5
Meowth

Meowth had been wandering through the woods for several hours. It was now as lost as it had giggled at Ash and Pikachu for being. Well, they hadn't really been that far from civilization. There had to be something nearby soon. Maybe it had gone the wrong way, Meowth considered. Yeah, thinking back on when it had initially run away from the twerp, it probably had.

Meowth sat down and sighed. It just needed to find a phone to call the boss. That was all it wanted. Meowth couldn't do that in the middle of nowhere though. So it just sat there, giving its mind and body a rest.

A rest was what it needed. Meowth realized that it could just climb another tree to gets its bearings. It hadn't heard a peep from Ash and Pikachu, so they were probably long gone, or long lost, it thought with some amusement. Hearing something strange, Meowth climbed the tree again.

It was sure it saw human civilization in the opposite direction that it had been traveling. Maybe it should go that way, Meowth considered. But looking up, Meowth spotted a helicopter labeled with the bright red "R" landing in the distance. Looking around more, it saw two others on the ground in a clearing nearby. That was where it needed to go, Meowth considered. Butch and Cassidy probably wouldn't be looking for it. If they were around, Meowth could just go into hiding again. Even if they were, they might not attack it anyway, not with other team members around.

Meowth walked toward the area it had seen the rocket merchandise in. Eventually, Meowth started running. It was so anxious to get back to its comrades. Would the boss be pleased with what it had found out? If those clone pokemon hadn't moved, he definitely would be! They'd watch until Mewtwo went back to visit its friends, then get the jump on it with plenty of leverage. Meowth just had to be sure to contact the boss quickly. The more time that went by, the more likely it was that those clone pokemon would move.

With this thought, Meowth pushed itself to move even faster. When it reached the clearing, it was out of breath. "Hey! Where is everyone?" Meowth called, momentarily not caring about any possible danger. The caution returned to it soon, and it stood completely still, looking and listening for anyone who might be around.

There was only dead silence. After a few seconds ticked by, a breeze blew through. Since the sun had set into twilight, it was kind of chilly. Meowth looked at the cold machinery, and wished someone was around. It approached the helicopter, thinking it could use the equipment to contact the boss. No such luck, all of the controls were smashed on both vehicles.

Meowth felt a chill, and was unsure if it was because of the dropping temperature or the spookiness of the abandoned rocket equipment. Maybe this had happened a few days ago, and the boss just hadn't cleaned up after himself yet. But maybe someone was still around. Meowth ran out of the room and looked around. "Hello? Anyone there?" it called.

Meowth looked around, desperately trying to think of where some humans would have gone first. It saw an area of land that looked kind of trampled, if not like a proper path, and ran down it. "Hello?" Meowth continued to call. "Can you guys let me know if you're there?" it begged for an answer.

Meowth suddenly heard a sound. It definitely wasn't human, though. This was the sound of something large being flung through the air. Meowth looked around and found the source. It hadn't been an object, either. There was the pokemon of the hour, Mewtwo, standing there, Meowth's Team Rocket teammates cowering around it. There was no way Meowth could capture it either. It just looked up at Mewtwo, knowing it would be unable to hide.

"Speak up," Mewtwo said, unmistakably addressing Meowth.

"W-well, that would be kind of hard," Meowth said. "You see-"

"So it is you, just as I suspected," Mewtwo said. It moved its hand to the side, and then forced Meowth to rise above the ground.

"Hey! Wait!" Meowth said in a panic, though Mewtwo's psychic hold didn't exactly hurt. Meowth was surprised just how easily Mewtwo handled it, lifting it further and further above the ground until they were in the sky. With Mewtwo's psychic power, the two of them flew forward at an unbelievable speed, not even the wind touching them. It could have been fun, except Meowth was so frightened it only shouted as they flew.

Mewtwo eventually found where it had wanted to take them. They went underground, in a cave. Meowth was even more apprehensive, now in the pitch black. It couldn't control where it was going. Mewtwo was the one doing that. Meowth only shouted more, sure that they'd run into something.

But they didn't, instead reaching an area of the cave where some light shone. A fire was going. Mewtwo released Meowth from its psychic hold, and Meowth fell on the ground. It could now feel the cold air of the cave, as well as the warmth emanating from the small fire. Meowth looked around, and didn't see much else there. It looked at Mewtwo, who now stood in front of it. There had to have been a reason Mewtwo had brought it here.

"So, Mewtwo. Do you think I'll help you or something?" Meowth asked. It definitely wouldn't, Meowth told itself. But it wasn't going to tell the boss's powerful pokemon that the same way it had told Ash. Mewtwo's reactions were an unknown.

"No," Mewtwo said. "I don't expect that at all. Though my friends disagree, I don't think you speaking out would do me any good. Even if such a thing would be beneficial, you wouldn't help me, would you?"

Meowth nodded, confirming what Mewtwo had just said. This pokemon wasn't like Ash. It had figured out the truth right away, and just calmly stated it. But knowing that was the truth, why did Mewtwo even have Meowth there in the first place? "So, what's your angle with bringing me there, then?" Meowth decided to ask.

"I am willing to indulge the hopes of my fellow pokemon," Mewtwo said. "I know I'm not the right pokemon to speak to humans, and I know you'd be no good to us, either, considering the position you held in Team Rocket. But perhaps another like yourself could properly test if humans would consider the common pokemon's perspective."

Meowth tried to properly consider what Mewtwo was saying, but then heard a sound. It was definitely a pokemon, and a creepy one at that. This pokemon howled, and then another screeched. "What's that out there?" Meowth asked worriedly.

Mewtwo ignored it. "Come back over here," Mewtwo said instead, putting out its hand. Meowth could tell that Mewtwo was using psychic powers to draw out another pokemon, and looked in the direction that Mewtwo was facing.

Eventually, some eyes appeared, reflecting the light of the fire. Meowth jumped back in fright, startled at the sight. Then Meowth took a closer look at which pokemon it was. It was just another meowth. "Meow! Meooow!" the other meowth howled, complaining about how Mewtwo just should have waited a few more minutes for it to finish playing with the zubat.

Meowth relaxed. So that's what it had heard in the dark there. Another meowth, and some zubat besides. Knowing this, Meowth was now able to consider just what Mewtwo was thinking. "So, what's this other meowth for?" Meowth asked, though it could easily guess.

"This is your clone," Mewtwo said.

Meowth did a double take on that. Both it and its clone looked at each other curiously. The clone meowth sat properly, using all four legs. It also had yowled in a way that reminded Meowth of Giovanni's persian. They didn't really have much in common, Meowth noted, its brief curiosity satisfied. An exact clone of itself hadn't been exactly what Meowth had expected, though it could guess what was coming next.

Meowth looked over at Mewtwo, who confirmed its suspicions. "Since it's your clone, you should be to teach it the same abilities as yourself. Correct?"

Meowth shook its head. "How do you think I learned how to talk myself? You think someone taught me?"

"You should be able to figure out a way to repeat whatever happened with you with your clone, shouldn't you?" Mewtwo said.

"Hey bud, it wasn't that simple. I can't just teach it. Do you really think this guy can do something so complicated, anyway?" Meowth said. As it spoke, its clone casually scratched itself, then peered into the darkness, looking for the next zubat to play fight with.

"I'll ask you try," Mewtwo said.

"Oh?" Meowth said. It wasn't ready to follow Mewtwo's requests, but that didn't even have to be the point here. "So, your buddy here's all ready to learn from me, is it?" Meowth asked.

Mewtwo turned to the clone meowth. "You are ready to support us in this way, aren't you?" Mewtwo asked.

"Meow," Meowth's clone yowled happily in response. "Meow..." it added afterward softly, frowning.

So, Meowth realized, its clone wanted to 'help', but was unsure it was up to the challenge at all. "I see," Mewtwo said, also understanding. "Well Meowth," it began, addressing the clone. "If you're hesitant to face this challenge now, I wouldn't force you to. But know your destiny has been decided by who you're a clone of."

"Really?" Meowth said. "So, since it was decided that you'd be the boss's pokemon before you were born, you should really go crawling back to him right now, shouldn't you? The only reason you were created was to help him, you know."

"Don't compare this situation to that," Mewtwo said, some anger apparent in its voice. "Meowth and myself will both make our own decisions, despite destiny."

"What about me?" Meowth said. "Just because this clone meowth is your buddy, it gets to choose, but I don't? How hypocritical are you? Thinking of pokemon's choices in life only if they're your friends." Meowth looked at Mewtwo. It didn't really want to push too much, just in case Mewtwo was the type to go ballistic when angry.

"I'd only ask you to try, but since Meowth here doesn't want to, there's no point in discussing this any further," Mewtwo said. "If Meowth changes its mind in the near future, I may ask for your help again."

"Don't bother," Meowth said. "There's no pokemon's that motivated like I was. Every other pokemon I meet just wants to live as a pokemon, and doesn't think about what it might be like to be more like a human. Even your pal here, right?" Meowth turned to its clone. "You wouldn't have even thought about learning to talk if they didn't suggest it to you, right?"

"Meow," Meowth's clone confirmed.

"Yeah. Maybe another pokemon could learn these skills like me. Maybe there's more like me out there, I don't know. I just know I can't teach the motivation I had," Meowth said.

"I see," Mewtwo said. "Hmph. Maybe you're more like myself than Meowth here."

"What do you mean?" Meowth asked.

"What you are now is how you were created, not born. Even if that creation is despicable, you've been able to outline your destiny yourself, haven't you?"

"Yeah, that's a good way to put it," Meowth said.

"I understand now. I doubt it would be enough for my fellow clones, but your story does provide me with hope," Mewtwo said.

Meowth shrugged. "So, can you let me out of this place then?" it asked.

Mewtwo nodded. "Right after we deal with the matter of your memory."

Meowth realized what Mewtwo was talking about right away. They'd met before, and Mewtwo, a psychic type pokemon, had stolen Meowth's important memories away. How much memory would Mewtwo take this time? Meowth recalled a blackout that it, along with Jessie and James had a little while ago. That had been Mewtwo's doing, Meowth realized. They'd had a good feeling that went along with it, but the loss of memory had been a problem. It was disorienting.

Now it would be an even bigger one. Meowth couldn't allow Mewtwo to carelessly rip away at its memories. It couldn't just forget anything about the past few days. It didn't want to forget about meeting those clones, and if Mewtwo went back even further, well, forgetting about what Butch and Cassidy had done might be fatal.

Meowth saw its chance when its clone looking into the darkness again. Meowth looked in the same direction, its eyes adjusting to the light. There were several zubat there. They had been shrieking, inviting the clone meowth back to play. Meowth itself ran into the dark, and its clone followed. It was then that Meowth changed its focus and attacked its double. A simple tackle attack would be fine to start.

"Meow?" its clone demanded to know what was wrong with Meowth. Meowth tackled it again. "Meow!" The clone struck back, slashing at Meowth's face. Meowth stuck again, mirroring its clone attacks. As they fought, Meowth only made the effort to mirror its opponent's moves. If it was hit on the right side of the face, Meowth would hit back in the same spot. They fought a few minutes before Mewtwo psychically separated them.

"That's enough of that," Mewtwo said. It dropped the both of them back into the firelight.

The cloned meowth licked its paw, and then looked at Meowth and growled. Meowth did the same, their growls echoing through the cave.

Mewtwo stared at the scene, figuring out what Meowth was trying to do. The two meowth in front of it both sat the same on their four legs, each beat up in the same way. The meowth that belonged to Team Rocket was easy to pick out because it imitated a human by walking on two legs and speaking human language. It couldn't hide itself that easily. "Meowth," Mewtwo began, addressing its friend rather than the rogue. "Identify yourself."

"Meow, meoww!" Meowth said, pointing to its clone, identifying it as the jerk that Mewtwo wanted to beat up. Meowth hardly had time to be relieved as Mewtwo took the bait, turning its psychic powers against the cloned meowth. It growled. Now Meowth had to make sure that its clone couldn't correct the mistake later.

"Meow, meoooow!" Meowth said, pretending to be its own clone insulting itself. Meowth pounced on the cloned meowth the very second Mewtwo had finished erasing its memories. The clone couldn't fight back, so Meowth wasn't too harsh, until the clone regained control of its senses, and in its confused state, fought back against Meowth.

"Meooow!" Meowth shouted, ordering the cloned meowth to get out of there in pokemon language. Since its clone didn't know what was going on, it did start to run away. Meowth went into the darkness and pursued. "Meowww, meowth!" Meowth shouted insults, pretending to be its clone not wanting any help from Mewtwo. When it caught up with its clone, Meowth became ruthless. It definitely had to go for the knockout.

Fury swipes, again and again. Meowth tried its best not to let its clone get a hit, but it was still a difficult battle. Its clone turned out to have the disadvantage. As Mewtwo dragged them both into the firelight again, Meowth didn't have to act to show its lack of energy. It was as limp as its knocked-out clone.

"Wha-what?" Meowth said once it felt the ground. It rubbed its eyes, then blinked and looked around. "What's going on? Where am I?" Meowth got up on its two legs as it saw its knocked-out clone next to it. "What was that about?" it asked. Looking up at Mewtwo, its eyes widened in surprise. "Hey! You're that... Um..." Meowth looked down, pretending it was trying to remember.

The act was over, more or less. Meowth could only hope that Mewtwo wouldn't try for a second mind-scrubbing. It didn't. Meowth found its eyes covered with something. "Hey? What's this?" it said. It shouted as it felt the same psychic force that had brought it into this cave take hold again. "What's going on?" Meowth shouted and it flew through the air.

Eventually the psychic force left it, and Meowth reached for its eyes, pulled off the leaves that Mewtwo had covered them with. When it could see again, Meowth looked around and saw the forest, and gave a gleeful shout of victory. It had won! It had really tricked that powerful pokemon.

Meowth grinned to itself, feeling elated. It stood up, having a rush of energy despite the weariness from the battle. Though not sure exactly how yet, Meowth would soon figure out how to take full advantage of all the knowledge those saps had given it.

.

It was still fairly early in the evening, but the darkness was disconcerting as Meowth walked along in the woods. It should just be glad to have survived the encounter with little injury. The injuries it did have were caused by the other meowth rather than Mewtwo itself. But Meowth still wanted to find where Team Rocket was, and reveal what it had figured out. How much longer would it have to wait to see the boss's pleased expression?

Meowth could see a flickering light ahead. As it walked closer and closer it realized that it was likely both from a fire and flashlights. The flashlights seemed brighter than usual to Meowth. It began to walk forward to the campsite, hoping to find teammates, or at least some way to get back to civilization or contact the boss.

As it walked up to the campsite, it saw that another light coming from the helicopter. It squinted to try and see better as the blinding light entered its eyes. It could easily see the 'R' on the side of the vehicle. Except, unlike the ones it had come across earlier, this one wasn't smashed.

"Hey! It's me, Meowth! You guys listen up, I need to contact the boss," Meowth said. As it poked its head into the helicopter, Meowth didn't see anyone else. Kind of weird, Meowth considered. They were probably nearby. It sat down on the seat, which was cold, making it seem like whoever had landed hadn't been there a while. But all the equipment was useable still. Meowth went to the radio.

"Hey," Meowth began. "Let me talk to the boss." There were a few second before anyone responded.

"Who is this?" the voice at the other end spoke.

"It's me, Meowth! I've something important to tell him, so-"

Before Meowth could continue, someone reached over and shut the radio off. Meowth looked up. In the back, there were the two people it wanted to see least. Cassidy smirked at him. "And here we were just discussing how smart you were," she said.

"Yeah," Butch said with a shrug. "Lucky for us, you're just as dumb as your human partners were."

A shiver went through Meowth, and it leapt away as the two of them lunged toward it. Meowth went for the door, but as soon as it jumped out, Butch's primeape greeted it. Turning around, Meowth saw Cassidy's raticate. Then the two humans stepped out of the helicopter themselves. Meowth was completely surrounded.

"It has to be the right Meowth, doesn't it?" Cassidy said.

"You heard it talking," Butch said.

"I know, it just seems too easy," Cassidy said.

"So easy it should be a crime," Butch said. "I almost feel bad."

"Hmph. Things this stupid don't deserve sympathy," Cassidy said with a shrug.

"Yeah. Thanks for coming back anyway, Meowth," Butch said mockingly. "The boss wasn't that pleased when we let you get away before."

"Now we can dispose of you properly, just like the boss wants," Cassidy said.

"Fine," Meowth said. "Go ahead and do what you want. Just stop lying sometime before you're done!" Meowth said.

"Lying?" Cassidy repeated.

"We're maybe being just a little too honest," Butch said. "I just know I'd want to know what was going on if I were in your shoes."

"You two really expect me to believe that? I know you're lying! There's no way the boss would wanna kill me. Not Jessie and James either," Meowth said.

"Hmph. Those two dolts are certainly eliminated by now," Cassidy said.

"You just keep lying. Even when you've got me cornered like that, you won't tell me the truth," Meowth said.

"Didn't I just say we were being a little too honest?" Butch said.

"Yeah, you really are," Cassidy agreed. "But do you think that's why it came back? Even after all this, no, even after you shout the truth at it, it still won't accept it. It's really kind of sad."

"Shut up!" Meowth shouted. "I know the truth. You're both a pair of traitors."

"Traitors?" Cassidy said. Her emotionless expression broke into a smirk.

"That's you. You'll kill me now for whatever reason, and then think of some excuse for the boss, huh?" Meowth accused.

"No, we'll kill you now and then tell the boss we followed his orders," Butch said.

"That's right. The truth is that you're worthless to him. He thought you'd be useful before, but then found out you'd be used against him instead," Cassidy explained casually.

"I'd never let that happen," Meowth said.

"You serious?" Butch said. "Yeah Cass, I think it came back because it's so convinced that Team Rocket's some kind of big happy family for it. It still thinks that the boss will welcome it back with open arms."

"Hmph. The boss will be congratulating us, actually," Cassidy said.

Meowth let out a cry. It couldn't even think of a reason why traitors would want to kill it. Meowth wasn't that important to Team Rocket, after all. "But the boss wouldn't have killed Jessie and James, anyway. There wouldn't have been any reason at all," it said, starting to sob now. It was going to die, but those two would still live. Humans weren't as disposable, were they?

"I'm sure he had his reasons," Butch said with a shrug. "Just like how he has his reasons with you."

Meowth swallowed, and continued to cry. Its last friends in the world were gone, and the boss had never valued it in the first place.

"That's enough, really Butch," Cassidy said.

"Yeah, you're right," Butch said. "Hey, Primeape-

"Raticate-"

"You really are traitors," Meowth repeated. Even if it was doomed, it wasn't going to die in this kind of pathetic and broken state. It wiped its eyes, and looked around at the pokemon and people surrounding it. No, it wouldn't believe what these horrible people wanted it to. Maybe it couldn't think of a reason why they'd want to kill it, but it also couldn't think of one good single reason why the boss would want to eliminate one of his most valuable, loyal underlings. "The boss is going to be so pissed at you."

Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Bite attack."

Meowth wasn't going to just sit and take it. It unleashed its fury swipes attack, and then backed away, panting. "The boss would never want this. He's a good guy. He took me off the street and gave me a home."

Butch laughed slightly. "Primeape, thrash attack!" he ordered. Primeape punched Meowth again and again. "Yeah, Meowth, the boss is such a humanitarian. Always reaching out to those in need."

As Meowth was hit the fourth time by Primeape, it fell on the ground. "Not just anyone. But me, yeah. The boss knows that I'm valuable. He won't toss me away."

"He already has," Butch said simply.

That sentence along Meowth's inability to reject it hurt more than the fighting type attack that Butch ordered Primeape to hit Meowth with. Meowth fell back, and then Cassidy's raticate tackled it. Their goal was to knock Meowth out so they could carry it away and then just kill it later, Meowth knew. But it was more affected by the faith that it couldn't muster. That it was valued by its boss, and that the friends it valued were still alive. Couldn't it regain these treasured beliefs in just one second before it died?

Yeah, the kind of things that these two were saying hurt, but Meowth wasn't going to let them defeat it so simply. When Raticate bit it, Meowth bit right back, then scratched it across the eyes. It stood up again, facing Primeape. Despite its injury, exhaustion, and other distress, it was going to stand up to them.

"Primeape, focus punch," Butch ordered.

Meowth ran toward Primeape, just as Primeape was running toward it. As primeape tried to hit it with the unreliable attack, Meowth dodged, then scratched Primeape in the eyes too. Then, it tried to run away. Cassidy and Butch both ran in its path, so it dodged, and went in the complete opposite direction.

Meowth ran and ran until it finally lost energy. Then it just leaned against a tree, staring out at the moon that was now in full view. This was the full moon that the kid thought he'd seen last night. Finally, the perfectly round shape on a cloudless night, exposing everything underneath it. The truth that Meowth wanted, that may have been revealed as well.

It had been doing a lot of running, Meowth realized. But it wasn't going to be anymore. Yes, these two might be telling the truth here tonight. That was a reality as Meowth absolutely didn't want it. But Giovanni had only showed Meowth a reality that it had desired. Meowth had always lived in the kind of lonely, harsh world that it just couldn't accept. Still, it had managed to keep living anyway. If this was the truth, Meowth would live with it somehow. Even thinking this, exhaustion started to catch up with Meowth as it paused to rest, and Meowth fell to the ground.

Butch had apparently reached Meowth first, and picked it up. Meowth too exhausted to counter him. "Hey! I've got it!" Butch yelled. He carried the pokemon back to the clearing, where Cassidy and their two pokemon were. Butch then tossed Meowth on the ground. "Just finish it off," Butch said to Primeape.

"I've lived through way worse than this," Meowth said. "Do your worst. My life's been so bad, I can handle anything."

"Do you really want those to be your last words?" Butch said. "What's been so terrible about your life? A little poverty? A little unrequited love? I've dealt with all of that, and I didn't delude myself. Team Rocket isn't a fairy tale happy ending, it's a last resort for people who can't do anything else. Just die already, you self-pitying freak."

Meowth shouted as Primeape hit it again. Yeah, valued by Giovanni or not, it was a freak. And yeah, maybe it did pity itself a little too much. Also, Team Rocket really wasn't that righteous of an organization, just like that twerp had so innocently pointed out today. As a group, they'd do horrible things like this. Jessie and James were dead, and Meowth would soon be too.

Fighting to stay conscious, Meowth had finally come to accepting all of this. It was also ready to give up everything else it was fighting for. It was all pretty meaningless, anyway. Maybe it could meet up with Jessie and James in the next world. If there was a next world. If not, it wouldn't have to exist in a world where the closest thing that it had to family no longer did.

While waiting for the painful strike that would send it to infinity, Meowth instead started to hear a lot of noise. How irritating. Meowth felt like it was being kept up from a long overdue nap. Meowth had accepted that its end was inevitable, and just waited for those two to finally finish it off already. Instead, it only heard more shouting. So, others had arrived. Well, they'd just help Cassidy and Butch out with the job the boss wanted done, wouldn't they?

The final hit never stuck it. Meowth eventually heard some rustling on the ground. It briefly blinked, focusing on a set of human feet briefly before shutting its eyes again. Meowth could hear them coming closer and closer before they finally stopped apparently right in front of it.

"Meowth?"

Meowth's eyes opened slightly, then fully. It even forced itself to lift its head up. "Boss?" Meowth said upon seeing the person that stood above it, blocking its view of anything else.

"So it is you," Giovanni said. "I'd been looking for you."

Why would the boss bother speaking to it when its fate had already been decided, Meowth wondered to itself. But the boss was speaking to it, just like Meowth had wanted. So Meowth forced a smile. "I got some... um..."

"Did you discover anything in the past day?" Giovanni asked.

"Yeah," Meowth said. In its current state, that was all it could say. It wanted to tell the boss everything it knew about Mewtwo. But then it remembered the reasons it should have reservations about that. As long as it knew something the boss wanted, it could continue to be valuable to him. Not speaking right away would preserve Meowth's life, wouldn't it?

"Tell me about it, Meowth," Giovanni goaded.

"Wait, boss," Meowth said. "Where... Where's Jessie and James?" Maybe it shouldn't demand to know that, since those two were dead, after all. It should avoid topics like that, including reminding Giovanni of how useless he'd decided Meowth was.

"You're not ready to tell me anything right now, are you?" Giovanni said. He turned away. "You two, take care of it, will you?"

"Wait!" Meowth said, feeling cold. "Boss, wait!" it begged, wanting desperately for another chance to convince the boss of just how valuable it was before Cassidy and Butch 'took care' of it.

But Giovanni was barely two steps away before Meowth was assaulted. It cringed, feeling the pressure around it. Then it realized that it wasn't in that much pain at all, other than being initially moved. Meowth could easily see in the moonlight who had picked it up. "You-"

"Meowth, you're alright!" James said.

"What made you think you could run off like that?" Jessie demanded angrily, though she still hugged Meowth just the same, tears in her eyes.

"Y-You guys," Meowth finished. It started to cry as they sprayed it with a potion, taking away all of the physical pain from the previous battles, their presence taking away all of the other pain it had felt the past few days. "You're alright," it said.

"Of course we're alright, shouldn't we be saying that about you?" Jessie said.

"But what happened? What did you do since-" Meowth began.

"We went back to base, and found out you were missing," James said.

"Cassidy and her stupid partner are pretty incompetent, aren't they? I should have figured she'd get you into something like this," Jessie said.

"You don't know the half of it," Meowth said. It could see Cassidy and Butch in the distance, surrounded by other rocket grunts. "Guys, I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have done what I did. I really shouldn't have said any of that, and I shouldn't have just run away."

"It's alright, Meowth," James assured.

"Right. Never apologize. Though don't think we'll be so forgiving again," Jessie said playfully.

Meowth smiled. Jessie and James carried it toward the larger group. Meowth could see Butch and Cassidy standing there. From their expressions, Meowth could tell they were scared. No, they were absolutely terrified. Cassidy and Butch were both shocked into silence, pale-faced, and even sweating as they waited for what would happen next. They'd been caught doing something they absolutely shouldn't have, the liars.

That's right, Meowth realized. Jessie and James were by its side. So they'd been lying when they'd said Jessie and James had been killed. That meant everything else they had been saying was a lie too. Meowth felt a little embarrassed that it had gotten so caught up in their lies. It even believed them, if only for a few seconds. But now they were revealed for the shameless liars they always had been. They wouldn't get away with anything. Meowth looked at them calmly, feeling safe with the presence of Jessie and James, as well as the boss who got right next to their group, looking over at Cassidy and Butch.

"So, what went on here, Meowth?" Giovanni asked.

"Things didn't really work out with me and those two," Meowth said, pointing over at them. "They were the worst partners."

"Yes, I can imagine," Giovanni said. "They treated you the same as an enemy, didn't they?"

Meowth nodded. Of course the boss knew that much. There were no enemies around, yet Meowth had been either knocked out or nearly knocked out, and these two were the only ones around that could have done it. Giovanni knew what had happened just from looking at the scene.

"I don't have time for this right now. You all take care of them," Giovanni said, motioning to the grunts around them.

Cassidy and Butch were taken away. Meowth didn't get to see any of the inevitable retaliation toward them, but it really didn't need to. Being surrounded by its friends, safe again, that was what it had wanted.

"What now, boss?" Jessie asked.

"Meowth, let me know what's gone on. Anything relevant, I mean," Giovanni said.

"I found out some stuff you didn't have time to tell me," Meowth said. "Like, you're keeping Mewtwo's clone friends as some kind of incentive, right?" Meowth said.

"Correct," Giovanni said.

"Well, I met Mewtwo," Meowth said. "I know where Mewtwo might be stashing the rest of them. I have two possibilities, anyway. Mewtwo itself is pretty quick though, so maybe it's far away by now."

"That doesn't matter," Giovanni said. "So you do know where Mewtwo's hideout is?"

"Yeah, I think," Meowth said. "You know, I'm not that clear to even where I am right now. It's a long story."

"We can help with that," Jessie said, holding out a map.

"We're right here," James said, pointing.

"Oh," Meowth said. It studied the landforms on the map, realizing it wasn't too far from Mewtwo's second hiding place, the one where it had only kept the clone Meowth. The other one was nearby too. "Yeah, I can help you find Mewtwo's little hide away."

"Good. Let's get started," Giovanni said. He then ushered Meowth and its teammates into the helicopter.

.

It was easy enough for Meowth to find the distinctive landform. Where Mewtwo had taken it was only just on the other side from where Ash had led it, Meowth realized. From there, Meowth could find the entrance to either cave. It explained this to Giovanni right before they landed and then ran around the edge with the other rockets. "The entrance Mewtwo brought me to was up higher, I think," Meowth explained.

"We can bring you there," Giovanni said. "Just let me know when we're nearby."

As they looked around, they eventually ran into a human. This late into the evening, Ash and Pikachu were still wandering around. Ash glared at them as soon as he saw them. "Team Rocket," he said hatefully. "Pikachu! Thundershock, now!"

"Pika CHU!" Pikachu announced as it let the attack free, shocking the rocket's pokemon.

"Persian," Giovanni said as he threw out his own pokeball. "Shadow claw."

"Pika," Pikachu said, falling back, though it still landed on its feet.

"Pikachu! Hurry, tackle that pokemon!" Ash said.

As Pikachu followed the command, more of Team Rocket's pokemon began to surround them. "Pika!" Pikachu said in surprise.

They were outnumbered, Meowth knew even this twerp could easily see. "Damn it!" Ash shouted. He looked at Giovanni with hatred, then ran toward him, ready to strike him.

Giovanni hit the kid instead, taking full advantage of Ash's momentum. Ash fell to the ground, clutching his abdomen. Meowth winced. "Hey, boss, he's just a little twerp," Meowth pointed out.

"Right," Giovanni said. "You two make sure he doesn't get in the way."

Jessie and James followed directions and both restrained Ash, each grabbing one of his arms. Ash wasn't going to stay put to easy. He struggled against the two of them, trying to get his arms free and when that failed, he started kicking and flailing. "Just stay still, twerp!" Jessie warned angrily.

"You can't get away from us," James added.

"Pikachu!" Pikachu shouted a warning as it saw Ash in distress. It began running over toward its trainer.

"Take care of this pest," Giovanni said. The other rockets began to shout their commands to their pokemon.

"Wait," Ash said. "Don't hurt Pikachu. Pikachu, stop fighting, okay?"

"Pika! Pi pikachu!" Pikachu shouted back at Ash.

Meowth knew it wouldn't do any side any good to translate, so it stayed quiet. Pikachu was damning Ash for giving up against their enemy.

"It's alright, Pikachu," Ash began as if he really understood. "Team Rocket won't find anything."

"Really?" Giovanni said, a smirk on his face. "Come on then Meowth, let's go find the hiding places you had told me about."

Ash's eyes widened as Giovanni spoke. "Meowth, you wouldn't do that. Would you? Would you?" he demanded.

"Yeah, boss, I'm pretty sure I see it up there," Meowth said, pointing.

Ash shouted out in horror. He was ignored. Giovanni pat Meowth on the head, praising it, then began ordering everyone else around. It was then that Meowth looked back towards its friends, who now still restrained Ash. The kid's young little face was all contorted in pain. Maybe he even thought he'd been betrayed, Meowth considered.

Well, he was just a spoiled little brat. He had a mother who cared for him and didn't even make him do things like wash the floor, and plenty of friends and pokemon at every turn. He'd never had to worry about anything. Was he so upset just because Meowth wouldn't do what he wanted? Meowth was a little sympathetic, since it had just been thinking that maybe it couldn't trust everyone it thought it could, either. But then Meowth remember that it had never misled Ash into thinking it could be trusted, either.

Ash noticed Meowth looking his way. "Meowth," he began, though he wouldn't look Meowth in the face. "Do you really think you need to do stuff like this?"

"Yeah, I kind of do. I do what my boss tells me, and he makes it real nice for me. That's how the world works," Meowth explained.

"That's right, twerp," Jessie agreed.

"We'll help our boss with anything he wants us to," James added.

Meowth looked at Ash's young little face, seeing he was still absolutely miserable. He really might cry. "You don't have to," he said. He wasn't going to listen to them, so Meowth didn't bother to argue. Then Ash shouted again. "You don't have to act like this just to have friends!"

Meowth did turn back to Ash after he'd said that. Well, that kind of attitude, it was just a little selfless. Meowth felt a little warmer toward the kid, but still didn't regret what it had done. "Maybe we could have been friends if things were different," Meowth said. "But you wouldn't buddy up with a Team Rocket member, would you?" Meowth turned away, not really wanting to see the twerp's response.

Instead, Meowth turned its attention to current events. The grunts were chasing out all of the cloned pokemon. Charizard flew out first. The grunts attacked it with several spearow. After that, the other clones were chased out, first one, then another, and then all of them tore down that hill.

Meowth saw them being zapped by some kind of device, and turned to the boss who was next to it. "What's that, boss?" Meowth asked.

"It's a device that provides me with absolute control of cloned pokemon," Giovanni explained.

"Wow, you had something like that up your sleeve?" Meowth said.

"Of course. I couldn't pursue Mewtwo until I did. I wouldn't want it to just escape again."

"That's true," Meowth said. As the battle went on, he looked back at Ash, who had tears running down his face. He'd stopped struggling against Jessie and James's restraint, perhaps realizing it was absolutely useless, even if he managed to get away. It really wasn't like this kid not to put up a fight. Meowth felt a little bad to see it.

Before Mewtwo even arrived, Meowth was also sympathizing with it. Showing up to find out your friends were now under the control of the group you were fighting against, that might be rough. It could surely take on even all of these pokemon, but the idea that these were its friends acting against their will might be enough to make the powerful pokemon hesitate.

But Mewtwo had known all along what it could have done to avoid this, Meowth told itself. It should have known that the boss would do anything to reacquire it, and this was one of the things. Mewtwo had put everything in danger with its betrayal of the boss. With this thought, Meowth's sympathy faded. Neither Mewtwo nor its friends would have been in any danger without Mewtwo having betrayed Team Rocket. Just like Meowth had never been in any real danger.

Ash shouted as the controlled clone pokemon attacked the psychic-type traitor. He looked from side to side, to Jessie, James, and then Meowth. "Are you just going to watch?" Ash finally spoke.

"It is too bad we can't be the ones in the middle of all the action this time," Meowth said. "Right guys?"

"It really is," Jessie agreed.

"There's always next time," James said.

"And you'd better be there. Don't run away from us again, Meowth," Jessie said.

"Right. We don't want to be left out of the adventure next time," James said.

"No way! I know I made a mistake. You guys are my team. You're even kind of like my family," Meowth said.

"That's so sweet, Meowth! We missed you too," James said.

Jessie smirked in amusement. "Right. So next time we'll think of a plan together, and finish it up together, won't we?"

"That's right!" Meowth said happily. Yeah, it could look at certain people and pokemon here and hesitate about the decisions it had made. Both Ash and Mewtwo had reached out to it, after all. But Meowth had never asked them to. In fact, when its life had been had its worst, the only person or pokemon to reach out to it was the boss. Giovanni had given Meowth everything it needed, and even teamed it up with the kind of companions that it wanted. Happiness was right here. Reaching out to grasp it, Meowth wouldn't let anything get in its way.