wasn't used to dealing with this whole emotion stuff, and he was definitely uncomfortable with the truth everything led to. He didn't want to acknowledge that at all.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ash approaching him and he felt himself automatically tense up. When all she did was sit down, he still felt unnerved about her proximity. It didn't take long for her to nervously reach over and move the armrest between them up, and then she was shyly scooting closer and then leaning against him.

He swallowed.

His eyes darted up and he saw the others watching him. Misty gave him a 'Well?' look, but he looked away from her quickly, only to find himself looking at Lt. Surge. The blond frowned and then pale blue eyes dipped down to the direction of the girl next to Giovanni and then back up to stare meaningfully at the other.

Giovanni looked to watch Ash cautiously, finding she'd fallen asleep against him. He closed his eyes and clenched his jaw. When he opened them again, he carefully moved his arm and then moved it around Ash, holding her against him. And then he decided to take it a step further, using his other arm as he bent down and put it under Ash's legs, lifting her up as he adjusted himself on the row of connected chairs to practically have his lower half lying across them as his back leaned against the side of the bus and the window.

He put his arms around her and let her lie back against his chest, holding her close. He closed his eyes again and lowered his head, burying his face against the top of her head.

His usual greediness and selfishness was putting him at the mercy of this girl, at the same time as she changed bits and pieces of him, which included those same two traits…

He wondered if he was going to fall on his own sword or hers.

Started 7/20/14 – Completed 7/27/14

A/n: Hoo, it's almost half-passed 1 am, and I'm pretty sure that I missed a lot in this read over edit. But eh…what to post this later in the morning when I wake up. I'm kinda not even sure what I'm saying or typing anymore…Anyway, please leave a review! I love hearing what everyone has to say!

Quick Points:

1. Lt. Surge's Jolteon: Actually, the only time Lt. Surge has a Jolteon is in the World Tournament and Round 2 of the Kanto Gym Leader Castle of Pokémon Stadium. But I saw this awesome fanart of all the Electric Gym Leaders' main pokémon, but they were all quadrupeds, so that's probably why Lt. Surge had Jolteon instead of Raichu. I can't find the pic right now, but when I do, I'll post the link next chapter.

2. Game Influence: This chapter was heavily game-influenced, heh. A lot of stuff from the games will be in here, like I said, mixed in with the anime stuff. Even just little trivia, info stuff –like with Bill, etc.

3. Masked Man: Actually, he's a separate character from one of the Pokémon manga, acting the Team Rocket boss in an arc. Here, he's Giovanni's alter ego. For now. Mwahaha~

4. Other Pokémon Fics: Check out my HP/Pokémon fic "Il Silenzio Delle Stelle Cadenti" (Gio/fem!Harry), "Precious Doll in This Ugly World" (a darker fem!Ash fic about how dangerous a pokémon journey should be), and "Like a Boss" (Gio/fem!Ash) and "Pinpricks of Humanity" (Gio/Ash family-ish) one-shots as late birthday fics for arashi wolf princess.