Max pulled his face out of the mud and wiped his cheeks. He was panting, struggling to catch his breath. His whole body ached and his eyes were beginning to water. He glanced back at his trainer, looking for some kind of guidance, for kind of command, but none came. All he saw was confusion and panic; it was all he ever saw in Boston. He started blinking rapidly, attempting to arouse himself; he could no longer think clearly. In the corner of his eye he saw a brown creature moving with terrifying speed, and instantly he knew what was coming. His entire body tensed as he braced for impact. A powerful kick to the face sent him flying backwards, on to his back.
Max's eyes opened. The world seemed to be flying by him. Lights were blurring past and everything was blending together, leaving him distraught and afraid. Instinctively, he looked for comfort, for anything familiar. First, all he could make out was a man above and behind him, but he didn't recognize him. He was beginning to panic. He could feel everything growing dimmer. But then, he saw Boston. Boston was to his side, tears in his eyes, even more terrified than him.
Boston's eyes met with Max's and immediately he knelt close to the tragic creature.
"Max! Please! Please don't be hurt! I promise you! Just please, God, don't be hurt!" Boston began sobbing.
Max grew even more afraid. Something was wrong, but he couldn't tell what. The lights were growing dimmer. Darkness was encompassing him from all sides. He wanted to fight it, but it felt so good… He drifted out of consciousness.
He had just finished coloring a picture. It was for Boston. Max attempted to examine the picture, but no matter how hard he looked at it, it remained a blur. The picture was an indefinable blob. But it didn't matter: Max knew that it was beautiful, or at least, it was the best he could do. Boston would love it…
He stood up and hobbled his way down the hallway of their house. The living room wasn't far, but it seemed to take a life time to arrive there. However, when he finally did, he found Boston sitting on the couch, sobbing loudly, face buried in his hands. He tried to ask him why, but the words would not come. Instead, he handed Boston the picture, hoping to cheer him up. Boston took the picture and looked at it. For a moment, he stopped completely and stared, but soon, he started crying again – this time even harder. Max looked on in horror, unable to do anything. He couldn't run, he couldn't hide, and he couldn't find the words to console Boston. He watched him sob; and soon, did the same himself. He felt rejected, guilty, empathetic, and most poignantly of all, hopeless.
Max opened his eyes. At first, everything was blurry and staying conscious was a chore, but as he started to understand he wasn't at home, he became more alert. To his right he saw a window, and to his left there was a bathroom. All around him were odd pieces of machinery and cabinets. Below him was a firm mattress, covered by a thin sheet. On top of him was a cheap, cotton blanket.
He was no stranger to this place; it was the Pokémon Center. Many times he had been sent there in the past, usually after losing a battle – or rather, after losing another battle. Max sat up and clicked the button to this side to alert the nurse he was wake, and only seconds later he heard her soft voice ring through the speaker on its top.
"One second, please!"
The nurse entered the room and asked if he was feeling better. He told her he was, despite the fact his body ached – especially his jaw - and the discomfort from his dream had persisted. She helped him out of bed to use the bathroom and then told him that she would be calling Boston soon. Max gave a relieved sigh. He always felt better when Boston was around. After all, Boston was the only person he truly trusted.
It only took about fifteen minutes for him to arrive at the Pokémon Center.
"Oh, thank God you're alright!" Boston ran toward Max's bedside and hugged him tight. Electricity flickered off of Max's cheeks in excitement and intimacy. He buried his face in Boston's chest, craving the comfort and love his trainer was more than happy to give.
"God… I was afraid that Hitmonlee had really hurt you! …That was a close call!" They spent several moments in silence, Boston still embracing Max.
Finally, Boston leaned back and placed his hands on Max's shoulders.
"Listen, Max… I know I've said this before, and I know you're probably sick of hearing it… I would be too…" Max watched on, sullen, knowing what was coming. "But, I'm really sorry. If I was a better trainer, then this wouldn't have happened. I should have ended the fight…"
"Raichu! Rai, rai, raichu!"
"I know, I know… You could have ended it too. That isn't your job, though. It's mine. I am the trainer."
"There is no one else to blame, Max. I made another mistake, and I'm sorry. I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave me…"
"Raichu, raichu, rai! Rai, raichu!"
"… Heh, you're too loyal for your own good."
The nurse told them that Max would need to stay a few more days, just to make sure he was okay. Max wasn't happy with the idea, but Boston insisted. They relied on each other, and despite his flaws, Boston cared deeply for Max, and couldn't stand the thought of him suffering. Max pleaded to be released, to go back home with Boston, but his cries were ignored. He spent that night in physical discomfort, thinking non-stop about Boston rejecting him. Leaving him there, alone and scared.
He wondered: maybe Boston didn't like him anymore. Maybe that was the last battle Boston would deal with losing. Maybe he would get a newer, better Pokémon… Would Boston even be there when he got released? It was stupid and Max knew it. He knew for a fact Boston still loved him, and he knew that Boston was probably just as lonely as him, lying in their dank hole, all alone.
Max stared out the window. All he could see were the bricks that made up the adjacent building. He imagined a different life, a better one. One where he and Boston had money and where they actually won battles, for a change. He could see a life where they had food and weren't constantly mocked. A life that didn't take place in some poverty-stricken ghetto, where there wasn't a constant fear of being robbed, or even shot.
He felt his eyes grow warm and wet as he drifted off to sleep. He was tired of the pipe-dreams and tired of the suffering; but above all, he was tired of losing. He desperately wanted to please Boston, but it seemed that whenever he tried to reform himself, his attempts always crumbled to dust and added to the dirt that seemed to always surround him. Even the times when he and Boston had worked together to change, nothing ever changed. They remained poor and hungry. They remained hopeful and idealist. They remained losers.