Hearts Crying Out
by Cori Falls
"Looks like Team Rocket's blasting off again!" Jessie, Meowth, and I cried in unison as the Viridian Gym exploded and blew us sky-high.
I looked over at Jessie. A tear fell from her eye as the Earth Badge slipped from her fingers and landed next to that twerp. My heart broke at the sight!
I just didn't understand it -- our plan was perfect! So, what went wrong?
It started out as such a good day. The Brat Pack had come to Viridian City in hopes of earning an Earth Badge from the leader of the local gym, who just so happens to be our boss! And, of course, we had followed them! At the moment, they were waiting outside the gym, and we were spying on them from the rooftop of a nearby building.
I watched through my binoculars. The twerp was strutting around like he was king of the world, but then, Misty said something that absolutely withered him! I began to snicker. Then, I saw Ash toss Misty's Togepi into the air, and she freaked out! She grabbed him by the lapels of his vest and started to shake him around, screaming at him all the while. Now, I was laughing out loud!
Jessie came to my side. "What's so funny?" she asked.
"That little redhead is kicking the crap out of him!" I chuckled.
Jessie leaned over the ledge in order to get a better look. "What's happening? What's all the commotion?"
"I don't know," I replied. "It's all happening so...."
Suddenly, I felt something whack me on the rump. "OUCH!" I cried. Turning around, I saw Meowth standing behind me. "What did you do that for?!" I shouted as I rubbed my sore butt.
"What?" the cat asked, trying to play innocent.
Who did he think he was fooling? "Meowth, I demand to know why you kicked me!"
"Don't flatter yaself!" Meowth snapped. "I wouldn't waste my time kickin' you!"
I scowled at him, and he scowled right back, but before an argument could start, Misty's Togepi stepped between us.
Jessie blinked. "Huh? What's Togepi doing here?" she asked.
"Meowth! It's rainin' rare pokemon!" Meowth cheered.
I don't know how that kid managed to toss Togepi all the way up here, but that didn't really matter. A smile spread across my face as I got a brilliant idea. "It's not Pikachu...but it's the next best thing!" I said.
Then, Jessie was smiling, too. Gently, she took the little guy in her hands and said, "Nice Togepi! Cute little Togepi! The boss is just going to love you!"
I guess Togepi didn't feel the same because he jumped out of her arms and began to walk across a narrow wooden plank that led to the roof of the next building.
"Togepi! Come back!" she cried.
But Togepi didn't listen -- he just kept walking across the plank.
"Togepi! I'm coming to save you!" Jessie called out as she began to follow him.
I sweatdropped when I saw her crawl out onto that plank. It didn't look like it was strong enough to hold her weight, and it was a long drop to the street below! God, why couldn't Meowth do this instead? Knowing that I couldn't go out there myself and keep her safe, I decided to do the next best thing -- offer my moral support!
"Jessie! Jessie! You can do it!" I cheered, pumping my arms up and down.
Jessie turned around and glared at me. "Will you shut up?!" she growled. "I'm trying to...."
But before she could finish yelling at me, the plank snapped in half, and she began to scream as she plummetted towards the ground.
Panic siezed me when I saw this -- my best friend was in danger, and I had to help her! "Jessie! I'll save you!" I cried as Meowth and I charged down from the roof.
We were on the sidewalk less than a second later (Team Rocket really does blast off at the speed of light!), and I held out my arms to catch Jessie.
I smiled as I thought about how it would happen -- it'd be just like in those adventure stories, where the swashbuckling hero saves his fair lady! After I caught Jessie, we'd gaze into each other's eyes, and I'd finally have the courage to tell her how much I love her! And then, I'd kiss her....
I snapped out of my fantasy and saw a gaping hole in the street...a hole that Jessie made when she landed! I had misjudged where she was falling from, and I missed. Feeling like an idiot, I smacked myself on the forehead. So much for my daring rescue.
I ran to the edge of the hole and looked down at poor Jessie, lying at the bottom. "Jess! Are you okay?!" I wailed.
"Fine," she groaned, pulling herself up.
I extended my hand to help her climb out when Togepi jumped down from the roof and landed on her head.
She grabbed onto him and collapsed once again. "Just fine...."
Then she blacked out.
Meowth and I lifted her out of the hole. The cat held onto Togepi while I took Jessie in my arms. I stroked her hair and rocked her gently back and forth for a few minutes. I leaned in a little closer, and I was just about to press my lips to hers when she opened her eyes. All of my resolve vanished as she looked up at me.
"You alright, Jessie?" I asked.
I breathed a sigh of relief when she nodded and got back to her feet.
"Come on, guys," she said, taking Togepi back from Meowth. "We've got a rare pokemon to deliver to the boss!"
We then reported to the gym and waited for the boss to finish his match with a challenger in the arena. I was so excited! He was actually going to be proud of us for a change -- he'd be so impressed that we brought him such a rare pokemon....
But I was wrong.
"You fools!" he screamed when Jessie held out Togepi for him to see. "You search for months, and this is all you bring me?! You're total incompetents!"
My heart sank as Giovanni continued to rant at us. What did he mean, "That's all?!" At least we brought him a pokemon! (And Togepi is a pretty rare and valuable one, if you ask me!) Sometimes, I think that nothing we do will ever be good enough for him. Sometimes, I wonder why we even bother....
Thankfully, the phone rang, and he forgot about us for a moment. His expression grew even angrier as he listened to the person on the other end.
"I have to go...there's been an emergency," he told us after he hung up. "I'm leaving the three of you in charge of the gym while I'm gone." With that, he pulled three poke balls out of his desk and handed them to us. Then, he stormed out of the room.
Jessie's blue-violet eyes gleamed as she looked at the poke balls in her hands. "Do you know what this means?" she asked.
Meowth grinned. "We just became...."
"....Gym Leaders!" I cried as the realization struck me.
The three of us embraced and did a victory dance. Wow! Gym Leaders! It looked like things were finally starting to go right for us!
But it was too good to last.
"Um, I think we have a problem," Meowth said suddenly.
"What problem?!" Jessie demanded. "We're Gym Leaders now!"
"Togepi is gone!" he cried. "We coulda' used him as bait to capture Pikachu!"
I considered this for a moment. "Hmmmm...That's a good idea, Meowth! That really would make the boss happy! Let's go find him!"
So began our search for Togepi.
The dark, twisting corridors of the Viridian Gym were like a maze, and the three of us wandered them for what seemed like hours, but we didn't see Togepi anywhere.
Then, Meowth thought he heard something and went bounding ahead. Jessie and I followed. At length, he brought us to a long hallway with a door at the end.
"Togepi must have gone in there!" Jessie said, pushing the door all the way open and going inside.
Meowth and I followed her, but as we began to descend the creaky wooden staircase, the door slammed shut behind us. Suddenly, I heard Meowth yowl and felt his razor-sharp claws dig into my back. Crying out in pain, I jumped forward and crashed into Jessie. The three of us tumbled down the stairs and landed on the floor in a tangled heap.
"Watch it, you clumsy cat!" Jessie growled, rubbing her elbow.
Meowth looked up and pulled a string that was hanging from the ceiling. The room was then illuminated by the dim glow of a lightbulb.
"What is this place?" I asked.
"Looks like the basement," came Jessie's reply as she pointed to the storage crates that lined the walls. There was also a computer terminal in one of the far corners.
We searched the room for several minutes, but Togepi was nowhere to be found.
Jessie scowled and kicked one of the boxes. "What a waste of time!" she snapped.
"Yeah! This sucks!" I agreed. "I say we go back upstairs!"
With that, the three of us went back up the staircase. Unfortunately, the door was stuck. I tried pushing on it and jiggling the doorknob, but it wouldn't budge.
"Here. Let me try," Jessie said, brushing past me. She wiggled the doorknob for a couple of seconds, but then, she became impatient and started yanking on it. This caused it to break off in her hands.
That little vein she always gets when she's angry popped out on her forehead, and she began to kick the door with all of her strength. Coming to her aid, I pounded it with my fists. It still didn't work.
"Oh, good one, Jess! Now we're trapped!" Meowth grumbled.
"Don't you dare blame me for this!" she screamed as another vein appeared on her forehead.
"Yeah! You're the one who led us here!" I said.
"Yeah?! Well yer the one who let Togepi escape!" Meowth shot back.
Well, I was already in a foul mood because of the boss yelling at us, and now, this pointless argument was starting to get on my nerves, too! Meowth was acting like a total jerk, but he had a point -- if Jessie hadn't lost track of Togepi, we wouldn't be down here right now!
"He's right, Jess," I said matter-of-factly. "You were the last one to have Togepi, so this really is all your fault."
Jessie wheeled around and scowled at me. "Excuse me, but I'm the one who risked my life trying to capture the damn thing in the first place!" she shouted. "I don't remember you two cowards doing anything!"
So, now it was all my fault for using a bit of common sense? "Cowards?!" I shouted back.
The two of us were nose to nose. Jessie looked like she was ready to hit me, and, much to my horror, I found that I really wanted to hit her, too!
Thankfully, Meowth broke us apart before things got out of control. "Baka humans! We gotta find a way outta here!" he snapped.
Jessie closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "You're right...you're right...." she said, turning away from me.
I took a deep breath, too, and my anger subsided. "But how?" I asked.
"Maybe that computer over there can help," the cat suggested.
"Yeah! There's probably a floor plan in there that'll show us how to get out!" Jessie agreed as her smile returned.
We booted up the computer and searched for a few minutes, but there was no floor plan. However, we did find something else of interest -- the Team Rocket database with all of the personnel files!
Our curiosity was piqued by this. What did the boss really think about us, we wondered. Jessie scanned the names, and when she finally located our file, she clicked on it and brought it up.
And what I saw broke my heart.
According to Giovanni's official files, Jessie has a great potential for evil that she's too self-absorbed to use, Meowth has the amazing ability to speak without saying anything worth listening to, and I'd be clever if I weren't so dim-witted. And what's more, together the three of us have made some of the most incredible bungles in the history of the Team Rocket empire!
I guess I always knew that the boss had a low opinion of us, but actually seeing it in writing kind of drove the point home. I tried to shake it off by focusing on the "clever" part, but it just wasn't working.
Dim-witted -- I hate it when people use that word to describe me. I know I'm not the smartest guy in the world...never said I was, but why does everybody think that I'm stupid? My parents certainly thought so -- they always talked down to me, like I was retarded, or something...and my fiance, Jessiebelle, wasn't any different! Nothing I did was ever good enough for them. Being perfect all the time was what was expected of me, and, therefore, not worthy of attention or praise. And God help me if I made the slightest mistake! Eventually, I just gave up. I figured that since I could never make them happy, I simply wasn't going to waste my time trying -- I'd just do things my way and not make any apologies for it! Is it any wonder I ran away from home? And I know that I flunked out of school, but that's just because I learn better by going out and doing something myself than by reading about it and trying to regurgitate it on paper. I may have gotten bad grades because of that, but it doesn't make me stupid! Hell! Even Jessie calls me an idiot sometimes...but I know she doesn't mean it -- she's just got a temper, that's all. When she gets mad, she's gotta take it out on somebody...and that somebody is usually me, but that's only because I'm always there. It's nothing personal, so I don't mind. Truth be told, Jessie is the only person who seems to think that I even have intelligence!
Jessie. I looked over at her, bragging about her great potential. And Meowth, preening over the boss calling him amazing. But there was something about their voices -- I could tell they were just as upset as I was.
At that moment, I noticed that Jessie was looking at me, too. As our eyes met, I suddenly felt guilty about the argument we had earlier -- there was no reason for us to be mad at each other!
I smiled and came to her side, putting my arm around her shoulders. "He thinks we're an incredible team, Jess!" I said in an attempt to cheer her up. "We shouldn't fight so much!"
Jessie smiled back at me and returned the hug. "Yeah," she agreed.
Well, the three of us managed to patch things over, but the fact remained that we were still locked in the basement with no way out! We didn't let that bother us, however! Instead, we just started recalling some of our more memorable attempts to capture Pikachu. Sadly, all of those tales end in our defeat (and none of us wanted to remember that!) So, we all changed the endings of our stories a little, telling things how they SHOULD have been rather than how they really were.
And for some strange reason, that made us start fighting again....
"I don't need either of you!" Jessie shouted.
"Me either!" I shouted back. (Honestly! Did she and Meowth really have to remind me that it was my forgetting to throw the bomb that caused Ash and that camera kid, Todd, to escape and rescue Pikachu?! Maybe I should've picked a story where our defeat wasn't my fault -- at least Jessie and Meowth had the sense to do that with their own....)
"Then I guess that settles it -- we're all going solo!" Jessie snapped. "I don't need Team Rocket anyway!"
"No more Team Rocket!" I agreed.
"That's fine with me!" Meowth growled.
With that, the three of us each stormed to a different corner of the basement. We couldn't really break up since we were still trapped, but at that moment we just had to be as far away from each other as possible!
Jessie and Meowth can be so infuriating sometimes! I fumed as I sat down in my corner. And it was true! We were only trying to pass the time and keep each other entertained, and they had to go and ruin it by being mean! Well, okay, I guess I ruined it, too....
What the hell brought that fight on, anyway? I honestly didn't know. Could it be possible that we just had so much pent-up frustration about our lousy day that we were taking it out on each other? That had to be it! Why else would we blow up at each other like that? Why else would I turn on my two best friends?
I hung my head and sighed. Because of the hurtful things I said, I had lost them.
Meowth may be kind of irritating at times, but he's still a really good friend. He's kind of sarcastic, sure, but I'm more impressed with the fact that he actually knows how to talk! I mean, it takes a pretty damned special pokemon to teach himself how to speak, read, walk on two legs, and be his own trainer! Where does the boss get off thinking that he's useless? I certainly don't think so -- I'm proud to call him my friend! No matter what, he's always been there for me and Jessie.
And Jessie? Well...I love Jessie.
I know she looks almost exactly like my fiance, but I think Jessie's far more beautiful. It's probably because of her eyes -- every time I look into those two sparkling sapphires...I don't know...it's like...I'm staring into the other half of my soul! I feel complete when I look at her! And it's not just the eyes, either -- I love everything about her! She's the most beautiful woman I've ever seen!
And she's so strong and courageous, too! I know she beats me up a lot, but I also know that she cares about me. Jessie may never say it out loud, but her actions have proven it to me time and time again! Like when we were shipwrecked on the St. Anne at the bottom of the sea. Even though I had just wasted her entire paycheck on that worthless Magikarp, and it was all my fault that we got stuck on the ship in the first place, she still promised that she wouldn't leave me behind, and she risked her life to help me get across that fiery pit so that we could escape. And a few weeks later, when the ghost of the Maiden put a spell on me, she rescued me by shooting it with her bazooka. Even when I came back to her after escaping from Jessiebelle for the second time...the sad look on her face when she thought I was gone, and how happy she became when she saw that I had returned...and, most of all, the look she gave me when we were in the balloon together! No, there's not a doubt in my mind that she cares about me!
To tell you the truth, my life was empty before I met Jessie -- the day she came into my life was the day my life began. She's the first person who accepted me for who I am...and the first person I could ever truly call my friend. Like I said, she's never once abandoned me, no matter how bad things have gotten -- she took me with her when we flunked out of Pokemon Tech, she took me with her when she joined the bike gang in Sunny Town...and she took me with her when she joined Team Rocket. I didn't want to join, but I did it anyway because I couldn't stand the thought of us not being together! Our friendship has faced so many trials, but we always manage to come through them and emerge even closer than we were before!
So, what made me think that I don't need her now?
I began to cry as I thought about this. I love you so much, Jessica, I said to myself. Every time I look at you, my heart cries out to say, "I love you!" I want to say it more than anything, but I can't....
And why can't I tell her how I feel? I know all too well -- it's because I'm afraid to. To tell her that I love her would be to risk facing a whack from her mallet...or worse, scaring her away! I mean, what if she doesn't feel the same way? I know she cares about me and that she's a really good friend, but love? I'm not so sure about that. How could Jessie ever love me with all the mistakes I make? She and Meowth were right about me -- I'm always screwing things up....
I was crying again. I didn't mean it, Jessie...I didn't mean what I said to you...if only I could say what I really meant....
Meowth's voice suddenly broke the silence. "Uh, guys...I was thinkin'...."
"You don't have to say it -- I feel the same way!" I heard Jessie reply.
I turned around and saw Jessie and Meowth hugging. "If you're talking about getting the team back together again, then count me in!" I said, a smile spreading across my face.
Without a moment's hesitation, I ran to Jessie's side and pulled her into a tight embrace. She responded by letting go of the cat and throwing her arms around me instead.
I was now sobbing as I pulled her closer and ran my hands through her lovely crimson hair. Her body trembled as she buried her face in my shoulder -- was she crying, too?!
We pulled away a little and gazed into each other's eyes. There was such a gentle, loving look on her face -- just like the time when we were alone in the balloon! Her mouth was mere inches from mine...it would be so easy to kiss her!
I leaned closer, and that loose wisp of my purple hair flopped forward and brushed against her face. She giggled a little, and I suddenly felt nervous. Was she laughing at me? But then, her lips quivered, and she began to inch closer to me...she wanted to kiss me, too!
Oh my God! This was it! It was finally going to happen!
But suddenly, I heard an annoying (and unwelcome) voice cry out, "Togepi! Hey, Togepi! Where are you?"
It was the brat! How did he get into the gym? And how dare he ruin what was about to be my first real kiss with Jessie?! Damn him!
"Meowth! Ash is right outside!" the cat exclaimed.
"We've gotta find a way out of here! Now!" I said, clenching my fists. "We have a gym to defend!"
Jessie smoothed her hair and walked back to the computer terminal. "Come on, guys," she said. "Let's see if we can't figure this thing out."
I sighed. The moment was officially dead.
After a few minutes of searching, Jessie finally found a floor plan of the gym.
"Hey! There's another door in the basement!" I exclaimed after studying the map for a moment. "It's right...."
The three of us looked up and saw a door marked "Exit" right next to the computer.
"....There...." I finished weakly.
We all fell over.
Meowth smacked himself on the forehead and cried, "It was there all along!"
"That doesn't matter now," Jessie replied as she got back to her feet. "This floor plan is...interesting. With a few minor adjustments, I think we can rig the gym so that Ash loses for sure!"
That's my Jessie! She's a real idea-woman! "A booby-trapped gym?! Oh, Jess, you're so clever!"
My heart skipped a beat as Jessie turned and smiled at me. I wanted nothing more than to take her in my arms and finish the kiss we almost started, but I knew that I had to stay focused.
And, so, the three of us got to work....
Just like I knew they'd be, Ash and his friends were waiting in the arena -- I could hardly wait to watch Jessie mop the floor with that little pest! (Hey! He ruined our kiss-that-almost-was...he'd pay dearly for that!)
This was going to be our ultimate battle, so Jessie and I had to make this grand entrance our best ever! Together, we switched on the spotlight and stepped onto a large, red platform. I pulled a lever, and the platform rose up into the arena. And then....
"Prepare for trouble!"
"And make it double!"
"To protect the world from devastation!"
"To unite all peoples within our nation!"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
"Oh, no! It's them!" Ash groaned.
Jessie scowled, and that little vein appeared on her forehead again. "Why do you little twerps always interrupt us before we get to finish?!" she demanded.
Well, they started whining about how we always say the same thing, but they shut up real quick when we announced that we were the current leaders of the Viridian Gym!
Ash really looked like he didn't want to battle Jessie, but when she held up the sparkling green Earth Badge for him to see, the temptation was too great to resist!
"What do you say we use three pokemon each? No time limit!" she suggested.
"Sounds fine to me!" he snapped.
Jessie laughed and threw the poke balls that Giovanni had given her. "All three pokemon! GO!!!" she shouted.
A Machamp, a Kingler, and a Rhydon emerged from the poke balls.
Ash turned his cap backwards and threw one of his own poke balls. "Squirtle! I choose you!" he cried. (He complains about US always doing the same thing?! Why doesn't HE try something original for a change?!)
Jessie laughed again when she saw the tiny turtle emerge before Giovanni's pokemon. Even without our secret weapons, this battle was as good as won!
"Machamp! Karate Chop!" she commanded.
Machamp proceeded to pound Squirtle into oblivion. Suddenly, the platform that Ash was standing on began to spark. Then, jolts of electricity shot out and fried him!
The look on those little pests' faces was priceless -- they were completely dumbfounded! (I, on the other hand, was extremely impressed. I've always thought Jess was a great trainer, but the way she was handling Giovanni's pokemon was nothing short of brilliant!)
"That's one of the custom features of our gym!" I explained. "The trainer gets to feel all of the pain that their pokemon does!"
"Do you want to quit now, kid?" said Jessie.
"Never!" Ash shouted. With that, he called back Squirtle and sent out his Bulbasaur.
And once again, he got electrocuted as Kingler made quick work of it.
Meowth and I began to do a victory dance as we watched the battle unfold. It felt so good to actually be winning! I couldn't wait for Jessie to finish the brat off so she could join in the fun!
In his last desperate attempt, Ash threw his final poke ball. "Pidgeotto! Quick Attack!" he said weakly.
Then, something unexpected happened -- the bird actually landed a blow on Rhydon's chest!
Suddenly, an electric spark shot out from Jessie's platform. A look of horror crossed her face.
Seeing how startled she had become, the brat grinned sadistically. "Pidgeotto! Double Edge attack!" he shouted.
Pidgeotto slammed into Rhydon again, and poor Jessie's platform lit up with electricity. She screamed in pain as 10,000 volts ripped through her body.
No! This can't be happening! I thought. Jessie is supposed to win! We're supposed to win....
Meanwhile, Jess was still getting electrocuted. "James! Why did you set it up to give shocks on both sides?!" she screamed.
"I didn't think it would matter...it never occurred to me that we could lose...." I said lamely. (Oh, man, was I gonna get whacked for this one!)
Suddenly, I felt like a complete moron -- how could I do such a terrible thing? How could I even think of doing something that would cause even the remotest chance of my Jessie getting hurt?! Maybe I really was as stupid as everybody seems to think I am....
"TURN IT OFF!!! TURN IT OFF!!!" she screamed again.
Feelings of panic and helplessness siezed me as I realized that Jessie was in pain and that there was nothing I could do for her.
Fortunately, however, Meowth knew what to do -- he pulled out a remote control that would blow up the platform Ash was standing on!
But then, much to my surprise, Gary came to Ash's aid by tackling Meowth and wresting the remote from his grasp, sending it skidding across the floor.
I was devastated! In a matter of seconds, all of our ingenious plans had been ruined! But at that moment, I looked up at Jessie, and she looked down at me. Suddenly, confidence welled up inside of me again. God, I love her!
"We can do anything together! Right, Jess?" I said as our eyes interlocked.
"Right, James!" Jessie replied, smiling at me.
With that, she threw two more poke balls, sending Arbok and Weezing into the arena.
But of course, Ash had to send out his Pikachu, and of course, one little Thunderbolt was all it took to zap Arbok, Weezing, Machamp, Kingler, Rhydon, and Jessie into oblivion....
Jessie was lying unconscious on the platform. In a flash, Meowth and I were kneeling at her side.
I'm so sorry, Jess! Please be okay! I prayed as I leaned over her and caressed her face. God, I will never forgive myself for this....
"Jessie! Can you hear me?!" I cried.
"Can ya move?" Meowth asked nervously.
Slowly, Jessie opened her eyes and looked at us. Meowth and I exhaled in a sigh of relief.
Then, a fire sparked in her eyes, and she began to beat us with her fists. "I'm lucky I can even breathe after what you did to me! Why did I get the shocks?! What kind of stupid plan was that, anyway?!" she screamed.
I hung my head and let her continue to punch me. After what I had done to her, this was the least I deserved....
"Hey, Jessie! I won the match fair and square!" Ash said tauntingly. "Now I want the Earth Badge I earned!"
Now, I'm not normally a violent person, but at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to knock that smug look off of the little brat's face. Jessie had just suffered an incredibly painful and humiliating defeat, and it looked like she was about to cry! How dare he rub her nose in it like this?! If she did start to cry, I really would've gone over there and put my fist through his face!
But Jessie quickly wiped her tears away and looked down at him. "Well, you're not getting it!" she sneered.
Well, of course the twerps started whining about how we were breaking the rules, but I just smiled at Jessie and tuned them out.
"Brilliant, Jess! We have something that he wants...and he has something that we want! Maybe we can get Pikachu after all!" I told her.
"We really are a great team!" Meowth chimed in.
Now Jessie was smiling at me again -- the really tender smile!
"Oh, James," she whispered.
My heart fluttered. "Yes, Jessie?" I whispered back.
We began to lean towards each other again. Maybe it was going to happen after all!
But just before our lips met, Meowth screamed, "STOP! GET AWAY FROM THAT THING!!!"
Reflexively, my head snapped to the side, and I looked over at the cat, silently cursing him for ruining yet another attempt at a kiss.
"What's going on?" we asked in unison.
Meowth pointed to the ground. When we looked, we saw Togepi holding the remote control that was wired to blow up the platforms.
And you guessed it...he pressed the button that was hooked to the platform we were standing on....
"Looks like we goofed again," I moaned, as we soared through the clouds. "Maybe the boss is right about us...."
"Don't be a fool, James!" Jessie snapped. "We had Ash right where we wanted him! We've never been so close to defeating him before! And you know what that means...."
I grinned. "It means that next time, we'll catch Pikachu for sure!"
Well, I may have been smiling on the outside, but in reality, I was heartbroken. After all, if even our best-laid plans could be ruined by so little, then what hope did we have? The answer was...we didn't....
After blasting off, we landed in Viridian Forest, several miles outside the city. Jessie and Meowth were caught in the branches of a tree, but I hit the ground at full force, and I must have been at a strange angle when it happened because it suddenly felt like a knife was being driven through my back.
Well, none of us wanted to spend the night in that creepy place, and we had left all of our stuff in our hotel room that morning, so we decided to walk back to town. With every step I took, it felt like that knife in my back was driving deeper and deeper, but I didn't say a word. Jess was probably in more pain than I was, and the last thing she needed was me whining.
When we finally got back to the hotel, it was almost nine o'clock.
"Why don't you guys call room service and order some dinner?" I groaned as I headed for the bathroom to take a shower. "I am WAY too tired to cook tonight...."
Meowth nodded and picked up the phone. Too tired to reply, Jessie flopped down on the couch and closed her eyes.
I had hoped that a hot shower would be good for my aching back, but it just wasn't working. It felt good to get clean after the rotten day I'd just had, but I was still in excruciating pain.
But the ache in my back was nothing compared to the ache in my heart. It really was all my fault that we had lost the battle. If I hadn't rigged Jessie's platform, she wouldn't have been electrocuted...and she would have won! We lost everything -- the battle, the Earth Badge, the gym, another chance to capture Pikachu...and probably our jobs, too! And what's worse, Jessie had been hurt. And it was all because of me. As I thought about this, I began to cry.
When I finally got out of the shower, I could smell the food that had arrived. I hadn't eaten since breakfast, and I was starving, but I just didn't feel like eating...I felt too guilty and ashamed.
While I was struggling to change into my pajamas, Jessie came into the bedroom. She had a concerned look on her face.
"Hey," she said. "I saved some dinner for you...."
"I'm not hungry," I muttered. "I just want to go to bed."
"James, are you okay?" she asked.
"I'm fine. I'm just tired...that's all," I said as I headed for my bed.
I was trying to pretend that I was okay, but I must not have been doing a very good job because Jessie frowned and said, "You look like you're hurt. Come on, James. Tell me what's wrong."
Well, if she really wanted to know, I guess I had to tell her. "It's my back," I confessed. "I think I twisted it when we landed earlier...."
Jessie smiled tenderly at me. "Take off your shirt and lie down. I'll give you a nice massage."
I gave her a quizzical look. She wasn't mad at me? Even after everything I had done?
"Come on," she insisted. "It'll make you feel better."
With that, she unbuttoned my silk pajama top and slid it off.
Wow! Jessie was undressing me! I've always wanted her to, but this wasn't quite how I'd pictured it. Still, I decided to go along, and I nodded as she helped lower me onto my bed.
Once I was lying on my stomach, I felt Jessie's warm, bare hands begin to rub along my back and shoulders.
"Mmmmmm...that feels good, Jess," I muttered.
She began to rub a little harder. "That's right...just relax, James," she whispered into my ear.
Even after all the pain was gone, Jessie kept on massaging me. But the hard rub had now become more of a caress. Her hands moved gently over my neck and shoulders and all the way down my back. And was it just my imagination, or did they linger just a few seconds longer when they got to my behind?! I sighed contentedly -- I didn't want her to stop!
She quickly removed her hands and I felt a twinge of panic. Did she know how much I was enjoying this?!
But then she went back to massaging my shoulders. And one by one, she took my arms and rubbed along them, too, even caressing the palms of my hands. When she did this, I closed my hand around hers a little, making our fingers entwine.
"Is that better?" she asked once she had finished.
But by then, I was so relaxed that I couldn't reply.
I was in that state of limbo somewhere between sleeping and waking, where the line between dreams and reality is blurred, and I could've sworn that I felt Jessie sit down next to me on the bed and brush my hair aside. But then I knew it was just a dream when I heard her whisper, "I love you, James...I always have...and I always will...." and felt her soft lips press against the back of my neck.
I sighed again. If this was a dream, I didn't want it to end!
When I finally awoke, I saw Jessie coming out of the bathroom. She had just showered, and she was wearing a silk bathrobe that was the same color as her eyes. She unwrapped the towel from her head and shook out her mane of hair, which went all the way past her knees now that it wasn't styled. She looked so pretty -- I couldn't help but smile!
Jessie returned the smile. "Feeling better?" she asked.
"Yes. Thank you," I replied.
She walked over to the side of my bed. "I'm glad," she said softly. "I really hated to see you suffer like that...."
Suddenly, I felt guilty again, and I knew that I had to make things up to her. Tentatively, I took her hand in my own and pulled her down next to me. "Jess...I just wanted to apologize for what happened earlier -- the fights, the electrocution...I feel awful about that...."
Jessie reached over and caressed my cheek. "It's okay," she said. "I wasn't really mad at you -- it was all that twerp's fault! If anything, I should apologize for hitting you!"
I smiled and put my arms around her. She smiled back as she returned the embrace and rested her head on my bare chest.
"We really are a great team, Jess," I whispered into her ear.
"The best," I came her reply.
"Best friends forever! Right?" I ventured, confident that our relationship had been affirmed once again.
"Forever," she echoed.
And that's how we spent the next few hours -- just sitting together on my bed, holding each other and talking. We stayed like that until Jessie finally drifted off to sleep.
Say it! Say it! my heart cried out once more as I looked down at her, lying in peaceful repose. And suddenly, I found that I could.
"I love you, Jessie," I whispered into her ear. "I always have...and I always will...."
The last thing I did before I fell asleep was to finally steal a kiss from her ruby-red lips.
Maybe it wasn't such a bad day, after all.