Illustration by Shigeru1313.
Where Angels Dare to Tread
by Cori Falls
Chapter 11 -- Sweet Dreams
Meowth stretched himself out and yawned. When he opened his eyes, he found himself sitting on the floor of the master bedroom in the cabin where he and his friends were staying. James was sitting across from him, with his eyes closed and his head bowed. A circle of bluish-white fire surrounded the two of them, and their bodies were glowing with a shimmering blue aura.
We're back! he said to himself. Does dat mean we saved Jess...or was it just a dream?
Looking over his shoulder, he could see Jessie lying in bed, but her form was obscured by the fires of the magic circle. He wasn't able to tell if she was okay or not.
For a split second, a shadow of apprehension and doubt crept into his mind, but it was quickly chased away when he looked back and saw James stirring from his meditation. And when he saw the serene look in his friend's green eyes, Meowth knew that everything was just fine.
James smiled. "Welcome back, Meowth."
The cat returned his smile and nodded. "Welcome back, James."
Getting back to his feet, James returned to the altar and blew out the candles. "By the powers of the ancient ones, I bind all powers within this circle into this spell. So may it be," he announced. Then, he picked up the sword and held it aloft. "Depart in peace, O powers of air, fire, water, and earth. Our thanks and blessings are with you." Once he'd dismissed the elemental powers, James made a backwards cutting motion with the sword, and the circle of fire vanished. The ethereal blue armor they were wearing faded away as well. "The circle is open, yet ever it remains a circle. Around and through us always flows its magical power," he said.
"So...dat was it?" Meowth ventured as James put all of his tools away and pushed the bureau back against the wall. "Dat was a magic ritual?"
"Yes," James replied. He looked over at Jessie, and his smile grew even wider than it already was. "And I'd say it was a successful one, too."
Now that the magical fires of the circle were gone, Jessie was clearly visible to the two of them. The rosy hue had returned to her once pallid face, and the dark circles that had been under her eyes were gone. Her breathing was now deep and rhythmic...the breathing of one who's in a peaceful sleep rather than a coma.
James tiptoed across the room and seated himself next to her on the bed. Then, he took her hand in one of his own and caressed it, savoring the warmth of her flesh.
Jessie sighed contentedly and shifted in her sleep at the feeling of his touch.
Smoothing back her crimson hair and lovingly placing his other hand on her cheek, James leaned down and pressed his lips to hers. When he finished kissing her, Jessie slowly opened her eyes, and her ruby-red lips curved into a tiny smile.
"James...." she said softly.
"Well, whaddaya know? Sleepin' Beauty finally woke up!" Meowth quipped as he jumped onto the bed and seated himself at Jessie's feet.
James gave her hand an affectionate squeeze. "How are you feeling, Jess?" he asked.
Jessie sat up in bed and stretched herself out. "Kind of groggy...but a lot better than I was earlier," came her reply. "What time is it?"
James looked at the clock on the nightstand. "It's a little after one."
Jessie closed her eyes and placed her hands to her temples. "That's all? Feels more like I slept for a couple of days than a couple of hours...and I had the weirdest dream...."
James and Meowth exchanged looks.
Meowth nudged James with his elbow. "Should we tell her?" he mouthed.
James bit his lip and looked back at Jessie. "What was your dream about, honey?"
Jessie opened her eyes again. "It was pretty creepy. Are you sure you want to hear it?" she queried.
He nodded. "Of course I do. You can tell me anything, Jess."
"Well...it was about the enchanted staff and mask and the queen who used to rule that city," she began. Her cheeks turned pink as she hung her head and started wringing the blanket in her hands.
"Go on," James prompted, placing a hand on her shoulder.
Jessie smiled shyly at him and continued. "I dreamt that when I put on the mask, the queen's spirit took possession of my body...and then she took my soul to another plane. She wanted to banish my soul so that she could return to life in my body...." Her voice trailed off for a moment, and she shuddered. "You and Meowth were trying to rescue me, and so was Gary...but that just made the queen angry, and she decided to kill you, too. We ended up defeating her, though -- you were casting magic spells, Meowth was using Pay Day, and...I turned into a warrior and beat her up before sending her through the portal to Hell that she'd created. Then, we escaped from the crumbling tower on Articuno -- he was all grown up in this dream -- and it ended with the three of us flying over the forest on his back." She laughed bitterly. "Told you it was weird...."
James's brow furrowed as he and Meowth exchanged looks again.
Jessie arched an eyebrow. "What's wrong?" she asked, taking note of the concerned expressions on their faces.
James took a deep breath as he turned his attention back to her. "Jessie, honey?" he said, taking her hands in his own once more.
"It wasn't a dream," he told her. "Well...it was a dream, but it really happened."
Jessie gave him a quizzical look. "What are you talking about, James?"
James paused for a moment so that he could put his thoughts into words. "Jess, when you put on the mask, you really were possessed by the spirit of Queen Ayesha, and she really did imprison your soul in her city on the Astral Plane...."
An icy finger of dread ran up Jessie's spine when he said this. He knows the queen's name was Ayesha...and he knows about the Astral Plane! He couldn't have known that...unless....
"After we fell asleep last night, I had a nightmare where Ayesha kidnapped you," James continued. "Then, my grand-mama came to me. She told me why Ayesha wanted you, and she gave me the power to save you by helping me awaken my magical abilities."
"So...that basilisk illusion you used on Ash...the binding spell you cast on Ayesha...those were real? You really can use magic now?"
James nodded. "Everything that happened last night, today, and tonight was real. The reason you only remember it as a dream is because it took place on the Astral Plane -- the world of dreams."
Jessie laid back down and closed her eyes. "So I really was Ayesha's prisoner. She really was going to banish my soul, kill you and Gary, and enslave all of the pokemon...." The color drained out of her face again, and she began to tremble.
James gave her hand another squeeze. "Shhh...it's over now, Jess. It's okay...."
Tears began to stream down Jessie's cheeks. "No it's not," she moaned, shaking her head. "James, I could've gotten us all killed, just because I wanted to have that mask and be a queen! I could've destroyed everything that I care about! Do you have any idea how much the thought of that hurts?!"
James grabbed Jessie by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shake. "Now you listen to me -- that was not your fault!" he said firmly. "Ayesha saw how beautiful, graceful, strong, smart, and willful you are, and she called to you because she wanted to have that for herself. She enticed you with those fantasies of being a queen because she wanted you to take the mask. You didn't know any of this was going to happen. If you did know...if you even suspected that your actions would put us in any kind of danger, then you wouldn't have done it. I know you well enough to know that you'd never intentionally do anything to hurt us, angel."
Jessie shook her head and continued to cry. "Not knowing about the danger doesn't excuse what I did, James," she protested.
"Jessie, that's not the point," he whispered into her ear as he rested her head on his shoulder.
"Then what is?" she asked.
"We were brought into this situation by forces beyond our control," he told her. "But the friendship and love that we all share gave us the strength to take control and save ourselves."
"I guess you're right," she conceded.
"I know I am," he replied.
Jessie cuddled closer to him and trembled again. James responded by stroking her hair and gently rocking her back and forth. Meowth put his arms around her and began to purr.
When Jessie finally relaxed a few minutes later, James spoke again. "Why don't you go take a nice, hot bath while we fix you some dinner?" he suggested. "You'll feel a lot better once you get cleaned up and have something to eat."
Jessie nodded. As she climbed out of bed, however, her legs became wobbly beneath her.
James got to his feet and put his arms around her before she could topple over.
"What's wrong with me tonight?" she said disdainfully as she put her arms around James's shoulders and leaned into him to keep herself from falling.
"Jessie, ya been in bed all day, and ya haven't had anything ta eat since dat little bowl of ramen noodles last night...not ta mention the fact dat while yer body was sleepin', yer soul was goin' through some heavy-duty torment! I'd be surprised if ya didn't feel dizzy or weak from all of dat!" Meowth told her.
"He's right," James agreed. "You just need a little time to recover, sweetheart."
Jessie closed her eyes again and sighed.
"Meowth, will you please let Gary know that we're all okay...and help him make some food for Jessie?" James asked. "I need to stay here with her."
"You got it, Jimmy!" Meowth replied. When he left the bedroom, he found Gary and the pokemon standing at the door.
Gary smiled when he saw the cat. "I take it everything worked out okay?" he ventured.
Meowth smiled back and nodded. "I wouldn't be standin' here talkin' to ya if we'd failed!"
"A little while ago, Articuno finally woke up from his nap, and I heard James finishing his spell. Then I heard the three of you talking," Gary told him. "How's Jessie doing?"
"She's still pretty weak, and she blames herself for what happened," Meowth sighed.
Gary's expression darkened when he heard this. "Poor Jess...."
"James is gonna help her get a bath, and he wants us ta fix somethin' for her ta eat," Meowth continued. "Hopefully she'll feel better once she gets her strength back."
Gary nodded. "Hopefully," he echoed. "I've got a can of chicken vegetable soup in my backpack. Why don't you get a pot of tea started while I heat it up?"
"Will do!" Meowth said.
After Meowth took his leave, James walked Jessie to the bathroom and drew a bath for her.
"What's that?" Jessie asked as she watched James place the sachet of mint and pine under the faucet, making sure that all of the water ran over it.
"Mint and pine are good for purification and spiritual cleansing. I used it in my bath before I cast my spells, and it really worked," he explained. "I figure after what you've been through, you could use a bit of spiritual cleansing, too."
"No doubt," Jessie remarked. Then, giving him a gentle nudge, "I've never seen this side of you before, James...the magic and spirituality, and everything...."
James looked at her and raised an eyebrow.
Her lips curved into a smile. "I like it. You've always had such strength and wisdom, and I've always admired that. And now, it's like you've become more aware of it and brought it to a whole new level."
"That's exactly how I feel," James told her. "Like I've awakened new powers inside of myself." He cupped her chin in his hand and smiled tenderly at her. "And I have you to thank for that."
Once the tub was full, James turned off the water and removed the sachet. Then, he helped Jessie get undressed and held her steady while she stepped in.
"Just relax, honey. I'll have you feeling better in no time," James whispered as he tilted Jessie's head back and began to wet her hair.
When he said this, Jessie's eyes filled with tears again. "You're too good to me, James," she muttered. "Sometimes I feel like I don't deserve you...."
"That's ridiculous!" James said, cutting her off. "What makes you say such a terrible thing?!"
Jessie bit her lip and turned away from him. "James, when I was in Yew, Ayesha...showed me things...."
"What kind of things?" he prompted.
"Memories, mostly," she replied. "Ayesha made me relive all of the moments in my life that I regret the most -- all of the moments when I did something to hurt you. I know you've forgiven me for all the mistakes I've made, and I thought I'd forgiven myself, too...but now, I'm not so sure. It hurts all over again...."
James frowned as he listened to her. So, Ayesha managed to hurt her, after all -- she wouldn't have been able to use those memories against Jessie if she truly had forgiven herself, he thought.
Jessie's tears were flowing freely now. "It was all right there before my eyes...how cruel I've been to you," she continued. "And yet, you still risked everything to save me. I...I don't understand how you can keep forgiving me for the horrible things I always say and do...how you could possibly think I was worth rescuing...."
"Stop it!" James snapped, pounding his fist against the rim of the tub.
Jessie fell silent and looked up at him.
His expression softened once again. "Jessie, there's something important I need to tell you. I want you to listen carefully to what I have to say. And when I finish, I want you to forgive yourself completely and unconditionally for the hurtful things you've said and done to me in the past and never again have any doubts about my love for you."
He smiled. "I know that sounds like a lot to ask, but trust me, it's not. Do you remember the basilisk illusion I used on Ash?"
"Do you know where that basilisk came from?"
"I'm guessing you imagined it?"
"Yes, but I got the idea from the dream where grand-mama came to me and showed me how to use magic," he told her. "You see, before she could initiate me, I had to look into a mirror that shows you...."
"....A reflection of your true self," she said, finishing the thought for him.
James raised an eyebrow. "You know about the mirror?"
"Ayesha showed it to me," Jessie replied. "She explained what it was when she eavesdropped on one of Jessiebelle's dreams. When Jessiebelle looked into the mirror, her reflection was a balrog. That's where Ayesha got the idea for those illusions she used against you."
James shuddered but quickly regained his composure. "Grand-mama and I did something similar. When she showed me how the mirror works, we watched one of Ash's dreams. The reflection of his true self was a basilisk, only he didn't know that he was looking at himself -- when he saw the monster, he thought it was a new kind of pokemon and tried to catch it."
Jessie covered her mouth with her hands and snickered.
"And then it was my turn to look into the mirror and see my true self," James continued. "I had to see what I really am and accept it before I could awaken my powers. Do you know what I saw when I looked into that mirror, Jessie?"
"I know it was something beautiful and good," came her reply.
James nodded. "I saw myself walking through a rose garden with you and Meowth. The three of us had halos and wings -- we were angels!" he said. "Grand-mama explained that you and Meowth were in my reflection because you're part of me -- I can't see my true self without seeing your true selves as well. She also told me that if you or Meowth looked into the mirror, then you'd see the exact same thing that I did."
Jessie's eyes widened.
James smiled tenderly at her and took her hands in his own. "Jessie, I know you think you're a terrible person because of the things that Ayesha said and did, but nothing could be further from the truth. I've always thought that you were an angel, and when I looked into the mirror, I saw that I was right! What you said last night -- there's no denying that angels are real -- is true!"
Now she was smiling, too.
"Sweetheart, you're a beautiful person, on the outside and the inside. I don't want you to be mad at yourself about the mistakes you made in the past anymore," James whispered. "And after the lengths I went to saving your soul, I don't ever want you to doubt that I love you with all my heart and soul!"
Jessie closed her eyes and thought about everything that James had just told her. "I guess you're right," she said at length.
"Damn right, I'm right!" James replied. "I can't live without you, Jess -- you really are my angel!"
"You're my angel too, James," Jessie echoed. "I love you so much."
"So, do you think you can forgive yourself now?" he ventured.
James smiled again and placed his hands on her temples. "Good. Now I want you to close your eyes and relax," he told her. "Inhale the fragrance of the water and imagine it cleaning your soul as well as your body. Imagine the water drawing all of the impurities out of your soul the way it draws them away from your skin."
Jessie did as she was instructed, sliding further down in the water and breathing in the fresh, clean scent of pine and mint that permeated it. As she savored the feeling of the warm water lapping around her body and James's gentle hands massaging her temples, she pictured all the feelings of doubt, fear, anger, sorrow, and regret that she was harboring within herself being washed away. "Oh, wow! I can feel it!" she whispered.
James nodded approvingly. "Then let's take it a step further. Picture yourself standing on a bridge over a deep pond. And imagine that all of your regrets and painful memories are stones that you're carrying. One by one, drop the stones into the water and watch them vanish from sight as they sink to the bottom...."
As she listened to the sound of James's voice, Jessie recalled the lush Japanese garden that Ayesha had shown her -- the garden where her grandmother had spent so much of her childhood. The cherry trees were in bloom, perfuming the air with their sweet fragrance, and pink sakura petals rained down on her as the melodious song of a nightingale carried on the cool evening breeze. She was dressed in the pink rose-print silk kimono that Musashi had worn so long ago, and she was standing on the little wooden bridge over the fishpond. The folds of her kimono were laden with heavy stones...stones that were weighing her down.
Suddenly, she heard James's voice in her ear again. "Let them go, Jessie...let them go...."
Jessie took one of the stones from her kimono. As she looked at it, she remembered the day she'd tried to make James marry Jessiebelle so that he could collect his inheritance.
A wave of revulsion washed over her, and she shook her head. No. James wouldn't have come back to me that night or fallen in love with me if this mattered! she said to herself. With that, she threw the stone into the water. And as she watched it sink, she felt as if a small weight had been lifted from her soul.
When she picked up a second stone, the memory of how she'd stolen the gym badges from James and Meowth and tried to run away came to her mind. Why am I still holding on to this? she wondered. It was a mistake, but I made it up to them...and it made me and James admit our feelings for each other!
After dropping that stone into the water, Jessie picked up a third and remembered the fateful day in the Ursaring forest, when she'd blamed James and Meowth for all of her misery.
Jessie squeezed the stone until her knuckles turned white, and her body began to tremble. "How could I have done such a thing?" she sighed.
"It doesn't matter anymore. Let it go," James whispered again.
He's right, she thought. I said some terrible things on that day, but I didn't mean a single word of it...and James knows that.... She held onto the stone a moment longer before casting it into the water.
Once it was gone, Jessie took another stone. Each one reminded her of a hurtful thing she'd said or done in the past, but each time she reminded herself that all of those hurtful things were meaningless now, and there was no need to burden herself with their weight. One by one, she dropped all of the stones that she was carrying and watched them vanish beneath the surface of the water.
When she got to the final stone, Jessie remembered how she'd bossed James and Meowth around and demeaned them after donning Queen Ayesha's golden mask and taking her staff. And I definitely don't need to hold on to this -- it wasn't even me who was doing those awful things to them! she said to herself. And we defeated the one who was responsible for that...we defeated her together....
After she dropped the last stone into the water, Jessie felt more free than she ever had in her entire life. Nothing could ever truly destroy her regrets and painful memories, but she'd finally realized that she didn't need to carry them with her anymore. She was finally able to let them go and put them in a place where they'd never hurt her again.
Now that she was no longer burdened with regret, the pond and the garden began to fade away. When Jessie opened her eyes again, she found herself sitting in a tub of warm, fragrant water while James knealt at her side, massaging her temples and whispering soothing words to her.
He smiled expectantly when he saw her looking up at him again.
Jessie sat up and put her arms around his neck. James felt the sleeve of his robe getting wet with tears as she buried her face in his shoulder, but he said nothing, just held her in his arms and stroked her hair.
After a few minutes, Jessie pulled away and smiled back at him. "I did what you said, James -- I let all of those meaningless things go," she told him. "These are the last tears I'm going to shed about it. I can't change anything about the past...but I can finally accept that the mistakes I've made don't matter anymore. There's still one thing I'm not ready to let go of yet, but it has nothing to do with you -- I know that you love me unconditionally, the same way I love you. If you can forgive me for the things I've done, then I can forgive myself, too."
"I'm glad to hear that," James replied as he brushed her tears away and planted a kiss on her forehead. "I didn't want you to spend the rest of your life feeling guilty about so many unimportant things. We all make mistakes, Jess, but you can't move forward if you keep punishing yourself about it."
"I know that now," she said. "I'm just sorry it took me so long to deal with it."
"You're too hard on yourself," James told her. "From now on, whenever you start letting the little things get you down, I want you to think about what happened here and remember what really matters...I want you to remember that you're an angel."
Jessie's sapphire eyes sparkled. "I will, James," she promised.
James smiled again and gave her another kiss, this time on the lips. Jessie tightened her hold on him and kissed back.
When their kiss ended, Jessie rubbed noses with James and rested her forehead against his. "Now that I'm feeling better, I should probably finish my bath," she commented.
"Yeah," James agreed.
Jessie winked at him. "The sooner I do, the sooner I can reward you for everything you've done for me!"
Now James was blushing.
Suddenly, Jessie's stomach began to growl, and she blushed, too.
"But first, I think you need to eat dinner," he chuckled. "Besides, we can't make Gary and the pokemon wait all night -- they're anxious to see you again!"
She placed a hand to her stomach and smiled shyly at him. "Right on both counts."
James smiled at her again and excused himself. Once he'd taken his leave, Jessie shampooed her hair, scrubbed herself clean, and rinsed off. When she was finished bathing, she drained the tub and wrapped herself in a towel. While she was drying off, James returned with some clean clothes for her.
A mischievous grin made its way across his lips as he watched Jessie pull on a pair of black string-bikini panties. "So, what did you plan on giving me as a reward?" he asked slyly.
Jessie wrapped her sapphire-blue bathrobe with red trim around herself and ran a hairbrush through her crimson mane. "I think you know damn well what you're getting," she playfully replied.
James put his arms around her waist and planted a kiss on her neck. "Indeed I do," he whispered.
When Jessie finished brushing her hair, she took James by the hand once more. "Then let's hurry -- the sooner I get my dinner, the sooner you get your reward!"
James blushed more brightly than ever as he lifted Jessie's hand to his lips. "Sounds good to me!"
"....Then, Wobbuffet told me, I know that sounds like a corny line from a 'Care Bears' movie, but it actually turned out to be a great idea!" said Gary.
Meowth gave the blue pokemon a nudge with his elbow. "Yeah, dat sounds like somethin' ol' Wobbu would say!" he laughed.
Wobbuffet smiled at the two of them and saluted.
For the past half hour, the three friends had been sitting together at the dining room table, waiting for Jessie and James. Meowth and Gary had finished heating the soup and brewing the tea over twenty minutes ago, and now they were passing the time by swapping stories about the parts they'd all played in defeating Ayesha.
Before Gary could continue his narrative, however, they heard the bedroom door creak open. Then, they saw Jessie and James being swarmed by Arbok, Weezing, Victreebel, and Articuno. And when he saw his trainer, Wobbuffet couldn't resist jumping up from his seat at the table and racing to her side, too.
Gary laughed as Arbok coiled herself around Jessie, and Victreebel clamped down on James's head and gave him a love-bite. Once James pulled himself free from Victreebel's mouth, Weezing and Articuno nuzzled against him, and Wobbuffet gave Jessie a hug.
"Their pokemon really love them," he remarked.
"Dey sure do," Meowth agreed.
Jessie, we were so worried about you! Wobbuffet cried. I don't know what Arbok and I would've done if anything had happened to you!
"And I don't know what we would've done without you," James said to the five pokemon. Then, to Jessie, "Arbok, Weezing, Wobbuffet, and Victreebel protected you when Meowth and I went to get grand-mama's spellcasting tools. And Articuno battled a bunch of pokemon under Ayesha's control...and you saw for yourself how he helped us on the Astral Plane."
"Arti went with me and James!" Meowth explained to Gary. "He was all grown up and knew all his attacks, and it kicked ass!"
Jessie returned Wobbuffet's embrace and planted a kiss atop his head. Then, she reached up and gave kisses to Arbok, Weezing, Victreebel, and Articuno. "Thank you. Thank you all," she whispered.
"Dinner is ready whenever you are," Gary said to Jessie as he brought the tea kettle and the pot of soup from the stove.
Jessie's pangs of hunger became even more acute when she inhaled the warm, hearty aroma of vegetable soup. "It smells delicious," she told him.
He smiled again. "Ah, it's nothing -- just some instant stuff from a can...."
"Gary's bein' modest!" said Meowth. "He did all the cookin' for us today while James was busy researchin' his spells, and he ain't made anything bad yet!"
Jessie smiled tenderly at her young friend as she freed herself from Arbok and Wobbuffet's embrace and seated herself at the table. "I'm sorry about all of the trouble Ayesha caused, but I'm glad you're here, Gary. You really came through for us."
"You certainly did," James agreed. "I'll always be grateful that you and May brought grand-mama's books to me. And your moral support made all the difference to us."
"I'm just happy that I could do something to help," he told them. "And I'm happy that you're okay, Jessie -- I was as worried about you as everybody else!"
She smiled at him again and poured some soup into a bowl.
"So, how ya feelin', Jess?" Meowth asked.
Gary's expression became grim once more. "Better, I hope. Meowth said you weren't doing well when you first woke up," he added.
"I wasn't," she sighed. "Everything I went through finally registered with me when James explained that it had been more than just a dream. You can't imagine how guilty I felt when I realized how much danger you guys had put yourselves in for my sake...."
"....But I had a little talk with Jessie and made her realize that she's not to blame for any of this," James quickly added.
Gary nodded. "James is right -- Ayesha would've been a threat to us whether you took the mask or not. She would've wanted to get revenge on us anyway because of how our grandmothers thwarted her forty years ago. And if she'd called to somebody else, then she may have succeeded in returning to life, and she might've taken us by surprise."
"Good point," Jessie replied. "You know, the more I think about it, the more it seems like this all happened for a reason. It's like I was meant to find the staff and mask and lure Ayesha out because you and James are the ones who were meant to defeat her."
"Kind of like how Frodo was meant to inherit the Ring of Doom from Bilbo because he was the only one who could resist its power and take it to Mordor to be destroyed," James remarked, putting an arm around Jessie's shoulders.
Gary's indigo eyes sparkled. "Exactly!"
"And even if it was a real nightmare, nothing but good things came of it," James continued. "If I hadn't needed to rescue Jessie, then I may never have had that dream about my grand-mama. I may never have had the chance to awaken the powers within myself."
"Same here," said Gary. "Last night was the first time I ever had a dream where I got to meet my grandma Oak and speak to her!" He cupped his pendant in his hands. "I feel so much closer to her now. I also feel...more aware. Speaking with the departed, seeing magic at work...it gave me a whole new level of perception."
Meowth nodded. "I kinda feel dat way, too. For the longest time, I thought I'd used up all my powers learnin' how ta talk, read, and walk upright -- I thought I'd given up my abilities as a pokemon in order ta be more human and dat I'd never be able ta learn new attacks. But somethin' changed while I was battlin' Ayesha and her minions on the Astral Plane. I've dreamt about usin' Pay Day and Faint before, but dis was different -- when I did it dis time, I felt like I was awakening a power I didn't even know I had. I don't think I could use dose attacks right here and now, but...." The cat paused for a moment so that he could collect his thoughts. "I just don't feel used up anymore. I feel like I have the power ta learn again. Who knows? Maybe I really will be able ta use Pay Day and Faint someday!"
"And let's not forget what I got out of this -- the knowledge that I have brave, heroic friends who'll do anything for me!" Jessie chimed in. She took James by the hand and gazed adoringly into his green eyes. "Being loved unconditionally and being able to trust somebody completely and not be let down is more valuable to me than riches and royal titles any day!"
James twined his fingers with hers and blushed. "I'd say being able to let go of a lot of the pain from your past is a pretty good reward, too," he told her. "Our ordeal with Ayesha has made all of us stronger in some way."
Jessie smiled shyly. "I also learned something...interesting while I was in Yew," she continued.
James raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Do you remember how I told you about my grandparents last night?" she asked.
"It turns out another reason Ayesha wanted me was because of my grandma."
James, Meowth, and Gary tensed when she said this.
"Jess...did your grandmother have a run-in with her as well?" James queried.
Jessie shook her head. "No. Not that I know of. But while I was Ayesha's prisoner, she was able to see things about me...things that not even I knew. She showed me visions of my grandma and grandpa when they were young. Ayesha told me that my grandma was the heiress of one of Japan's noble houses, but she gave up her inheritance and her royal title when she fell in love with my grandpa. Grandma knew that her parents would never approve of a penniless Irish farmer asking for her hand in marriage, so she ran away with him to Kanto -- she chose a life of poverty in order to marry her true love...."
"Wow! That's really romantic...just like a fairy-tale!" Gary exclaimed.
Meowth gave James a sly smile and nudged him in the ribs. "Also sounds kinda familiar!"
James blushed again.
"....And that's another reason Ayesha called to me," Jessie went on. "Somehow, she knew that my grandma was a princess -- my lineage made me a more appealing target."
James, Meowth, and Gary's eyes went wide.
"So dat's what all dat princess talk was about while you was battlin' Ayesha? Ya really are a princess?" Meowth asked.
"I suppose," came Jessie's reply. "The title is gone...and probably the noble house as well since its heiress chose exile a long time ago, but apparently I do have royalty in my background."
"That's pretty cool," James remarked.
"I'll say!" Gary agreed.
"Man, oh, man, I wish Jimmy's parents could be here now!" Meowth laughed. "Dey'd shit a golden brick if dey knew dat the improper girl dere son ran off with is really a long-lost princess!"
"No doubt!" said James. Now he was laughing, too.
Jessie's cheeks turned as red as her hair as she buried her face in her hands. "Please, guys. Let's not make a big deal out of this...."
"Yeah! After the royal treatment we got from Queen Jessie yesterday, I don't think we could handle a repeat performance from Princess Jessie!" Meowth snickered.
James shot him a venomous glare. "Meowth!"
"What?! I'm only teasin'!" the cat said innocently.
"I know...and it's not funny!" he growled.
Jessie placed a hand on James's shoulder. "It's okay, sweetie. Really. Like you always say -- it's over now...it's not an issue anymore."
James turned to look at Jessie again. There was a sheepish smile on her lips, but when he gazed into her blue eyes, he knew that Meowth's smart remark hadn't upset her. She truly had forgiven herself for what had happened.
"I'm glad to hear that," he whispered. He brushed the tips of his fingers across her flushed cheeks and touched his lips to hers. "I love you, Jessie."
"I love you too, James," she echoed.
"And I hope you know that whether you're a princess or not, it doesn't change the way I feel about you," James continued. "I'm just happy that you were able to learn more about your family."
Jessie reached up and gave a gentle tug to the loose wisp of blue-violet hair that always hung in James's face. "Of course I know that!" she said, giving him another kiss. Her smile became a grin. "I promise I won't let the princess thing go to my head -- I just think it's pretty cool!"
James returned the smile and kissed her again. "Very cool," he agreed.
When Jessie and James's kiss ended, the four friends continued to swap stories and fill each other in on everything that had happened to them over the past twenty-four hours. And the more they talked, the less it felt like the aftermath of a great ordeal -- it became more like a regular get-together between old friends.
After Jessie finished her dinner, Gary and Meowth washed the dishes, and James went back to the bedroom. When he returned a couple minutes later, he was carrying his censer and a pack of lavender incense.
"What's that for?" Jessie asked.
"A little bit of magic," came James's reply as he placed one of the cones into the burner and ignited it. "I burned protective incenses like fern and furze earlier to help keep us safe from Ayesha's minions, and now that the danger is gone, it's time for a little relaxation and recovery. And lavender is just the incense for the job -- among its properties are exorcism, happiness, harmony, peace, healing, love, purification, and cleansing."
Meowth beamed proudly. "James really knows his stuff!"
"He certainly does," Jessie agreed, caressing his arm with her fingertips. "And that incense smells lovely! I feel more relaxed already!"
As smoke began wafting from the holes in the burner, James carried it through the cabin. By the time the cone had burned down, every room was filled with the sweet, floral fragrance of the incense.
Gary took a deep breath and yawned. "Well, I don't think I'll have any trouble falling asleep tonight," he remarked.
"Me-owth either!" the cat chimed in. Now he was yawning, too.
James nodded and wrapped an arm around Jessie's waist. "I think we could all use a good night's sleep after everything we've been through."
Meowth yawned again. "I don't think anything could wake Me-owth up for the next week!" He flashed Jessie and James a wicked grin. "And it's a good thing, too -- Jessie promised ta give James a nice reward for savin' her, so ya know dere's gonna be a lotta screamin' and thrashin' around goin' on for the rest of the night!"
Jessie and James's faces turned seven shades of red when he said this.
"That's enough, Meowth!" James thundered, clamping his hand over the cat's mouth.
Jessie reached down and gave his whiskers a sharp tug.
"It's okay, guys! He only teases because he cares!" Gary laughed.
Meowth pulled himself free from their grasp. "Dat's right!"
"What are we going to do with him?" Jessie groaned.
James shook his head and sighed.
Gary winked at them. "I'll take this as my cue to give you two some time to yourselves." Then, to Meowth, "Come on. Let's quit embarrassing them and get to bed."
"Yeah! We've always got tomorrow ta tease 'em and make filthy jokes!" the cat added.
"I'm just glad that we're all here...that we can make jokes," Jessie remarked when she saw that James was clenching his fists and casting a warning look at Meowth.
These words calmed him. "I know, Jess...you're right...."
"Damn right, I'm right!" Jessie said. She scooped Meowth into her arms and planted a kiss on his golden charm. "I'll take being the butt of your dirty jokes over what Ayesha had planned for us any day!"
Meowth blushed. "Awww! Thanks, Jess!"
She smirked. "Of course...I'll still be forced to clobber you if you don't lay off!"
Gary laughed again as Meowth sweatdropped and wriggled out of Jessie's arms.
"Alright, alright, no dirty jokes," the cat grumbled. "Not for a couple days, anyway...."
"Well, it looks like everything is back to normal...and I'm glad of it," Gary said, changing the subject. He extended his hand and smiled.
James smiled back and shook his hand. "Thanks again for all your help, Gary. It means more to us than you could ever imagine."
"It sure does," Jessie agreed. She leaned down and gave him a kiss on the forehead.
Now Gary was blushing, too. "It was nothing. Like I told grandma last night, you three are some of the best friends I've ever had."
"And you're one of the best friends we've ever had," Jessie told him.
"And just as this experience has made us stronger as individuals, so it's made the friendship we share stronger," said James.
"And the love," Jessie added, resting her head on his shoulder.
Meowth and Gary exchanged smiles as they watched their two friends embrace.
"Dey've got a point," Meowth commented. "Everything worked out for the best, so I'm glad it happened."
"So am I, Meowth," Gary told him. "So am I...."
After saying good night to each other, Gary, Meowth, and Umbreon went into the little bedroom, and Jessie and James returned to their bedroom.
"What are you doing, James?" Jessie asked as she seated herself on the bed.
"Just lighting some more incense," came his reply as he ignited another cone. "Creates a nice, romantic atmosphere, don't you think?"
Jessie took a deep breath of lavender and smiled dreamily. "It sure does."
James smiled back at her. Then, he knealt down and opened his grandparents' safe-deposit box again. While he was putting the package of incense and the lighter away, his gaze drifted to the Tolkien books at the bottom of the box, and he suddenly remembered the envelope that had been tucked inside the cover of Lord of the Rings.
James's smile grew even wider than it already was as he thought about the contents of that envelope: a bank statement and a letter from his grand-mama and grand-papa. On January 31, 1983 -- two days after his birth -- Jim and Rose Morgan had gone to their bank and opened a certificate of deposit in his name. In that CD, they'd deposited one million dollars, and for over eighteen years, that money had been kept safe from the manipulative hands of Quentin and Judith Woodson. The money had also been earning a high amount of interest over the years. By the time the account reached maturity on January 29, 2004, that million dollars would have more than doubled -- on his twenty-first birthday, James was going to be a wealthy man again! In the letter, which was dated shortly before their deaths in 1992, Jim and Rose explained that they knew James would never agree to marry Jessiebelle or conform to his parents' idea of perfection...and that Quentin and Judith would most likely punish him for that by cutting him out of their will. Jim and Rose hadn't wanted their grandson to suffer because of his integrity, so they'd taken steps to ensure his financial security.
Tears welled up in James's emerald eyes as he ran his fingers along the red leather cover of Jim Morgan's copy of Lord of the Rings and then the ornate green cover of Rose Morgan's Book of Shadows. You two have always done everything in your power to look out for me...in life and in death, he thought. You gave me love and respect when my parents tried to convince me that I was worthless, you protected me from Jessiebelle, you set me on the path that led me to my soul-mate, you gave me the power to save her, and now you're giving me an inheritance that I can use to make my dream come true -- Jessie, Meowth, and I will be able to retire from Team Rocket and live happily ever after because of you! Grand-mama...grand-papa, I don't know how I can ever repay you for this....
The sound of Jessie's voice snapped James from his reverie. He looked over his shoulder and smiled again. But I know what you'd want -- you'd want me and my friends to live our lives as best as we can, always holding true to ourselves and each other. And that's exactly what I plan to do!
Jessie got out of bed and knealt by James's side. "What's the matter, sweetie? Why are you crying?" she asked.
James sniffled and brushed his tears away. "It's okay, Jess. I'm not upset. I was just thinking about grand-mama and grand-papa and how grateful I am to them for everything."
"I said it before, and I'll say it again," Jessie said, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "Your grandparents were remarkable people, James -- they had to have been, to have a wonderful grandson like you!"
"Thanks, Jess," he muttered as he ran his fingers through her hair and rested his forehead against hers.
Jessie leaned closer and touched her lips to his. "I love you, sweetie," she whispered.
"I love you, too," James replied. When he saw the yearning look in her sapphire eyes, he felt a sudden stirring of desire in his lower abdomen. His smile became a grin. "Now, you said you have a reward for me?" he asked mischievously.
Jessie's fingers slowly crept down his chest and untied the sash of his robe. "I sure do!"
James exhaled in a fluttery breath and enjoyed the feeling of Jessie's warm, soft hands rubbing his chest and stomach. As he shrugged his robe completely off, he reached down and undid the sash of Jessie's robe. "You're so beautiful," he breathed, admiring the way her skin glowed with a rosy hue in the dim lamplight as her robe slid to the floor.
Jessie gasped with pleasure as James cupped her bare breasts in his hands. The sensation of his fingertips caressing her smooth, creamy flesh was making her ache with need for him. "Make love to me, James," she pleaded.
As the two of them rose to their feet, James lifted Jessie into his arms and carried her back to the bed. When he laid her down, she raised her hips so that he could take off her panties. After he tossed the panties aside, Jessie sat up again and placed her hands on his hips. James closed his hands over hers and guided them, allowing her to pull down his boxer shorts. As he stepped out of his boxers, Jessie's hands gently brushed between his thighs. A smile spread across her lips when she felt James becoming aroused in response to her touch.
"Oh, Jessie!" he gasped. His heart was racing, and his breathing had become shallow and rapid.
Jessie leaned closer and wrapped her free arm around his waist, continuing to stroke him all the while. Then, she began to cover his chest with soft kisses, lingering on his nipples before moving to his neck and face and finally closing her mouth over his. James parted his lips, allowing Jessie to thrust her tongue into his mouth. As he caressed her tongue with his, James felt his urge becoming more acute than ever and laid her down again.
Once she was on her back, Jessie spread her legs apart, and James knealt between them. His fingers brushed along her thighs and found their way inside as he leaned down and kissed her breasts and belly. Jessie writhed beneath him, crying out in pleasure as his fingers touched and rubbed and his lips and tongue caressed her, the same way she'd done to him only moments before. When his mouth finally found hers again, James withdrew his fingers and laid himself on top of her. Knowing what he had for her next, Jessie arched her back to meet his thrust as he put himself inside of her.
James shivered with excitement when Jessie's body accepted him. He never ceased to marvel at how wondrous it felt to be surrounded by her softness and warmth. "I love you," he whispered as he showered her face and neck with tender kisses.
Jessie ran her fingers through his hair and gasped again. His lips felt like velvet on her skin, and every movement of his body was giving her a gentle massage in all the places she liked to be touched the most. "I love you," she echoed before her voice became caught in her throat and gave way to moans of ecstasy.
After playing with his hair, Jessie began to caress his shoulders and his back. When he felt her fingertips tracing patterns in the small of his back and her hands closing over his butt, James responded by thrusting more quickly and deeply.
When Jessie finally found her voice, she began crying his name, over and over again. Everything James was doing was bringing her to orgasm, and the pleasure was almost too intense for her to bear.
The sound of Jessie's voice and the feeling of her body trembling with ecstasy each time she climaxed sent another surge of excitement through James. Normally, such an extreme sensation would have caused him to release, but tonight it didn't. Tonight, they were pushing past all limitations and bringing their experience to heights that they never imagined possible.
Jessie and James became lost in each other as every aspect of their beings found a matching rhythm and remained there. Two halves of the same soul, joined together and completing each other in a perfect union.
Neither one of them could have said how long it lasted, but it was almost dawn before they finished. When James finally came, he remained inside of Jessie, too spent to move, yet still not quite wanting the moment to end. After a couple of minutes, he mustered the energy to withdraw himself and roll off of her.
For several minutes after that, all the two young lovers could do was gasp for air and stare at each other in a mixture of adoration and disbelief.
"You've been holding out on me!" Jessie remarked once she had enough breath to speak again.
James raised an eyebrow. "Me? What about you?"
Jessie cuddled into him and smoothed back his hair. "I know it gets better and better every time we make love, but I've never felt anything like that before. It was like...dying of ecstasy and coming back for more!"
"Yeah," James agreed. He tucked a loose strand of Jessie's hair behind her ear and caressed her cheeks with his fingertips. "I didn't think it was humanly possible to experience that much pleasure!"
"What do you think it was, James?" she asked. "Why do you think this time was so much more intense than anything we've ever done before?"
James closed his eyes and thought for a moment. "I think this was yet another good thing that came of our ordeal," he replied. "After all we risked to remain together, I think our souls forged an even stronger bond of love and unity. And finding the new strengths within ourselves probably heightened the experience as well."
"That makes sense," Jessie said after considering his words. "It makes a lot of sense." She smiled. "Think this is what it'll be like from now on?"
James smiled back. "After what we've just shared, anything less would be a disappointment. But I could never be disappointed when I'm with you, Jessie. Therefore, I believe I'm safe in assuming that our sex-life will only get better from here!"
"Can't argue with logic like that!" she giggled.
"Of course, there's only one way to find out if I'm right or not," he continued, holding her closer and touching his mouth to hers.
Jessie put her arms around his shoulders and returned his kiss. "And we'll be putting your theory to the test...many, many times," she assured him. "But...."
"I know. Not tonight," James said, finishing the thought for her. "I don't think I could handle a second helping just yet, either."
Jessie rested her head on his chest and smiled wearily at him. "Maybe tomorrow night...or in the morning...."
James kissed her again and pulled the blanket over their naked bodies. "Definitely."
"I love you, James," she muttered.
"I love you too, Jessie," he replied. "Sweet dreams."
"Sweet dreams...." she echoed.
As the young lovers cuddled into each other again, the closeness and warmth of their bodies and the steady rhythm of their breath and their beating hearts relaxed them, and the comfort of being together finally lulled them to sleep.
When Jessie opened her eyes, she found herself surrounded by white mist and fog. She knew that she was in the realm of dreams once again, and for a split second, she worried that James and Meowth coming to her rescue and James using his healing powers on her had only been more of Ayesha's illusions. But that fear was quickly banished from her mind when the fog lifted and revealed a lush, green meadow filled with wildflowers.
"This is my grandparents' estate. I used to play here all the time when I was a boy. It was more of a home to me than my parents' mansion ever was."
Jessie turned and saw James standing behind her. She smiled and put her arms around him. "It's so beautiful. I can see why you like this place so much."
"I often dream about it," James told her. A light sparkled in his green eyes. "Maybe someday, I'll return here with you and Meowth...."
"Like King Aragorn returning to Gondor with his Evenstar bride," Jessie remarked.
James took her hands in his own and twined their fingers. "I like that comparison!"
As they leaned closer and brushed their lips together, Jessie and James heard the sound of approaching footsteps. Breaking off their kiss, they looked and saw Meowth and Gary.
"Here dey are!" Meowth exclaimed.
"We've been waiting for you!" said Gary.
"It seems we're all having the same dream again," James commented. His smile became a grin. "And I think I know why. Come with me."
Jessie, Meowth, and Gary exchanged looks and watched as James crossed the meadow and vanished into the woods. Knowing that their friend's instincts were seldom wrong, the three of them followed him.
James led them along a narrow path through the fragrant cedar forest. After a few minutes, they arrived in a small clearing at the heart of the forest. A fairy ring of dark green grass encircled the clearing, and a pool of water surrounded by mossy stones was at the center. And true to James's prediction, three people were standing by the pool, waiting for their arrival. The first was a man with long blue-violet hair, a brushy mustache, and emerald-green eyes. The second was a woman with a long mane of wavy red hair and warm, brown eyes. And the third was a woman with long, wavy auburn hair and amethyst eyes.
The man and the red-haired woman held out their arms and smiled when they saw James.
"Grand-mama! Grand-papa!" James exclaimed. Tears welled up in his eyes as he ran to their side and put his arms around them.
Jim and Rose Morgan smiled again and returned their grandson's embrace. "You did well, James. We're so proud of you," Rose told him.
"I couldn't have done it without your help," James replied. "Thank you. Thank you for everything."
"I was barely involved," Rose said modestly. "All I did was point you in the right direction. You're the one who had the wisdom to listen and the strength and courage to follow through."
James shook his head and smiled at her. "You're wrong, grand-mama. If I have wisdom, strength, and courage, then I have you and grand-papa to thank for that. I've inherited so much from you, and I'm thankful for all of it." He paused for a moment and winked at them. "Though the love and knowledge are still more important to me than the multi-million dollar CD," he whispered.
Jim's green eyes twinkled knowingly. "Rose and I didn't want to leave any of our money to Judith or Quentin after the way they treated you -- we wanted to leave everything to you, but you were still a child when we died. We couldn't give you the inheritance you deserved, lest your parents take it from you and use it against you," he said. "We still wanted you to have something, though. The cash I left you in the rose garden and the account we created in your name are but a token of how much you mean to us...and with all the hard work you've put in and all the integrity you've demonstrated over the years, you've earned every penny of it and more. And just as you used the cash to set yourself on the path that led you to your soul-mate, so I know you'll use the rest of your inheritance to lead yourself and your friends to your white tomorrow."
The tears that filled James's eyes were now spilling down his cheeks. "You're right. I will...someday very soon."
Jim and Rose nodded approvingly and brushed their grandson's tears away. Then, they both hugged him again and planted kisses atop his head.
While Jim and Rose were speaking with James, Vivien came to Gary's side and folded him into an embrace. "I knew I could count on you, Gary," she said.
Gary hugged his grandma. "I'm just glad I didn't let you or my friends down."
"Sunshine, you've never let any of us down," Vivien assured him as she smoothed back his spiky auburn hair. "And I don't suspect you ever will. After rising to a challenge as monumental as the one you've just faced and emerging victorious, any rough patches you hit in the future should be simple by comparison! You did well enlisting the help of May and your grandpa, you battled bravely with your pokemon, you gave your friends comfort and hope in their darkest hour, and you had the wisdom to listen to the pokemon and let them help you see through Ayesha's illusions. Words can't do justice to how proud I am of you!"
Gary said nothing, just hugged Vivien more tightly than ever. He was so touched by what she'd told him that he was at a loss for words.
"And never worry about your family," Vivien went on. "I know Ayesha showed you a terrible vision...I know of the terrible things she threatened to do. But none of those illusions or threats have come to fruition, and they never will. Your grandpa, your parents, May, and your aunt Rowena are all unharmed. They'll forever be safe from Ayesha, thanks in part to you." She winked at him. "And I suspect you'll be getting a pleasant surprise very soon...something that will put your mind at ease about this once and for all!"
"Thank you, grandma," Gary whispered, brushing away the tears that were filling his indigo eyes.
Jessie and Meowth smiled as they watched the exchanges between James and Gary and their grandparents.
"So, dis is the Rose Morgan and Vivien Oak we've been hearin' so much about!" Meowth commented.
"And the grand-mama and grand-papa that James always speaks so fondly of," Jessie added. Her sapphire eyes sparkled. "Now I see where he gets his good looks from! And his brains...and kindness...."
When she said this, Jim and Rose looked over at Jessie and gestured for her and Meowth to join them.
"We've heard so many wonderful things about you from James," Jessie said as she approached them. "It's nice to meet you."
Jim Morgan smiled at her. "Rose and I have been watching over James ever since we passed on...which means we've been watching over you for a long time as well. We're happy to finally meet you in person, too."
Rose placed her hand on Jessie's cheek. "We love you as much as we love our grandson. You make him very happy...so it made us happy when you came into his life."
"James makes me happy, too," Jessie replied, putting her arms around his shoulders. "I've always been thankful to have him in my life...and now I have another reason to be thankful!"
"Yeah! It's so cool dat youse guys taught Jimmy how ta use magic!" Meowth exclaimed. He grinned at Rose and Vivien. "And it's cool ta meet a couple a real witches! James was right -- ya ain't nothin' like the monsters dat fairy-tales always make ya out to be."
"Sadly, the ancient paths have been overgrown with such myths and falsehoods for ages," Vivien sighed. "But we're glad that there are still some who can see the truth. And we're glad that the four of you are among those...that you learned the truth about the ancient powers and used them for good."
"Is dat why we're here?" the cat queried.
"Yes," Rose replied. "We brought you here so that we can give you the peace of mind you need after your encounter with Ayesha...to show you that your victory over her was genuine." With that, she passed her hand over the surface of the pool. "Look into the water...."
Doing as they were instructed, Jessie, James, Meowth, and Gary peered into the pool. After a moment, an image of a lush, green forest materialized in the water. Oak, pine, cedar, birch, and rowan trees were growing as far as the eye could see, and the ground was covered in a carpet of wildflowers.
"These are the ruins of Yew, over twenty years from now," Rose explained. "For 2,000 years, the land has been barren, but now that it's been purged of Ayesha's evil spirit, Mother Earth will finally take back what's rightfully hers. Those trees and flowers are a living testament to the fact that Ayesha is gone forever."
Suddenly, the image in the water focused on a small campsite nestled among the trees. As the pink light of dawn crept over the eastern horizon and filtered down through the green canopy overhead, a young teenage boy knealt by the campfire, cooking pancakes in his griddle. The boy looked almost exactly like James -- the only difference was that his eyes were sapphire-blue rather than emerald-green.
Jessie and James gasped when they saw him.
When the boy finished cooking the pancakes, he divided them among three plates and began brewing a pot of coffee. Then, he turned his attention to the young teenage girl and boy who were still sound asleep in their sleeping bags.
"Rose! Sam! Breakfast is served!" the boy called to his two companions. He reached over and scratched behind the ears of the Houndour pup that was sitting at his side. "Better wake up, or I'll let Triumph, here, eat your shares!"
The Houndour wagged his tail and barked.
Rose Morgan and Vivien Oak beamed proudly when they heard the names of the two children.
"Alright, alright, we're coming, Eric!" the girl, Rose, groaned.
"Yeah, you don't have to threaten us!" the other boy, Sam, chimed in.
"Aw, come on! You know I was only kidding!" Eric chuckled.
As Rose and Sam climbed out of their sleeping bags and came to Eric's side, everybody who was watching the scene noticed that the two children looked like Jessie and Gary, only Rose had emerald-green eyes rather than sapphire-blue, and Sam's eyes were dove-gray instead of indigo.
James turned and looked at Jessie. "Eric and Rose...those must be our children, Jess!"
"Oh, James, they're so beautiful!" Jessie sighed.
"And Sam must be my son," Gary remarked.
"He's a cutie, too!" Jessie told him.
"Dey're all good-lookin', just like dere parents!" said Meowth.
"I had the coolest dream last night," Rose told Eric and Sam as she began to eat her pancakes.
"Really? What was it about?" Eric asked.
"I had a dream about our mom and dad, and uncle Meowth, and Mr. Oak," came her reply. "They were all in the ruins of the city that used to be here thousands of years ago, and they were fighting some kind of demon...."
"....And they kicked the demon's ass!" Eric said, finishing the thought for her. "I had that dream, too!"
"Whoa!" Sam exclaimed. "I had a dream like that about dad, Mr. and Mrs. Woodson, and Meowth, too! What do you think it means?"
"Hmmm...." Eric muttered. "I know they were all here a long time ago, and that something really important happened to them while they were here. Uncle Meowth always used to tell me, Rose, Miya, and Charms that life started getting a lot better for him and mom and dad after they came here."
"Then maybe the dream was some kind of sign that there's lots of good things in store for us, too!" Rose concluded. "They all looked so happy and peaceful after they defeated that monster, and it made me feel happy and peaceful, too."
"Yeah!" Sam cheered.
As the three children continued to eat their breakfast and chat, the image faded away and became clear blue water once again.
"Your children will all journey together someday," Jim Morgan said to Jessie, James, and Gary. "And when their travels bring them to the ruins of Yew, no evil of any sort will befall them."
"Their camp is on the very spot where Ayesha's stone tower once stood. They slept all night in the exact same place where Ayesha opened her portal to Hell, and they had nothing but good dreams," Rose Morgan added.
"You won't remember what you've seen in the water when you awaken...but you will retain your peace of mind," Vivien told them. "You'll know in your hearts that you and your descendants will always be safe from Ayesha."
"Dat's what really matters!" said Meowth. "And it's prolly a good thing we won't remember everything about the vision -- don't wanna spoil any surprises about our future, ya know!"
Gary nodded. "That's right. But I'm happy to see that our kids are all gonna be friends, just like we are now."
"And just as you are," James added, smiling at his grandparents and Vivien.
Jessie smiled at them, too. "It's just more proof that our friendship was meant to be. Thank you for showing us that vision...for showing us that Ayesha will never hurt our children. What she threatened to do to them made me sick!"
James's expression darkened once again. "Yes. When I heard her gloating about how she planned on tormenting our children, I couldn't help but think of the nightmare grand-mama had about Ayesha torturing me. But just as grand-mama wouldn't allow the vision to come to pass as she saw it, I was determined to keep history from repeating itself."
"And the four of you did that exceptionally well," Jim replied. "Every word from Ayesha's mouth was a lie -- all of her promises hollow...all of her threats empty...."
"Every word?" Jessie interjected. "What about what she told me about my grandma? Was that a lie, too?"
Rose cupped Jessie's chin in her hand. "We know the answer to your question, Jessie. But there's one who can answer it better than we...."
When she said this, another woman emerged from the forest and stepped into the clearing. A woman with a long mane of purple hair and brilliant blue-green eyes.
"M-momma? Momma, is that you?" Jessie gasped.
Miyamoto nodded. "Yes, it's me, Jessie."
Tears streamed down Jessie's cheeks as she ran to her mother and caught her in an embrace. "Momma...."
"Oh, sweetheart," Miyamoto whispered as she put her arms around her daughter and stroked her crimson hair.
For several minutes the two women said nothing, just stood together in their embrace as Jessie continued to cry, and Miyamoto gently rocked her back and forth.
It was Miyamoto who finally broke the silence. "Jessie, please forgive me," she said softly. "There were so many things I wanted to do...so many things I needed to say, but never got the chance to...."
Jessie blinked, making fresh tears spill from her eyes. "Momma, there's nothing to forgive -- I've never blamed you for anything that happened."
Miyamoto placed a finger to her daughter's lips. "Let me finish, Jessie. Please. I know that my death has always weighed heavily on your conscience...that it's the one burden you still force yourself to bear...."
Jessie hung her head.
Miyamoto cupped Jessie's chin in her hand and made her look up again. "Only you can make the choice to forgive yourself, but I hope you know that I've never held you responsible for what happened. I was the one who accepted the mission, despite all of your protests...and if it meant giving you a chance for a better life, I'd accept that mission again!" she continued. "Someday soon, you'll understand why I did it. Someday very soon, you'll know firsthand that a mother loves her child more than life itself...you'll know what a mother is willing to sacrifice for the sake of her child. I can only hope that knowledge will allow you to forgive yourself if nothing else will.
"And even though I can't be with you in body, I've always been with you in spirit," Miyamoto went on. "I've been watching over you all these years. And every time I see the joy that James, Meowth, and your other friends have brought into your life, it fills me with joy!"
"She's tellin' the truth, Jess -- she's our guardian spirit!" Meowth interjected. "I know...cuz I saw her once before! After I battled dat Scyther swarm last summer, she healed my injuries." He nodded to Miyamoto. "I'm glad ta see ya again, Miya -- good things always happen when you show up!"
"It's good to see you too, Meowth," Miyamoto replied. "But as you can tell, I'm not the only guardian spirit who watches over you. When Jessie met James, I met Jim and Rose, and when you all became friends with Gary, I met Vivien as well. We've all been looking out for you...protecting you from harm."
"Heh. It prolly does take a whole group of angels ta help us outta the trouble we're always gettin' into!" Meowth laughed. Then, to Miyamoto, "Supernatural powers or no, you'd be overworked if ya had ta look out for us all by yerself!"
"No doubt," James chuckled. "And I imagine even with their combined powers, Miyamoto, grand-mama, and grand-papa are still overworked!"
"Actually, you guys are pretty good at getting yourselves out of trouble," Jim told him. "We only step in on the occassions when you really do need help...and even then, we only give you a little nudge so that you do have the power to save yourselves."
"But in the wake of this encounter with Ayesha, the four of us have made a decision," Rose added. "For years, we've watched over you from afar, only appearing to you briefly during extreme situations. We think it's time to change all of that."
"This experience has heightened your perception. It's made you more aware of things not of this world...of things unseen," Vivien explained. "In light of this, we feel that we can come to you more often now...that we can make ourselves available to you for guidance, in the good times as well as the bad."
"You've always kept us in your hearts, allowing us to stay with you in spirit," said Jim. "But with the new levels of wisdom and unity you've reached, we can be part of your lives once again."
"We'd like that. We'd like that very much," Gary replied.
James hugged his grandparents once more. "I've missed you so much. It's good to know that we can be together in dreams now."
Jessie brushed her tears away and sniffled. "I missed you too, momma. It feels like you've finally come home."
Miyamoto embraced her daughter again. "I have, sweetheart...I have." She smiled. "And I also have some important things to tell you...things that have been long overdue."
"About my grandparents?" Jessie ventured. "Momma, is what Ayesha said about them true? Was grandma really a princess?"
Miyamoto nodded. "Yes. My mother was the only child of a nobleman and his wife. When she was a little girl, they betrothed her to a man she didn't love, and she fled when she met my father and fell in love with him. They got married when they went to Kanto, and I was born two years later. I was their only child, and you, in turn, are my only child. That was one thing Ayesha spoke the truth about -- even though the line is no longer pure, you still have nobility in your blood, Jessie. As the sole surviving descendant of Musashi Matsuki, you are technically a princess."
Jessie raised an eyebrow. "Why didn't you ever tell me about this?"
"I was going to, sweetheart. But I wanted to wait until you were old enough to fully understand...and as you know, I never got the chance," Miyamoto sighed. "I feared that if I told you about your grandparents when you were a little girl, it would pique your curiosity and make you insistent on meeting them."
"Hearing about them now piqued my curiosity, too," Jessie countered. "Why didn't you want me to meet them? From what you told me about them while you were alive, they sounded like good people."
"They are," Miyamoto assured her. She closed her eyes and shook her head. "But I was young and foolish in those days. It was a difficult thing to be seventeen, pregnant, jobless, and abandoned by my boyfriend. Mom and dad weren't wealthy, and they'd already spent so much money for me to go to school -- I was too ashamed to ask them to help me support my child. Then, Arianna Razzo came along and promised me fortune and greatness if I worked for her. I was desperate to provide for my baby and pay back my mom and dad for all they'd done for me, so I accepted her offer and joined Team Rocket. I vowed that I'd return home after I'd made something of myself, but it never happened." She sighed again as a tear rolled down her cheek. "I know now that it was the wrong choice. I know now that I could've gone home. Mom and dad wouldn't have cared that I was pregnant -- they just would've been happy to see me again...and they would've loved their beautiful grandchild." She opened her eyes once more and looked back at her daughter. "I'm sorry, Jessie. I'm so sorry that you're the one who paid the price for my foolish pride. Can you ever forgive me?"
Jessie took Miyamoto's hand in her own and placed it on her cheek. "It's okay, mom. I know how frightening it can be when you feel like you've been abandoned...how desperation can drive people to make bad decisions. I've been down that road myself -- you don't have to apologize to me. I'm just glad to see you again, and to know the truth."
The smile returned to Miyamoto's lips when Jessie said this. "And I'm glad that I finally had the chance to tell you the truth...though I'm still sorry that it took me so long. I feel like such a bad mother, keeping secrets from you...."
Jessie shook her head. "Momma, I've always thought you were the best. I still do."
"And I couldn't ask for a better daughter than you," Miyamoto said, drawing Jessie closer and planting a kiss atop her head. "You were always such a precious little girl, and I'm so proud of the sweet, beautiful woman you've become. I'm sure your grandma and grandpa would think so, too!"
Jessie gave her a quizzical look.
Miyamoto's smile became a grin. "My mom and dad are still alive, Jessie! That was the other thing I wanted to tell you -- it may be too late for me to go back home, but it's not too late for you to meet them...to let them know that they have a granddaughter. They still live in Kanto, in a little town called Opal Ridge. If your travels ever take you there...."
Now Jessie was smiling, too. "I'm sure they will. And I'd love to finally meet grandma and grandpa!"
"I know they'll love to meet you, too. You'll make them so happy," said Miyamoto. She leaned closer and whispered into her daughter's ear: "You're going to be learning a lot about your family before long...and not just your grandparents. There's another guardian spirit who watches over you, Jessie...."
Jessie raised an eyebrow. "Who?"
"You'll know soon enough," came Miyamoto's reply. "Let's just say you'll be very pleasantly surprised when you find out who it is...when you learn the truth about this person. I wish I could tell you the whole story now, especially since you deserve to know, but it'll be for the best if you hear it firsthand."
Jessie nodded. "I understand."
As mother and daughter shared another embrace, Jim, Rose, and Vivien hugged their respective grandchildren as well.
"It's time for us to go now," Vivien said at length. "We have other matters to attend to, but I'm glad that we all had the chance to meet."
Rose smiled at her grandson and his friends. "The bonds that you share are like a light that shines in your souls. May that light shine even brighter in times when all other lights go out."
"Remember that Ayesha will never be able to hurt you and yours again and that as long as you hold true to each other, no other evil will be able to harm you either," Jim told them.
"And remember that if you ever need us for anything, you know where to find us," Miyamoto added. "We're always just a dream away."
After a moment, the four guardian spirits released Jessie, James, Meowth, and Gary from their embrace. "Farewell, wherever you fare...and sweet dreams," they said in unison as they began to shimmer with a white light and slowly faded away.
Once they were gone, a white mist began to roll in, obscuring the pool, the forest, and the fairy ring. As the dreamscape vanished from sight, the four friends exchanged smiles and began the journey back to their own plane. They knew that even though they wouldn't be able to remember all of the details from this most recent dream, they'd never forget the peace of mind that Jim, Rose, Vivien, and Miyamoto had given them. And they'd never forget that their loved ones were always with them.
They knew in their hearts that everything was going to be okay.
To be Concluded....
Special thanks to Shigeru1313 for the cool Katakishippy illustration! ^__^
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