016. Part of my 100 Songs Challenge.

Inspired By: Darkness, The Human League

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon or the song. Obviously.

A/N: I began writing this at 4:30 am. 'Nuff said, amirite? I've taken a lot of liberties with this, so just… let it happen? xD


Giovanni is not a good man.

Though this, he supposes, is hardly a revelation. Anyone with eyes can see it – in the hard set of his jaw and the dangerous clench of his muscles and the expression on his face that tells of all the lives he has taken on his way to the top. He walks with a purpose, they think, but they don't see his wary glances and cautious footfalls when the darkness gets too deep. He is a man destined to lead, they think, but they aren't there when he curses the heavens, asking questions he knows the answers to.

Giovanni has killed more times than he likes to remember. And it's not as if he enjoys it. Every time he is forced to watch the spark of life fizzle out in the eyes of another, every time he is forced to hear their whispered pleas and last-minute prayers to a god who never cared, a small fragment of his humanity shatters within him.

He's not sure how many shards he has left before he becomes something else entirely – a machine, perhaps, or a vengeful entity cast like a plague upon the innocent.

His time, he thinks, is running out.

Giovanni has tortured more times than he likes to remember. And it's not as if he gets some sick pleasure from it. Screams and sobs and cries for mercy sound the same to him as they sound to every other human – they have no lovely ring to his tainted ears. He simply hears them more than most. And though he hires the most talented musicians in the world to entertain him, and though he hears the exquisite sound of the bow across the violin strings or the gentle pluck of the harp, it's so hard to concentrate when the screams keep echoing through your mind.

He's not sure how much longer he has until the music is drowned out entirely, and the screams become all he can hear when he lies awake in the night's darkest hours.

His time, he thinks, is running out.

Giovanni has caused pain more times than he likes to remember. And it's not as if he's proud of it. He walks through his laboratories, glimpsing the dull suffering in the eyes of the Pokemon imprisoned there, and feels nothing but emptiness. It's a strange thing, this emptiness, as if his heart were a frozen tundra of rock and black ice where nothing can grow, no matter how hard it tries.

But it does try.

And subconsciously, maybe he tries as well. To care, that is. Maybe he wants to feel compassion for those creatures in the cages, for those prisoners in the cells, for those bodies at his feet.

But he'll never be certain, for he is a man who no longer knows himself.

Giovanni has loved more times than he likes to remember, back in the days when his heart was just beginning to freeze. It's not as if he still loves like he used to. His capacity for such things is long buried beneath the black, black ice and the rough, cracked stone. But the memories of these loves are so clear to him that if he closes his eyes and pretends, he can almost imagine himself a simple man. And these pretend moments are what he lives for.

He remembers his mother sometimes, with her tight-lipped smiles and strict rules for proper conduct. He remembers how, when his father was away, she would laugh and dance and read him stories he should've heard long before, and her hair would fall down her back and she would weave flowers all through it. And when his father returned she would pin her hair back once more with only a hint of sadness in her eyes. He remembers his sister sometimes, with her mournful gaze and her ragged teddy bear that she took everywhere, dragging it along the floors and through the gardens. He remembers his grief when the illness finally claimed her, and wonders why one insignificant life had meant so very much to him. He remembers his best friend sometimes, a meek wisp of a boy who had depended on him for protection. That pathetic boy would have done anything he asked him to, he realizes. He would have followed him blindly to the ends of the earth, if only to bask in his glow just a little while longer.

He remembers his wife sometimes.

He remembers her face, pallid and twisted and yet so very beautiful as she gazed down upon the face of her newborn son. And he remembers her beckoning him closer, and whispering in his ear the words he had always dreaded.

"I know, Giovanni," she murmured, and raised a trembling hand to caress his cheek, fingers brushing over lines that shouldn't have been there, not yet. "I know everything."

And then she died, from the pain or the blood loss or some combination of the two, and all he could say was, "No one knows everything."

He remembers taking his son, so abnormally quiet for a newborn, into his arms and carrying him away without a backwards glance. He remembers her funeral, when the sea of black-clad mourners had parted for him as he approached and tossed a single white lily upon her coffin. And he wonders sometimes why it pains him to remember such things. He had loved her, yes, but all loves must eventually wither and fade away into oblivion. The black ice spares nothing.

Giovanni remembers his son sometimes – remembers the years of discipline and training, of hatred and oppressed affection. He remembers the adoration that once dwelt within those dark eyes, which faded into obscurity with each passing year. He remembers how it was slowly replaced by a loathing that seared and burned like dancing flames. He remembers the feel of skin splitting beneath his hands, and the gleam of defiance in those dark, dark eyes that always made him seethe.

He remembers a night not long ago when they had sat alone together at the dining room table set for ten. And he still hears his son's voice, quiet but with an edge of danger, as he spoke up through the silence.

"My mother," Silver said, out of the blue. His eyes stared fixedly at his empty plate. "My mother. What was she like?"

There were many things that Giovanni did not discuss. The past was utmost among them. But on this night, his mood had perhaps been particularly charitable.

It was difficult, he thought, summing up such a woman in a few short words. So instead he gave a simple answer, one sure to infuriate his son, for it told so little.

"She was a much better person than I," Giovanni murmured.

And Silver turned to look him in the eye, onyx against onyx, flames of hatred burning bright.

"That could be said of anyone."

Silver expected to be beaten for such a comment. It was plain in the way he tensed in his seat, anticipating the pain of a backhand slap across the face. But Giovanni was tired. The screams had kept him up the past few nights, and sleep had evaded his weary mind. He simply could not muster the strength within him to teach Silver the lesson he deserved.

And so he settled for the truth.

"You're right, son," he whispered. "You're so very right."