Author's Note: Well, hi. Shorter update time for a much shorter chapter this time.

For some reason I hate this chapter. It'll probably take me a year to stop hating it.

By the way, Silver has no idea how to take care of an unconscious person. If Silver does something stupid, it's his stupidity, not mine.

Insert obligatory comment on the new games. "Lulz can't wait 'til my White Version shows up in the mail!"

I bet no one's reading fanfic for anything but Black and White right now. GOOD TIME TO UPDATE, SELF.

Enjoy the chapter.

You're still here?

Well, good morning. If it is morning.

You've been unconscious for a long time. If I didn't hate you, I'd be worried by now.

I'm not feeling particularly guilty, though. I know I didn't hit you that hard. You must be sick from something else. Have you been eating enough? Are you anorexic, maybe? You really are skinny, after all. And I really wouldn't be surprised to learn that you're the type who cares way too much about appearance. That would explain why you wore such nice clothes to go training in a mountain cave.

I'm not inclined to feel sorry for you if you're starving by choice. But there remains a chance that you're not. Maybe you're just sick. Either way, you should probably eat something, because of how long you've been out.

There's a path in this cave that leads to a valley where a few berry trees grow. I picked a few and brought them here to store them. You can have some.

Is it OK to give food to an unconscious person? I'll just put one in your mouth and see what happens. Have as many as you want, I guess. I don't care. I'm not hungry anyway.

Hmph. I can't believe I said all of that out loud that time. I mean, about my father. I don't talk about him. I didn't want the world to know where I came from until after I proved I could rise above it. But that will never happen. I can accept that fact now. Maybe that's why I told you my secret.

Whenever I would think about my father or the Rocket grunts, I used to feel this thing rise up inside me. This slimy thing. It was so thick and real it would make me gag, but no amount of retching could make it go away. You'd probably say it was just my own anger, but it wasn't. I know the difference. When I got angry I'd scream and yell and push people around, but when the slimy thing was there I couldn't do anything. It bound me.

It made me choke on air. That's what it did.

I probably sound insane right now. But I never could shake my childhood fear that the slimy thing was an external force that had come to take over.

It doesn't come anymore, though I myself didn't scare it away. It left of its own free will. It doesn't think I'm worth terrorizing anymore. Either way, it means I'm safe.

Maybe that's another reason I can talk to you.

I didn't always blame my father for the slimy thing, though. I blamed myself. I thought I just wasn't strong enough to keep it away. I always wanted to be strong like my father.

I didn't realize back then how he was weak, too. I didn't know he was a coward.

Not even when he ran away.

I didn't believe the grunts when they started spreading rumors that he was leaving. We'd long since abandoned this mountain and moved to a secret base in Saffron City underneath the Game Corner by then, and the whispered gossip echoed in the halls. "He's gone." "It's 'cause that Red kid beat him!" "Red drove him out!" "He left us." "He quit." "He didn't even send a final paycheck!" "All our efforts as Team Rocket were for nothing!"

They bustled past me back then, ignoring me but for the sake of not tripping over me. Everyone was rushing to pack their bags and say their good-byes. I mocked them. I called them stupid.

There was no way that Red kid beat my dad.

I'd seen Red before. He was in our base running somewhere, when he stopped suddenly and met my eye. I stuck my tongue out him. He didn't say anything. He just stared at me a minute before moving on. He was just a kid with blue jeans. He had a Pikachu following him around everywhere. A Pikachu. He was pathetic. So why did all the grunts freak out whenever he showed up?

There was no way he'd really beat us. Even if he had, by some slight possibility, managed to defeat my father, my father could just go to a Pokémon Center, get his Pokémon healed, and then come back.

There was no way my father would abandon Team Rocket because of Red.

I stayed waiting in the same spot in the hall way, even as the number of Rockets in the building dwindled. I heard the grunts' voices as they passed me. Sometimes they were amused: "Are you serious? Boss didn't even take his own son with him when he left?" Sometimes they were annoyed: "Kid, I don't care where you go, but get out of the busy hallway!" A few of them actually expressed concern. I yelled at them defiantly, "You don't know my dad! He'll come back, you'll see! You'll all be sorry when he gets back and fires you for ditching!"

"Poor kid," they would chuckle.

When the hallway finally emptied, I curled up into a ball and pressed my head as hard as I could against my knees. My nose dripped a little bit, but I didn't cry.

The heater hummed. Music blasted from upstairs. I tried to block it all out but it was always there.

And one time, out of a sudden, footsteps. I thought that all the Rockets were gone. Dad? I lifted my head quickly.

It wasn't him. It was Noshio. He wasn't wearing a uniform, and I could tell he was surprised to see me. He ran to me like he had to tell me something urgent, but he just sat down next to me without saying anything. He stayed there a long time. He didn't leave until I fell asleep.

He was back the next day after I woke up. He'd brought sandwiches. Since food was sold in the Game Corner, most Rockets in the Saffron base weren't as inclined to take too many of the free lunches, and I'd been eating much better there than I did here, But no one had come to deliver lunch since two days ago. I inhaled the sandwich. Noshio was strangely quiet as he nibbled his own sandwich slowly.

"I've been… going around the city trying to find a new job," Noshio told me hesitantly.

I stopped eating. "Once my dad comes back, you'll be in trouble!"

"Even if… if your father comes back, I'll have to find a new job. I can't keep fighting for something that every part of me believes is wrong anymore," he said. "I can't keep lying to my family about what I've been doing. I can't stay here."

"He is coming back," I said defiantly.

"I really hope so." Noshio tossed me a candy bar.

He came back to check on me and bring me food periodically for I don't know how long. It could've been a week; it could've been a month. Every time he dropped subtle hints that he didn't think my father was coming back for me, and every time I denied it. The more I started to believe him, the more fiercely I argued against him.

And then came the day when he dropped in during the middle of the night. He woke me up. His face was red.

"I can't keep coming here anymore," he said flatly. "I'm sorry, but I have to leave."

"What happened?" I asked meekly. I'd never seen him so upset before.

"I can't – you wouldn't understand." He sounded angry, and I wondered if he was angry at me.

"Listen, Silver. I won't be here to take care of you anymore. I need you to tell me what you're going to do from here. How are you going to take care of yourself?"

"Wh-what?" I sat up. "I don't need you to take care of me anyway! I'm just here waiting for my dad!"

"What will you do if he doesn't come back?" Noshio demanded. "Because right now, that's the only outcome of this situation that I can foresee. If he was going to return, he'd have returned a long time ago. I'm sorry."

It was like a slap in the face. "You're wrong!"

"No. I'm not."

Tears threatened to escape, but I held them back. I sniffled.

He held out a hand. "Come on, Silver." His voice was gentler. "Please stop doing this to yourself. Please don't throw your life away waiting for that awful man. You're better than that. He doesn't deserve you."

I stared at his hand. It was wrinkled, calloused, and hairy. But I knew he was offering more than a hand. If I accepted it, he would have taken me with him. Taught me his views of Pokémon that so differed from my father's. Changed me into something I didn't know how to be.

And I will always wonder how my life would have been if I had taken his hand at that moment.

But I didn't. I got scared. Scared to face reality. Scared of the novelty.

"No!" I screamed at him, springing to my feet. "I don't need any help from you!"

He cupped his hand against his face. "Well then," he said quietly, "I guess you've made your choice. Good luck, Silver."

I watched him run away. Even now I wonder what he was hoping to catch, and if he ever caught it.

I soaked in sweat of pure and frustration for a long time, curled in the fetal position on the hard cot, getting more and more agitated. I'd never had to make a decision like the one I'd just made. I'd never been ready to make such a decision. And yet even as I decided it, I filled with regret. When I just couldn't take it anymore, I leaped up and ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I couldn't take that base anymore. I couldn't take the waiting.

I knew that my father would never come. I just didn't know how to admit it.

It was the middle of the night, and few people remained on the streets. I followed the closest source of light, an open Pokémon Center, and stuck my head in. Noshio wasn't there. He wasn't in the PokéMart, either, nor any of the houses. Noshio was gone. Father was gone. I couldn't find them. They weren't looking for me. Finally I ran back into the Pokémon Center. A large group of Trainers was crowded around a TV, and I curiously and exhaustedly paused to join them. A battle was being shown – a battle against the Champion! As a large wave crashed over the Champion's Lizardon, the footage cut off and zoomed in on the challenger's face. The stunned and elated face belonged to none other than that Red kid.

And suddenly it was then – I don't know why – that I realized Father was gone once and for all. That was the first time I felt the slimy thing. It survived off of my confusion, mostly my confusion about Father. Part of me wanted to hate him. I knew he deserved my hatred. I knew he ignored me, left me to be raised by people who hurt me, never told me the truth. And yet, part of me still admired him. He wasn't all bad. If he had been all bad, it would have been easy to hate him. The problem was that he had good things about him, too. He was strong, and influential, and smart. Between his Fossil Project and his Silph Project, he spent time with me in the hideout. He taught me how to battle with Pokémon. He let me practice battle against him with a Caterpie he loaned me against a Ratta he wanted to train, and I won sometimes, and whenever I'd win he would say, "Good job. You'll be a good Rocket Boss someday." That's what I was thinking about whenever I shouted to the grunts that he wouldn't leave. See how pathetic I was? He made a fool out of me, because I believed in him and stood up for him and he didn't even come back to prove me right. He'd forgotten me.

If Team Rocket was gone, what use was I as an heir? I understand now.

And then there was Noshio. Yeah, he was nice and he gave me candy, but at the end of the day, I was just a boy he knew. He was just trying to make me into a surrogate for his own kid. Once he "found himself", quit Team Rocket, and got to see his own family, he forgot me, too.

And the slimy thing taunted me, asking me everyday what I could have done to change things. What could have given me value as my own person? What could have made people remember me? How would I be remembered now?

I didn't want to go back to the base. I was sick of waiting. I spent my days outside learning to pickpocket. I was really bad at it at first, but I learned to watch for people falling asleep on benches and I began to notice that the best way to tell where someone's money is: it's at the place they'll periodically place their hand there to check and make sure it hasn't been stolen. The irony struck me as hilarious. It was especially hilarious on the rare occasions when, after I stole something, I coincidentally saw that person again later and witness that person in hysterics about what happened to their money, while meanwhile I'm sitting there eating the ice-cream cone I bought with it. I guess you can say I never really had any qualms about stealing. Even now I don't, honestly, though I haven't stolen in a while because I've made so much money from battles. But money goes fast. At some point I'll need to start stealing again, I guess. I never really thought about it until now. You'd better wake up soon, or I'll start with you. If I can't beat you in battle, at least I can outsmart you. Stealing kind of feels like winning sometimes.

Tch. You know the worst thing the slimy thing ever did? It told me to go up against you. Before I even met you, the slimy thing was answering its own questions about how to get revenge on the ones who left me behind. Become a great Trainer, it told me. Become the Champion, just like Red. Don't let anyone win. If someone defeats you once, keep challenging him or her until victory. That was why I constantly challenged you. Just keep training your Pokémon, it told me, keep getting stronger until by sheer force of will, you end up on top.

The slimy thing got me into this mess. But at the same time, I can't hate it. If it weren't for the slimy thing, I'd never have met my beloved Pokémon. They would have been better off never having known me, but I selfishly can't help but be grateful for them, and the happiest times of my life with them by my side.

I wonder what they're doing now. I wonder if they stayed together. I wonder if they wonder what happened to me. I should have said good-bye to them, but I just couldn't trust myself to face them.

I wonder if they forgive me for all the times I hurt them. I'm not sure if I want them to or not.