Chapter 12: Red Light, Green Light
OKAY. So, um. I admit I've been really bad at updating. XD I began writing this chapter in April...and I didn't continue 'til a few days ago. Oops. Still kinda filler, but it'll hopefully do until the next update...which could be another year again. OOPS. But enjoy anyway. :D
He was dreaming again.
Not one of the pleasant ones this time, either. It was another gruesome fight for him as he tossed and turned violently under the blankets, just one more loose end to the ultimate battle. He was in a dimly-lit room illuminated by a single red light, clinging to a pillow in the hopes that the soft while cushion would protect his fragile body. Or maybe someone would rush in and swoop him away from all the evils that faced him. Dare he think it...maybe his father would come in from nowhere and save the day like in the plot of a poorly-drawn comic.
Ha, how likely.
He took two steps back into the corner, sweat dripping down his face, as he stared up at the face of his enemy. He couldn't even see her face well between the light and the dark bangs that shaped her ravenous face. Ravenous, because beyond the mascara on her long eyelashes and the lipstick on her thin lips, she was a vicious predator who would attack anyone she pleased just for her amusement. Even her only child, even on the one day she was home that month.
She bent halfway down to meet his gaze, grinning a Sharpedo's grin beneath that beautiful face. He shivered as she gently touched his face with manicured, crimson nails. They always felt like rusted nails to him. "Look...what we've got here," she breathed in her slight Italian accent, breath heavy with alcohol and who knew what else. "Lookie here. I've got a little boy who can't seem to fight his own fights. Has to have the damn kindergarten teacher to help him. He can't even fight! He has to seduce the teacher to get the snot rolling from their noses! Now who do I have?!"
The little boy shuddered as the woman snatched him up by his shirt collar. He had messed up big time. His servants had warned him over and over not to do two things while he lived under this roof - not to cause trouble at school, and not to show his mother bad news. And of course he had been negligent of the warnings, constantly picking fights in class while he hid all the bad pink slips from his mother's path. After all, if his mother was never home and no one ever cared about him, who would stop him? But somehow this one time his mother knew, and of a fight he couldn't win, too. She would've been quite happier if he had some dignity and taken the blows like a real man.
All he could do now was suffer under her grip and gaze helplessly at that ruthless face. He scrunched up his own face to try and look like a fierce Gyarados as he laid one hand against her cheek. It was flushed with the alcohol yet still as cold as ice. "You're not my mother!" he cried.
It couldn't be true. With the torment he faced from all sides, she couldn't have been his mother. Mothers were kind and sweet, and they didn't smell like dirty mouthwash and gin on a constant basis. Mothers didn't try to pick fights with their six-year-olds and with big, buff men. Mothers baked cookies for Christmas. She wasn't even home on Christmas. "You're not my mother!" he repeated. "You're not, you're not, you're not! You kidnapped Father and sold him to the devil!"
"You shut your mouth and get your hand off me, brat boy!" she snapped. Thwap, the hand was smacked away from her face, and she shook him until he felt vomit coming up his chest. "You worthless, no-good little bastard!"
She threw him against the corner, making him drop the pillow. He coughed, rolling over to his side so she wouldn't get him too good. "You're not my mother! You're not my mother! You're not, you're not!"
"You're not my mother," he mumbled weakly underneath the covers.
"Oh, God, I don't quite know what I would do if I were, Sir."
One eye fluttered open. Across from him Mondo looked distraught while holding two cups of something. Were they in the back of a bar or something? There was sure to have been something weird going on last night that he couldn't remember. But it didn't really matter. If he was going to stay on vacation, there had to be some boundaries, and that included keeping that troubled boy on a leash. No one liked a worrywart crybaby.
The next thing he heard was a crash close to him and a sharp cry. Mondo sounded like he was freaking out as if the place caught on fire. Giovanni groaned loudly and turned over to his side. Endless torment from both his dreams and reality seemed to always haunt him. As the boy's babbling rose in volume, someone else was quick to intervene. "Mondo, honey, Mondo," the second voice said, calm and soothing. "Mondo, calm down, honey. He's not going to get mad at you over this. It's going to be okay. Just get some towels and we'll get this all cleaned up."
"But the tea got all over his polo. I killed his polo, nooo!"
"THAT WAS A $200 CUSTOM-MADE POLO FROM SAFFRON CITY!"
And that was when Giovanni rolled out of bed for the second time that week, straight into his favorite, coffee-stained polo shirt. Muffled by the thick carpet the hotel provided, he merely banged a fist against the carpet to quiet the frenzied boy. Mondo shut his mouth and held a towel over half his face as he watched his boss sit up and rub his head in frustration. Behind the boy Delia glared at him, holding another shirt in her hands. She patted her companion on the head while throwing the shirt at Giovanni, who realized he was shirtless. "It's going to be okay, Mondo. Just let the mean old man rage for a bit."
With that she turned around and went into the kitchen. Mondo followed her, leaving Giovanni to ponder upon his late-night adventures. What had happened last night?
"-and then Domino tried to attack the nice lady, and then later me and Miss Delia had a good late-night talk before finding you again. You're very heavy, Sir."
Giovanni took another sip at his coffee and continued to stare at Mondo, bemused. Based on what he could piece together with a splitting headache and a cloud of anger, last night was mostly Mondo's fault. No, all Mondo's fault. They had picked up a hooker - or a scientist, as Mondo wanted to put it - and then the boy lost track of his own employer with gallivanting with said hooker. Somehow Delia got involved in this whole mess, but judging from her current coldness toward him it looked like she wouldn't talk to him even if he asked nicely. At least she acknowledged his presence.
At least he was in the right room and not going crazy. He would've bet that somewhere on the same floor, chaos was running rampant as his fellow 'comrades' tried to tear each other to pieces over something as ridiculous as the remote control. Well, his suite had three remote controls and a high-definition television. If only he could see Surge's and Koga's jealous faces without actually seeing them. There was always the prospect of teasing Mondo with the remotes, but it was too easy to work up that boy. The stained polo was proof enough.
Another sip. He tapped against the glass table and leaned back, eyeing Mondo. Good help was hard to find nowadays. Mondo continued to gawk back like a sick Magikarp as he put his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't mean to insult your weight. I was only trying to hel-"
"Is that all?"
Mondo nodded. Giovanni grinned and leaned over the table, pointing in the kitchen's direction. "You wanna tell me if she's still angry at me or not?"
"Think she is, Sir."
They sat in silence. He rubbed a hand over his forehead, still keeping one eye fixed on the boy to try and amuse him somehow, but not even Mondo's anxiousness couldn't cheer him up that much. Why couldn't he ever be right? Throughout the many years he had known Delia, he hadn't been right any more than ten times. And now she was right this time about siding with Domino and Sebastian, as much as he hated to admit it. She was right, he was wrong, and now she was in the kitchen, probably making an angry breakfast for them all.
He still couldn't believe this, though, and he had seen it with his own eyes. Four of his most trusted executives were out to terminate him? Impossible, simply impossible. But it was true, and now he once again had to make things up with Delia somehow. The other hand also went to his forehead, blocking his vision of Mondo as he grumbled under his breath. He was too old to be upsetting Delia like this. Maybe in addition to a fridge he'd get her a bigger TV. Women liked bigger TVs.
"What are you going to do, Sir?"
Giovanni lifted his hands from his face. Mondo was staring back, seemingly concerned. That boy's worries would be the death of him, but at least he didn't try to throw coffee in his face like Domino did. He attempted to smile as he stood up from his seat, placing a hand on Mondo's shoulders, but it seemed to the both of them that the kind gesture was being attempted by an Abomasnow instead of an older man. It was the thought that counted. "Do a very manly thing," he replied. "You can learn something for once, Mondo."
"What's that, Sir?"
The man left Mondo speechless as he walked past him to the kitchen. As he had anticipated, the room smelled like an angry breakfast. (Unlike the standard gym leader suites, his kitchen was an actual kitchen, complete with cooking accessories and utensils.) Three plates were neatly positioned in the middle of another table, stacked with eggs, bacon, and hash browns. In the middle of the middle was a vase with what looked like to be ordinary daisies. Giovanni couldn't help frowning at this. Such a tasty breakfast like this was almost insulted by something like daisies. Those daisies couldn't help relieve the tension no matter how hard they tried.
Flowers weren't important at the moment, though. Bent over the small kitchen sink, furiously scrubbing away at a pan, was Delia. For a few minutes he stood silent as he watched her, his frown growing deeper. He never did like seeing her wash dishes. She was always trying to be the perfect housewoman, even when she was upset, and he hated it. Whenever they got into arguments, he did not want her to vent her anger by cleaning. (Actually he didn't want her to clean at all, but there wasn't much he could do about it.) Perhaps if he wouldn't have upset her so much, she could've had Mondo do the work. He didn't mind Mondo cleaning.
But he couldn't worry too much about that, either. Not now. He took a step forward and cleared his throat, hoping she would want to hear him. "I'm sorry."
She turned around, and all Giovanni could think about were her pouting lips as she rested a dishtowel over one of her arms. No, there wasn't necessarily anger in her face. Just disappointment, which was probably worse than any anger she could dish out at him. There was also a bit of surprise in her expression, which was appropriate given his extreme reluctance to really apologize for anything. He was not filled with 'sorries', and Delia knew it, but he only hoped that she took him seriously. "Vanni, you can't just do this to me," she finally said, sighing, still pouting. Not anger, but definitely something unsettling in her expression. "I was planning on being angry with you for a couple of more days. What do you expect me to do now?"
Utter disappointment. Now Giovanni was the one who was taken aback. "I beg your pardon?"
Delia shook her head and leaned against the counter. Maybe it really was a bad idea to apologize. "We go through the same thing over and over again. You go crazy at the mere thought of being proven wrong."
"I do no-"
"Fine, I'm a very prideful man, all right?!" Giovanni snapped, smacking a hand against the wall. He hadn't meant to lose his temper so quickly, but he also didn't like having his wrongs rubbed in his face. Not even Delia should've gotten away with doing that kind of stuff to him. "I admit it. I was wrong, you were right! And you'll probably be right the next few times! Look, but you gotta understand I've been on my best behavior. I'm trying really hard."
"Oh, so you consider getting drunk and throwing tantrums to be your best behavior?"
"Have you seen what I do on a normal basis?"
"Then you need to try harder!"
SMACK! went the pan as it banged against the sink. Delia was back to abusing those poor dishes, and even though she was turned around, Giovanni could now sense anger in the way she scrubbed. Looked like this apology backfired, too. Why did it always end up like this? He looked back to see if Mondo could be of any help, but the boy's gaze was downward as he twiddled his thumbs, looking as miserable and meek as he always did. Useless.
Yet it wasn't all Mondo's fault, and now he had little choice but to try harder. What if Surge or Koga somehow found out where they were and saw Delia like this? He'd never hear the end of it. Besides, he didn't like seeing her like this, either. She was supposed to be the sweet countrywoman who made snacks in the day and played detective at night. There was no time for her to be angry. Unlike him, whenever she was in a bad mood, the world seemed to stop on its tracks. People didn't like nice girls getting angry. Besides, her pouting face didn't have anything on her compared to those innocent smiles she gave, the kind of smile that filled him with enough passion to make him smash through walls...
What was he thinking?
This had to stop. He walked over to the sink and rested his hands on her hips, although this was probably a bad idea as well. His hands rubbed up and down those hips a couple of times before settling around her stomach. Her figure definitely wasn't bad for her age. "Please, Delia, you gotta believe me on this," he murmured gently, squeezing her stomach. Good Mew, it was too soft for his hardened hands. "I can smash phones and desks and everything. About a week before I left vacation, all the suppliers had to scatter to find me two desks within the same week. Mondo remembers. He knows I've been behaving." Pause. "Can't you forgive me just this once?"
She giggled beneath him. It could've been a good or bad thing. "If you weren't so tall, I wouldn't think you to be that much of a tough guy."
"Looks are too deceiving."
Another pause. Then Delia turned around, wagging her dishtowel in a threatening manner, and grinned. She giggled again and leaned in closer to him, and all he could think about was her sweet fragrance, her various curves up and down her body, her. He couldn't think beyond her at the current second; breakfast would be a waste. Maybe this was going beyond apologizing, but he didn't care about that, either. She was wrecking his entire being. "No, you're too deceiving, Vanni," she cooed. Wrecking his entire being to rubble. "How am I ever supposed to stay mad at you?"
"Heh. You must be more assertive."
"But it's tough."
"I bet it is."
He smirked as his fingers walked down her back. By now he realized that Mondo was probably watching the whole thing, but once again he didn't have any worries. This might have been exactly what the 'doctor' ordered - a warm, cuddling session to go with his semivacation. After all, they weren't actual police officers, so they didn't have to focus on the case 24-7. They could goof off every once in a while, too.
But the expression that was now on her face said otherwise. It was obvious in those big, brown eyes of her that she was hesitating. He was sure that they were both a little rusty with this sort of thing, but once he managed to get her in the mood, she would probably be even more eager about doing this than he was. It was still morning, so no one important would notice, and women liked being a little naughty now and then, didn't they? "What's the matter, Delia?" he breathed, tightening his grip on her. "I thought you were good in the kitchen."
"Vanni, I'm not very comfortable in doing this."
"We can always kick Mondo out. MONDO, GET OUT."
"No, you can stay, honey." She frowned, and it took all the willpower Giovanni had not to throw Mondo out of the suite, anyway. Young people were always trying to ruin his fun. "That's not what I meant, Vanni. I mean your grip's kinda tight. I don't think-"
"You don't think what- AAAAHHH, MY BACK."
He saw shades of green as he thudded against the hard kitchen tile. Emerald, forest, and any other shade of green his mind could produce...and on top of him was Delia, half-laying on his chest, her face turning a solid shade of red. As he tried sitting up, he noticed his own flushing face, and now his thoughts were all plagued with total splashes of violence. Embarrassment, complete embarrassment. It was an absolutely stupid thing to do to apologize. He should have waited for the designated time to mumble a sheepish, half-assed sorry like he usually did, but no, the great Team Rocket boss had to do things differently this time. And not only did he embarrass himself with one of the few people he actually liked, he did it in front of the lowest members in the entire organization. If Mondo ever blabbed about this, he could kiss restructuring Team Rocket goodbye forever. Instant blackmail.
Delia made sure to wiggle off of him and help herself back on her feet using the counter. She picked up the fallen dishtowel and looked down at him. Any previous anger or passion that was previously in her eyes was replaced by pity. She was probably thinking similar thoughts to him, having been used to her privacy. It would be bad if Mondo ruined his reputation; it would be the end of Mondo's world if Mondo even thought of ruining Delia's reputation. Once again violence triggered in his head.
So of course Mondo would pick this time to peep his head in the kitchen, with a coffee cup in his hands. His coffee cup. "Would you like some more coffee, Si-"
"GET OUT NOW."
About an hour later, the three of them were awkwardly situated around the high-definition television, finishing the last of the cold, angry breakfast. On one side of Delia was Mondo, determined to stare at anything that wasn't his boss. He didn't like hot coffee being spilled on his delicate hands, and the only barrier that kept him from further injury at the moment was Miss Delia. Mondo didn't know what his boss was so upset about, either, but even he realized that the Boss had some sort of weakness against her, or else he would've already been tied up to a pole somewhere in the hotel. Still, he still wasn't completely safe from the Boss's death glares, and so he decided to keep his head low and focused on the floor. For being a top-rated hotel, the floor wasn't that spotless.
On the other side of Delia was Giovanni, determined to keep staring at Mondo until he melted like a stick of butter. He would keep a close eye on the boy until he made sure blackmailing was completely out of the question. He knew Mondo couldn't be harmed as long as Delia was around, so intimidating the boy was the next best thing. If Delia knew what he was doing, though, she kept a pretty good secret of it as she continued to admire the high-definition television. It actually wasn't that impressive, at least not in his opinion, but it made her happy. "Oh, look at this, Vanni! Over 200 channels!" she chirped, placing a hand over one of his. "What do you want to watch?"
Her hand felt soft. He didn't really care. "Whatever you want. I'm not much for television."
"Oh, neither am I. Mondo, honey, what about you?"
"Spongebob it is."
So they watched a program called Spongebob in their awkward positions, and Giovanni now felt twice as compelled to tie Mondo up somewhere and beat the ever-living snot out of him. Did boys his age really watch this crap? All he could see from this cartoon was an overemotional sponge who seemed to be pitied by the entire town. Just like Mondo. Oh, wait...
Before he could create any bloodshed, he decided to feign responsibility once again, allowing his hand to take charge and rub the softness of Delia's hand. Again, if she noticed his gestures, she didn't pay much attention to it. "So, did you find anything out in my absence?" he asked.
Despite the situation he really hoped it was a no. As much as he would've liked getting revenge on those ungrateful executives he once called trustworthy, he was too tired to make much real effort without a few cups of coffee. Thankfully Delia's head lowered and she winced, not nearly as happy about the lack of knowledge. "No, I'm afraid not. We were all a little tired last night." She looked up at him expectantly, already knowing the answer to her next question. "What about you, Vanni? You didn't find anything, did you?"
"Not unless the main culprit was a screwdriver."
"...I hope your head hurts horribly."
Giovanni had to chuckle. "It does very much, but to be fair a certain someone couldn't stop me."
"Don't blame it on poor Mondo now. If it wasn't for him, you might not have arrived here safely."
That was regrettably true. Without Mondo's extreme care and paranoia, he might've been sitting in the Viridian City Jail right now, and the Viridian City Officer Jenny definitely didn't like him that much to give him the bail option. He would've been loaded with tickets. The mere thought of being buried in fines made Giovanni reconsider Mondo's position all of a sudden. If the boy refused to let him rot in jail, then maybe he wouldn't consider blackmailing him, either. Or perhaps this was a scheme for an even larger blackmail setup. There wasn't enough caffeine in the world to think these kinds of things through.
Delia continued to look at him expectantly. No, there wasn't any way of getting around this. He cleared his throat and lowered his glare to half of its intenseness. "Mondo?"
Brown eyes trailed upwards a couple of inches. Cheeks had regained some of its color. "Y-Yes, Sir?"
"...you're not so bad. Maybe someday you'll grow up to be a little better than what you are."
"C-Could I b-be as good as M-Miss Domino?"
"Heh. Absolutely not."
A thudding sound jolted all three out of their seats. Mondo took over Delia's other hand, which probably wasn't such a good idea given his forgiveness. As always Delia was oblivious to the tension that was quickly reforming between the two men, more concerned of whatever noises lurked beyond the room. She turned off the television, grimacing as she released the grip of both men's hands. "What was that?"
Mondo shrugged. Giovanni snorted. "Probably some worker walked in on something inappropriate. Happens all the time."
The screaming continued. After a couple of minutes, Delia got off the couch and was halfway to the exit when she suddenly turned around, glaring at the two men. Mondo lowered his gaze again, and Giovanni placed a hand behind his head, groaning. He knew what was coming and why she had stopped. "Do we really have to, Delia?"
"You don't have to do anything. I'm going to check out what's going on, and if I come back safe or not is none of your damn business!"
She slammed the door behind her, and Giovanni groaned again, rolling his eyes. Women. If he wanted to keep on Delia's good side for a while, he would also have to go along with her whims. And if he had to play the hero to stay on her good side, he had little choice but to play along. Honestly, what inspired women to have such superhero fantasies, anyway? Whatever happened to women being attracted to those mustached fellows that tied them up to railroad tracks?
Grumbling under his breath, he grabbed Mondo's hand and stomped outside of the room, dragging the squeaking boy along with him. If he wasn't allowed to ignore the cries of help and agony and be that carefree man on vacation, then neither was Mondo. No. Mondo wasn't even on vacation, that sneaky little rascal! He, Domino, and Sebastian had escaped from the jungle party headquarters to warn him of this crap, remember? But Giovanni never heard any of them asking for some quality vacation time. All of this work was actually on the time that he expected them to do work. In a certain sense, if he didn't drag Mondo along with him, he'd be depriving him of doing his proper duties.
They followed along Delia's path, towards the gym leaders' suites. Giovanni realized that the other group had to have been there and that the noises were probably coming from one of them. Typical. Wherever he turned around, one of those morons had to screw something up and make trouble for all of them. It was one of the smaller reasons why he had resigned as gym leader a few years ago. And they were supposed to be the good guys? If they were involved in Team Rocket, world domination would be accomplished a lot more quickly.
He was stopped in his thoughts as Mondo froze ahead of him. He was about to yell at the boy when his own stomach turned. One of the suites's doors was open, and it was not a pretty sight. Ahead of the two of them was Delia, who was trying to restrain an uncontrollably sobbing woman with oversized clothes. Probably the hooker he and Mondo had picked up last night. She didn't seem to have a real problem, though.
His eyes trailed to the room's whole. Things were knocked over, like crushed pizza boxes and decorative shot glasses. The curtains were knocked down, bedsheets were in a small pile on the floor, and that crazy Gloom was muttering to itself again. All could be considered typical of these people. What really caught his eye (and his stomach), however, was the hunched figure that was in the middle of all of that mess. Breathing heavily, blood spewing out around the shoulder area, leaking down a thin, graying chest...normally Giovanni would've been indifferent about people getting shot. Often it was their own fault. But not this one.