Illustration by Shigeru1313.
The Prodigal Parents
Chapter 4 -- The Visit
Miya leaned against Arbok's coils and turned the page of her book. At her side, Eric was playing with Weezing, and overhead she could hear Rose giggling softly as she climbed atop the large purple snake. Charms was taking a cat-nap at her feet.
It was late Sunday morning. The previous night, Gary and Arwen Oak and their sons, Sam and Devon, had come over for a dinner party. They'd enjoyed a rich, succulent pork roast flavored with sweet apple juice and savory vegetables, warm, fluffy rolls, and apple pie that had melted in their mouths. Over dinner, they'd swapped horror-stories about the Oaks' neighbor, Ash Ketchum, and made light of the unpleasant encounters they'd had with him that day, and after the meal, they'd watched some DVDs together and continued to swap stories. Nobody had really wanted the visit to end -- especially the children -- but the prospect of seeing each other again on Wednesday, when they celebrated Gary's thirtieth birthday, cheered them up and gave them something to look forward to.
And now, the family was enjoying a lazy day together. Jessie and James had harvested more apples from their orchard earlier in the morning, and the children were hanging out together in the hobbit hole with Arbok and Weezing. The two poison pokemon were some of Jessie and James's oldest and loyalest friends, and Miya, Eric, and Rose had always been especially close to them. Arbok had often coiled around the children when they were babies and watched over them while they slept, and Weezing was every bit as protective of them as Growly. Miya, Eric, and Rose always felt safe when their parents' pokemon were around.
It was something that Miya found especially comforting today. She was reading The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King, and she was at one of the most intense parts near the end of the story, where Prince Peter, who'd been falsely accused of murdering his father, was escaping from prison, and the real murderer -- the evil sorcerer, Flagg -- was coming to kill him. The story was giving her the chills, but having Arbok and Weezing by her side reassured her that it was only a story and that nothing like that would ever happen to her family. (Besides, James wouldn't have loaned the book to her -- or even had a copy of it in his library -- if it had a bad ending!)
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door of the hobbit hole, and Meowth came inside. "Hey, kids," he said.
"Hey, uncle Meowth," the three children chorused.
Charms opened a midnight blue eye and yawned. "Hey, pop."
"Yer dad wanted me ta tell ya dat lunch is ready," Meowth continued. "He made tomato soup and grilled ham and Swiss sammiches!"
Eric, Rose, and Charms licked their lips. "Yummy!"
Miya looked up from her reading for a moment and smiled. "I'll be right there." She then proceeded to finish the chapter she was on. Peter's rope had broken, and he seemed to be falling to certain doom, but his friends, Ben, Dennis, and Naomi, showed up in the nick of time and caught him in a wagon filled with napkins. Once she knew that Peter was going to be okay, she placed her bookmark between the pages, set the book on the table, and followed the others back to the house.
"Daddy, can I have some more soup, please?" Rose asked.
"Me, too!" Eric chimed in.
"And me!" said Charms.
"Of course you may," James replied. He took the pot of tomato soup and refilled their empty bowls.
"Thank you!" the three of them said in unison.
James looked over at Jessie and Miya. "What about you?"
Jessie shook her head. "That's okay."
Miya finished her sandwich and wiped the crumbs from her lips with a napkin. "No, thanks."
"Just thought I'd offer," he said. "Looks like there's still enough soup for one more bowl."
"I'll take it, den," Meowth told him.
James handed the pot of soup to the cat.
Once Meowth and the children had finished their lunch, they all helped Jessie and James clear the table. While they were cleaning the kitchen, there was a knock at the door.
Jessie and James exchanged looks.
"I'll get it!" Miya volunteered before either of them could say anything. When she opened the front door, Jessie and James could hear her speaking to somebody for a moment. She then closed the door and returned to the kitchen with a quizzical expression on her face.
"Who was it, angel?" James inquired.
"I don't know -- I've never seen them before in my life. Some elderly couple that said they're our neighbors?" came her reply. "They want to talk to you, daddy."
James arched an eyebrow.
Eric looked out the dining room window. When he saw who was on the front porch, his face blanched.
"What's the matter, sweetheart?" Jessie asked, taking note of her son's expression.
Tears filled Eric's sapphire eyes as he looked up at his parents. "I'm sorry, mom...dad."
Jessie knelt at his side and placed a hand to his cheek. "What are you apologizing for, Eric?"
There was a long pause before he answered. "I...I left the yard yesterday, after you told us not to. But I only did it because Sam's boomerang didn't come back when I threw it, and I had to go look for it, and when I found the boomerang it was in some old peoples' garden and they saw me when I went to go and get it! They said I was rude for trespassing, so I apologized and then they said they weren't mad at me and asked me if I wanted some cookies, but I knew not to go with strangers so I said no, and I guess I'm in trouble now, but I'm really really sorry!" The words tumbled out so fast, Jessie and James could barely understand him.
James held up a hand and silenced him. "Calm down, Eric."
Meowth patted him on the back. "Yeah! Take it easy dere, kiddo."
Jessie continued to caress his face and brushed away the tears that were now falling from his eyes. "Eric, we aren't mad at you -- we're proud of you for taking responsibility and wanting to find Sam's toy...and we're very proud of you for not going anywhere with strangers. But we wish you would have told us when you lost the toy. That way, your dad and I could've gone to look for it, and you could've stayed in the yard like we told you to."
Eric hung his head again. "I'm sorry. But I knew you and dad were tired, and I didn't wanna bother you."
"Eric, you're never a bother...especially when it comes to your safety," James told him. "You're not in trouble, since no harm was done, but the next time something like that happens, please tell us. And if you ever do leave the yard, then always, always let us know where you're going. Is that clear?"
Eric nodded. "Yessir."
Jessie gave him a hug and rested his head on her shoulder.
James stepped closer and tousled his hair. "Alright. I'm going to have a word with our neighbors now." He winked. "We know that you're a good boy and that you'd never cause trouble, so we'll get this all straightened out. I promise."
This made Eric smile again.
Before going to the door, James peered out the dining room window. His expression was grim when he turned back to Jessie.
"What is it, honey?" she asked.
"Jess, take the kids upstairs. Put them in our room, and put on a movie for them, or something," he whispered to her.
She arched an eyebrow.
James nodded towards the window in response to the question that he knew his wife was about to ask.
Jessie looked out the window and covered her mouth with her hand. She then turned her attention back to Miya, Eric, Rose, and Charms. "Come on, kids. Let's go upstairs," she said.
"Why?" Rose queried.
"Because your dad wants to speak to our guests in private," she explained as she herded the children up the stairs. And to herself, she added, Your dad isn't very happy to see these guests, and he doesn't want you in the room if things get ugly.
When they got to Jessie and James's room, Eric became nervous once more. "Mom, is something wrong?"
Miya nodded. "Yeah, mom. What's going on, here?"
Jessie bit her lip. She couldn't lie to the children or keep secrets from them, but she wasn't sure how to explain the situation to them. "Well, your dad knows our guests," she began after taking a moment to collect her thoughts. "He hasn't seen them in years, and he has a lot of important things that he needs to discuss with them. It's a private matter -- that's why he wanted you kids to come up here...."
A mischievous light twinkled in Charms's midnight blue eyes. "Uncle James don't like dese people, does he? He just don't want us ta hear him yellin' and cussin', huh?"
"Charms!" Miya reproached the kitten.
Eric and Rose giggled.
"Can't keep anything from you, can I?" Jessie sighed.
Miya's blue-green eyes went wide. "So it's true! Mom, who are these people? And why doesn't daddy like them?"
Jessie's brow furrowed. This wasn't going to be easy, but the children had a right to know....
"Mom. Dad," James said as he opened the front door.
"Hello, James," Judith said quietly.
Quentin gave a brisk nod. "Long time, no see, son."
James's emerald eyes narrowed. "Yeah? Well, the last time we met, you called me a stupid, worthless failure and said I'd never given you anything but disappointment. I figured you never wanted to see me again."
Quentin shifted uncomfortably and looked away.
"Eric told me what happened yesterday," James continued. "I'm guessing that's why you're here."
"Yes, it is," came Judith's reply. "He looks so much like you, James -- we knew he had to be your son. When we realized that he's our grandson, and that it must've been you that was living here all this time...."
"We want to talk to you, James," Quentin said, finishing the thought for her. He met his son's harsh gaze once more. "We need to talk."
"Indeed, we do," James agreed. He opened the door a little wider. "Come in. But I'm warning you -- if you speak even one word against my wife or my children, then I'll throw you right back out! It was bad enough when you always cut me down -- I won't tolerate you doing the same to my family."
"We're not here to criticize, James," Judith assured him. "We're here to make amends."
James's expression remained stern. He wanted to believe her, but he knew that unless they could prove their sincerity, he had to take it with a grain of salt. Too often, his parents had lied to him and manipulated him to get their way in the past. He still remembered that fateful day almost seventeen years ago, when they'd faked their own deaths to trick him into coming home and marrying Jessiebelle as if it were yesterday. He still remembered how they'd tried to cash in on his misfortunes by bringing a lawsuit against Ash Ketchum, and how Quentin had denounced him in front of the entire courtroom. And how many times had they hurt him when he was a child? The scars of those bitter experiences ran deep on James's soul, and now that he was thinking about them again, the pain was just as acute as ever. James knew that he couldn't bear it if Quentin and Judith were just playing on his sympathies to manipulate him again and get at his children. And if they truly were sincere, it would take far more than a simple apology to make up for all they'd done.
As James let his parents into his home, he couldn't help but wonder if he really was doing the right thing, or if he was making the biggest mistake of his life.
"Miya, do you remember what we talked about the other night?" Jessie asked.
"You mean when I asked about....?" Miya's voice trailed off, and she gasped. "So, this is them?!"
Eric, Rose, and Charms exchanged looks.
Jessie nodded to Miya. "Yes, it is." Then, to Eric and Rose, "That old couple down there is your grandma and grandpa Woodson -- they're your dad's parents."
Eric's blue eyes went wide. "That's...my grandma and grandpa?!"
"Mommy, if that's our granma and granpa, how come we've never seen them before?" Rose wanted to know. "How come they've never come over before? How come we've never gone to see them?"
"Because they're bad people, Rose," Miya replied before Jessie could answer. She folded her arms across her chest and walked over to the window. "They were mean to daddy when he was little -- we've never seen them because daddy doesn't want them to hurt us the way they hurt him."
Eric's brow furrowed. "They seemed nice enough when I talked to them yesterday...."
"I wish they'd go away!" Miya snapped. "I hate them for hurting daddy! Why can't they just leave him alone?!" She was beginning to cry.
Jessie went to her eldest daughter's side and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Oh, angel. Maybe they know that what they did to your daddy was wrong, and they're here to make up for it," she offered. "Maybe when they saw Eric yesterday and realized that he's their grandson, it made them see how much they've been missing out on. I have to believe they're here to make things right...and if not, then I promise you, daddy will make them go away, and they'll never hurt him again. And no matter what happens, your daddy and I will never, ever let them do anything to hurt you."
More tears spilled down Miya's cheeks as she continued to look out the window. It's too late for that, she said to herself.
"Listen, James. We can tell you're not happy to see us again...and we don't blame you," Judith told him as she and Quentin came through the front door and into the living room. "We've said and done a lot of hurtful things, and we know you probably have a lot of anger towards us because of that...."
"You're damn right I'm angry," James said, cutting her off. "For as long as I can remember, you and dad were always saying that I was stupid and that I couldn't do anything right! I could never talk to you about anything because you were always criticizing me and judging me! You may not have been physically abusive, but all of the shit you said to me over the years hurt a whole hell of a lot worse than the torture that psychopathic bitch you wanted me to marry put me through! At least I knew up front that Jessiebelle didn't love me -- that she only wanted the money and the family name. But you're my parents, for godsake! What's your excuse?! Why didn't you love me?!"
"We did love you, James," Quentin replied.
"We still do," Judith added.
"Well, you sure have a strange way of showing it," James retorted. "I know you loved me when I was a baby -- grand-mama told me how happy you were when I was born. So, what happened? Did the novelty wear off? Did you wake up one morning and realize that I was a living, breathing person with a mind of my own and not some fucking accessory?!"
Quentin and Judith exchanged grim looks.
"That's why you had me in the first place, isn't it?" James went on. "You wanted an heir that you could mold into your image and trot around to all of your little social functions. Here's our kid -- he goes with our couch! But instead, you got me -- a great, big disappointment."
"James...." Quentin said.
"No! I don't want to hear any of your goddamned excuses!" he interjected. "This is the way it's always been with you two! You always hated that I preferred to think for myself and make my own choices rather than blindly accepting everything I was told, and you made my life a living hell because of that! Do you have any idea how much it hurt when you were never there for me? When you never cared about anything I was interested in? When nothing I did -- even if I tried my best and put my heart and soul into it -- was good enough for you? Do you have any idea how much that fucked me up?! It took me a long time to realize that I wasn't the failure you were always telling me that I was!"
Judith buried her face in her hands and began to cry.
Quentin wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "That's enough, James -- you've made your mother cry!"
"Good!" James snapped. "I can't even count the number of times you hurt me enough to make me cry. So, pardon me if I don't feel sorry for you."
Now Quentin was frowning. "Dammit, James...."
"No, Quentin," Judith said, cutting him off. "We deserved that. Every word of it."
His expression softened.
James's expression, however, remained stern. "Well, I'll tell you something right now. I'm not stupid or worthless, and I'm sure as hell not a failure. Grand-mama and grand-papa never thought I was. They showed me just how wrong you were about me. Thanks to them, I was able to do something worthwhile with my life. Thanks to them, I found true love and married a woman who accepts me for who I am. All of my happiness and success I owe to them, not you. And I'll tell you something else -- Jessie and I are better parents than you ever were. We've never criticized our children or insulted them. We've never done anything to make them doubt we love them. Whenever they make mistakes, we're patient with them. And not a day goes by that we don't let them know how proud we are of them. Our children are happy...because I'm doing the exact opposite of everything you did with me!"
"We're not going to argue with any of that," Judith muttered. "We know we screwed up, James."
"We thought we were doing what was best for you," Quentin explained.
James rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Because we all know that forcing me to marry some whip-wielding freak who locked me in a torture chamber and beat me senseless was for my own good."
"That's...one of the things we need to talk to you about," said Judith.
"Oh, please. Spare me the I had an obligation to marry a proper woman and continue the family line speech. I've already heard it, and I don't want to hear it again," James growled. "And you know what? I did marry and continue the family line...but I did it my own way. Jessie is kind, and smart, and beautiful, and she's more of a lady than Jessiebelle ever was! And I couldn't ask for better children than Miya, Eric, and Rose. If you've got a problem with any of that, then you can kiss my ass...because, quite frankly, I don't give a damn what you think about me anymore."
"We aren't going to justify our actions to you, James," Quentin told him. "Trying to make you marry Jessiebelle was a mistake. We know that now."
James arched an eyebrow. "You do?"
"We'd thought it was the right thing at the time," Quentin continued. "Bland and Ashton Coldfield were old money -- the Coldfields had been the wealthiest oil tycoons in Johto for nearly two hundred years, and they had a daughter. A union with their family would have been extremely prestigious. We never stopped to consider that it wasn't what you wanted."
"Gee, you think?" James snorted.
"We knew that Jessiebelle was really heavy-handed, but we'd been so eager for the marriage to take place, and we'd been hoping that if you wouldn't listen to us about ettiquette and refinement, then maybe you'd listen to somebody your own age. So, we...conveniently ignored the way she treated you," Judith went on. "We were wrong to do that to you, James...and I don't know what to say, other than that we're sorry."
Now James's expression had softened somewhat.
"Jessiebelle went back to her parents for awhile after you called off the engagement," said Quentin. "But later that summer, she returned and said she wanted to borrow Growly and get him to help her look for you. We gave her the dog, and a couple of weeks later, we found out that she was in jail for pokemon abuse. Judy and I were sure it was just a case of mistaken identity and that they'd gotten her mixed up with that girl from Team Rocket, but when we went to bail Jessiebelle out, she admitted that she'd been torturing Growly to get you to cooperate."
James clenched his fist at the memory.
Judith shuddered. "We were disgusted when she told us how she'd hurt Growly and didn't even show any remorse for it, so we left her there. And when Quentin and I got home, we took a good, long look at that torture chamber she'd set up in our basement, and we finally realized just how depraved she was."
"Better late than never, I suppose," James sighed.
"We discussed the situation with our lawyer, and he pulled some strings to make sure that Jessiebelle stayed in prison," Quentin informed him. "We finally understood why you hadn't wanted to marry her, and we regretted never listening to you."
"And after seeing Eric yesterday...realizing that we'd missed out on our son's entire life and that now we were missing out on our grandchildrens' lives too made us admit to ourselves that we were the ones who'd failed, not you," Judith concluded. She was crying again. "James, we're so sorry. You were our baby, and all we ever did was hurt you. We know you probably hate us for that, but we just wanted you to know that we're sorry for letting you down...."
James took one of her hands in his. "Mom, I don't hate you and dad. I never did."
"You don't?" she asked.
"Of course not. You're my parents, and I love you," came his reply. "What I hated was how you always treated me."
Quentin stepped closer and placed a hand on his shoulder. "James...son, I know we can't change the past, but if there's anything we can do to make this up to you, then tell us, and we'll do it."
James studied his parents' expressions. Part of him still didn't want to trust them...still suspected that they were just manipulating him again, but another part of him wanted to believe that they really had changed. And as he looked into their eyes, he saw a sincerity that he'd never seen in them before.
So, he decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.
"You really want to make things right?" he asked.
The two of them nodded.
"Then here's what I want you to do," James told them. "I want you to love me the way I am. I want you to treat Jessie with the respect she deserves. And most importantly of all, I want you to love Miya, Eric, and Rose unconditionally and be good grandparents to them. In other words, I want you to be the kind of parents I always wanted."
Judith closed her other hand over James's. "We can do that."
James gave his mother's hands an affectionate squeeze and smiled.
She returned his smile and put her arms around him. "Oh, James...."
James hugged back. "I love you, mom," he whispered as her voice trailed off. He looked over at his father. "And I love you too, dad. I'm never going to forget what happened, but I can forgive you."
Quentin nodded. "Thank you, son."
"The two of you are very lucky to have a son like James," said a new voice. Quentin, Judith, and James looked and saw Jessie coming down the stairs. "He's the most forgiving person I know."
When Jessie got to the bottom of the stairs, James released his hold on his mother and took his wife in his arms instead.
She caressed his cheek and smiled. "Not to mention the smartest, kindest, and most handsome!"
James leaned closer and touched his lips to hers.
Once their kiss ended, Jessie turned her attention back to Quentin and Judith. "I overheard most of your conversation. I'm really glad that you're here to set things right with James. Your son is a wonderful man, and he deserves a better relationship with you."
James's smile became a grin. "Mom, dad, this is Jessie."
Judith reached out and took one of Jessie's hands in hers. "I know we've met once before, dear, but I'm glad to meet you again. James obviously loves you very much...and if you make my son happy, then I'm happy, too."
"Jessie makes me feel like the luckiest man in the world," said James. "She's more than just my wife -- she's my best friend...and my soul-mate, too."
Quentin nodded approvingly. "And you have our blessings. I know it's a little late, but you did say better late than never, didn't you?"
"That I did," James answered.
"How long have the two of you been married?" Judith asked.
"Next month, we'll be celebrating our thirteenth anniversary," Jessie told her.
"Thirteen years already," James chuckled, wrapping his arms around Jessie's waist. "Time sure flies when you're having fun!"
"And how old are the children?" Quentin inquired.
"Miya is twelve, Eric just turned seven on Friday, and Rose is four," Jessie replied.
"That reminds me, how are the kids doing?" James whispered into Jessie's ear.
"They knew that something was going on, so I had to tell them," she whispered back. "Miya is really upset. Eric and Rose are too, but they're more curious than anything. I told them that I was going to come down and back you up, so they're watching one of their DVDs right now."
"Well, I think it'll be okay to bring them down, honey," he told her. "It's time the kids met their grandparents!"
"I can go get 'em!" Meowth, who'd been sitting quietly in the kitchen the whole time, volunteered.
"Our grandchildren!" Judith mused as she watched the cat go up the stairs. Then, to Jessie and James, "Eric is such a handsome young man, and he was very intelligent and polite when we spoke to him yesterday. Your daughter -- was that Miya? She's beautiful, too. We can see why you're so proud of them!"
"We're very proud of them. And yes, they are beautiful, intelligent, and polite," James affirmed.
"James is such a good father," said Jessie. "The two of you never had to worry about trying to make him a perfect gentleman -- he already is!"
"We know that now...and we feel damned foolish for not seeing it sooner," Quentin replied.
James touched Jessie's shoulder. "Did you overhear what mom and dad said about Jessiebelle?"
She nodded. "Yes. And I was glad to hear it!" She looked back at Quentin and Judith. "So, how long did you and your lawyer get Jessiebelle sent to prison for?"
"Well...it doesn't really matter anymore," Judith muttered. "Jessiebelle...is dead."
James arched an eyebrow. "She is?!"
Quentin and Judith nodded.
"She was sentenced to ten years, but she only served about one and a half -- they let her out early for good behavior," Quentin explained. "But before she got out, she fell in with some guy she'd met in prison -- Antonio Siciliano, I think his name was."
Jessie and James exchanged nervous looks. The thought of their abusive exes getting together made their blood run cold.
Judith continued the story. "Antonio was serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole, so she'd been trying to help him escape. There was a big shoot-out, and they were both killed. The story in the paper was kind of hazy on the details, so I'm not exactly sure why they'd gotten together. All that's certain is that neither one of them survived...and that Jessiebelle was even sicker than we'd thought."
"When did this happen?" James asked.
"It was in April 2003," said Quentin.
"That was when we were in Houen," Jessie said to James.
"No wonder we didn't hear about it," James replied.
"We still have the newspaper clipping, if you want to see it sometime," Judith offered.
James nodded. "Definitely. I hate to sound insensitive, but hearing that she's gone is a huge relief. She'd been stalking me before she was sent to jail, and Jessie got hurt because of it. She poisoned Jess with her Vileplume, the same way she used to do to me, and she attacked her while she was sick!" The anger mounted in his voice once again as he spoke.
Quentin and Judith hung their heads. They remembered all too well how the Stun Spores of Jessiebelle's Oddish had once made James sick...and how they'd cut him off from his grandma and grandpa Morgan when they'd tried to convince them to call off the engagement.
Jessie placed a hand on James's shoulder. "I managed to fight her off, but it was still a disturbing experience for the two of us. Same deal when we had to rescue Growly from her a month later. So, we can't really say we're sorry that she and Antonio are dead."
"Antonio was Jessie's ex-boyfriend," James explained. "He abused her, the way Jessiebelle abused me. He probably hooked up with her because she looked like Jessie...and doubtless, the two of them had been plotting some kind of revenge against us -- they were both insane...."
Judith shuddered. "Jessie. I'm sorry to hear that, dear."
"We understand how you feel, James," Quentin remarked. "Now that we know how dangerous Jessiebelle was...." his voice trailed off.
Before Jessie or James could say anything further, Meowth came back down the stairs. The children were following him.
"Mom, daddy, uncle Meowth said there was something you wanted to tell us?" said Miya. When she came into the living room and saw Quentin and Judith, she scowled. "Oh. What are they still doing here?"
"Angel, your grandma and grandpa came to apologize to your dad," Jessie explained. "They want to make up for the way they treated him. They want to be better parents...and grandparents from now on."
"Well, I don't want them here!" Miya snapped. She cast a venomous glare at Quentin and Judith. "Do you really think a little apology is enough to make what you did to my daddy okay?! I heard about how you hurt him -- you should be ashamed of yourselves!" With that, she turned on her heel and went back upstairs.
"Oh, Miya...." Jessie sighed.
Quentin and Judith hung their heads again.
"Let me talk to her," James offered. "I figured she'd have a hard time accepting this."
"Miya has always been really close to her daddy," Jessie explained as James followed his daughter upstairs. "I didn't go into details when I told her about you, but hearing about what James went through as a boy really hurt her. It may take time for her to get used to you."
"We understand," Judith told her.
Eric and Rose looked up at Jessie.
"Mommy, are they really sorry about what they did to daddy?" Rose asked.
"Yes, I think they are, princess," Jessie answered.
"So...is it okay to talk to them now?" Eric ventured.
"Yes, it is," Jessie told him. "Your dad and I don't want them to be strangers anymore."
This made Quentin and Judith smile again.
"Miya? Angel, can I talk to you?" James asked as he knocked on the door of his daughter's room.
After a moment, Miya opened the door. Tears were streaming down her cheeks.
"Oh, angel," James whispered. He stepped into the room and wrapped Miya in an embrace. "Don't cry, sweetheart...please don't cry...."
Miya returned his embrace. "Daddy, are you really going to forgive them?"
"Yes. I think they deserve another chance," he replied.
James held up a hand and silenced her. "Miya, I know my mom and dad did some terrible things in the past, but the fact remains that they're my parents -- even if I hated the way they treated me, I never stopped loving them. And now, I really think they understand that what they did was wrong. If they want to make up for that, don't you think we should let them?"
Miya considered her father's words for a moment. "I guess...."
James brushed her tears away. "Do you remember the story we told you, about the time your mom found out about her daddy? She spent her entire childhood hating him...thinking he'd abandoned her, but when she learned the true story, she forgave him. Letting him back into her life really helped your mom heal a lot of her old wounds, and I think letting my parents back into my life will do the same for me."
"You have a point," Miya admitted.
"I know it can't happen overnight...that the healing process is going to take time, but the sooner it starts, the better," James continued. "And I know it'll be a big help if you're there with me, angel. So, are you with me?"
The smile returned to Miya's lips. "You know I am, daddy. I'm always here for you."
James gave her another hug and planted a kiss atop her head. "And I'm always here for you. Now, what do you say? Are you ready to meet your grandparents?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I am."
"Quentin, Judith, these are...two of our three children -- Eric Parker and Rose Miriel. Eric, Rose, this is your grandma and grandpa Woodson," Jessie said, making a formal introduction.
"Fine names," Quentin remarked. He looked down at Eric. "You were named after my dad -- your great-grandpa Woodson, weren't you?"
"Yessir," Eric replied. "And Parker was mom's name before she married dad."
Judith knelt down and placed a hand to Rose's cheek. "And you were named after my mom -- your great-grandma Morgan."
"Yes, ma'am," Rose answered.
"Miriel is a very pretty name, too," Judith added.
"That's my granny Rochester's name," Rose informed her.
"My dad's mom," Jessie clarified. "And Miya was named after my mother -- her name was Miyamoto. Miya looks so much like her."
"Your mother must be beautiful, then," Judith commented. "Because Miya is a gorgeous child."
"Momma was beautiful," Jessie affirmed.
Judith raised an eyebrow. "Was?" she asked, taking note of the past-tense.
"Both of my parents died when I was seven -- I was an orphan," Jessie explained.
"I'm so sorry to hear that," Judith whispered.
"And I never had any real friends until I met James," she went on. "He helped me through the most difficult times of my life. I'd have been lost without him...."
"And I'd have been lost without you, Jess." James was coming back down the stairs with Miya at his side.
Jessie smiled at him. "Get everything straightened out?"
He nodded. "I think Miya will be okay now."
The two of them looked over at their children. Miya was still hanging back, but Eric and Rose were talking excitedly to Quentin and Judith.
"So, your parents tell us that you had a birthday on Friday. Is that right, Eric?" Quentin inquired.
Eric nodded. "Yessir! I'm seven!"
"I bet you got lots of presents," Judith added.
"Yes, ma'am," Eric replied. "Mom knit a sweater for me, dad got me an album for my bottle caps, Miya got me a book, and uncle Meowth, cousin Charms, and uncle Wobby got me some art supplies! I got lots of other cool stuff, too!"
"Bottle caps," Judith said quietly. "My daddy used to collect those...and your daddy does too, doesn't he?"
Eric nodded again. "Dad gave me some of his because I wanted to collect them, too. I wanna be just like my dad!"
Judith cupped Eric's chin in her hand. "You've chosen an excellent role-model, then."
James couldn't help but smile when he heard this.
"Thanks, nana," Eric said.
Now Judith was smiling, too. "Nana. Is that my name now?"
Rose's emerald eyes twinkled. "Yep!" She looked up at Quentin. "And you're gramps!"
James's smile grew even wider than it already was.
"Eric's a really good artist, too. That's another way he takes after daddy," Rose piped up. "You should see some of his drawings -- they're beautiful."
Eric blushed. "Rose!"
"Just telling the truth," she chuckled.
Judith closed her eyes and thought for a moment. "James always loved to draw. Quentin and I never paid much mind to that when he was a boy, but awhile back, we were going through some of the stuff in his old room and found a bunch of his sketchbooks. For the first time, we really looked at his pictures and saw just how talented he is...."
"He's extremely talented," Jessie agreed. "Our friend, Gary Oak, is a pokemon researcher, and James is the illustrator for his books. He did most of the artwork hanging on our walls, too. Just about the only thing he didn't draw is the family portrait hanging in the dining room -- another artist did that for us when I was pregnant with Miya."
When Jessie said this, Quentin and Judith looked at the paintings of pokemon and landscapes that adorned the walls of the living room.
Quentin's eyes went wide. "You painted these, James?"
"And you're a professional illustrator?" Judith inquired.
"I'm impressed," Quentin remarked.
"Very impressed!" Judith agreed.
James felt his eyes misting over. His parents had never been been so complimentary before!
"You have a fine home, son," Quentin went on as he continued to survey the room. "Who built the house?"
"Jessie and I did," came his reply.
"You built this yourselves?!" Judith gasped.
"For the most part," Jessie said. "We hired contractors for some of the more difficult projects, like the roofing and drywall, but we set all the logs and did all of the flooring, painting, and such ourselves. And James used a lot of the materials from his grandma and grandpa Morgan's old mansion, too."
"Amazing," said Quentin.
Judith took James's hands in hers again. "James, I'm so happy that you're the one who bought your grand-papa's old estate. I'm glad the propery has stayed in the family...and that you've been doing such good things with it. Your father and I are so proud of you."
"Yes," Quentin agreed. "For so many years, we thought that you were a failure. But your mother and I see no failure now -- we see an industrious, intelligent, and talented young man with a beautiful home and family. We were wrong about you, son."
"And we were wrong to try and change you," Judith added. "We should've respected that you needed to be able to make your own choices...because the choices you've made have made you into a far better person than we ever could've imagined."
James blinked back his tears and smiled again. "Thank you, mom...dad."
"That's not necessary," Judith told him. "Giving you the credit you deserve is something we should've been doing all along. This is long overdue...."
"And it's welcome nevertheless," James replied. He looked over at Jessie. "A very wise person once said that it's never too late to set things right with your loved ones."
Jessie returned her husband's smile.
"Besides," James continued. "I had a feeling this day would come -- grand-mama and grand-papa once told me that they thought we'd make peace with each other someday."
Judith nodded. "And they were right. I just wish mother and father knew how sorry I am -- I regret shutting them out of my life as much as I regret shutting you out, James...and it is too late to make things up to them...."
"No it's not," James assured her. "Grand-mama and grand-papa know how you feel -- I'm sure of it. And I'm sure that they're happy you and dad came here today."
Judith gave James another hug. "I hope you're right...."
"I know I am."
When the two of them released each other, Miya stepped closer. Judith looked down at her and placed a hand to her cheek. "I think your grandfather and I owe you an apology, too. We are ashamed of how we treated your daddy, and we're so sorry that it hurt you to learn about that. Can you ever forgive us, dear?"
There was a long pause before Miya answered. "Yeah...I think I can. Seeing you again made daddy really happy. He wants you to be a part of this family...and so do I."
"We want to be part of your family too, angel," Quentin told her. "Can we call you angel?"
Miya looked up at her grandfather and smiled. "Yeah."
Quentin and Judith took Miya in their arms. "We love you so much," they whispered as she returned their embrace.
Not wanting to be left out, Eric and Rose hugged them as well.
"And we love you, too," Judith told them.
"We've always wanted grandchildren...and now we have three!" Quentin mused.
James's smile grew even wider than it already was as he brushed away the tears in his eyes. "Mom? Dad? Would you like to stay for dinner?" he asked.
Judith returned his smile. "We'd love to, James."
Quentin nodded. "Yes. After all, we have a lot of lost time to make up for!"
"We certainly do," James concurred.
"Are you going to be cooking, James?" Judith ventured. "That's something else I remember -- you were always helping Dalila or your grandma Woodson in the kitchen!"
"Yeah! Jimmy loves ta cook...and he's damned good at it!" Meowth exclaimed.
Jessie wrapped her arms around James's waist and planted a kiss on his cheek. "This man makes meals that taste better than anything you can order at a five-star restaurant -- it's yet another of his many talents!"
James blushed again. "Well, I'm going to have some help tonight," he admitted. "I'm making pizzas, and I promised the kids that they could help."
"I'm sure it'll be delicious, then," Judith chuckled.
James gestured towards the kitchen. "Come on, you three. Why don't we go and get the pizza dough started? It's going to need a couple of hours to rise."
Miya, Eric, and Rose smiled. "Yeah!" they chorused.
Jessie turned her attention back to Quentin and Judith. "Once they finish making the dough, we'll take you on a tour of our house...and the rest of the estate. I'm sure you'll love our orchards and James's garden and all of our pokemon."
"I'm sure we will too, Jessie," Quentin replied.
As James headed for the kitchen, Miya, Rose, Meowth, Charms, Quentin, and Judith followed him. Eric, however, returned to Jessie's side.
"What is it, sweetheart?" Jessie asked.
"Mom, do you remember what you said on my birthday, how if I tell anybody what my wish is, it won't come true?" he said.
"Well, is it okay to say what my wish is after it comes true?"
Jessie smiled. "I don't see why not."
Eric's sapphire eyes lit up. "My wish did come true...because I wished for a grandma and grandpa like the ones you and dad have!"
Jessie knelt down and gave her son a hug. "That was a wonderful thing to wish for, Eric...and I'm so happy that your wish came true."
Eric looked over at Quentin and Judith, who were now watching intently as James began mixing the ingredients for the pizza dough. "Then I guess I left the yard yesterday for a reason."
"I think you did," Jessie told him. "Everything happens for a reason. And I have the feeling that everything is going to work out exactly the way it's supposed to...."
To be Continued....
Readers will notice that James's parents mentioned that Jessiebelle is dead in this chapter. There's a reason for this. While I do believe there's hope that James's parents will come to their senses, see how wonderful their son is, and make peace with him (that's why I'm writing this story, after all), I have no such hopes for Jessiebelle. She's a complete psychopath who seems beyond redemption to me (like Ash, she's done such heinous things that I can never forgive her, and the idea of our heroes making peace with her doesn't sit well with me). Thus the reason I wanted her out of the picture once and for all. I always hated fics where Jessiebelle (or James's parents, or any other old adversary, for that matter) came back for revenge by hurting Jessie & James's children, or trying to take their children away. I wanted to counter that with this story and show that nobody is going to take revenge on Jessie, James & Meowth and that their family will never be in any true danger. I also killed off Jessie's abusive ex, Antonio, while I was at it. I know some readers may question this, given the fact that I'm so vehemently opposed to death in fanfic, but I've said it plenty of times before, and I'm gonna say it again. I've only got a problem with death fics when canonical characters that I like die (and when an author kills a canonical character that they claim to like -- I'm never gonna understand that one, folks X_________x). If it's a character that I hate (such as Jessiebelle), then I could care less if somebody kills them off, and if it's an original character (such as Antonio), then the author can do whatever they choose with them. It's as simple as that.
Now for a brighter subject, I'd like to thank Shigeru1313 for the adorable illustration of Miya, Eric, Rose & Charms hanging out with Arbok & Weezing. I'd also like to thank her for all of her feedback and support while I was writing this chapter. It means a lot! ^_^
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