Note: This is a three fourths Comedy, one forth Drama one-shot (Mayyybe a little less). Rated PG-13 for a variety of elements which include, but are not limited to, a sadistic Sneasel, a flying cat, a drunk rat, and noble dog -- all with a dash of attitude. This is a sequel to my one-shot, Loyalty. However, you do not need to read it to understand and enjoy this story. (It’s just nice to know the other characters a tad better.) And now I present to my entry for the Laughingstock One-shot contest… well, part of it anyway. It will be split into 4 parts because of its length. Looked over by The Dark Evolution. Thanks. As always, comments, critique, etc. are appreciated. Typos will be killed upon sight. Part Legend Part I: Fake Wings Part II: Morana Part III: Ashes to Ashes Part IV: Flight +Dedicated in loving memory to Belle the Devil Cat: inspiration, pet, and friend who passed away on 6/6/06. You will be missed.+ Chance By: Saffire Persian “Chance is a fool’s name for Fate.” --Fred Astaire Part I: Fake Wings Overhead, the heat of the sun in shining in all its glory down upon you, and you bask in its extended radiance with all the luxury of a human at the beach. The weather is warm, the air is crisp and clear… the atmosphere is peaceful… Or rather, you wish it was. But things don’t quite turn out that way. Today has been far from sunny – in fact, the weather’s completely opposite: it’s snowing. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s dreary, and summer seems so far away. And, for a fire-type like yourself, winter has never been your favorite part of the year, and never will be. Granted, it doesn’t snow a lot in Saffron during wintertime, and the weather is usually quite tolerable, but it still does, and right now it’s falling like it’ll never stop, coating the ground below in neat, virgin snow. You move away from your place at the window, crawling nearer to the passionately burning fireplace, enjoying the heat it gives off. Riley and the Rat (as you still “fondly” call him) are in the kitchen, enjoying a breakfast consisting of omelets and toast. You know so because you can smell it. You can hear them laughing, and you can’t help but ponder how much things can change – have changed – in six months. It seemed like only yesterday you were coming up with your next fiendish plot to exterminate the Rat for good... and now – now they’re married. They did it all fancy and legally as most humans do. It seemed like a total waste of time to you, especially when you could’ve been working with the rest of the police team doing something useful, instead sitting there listening to some crazed man with a hat give a long (and boring) speech of which you paid no attention to. Your coal black eyes lazily wander over to where the Christmas tree is just to your right, sitting straight and tall in all its glory. Various tinsels and ornaments hang at every available limb, sparkling with various hues, mostly red and green. Riley and the Rat love it. You just want to burn it – have for the past month. Mostly because you’re bored, partly because you just like to burn things. You sigh, watching a few more snowflakes fall from the white sky. You also don’t like winter because it’s unduly hectic. Every place you go – on and off the job – is excessively crowded. Everywhere’s packed with humans; so much so, Saffron City seems to be little more than an overflowing colony of Ratatta as they scurry from store to store, all fighting to get their hands on the newest fad or recent sale. Because of the Christmas holiday, you and Riley have been working overtime, taking down petty criminals whose capture means absolutely squat to you. Stealing’s about as common in the Christmas season as the fat men running about in red suits are, and fights (especially between angry women) break out almost continuously. Even you, a highly trained, respectable Growlithe, have trouble breaking them apart without having to use desperate measures. You shake your head. You never knew humans could be so stupid. They act so irrational and greedy this time of year. You jump onto the couch in front of the TV, cocking your head as you hear footsteps approaching the room. Light, hesitant footsteps. The Rat. Harder, more determined footsteps. Riley. They enter into the room at the same time. The Rat’s looking all professional-like as always, dressed in a ironed shirt and tie despite the fact he has a day. Riley’s still in her pajamas, taking advantage of one of her only days of rest. It is Christmas Day after all. You scowl a bit. This is your first Christmas with the Rat living in your house. It still feels odd, having this strange (and certainly not normal) person living in your house who shares little of the same values with you. The only thing the two of you have in common is your love for Riley: and that trait’s the one and only thing that keeps you from killing him every time you watch him walk through the door. The Rat looks at you suddenly. There’s a strange gleam in his eye you don’t like one bit. “Riley,” he says, and you notice he’s reaching for something in his pocket. “Now that we’re all here –“ There’s that cursed glance again. He’s grown a spine over the past few months, it seems. “—you care if I start off?” (You care.) Riley looks up, shrugging her shoulders. “With the presents? Doesn’t matter.” “Well …” The Rat pulls his hand out of his pocket, a round object clenched in his fist. Your eyes narrow. “Didn’t your family have any Christmas traditions?” You can already feel that it would be a very good idea to snatch the gift out of the male human’s fist and burn it before it’s too late. Riley sighs, moving a brown lock of hair out of her face. “I grew up on a farm – my father didn’t believe in celebrating Christmas much. We had too much work to do on the farm to bother with those kind of things. Milk the Miltank, make sure the Torchic didn’t go and burn the barn down…” Her expression tightens, eyebrows furrowing as she stairs at the object clutched in his hand. “What is it, anyway?” He opens up his hand. It’s red. It’s white. It’s a Pokéball. You stare. Maybe you should bury the Pokéball deep beneath the earth instead. You’ve tried burning Pokéballs. It doesn’t work. Riley’s staring at the Pokéball, too. “A …” “Precisely.” He grins at you, and you glare back at him. Since when does he have the right to bring something living into your house? He may have married Riley, but that does not – DOES NOT – give him permission to do so. “I thought your Growlithe could use a friend.” (You think the Rat could use a restraining order.) “Well, shall we?” the Rat says, with a sly grin. Stupid rat. The Pokéball bursts open, illuminating the room with white light. You watch, not realizing you’re holding your breath as the creature materializes out of the haze. The light slowly disappears, and the specimen in which the ball contained blinks and yawns, revealing two perfectly pointed white canines. You groan. It’s a cat. You’re going to be replaced by a cat. Even the Rat couldn’t help but notice your venomous glare, but he ignores it, whistling a familiar Christmas tune, tossing the Meowth’s Pokéball up into the air and catching it. He smiles. “Just evening up the playing field.” ******* For perhaps the millionth time today, you let out a frustrated groan. You’re staring listlessly from the couch, feeling like an old rag doll that’s seen too much of life. The Meowth is happily prancing around the living room, throwing scraps of sparkling wrapping paper up into the air before energetically pouncing on it. Riley and the Rat have gone to some restaurant downtown, leaving you alone with explicit instructions to watch over the Meowth and make sure he doesn’t get into any trouble. You’ve been keeping an eye on him all right, resisting the urge to chase the stupid cat out of the house and into the street. For now, though, you’ve pretended to be asleep, just so the cat would leave you alone. Within the first five minutes of humans’ departures the Meowth has been trying to speak to you, quite literally bouncing off the walls. He just won’t shut up. “Ha!” A piece of white gift paper drifts through the air, landing on the tip of your black nose. Your eyes are barely open – just enough so you can see what’s going on. The Meowth’s staring at you, blue-eyes wide and far too curious for their own good. Slowly, a smile comes to the kitten’s face, and he begins to slink towards the couch, weaving through a mess of wrappings, string, and boxes left over from the opened presents. His back end is wriggling in an oh-so annoying fashion, with his brown-tipped tail waving to and fro. He’s positioned himself just in front of the couch now, his eyes narrowing to tiny slits. You wonder if now would be a good time to ‘wake up’. But then again, he’d realize you were awake and try to strike up some air-headed conversation that you do not want to be a part of. “Ready…almost there… slowly…” Heck, he even talks to himself. “Almost there… just wait for the right moment…steady… that’s it. It can’t be too hard – just SNATCH it off the dog’s fat nose, then I’ll pounce on it. It WON’T get away from me!” Hmm… you never did like the taste of paper ashes in your mouth…but… “It can’t hide behind a dog forever! I’m not scared of any dog. I’ll show you!” ...you suppose you can make an exception. “All right!” Your muscles tense. “GO!” The Meowth springs just as you ‘awake’ from your slumber. You bolt onto your feet, and the paper flies off your nose. Snarling (you intend to make yourself look as menacing as possible) you snatch up the stray piece of paper with your open jaws. The Meowth yowls in anguish. “NO! It’s MINE!” You blink in surprise as the Meowth lands on the couch before you, looking everything but intimidated by your display. “You let it go right now!” You shake your head, eyes betraying your disgust as an Ember quickly disintegrates the cat’s plaything into little more than a miniscule layer of ash. It tastes absolutely horrid. You open your mouth, trying to spit out some of the bad, charcoal-y taste. The Meowth looks horrified. “You ATE it.” The feline does a double-take, a disbelieving look coming to his white countenance as he adds: “You’re weird.” “I’m what?” “Weird,” he says again, head tilting to the left as he sits on his haunches. “You’re not supposed to eat paper y’know. Especially the kind with ribbon; that kind gets stuck in your throat. Tastes nasty, too.” “I didn’t eat it,” you tell him, your muzzle now bearing the most ferocious snarl you can possibly make while trying not to gag on the ash. “I burned it. I like to burn things.” “Oh.” He obviously does not get the message you’re trying to get across. “Well, at least you’re awake now. I thought you were going to sleep all day. Well… umm… Eh… I guess I’ll start off. I’m Chance. Who’re you?” Like you’re going to tell him. “It’s none of your business, Meowth.” “My name’s not ‘Meowth’! It’s Chance! I told you that!” “Chance, riiight,” you say, letting the last word draw out. You can’t help but roll your eyes as the kitten’s back arches in fury. “Whatever.” You jump off the bed in a fluid motion, heading toward the kitchen through the maze of wrapping paper. “Hey! Wait!” The Meowth quickly follows suit, running after you. He’s quite fast. “You haven’t told me your name yet.” You don’t really intend to, either. Instead of going into the kitchen as previously planned, you turn to the left and trot down the carpeted, dimly lit hallway. “Well?” “Well, what?” “Your name!” Chance hisses. “You dogs really are stupid. D’you not have a name or something?” “That’s right,” you say, reverberating with sarcasm. The sarcastic remark is completely wasted on Chance, however. “Well, I’ll have to make up one for you, then.” “I’ll pass.” The cat’s face scrunches up in concentration. It takes him only seconds to spit out: “Cal! How about that?” “No.” You continue down the hall, darting through a doorframe into your room. Chance’s just outside of it. “But Cal’s a good name! Hey!” The door abruptly slams in his face, courtesy of a well-placed kick from your outstretched forepaw. To your pleasure, you can hear him hiss in frustration. Maybe he’ll get the message now. ****** You come out of your room a few hours later, wrestling open the door with a long piece of red cloth tied tightly around the doorknob that’s always been there, just in case you ever closed the door. Riley’s never wanted you to stay locked in. You haven’t heard so much as a mumble from the Meowth for the past hour. For that, you’re glad. You slowly make your way down the hall, noticing pieces of gift-wrap scattered willy-nilly about the hall. You grimace, peeking your head around the corner and into the living room. Chance’s there, sitting quietly in the middle of the paper-strewn floor. He’s grooming himself. You roll your eyes. Typical cat behavior. Wait… You look again, spotting something just as you were about to dart back into your room before the Meowth has a chance to notice you’ve come out. He’s not grooming himself, he’s licking air. “What in the name of Entei do you think you’re doing?” you growl, coming out from behind the corner, eying the young cat incredulously. “What does it look like?” Chance hisses back, glowering. “I’m cleaning my wings.” The sudden idea that this Meowth may not be at all sane begins to cross you mind. You can’t even bring yourself to laugh. Instead, you stare. You aren’t quite sure what to say in response. “You’re what?” you finally bark out, slightly hoarse. “Cleaning my wings, I said! You need to keep your wings clean to be able to fly. Everyone knows that.” “You can’t fly,” you retort, ignoring the dark glares the feline is throwing in your direction. “It’s impossible.” (They can fall though.) “That’s what everybody says!” Chance yells, fur bristling. “That’s what they all tell me! But they don’t know anything.” His face falters, and he suddenly seems apprehensive. “Well, I know most Meowth can’t fly … but I’m different! I have wings! And you’re just jealous. Jealous just like everybody else!” Your expression doesn’t change. It looks very far from ever being a believing one. “You don’t believe me, do you?” Chance hisses, voice rising in volume as he stands up. “Well, I’ll prove it to you. I’ll prove that I can fly! I’ll show you!” ******* You follow him outside, onto the wooden deck that overlooks the neighborhood. You’re only following him out of curiosity, nothing more. You’re starting to regret it as your paws make contact with snow. It’s not snowing anymore, but it’s still wet; it’s still cold, not the most ideal weather for a fire-type such as yourself. The sun’s actually out though, shining dully through the sparse cloud cover. You’re thankful for that. Snorting, you exhale, sending a light flamethrower searing through the snow, barely missing Chance, who's walking in front of you. He yelps, jumping to the side as the flame dissipates and steam rises from the vaporized snow. “What did you do that for?” Chance asks stiffly, wrinkling his nose. You attempt to look as innocent as possible. “Getting rid of the snow. I don’t like it.” Your excuse is actually partially true – you did want to get rid of the snow and clear a pathway, so you wouldn’t have to deal with the annoying sensation of frozen water against your paws. He just happened to be in the line of fire. Nothing more. Or rather, at the right place at the right time. “Sure you were…” Chance glowers, lowering himself into a crouch. With a calculated leap, he springs onto the snow-soaked railing, landing with practiced ease. He brushes off the excess snow from the railing with one paw, and you can’t help but be slightly envious of his reflexes and sense of balance. You’re better trained than he is though. Much better. There’s no contest between his abilities and yours. At least, that’s what you’re trying to tell yourself. Well, one thing’s for sure: at least you aren’t delusional. “Hey! You watching?” You nod your head. He really is serious about this flying-thing. “I just have to wait a minute until the wind picks up…” You shake your head a few times, your whole body wriggling along with you. You continue to watch Chance prepare for flight. His blue eyes are glued to the sky, like he’s lost in a daydream. Suddenly, he begins to lower himself against the railing, black-tipped ears flat against his head. His expression is completely serious. It’s then your conscience (or what remains of it) kicks in. Perhaps you should stop him from pursuing this stupid endeavor. He could get hurt from jumping off a one-story deck. Riley charged you to keep an eye on him, too. It would be a shame if they found him plastered on the snow-covered cement below. Of course… Riley told you to just watch him. She never said anything about physically stopping him from doing something utterly moronic. But then again, he’s a young Meowth, and obviously his parents never tried teaching him anything better. So it’s not his fault that he’s stuck with an unsound mind with eyes fixed on the sky above. (He’s looking about ready to jump, his back end quaking in anticipation. It’s now or never. Should you stop him?) …Naa. He jumps, his whole body and soul poured into the one, single bound that lifts him up in the air and into the blue. You watch him as his body stretches, becoming little more than a silhouette against the sun. You run forward, head fixed on the feline figure’s every movement as he soars through the sky, almost like a bird – But as the great law of Gravity decrees: “What goes up, must come down.” —and with a loud, elated cry, Chance plummets to the ground below, landing with a hard, unsympathetic thud. Your head’s sticking out from in between the gaps in the railing. You watched the fall in its entirety, and you can’t help but wince. Even so, you can't stop the amused smile that comes to your muzzle. Cats really do land on their feet. ******* You can't help but wonder if falling is what caused Chance's dementia in the first place as you watch him wobble up the stairs, snow covering his white fur and whiskers. You're waiting for him at the top, not doing anything to conceal your obvious amusement and triumph. With that fall, how could anyone think that they could fly? Chance reaches the top of the stairs, rapidly shaking himself, ridding his coat of any snow. You frown as a few flakes land on you, snorting. “Well?” Chance grimaces, wincing as if in pain. He looks over his shoulder at nothing in particular. “I think I sprained my wing.” You nearly face-fault as the cat keeps looking back at his invisible appendage. You decide to put things simply and bluntly. “You didn't fly, you fell.” You pause a moment before adding in your driest tone: “Stupendously.” “I know that!” Chance says, looking very much displeased at the thought, but shrugs. “The wind wasn't that great, that's all. Couldn't hold me up.” He sticks out a pale pink tongue, looking up at the pale, robin’s egg sky, seeming deep in thought. “That happens a lot.” You have no doubt it does. ***** Already, you've tried countless times to tell Chance that he can't fly; that it's physically impossible in every degree of the word, but the kitten refuses to listen to your infallible logic, preferring to prattle on about his silly fantasies without hardly taking a breath. Even though you're obviously not listening, Chance continues to ramble as you lay stretched out comfortably along the couch. You can't help wrinkle your nose in disgust as Chance begins to groom his non-existent wings once more, complaining of [phantom] wing pain. If he doesn't shut up soon, you'll give him something to really moan about. “Hey, Cal -” You flinch at the nickname - though what can you do? You're not about to tell him your real name anytime soon. “What?” you answer gruffly. “Were you given away, too?” Your head shifts only slightly from its position on a fluffy white pillow. It barely betrays your sudden interest. “Given away?” “Y'know… given away by humans. Without them giving stuff for you. My old masters got gold coins for my brothers and sisters, but they just gave me away. So, did they give you away?” “No…” you answer. “I was bought and taught by special humans. I was trained especially for the Police Force.” It seems like so long ago, now that you think about it, when you arrived at the Firebolt Training center, little but an excited, naïve puppy with a dream. You didn’t know what was waiting for you beyond the training center, but you were ready for whatever life decided to throw at you. A tiny flame of pride begins to burn inside your chest. You were special; you were a chosen; you were a Growlithe born and bred for the proud duty of serving alongside a human partner - Riley, in your case. “You're a police dog?” Chance says, his eyes going wide as saucers. “Then … is the girl human your …” “Partner?” you finish, grinning. “Yes.” “Oh… I thought so. The male human looked kind of gangly and weak… kind of like a rat or something.” Your grin extends into a very satisfied smirk. You can barely quell the rumble of laughter that threatens to escape your muzzle. Quickly, you turn your attention back to the pillow, your line of sight coming to rest on the hall that leads to the front door. Riley and the Rat'll be coming home soon. “Cal?” You make eye contact with him briefly. “You're lucky.” ****** The next few days fly by without a care. Over those few days, you've gotten used to Chance, how exactly, you can't fathom. Maybe it was because of that day when you actually talked to him. You think it changed something about the way you thought of him. Granted, you still thing he's more than a little bit psychotic, and deep into the spectrum of weird and annoying, but you can stand him. Flight is now an everyday topic with him around. He watches the sky like his kind does mice. Four days from Christmas, you finally get up the courage to ask (because you weren't sure you wanted to know): “Why do you want to fly?” “Why do I like to fly?” he paused. That was not what you meant. “I just do.” “’Just do’ doesn't cut it.” “Well - I like it. It makes me feel calm and happy. When I'm there, I can do anything, y'know? Free. My brothers and sisters thought I was crazy, and my owners thought it too. They thought there was something wrong with me wanting to fly. It took awhile to learn, I'd go out and jump off of everything, and I'd hurt myself sometimes because the wind couldn't hold me up. Mom didn't like that. But even if I'd fall, I'd get back up again. Flying's worth the fall in the end. You should try it sometime.” To that, you replied with a dull, bored no. ****** “You know, maybe you should take that cat to work with you,” the Rat suggests to Riley a day later over breakfast. You can barely keep yourself from choking on your dry dog food, gagging and gasping as you pull your muzzle out of your orange bowl, gulping down the last bits of food as you wheeze for breath. Chance looks up from his own bowl of Goldeen-shaped fare, looking hopeful and concerned at the same time. “I don't know…” Already, you are frantically trying to send a desperate message at the two humans. Don't even think about it! He would just get in the way! “What? Don't they allow you to have any other Pokémon besides Growlithe and Arcanine?” “There's nothing in the guidebook that says you have to use Growlithe -“ Already, you are rapidly shaking you head, a wheezy `no' accompanying it at regular intervals. The Rat, Riley, and Chance are giving you odd glances. “—Growlithes are just the standard,” Riley continues, shrugging. “Everyone uses them because they're loyal and dependable.” Ha! That's right. Loyal and dependable. Cats are anything but that. They'd rather sleep their butts off all day. “However -” Your thoughts of triumph falter ever so slightly. “—there have been instances when people have used something different. In fact, our head executive over the entire police force uses a Sneasel.” “Sneasel…” A pause. You glower. “Wait… I think I've seen it before. When I came to visit you in the office, I think I walked past it.” The Rat shakes his head. “If it wasn't a Pokémon, I could've sworn that thing yelled some profanity at me as I walked past.” Riley smiles, tossing a lock of brown hair out of her face. “Morana probably was. She speaks perfect English, you know.” She laughs, her voice full of mirth. “Just don't get on her bad side and I think you'll be all right.” Morana. The name rings a very familiar tune. You think you've caught a glimpse of her once or twice, but nothing substantive. You have heard a bit about her though. As far as your knowledge goes, they only tend to use her on the big, important missions. Most of the missions you cover rarely calls for another division's attention. Perhaps you should be glad of that. Sneasel, by nature, aren't usually the most friendly of creatures, and with those claws that could shiskabob anyone with ease, it's a wonder any human would want to train one. “I'll keep that in mind,” the Rat says, sounding a bit nervous as he takes a sip of his morning coffee. “… She's not going to be at the party tonight, is she?” Party? Chance looks like he's wondering the same thing, lapping up his bowl of milk slowly with his long, rough tongue. “Probably not. I haven't seen her the last few years, though Lunara - the head executive - has always been there. I don't think the Sneasel's fond of parties. …That, or she was banned from the party, either one.” Ah. You remember now. The annual New Year's Eve party. How could you forget? It's always held once every year, on the day before New Year's Eve (due to the fact that most of the police force [including you and Riley] are on duty for pretty much all of New Year's Eve.) “Good. You going to take the Pokémon to it?” Riley nods. “I don't see why not. I always have - so does everybody else. I'll just have our faithful dog here watch the newcomer and make sure he doesn't get into any trouble.” She winks at you, reaching down from the chair and ruffling your white fur as you scowl. Lovely. Chance, however, looks excited at the prospect, springing onto Riley's lap with a happy yowl, his tail swishing happily. “Hear that, Cal? We get to go to a party!” Oh, you're just thrilled about it.