Author's Notes: A meaty chapter for you tonight! We're wrapping up some loose ends before moving on to the next stage of the story. I hope you enjoy this one, and thanks, as always, for reading.
Two weeks isn't much time. Almost none at all, passing in a flash. For you. For the great Nathaniel Morgan's team, two weeks must feel very long indeed.
It's become a lot harder to politely ignore what goes on on the far side of your fire. Arguments, even quiet ones, are obvious in clipped and angry voices, and anytime Steelix weighs in, even at what he considers a whisper, his voice shivers everything in the clearing.
Each time you visit the city you say, It's okay. I'm sure we'll see him today. You know he wouldn't abandon you.
They do, and that's the problem. He wouldn't abandon them, so where is he? Not watching the news, too far away, hasn't figured out what's going on yet. Trapped, somehow. Injured. Captured, by Rocket or the police or someone looking for a reward. ("We would have heard about that!" Raticate snaps whenever Mightyena brings it up. "It would be all over the news as soon as anyone found him.") Plenty of ordinary reasons he might not have appeared, but it's the most severe that stick in your mind. Including the one that no one will speak aloud but which you can feel hanging over all of them, growing darker as the days rush past.
On the twelfth night you suffer through another grim dinner. Rats doesn't say anything about the coming deadline. She hasn't mentioned it once since she set it in the first place. No need, after all. She can count, and so can you. Two days from now, if the great Nathaniel Morgan hasn't been found, you have no doubt that you'll return to find the clearing empty of anyone but perhaps a sad and bewildered Titan, Duskull and Togetic watching from the margins.
Togetic picks unhappily at her food, wings fluttering fitfully, like she's on the verge of taking off. And of course, worrying about her is making you anxious, which only makes her more uncomfortable. She squeaks when a yell rings out from the far side of the fire, dropping her bag of candy and scattering bright-colored sweets in the grass.
"You can't!" Raticate's yelling. "You're obviously tired, Mightyena. And now you think you're going to go running around out there? You have to rest. You can't keep going like this."
Mightyena's on her feet, paused mid-stride on a beeline for the trees. You teeter on the verge of telling them to shut up, that they're scaring Togetic, but hostility from you would make her fly off for sure.
"Nate would do the same thing if I was the one who was lost. You know that."
"Yeah, and he's an idiot. You know that. And you know if you make a mistake out there and end up getting caught, or hurt, or even just pass out from exhaustion or something, then the rest of us have to deal with two missing people instead of one."
"That's not going to happen. I can take care of myself, and I'm not going to sit around waiting while my trainer's lost out there. You hoped Nate would come if you made enough noise, and he hasn't. I have to do what I can to find him."
"Mightyena, please," Steelix says gently. "We must keep up hope."
"I am!" she snaps. "That's why I'm leaving instead of lying around acting all helpless like the two of you!"
"Sure, whatever makes you feel better about yourself!" Raticate snaps, fur bristling. "Go search the whole damn world, then, that'll get results. Never mind the rest of us!"
Steelix raises himself up, the ground shaking as he drags his tail around his teammates, blocking Mightyena's path. "Raticate. Mightyena. This isn't constructive," he says sternly.
"Like the rest of us don't care," Raticate mutters, words rising in volume as he goes on. "Like caring means being stupid about how you do things. Just because you don't see us running around until we're practically falling down doesn't mean we don't want to find Nate!" He shakes his head, teeth flashing in the firelight, and that's enough. Togetic lets out a distressed squeak and arrows towards the forest in a whir of wings.
"Togetic!" you yell, but she's already out of sight. "I'll get her," you say into Rats' nervous look, and storm off into the forest, trying to exhale your anger with the white cloud of your breath, clenching and unclenching your fists. Togetic won't let you get close to her while you're angry.
You gulp lungfuls of freezing air, imagine snow and the cold pinpricks of holiday lights, ice sculptures and frosted windows. You need all the heat to drain from you. It takes a long time, what must be actual minutes, but slowly the cold seeps in to douse your anger. Now you can take a deep breath and almost feel better, and say, "Togetic, are you there?"
A nervous peep sounds from up high in a nearby tree. Togetic isn't hard to spot, her white feathers practically glowing in the dark.
"It's okay," you say, holding your arms up towards her. "They weren't mad at you."
"No, but—mad! Everybody. Everybody's mad. You're mad."
"I'm not mad." Not right now. Not in this moment. You can't be, or Togetic won't talk to you at all.
She twitters to herself, half-hidden behind the treetrunk, watching you warily. "This place is no fun. Why can't we go home?"
Now it's cold inside you, too. Ice-cold. "Togetic..."
"I want to go home!" Togetic says, louder, rising into the air
"I want to go home, too, but we can't!" you snap. "Nobody wants to be here, but we're stuck here, and that's that. Do you want to go into your pokéball until things get better? Or, I don't know, go somewhere else? Be with someone else?" Someone who's a good trainer? Somehow, everything comes back to that argument with Rats. How can you be talking to her when she isn't even here?
"I don't..." Togetic whimpers. "I just want people to be happy. Like they used to be. Stop doing things that make you mad."
"I want to be happy too, Togetic. But I have to do this."
Togetic shrinks back behind the tree. Great. You're getting mad again, and now she's afraid. You stop and try simply breathing for a minute, but it doesn't do much good.
"Togetic, it's cold out here. There are wild pokémon." Still she won't even look at you. "Okay," you say. "If that's what you want, okay. I'll come check on you in the morning."
"Okay," Togetic says in the tiniest voice.
Like you didn't feel bad enough already. The best you can do is leave, leave her there, and not make her feel what you're feeling. But now, heading back towards your camp, you can hear the argument still going on. It's gotten bigger. There's Titan's trumpeting indignation, raised in opposition to Mightyena's growls, there the wheedle of a raticate voice. The great Nathaniel Morgan's raticate. Rats doesn't wheedle.
"...don't even know why you care about finding your trainer anyway!" Titan's yelling. "He's mean and he's part of Team Rocket. You should be happy you got away!"
"Titan," Rats groans.
"You don't know the first thing about Nate!" Mightyena snarls. "How the hell do you sit there and call my trainer mean when you're running around after that lunatic, whatever it even is?"
You speed up, ready to burst into their argument and tell the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon exactly what you think of them. They started all this, and now here they are giving your team grief, when your pokémon have only ever tried to be nice to them. Then Titan says, "I don't know what you're talking about. My trainer is a good trainer. Maybe you don't understand because you've never seen one before."
Oh. You grin and stop right where you are. Maybe you're okay letting your pokémon put the great Nathaniel Morgan's in their place. They don't even need your help.
"Titan, please," Rats says. "They've got their reasons. Can we not do this?"
"But I don't understand," Titan says. The child can imagine him puffing smoke and lashing his tail in frustration. "It's Team Rocket! Who would ever want to stay with them? Unless they were bad, too."
Rats talks over the start of Mightyena's growl. "I dunno, but if it's so important for them to get away, maybe you should be asking yourself why your 'good trainer' is working so hard to get them back with the Rocket grunt."
"That..." Titan leaves the word hanging, sounding small and confused. You scowl and cross your arms. Thanks, Rats.
"Mightyena, Mightyena. Calm down." That's the great Nathaniel Morgan's raticate. "Look, it's kind of a fair question, isn't it? I mean, you and Nate... You aren't even sure if you're going to stick around after this, right?"
Mightyena's growls cut off with an exasperated huff of air. "I don't know. I always wanted to have a trainer, ever since I was small. I wanted to have an adventure like I'd heard about in stories, and I thought I needed a human to do that. Maybe I don't. But where do I want to go, what do I want to do now? I don't know. I think it would be lonely, being all by myself. But I don't want to go back to Nate just because I don't want to be alone, and I don't want to go back to Team Rocket. Obviously not. Maybe I'll look for another trainer. I don't know. But one way or another, I don't want Nate to die. I don't want him to be alone out there. And I'm not going to sit around and listen to some hypocrite go on about how awful he is, either!"
She's worked her way back up to snarling by the end of her speech, but Titan presses on. "All the rest of you want to stay with him? Even though he was on Team Rocket? Didn't he make you do—bad things? Or, um..." A pause. The child imagines Titan fidgeting, could swear it hears the papery rustle of his wings. "Didn't they do bad things to you?"
"No!" Mightyena snaps. "Nate wouldn't let anyone touch us. He's an ass sometimes, but he would never let anyone hurt us."
"Well..." Raticate says.
"That wasn't his fault, and you know it. Listen. Nate isn't part of Team Rocket anymore, and he won't be ever again. They tried to kill him for sabotaging their missions. Don't talk to me about helping Team Rocket, Nate and the rest of us have done more than any of you to stop them!"
"Mightyena, come on," Raticate says. "It's not like we didn't do plenty of things for the Rockets. Nate wasn't exactly in a hurry to leave. You got on him about that enough."
"It's not easy to leave Team Rocket! It's dangerous. Nate as good as tried, and now look where we are!"
"I don't condone everything Nate's done," Steelix says, the huge rumble of his voice drowning the other two out. "But I made it very clear to him that I wouldn't participate in criminal activity, and he doesn't ask me to. I do think he's very troubled. But I want to help him, not leave him on his own. He'll never grow that way. And..." he trails off, humming. "He's done a lot for me. All the more for how little time we've had together. I've learned a lot from him already." Steelix lets out a brief, grinding rumble. "Everything moves so fast here on the surface."
"Okay, back it up past the mushy stuff," Raticate says. "Maybe you don't actually steal things or crush people or whatever, but aren't you kind of Accomplice #1: The Stairs?"
"What do you mean? Do you mean lifting Nate up if he needs to go somewhere up high? Of course I help with things like that." Steelix hums for a long moment, as if thinking. "Why? Is that—that's not a bad thing. What do you mean?"
"Anyway," Raticate says, while Steelix thrums to himself, disgruntled, "it's no real big deal for me. Nate's always treated me like I mattered, that's all. I mean, I have been thinking, especially since Mightyena did a runner, what I ought to do. It's not like I like Team Rocket or anything, I mean, they stole me from my last trainer and all, even if it worked out. But it would be nice, you know, not to wonder about if what you were doing was hurting people. I like Nate, though. It's not like I want to leave."
"I still don't understand," Titan says at last, sounding morose. You aren't sure you do, either. How can they be loyal to someone even though it means they have to hurt people? If they don't care about that part, they must be evil after all.
"Fine," Mightyena growls. "Then help me understand. Why stay with that creature? What is it you're after, exactly? Some blathering about Mew?"
"Because I love my trainer!" Titan shoots back immediately, all indignation, and you're warmed by his loyalty.
"Titan," Rats sighs. "Look, it's a long story. But this is something I have to do. We all do. Yeah, it's the Mew thing. I know it's hard to believe. I mean, you really had to be there."
"Well, who cares if it's long?" Raticate says. "Let's hear it. I'd like to know why we've been getting dragged all over Kanto and Nate keeps almost getting murdered. I mean, he tried to explain, but it's not like he really gets it, either."
"Yes!" Steelix says. "Tell us about Mew. The chosen have many stories about her, of course, but I would love to hear what tales they tell on the surface."
"Yeah, well, it's no tale. More like recent history," Rats says, but she goes on to tell it anyway. It's the same story you know, or thought you did. You were there, both as the child and the captive, but you never realized how it all looked to someone staring up from the floor. Rats' story is full of things like I could smell the fear coming from them, and from her, and I don't know which was worse, and Humans like to cover things up. Maybe that works if you're tall, but down on the ground I could always see it was all falling apart.
"So, anyway, that's kind of the long and the short of it," Rats says at last. "I'm not a storyteller, I know. I can't make you feel the way it did to be there. But trust me, huh? Being around Mew, or Mewtwo, it's like nothing you've ever felt before, even ordinary psychics. I mean, wow, it's like they're right there in your head with you. And to see Mew like that, how sad she was... And now that's happening to her again, or maybe not, like, I mean, I hope not, but... I'm just a raticate, you know? I'm nobody special. So to have something like this come up, like, if you tried to do something important and failed, and then it turned out you had another chance... I've got to, right? I don't get why we're the ones who have to save Mew, but I'm not going to turn around and say no. Not in a million years. This might be the most important thing I do in my entire life. You'd better believe I'm going to see it through to the end."
"I made a promise," Titan says, and his words come out so tearful you instinctively strain towards him, only to find yourself stiff and cramped and cold, huddled up against the side of a tree without even having realized it. "I have to help my trainer, always. Of course I'm going to stay with her. She's my trainer."
"We all promised," Thunderstorm says, humming gently. "I think Rats put it very well."
"So you did meet Mew," Steelix murmurs, his voice low and melodic and chiming. "I can imagine how that would make you—no, I can't. But to fight for something so precious, yes, of course I understand that."
Mightyena lets out a mirthless bark of laughter. "Sounds like the lot of you are stuck with some asshole you don't even like for the sake of a storybook monster who probably wouldn't give you the time of day. Maybe we should be the ones offering you a way out."
"I'm not!" Titan's indignant outburst rapidly gives way to melancholy. "And I'm not saying I only stay because I have to. I do love my trainer. I do. But sometimes... I wish she could be like she was before, instead."
"Yeah," Rats says after a second. "Yeah, I think that's all of us, basically."
All of them. All of them. Not one speaks up to say otherwise. All of them would prefer you as their old human friend, as weak and as stupid as she was. If you were gone, would they try nearly as hard as the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon to get you back? Would any of them even care?
You lean against the side of your tree and shiver. You could go back to the fire, pretend you didn't hear anything. Resist every urge to demand they tell you why they hate you so much. Rats would only tell you you were being selfish, or something like that.
They want things to go back to the way they were before. Same as Togetic. And maybe you, too. Maybe. Go back to living on your island with only Rats and Absol for company, dreaming dreams of your quest to find Mew. You thought you'd have friends to accompany you, the true companions any hero should have. Like the child you used to be did, the last time around. But all you have are people who blame you for not being who you were before.
Togetic's going to spend the night out in the forest; maybe you will, too. You can make some scrape in the snow, keep yourself warm with fur and fire, and not have to look at anybody or talk to anybody or wonder if they're wishing you were someone else right that second. For now you simply slide down against your tree and sits where you are, cold and cramped and all.
You can dream about Togetic coming down to join you. She isn't great at comforting people. Even sadness is hard for her, and she doesn't know how to deal with it other than flying away. You see her watching, though, bright white feathers against the dark ribs of branches, flitting from place to place. Wanting to join you but not able to, roaming at the perimeter of her unease. You can't go to her any more than you can go to any of the other pokémon for comfort from their own feelings. And so the two of you stay where you are, watching each other and wishing life could be different.
Another visit to the city. By now these outings hold no laughter, no boisterous delight in mischief. Mightyena stands alone at the mouth of the alley, staring out. Raticate and Steelix hang back, avoiding each others' eyes. Graveler's the same as ever, of course; since she doesn't get excited, at least it's not worrying when she doesn't seem to care.
Today Steelix will wreck a busy downtown location, perilously close to Town Hall and all the major banks and museums and tourist attractions. There are too many police here, and too many people milling around, too much chance that someone will get hurt. But this is the next spot, so here you all are.
"What were you trying to steal around there?" you've asked about each new target. It's almost never actually stealing: this a plaza where the great Nathaniel Morgan met with someone who had a package to deliver, this a residential street where he kept watch and other people did the actual housebreaking, this an old garage repurposed first into a warehouse and then into nothing at all, the doors all chained up and rusted. "Ah, that one," Steelix had said, gaze going distant. "That one was... bad."
Here, though, an actual robbery took place: the great Nathaniel Morgan swarming in with the other Rockets, overcoming the workers at an electronics store that had offended the team somehow and which was going to pay in stock and humiliation. There hadn't been much resistance, but Mightyena looked back fondly on terrorizing the employees' ragged teams. "Two eevee!" she'd said cheerfully. "Two, can you imagine that? And one of them actually cried when he saw me. It was great."
There's no reminiscing now. Mightyena gives a curt growl, then dashes into the street, her teammates following. They make straight for that same electronics store, and panic ripples out around them. Graveler keeps going, a single-minded wrecking ball, while the others fan out, trying to make sure no one gets trampled even as they chase people away.
Something catches your eye in the churning confusion, something moving out of place. Someone in a dirty gray Saffron Polytechnic hoodie pushes against the flow of the crowd, steps right out in front of Steelix where he postures and roars. "Steelix!" they yell, and you take an involuntary step forward. You recognize that voice.
Steelix lowers his head immediately, and the great Nathaniel Morgan reaches out to grab one of the thick protrusions jutting from the side of the pokémon's jaw. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" he hisses viciously at where Steelix's ear might be, if he had ears.
"Nate!" Steelix roars. He tries to bump the great Nathaniel Morgan with the side of his jaw, but his trainer steps swiftly back.
"Are you fucking insane?" The great Nathaniel Morgan asks, dragging on the spike he's grabbed. Steelix gamely lets his trainer shove his head back and forth, crooning affectionately while the great Nathaniel Morgan rants. "What the fuck are you doing, going around destroying shit? Do you want to get locked up for the rest of your life?"
The other pokémon come running over, Raticate in the lead. He leaps at the great Nathaniel Morgan, landing on his shoulder with such force that the human staggers. Graveler rolls up a second later, looking up at him solemnly, which you suppose passes for intense affection on her part. Only Mightyena hangs back.
"And you, Raticate," the great Nathaniel Morgan says while the rat rubs up against the side of his face. "Or Graveler—didn't you even try to stop these nutjobs? Don't tell me you're just going along with whatever insane shit they come up with nowadays."
The great Nathaniel Morgan disappears behind fur and stone and steel as his pokémon press in around him, and you approach warily, their pokéballs in one hand. Over and over the scene plays out in your head, the great Nathaniel Morgan turning to see you, his expression collapsing from irritable to a look of pure disgust. Mightyena glances your way, but where you were expecting anger, for her to put herself between you and her trainer, she merely looks bewildered. With a cold flash you realize she's worrying about the same thing as you.
"Great Nathaniel Morgan," you say, and he turns immediately, hugging Raticate tight against his chest. For a second anxiety and confusion war on his face while he looks you up and down, and then his expression settles into exactly the one you were dreading, a look of cynical dislike.
"And just what the fuck are you doing here?"
"I am giving your pokémon back. Like I promised." You offer him the pokéballs, and the great Nathaniel Morgan stares down at them for a second before grabbing them away with a greedy snatch. He rolls them around his open palm, stirring them with his thumb, counting. Four this time. He grunts and thrusts them deep into the pocket of his hoodie. "Great. Now fuck off."
"You have to come with me. It is not safe here. You can talk to your pokémon after we leave."
"Fuck off. I ain't going nowhere, and if you know what's good for you you'll get out of my sight right the fuck now."
"Nate," Steelix says gently. "I think you should reconsider."
"Say what?" The great Nathaniel Morgan looks up into Steelix's face, and the steel-type nods his huge head. The great Nathaniel Morgan looks wildly from side to side, taking in Graveler, Raticate, Mightyena at a distance. "No, come on, you guys can't be serious. Really? You want to go with that thing? Are you fucking—?"
Steelix jerks backwards, bellowing a challenge a second before a braviary plummets through the space his skull just occupied, talons spread and screeching in frustration. Steelix spews dragon breath at it, blue and orange flames licking the air but only singeing the braviary's tailfeathers as it sweeps up and away to prepare another dive.
"It is the police!" you yell. "You have to come with me or they are going to catch you!"
"Fuck you!" The great Nathaniel Morgan looks up into the descending squad of pokémon. "Steelix, Graveler, rock throw! Raticate, be ready to mop up anything that drops."
"It is the police! There are too many of them!" You can hear sirens now, too. They always sent a lot of officers to try and apprehend the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon; you can't imagine how many will show up if they figure out the great Nathaniel Morgan himself is here. He's the most wanted man in Kanto, and you know from the news that a lot of people hope he knows some way of stopping Mewtwo.
Steelix's answer to "rock throw" is to heft a parked car, which spins end over end and smacks down not only the braviary but also a golbat who'd been circling below. Graveler and Steelix eliminate a beedrill, a pidgeotto, and a second golbat with a few well-aimed projectiles, but reinforcements are arriving by sky and ground alike; lights flash red-blue all around.
"I can help you! Come on!"
The great Nathaniel Morgan glances at you for a second, then returns his full attention to the battle. He's dirty and sun-darkened and gaunt, his hoodie hanging loose from his frame. His eyes are as fierce as ever, but they sit above bruise-dark circles, the face around them slack with fatigue.
"Please come. It is safe, and there is food," you say, and somehow that finally gets the great Nathaniel Morgan's attention.
"The fuck is that supposed to mean?" he snarls.
You hold out your hand to him. "Please. Recall your pokémon and come with me."
Steelix roars and weaves side to side, dodging flying pokémon and firing bursts of shimmering steel energy into the sky. Graveler nails a couple fliers with hunks of concrete ripped from the sidewalk, but there are at least two full patrols up there. Bolts of fire and ice land among the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon, who scatter.
"Come on!" You fire a blind shock wave into the air with one hand, the other still outstretched towards the great Nathaniel Morgan. "Come on, if you do not they will just catch you and take your pokémon away again. I promise I am not going to do anything to you. You can leave whenever you want. Promise."
The great Nathaniel Morgan stares down at your extended hand, then raises his eyes back to the battle around him. A hydro pump roars to the pavement not two meters away, missing graveler but catching the great Nathaniel Morgan a generous portion of deflected spray. An arcanine with a rider held in place by a complex harness charges lightning-quick into the middle of the group and pounces on Raticate, only to be swatted away by Steelix's tail.
The great Nathaniel Morgan lets out a growl of frustration, but he takes up his newly-recovered pokéballs and recalls his team. He hesitates, looking between your face and your outstretched hand, but at last he takes it. You get a split second of his fierce glare before your teleport takes you both to safety.
A second later you're in the forest, and the great Nathaniel Morgan yanks his hand away like you have some horribly contagious disease. He scowls darkly at the clearing, the trees, your pokémon, who are scrambling up from their places by the fire.
"Wow. Uh, wow, you found him," Rats says. "I gotta admit, Boss, I really didn't think it was going to happen."
You're too nervous to even feel smug about that. The great Nathaniel Morgan glares at Rats like she's already managed to make him mad somehow. "Come on," he says, and abruptly turns on his heel. He's headed into the trees, out of the firelight.
"Wait! Do you not want food?"
"Oh, the least you can do after all that shit is buy me dinner. You ain't getting out of that. But first, I need you. Get the fuck over here."
You turn and meet Rats' worried look with a shrug and leave her standing by the fire, Titan and Thunder crowding in behind.
"What is the problem? Why are you leaving?" you pant, running to catch up with the great Nathaniel Morgan.
"Bad enough I gotta have you here for this. I don't want your entire fucking team watching, too." He moves fast, purposefully. He doesn't seem worried about running into anything in the dark.
"Do you know this place?"
He actually looks at you, surprised. "Yeah, used to come out here to train all the time. Probably... Probably should have stopped here instead of going straight to the city, but... Anyway. Here." He stops. Your fire glows far away, barely visible through the trees. You wonder whether Rats is still there, waiting, or whether she's creeping along behind the two of you, staying out of sight.
"Okay. Now what—?" But the question dies as the great Nathaniel Morgan takes a pokéball off his belt and releases Mightyena into the space between you. She spins left and right, searching for the battle she was recalled from, before fixing her gaze on the great Nathaniel Morgan. She relaxes a little, but stands with ears up and tail low behind her, watching him as she might some unfamiliar pokémon who could do anything at all.
"Mightyena. Hey," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. He crouches down, and Mightyena tilts her head, following the movement with her nose. "I'm sorry. I should have said it a long time ago, but I'm an ass, and I was still mad even though I didn't have shit to be mad about in the first place. I didn't mean it when I said I liked you better when you couldn't talk, like, obviously being able to understand you is the most amazing thing. I wish it could have been that way from the beginning. I was mad and saying whatever stupid shit would make you leave me alone, but that don't make it better or nothing. It was super fucked up, and I'm sorry."
"Okay," Mightyena says after a span of silence that makes you feel like you might explode from anxiety. "So what now, Nate?"
The great Nathaniel Morgan's gaze flicks over to you when you repeat the question, but he never turns away from Mightyena. "Uh, what now?" Whatever sort of response he was expecting, apparently it wasn't that. He rubs the back of his neck and says, "I mean, I kind of figured that was up to you? Like I said before, I get it if you want to leave. I know this ain't the kind of thing you come back from. It's just, whatever happens, I at least wanted to fucking apologize. Because otherwise... I couldn't let that be the last thing I said to you."
"Nate, you've been trying to get me to leave since the day we met. Believe me, I know it's an option."
The great Nathaniel Morgan frowns and pauses in rubbing at his neck. "What? No, I—what do you mean?"
Mightyena lets out a whuff of air. "That wasn't what I was asking, anyway. We've been here before, haven't we?"
"Yeah." The great Nathaniel Morgan inspects the ground near his feet. "Like I said, I'm an ass. I know I do stupid shit, and I hurt you, and the rest of the team, and it ain't... right. I ain't got no right to be a trainer. I know that. You stick around me, this is the kind of thing that happens."
"Oh, really?" Mightyena asks, and your stomach plummets. She's going to be mean, isn't she? You don't want to do this again. You wish you didn't have to be here, that you could sneak away without either of them noticing. "So, what, being a dick is just something that happens to you sometimes, and you can't do anything about it? If you don't like what happens when you're an ass, Nate, have you ever tried just not being an ass?"
The great Nathaniel Morgan looks up at her in wide-eyed surprise. "What? I mean, no. Yes? I try. I do. But I keep fucking up. And I'm gonna keep fucking up, you know? Ain't nobody's perfect."
"There's a difference between not being perfect and doing things you really regret on the regular, Nate," Mightyena says. "Do you like being an asshole?"
"No!" You flinch at the indignation in the great Nathaniel Morgan's voice. Don't get angry, don't get angry. If he gets mad now, he's never going to listen to you later. "No, of course I don't like being an asshole. But sometimes, you know, I get so mad. Or, or sometimes people deserve it, like, come on. You can't seriously be mad at me for being a dick to, like, Aiden or nobody."
"Do you think other people don't get angry? Why don't they have these sorts of problems?"
"Hell if I know! Like I said, it's just how I am, okay? I didn't ask to be made this way or nothing. It's not like I'm trying to be a dick."
"Aren't you, though?" Mightyena takes a step forward. Her eyes gleam with reflected firelight. "You aren't really trying not to be one, after all. Because that's 'just how you are.' Being an asshole isn't a personality trait, Nate."
The great Nathaniel Morgan grits his teeth, and you close your eyes, just waiting for the explosion. "Look, it's like I said before, all right? This is the way it is. You don't gotta hang around if you don't want to. You don't gotta put up with my shit. But if you stick around, what the fuck else are you expecting?"
"You'd rather have me leave than even try to change?"
That silences the great Nathaniel Morgan for a moment. There's desperation in his voice when he says, "I mean, no. Of course not. I want you around, really, I don't—I don't want you to leave. And, I mean, I'll try. Obviously I'll try. But let's be real about this, you know?"
"Okay. So what are you going to do differently, then?"
You can't even name all the emotions that cross the great Nathaniel Morgan's face. You think you see confusion, anger, sadness, one bleeding into the other until they all melt into slumping resignation. "I don't know," the great Nathaniel Morgan says quietly. "I don't think I know how to be different."
Mightyena watches him in silence for a moment. "Well, I don't really know either, Nate. I'll help you, obviously. We all will. But this is something you need to figure out for yourself."
"I guess. I guess I still don't know... where to even fucking start." The great Nathaniel Morgan shakes his head and lets out the weak shadow of a laugh. "Jesus, Pooch. I really do wish you'd been able to talk all this time. You'd have gotten me straightened out ages ago, wouldn't you?"
Mightyena's tail wags faintly, and only once. "Well, why not start with someone who's not an asshole?" she asks. "Maybe you can learn a thing or two from them."
"Maybe." The great Nathaniel Morgan sighs and looks away. "Look, what do you want me to say, Pooch? I'll try. I always do. But let's be real, I'm just no good at this shit."
"What I want you to say, Nate is that you'll do better. Not that you'll try. That you will. And then do it."
"I mean, shit, yeah, I'll do everything I can, but—"
"And no 'buts!' No saying it's never going to work. No assuming it's doomed before you even start. Just tell me you're going to do better."
"I will," the great Nathaniel Morgan says after a moment, and you can practically see him struggling to leave it at that.
"You'll do what?"
The great Nathaniel Morgan takes a deep breath. "I'll stop being such an asshole. To you, and... to everyone. I will."
After a long silence he adds, "So, what now? Do you... Do you want to stay, or...?"
"I don't know," Mightyena says. "I don't really know what I want anymore. That's something I'm trying to figure out." She glances away from him for a moment, up and into the dark night sky. "But for now, it's enough."
"Ah, so, that means you're staying? Uh, for now?"
"For now. Let's see where things take us. A lot's going to change, after all."
"Yeah. I mean, I mean I still don't know where we're gonna go, or what we're gonna do, but I don't, I don't want to go back to the way things were. Like I said, I'll try—I don't, I can't promise nothing, but—" Mightyena steps forward and licks the great Nathaniel Morgan's face, and he seizes her around the neck, burying his face in her mane. "Thanks," he says. "Thanks, Pooch. I missed you... I missed you a lot, and..."
"I missed you, too," Mightyena says. You don't bother translating. It's not like they're paying any attention to you now. Mightyena washes her trainer's face with her tongue while he digs his fingers through her dense fur, scrubbing so hard her sides shake back and forth with the motion. They're... happy. That's good. That's what you wanted. But watching them together, you don't feel happy. You should feel good about finding the great Nathaniel Morgan even though Rats and everybody didn't think you could. But how can they be so happy to see each other after how much they've fought? When you fight with your pokémon, everyone just ends up feeling bad. Not that you should care about that. You don't.
The great Nathaniel Morgan wipes tears from his eyes and stands, deflecting a lunge from Mightyena. She falls back to all fours, tail wagging madly, and looks about to jump again. "All right, all right," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "Come on. We gotta let the rest of the crew out. I ain't seen Steelix in... in ages, right? And there's supposed to be grub, too." Now he's looking for you, picking you out from the dark of the trees. For a moment his smile falters, but then he turns away again, apparently satisfied just to know where you are.
Mightyena's bouncing with excitement while he reaches for the pokéballs in his hoodie. "Bet you've all been up to some crazy shit without me. Hell, I've seen some of the crazy shit you've been doing. You'd better be ready to tell me all about it, Pooch," he says, and releases the rest of his team.
In a second he's mobbed, and this time Mightyena's in the mix, so Raticate has to cling hard to his trainer if he doesn't want to get shoved aside. You can hear the great Nathaniel Morgan much more than see him, laughing and laughing, exhorting his team while they clamor at him from all sides. Finally he manages to extricate himself from Raticate and Mightyena and drape himself over Steelix's snout like someone trying to hug a car hood, still laughing and now rubbing at the divot between the steel-type's eyes with his knuckles. Steelix's pleasure-rumbles make your molars vibrate, and it's too much. You turn away, back towards your fire, only to start as something goes zipping past overhead, trilling loud through the darkness.
Togetic. She bounces back and forth through the air above the great Nathaniel Morgan and his team, chirping nonsense delight. They don't appear to notice her, at least not yet, but she's scattering shimmering joy dust. If the great Nathaniel Morgan doesn't suffocate from laughter maybe his allergy will do him in instead. You'd like to watch that. At least that would be funny. You don't think you can stand one more second of their happiness. Of course they're glad they found each other, just like a band of friends out of a story. Of course their joy would attract Togetic, who's been so starved for it while hanging around with you and the people who are supposed to be your friends.
Your pokémon all turn to stare as you return to the firelight, feeling hollow and only wishing they'd look away again. You can feel Rats watching while you inspect the hot dogs Titan brought for dinner, but neither of you say anything. You should have enough food. A surplus human won't need that much extra.
And now he's coming over to your fire, pokémon flanking him in a dense knot, Togetic riding Steelix's snout. "Hey, it's Titan!" The great Nathaniel Morgan says cheerfully. "How's it going, big guy?"
Titan snorts and flexes his wings half open, uncertain. He wasn't expecting good cheer from the great Nathaniel Morgan. The human greets your team like they're old friends, even gives a respectful nod to Absol, reclining at the edge of the firelight with only the faintest slit of red eyes showing. She might actually be asleep. Togetic orbits him a few times, chirping and babbling in pure delight, then zooms up to roost in a nearby tree, animated and radiant as she basks in other people's joy. Duskull, on the other hand, appears to be hiding.
"So where's this grub you were going on about?" The great Nathaniel Morgan asks, throwing himself down on the far side of the fire with his pokémon settling in around him.
Wordlessly you toss him a couple packs of hot dogs. He and his pokémon make a game of finding sticks to spear them with, and of cooking them, too. Mightyena keeps her head tilted at an awkward angle, her roasting stick held in her mouth while she tries to keep her hot dog steady over the fire. Graveler parks herself unusually close to the flames, roasting one hot dog with each arm, though you can't imagine she's going to eat any. Even Titan, accustomed to simply breathing on any food he wants cooked, can't resist giving it a try. He holds his own hot dog high above the fire, constantly looking around at the others to check if he's doing it right.
At first the great Nathaniel Morgan eats with ferocious gusto, cooking and consuming hot dogs in grim silence while his pokémon joke around. You consider him, his thinness and his furious appetite, and quietly set aside another pack of hot dogs for him.
Even he can't keep eating forever, though, and at last he slows down a bit, seems to be roasting hot dogs more for the fun of it than anything. "So what have you been up to, Freak?" he asks, and you find yourself blanking, caught by surprise.
"I got caught," you say without thinking, "by Lance and Koga and the rest of the Elite Four."
The great Nathaniel Morgan looks up sharply. "Seriously? What the fuck happened? How the hell did they even nab you?"
"Koga tricked me," you say with a frown. "But I tricked them back. They could not keep me forever. And then Mewtwo, well. You heard what he has been doing, right?"
"Damn straight I have. Thought you must be working with him."
You shake your head, clamping down on an angry retort and staring into the flames. "He burned down my house."
"Well, shit." You know the great Nathaniel Morgan must be looking at you, but you can't meet his eyes. You don't know if it would be worse for him to look happy or sad about that.
"I got your pokémon back," you remind him, gesturing at his side of the fire. "I helped them find you."
"By, what, kicking the shit out of Saffron City?" And now the amusement in his voice means it's safe to look, to see him smiling at something even you can admit is kind of funny. "I mean, I guess that's one way to get a guy's attention. Plus like every cop from here to Pewter. I can't fucking believe that worked."
"It did work, though," you say, at the same time that Raticate's up wavering on his hind legs, announcing, "It was my idea to go to all the places we'd done jobs for Rocket. That was me! And that was why the police never caught us."
"It was Raticate's idea to go to places you went with Team Rocket," you repeat, and then you have to tell the whole story, every detail of your search, with Raticate and Mightyena and even sometimes Steelix clamoring to add their take. The great Nathaniel Morgan listens patiently, asks questions, acts like nothing could be more interesting than the tale his pokémon are telling through you. All the while he lackadaisically roasts hot dogs until he's down to the last one. Mightyena begs for it, rolling onto her back and kicking her legs in the air, and the great Nathaniel Morgan rubs her belly and laughs at her wriggling while Raticate jeers at her for being shameless. In the end the great Nathaniel Morgan gives her half the hot dog but can't enjoy the other himself—it goes to soothe Raticate's bitter complaining over Mightyena's antics being rewarded.
With the food gone and no more story to tell, a sleepy air descends around your fire. The pokémon settle down drowsily, digesting. Even Thunderstorm, who didn't actually eat anything, has let two of its eyes fall closed, its magnets pointing idly towards the ground.
Steelix curls himself loosely around his teammates, forming a defensive barricade of metal coils and jutting spikes. The great Nathaniel Morgan wedges himself into the space between two of the steel links, what looks to be a favorite spot, and lounges there. Mightyena curls up against him, head lying on his chest, and Raticate claims the entirety of one shoulder, tucked into a furry ball.
The great Nathaniel Morgan alternates between stroking the two of them with one hand and digging in the chinks between Steelix's segments, sweeping out pebbles and chunks of dirt. Watching him makes you queasy. If Steelix shifts even a little bit, those metal links are going to grind together and crush the great Nathaniel Morgan's hand, like really crush, turn it to the kind of pink paste even a soft-boiled won't be able to put back right.
But Steelix doesn't move. He lies with his head towards the fire, eyes half-closed, making faint humming noises that resonate pleasantly in your chest. You don't think you've ever seen the great Nathaniel Morgan so content: actually smiling, no trace of cynicism about him.
Which is why you feel especially bad that you have to say this, that you have to speak and break the spell. But there won't be a better time. "Great Nathaniel Morgan," you say, and he tenses immediately, eyes narrowing and face setting in suspicious lines. His pokémon rouse themselves with glares that communicate quite clearly that you are interrupting.
You are, you know you are. But: "Great Nathaniel Morgan. I need to ask you something."
"Why am I not fucking surprised?" he says. "Let me guess, you got some bullshit scheme you want to rope me in on. I'll save us both some time, Freak, and tell you to go fuck yourself up front."
"Just listen. You do not have to say yes, I promise. I will not be mad if you say no. I just have to ask. Will you listen?"
The great Nathaniel Morgan raises an arm halfway, hampered by Raticate, and makes a circular "get on with it" motion. "Doubt you're gonna shut up about it, so let's get it the fuck over with."
You nod and take a deep breath. "Great Nathaniel Morgan, will you come with me, to Orre, and help me rescue Mew?" Rats turns to you in surprise, but you refuse to look at her. It's the great Nathaniel Morgan you want to hear from.
Silence stretches out. "What, is that it?" The great Nathaniel Morgan asks. Your stomach curdles with dread at his curt reply, but you nod. "Damn. I was expecting something more like, 'Great Nathaniel Morgan, will you assassinate the prime minister for me? Also I need you to wear this magikarp costume while you do it, it's really important,' like that seems more like the kind of shit you're always getting into."
You shake your head. "No. Come to Orre and help me free Mew. That is all I am asking." You dare to hope, the smallest bit. He didn't say "no," after all, he said this wasn't the kind of thing he'd been expecting, so... "Will you do it, then? Is it okay?"
"Oh, no. Fuck no, you've got to be kidding me," the great Nathaniel Morgan says dismissively. "It just ain't what I expected, that's all. I don't get it, Freak. Just why in the hell do you want me to head out to Orre? You don't fucking need me. And why the hell would you think I'd ever say yes? Like the only thing more attractive than spending more quality time with you is more quality time with you but now with sand in my crotch because fucking desert."
You swallow down your sadness, which settle in your stomach dark and heavy like a stone. This is what you were expecting, after all. You knew the great Nathaniel Morgan wouldn't want to do it, and it was stupid to even ask. You sit there casting about for some plausible explanation, for some reason you should want him to come. But you can't think of anything, nothing except the truth.
"Because my pokémon are not coming with me. They want to talk with Mewtwo, try to negotiate with him, and that means... I will have to do it by myself. I do not want to be alone. There is no one else for me to ask, and I... I thought maybe we could be friends. Maybe. I want you to come. I do not want you to go away again."
Another long silence then, and you watch anxiously, you hate yourself for it but you can't stop, you watch emotions flash across the great Nathaniel Morgan's face, surprise and confusion and dismay settling into a chilling cynical sneer. You know, then, that it's lost, that you never had a chance to begin with, but still you aren't prepared for how much the laughter hurts, a vicious, bitter sound that startles the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon and holds not a trace of humor in it.
"Oh my god, are you serious?" The great Nathaniel Morgan gasps at last. "Oh my god, you really are serious. Friends? We ain't never going to be friends, dickhead. After all the shit you put me through? That's got to be the most fucking pathetic thing I've ever heard!"
You turn away, closing your eyes but unable to block out the horrible noise. The great Nathaniel Morgan's mirthless, racking laughs go on and on, and it's no better when they finally stop, leaving behind a horribly wide, sharp-edged smile that shows all the great Nathaniel Morgan's gapped and broken teeth. Broken by the Rocket's ursaring, which would have killed him if you hadn't been there to save him.
"Do you understand," the great Nathaniel Morgan hisses, "that you ruined my fucking life? Like holy shit, it ain't like I had much to begin with, but you managed to take even that away, didn't you?"
Your sadness gives way to something more like panic, your heart fluttering and chest growing tight. "No, I didn't, I—"
"Don't fucking interrupt me!" The great Nathaniel Morgan practically roars the first word, and then his voice drops low and dangerous. Titan surges up, rumbling low in his throat, and suddenly all the great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon are on alert, too, grim faces limned by firelight. The great Nathaniel Morgan sits secure in the middle of his pack, smirking.
You put your hand out, fingers just brushing Titan's scales. "No, Titan. It is okay. We do not want to fight."
The charizard sits back again, reluctantly, fuming smoke and growling faintly to himself. The great Nathaniel Morgan's pokémon stay alert, ready to fight any second, but it no longer feels like they will fight. They're quiet now, watching, waiting.
"That's what I thought," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, and somehow it comes out sounding like a terrible insult. "Let me lay this out for you, Freak, in case you ain't been paying attention. You ruined. My fucking life. Now I got Rocket on my tail, I got the League, I got the entire goddamn region out for my blood. I can't go home, I can't work, I got no money, no nothing, I been running around out there for weeks just trying to find shit to eat and not get fucking murdered or thrown in jail, and it's all because of you and your fucking stupid Mew bullshit!" His voice rises as he goes on, until he's shouting, until he's lost that look of vicious calculation and is simply yelling. "Do you understand me? There is nothing! Left! Nothing! Because of you!"
He cuts off abruptly and stares at you, almost daring you to respond. You shouldn't. You should... You should leave, or turn away. There's nothing you can say to make this better.
But you can't. You can't just give up. "I did not mean to," you say quietly. "I did not want to hurt anybody. But I have to. Because of Mew, because of the mission, because—"
"Fuck your mission!" The great Nathaniel Morgan yells. "It's bullshit, and you know it! You ain't no hero, you're a fucking freak of nature who ought to be dead!"
"I am special!" you howl, blinded by a flash of rage. How dare he, he—"I am special and you, you are jealous, you wish you could be like me, instead of stupid and weak and evil. Which you are!"
"Yeah, sure, keep telling yourself that," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "That make you feel better when Mewtwo's kicking your ass just to watch you bounce, that what you tell yourself when you're getting ready to kill, when you're going to, you're going to murder—"
"I saved your life!" you scream at him.
"I never asked for that, neither!" he yells back, voice going funny on the last word, then turns away, breathing heavily. His pokémon stare, as if too nervous or stunned to offer comfort. After a few seconds the great Nathaniel Morgan scrubs his hand over his face and says, in a much more normal voice, "And look, Freak..."
"Do not call me that! I am not a freak! I am not a freak and I am not going to listen to you say it!"
The great Nathaniel Morgan glances at you from the corner of one eye, then looks away again. "Look... I think you oughta get out, too. Like tell Mewtwo to go fuck himself, forget all that mission bullshit. Fuck Orre. Fuck all of it. It ain't good for you. It's probably gonna get you killed."
"What would you know? You are stupid. You are not important. If you die, what would it matter? You have no idea—no idea what it is like to be somebody important. To have an important thing to do."
"Yeah," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "But still. I ain't telling you nothing you don't already know, am I?"
"I hate you," you say. It's vicious, and it feels good to be vicious. "I hate you and I hope next time you really do die."
"Great. 'Cause in the morning, I'm leaving, and god willing I never see your fucking ugly face again." The great Nathaniel Morgan lies back against Steelix's side, closing his eyes as though he's about to go to sleep.
"Nate," Steelix rumbles, "there's no call to be so rude. I understand that you don't like that person, but we might never have found each other without its help."
You were never going to translate that anyway, but apparently you don't need to. "Don't even fucking start with me, Steelix," the great Nathaniel Morgan says. "You ain't got the first fucking clue what it's done." He opens his eyes, ever so briefly, to serve you a furious glare. "Not like you'd have even got lost in the first place if not for that bastard."
Raticate hesitantly settles down with his trainer again, but stays wide-eyed awake, unable to relax. Mightyena lies on the great Nathaniel Morgan's far side, head resting on paws, staring out into the dark of the woods. The great Nathaniel Morgan himself stays scowling, stroking Raticate's fur in a distracted way. You see all this but can't feel anything about it, nothing at all. All the anger and adrenaline's draining from you, leaving behind a hollow sort of shakiness. You feel on the edge of tears. You don't know what you feel.
"Boss," Rats says from right next to you.
"Not now, Rats," you say, stomach roiling with dread because now she's going to start, she's going to make you feel even worse somehow, and probably, probably she'll be right. "I can't—"
But Rats doesn't take no for an answer, just climbs into your lap, shoving her face up against your chin. You wrap your arms around her and squeeze tight, grateful for her warm solidity despite the whiskers jabbing at your face. A smoky smell settles over you, and here's Titan. The charizard makes nervous grumbling noises and nudges at your shoulder, and a faint drone and tingling on the back of your neck say Thunderstorm's here, too.
"Feel better now, asshole?" Rats growls, and for a moment you're confused. But she's looking across the fire at the great Nathaniel Morgan's indifferent back. You squeeze your eyes tight shut and bury your face in Rats' fur. You don't want to think about him at all right now. Not ever again.
Rats works away with teeth and tongue, grooming your hair the way she would her own. The night fills with the crackle and pop of the fire, the call of an owl from some nearby tree. "Hey. Get some sleep, Boss," Rats murmurs. "You gotta be tired, after all that."
You are. You are tired, but when you lie down you find yourself staring out into the dark, chest aching, mind aching, unable to keep your eyes closed. You tried. You tried, and it didn't work. Tomorrow your pokémon will leave, and you'll have to either follow them to Mewtwo or go to Orre on your own. Find Mew by yourself, in the middle of the endless desert. Perhaps Absol will follow you, her presence alone a silent expression of disapproval. What if you can't find Mew at all? What if Mewtwo does even worse things while you're gone?
Had you ever really hoped the great Nathaniel Morgan would agree to go with you? No. No, of course not. For a moment you think that you could make him. Even his pokémon couldn't stop you if you decided he would come to Orre. But you think of Rats and her pokéball, and shame squeezes a couple of tears out from your eyes. No, you won't do that.
This is stupid. Why did you want the great Nathaniel Morgan to come in the first place? Having nobody would be better than having to put up with him. You're tossing and turning, bothered about some human you don't even like, but no matter how many times you tell yourself it's stupid, you can't keep the thoughts from running through your head. After what feels like hours, you're too exhausted to care anymore. You change into your other self, and abruptly the whole situation is completely stupid. Why do you care about a bunch of pointless words, from that human or from any? Why worry over what the morning will bring?
You dig down deeper into your sleeping bag, warmly content, and sleep soundly through the night.
You wake early, though apparently not early enough, because the great Nathaniel Morgan is already gone. He's taken with him the rest of your food, and your money, too. Rats stalks around and around the clearing, chattering her teeth and muttering to herself, unable to believe he managed it without her waking up to stop him.
You don't care. Food's food. Money's money. You can always get more. You gather up what remains of your camp, pack it all away. There's only one thing left to do.
Rats looks up from her investigation of the great Nathaniel Morgan's side of the fire. "Yeah. I'm sorry, Boss. I'm going, and the others are coming with me."
You turn to Thunderstorm, to Titan. The magneton is glassily unrepentant, of course, but Titan ducks his head behind his wings, making himself as small as possible. "I can still see you, Titan."
"Hey. Leave him be, Boss." Rats rises up on her hind legs, giving you a hard look. "We talked about this, right? Or do we need to go through it all again?"
You know there's no point. If it's going to happen, best to let it happen so you can start doing what you need to do and stop thinking about the pokémon. "We don't." You unclip War's pokéball from your belt and toss it to Rats, who fumbles the catch. She wasn't ready, really? She was expecting you to argue? "What about Togetic and Duskull?"
"What's going on?" Togetic watches nervously from a branch behind you. "Who's leaving?"
"I think you oughta take the kids," Rats says. "I mean, knowing Mewtwo, Togetic for sure doesn't want to be around him."
You nod. "We're going to Orre, Togetic. Rats and the rest are staying here. Duskull!"
"But why?" Togetic asks, wings whirring as she descends slowly from her perch. "Why are they leaving?"
You look pointedly at Rats. "You should explain."
"Yeah. Uh, yeah, I think I should," she says. "Not really in an explaining mood, are you, Boss?"
You let her do that while Duskull emerges from a treetrunk, grumbling about the hour. "Do you want to come with me to Orre, Duskull? Or go with Rats?"
The ghost gestures vaguely with his tendrils. No surprise. You hadn't expected him to care. A few minutes later, he and Togetic are resting in the pokéballs on your belt, alone.
The others watch you nervously, Rats and Thunderstorm and Titan. Absol's joined their little cluster, and she among them shows no sign of nerves. Of course she doesn't. She only stares, and stares, until you turn away.
"Is there anything else?" you ask.
"I guess not," Rats says. She picks at her claws, looking like she might want to say something else.
You nod. "Okay. I'm leaving."
"Really? Just like that?" Rats asks.
"I didn't think you wanted to talk more. Do you?" You don't see any point.
"Well, no, not really. But—"
"Aren't you at least going to say goodb—" Titan starts, but the teleport takes the last of his words. And then it's done.
It's time to move on.