Pinpricks of Humanity
The scratching of his pen against the paperwork was the only sound in the room. The Rocket Boss was nowhere near oblivious to the other presence in the room, but he was steadfastly ignoring the woman.
"Giovanni, I need a favor," his subordinate asked shortly, frowning at his uncaring attitude.
"And why should I do something for you, Ariana?" Giovanni drawled, no longer writing, but still not looking at her.
She huffed. "I remember the days before you were boss, Giovanni. I still remember quite a few things from the time when you were working under your mother."
His eye twitched. "Is that a threat?" he growled, though he did put down his pen and looked at her finally.
Only to have his lap and arms full of a squirming kid, dumped there by none other than his remorseless Executive. He scowled and glared up at her immediately, though he just barely refrained from reflexively pushing the kid off of him and onto the floor.
"What the hell, Ariana?" he sneered, leaning back slightly from the kid on him.
"My sister's deadbeat husband left her and Ash a few days ago. I'm going to be by her side for awhile and cheer her up, and take care of her. Can you look over Ash in the meantime?" she gave him a hard stare.
Giovanni glared at her. "Like you're actually asking me," he muttered, but he did adjust Ash more comfortably onto his lap.
"Thanks a lot, Giovanni," Ariana's look softened. "No, really. This means a lot."
"Don't get sappy on me," he snapped, waving her off dismissively. "Hurry up and go do what you need. The kid will be fine."
Ariana rolled her eyes, but sent him one last thankful smile before she left. And then it was just him and the kid, and Giovanni stared down at the boy on his lap. He had the urge to shove him off of his lap, but resisted the urge and turned back to his work. Frowning, he whistled and a feline pokémon was quick to slink into the room. Immediately, he could see the kid perk up and stare intently at his Persian. Without further ado, Giovanni slid his hands underneath the kid's armpits and then plopped him down on the floor.
"There," Giovanni declared. "Go play with Persian. Persian, watch over the kid and make sure he doesn't get into trouble."
Persian gave him a look, but went over to the boy –Ash if he remembered correctly –who then tentatively stood up and came closer to the pokémon. One hesitant glance at him before the boy focused on Persian and smiled lightly, reaching out and scratching Persian behind his ear. The feline purred in a pleased manner.
With one last look at them, Giovanni left them to it and went back to his work. The sounds of giggling and Persian's purring sounded in the background, but wasn't too distracting and even rather soothing. He was amazed at the amount of work he managed to get done, although when he finally registered the silence, he tensed and his head snapped up to look for the kid. He was more than surprised to find that he was sitting quietly on the floor, with Persian draped on his small lap as Ash pet him. Persian was drifting off to sleep, but Ash was watching him carefully.
"What is it?" Giovanni scowled.
The boy shrunk back. "N-nothing. Sorry, I just didn't want to make trouble or be too loud."
Giovanni rubbed his temples, before tiredly looking down at his work. He was almost finished for the day…
"Leave Persian there. He can enjoy his nap," he said as he stood. Ash carefully moved up and away from under Persian, before scrambling to his feet and shyly heading towards Giovanni. "Let's…go for a walk."
It wasn't one of his best ideas to do, but he didn't know or cared what kids would prefer to do these days anyway. However, the kid didn't complain at all and merely walked by his side quietly. For some reason, Giovanni could surmise Ash wasn't usually a quiet kid…
Honestly, he could and should have delegated this to one of his subordinates. He could have just dumped the kid off for someone else to handle. And yet he chose not to –it was probably for the best anyway, considering they would just incompetently handle the child and end up traumatizing him. He would rather not deal with Ariana's nagging, or her screeching at him either.
A few paces away from his office, a tiny hand crept up to his and held it, and Giovanni nearly jerked away from the action. Instead, he glanced down askance at the kid who'd dared to grab onto him, seeing only a kid who was studiously looking at the ground and still staying quiet. Frowning, he decided to indulge the kid and let him hold his hand, looking straight down the hallway and refusing to look down at the kid.
But he could insistently feel the small warmth of the tiny hand in his, feel how small and fragile it was in his larger and stronger hand and how tightly it held onto his, as if he was afraid to let go of Giovanni. It unnerved him and made odd, unidentifiable feelings rise up in him, and made him look down at the kid.
Ash was still quiet, but looking too morose than a kid his age should. He vaguely recalled past times where Ariana would gush about her 'adorable nephew' and how he was so happy and driven all the time, and had already had dreams of being a Pokémon Master. Right now, he didn't look like he was much for anything, and Giovanni couldn't see an ounce of the happy kid Ariana claimed he would be.
He could see where Ariana's ire at the kid's 'deadbeat father' was coming from.
Sighing quietly, he stopped mid-stride and caused Ash to stop as well. The kid looked up in surprise, silently questioning him about the stop. Not that Giovanni gave any explanation. He simply bent down and reached for the kid, hauling him up into his arms and started carrying him. Giovanni could stand to be just a little bit more indulging…
For a moment, Ash was tense and still in his arms. And then his body relaxed and he was slumping against Giovanni, burying his face against the older man's neck, and a tiny hand clenching around a fistful of Giovanni's suit. He was uncomfortably aware of wet tears sliding down his neck and the boy quietly sniffling, but he didn't say or do anything other than continue to hold onto the kid and keep walking. His feet turned and he began to take a detour, finding himself in the kitchens.
He carried him over to the freezers, where he adjusted himself so that he was holding the kid to him with one arm while he used the other to open one of the freezers up.
"Choose one," he said gruffly, and Ash moved his face away from where it had been against Giovanni's neck, and looked over to where he was gesturing at.
Ash's eyes widened before he hesitantly pointed at one, and then went back to curling up against Giovanni and hiding his face. Giovanni twitched at that, but focused more on grabbing a tub of chocolate fudge ice cream the kid had chosen, and then a tub of chocolate mint for himself. He balanced them on top of each other, before carefully carrying them with one arm, since the other was still preoccupied with Ash.
He debated separating the kid from himself and making him sit on the other side of the table, but considering the vice grip Ash had on him, he decided it wasn't worth the effort. Instead, he tiredly sat down on a chair, and moved the kid enough to be on his lap. He quickly flipped the lids off and handed a spoon to Ash, and took the other for himself.
"This doesn't count as lunch, so don't go telling your aunt about this," Giovanni grumbled.
It took a moment, but a small giggle escaped Ash.
Inwardly, Giovanni smirked smugly.
He hadn't meant to, but the two of them ate a substantial amount of ice cream and it had ended up more or less their lunch. But since the kid wasn't looking like he was going to keel over, and he felt fine as well, he guessed that it was fine for just that once.
Right now, the two of them were currently back in his office, with him finishing up the last of his work and Ash quietly laying on top of a lightly dozing Persian, half asleep himself. His eyes were drowsily closing, and Giovanni was sure that the kid would have dozed off as well, if it hadn't been for Giovanni's phone going off. Immediately, the boy's eyes snapped wide open and he was watching Giovanni alertly. Giovanni just gave him a raised eyebrow, getting a hold of his cell phone and answering.
After a quick report about the new shipment of pokémon that came in, the agent stayed quiet and awaited Giovanni's response.
"Good," Giovanni praised briefly. "A successful return, I'd say."
"Thank you, sir. Would you like to come here to look over the new arrivals yourself? We'd get everything immediately ready for your visit, Giovanni."
His eyes trailed over to the kid still watching him and he pursed his lips, thinking about it.
"I'll be there momentarily," he finally decided. "I'll be having someone accompany me, so make sure everything is set up safely. A child, that is. Make sure it's all…childproof."
"A child, Giovanni –?"
Giovanni hung up, not waiting for further replies. He stood up and looked to the kid.
"Come here. We'll be going down a few levels," Giovanni explained to Ash, who stood by his side obediently. "There'll be a lot of pokémon there for you to see."
Ash's eyes lit up and a large toothy smile crossed the kid's lips. "Can I…can I really go see?"
He patted the mop of dark hair absentmindedly. "We can go now." And then he searched out the tiny hand and held it, leading the way out. The small hand in his tightened its grip.
Giovanni's lips twitched upwards unfamiliarly, and he felt himself involuntarily tighten his own hold around Ash's hand.
It was a quiet walk all the way to the elevator on that floor, and inside of it, Giovanni and Ash stood in rather peaceful quiet. It was strange to find that by then, Giovanni didn't really mind Ash's presence anymore, or having to watch over him. In fact, he found he rather enjoyed having the child by his side.
"How many pokémon are there?" Ash asked eagerly.
"A lot," Giovanni said wryly, feeling rather amused.
The kid looked up at him with wide eyes. "A lot?"
"Lots," and the two of them shared a small grin, though Giovanni hadn't expected to share the reaction.
The elevator opened to reveal a hangar filled with open crates of pokémon, caged up and positioned in two separate rows. Many of his agents were quickly scurrying around, putting things in order and making sure everything was being presented correctly and the pokémon were locked up. When they saw him enter, they all straightened and stood at attention side by side, loudly greeting him.
However, his attention was drawn to the kid by his side, who had stopped in his tracks and his hand dropped from Giovanni's. Frowning, Giovanni looked down to see what the problem was, only to see Ash looking miserably forward at all the pokémon, worrying his lower lip with his teeth.
"What's wrong?" Giovanni asked, voice strangely gentle.
Ash looked up at him, lip freed from his teeth but trembling. "They're…they're all caged up. Why? They look so sad."
Giovanni searched Ash's face closely before he sighed, and then straightened up. He faced his agents.
"Get back to work!" he barked harshly at them. "I'll be around shortly."
Then he turned back to Ash and took the initiative to reach out and grab Ash's hand, before he turned on his heel and started walking off to the side. There, he stopped and faced Ash, going to kneel on one knee as he stared into Ash's light-brown (practically honey-hued) eyes. He ignored the occasional questionable and curious glances his agents kept sending his way.
"This…group I'm in charge of," Giovanni tried to simplify his explanation for the kid. "It's called Team Rocket. What we do is… 'collect' pokémon and bring them together for the group to use. We…" And Giovanni thought about it, and decided he couldn't sugarcoat it. It was for the best anyway –he wasn't sure how he could, and it was probably better that the kid knew and understood from the beginning what he did and what kind of man he was.
However, Ash interrupted first before he could continue. "You mean steal pokémon."
Giovanni couldn't suppress his surprised blink. Well, the kid wasn't lacking in smarts and was surprisingly very intuitive.
"Yes," he admitted bluntly. "My group and I steal pokémon, for profit and to ultimately take over the world," he revealed remorselessly. It might be a little too much and too dark to reveal to a kid Ash's age, but he felt this was probably the best route to take with him, and that he should be aware of the world's workings and mature a bit already. And be aware of Giovanni and how he ticked, if Giovanni was honest.
Ash stayed quiet before leaning towards Giovanni and tugging at his arm.
"But I think you can be better than that," he murmured, ducking his head. "And if you want to rule the world, you can do it in a better way."
Giovanni couldn't stop himself from blinking again, staring at the child in front of him in surprise. And it was almost rather hilarious how the kid didn't even bother to outright tell him it's wrong to steal pokémon, and most importantly try to rule the world. In fact, it was more or less an encouragement to find a better way to get pokémon and take over the world.
"Well then, I'll have to look for another way," he was shocked to realize he actually meant that. "In the meantime, I'll stick with my usual methods."
Ash was quiet and he wondered what was going through the kid's head.
"If…if I stop you…will you be my daddy?"
Giovanni froze, shocked and caught off guard by the kid's quiet demand. He hadn't expected that at all, or that the kid had somehow gotten so close to him already. It was unnerving, and yet oddly, he couldn't find it in himself to scoff, as he usually would. He could immediately just dismiss the kid's claim.
"If you stop me from my goals, then I'll be your father," Giovanni agreed, just as quietly and just as solemnly as Ash had asked that strange, little desire.
It was an extraordinary and bizarre truth for Giovanni, but he meant every word.
He'd brought Ash all around to interact with the pokémon, observing how they all seemed to relax and look less agitated and scared as they came into contact and spent time with the child. At first, he'd been tense and thought the pokémon, in their state, would likely attack and harm the child. But it seemed their restlessness calmed as Ash played and talked with them.
None of his agents approached the two of them, or asked about Ash's presence. He was glad for that because he wasn't sure what he'd have ready for an explanation. In any case, he was proud to know he'd had them all well trained, and that hopefully things would continue to go smoothly.
In the time his mind had been wandering and he'd looked away, he hadn't noticed that Ash had traveled away from his side and nearer to where the heavier crates had been piled high, trying to get closer to a Pikachu that was watching him warily.
Neither Ash nor Giovanni noticed it, but Pikachu saw the crates near him balancing precariously and about to tilt over. Unfortunately, Ash was too close and just about to be right under the crate that was going to fall.
So Pikachu decided he had to do something.
That was when Giovanni finally noticed where Ash had gone, as that Pikachu let out a loud scream of its name and shocked a lightning attack right before where Ash was about to step, stopping the boy from taking another step. Hurriedly, Giovanni headed towards Ash, glaring at the Pikachu. But then he looked to where the yellow mouse was staring at and his eyes widened in horror at seeing the top crate finally tilt and fall, with Ash just in the way.
He put a burst of speed on, and scooped Ash just in time as he darted away and the crate fell and burst apart on the floor. Gritting his teeth, he straightened up and glared around him, seeing his wide-eyed and fearful subordinates staring at him. His lips barely pulling apart into a snarl, he clutched Ash closer to him and held the child close, feeling even angrier as he felt Ash heaving and sobbing against his neck, thin arms tightly around it and holding on close to Giovanni.
"Clean that up!" he snapped at them. "Next time, you incompetent fools, make sure everything is stacked properly and everything is supposed to be up to my standards! And when I say to practically childproof this place, you damn well do it!"
Seeing them all still frozen in fear, Giovanni grew even more impatient. "Get started, you bunch of idiots!"
They all began to scramble about.
Without another word to his idiotic workers, he continued to hold Ash against him as he strode out of that hangar. Outside of it, he stopped and put Ash down, checking over the child meticulously.
"Are you hurt?" he asked tersely, scowling as he tried to feel for any broken bones.
"Nuh uh. I'm fine," Ash gave him a toothy grin, though he still had teary eyes.
He sighed in relief. "Very good. Why don't we head back to my office, Ash?"
Giovanni picked him up again, but didn't hold him in a suffocating grip. However, he was surprised by the hug Ash gave him.
"What is it now?" but his lips turned upwards into a small smile.
"You said my name."
Looking back, it had been 'kid' outside and inside of his head. Occasionally, 'Ash' came up, but he'd never realized he'd never actually called him it.
"That I did," Giovanni murmured.
Ash wasn't really just a kid to him anymore.
Somehow and sometime, he'd managed to wiggle underneath Giovanni's skin.
"It's late, Ash. Why don't you try going to sleep?" Giovanni started walking again, heading to the elevator that would take him to his personal floor.
"'Kay," Ash's voice was already sounding tired. "Can you read me a story to bed?"
The study was quiet as Giovanni sat on his couch with Ash on his lap. A book was already nearby, but it was more of a book on the legends of the beginning of the universe, with Arceus, Dialga, Palkia, and an unknown third creator pokémon who represented antimatter and was only seen as a shadow. However, it was interesting and might interest Ash, considering it was about pokémon and legendary ones at that.
He grabbed the book and flipped it open to the first page, starting to read. His smooth, accented voice lulled Ash to sleep, despite him wanting to stay up and listen and dream of this unknown pokémon who he wished he could meet…
Giovanni held onto him tightly, refusing to let go or move away in the slightest, even after Ash had fallen asleep.
Giovanni scribbled something onto the piece of paper, finding the late hour tiring for himself as well. He barely blinked when a familiar red head entered his office, ignoring her just like he had earlier.
"So I'll take him off your hands now, Giovanni," Ariana said simply.
"I thought you said you were going to be awhile with your sister," he said idly.
"I figure you wouldn't want to be stuck with him for too long," she sighed. "A day is enough, so thank you so much, Giovanni."
When he didn't answer her for a moment, she confusedly watched him.
"Giovanni?" Ariana pushed slightly.
"He's sleeping. Don't disturb him," was what he said instead, startling her. She looked bewildered at him, even more so when she registered what exactly he'd said.
"I don't understand," she admitted, wondering what was going on.
Giovanni stopped writing and looked up, staring at her coolly.
"If you need more time with your sister alone, he can stay with me. We've yet to finish reading about the origins of the universe, with Arceus and the others."
Ariana could only stare at him.
"You don't…mind watching over him a little while longer?" she asked hesitantly.
He leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow at her. "I don't care. Leave him, if you want."
She bit her lip and looked at him, still feeling confused. She swallowed and shook off her uncertainty.
"If you really don't mind…Thank you, Giovanni."
She turned to leave as he went back to whatever he was working on, but paused on her way to the door. She saw the small figure lying on the couch, huddled and asleep underneath Giovanni's jacket, and she smiled a little to herself. She continued on and walked more confidently out the door.
It looked like Giovanni knew how to care for others after all.