A/N: Inspired by an RP. Kotone x Lance Cannonshipping. T for violence. A side note as well, Kotone is seventeen-eighteen-ish, but she looks younger. You know, baby face. Lance is likely twenty-four or twenty-five. He's an Executive. This isn't set in Slowpoke Well per se; more like a generic cave, maybe Union even. HGSS game-verse.

He was a marionette controlled by such small hands, clay to be molded by petite fingers, painted pink at the nails. He was a portrait to be thrown together, a sculpture to be chiseled out haphazardly, a masterpiece to be fleshed out by the mind that lacked even the slightest hint of skill.

"We meet again, Kotone."

She didn't even whimper this time around. Not like the last time. That Friday afternoon she was in a state of mild panic, her arms trembling in a jolt of sharpest adrenaline, far too tight around the neck of her beloved Marill. Its cry of pain never reached her ears. Her senses lost their way somewhere between nerve impulses and heated receptors. She was depraved with sight as her only vice in staring deep to emerald eyes, the ones on the face of a psychopath.

Now was different. The circumstances had swallowed their pride and U-Turned against him. Stupidly, he bore no fear the way he should have, with tables turned in such a direction. And unlike him, she embodied humanity. She hardly desired to wipe the floor with him again.

"What do you want, Lance?" she all but growled. Very out of character for her, but certain stimuli pluck at a viola of heartstrings in such a way that the melody becomes dotted with bitter notes. Forgiveness was a virtue, but he was written in books of sin, and these kinds of things were hard to sashay from the earnest mind.

"Raid On the City," he recited. "Knock-out, Evil Tusks."

Possessed by courage that could possibly be deemed foolhardy, Kotone giggled. "Can't you ever think for yourself?"

This took Lance by sudden, unpleasant surprise. He had been expecting the usual "you won't get away with this!" trademark mantra of the Dex-holders. But she wasn't the usual cookie-cutter child like her comrade Hibiki or the young son of the Boss with hair the color of fury. Headstrong and quick-witted, she stood with a hand on her overall-clad hip, waiting on him, non-conformist as ever.

Lance wasn't positive on how to respond to her offending question. "What the hell do you mean?"

"You're always following someone else's orders, you know? You could be free of it all if you really wanted to."

He waited for her to bite her lip and regret speaking to him in this manner, but she never did. She still remained in that defiant pose, and he became irked.

"My loyalties are to the Rockets, sweetie," he snapped, using the endearing term to mock per usual. "I won't stray from my orders."

"Even if they were fatal?" she asked with a sickly sweet grin.

Monsters were usually obvious to him, that everyone would find their end at the hands of one. Cancer, plane crash, old age, hunger... She was his own personal one, the girl who brought him such terrible punishments at the hands of Apollo ("You lost to a mere child again, Executive. You disgrace us!"), the girl who embarrassed him to the point where words ceased to exist, the girl who foiled every one of his most nefarious schemes, and the girl who disguised her potent malice under the facade of adorable charm and a balloon hat. Every weakness of his was stamped out in her mind like the contracts on Ariana's mahogany work desk.

She made his blood run cold.

But he would never, ever admit this to anyone. Not even himself.

"There aren't many lethal missions," Lance said, glaring at her in disgust.

"Any moment could be the moment," replied Kotone, childish grin still plastered about her innocent face. She gave away nothing.

"I thought that aphorism referred to love."

"I think it can apply to anything."

Lance silently cursed Apollo for assigning him to this mission. The blue-haired sociopath must have known about the reunion. He had a knack for foresight after all, a wonder why he kept those dogs around.

For a short moment, Lance's guard let down.

"I don't believe in love."

"That's terrible! Has the organization brainwashed you or something?" Kotone's face revealed true shock.

"No. I've never changed in my life."

Her eyes changed color. What was once fiery and bold turned soft and gentle. The lines that were once fiercely rigid bent into yielding curves. The lioness who was so poised for the fight became nuturing princess once again.

"There, there." She patted his pointy shoulder.

He backed away from her touch like it was made of venom, and--to him--it may very well have been.

"I can't have another failure," he said. He reached for a Pokeball on his belt--Golbat.

"Tell me your story, Lance," ordered Kotone. "You know I'll only defeat you again. I only want to help you."

"You'll help me by standing down," Lance countered, in a quiet, but demanding voice. "Or you'll feel the wrath of a Team Rocket Executive.

"So stubborn..." she cooed. She tried to pat his shoulder again, and again he pulled himself away, just out of her short reach.

"You're no different," he said, coldly. "A child exposed to danger. I don't think you realize what I used to be before Rocket. I don't think you want to indulge in that secret either."

Kotone pursed her lips. To her, Lance was the human wonder of the world. Almost a vacuum, he sealed pain inside of himself until it was the point of no return. She wondered about him, worried about him, had self-contained nightmares involving him and those power-hungry emerald irises that so pierced the night air. She knew through the ever-expanding grapevine of his violent clashes with those who dwelled underground beside him. She wanted to see the remnants of his war with the world. She wanted to learn about his battle scars, because she knew somewhere deep down that she was destined to help the ones who needed her most.

"We're going to battle, or I'm going to order Golbat to poison you. Don't expect any mercy from me, Kotone. I'll leave you here to die."

A year ago, she'd have been scared stiff, wishing to teleport to some unknown sanctuary where fat was nicer. Now, her reaction betrayed him.

"I think you're searching for the wrong things in life, sir," she said.

He was taken aback once more. His anger grew, rushed to the surface like a shark that smelled blood in the water. Without even considering the consequences of any action or the time of day, he gripped the alien handle of his knife.

"Explain."

"Even if you succeed, even if you defeat me, even if Team Rocket takes over the entire world, what do you get? You're not in charge. What do you expect to receive out of this? A pat on the back and a 'good job' while greater men reap the benefits of your hardwork? Tell me, Lance, are you trying to waste your life? Because I think you're confused."

Lance swallowed hard, but kept his emotions reigned in. This was something he was good at until breaking point. The scoundrel could be a rock when he wanted to. He was trained for this.

"You're wrong."

But his voice didn't sound so sure.

"You want freedom-"

"No-"

"But freedom requires responsibilty-"

"Shut up-!"

"That you don't have-"

"Enough-!"

"And so you have nothing but this demented servitude."

Lance's eyes widened. Kotone stood smug. He could feel sweat from his fingers dampening the handle of his blade.

"You...don't know anything about me. You're a kid!"

He forced himself to stay away from a fit of hysteria, but he was nearing, his toe smudged the line.

"You don't think it's noticable, but it is. You're in pain, Lance. I only want to help. I can be a friend if you want me to."

She reached out, extended an arm.

"No!" Lance shrieked. And he unsheathed his knife, stabbing the darkness through its heart, released into the night air like some screaming demon.

Kotone could see snippets out her life flashing before her eyes. Her mother had told her never to talk to strangers. And she wondered, is this it? Cancer, plane crash, old age, hunger...stabbed to death in a quiet place? And she thought, what happens next? Because it really is unclear, a subject unprobed and no less regretted. The thing was, she wasn't afraid. She was almost watching herself stand unbraced as the knife swirled through the cave medium in slow motion. An out-of-body experience she never wished for. It was painful, but she had had worse, like watching the suffering of others.

Lance seemed totally desperate to her. The second he released the blade from his "evil" grasp, he realized that maybe he wasn't so evil after all.

There was a defeaning clang on metal on rock.

"I missed..." he said. She thought she could hear some betrayal of relief in his shaky voice. A rock no more.

"Does it matter?" Kotone inquired of him, in a voice that sounded so distant from her own.

"I'm leaving."

"Until we meet again?"

She recieved a grunt in reply. He exited the setting, but he never exited her mind. And really, he'd remained a play thing in her child-like hands forever. That was another something true to the bone, but never spoken aloud because it caused too much pain, and too many bad memories. Silence was well-reheared.

Kotone returned to her body, felt that her arm was wet and sticky. When she stepped into shallow light, she saw that this liquid was red. A pang of knowledge dripped into her stomach, and she felt around for the knife on the gravel floor.

It was stained with her own blood, and beginning to congeal.

"He didn't miss after all..."

He could cut away an inch of skin. But still she decided he wasn't as ruthless as he claimed to be. She pocketed the knife without cleaning it off, bandaged up the minor wound on her arm, and left for her next destination, wondering if this had ever happened at all. She felt dizzy.

But imagine how he hung his head, refusing to spot the light of day, knowing that those marionette strings were utterly invincible.

--

Thanks for reading. If you care to leave a review, I would absolutely love you forever~