A Hard Night's Work
by Cori Falls
Everything had been going so perfectly...it really had! The purr-fect crime, I'd even called it. But as soon as I saw that those twerps had arrived in town, I just knew everything we'd spent the last week working for was going to be ruined and that Team Rocket was going to go blasting off again.
Sometimes I wonder why we even bother.
I guess it's because we don't really have a choice. We've got a job to do, after all, and if we want to see our next paychecks, well, we've got to do it! But I think it's more than that -- if we just gave up and left that kid alone, we'd be LETTING him win...and we can't do that. After all the crap we've been through, we've got to keep trying. If the brat wants to triumph over us, then by God, he's gotta WORK for it! As long as we keep coming back for more, he'll never truly defeat us.
But our quest to capture Pikachu wasn't the issue at hand this time around -- we'd just been minding our own business when that brat showed up and wrecked everything!
Well, sort of minding our own business....
It all began about a week ago when our journeys brought us to Katalia City, a city in southern Johto that was famous for its fantastic mansions and estates...and the exploits of a legendary cat-burglar known as the Black Arachnid.
I tell you, when we reached the city limits, something strange happened to Jessie -- she came up with a plan for us to follow in the footsteps of this legendary Black Arachnid, and she became completely obsessed with it. She made exact replicas of his disguise for the three of us to wear, and we spent the entire week living just like he did -- sneaking around town and breaking into all the rich peoples' mansions to steal their belongings.
I'll admit it was fun at first, but Jessie's obsession soon ruined it for me and James. She wanted us to pull off heists exactly like the Black Arachnid always did, but that wasn't possible. You see, whenever there was danger, the Black Arachnid's Meowth used Pay Day to confuse their enemies, but I don't know Pay Day...I never have, and I never will. So, Jessie just got James to throw the bottle-caps from his prized collection whenever we pulled a heist instead.
Well, James had been more than happy to go along with her for the first couple of days, but once his collection started dwindling, he began to protest. Those were his prized bottle-caps, after all, and even though he'd gladly use them to help a friend in need, even he had his limit.
And once he'd reached that limit, Jessie started getting real nasty.
On this day in particular, she'd been more nasty than usual. I'd been trying to pick a lock, and she started screaming at me when one of my claws broke. (Hey! It wasn't Me-owth's fault dat lock was tough...and who could blame me for gettin' upset when my claw broke off? I work real hard ta keep my claws pretty and sharp, and it's real painful when one of 'em breaks! Jessie never seems ta like it when she breaks a nail...how could she be so insensitive?!)
But I wasn't the only one she'd been nasty with -- she was acting really weird with James, too! One minute, she's flirting with him for successfully picking the lock that broke my claws, and the next, she's insulting him and telling him he needs a breath-mint! (Heh. When I heard dat, it was all I could do ta keep from makin' a smart remark about the two of 'em playin' kissy-face!) Then, when James started protesting that he didn't want to throw away his bottle-caps anymore, she started calling him a big baby. And to make matters worse, Jessie's crabbing at him had only served to put James into a foul mood, too -- he even started losing his temper with me because I was eating my lunch out of a little jade bowl he'd stolen that morning!
That was when I started to think this whole Black Arachnid emulation project wasn't such a good plan, after all.
And when Jessie got the "brilliant" idea of writing a note to our next victim, taunting him about what we were going to steal, I knew she'd completely lost her mind. Maybe the Black Arachnid could've gotten away with something like that, but we sure as hell couldn't! James and I tried to get her to reconsider, but she wouldn't hear it -- she was hell-bent for leather on carrying out this plan to be exactly like the Black Arachnid, and nobody was going to stop her!
Well, almost nobody. We thought the twerp and his friends were on their way to Violet City -- we didn't plan on them coming here and getting involved.
And that's what proved to be our undoing.
"NO!" Jessie screamed. "Why isn't the balloon going anywhere?!"
"What a drag! We're caught in a net!" James moaned.
I looked up and saw that our balloon was tangled in a mass of webs. Officer Jenny must've gotten her Spinarak to weave them all over the place after the rich man got our letter and called the police. (Like I said -- tauntin' our victim beforehand was a REAL brilliant idea!)
"Heh! It's a dragnet!" I quipped, trying to make light of our situation.
Jessie scowled at the realization that her plan was falling apart. "Now we'll never be famous!" she cried.
"But we've still got our fans," James said, bringing out three large fans and handing them to me and Jessie.
(Now, I always make cracks about Jimmy bein' stupid, but I don't mean anything by it...I really don't. Truth be told, I think he's a genius! He just tends ta underestimate how smart he really is, and I hate when he does dat. I just joke about his intelligence ta provoke him and make him use all dose smarts more often.) At that moment, however, I certainly wasn't disappointed in James -- like me, he'd anticipated that something might go wrong with Jessie's plan, and he was prepared.
With that, the three of us started beating the fans as hard as we could and propelling our balloon along the webs. They couldn't go on forever, and once we reached the edge of them, we'd be free!
Suddenly, however, I heard the whiny voice of Ash commanding Squirtle to use Water Gun on us. A jet of water shot up and blasted us in the face, making us lose our concentration and drop our fans. Then, he got his Charizard to use Flamethrower on us.
Luckily, however, Charizard's flames burned through the Spinarak webs, and set our balloon free. For a moment, it looked like we were going to escape with the rich man's trophy, but then, Officer Jenny's Spinarak caught us with another web and started hauling us back in. And as if that weren't bad enough, the little brat got his Bulbasaur to Razor Leaf the balloon and make us lose all our hot air! (Was it really necessary ta ruin our balloon?! We'd already been captured! Dat kid's just a sadist!)
"CRASH LANDING!!!" Jessie, James, and I screamed as the balloon plummeted towards the ground.
Above the din of our cries, I heard Ash give another command to Charizard. Then, I felt the basket of the balloon rock as we were slammed from below. The force of the impact knocked all of our valuables out of the basket, and the three of us were launched into the sky.
"AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! There goes the rest of my collection!" James screamed as the last of his bottle-caps fell from his hands and scattered to the ground below.
I tell you, the look on James's face as he dropped those bottle-caps nearly broke my heart! Out of everything he owned, the bottle-caps were what he loved the most, and now they were gone forever. (I knew Officer Jenny, the twerps, and dat old rich bastard sure as hell wouldn't be considerate enough ta return 'em, and after gettin' beat so badly, we sure as hell couldn't come back ta retrieve 'em!)
And the look on Jessie's face was even worse -- the "flawless" plan that had consumed every fiber of her being for the past week had just fallen apart, and she was enraged. Somehow, I knew that James and I were going to catch hell for it later...even though we hadn't done anything wrong.
"Our hoard's overboard!" I said, trying to make a joke of it all to cheer them up.
But Jessie and James just screamed, "DON'T LAUGH!!!!!"
So ended the tale of the Black Arachnid II -- just like our namesake, the web of a Spinarak had been our downfall, and just like always, the brat had to stick his nose where it didn't belong....
....And Team Rocket went blasting off again.
When the three of us came to, it was morning. The tattered remains of our balloon were tangled among the trees, and all of the stuff we'd stolen over the past week was gone.
"No! My treasure!" Jessie cried.
"My collection!" James whimpered, still mourning the loss of his prized bottle-caps.
The two of them burst into tears.
I exhaled in a frustrated sigh. Things had been going so well for us until that stupid kid and his friends showed up. I don't know what it is, but we can't seem to win when Ash is around, no matter what we do! I can only conclude that he's cursed.
Suddenly, Jessie wiped her tears away and glared at me and James. "This is all YOUR fault! I MEAN it!" she screamed. "If it weren't for you two knuckleheads, we'd be rich and famous by now! I'll make you pay for this!"
As she continued to rant at us, I found myself becoming less angry with the brats and more angry with her. Looking up at James, I could see his face contorting in anger, too.
"Why should we?!" I demanded.
"Yeah! We're broke!" said James.
"You two bring a whole new meaning to the expression thick as thieves!" Jessie sneered.
"Hey! You'd better watch who yer callin' thick!" I retorted.
"Yeah! You know I'm watching my weight!" James shouted.
"Pipe down! I was talking about the size of your HEADS, not your WAISTS!" she growled.
Well, this was too much! It was bad enough that all of our hard work over the past week had amounted to nothing and that poor James had lost all of his bottle-caps, but why did Jessie have to blame all of it on us?! I couldn't take it anymore, and neither could James.
We frowned at Jessie, but before we could say anything in our defense, she lunged at us and shoved James to the ground. Then, she shoved me!
Unable to control his temper anymore, James got to his feet again and shoved Jessie right back. Jessie screamed and lunged at him again when he did this. An angry light sparked in their eyes as they glared at each other and continued to shove each other back and forth.
I couldn't stand to see them fighting, but when I tried to step in and break them apart, they just stomped on me and kicked me away.
Now I couldn't control my temper anymore either! Bringing out my claws, I jumped back into the fray and started Fury Swiping for all I was worth. Jessie...James...it didn't matter! Just as long as I was scratching somebody!
What had happened to us?! Why the hell had my best friends in the world become like strangers to each other...and to me! That goddamned twerp always ruins our plans, but we'd never let it get to us like this before! Or, should I say, Jessie never let it get to her like this before -- she was the one who'd started this fight...and emulating the Black Arachnid had been her idea entirely. James and I had just been going along with this plan to make her happy!
What the hell are we fightin' for, anyway?! I asked myself at length. I can't let dis go on -- Jessie and James love each other...and I love dem! We're gonna regret dis later...and I'm gettin' sick of bein' kicked around and screamed at!
Wriggling free from the tangle, I stepped back and watched sadly for a moment as Jessie and James continued to fight and scream at each other.
The sooner I put an end to this, the better.
"HEY!!!" I shouted.
But to no avail -- they were so engrossed in their fight that they didn't even hear me.
(Dat didn't stop Me-owth, though!)
I took a deep breath and tried again. "HEY!!! KNOCK IT OFF!!!! BOTH OF YOUSE SHUT UP!!!!!"
This got their attention.
Jessie and James froze and looked over at me.
"JUST SHUT THE HELL UP!!!" I shouted at them. "YER ACTIN' LIKE DAT LITTLE TWERP, AND ME-OWTH IS SICK OF IT!!!!"
"Well...well...I lost all of my bottle-caps because of her!" James cried after a moment of stunned silence.
Jessie scowled. "And our plans got screwed up because of YOU!" she shot back.
"What, exactly, did I do to screw this up?!" James demanded.
"You...you just did!" she snapped.
A fire sparked in their eyes again as they gave each other the look of death.
Before another fight could break out, however, I made a pre-emptive strike, jumping in and slashing both of them across the face with my claws.
Hopefully, that would make Jessie and James forget about being mad at each other for awhile, and they'd just be mad at me instead.
"I told youse two ta shut the hell up, and I MEANT it!" I growled. "Yer right, James. Jessie did make ya lose all yer bottle-caps, but will ya get over it, already?! Dey're just a buncha stupid bottle-caps!"
James folded his arms across his chest and turned away from me. "They're not stupid -- this plan was," I heard him say under his breath.
Jessie frowned. She'd heard him, too.
"And you!" I snapped, levelling an accusing claw at her. "Who the hell d'ya think you are?! Makin' us dress up in dese ridiculous cat-burglar disguises, draggin' us all over town, makin' James throw away somethin' he loves...just so you can get some kinda' ego boost?! And where the hell d'ya get off blamin' US when yer stupid plan goes wrong?!"
"How DARE you call MY plan stupid?!" Jessie shouted. "And the Black Arachnid is NOT ridiculous -- he's the greatest thief of all time! His memory deserves to be honored!"
"Yeah, too bad it's bein' honored by such a flop," I remarked. "Ol' Black Ac is probably turnin' over in his grave right now."
"Oh, shut up!" she growled. "I didn't see YOU doing any great acts of burglary back there, Mr. I-don't-wanna-break-my-claws! At least James and I tried! And he wouldn't have had to throw away his bottle-caps if you'd just get off your lazy ass and learn Pay Day, like you're SUPPOSED to!"
I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Jessie knew full well that I could never learn Pay Day because I'd used all of my powers learning how to talk. Throwing it in my face like that was a real cheap shot. "Hey, dis ain't about Me-owth!" I retorted. "Dis is about you and yer loser plan!"
Now Jessie was turning away from me, too.
This argument was getting us nowhere. Yelling obviously wasn't going to do any good -- I had to make Jessie and James listen to reason. I took a few deep breaths and calmed myself before saying anything more.
"Look, dis ain't really about any of us," I told them in a softer voice. "Dis is about the twerps."
"Admit it!" I said. "Ash is the one dat ruined the plan...he's the one dat made James lose the rest of his bottle-caps in dat blast-off...I'll bet he does crap like dis to us cuz he WANTS us ta fight with each other! If he and dose other twerps could see us now, dey'd be laughin' dere asses off!"
James sighed. "You're right. This argument is stupid."
Jessie buried her face in her hands. "I know...I know it's all his fault. But you're the ones that are here, so you're the ones I blame. If I went back and tried to make him pay for what he did to us, I'd just get blasted off again. And then, he and his bratty friends would laugh some more...." I heard her voice cracking as she said this. I didn't need to see her face to know that she was beginning to cry.
"Ya got a point, Jess, but dat ain't no excuse for takin' it out on us. I know it ain't fair, but when ya can't get back at the twerps, ya gotta accept the fact dat shit happens and get over it," I told her.
"But why does it always have to happen to us?" Jessie whispered. "Why do those kids have to be so mean...even when we're just minding our own business?! We can't catch wild pokemon...we can't eat...we can't rest...we can't even DANCE without them blasting us off! God, it's like we don't even have the right to exist!" Now she really was crying.
I frowned as I considered what she'd just said. She was right -- those kids WERE mean! I know they have every right to hate us, considering that we're always trying to take their Pikachu, but we're not doing it by choice! (I don't think anybody'd really wanna follow a bratty little boy and his electric rat around for a livin'!)
But even if they did hate us, some of the things they'd been doing to us lately had been uncalled for -- laughing at Jessie when she got her hair chopped off by a Scyther, Misty beating up me and James with her pokemon when we were just trying to find a cure for Jessie after she fell ill. (I know at the time I thought Misty was bein' nice by sharin' her Salvea Weed with us, but in retrospect I realize dat she wasn't. James and I had just as much right ta catch a wild Poliwag as she did...and just as much right ta help a friend in need! Who was she ta stand in our way?! Sharin' dat Salvea Weed with us was the LEAST she coulda' done! Lookin' back, I don't know as I blame Jess for attackin' the twerps once she felt better!)
But that wasn't all they'd done...that wasn't the half of it! There were plenty of other occasions when those kids really didn't need to give us such a hard time -- bad-mouthing us and mocking us when we were lying injured in a hospital after a pirate blew up our submarine...and then getting Officer Jenny to arrest us despite the fact that we hadn't been committing any crimes, insulting us and trashing our machinery when we were just trying to make an honest living by catching wild Electrodes, blasting us off when we were trying to get something to eat (and turn a profit in the process) in the Pinsir forest. (Dere were thousands of sap-trees in dat forest, and we didn't really want all of 'em, like we said -- we just wanted one or two! How were we ta know the Pinsirs was gonna get greedy and invade Heracross territory?!) And even at the street festival in Florando -- Jessie and James were just dancing and having a good time, and that rotten Ash had to attack us and get everybody to drive us away! It was pointless!
No wonder Jessie was so frustrated and James so sullen. Looking back on all that the twerps had put us through was really starting to piss me off, too!
But that was all the more reason why we couldn't take it out on each other -- our unity was the only thing we had going for us! Besides, our friendship was too important. We weren't going to let a mean-spirited kid turn us against each other!
"Look, guys, we're teammates...we're best friends...and I ain't never seen a more perfect couple den youse two," I told them. "Fightin' with each other ain't gonna get us nowhere. So, why don't we just cool off and call it a day?"
Jessie and James nodded. Even though we'd spent all of the previous day sleeping in the rich man's attic and been unconscious all night after we blasted off, I could tell that they were too tired to do anything more today.
"I think I saw a Team Rocket cabin further into the woods while we was blastin' off last night," I continued. "Why don't we rest dere for awhile? We'll sort dis out later, when we're all thinkin' more clearly."
They nodded again.
So, without another word, the three of us gathered what was left of our scattered belongings and made our way to the safe-house. I could sense that the air was still thick with tension, but at least I'd put and end to the fighting.
As soon as we arrived at the cabin, James went into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him. After a couple of minutes, the sound of running water could be heard as he turned on the shower. Jessie seated herself at the kitchen table and hung her head. "Guess he's still in a bad mood," she muttered.
"Well, gee, I wonder why!" I said sarcastically.
"Don't start with me, Meowth," she grumbled.
I jumped up onto the table. "I ain't startin' nothin'," I said. "If I recall correctly, YER the one dat started dis!"
"I thought you said we'd talk about this later!" she snapped.
I smirked. "Well, it took us about an hour ta get here. Technically, it's later, so we're gonna talk!"
Jessie rolled her eyes.
"Look, I dunno what yer problem is, but ya been actin' weird ever since we came ta Katalia City!" I told her. "Ya never been dis insistent on a plan before, and ya never been so pissed-off about a plan failin' before! Dose twerps always screw things up for us! Haven't ya gotten used to it by now?!"
"No, I haven't," she said through clenched teeth.
"I know. I can't get used to it, either," I confessed. "I don't blame ya for bein' upset about what dose kids do to us, but dat ain't no reason ta be such a bitch with me and James!"
"What did you call me?" she asked. Her voice was low...menacing.
"You heard me," I said. "I call 'em like I see 'em...and you was actin' like a total bitch dis mornin'! Hell! Ya been actin' like a bitch all week...ever since ya got dis whole Black Arachnid obsession! But obsession or no, dere ain't no excuse for what ya did ta poor James...and no excuse for pickin' dat fight with us when things went wrong!"
Jessie said nothing, just frowned at me.
A long, uncomfortable silence ensued. The only audible sounds were the ticking of the clock on the wall and the sound of running water coming from the shower. After a few minutes, the water switched off, and James emerged from the bathroom with a red towel wrapped around his slim waist. Water dripped from his shiny blue-violet hair as he cast a sad look over his shoulder at us and disappeared into one of the bedrooms.
"Ya know, sometimes...I really don't know what James sees in ya," I continued once he was out of sight again. "He's the sweetest guy in the world, and yer always treatin' him like crap! He loves you more den anything, and he hates Jessiebelle...but quite frankly, I can't tell the difference sometimes...."
Jessie's face contorted in anger. "Don't even go there with me, Meowth! I'm serious!"
"Tell me!" I persisted. "Tell me what makes ya so different from Bitchybelle!"
"You KNOW what makes me different!" she shouted, her blue eyes filling with tears. "I LOVE James!"
"Den why do ya always hurt him?" I demanded. "If ya love him, den why can't ya show it like a normal person?"
Jessie hung her head. "Because...."
"Because nothin'!" I replied. "Jessie, ya gotta start treatin' him better, and dat's all dere is to it! Otherwise, ya ain't no different from her!"
The tears Jessie had been trying to hold back were now flowing freely. "How could you?" she whispered as she got to her feet.
She looked as if I'd slapped her across the face, and I suddenly realized just how deeply my Jessiebelle remark had hurt her. No matter how mean she'd been to us earlier, I had no right to say such an awful thing. Her cheap shot about me not being able to use Pay Day was nothing compared to what I'd just said!
"How could you?!" she said again, her voice breaking. "How could you think I'm anything like her?! I'm not...I'm not...."
But before I could take back my rude remark and apologize, Jessie turned and ran into the bedroom across the hall from James.
"I'm sorry, Jess!" I said as I ran after her. "I didn't mean it...."
Jessie slammed the door in my face. "Like hell, you didn't!" she shouted.
"Go away, Meowth! Leave me alone!"
Through the door, I could hear the muffled sound of her crying. I tried to turn the knob and push the door open, but she'd locked it.
"I'm sorry," I said again, even though I don't think she heard me.
For several minutes I just sat in the hallway between the two bedroom doors. I could still hear Jessie crying, but when I listened more closely, I heard the sound of crying coming from James's room, too.
I couldn't just sit there while both of my friends were so upset -- I had to do something. And since the damage had already been done with Jessie, I decided to see what was bothering James.
When I knocked on his door, he gave no answer. So, I had to reach up and open it myself. (Dose doorknobs are so high up! Sometimes I really hate bein' so short!) Fortunately, he hadn't locked the door to his room, so I was able to walk right in.
I found James lying on his bed. He'd changed into a black t-shirt and a pair of blue silk boxer shorts. His face was buried in his pillow, and sobs wracked his body as he cried.
"James?" I said softly.
"James," I said again.
Still no reply.
I jumped up onto the bed and placed my paw on his shoulder. "Hey. Whatsa' matter, James?"
James sniffled. "Meowth...."
"Jimmy, what's wrong?" I asked.
His lip quivered. "My...my bottle-caps," he whimpered. "They're all gone, Meowth...."
I sighed. "Yer still upset about dose things?" I said. "James, why are ya so worked up over bottle-caps? Dey're just little hunks of metal...."
James's green eyes sparked when I said this. "They're more than that!" he cried. "Meowth, those bottle-caps were priceless to me!"
He closed his eyes and sighed. "They...they were my grand-papa's," he began. "He collected them when he was young, and when I was a tot, we collected them together." James paused for a moment and tried to fight back more tears. "Grand-papa left me that bottle-cap collection when he died...they were all I had left of him! And now they're gone...."
I frowned as James's voice trailed off and gave way to more crying. No wonder he was so attatched to those bottle-caps! They may not have been worth much money, but they were loaded with sentimental value, and that made them more precious than any treasure we could steal. Throwing those bottle-caps away was like throwing his memories away...throwing his grand-papa away. And that must have broken his heart.
"Oh, James. I'm so sorry," I said. "If I knew dey meant dat much to ya, I'd of stuck up for ya when Jessie was makin' ya throw 'em away!"
"It's not your fault," he muttered as he rolled onto his side and looked at me again. "I just miss my grand-papa. I love him...and he's one of the few people who ever loved me...."
I reached over and brushed his tears away. "Well he ain't the only one...I love ya too, James."
He smiled weakly. "Y-you do?"
I nodded. "Of course! Ya always been dere for Meowth. I couldn't ask for better friends den you and Jess. Dat's why I couldn't stand ta see youse guys fightin' earlier -- I love both of ya!"
James sniffled and put his arms around me. "I love you too, Meowth."
I cuddled into James and began to purr as he held me to him, like a child would hug a stuffed toy. I could feel his tears falling on me and soaking into my fur, but I didn't mind -- I just nuzzled closer and let him hug me. The poor guy needed a hug after what he'd been through.
When he was finally able to stop crying, James sighed and looked down at me. "Thank you, Meowth...for being such a good friend," he sniffled.
"Don't mention it, Jimmy," I replied. "Yer my buddy, and I don't like it when yer sad. You'd of done the same for Me-owth."
James smiled and hugged me again, and I hugged back. I really do love him -- he's so sweet and affectionate...I don't know how anybody could NOT love him!
"James?" I said after another brief silence.
"If...if it don't bother ya too much...will ya tell me about yer grand-papa? Please?" I asked. "I know ya mentioned him a couple times before, and he sounds like he was a real nice guy."
"He was," James sighed. "Aside from Growly and a few of the servants, my grandparents were the only people who really cared about me...."
I frowned as I remembered James's parents. How could dey be so cold and uncarin' with dere own son?! I wondered. Especially when dere son is a sweetie like James! He was such an adorable little boy...and he's such a wonderful man now! Dey should be ashamed of 'emselves for always ignorin' him and cuttin' him down...and tryin' ta make him marry dat whacko! God, it's a wonder poor Jimmy turned out as great as he did with screwed-up parents like dat!
"Grand-papa's name was James Morgan, but everybody just called him Jim," he began. "He was my mom's dad -- she named me after him."
My frown became a smile.
"I remember, when I was a tiny tot, he and grand-mama used to come over all the time to see me. And sometimes, when I couldn't stand my parents anymore, I'd sneak away and go visit them on their estate. After my engagement to Jessiebelle, I practically LIVED with them! They protected me from her whenever they could," James continued. "Grand-papa and I did so much together. He had a big rose garden on his estate, and he grew every single rose bush himself -- no gardeners for him! I used to help him water the roses and pick them when they were in bloom. He'd always loved roses...and he taught me to love them, too.
"And there were plenty of other things we did whenever we weren't tending roses. We collected those bottle-caps together, we'd go for walks together with grand-mama, and he and grand-mama always read to me and drew pictures with me. My grandparents were the only ones who really liked my drawings -- mom never had time to notice...or care when I drew pictures for her, and dad always yelled at me for it. He said I needed to get my head out of the clouds, and that if I wanted art, I could always buy some...."
"What a Philistine! Sheesh!" I grumbled.
James smiled. "But grand-papa never criticized me. Not about my drawings, not about my manners, not about the way I dressed -- he loved me just the way I was! And he always taught me to be my own person...to always follow my dreams and never let anybody or anything crush my spirit."
"I'll bet dat's why ya had the courage ta run away from Jessiebelle!" I remarked.
"It is," he replied. "Meowth, I can't begin to tell you how much respect I have for that man! He may have been rich, but he wasn't born into it. Believe it or not, he started out with nothing! He worked hard and put himself through school, and once he had an education, he found a better job, and he made smart choices with his money. That's what I want to do, too -- if I ever become rich again, I want it to be because I've done it myself, not because somebody just handed the money to me. I want to be just like my grand-papa...." He was beginning to cry again.
"Hey, are you gonna be okay?" I asked. "Ya don't hafta tell me if it makes ya sad."
James shook his head. "No. No, I want to talk about it," he told me. "I love my grand-papa, and I love remembering him. But that's why it hurt so much to throw those bottle-caps away, Meowth. Each one had a happy memory attatched to it."
I nodded. "Don't take dis the wrong way, Jimmy, but if dose bottle-caps was so important to ya, den why DID ya throw 'em away? And don't tell me it's cuz Jessie was yellin' at ya -- you've put yer foot down with her when she was actin' outta line before...you coulda done it again! So, why?"
"Sorry to disappoint, but I did do it because of Jessie," came his reply. "Not because she forced me to, though -- I chose to do it."
"Why?" I asked again.
"Meowth, you didn't see the light that was shining in her eyes when we arrived in Katalia City last week," he said. "Jessie wanted so much to be like the Black Arachnid -- more than wanting to catch that kid's Pikachu, more than wanting to compete in Pokemon League...more, even, than wanting her very own set of Princess Dolls! This was important to her, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help her make that dream come true! That was something else grand-papa taught me -- when you love somebody, sometimes it means making sacrifices for them...and I love Jessie more than anything!"
"Oh, James! Dat's gotta be the sweetest thing I ever heard!" Now I was beginning to cry, too!
"Now that I think about it, I guess that's really why it hurt to throw my bottle-caps away," he sighed. "It's not my grand-papa -- he'd have wanted me to do it. But...I just feel like I failed Jessie. That was a big sacrifice I made for her, and it wasn't good enough. She's mad at me, and I can't help but feel like I've screwed things up...."
"Don't say dat!" I cried. "It wasn't yer fault things went wrong, and Jessie even said she was just yellin' at us cuz dere's nobody else ta take it out on! She still loves ya, James -- I know dat for a fact!"
"I know she still loves me," he said. "But I still feel bad about what happened. What good am I if I can't do anything to make my Jessie's dreams come true?"
I cuddled into James again as his crying began anew, and he hugged me to him. I kneaded him gently with my claws and purred softly, and before long, he relaxed. They say it's impossible to stay awake when a cat is sitting with you, and it must be true because after a few minutes, he fell asleep. His arms were still wrapped tightly around me, but I didn't plan on going anywhere. I just continued to purr and knead him with my claws, and as I snuggled closer, I let the warmth of his body and the soft sound of his breathing lull me to sleep, too.
When I awoke a few hours later, James still had his arms around me. I could feel him scratching behind my ears and petting me. "What a sweet kitty," I heard him mutter.
I couldn't help but smile. I'd never been called a sweet kitty before! I know Jess and Jim love me, and they say nice things to me all the time, but there was something about the way James called me sweet that really moved me. Maybe it was because it had come from the heart -- he thought I was sleeping...the words he'd just spoken were his true opinion of me! I began to purr again.
James chuckled when he saw that I'd awakened. "Hey, Meowth."
"Hey, James," I said softly.
He smiled at me.
"So, ya feelin' any better?" I ventured.
His face fell. "Not really," he replied.
"Yer really depressed about dis, ain't ya?"
"I feel so useless...."
"Quit talkin' like dat!" I said. "James, I can't even begin ta tell ya how important ya are ta me and Jessie! I could go on forever about all the little things ya do for us each day, a lot of the big things ya done for us, how talented ya are...everything! But what it all comes down to is dat ya make us happy. We'd be lost without you!"
This made him smile again.
"We love ya, Jimmy. We don't always show it, but we really, really do."
"I love both of you, too," he said as he hugged me again. "But that's why I feel so bad whenever I screw things up -- I hate it when I fail the ones I love...."
"Hey, ya never failed us when it REALLY mattered, and even when ya do make mistakes, ya still manage ta always come through for us in the end," I told him. "Besides, we've all made our share of mistakes. But ya know what? As long as we stick together, we can never really fail each other."
His smile grew even wider. "You're right, Meowth!"
"Of course I am!" I said. "Bein' a team is what lets us pull through, no matter how bad things may get. So, quit beatin' yerself up about dis. It ain't yer fault the brat interfered with us again, and I'm sure Jessie ain't blamin' ya anymore...."
"Speaking of Jessie, I heard the two of you yelling at each other a little while ago...and I heard her crying," he said. "What happened?"
I hung my head as I remembered how I'd hurt Jessie's feelings, and the guilt weighed down on me once again. "I...I was just stickin' up for ya, James," I explained. "I was tellin' her dat she was wrong ta make ya throw yer bottle-caps away, and dat she was wrong ta be so mean to ya...but...but I said somethin' really bad, too...."
James's eyes widened. "What did you say to her?"
"I...I told her dat the way she's always mean to ya...makes her...just like...Jessiebelle...."
Saying it aloud again made me feel like a rat, and I cringed as the words came from my mouth.
James gasped. "Oh, Meowth! How could you?!"
"I'm sorry, James," I said. "I know it was a low-blow, and I didn't mean it! Honest!"
He closed his eyes and shook his head. "Meowth, after everything that's happened, how could you say something like that to her?!"
"I wasn't thinkin'," I confessed.
"Damn right, you weren't," he said sternly. "Meowth, you KNOW how sensitive she is about being compared to Jessiebelle! You and I know that even when Jessie's at her worst, she's infinitely better than that psychotic bitch...but it still breaks her heart to know she looks like...her!"
I nodded. "Dere ain't no excuse for what I said. I'm sorry."
James's expression softened a little. "I know you are...but sometimes you really do need to think before opening that big meowth of yours."
I laughed bitterly. "See what I mean about all of us makin' mistakes? Jess was wrong ta lash-out at you, I was wrong ta lash-out at her, and yer the one who didn't do nothin' wrong, but yer the one dat feels the worst about what happened."
"We need help," he sighed, shaking his head in mild amusement.
I was glad James was feeling a little better now, but I still felt like I owed him an explanation for what I'd done. "I was just mad at her cuz of the way she's mean to ya sometimes, and I wanted ta call her on it. I never meant ta hurt her like dat."
James placed a hand on my shoulder. "Meowth, there's a reason why Jessie sometimes has trouble showing how much she cares. I'm going to tell you something now, but you have to promise me that you'll keep this to yourself and not let her know that I told you...."
My eyes widened. What kind of secret was Jessie keeping from me?
"I want to tell you because you're our friend and you deserve to know, but this is strictly in confidence. Understood?"
"The secret's safe with me, James. I promise."
James took a deep breath and ran a hand through his hair. "Okay," he began. "Do you remember when we were trying to steal those Nidorans, and Jessie got depressed thinking about her ex-boyfriend?"
"She wasn't really upset because he dumped her. Truth be told, getting dumped was one of the best things that could have happened," he continued.
"Well of course!" I said. "Any idiot can see dat she's better off with you den dat sleaze-bag!"
James smiled for a moment but quickly became serious again. "Getting dumped wasn't the issue, though. He...he hurt her, Meowth. He didn't just break her heart...he abused her."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing! "Y-ya mean he beat her?" I stammered.
James nodded. "He messed with her head. He convinced her that she was too evil for anybody to love...and once she believed him, he started hitting her."
Now I was angry. It took a serious kind of evil to bring down a strong girl like Jessie! "Who was he?!" I growled.
"It was during our trainee period," he told me. "Before we became Dan'in, we had to spend a couple of months apart for our initial training. I didn't get to see Jessie much during that time, and while I wasn't there, the Elite agent that was in charge of her group moved in on her. The abuse began when she started dating him...."
I closed my eyes and thought back to when Jessie and James first joined Team Rocket a little over two years ago. Giovanni didn't send me with them until after their trainee period, but I'd seen them around from time to time before then. (I'd always liked Jess and Jim...even when I didn't know who dey were. Something told me dat dey was special.)
I remember, I used to go and visit them sometimes while they were trainees. Occasionally, I'd seen bruises on Jessie's back and arms while she was getting dressed, or I'd seen her putting on an extra layer of make-up to cover a bruise on her face. I hadn't thought anything of it at the time, though. Team Rocket training is tough, after all. Every agent is skilled in martial arts and other forms of combat, and, well, it's a rare person who doesn't get bruised and banged-up while learning that kind of stuff. I had no idea she'd suffered those bruises at the hands of....
"Antonio?!" I cried.
James nodded. "Yeah. Him," he said disdainfully.
"Dat son of a BITCH! I'll murderize him!" I shouted, bringing out my claws. "God, I always knew dat guy was scum! How DARE he do somethin' like dat ta Jessie?!"
"I'd like to kick his ass, too," James grumbled, clenching his fist.
"Poor Jessie," I sighed. "I didn't know."
"Neither did I, until she told me," said James. "But now do you understand why she gets like this sometimes? It's not because she doesn't love me...it's because she's afraid. That relationship scarred her pretty badly, Meowth. And that's another reason why I get so upset when I fail her -- I don't want to be anything like that bastard! I want to make Jessie happy...."
"James, dere's no way in hell you could ever be anything like dat sleazy Antonio! And ya do make Jessie happy! Don't ever doubt dat!"
"I guess you're right...because something good came of that confession," he continued. "Telling me about what she'd been through and knowing that I was still there for her...that I loved her more than ever allowed her to heal a little bit. That was the night I promised that I'd ask her to marry me, you know."
I smiled as I recalled that night. Poor James had been heartbroken, thinking that Jessie didn't love him anymore. But then, he realized that it wasn't him she'd been upset with -- it was the painful memories of her ex (and I could understand why she'd been so upset now dat I knew the truth!) James was gone for awhile after he went to find Jessie, but when I saw him returning, he was carrying her in his arms, and their lips were locked in a kiss. Something told me that when they got back to the room, they were going to celebrate their "wedding day" with a romantic "wedding night," so I'd taken the liberty of getting things ready for them by plucking the petals from James's bouquet of white roses and spreading them out on the bed. Then, I'd taken my leave in order to give them their privacy. (Just like I always do when dey make love!)
I'd heard them talking about getting married on several occasions since then, and I knew that they were engaged to be engaged now, but I didn't know that was the night it had happened. It made sense when I thought about it, though. What better time to think of marriage than on a wedding day?
"We forged a new bond of trust on that night, Meowth," James said. "No matter what, I've never doubted her love for me since then. I know she still doubts from time to time, but it's not really me -- it's just her old wounds. I promised that I'd never leave her and that I'd never hurt her...and hopefully one day, all of those old wounds will heal completely."
"Yeah!" I exclaimed. "If anybody can do dat for Jess, it's you!"
Suddenly, James frowned. "Oh, no...."
"Whatsa' matter?" I asked.
"Meowth...I think I may have broken one of those promises...."
"The promise that I'd never hurt her," he sighed.
"What the?! What makes ya say dat?!"
"Meowth, didn't you see the way we were fighting earlier?!" he cried. "I shoved her a couple of times...." Tears were beginning to stream down his face again.
"Well, she shoved ya first," I said. "You was only defendin' yerself...and it's not like ya punched her or kicked her, or anything! What's the big deal?!"
"That's no excuse!" he retorted. "Meowth, I don't even like raising my VOICE to her! There was no excuse for what I did during that fight. If I hurt her, then I'm no better than...than him...."
"Now you stop right dere!" I snapped. "I said it before, and I'm sayin' it again -- you ain't nothin' like dat bastard! Ya hear me?! NOTHIN'!"
James hung his head.
"Just like Jessie ain't nothin' like Jessiebelle," I continued. "Neither one of ya are anything like dose monsters."
"What makes you so sure about me?" he whispered.
I placed my paw on his shoulder. "First of all, cuz yer worried about it," I told him. "A real abusive person'd be makin' excuses, not blamin' himself for somethin' dat MIGHT'VE happened. The fact dat yer so worried ya might've hurt Jessie proves dat ya really do love her...and dat ya'd never really hurt her."
"Besides, I was dere while youse guys was fightin'," I added. "Ya didn't hurt her, James -- ya just pushed her away when she was shovin' you...."
"That's still no excuse."
"Look, all I'm sayin' is dat ya didn't do any harm ta Jessie, and she ain't upset about what ya did. If anybody around here hurt her, it's me."
James looked at me again. "I think we both owe her an apology."
"Come on," he said, jumping out of bed. "The sooner we clear this up, the sooner we'll all be able to rest."
With that, the two of us left his room and crossed the hall. When James tried to open the door to Jessie's room, however, it was still locked.
"Jessie?" James called, knocking softly on the door. "Jessie, honey, can we talk?"
She gave no reply.
I listened closely for a moment. She wasn't crying anymore. "Ya think she's asleep?" I asked.
"I don't know," James replied. He knocked on the door again. "Jessie?"
Still no reply.
"Jessie, sweetheart, I heard what Meowth said, and it's not true! Not in the slightest!" he said through the door.
"Yeah!" I chimed in. "I really am sorry, Jess! I didn't mean it!"
"Look, I know this plan meant a lot to you, and I'm sorry if I did anything to screw it up," James continued. "I'm not mad at you about the bottle-caps anymore, and I apologize for what I did during that fight. If I hurt you, I didn't mean to...I love you, Jessica."
James hung his head. "I guess she's still not talking to me," he muttered as a tear rolled down his cheek.
"Guess not," I sighed.
"What am I going to do, Meowth?"
"Give her some time," I told him. "Jessie'll cool off eventually."
"Don't worry about it, James," I said. "Ya didn't do anything wrong."
"I wish I could believe you, Meowth," he sighed.
"Look, I'm sure it's nothin'," I said, following him back into his room. "Maybe she's just takin' a nap like we were, and she didn't hear ya. And if she did hear ya, she probably didn't say anything cuz I was dere. It's me she's mad at, not you."
"I still wish there were something I could do," he muttered as he laid down on his bed and started crying again. "I can't do anything right...."
My heart broke as I stood there and watched James cry. His parents had really done a number on him, convincing him that he was stupid and worthless. I'm sure that's why it took him such a long time to tell Jessie that he was in love with her -- he probably thought he wasn't good enough for her.
I know that was how he felt now.
Suddenly, I found myself getting angry with Jessie again. How can she be so mean ta poor James?! I wondered. He did his best for her, and all she can do is yell at him and ignore him! Well, I'm sicka dis! I'm gonna straighten her out once and for all!
As I went back towards Jessie's bedroom to give her a piece of my mind, however, I stopped myself. Yelling at her hadn't done any good last time, and it had only made matters worse. And then I remembered what James had told me about her ex-boyfriend. I felt guilty once more as I thought about what she'd been through and how miserable she was probably feeling right now.
How could I even think of wanting to yell at her again?
So, I quickly changed plans. I'd hurt Jessie deeply today, and whether she was giving me the silent treatment or not, I had to apologize to her. I wouldn't be able to forgive myself until I did. And if she could accept my apology, then maybe she'd feel better and go talk to James...make him realize that he wasn't the one who'd hurt her. And then, we'd all feel a lot better.
I knew she probably wasn't going to like it, but I had to get into her room and talk to her. So, bringing out my claws, I reached up and proceeded to pick the lock. I broke another claw in the process, but I didn't let it stop me this time. Jessie had said that the Black Arachnid's Meowth could pick the locks to any treasure, and I was determined to do the same. After all, friendship is the most valuable treasure of all...more valuable than money, or jewels, or expensive pottery could ever be!
After a few minutes, the lock gave way, and the door to Jessie's room creaked open.
"Jessie?" I said.
Everything in her room was dark. The only source of light was the dim red glow coming from the numbers of the digital clock on her nightstand. It was half-past seven. Dusk.
"Jessie, are you awake?" I called into the darkness.
There was still no reply. Everything was silent. Listening closely again, I couldn't even make out the sound of her breathing!
Now I was worried.
Jumping up and flipping on the light switch, I illuminated the room so I could see what had happened to Jessie.
But she wasn't there -- the room was empty!
My first instinct was to panic, but I forced myself to keep a level head. Now...now just calm down, Meowth, I said to myself. Maybe she just left her room while I was with James. Maybe she's in the kitchen, gettin' somethin' ta eat...or maybe she's in the bathroom, gettin' cleaned up. But...how could she have gotten outta her room if the door was locked?! What the hell happened ta her?!
Hoping that my fears were groundless, I searched the other rooms of the cabin, but I didn't find Jessie anywhere. She was gone!
Okay, now you can panic! I thought as I felt a sweatdrop rolling down the side of my face.
I raced back to Jessie's room, hoping to find some kind of clue as to why she'd left. I was sure it was because of me and what I'd said, but where had she gone...and more importantly, what was she planning to do? I searched her room for a few minutes, but I didn't find anything. There was no note, no personal journal lying open anywhere, and all of her clothes and other belongings were still there. The only thing that was missing was the Black Arachnid outfit she'd been wearing earlier.
Whaddaya doin', Jess? I wondered.
Suddenly, the curtains of her window began to rustle and billow in the cool evening breeze. This struck me as odd -- whenever we got the chance to be indoors, Jessie hated opening the windows. Why would she leave her bedroom window open...unless that was the way she'd gotten out of the house?
Sure enough, when I jumped up to the sill and looked out the window, I saw a pair of footprints in the soft earth below. Footprints made by a woman wearing size 8 high-heeled boots! Footprints that led into the forest.
Jessie, whaddaya doin'? I asked again.
I wanted to go and get James, but this was an emergency, and I'd already wasted valuable time searching the cabin for her. Besides, if James knew that Jessie was gone, he was just going to get worried...and I didn't want that. He felt bad enough as it was.
So, jumping out the window, I ran as fast as I could, following Jessie's footprints into the forest.
It didn't take me long to find Jessie. I was running as fast as I could, and she was moving relatively slowly, so I was able to catch up to her after about ten minutes.
Not wanting to reveal my presence, I followed quietly for a moment. Jessie was dressed in her Black Arachnid disguise again, and she seemed to be heading back towards Katalia City. What was she up to?
Suddenly, she froze.
"Show yourself. I know you're there," she said, casting a suspicious look over her shoulder.
"It's just me, Jess," I said, stepping from the shrubbery I was hiding behind.
Jessie frowned. "What are you doing here, Meowth?"
"I put dat very same question ta you!" I replied.
She folded her arms across her chest and glared at me.
"I was worried about ya," I told her. "I saw dat ya wasn't in yer room, so I followed ya. I...I just wanted ta make sure you was okay. Now, whaddaya doin' out here?"
"None of your goddamned business!" she snapped. "And how did you know I wasn't in my room?! Were you snooping?!"
"No!" I cried. "I just...Jessie, I feel bad about what I said to ya earlier. Really, REALLY bad! I unlocked yer door cuz I wanted ta apologize to ya and work everything out...and dat's when I saw you was missin'."
Her expression softened a little when I said this.
"Jessie, I am SO sorry about what I said about you bein' like Jessiebelle!" I continued. "It ain't true, and it was real mean and stupid of Meowth ta say so."
"It's okay," she said. "I'm not mad at you about that anymore."
"Den why are ya runnin' away, Jess?" I asked.
"I'm not running away...there's just some unfinished business I have to take care of," came her reply.
Jessie nodded. "The Black Arachnid II won't be able to rest until her work is done!"
"Black Arachnid II? Ya mean yer goin' back to the city ta commit more robberies?!"
"Something like that."
"Have you gone insane?!" I hissed. "You'll just get caught if ya go back! Jessie, don't ya know by now dat Officer Jenny operates on the premise dat the criminal always returns ta the scene of the crime?! Dat city's probably crawlin' with cops and Spinarak, just waitin' for ya ta show up again!"
"Of COURSE I know that!" she shot back. "But this is something I have to do, Meowth!"
"Why?!" I demanded. "Why is it so freakin' important for you ta be like dis Black Arachnid guy?! Is fame really worth gettin' arrested over?!"
"I'm not doing this for fame," she said, turning away from me. "I may have SAID I was, but I'm not...."
"Den what ARE ya doin' it for?"
"You wouldn't understand."
"Try me," I said, stepping in front of her.
Jessie fell silent.
"Dis ain't like you, Jess. I'm gonna go get James...."
"NO!" she cried as I started heading back towards the cabin.
I looked up at her.
Jessie shook her head. "Please, Meowth. I can't face him...not yet, anyway."
"Why not?" I asked.
She closed her eyes and sighed. "I got to thinking about everything that's happened -- what I did, what I said...what you said. And you were right -- I was a total bitch."
Suddenly, I felt another pang of guilt. "Jessie, I'm sorry I was so harsh with ya. I was just pissed-off...."
"No, you weren't out of line...not even with that Jessiebelle comment," she said, cutting me off. "I had it coming. I did a terrible thing to James, and I won't be able to live with myself until I make things right again...and I won't be able to make things right until I can steal a priceless treasure...until I can do something worthy of the Black Arachnid himself!"
It was all becoming clear now. When I looked into Jessie's forlorn sapphire eyes, I could tell she was so riddled with guilt that she didn't even feel worthy of apologizing to James and asking for his forgiveness. But even if she did feel guilty, she still had her pride -- she had to prove something to herself before she could go back and face James again. (Though why she was so obsessed with the Black Arachnid was still a mystery ta Me-owth!)
"Den whadda we waitin' for?" I said. "Let's swipe some treasure!"
Jessie frowned again. "What's all this we stuff?!" she demanded.
"I'm goin' with ya, of course," I replied matter-of-factly.
"No, you're not!"
"I already told you -- this is something I have to do by myself!" she snapped.
"Jessie, you ain't the only one dat feels bad about what happened today," I told her. "It don't matter if ya forgive me or not -- I still need ta make things up to ya for what I said. Let me come with ya...let me help ya. Please?"
Jessie's expression softened once again. "You really mean that, don't you?"
I nodded. "Besides, the Black Arachnid didn't work alone -- he had his Meowth with him! And it ain't gonna be any different for the Black Arachnid II!"
Jessie smiled and picked me up. "You're right! I can't follow in the great Black Arachnid's footsteps without my Meowth!"
I returned her smile. "Thanks, Jess."
"Just one thing...." she said.
"You have to wear the costume."
My smile became a grin. Jessie really was going all-out with this plan! (I know I insulted our costumes earlier, but truth be told, I really liked 'em. Like I said before -- dey was exact replicas of what the Black Arachnid and his Meowth had worn, and Jessie had made 'em herself! I tell ya, ol' Black Ac had a real sense of style -- the black bodysuit, the burgundy cape, the big cat-glasses, the hat with the little Meowth charm on the brim...the man knew how ta dress! Was it any wonder Jess looked up ta him so much? He was just as dapper as she and James are!)
But my face fell as I remembered something.
"Jessie...I left my costume back at the cabin...."
"Then go and get it!" she said, placing me on the ground again. "And don't you DARE tell James what we're up to if he asks!"
"Alright, alright!" I replied, taking my leave.
Jessie stomped her foot impatiently. "Go, go, go!!! Hurry, hurry, hurry!!! We've only got a few hours, Meowth!"
I rolled my eyes at her as I went back to get my costume.
As soon as I entered the cabin, I found my cat-sized cloak and glasses where I'd left them -- on the floor in the living room. They were a little tattered from our blast-off, but the costume was still wearable.
Before I put it on, however, I decided to go and look in on James again. As low as he was feeling, I really didn't want to leave him alone for the night -- he needed a friend to keep him company. Still, it was too dangerous for Jessie to go back to Katalia City by herself -- she needed a friend to keep her out of trouble! (I tell ya, sometimes dere just ain't enough Meowth ta go around!)
When I went to James's room, I found him sitting on his bed. His back was turned to me.
"James?" I said softly.
James tensed. "M-Meowth?"
"Are you okay?" I asked.
"I...I'm fine! Never better!" he replied nervously.
"Well, I talked ta Jess," I told him.
He turned to face me. "Really? What did she say?"
I smiled. "She ain't mad at ya, Jimmy...and she ain't disappointed in ya," I said. "If anything, she feels bad about yellin' at you dis mornin'."
Now James was smiling too.
"But she still needs some time ta herself," I quickly added. "She wants ta be left alone for awhile...ta think about what she did. So don't worry about her no more, James. She's gonna be okay...and so are you."
James chuckled. "It's just as well," he said. "I need some time to myself, too."
I nodded. But before I turned to go, I noticed that James was holding something in his hands.
"Hey! Whaddaya got dere, James?" I asked.
James sweatdropped. "Oh...nothing."
Well, I knew it wasn't nothing, and his evasive response only served to pique my curiosity. Now I had to find out what was going on.
"Come on! Whaddaya got?!" I asked again, jumping onto the bed to get a closer look.
"No! Stop it, Meowth!" James giggled. He was doing his best to hide whatever it was, but that wasn't going to stop me!
James turned away from me again, and I grabbed at his arms, making him drop what he was holding. A carving tool and a small piece of stone fell from his hands and landed on the blanket.
"What the....? What're dese?" I asked, picking them up.
James quickly snatched the carver and the stone from me. "Mind your own business, Meowth!"
My eyes widened when I got a better look at the stone. "Holy crap! Dat's a piece of Amberite, isn't it?!" I cried.
James blushed and nodded. "Yes...it's Amberite."
"Where'd ya get it, James?" I asked.
He blushed again. "Do you remember when we were in Donphan Valley a couple of weeks ago?"
"Yeah," I said. "But we didn't find any Amberite while we was dere."
James smirked. "Well, maybe YOU didn't...but I did!"
"Alright, den. HOW'D ya get it?"
"Well, while we were leaving the valley that evening...."
"Ya mean after we got electrocuted and blasted off," I corrected him.
"Hey! Do you want me to tell you the story, or not?!" he snapped.
"Yeah. I'm sorry."
"That's better," he said. "Anyway...that evening, I saw that trainer getting her Donphan to ram the face of one of the cliffs. I figured there was probably Amberite in those rocks, so I made a mental note. That night, after you and Jessie fell asleep, I went back to the valley to see if I could find any. By the time I got there, most of it was gone...but I did manage to find one tiny chip that the Donphan trainer overlooked. I figured it was better than nothing, so I decided to hold onto it."
"Whaddaya doin' with it?" I asked.
"Oh, just a little project I've had on my mind for awhile now," came his reply.
"Project? What kinda project?"
He smiled. "You'll see."
"Come on, yer killin' me, here! Talk already!" I cried.
"Let's just say it's an art project and leave it at that," he chuckled.
"Look, I don't want to talk about it, okay?" he said, blushing more than ever. "I'm not sure how well this is going to turn out, and...I don't need any outside pressure! I'm just...I'm not trying to be rude or throw you out, or anything, but this is something I have to do, and I have to really concentrate on it so that it turns out nice. I don't want to screw things up with such a precious gem...."
As I listened to him, I realized he was doing the exact same thing that Jessie was -- he was challenging himself. Just like her, he needed to prove something to himself before trying to patch things over. He had to improve something about himself before feeling worthy of Jessie's love again.
And that's what makes us such a great team...what convinces me that Jessie and James were made for each other. Sure, we may cry and feel sorry for ourselves for a little while when things go wrong, but we always get right back up and try again, learning from our mistakes and becoming better and wiser along the way. And we may bicker and fight sometimes when things get rough, but everybody argues with the ones they love every now and then. Families always stick together in the end, and so do we...because we're more than just a team -- we're a family, too!
Seeing the look of determination in James's emerald-green eyes as he held that tiny piece of Amberite in his hands made me sure that he was going to be okay. He was through feeling sorry for himself, and he was ready to move on. I knew that leaving him alone for awhile was the best thing I could do -- he needed this time to himself.
Jessie, however, was another story.
Art projects were one thing, but robbery was something else entirely. Jessie was putting herself in danger by going back to the city, and I had to make sure she didn't get hurt again.
Suddenly, I remembered that Jessie was probably waiting impatiently for me to return with my costume. I'd already wasted a lot of time, and if I wasted much more, she was probably going to leave without me!
"Okay. I understand, James," I said. "I wanted ta go out anyway...get some fresh air. I'll be back later."
James nodded. "Have fun."
"I'll try," I replied. "And good luck with whatever it is yer makin'."
He smiled. "Thanks."
After saying our good-byes, I got dressed in my Black Arachnid costume and hurried back to where I'd left Jessie, hoping that she'd still be there waiting for me.
There was no need for me to worry -- Jessie hadn't left without me. And as you can guess, she was absolutely thrilled to see me!
"You certainly took your sweet time!" she snapped.
"Lay off!" I snapped back. "I had ta check on James first!"
Jessie's face fell when I mentioned his name.
"It's okay," I told her. "He ain't upset no more. He'll be just fine by himself for a couple a hours. I wouldn't be here if he weren't."
She nodded. "Then let's get going -- we have work to do!"
With that, the two of us raced away into the night, heading back to Katalia City as fast as we could.
"So, what's yer plan, Jess?" I asked once we'd reached the city limits. "How d'ya expect ta rob another house now dat Officer Jenny knows who we are...and how ta stop us?"
Jessie waggled her finger. "You're forgetting something, Meowth."
"Officer Jenny only thinks she's stopped us!" came her reply. "She thinks she's made the city a safer place and that there's nothing to worry about now. The last thing she'll be expecting is another robbery!"
"Point," I conceded. "But where are we gonna strike?"
"Let's get a phone book," she said.
"The phone book?! Ya mean ya don't even have a target, yet?!" I cried. "Yer just gonna pick some random address outta the telephone directory?! Jeezus tap-dancin' Christ, Jessie, is it any wonder ya got caught last time?! Dat's more like somethin' a common street-thug would do...not a master thief!"
"Will you shut up?!" she hissed, grabbing me by my cloak and dragging me with her as she headed up the street. "I know what I'm doing!"
"Dat's what ya said last time!"
Jessie stopped and glared at me. "Look, are you going to help me, or not?!"
"Of course I'm gonna help ya, but I don't see how...."
Jessie held up a hand and silenced me. "It's all part of my plan. James and I had an itinerary before those brats showed up and ruined everything -- we cased a lot of the houses beforehand so we'd know where to break in, how to break in, and what to take. We're simply going to call up the next victim that was on our list and let him know that he's about to have the honor of being robbed by the Black Arachnid II!"
I felt a sweatdrop rolling down the side of my face. "Okay, now I KNOW ya lost it!" I snapped. "Tauntin' the victim and drawin' the police's attention was our big mistake last time! What the hell makes ya so sure we can pull it off now?!"
"Because we survive by learning from our mistakes," she replied.
I rolled my eyes. "Jessie, the Black Arachnid was an expert -- he could get away with tauntin' his victims cuz he knew what he was doin'...but even he got caught eventually! So, what makes ya think a couple a losers like us even stand a chance?!"
Jessie smirked, and a mischievous light glinted in her sapphire-blue eyes. "Trust me. I know what I'm doing."
"Whatever," I sighed.
After a couple minutes of searching, we found a pay-phone. Grabbing the phone book from its slot, Jessie began to flip through the pages until she found the name she was looking for. She grinned as she entered the number and waited for somebody on the other end to pick up.
"Hello? May I speak with Mr. King, please?" she asked in a posh British accent. (Dat's Jess for ya -- she's a master of disguisin' her voice. She can sound like anybody...or anything!) "Who am I? I'm Mr. King's insurance agent, and in light of the recent burglaries, I have important business matters to discuss with him....Yes, I know this is a rather odd hour to be calling, but we've been dreadfully busy this past week....Yes, I'll hold. Thank you."
I snickered. Jessie turned and winked at me.
"Ahem! Yes, is this Arthur King?" she asked after a moment. Then, in her regular voice, "It is? Well, then I've got a message for you! This is the Black Arachnid II, and I want your art collection. I'll be at your manor to pick it up at midnight."
"But...but...this is impossible! I thought Officer Jenny stopped those copy-cat burglars yesterday!" the audibly agitated Arthur King shouted on the other end.
Jessie laughed. "Well, think again!"
"You won't get away with this!" he cried. "I'm calling the police! You'll have to get through their entire force to get to my treasure!"
"What a dork," I muttered.
"Oh, please! You really think a couple of cops and spider webs are enough to stop the great Black Arachnid?!" Jessie retorted. "I blow my nose at you, Arthur King...."
"You and all yer silly English kniggits!" I chimed in.
Jessie covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a fit of laughter.
I quickly snatched the phone away from her. "Ah, yer mudda was a hamster, and yer fadda smelled of elderberries! See ya at midnight, punk!" I shouted into the receiver.
Jessie was still laughing when I hung up the phone.
"Damn! Dat was fun!" I said.
"Yeah! A lot more fun than writing a letter!" Jessie chuckled as she brushed her tears away. "We should call him up again and taunt him a second time!"
"Well, with a name like Arthur King, dat guy was just BEGGIN' ta be taunted!" I told her.
Jessie laughed again. "I wonder if he has a Holy Grail in his art collection!"
Now both of us were laughing.
"Only one way ta find out! Let's hurry and break into his place before Officer Jenny shows up!" I exclaimed.
"Not so fast, Meowth!" Jessie said, grabbing onto my cloak.
"In order for this plan to succeed, we need to wait until the police show up at his place," she told me.
I gave her a quizzical look. "I said it before, and I'm sayin' it again...huh?"
Jessie's eyes glinted again. "We're not going to take Arthur King's art collection."
"Den why....?" That's when the realization struck me. "Oh!"
She grinned. "That's right. Once the police are at his house, waiting for us to show up, we can strike somewhere else, and nobody will even know! And we'll be long gone by the time they figure it out!"
"Heh, heh! Now DAT'S an ingenious plan! I'm sorry I doubted ya, Jess!"
"Come on," she said. "Let's just keep a low profile until we're sure Officer Jenny and the others are out of our way."
I nodded, and the two of us ducked into a dark alley. A few minutes later, the blaring of sirens could be heard as Officer Jenny raced by on her motorcycle. About ten other police officers followed close behind. They all had Spinarak with them.
"So, where are we gonna go?" I whispered once the police had passed.
Yeah, dat's exactly what James said when I asked him about the Amberite! Sheesh! I'm outta the loop on everything tonight! I said to myself as I followed her.
When we arrived at our destination, I nearly fell over. I couldn't believe Jessie had enough gall to attempt a robbery at....
"THE POLICE STATION?!" I cried.
"Shhh!" Jessie hissed, scooping me into her arms and putting a hand over my mouth. "Keep it down, will you?"
"But dere's plenty of rich people with houses ta rob!" I protested, my voice dropping to a whisper. "Why d'ya wanna rob the police station, of all places?!"
As I looked up at Jessie, I realized that she was probably carrying one hell of a grudge against Officer Jenny. Not only because she and a lot of the other Jennies were always trying to arrest us, but because this particular Jenny's ancestor was the one who'd apprehended the Black Arachnid. Jessie had a score to settle...and what better way to settle it than by outsmarting the descendant of the woman who'd brought the tale of her hero to a tragic end?
It was brilliant! Crazy, but brilliant!
"Now, just keep quiet and stay close," she whispered as we entered the station.
"Yeah," I replied. "Dere's probably surveillance and security equipment everywhere!"
Jessie paused. "You're right. I'll bet this place is lousy with Spinarak webs!"
"Why would dey have Spinarak webs in the middle of dere office?" I asked. "Dey wouldn't be able ta walk around!"
"Not here," she replied. "In the back...where they keep the evidence."
I smiled. Police usually kept stolen valuables from larceny cases to use as evidence. "So, we're gonna steal back what we rightfully stole?"
Yes, this was definitely a brilliant plan.
Sticking to the high-traffic areas where there weren't likely to be any webs, Jessie and I made our way through the main office. When we reached the door to the evidence storage room, I brought out my claws and proceeded to pick the lock. For several minutes it resisted and strained against me, and I could feel rivers of sweat rolling down my face.
Whadda we doin' here anyway?! Dis is madness! I said to myself. Any second now, dose cops are gonna figure out we pulled a fast one on 'em, and dey're gonna come back here and catch us!
But just as I was about to lose all hope, I heard Jessie mutter, "Hmmph. The Black Arachnid's Meowth would've had that lock picked ages ago."
Oh, yeah?! Well I'll show you! I thought. If the Black Arachnid's Meowth coulda done it, den so can I, dammit!
Redoubling my efforts, I was soon able to finnesse the lock, and it gave way before my claws. As the door swung open, we found ourselves looking into a wide, shallow room. Just beyond a chain-link fence was a large shelf filled with valuables.
"Good work, Meowth. I knew you could do it," said Jessie.
For a moment, I thought she was being two-faced, but as she looked down at me and smiled, I realized that she'd just been goading me with her remark about the Black Arachnid's Meowth. I didn't know whether to be flattered that she had faith in my abilities and wanted me to do my best or angry that she'd been messing with my head.
Since there'd already been enough trouble between us today, I decided to be gracious and take her compliment for what it was. "Thanks," I replied.
Jessie raised an eyebrow. "Now it gets a little dicier."
"The Spinarak webs?"
I peered into the room. "Dey must be invisible," I remarked.
"Not for long!" Jessie chuckled.
With that, she filled a long, hollow tube with some of her rose-scented talcum powder. When she blew on one end of the tube, the powder exploded from the other end and filled the room with an enormous cloud of dust. After a few minutes, the dust settled, and all of the once-invisible Spinarak webs were coated with a layer of pale pink powder. The entire room looked as if it were filled with cobwebs, like an abandoned house that hadn't been cleaned in years.
"Good thinkin', Jess," I said. "But how're we supposed ta get through dose things?"
She smiled again and brought out one of her poke balls. When she threw it, Arbok emerged.
"Arbok, cut through those webs with Poison Sting," she commanded.
"Chaaaaa!" the cobra hissed as she fired a barrage of poisoned barbs at the webs and sliced through them.
"Good girl, Arbok!" Jessie said once the webs were clear. Then, she called back her pokemon, and we entered the room.
Unsheathing my claws once again, I picked at the lock on the chain-link fence's gate. This lock wasn't nearly as strong as the last one had been, and it was less than a minute before we were in.
"Cha-ching!" Jessie laughed as she surveyed the contents of the shelves.
Looking around, I saw a lot of the stuff that we'd stolen over the past week -- jewelry, goblets, vases...even the little jade bowl I'd been eating from! Everything had tags with names and addresses on them, so the police would know who to return the items to once the investigation was complete.
Quickly, the two of us began gathering everything from the shelves. While I was shoving some of it into a large bag that Jessie had brought along, I saw her grab a small metal box and try to open it. When the lid wouldn't budge, she slammed it a few times and pried at the lock. After a couple of minutes, she managed to get it open and smiled. Then, she hurriedly closed the box again and tucked it into the folds of her cloak.
Before I could ask her what was in the box, however, the clock in the office area began to chime.
"It's midnight," Jessie whispered. "We can't fool them much longer."
"Yeah," I agreed. "Let's get outta here."
So, grabbing a few more items from the shelves and tossing them into our bag, we left the storage area. Before returning to the office, however, Jessie paused and traced something in the talcum powder that covered the floor. When I looked, I saw that she'd written, The Black Arachnid lives! >D
Heh. Good ol' Jess. Can't resist the urge ta rub it in Officer Jenny's face dat we outsmarted her, I mused.
Once we were out of the police station, I felt a wave of euphoria wash over me. It felt good to have all of our stuff back, and it felt even better to know that we'd pulled off such a flawless heist! I was beginning to see why Jessie had been so hell-bent over this plan!
"Heh. I wonder what Jimmy's gonna say when we get back ta the cabin with all dis...."
"We're not bringing all of that stuff back with us," said Jessie. "Just pick one or two things that you really like to keep for yourself -- we're pawning the rest of it."
"What?! Why?!" I asked.
"Makes it more difficult for the police," she explained. "They can't trace the burglary back to us if we don't have the stolen goods!"
"Hmmm...good point," I said.
Finding cover in another alley, the two of us opened the bag and removed all of the name and address labels from the valuables. Then, we sorted through them and decided what to keep and what to sell.
"This is definitely a keeper!" Jessie said, holding up a small jewelry box. The box was made from cherry wood, carved with beautiful, ornate designs, and it was accented by emeralds, sapphires, and rubies.
"Good choice," I commented.
"What about you, Meowth? What are you going to keep?"
Surveying the items for a moment, I finally decided on the little jade bowl that I'd been eating from the day before. It was the deepest, richest, most beautiful shade of green I'd ever seen -- the exact same shade as James's eyes! And the food really did taste better when I'd eaten from it. How could I NOT keep it?!
Jessie smiled when she saw what I'd chosen. "Ready?"
With that, we placed the valuables back into the bag, and Jessie took off the hat, cat-glasses, and cloak of her disguise. She then ran a hand through her hair and put on a pair of dark sunglasses.
"Heh. Ya look more like a socialite from one of dose mansions we robbed den a down-and-out cat-burglar!" I remarked.
"Of course!" she replied. "How do you think it'd look if the Black Arachnid II showed up in a pawn shop with a big bag of valuables right after a burglary?"
"Well, it sure as hell wouldn't look good," I said.
She nodded. "Precisely. So, you just wait here and hold onto my costume while I take this to the pawn shop. I'll be back as soon as I can."
I wasn't comfortable with Jessie going off alone, but I knew that if I went with her, it would only rouse more suspicion. It was common knowledge in Katalia City that the Black Arachnid worked with a Meowth...and by now, they probably knew that a Meowth had been involved in the past week's burglaries as well. No, going with Jessie would raise too many questions. By herself, she'd at least have a chance at remaining anonymous.
"Okay," I said. "Just be careful."
"Don't worry. I will."
With that, Jessie left the alley and started heading up the street. I watched her for several minutes until she disappeared around a corner.
My heart started racing once she was out of sight, and I had to resist the urge to leave the cover of the alley and shadow her. No! I promised Jessie I'd stay here, and dat's what I'm gonna do! I told myself. Going out dere now would only put both of us in danger!
Still, I couldn't help but wonder if something bad was going to happen.
As if to confirm my fears, Officer Jenny and another police officer suddenly rounded the corner and started heading up the street on their motorcycles. I broke out in a cold sweat and ducked back into the alley as they approached.
And wouldn't you know, as they drew closer, the traffic light just outside the alley turned red, and the two of them stopped only a few feet away from me.
It figures, I said to myself.
"I still can't believe it was a false alarm!" the policeman remarked as they waited for the light to turn green.
"Well, the burglars didn't show up at midnight like they promised, and Spinarak and I didn't find any evidence of a pre-emptive break-in," came Officer Jenny's reply. "It was probably just some kids making a prank call."
"No doubt," said the other officer.
Dey obviously ain't seen what we did at the station yet! I said to myself.
As this thought crossed my mind, however, it reminded me that we only had a small window of time before they got back to the station and discovered that they'd been robbed...and that window was quickly closing on us!
Come on...hurry up, Jessie!
"Hey! Is it true that those copy-cat burglars actually fell asleep in Mr. Wycliffe's attic yesterday?" the policeman asked, changing the subject.
"Yeah!" Officer Jenny laughed. "They may have snuck by everybody getting in, but they obviously never thought about how they were going to escape!"
Now the policeman was laughing, too. "There's one for the stupid criminal file, if ever I heard one!"
"They were pretty dumb!" she agreed. "Real amateurs!"
Well, I know we'd made a few mistakes during our last heist, but hearing them insult us like that made my blood boil! I wanted to charge out and Fury Swipe the two of them, but I forced myself to remain calm. If I revealed myself now, I'd just be putting myself...and Jessie in danger.
Yeah, we was stupid enough ta know you'd fall for the same trick twice! I thought. We was dumb enough ta pull one over on you!
For several minutes the traffic light remained red, and I found myself becoming even more jittery than I already was. Remaining perfectly quiet and sitting perfectly still was driving me crazy -- it was all I could do to keep from screaming!
It seemed like an eternity, but the light eventually turned green, and the two police officers sped away. Once they were gone, I collapsed and breathed a sigh of relief.
As I tried to calm myself and gather my thoughts, I heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and a shadow fell across my face. Panic seized me for a moment, but then, I looked and saw who it was.
"Jessie!" I exclaimed. "Thank goodness yer okay!"
Jessie grinned at me and tossed her hair. "Well, of course I'm okay. Why wouldn't I be?"
I then told her about my close encounter with the police.
"Well no wonder you're so spooked!" she said. Then, casting a nervous glance around, she fell to her knees and placed a hand over her heart. "I know I am -- I had a close call, too!"
She nodded. "They drove right past me while I was walking down the street on my way back from the pawn shop!" she told me. "I couldn't duck for cover or run when I saw them coming -- it would've looked too suspicious. So, I just had to stay on the sidewalk and pretend that I was an ordinary citizen and that nothing strange was going on. They slowed down and looked real hard at me while they were driving by, but they didn't recognize me...."
And dey called US dumb?! Sheesh!
"....Fortunately, a pocket full of money is more easily concealed than a big bag of valuables," she continued.
"Speakin' of money, how'd things go at the pawn shop?" I asked.
"It took a bit of haggling, but I was able to get $60,000 for everything," came her reply.
I fell over when I heard this. "$60,000?! Damn, dat's a lotta money!"
And it was -- if we split the money equally, we'd each have $20,000 to spend however we chose! I'd never had that kind of money before, and visions of giant balls of catnip and lavish feasts served on plates of gold danced through my head. Then, something else occurred to me....
Hey! Now dat I'm rich, maybe I have a chance with Meowsie! If I can give her anything her heart desires, maybe she'll realize how much I love her...and she'll fall in love with me, too....
"Ow! What was dat for?!" I cried, rubbing the sore spot on my head where Jessie hit me with her paper fan.
"Stop daydreaming!" she snapped. "We still have work to do!"
She nodded. "Come on. Let's go."
Just as she was about to step from the alley, however, several more police officers approached on their motorcycles, (heading back to the station, no doubt). Jessie managed to duck back into the shadows before any of them saw her, but all of the color drained from her face as they sped by.
"See what I mean?" she said after they'd passed. "We don't have much time left, and there's still something important we have to do!"
"You'll see. Just follow me!"
"Well, whaddaya gonna do with yer share, of the money, Jess?" I asked, changing the subject.
Jessie grinned. "The same thing the Black Arachnid did with the money he got from his heists, of course!"
I had no idea what that was supposed to mean, and every time I asked her to elaborate, she'd just smile and tell me that I had to wait and see.
Not wanting to risk another run-in with the cops, Jessie and I kept to the alleys and back streets. With each block, our surroundings seemed to get seedier and seedier. Before long, it looked like we were in a completely different city!
"Hmmmph. This is the part of Katalia City they never tell you about," Jessie remarked.
"The wrong side a town, huh?"
I sighed as I looked at the crumbling apartment buildings and garbage-strewn streets. This place reminded me of the neighborhood where I'd spent my early years. Memories of cold nights sleeping in the gutter and rummaging through dumpsters for my meals came unbidden to me. It all seemed so far away and long ago now that I was with Jessie and James, but I couldn't deny that this life was a part of me. It always had been, and it always would be. One can never fully leave their past behind...no matter how much they may want to.
And apparently, Jessie felt the same way I did. She'd come from this kind of life too, after all.
"Whadda we doin' here, Jess?" I asked.
She gave no reply, just started walking down the street. I followed.
Jessie eventually led me to a small, run-down building at the edge of the city. A weather-beaten sign that read, Mercy House hung on the door.
A shelter? What's Jessie doin' here?! I wondered.
I heard a sniffling noise and saw that Jessie was crying.
That was when the realization struck me! "Y-yer gonna give yer share of the money ta dis place, ain't ya?"
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I suddenly felt selfish for thinking of buying things for myself while my friend was going to use her money to help others.
"It's so unfair," she muttered. "That those rich people we robbed have so much while so many of their neighbors are homeless and starving. How can people with the means to help sit idly by and allow this to happen?"
"I...I don't want my share of the money anymore," I told her. "I wanna help, too."
I nodded. "And if he knew what you was doin', I'm sure James'd give up his share, too."
"You're right," she said. "He never was like those uncaring rich people. He always wants to do whatever he can to help others."
"Ah, whadda we need all dat money for anyway?" I said. "Dese people could use it more den us. Besides, we got a few nice things ta keep for ourselves!"
Jessie smiled and picked me up. "Exactly! But more important than that, we have each other...and that's more valuable than anything we can steal," she said, planting a kiss on my golden charm. "Thank you for being such a good friend, Meowth. Thank you for understanding...."
I smiled and hugged back.
When Jessie put me down, she took a large envelope from her pocket and counted the money that was inside of it. Satisfied that it was all there, she crossed the street and knocked on the door of the shelter. She then placed the envelope on the doorstep, and the two of us ducked into another alley.
After a moment, the door opened, and a care-worn old woman stepped out. "Hello? Who's there?" she called into the darkness.
It was then that she looked down and saw the envelope Jessie had left. When she picked up the envelope and saw what was inside, the look of weariness on her face became a beam of pure joy.
"It's a miracle!" she cried. "A miracle!"
"What is?" an old man asked, coming to the woman's side.
"Look!" she exclaimed, holding up the envelope. "Look what somebody left us!"
The man took it from her and counted the money. The grim look on his face became one of happiness.
"Now we can buy new school clothes for the children, and better food...and maybe even toys this Christmas!" the woman said dreamily.
I looked up at Jessie again and saw that she was still crying. "Hey, are you gonna be okay?" I whispered.
"Yeah...yeah, I think I'm going to be just fine," she replied. "And so are they."
"How did this happen?" the old woman asked.
"Well, I heard on the news that the Black Arachnid was back in town," came the old man's reply.
"The Black Arachnid? That's impossible!" said the woman. "He died almost 100 years ago!"
"Maybe so...but this can't be a coincidence," he told her. "Perhaps his spirit lives on in whoever was trying to emulate him."
"Perhaps," she echoed. Then, casting one last look into the night, "Thank you, Black Arachnid...or whoever you are...."
After the old man and woman went back inside, Jessie started crying again.
"The Black Arachnid...he was like Robin Hood, wasn't he?" I asked.
She nodded and brushed her tears away. "Yes...yes, he was."
"Wow! I didn't know dat," I said. "I thought he was just some master thief."
"He was a master thief," she replied. "But he was so much more. Come with me, Meowth. There's still something we have to do."
After our hard night's work, I had no idea what we still had left to do, but from the tone of Jessie's voice, I could tell it was something important. So, I offered no protests as she led me out of town and back to the forest.
At first, it seemed like we were heading back to the cabin, but Jessie took a different path than the one we'd used that morning, and we soon found ourselves in a small clearing. The trees of the forest formed a perfect circle around the clearing, and there were two cairns in the center. Silver moonlight shone down on the cairns, bathing them in a soft, pale glow. There was an air of holiness about the entire area, like a gathering place of Druids from an old Celtic myth.
"What is dis place?" I asked.
"This is the final resting place of the Black Arachnid," came Jessie's reply.
"But why would he be buried all the way out here?"
She smiled. "Officer Jenny's ancestor may have caught him, but she couldn't hold onto him for long! He and his Meowth broke out of jail a few days later. After that, the two of them decided to stay in the forest, where they'd be out of her jurisdiction. They spent the rest of their days here, and they just made their living robbing the rich peoples' coaches when they came and went from town. They lived to a ripe, old age, and when they died, they were buried here. The people the Black Arachnid and his Meowth helped erected these monuments in their honor."
"Dat's cool!" I said, looking again at the cairns.
"Ever since I was a little girl, the Black Arachnid fascinated me," Jessie continued. "We had a chapter on the history of Katalia City when I was in school, but the part about the Black Arachnid was more like something Officer Jenny would tell you. All it really said about him was that he was a thief and that he was finally brought to justice by an Officer Jenny who used a Spinarak.
"I don't know why, but something about that man intrigued me, and I knew that I had to learn more! So, after school, I started going to the library and looking for books about him. The stuff they never tell you in class," she said. "And I wasn't disappointed by what I found, either -- I soon learned that the Black Arachnid was legendary...the greatest thief of all time! But what really got to me was that he wasn't just a master -- he was a hero! He was born to a rich family, but he hated how phony and affected they were, so he ran away...."
"Whoa! Sounds a lot like James!" I remarked.
Jessie's eyes widened. "You're right! It does! Maybe that's another reason I admire the Black Arachnid so much...or another reason I love James so much! Maybe both!" Now she was laughing.
"It must take real courage ta be able ta walk away from a life like dat," I said. "I know when I found out about James and his family, my respect for him increased tenfold!"
"Same here," she whispered. "I don't know if I told this to you, Meowth, but that was the day I finally admitted to myself that I was in love with him. I wish I'd been able to admit it to him, but at least I stopped lying to myself."
I grinned. "I think I knew you was in love with James before even you did! Ya always been in love with him as far as I know!"
"Okay, I'll stop embarrasin' ya now," I chuckled. "Tell me more about ol' Black Ac!"
Jessie smiled again. "Well, after he ran away from home, he saw how the poor people in the city lived, and it broke his heart. He vowed to do something to help them, so he began taking the excesses of the rich and sharing them with those who needed it.
"After a couple of years, he found a stray Meowth kitten and took him in. The kitten loved him and followed him everywhere he went, and he eventually learned the tricks of the trade by watching his master in action. He learned how to pick locks, how to open doors...he even learned how to wear disguises and walk on his hind legs! By the time he was a full-grown cat, he'd become the Black Arachnid's partner."
"Whoa! His Meowth sounds a lot like me!"
Jessie winked at me. "The only thing he couldn't do was talk! But what it comes down to is that the Black Arachnid and his Meowth were no ordinary bandits -- they only stole from the rich, and even though they kept a few things for themselves, they shared most of the spoils with the poor people of Katalia City."
Hearing Jessie's words made me think again of the motto she and James had recited while we were trying to steal the rich man's trophy last night:
"To protect the world from its own greed!"
"To steal all the treasure that they don't need!"
"To work every heist like there are none other!"
"And split the spoils with one another!"
"Yeah! Just like Robin Hood!" I exclaimed.
Jessie sighed. "Meowth, that man was God to me...and in a lot of ways, he still is. He was a true hero, living the life he did...helping all the people he did. Somehow, I get the feeling that if I'd lived back then, or if he were alive when I was little, he'd have helped me, too...."
Finally I understood why Jessie had become so obsessed with being like the Black Arachnid when we'd arrived in Katalia City! She didn't want to be like him so she could be rich or famous -- she saw herself in the poor people of the city, and she wanted to do something to help them! (God knows, somebody had to. Dose rich people didn't give a Raticate's ass about 'em -- all dey could do was whine and complain when somebody took a few trinkets dat dey never used or cared about in the first place!)
"....It made me sad that we never got to hear about all of the wonderful things the Black Arachnid did when I was in school. I don't know of many people who go out and research things just for the sake of knowledge -- too often, they just sit back and blindly accept what the textbooks tell them...and too often, it's nothing more than half-truths or out-and-out lies!" she continued. "That's always the way it is -- everything is black and white. You never hear about the dark side of a lot of so-called heroes, and most of the real heroes get shafted because at first glance, they look like villains."
"So true...so true...." I agreed.
"I never really wanted to be a thief, but this life was kind of forced on me. When I realized that I had no choice but to join Team Rocket...no choice but to become a thief, I decided that the Black Arachnid was the kind of thief I wanted to be," Jessie said, a tear rolling down her cheek. "When we got here, I knew I had to do something spectacular to honor that man -- I wanted to steal stuff from the rich people so I could make a difference. I guess I didn't do a very good job, though. Like you said, he's probably turning over in his grave right now because I'm such a flop...."
"No!" I said. "No, I was wrong, Jessie, and I take back what I said. The Black Arachnid would be proud of ya! Dose people ya gave the money to was right -- his spirit lives on...in you and James."
She looked down at me. "You really mean that, don't you?"
"Words can't do justice to how much I admire him," she said as she looked up at the cairns again. "He's the standard we should all live up to...not just as thieves, but as people."
I nodded. "Yeah. Dis world'd be a better place if more people were like him...if more people cared."
Jessie stepped closer to the cairns and bowed her head. After a moment of silence, she began to sing:
Black Arachnid was a thief who robbed many a man,
He robbed all the treasuries hale;
But that dirty cop with the Spinarak stopped
Poor Black Arachnid and sent him to jail.
On many a night, with the moon shining bright
They robbed all the land's excess fat;
The rich they did say, for many miles away,
They were robbed by the thief and his cat.
He robbed from the rich and was friend to the poor;
He had a heart and a hand and a mind.
With his faithful Meowth, he robbed the wealthy South
And stopped the uncaring and unkind.
When she finished her song, Jessie took a white rose from the folds of her cloak. "Good bye, Black Arachnid. May the memory of your heroic deeds last forever," she said softly. With that, she kissed the petals of the rose and laid the flower atop the stones of the cairn.
I came to Jessie's side and placed my paw on the smaller of the cairns. "I ain't got nothin' ta offer 'cept my respect, but hearin' about what ya did...what ya inspired my friend ta do, ya sure have earned it. Here's hopin' dis city...dis world sees more copy-cat burglars. Somebody needs ta keep the hope alive...."
Jessie knealt down and hugged me. I could feel that she was crying again.
"Hey, are you okay, Jess?"
She pulled away slightly. When she smiled at me, I could see that her tears were of joy. "Yes," she replied. "I'm okay now. Thank you for coming with me, Meowth. Thank you for helping me...for understanding why this meant so much to me."
"Ah, don't mention it," I said as I felt tears stinging my eyes.
Jessie hugged me again before getting back to her feet. "Come on. Our work is done. Let's go home."
With that, Jessie found the path and started making her way back to the cabin. Before following her, I turned and looked one last time at the grave of the Black Arachnid and his Meowth.
I was definitely wrong about ya dis past week, Jessie I thought. The Black Arachnid and his Meowth was real heroes...and so are you....
When we finally arrived back at the cabin, it was almost three in the morning.
"Heh. I am going to have one hell of a time getting up in the morning," Jessie chuckled when she saw how late it was.
"Same here," I said. "Jimmy's probably gonna wonder why we're so tired!"
"Probably," she echoed as she headed for the bathroom.
After a couple of minutes, I heard the water start to run. I decided to look in on James while she took her shower.
When I got to James's room, I found him sound asleep in his bed. Wondering how his art project was coming along, I searched the room for a few minutes until I found it sitting atop his dresser. The project was now finished, and I tell you, I practically fell over when I saw what he'd made with that little chip of Amberite.
"Oh, my God! James, dis officially makes you the sweetest person in existence!" I whispered as I gazed at his handiwork.
I looked again at James. The peaceful look on his face as he slept told me that he, too, was happy with how his project had turned out. I couldn't wait until tomorrow morning -- I wanted to see the look on Jessie's face when he showed it to us!
As I turned to leave, however, something else atop the dresser caught my eye. When I looked, I saw that they were photographs from James's childhood. In all of the pictures, little James and an old man were doing something together -- there was a picture of the two of them picking roses, there was one of the old man reading a book while James and little Growly sat and listened...and there was one of the old man holding a box filled with shiny, golden bottle-caps while little James held up a bottle-cap with a big star in the center.
Dis must be his grand-papa, I said to myself.
I looked more closely at the old man and noticed what a striking resemblance James bore to him. He had the same hair, the same facial features, and even the same sparkling green eyes! And I could tell from the loving expression on the old man's face that James had inherited his disposition, too. Somehow, I knew that this was what James was going to be like when he got older.
A tear rolled down my cheek as I looked at the pictures. Old Jim Morgan had truly loved his grandson, and the feelings were mutual. I thought again of those bottle-caps and how deeply James had been hurt by throwing them away, and I felt a pang of sorrow. James was, indeed, the sweetest person in existence to make something so beautiful after losing something so important to him.
Quietly, I made my way over to the bed and jumped up next to James. He rolled over to face me, but he didn't wake up.
"James, yer the best," I whispered, brushing his silky blue-violet hair out of his face. "I bet yer grand-papa is so proud of you right now. I know I am. Me and Jess are the luckiest people in the world ta have ya with us...we love ya so much."
I leaned down and gave James a kiss on his cheek. Then, I covered him with his blanket and left him to his pleasant dreams.
By the time I left James's room, Jessie had finished taking her shower, and she was in her own room, getting ready for bed. She was holding the small metal box I'd seen her hiding in the folds of her cloak earlier and emptying its contents into the cherry wood jewelry box that she'd kept for herself.
"Hey. What's in the box?" I asked.
Jessie sweatdropped as she turned to face me.
"Some kinda secret?" I ventured.
She relaxed a little. "Yeah...yeah, it's a surprise."
I smiled. Tomorrow morning was going to be filled with pleasant surprises!
"I really had fun tonight. Thanks again for lettin' me come along."
She returned the smile. "Don't mention it."
For several minutes, I stayed and watched as Jessie brushed her long mane of crimson hair. She looked like an angel when her hair was down, and after seeing her in action, I was only further convinced that she had the soul of an angel, too. James was just as lucky to have her as she was to have him...and I was lucky to have both of them!
When Jessie finished brushing her hair, she climbed into bed, and she offered no protests as I climbed in with her. She even put her arms around me and held me to her, scratching behind my ears and stroking my fur, just like James had.
"Good night, Meowth," she muttered. "Sweet dreams."
"Same ta you, Jess."
As I snuggled into Jessie, she kissed the golden charm on my forehead once again, and I began to purr as the two of us drifted off to sleep.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of clattering pots and pans coming from the kitchen. I was alone in bed, and the air was thick with a smoky smell.
It could mean only one thing -- Jessie was trying to cook!
Quickly, I left the bedroom and ran to the kitchen, and sure enough, Jessie was using the fire extinguisher to douse a small flame coming from the stove burner. Flour, sugar, eggs, and milk, were all over the place, and it looked like a hurricane had just blown through. Even Jessie's face and the front of her red nightie were dusted with flour.
"I bet dere's a really good horror story behind dis," I commented.
"Oh, shut up," she grumbled. "You're no better at cooking than I am!"
"Ya got me dere," I sighed.
Jessie frowned as she looked around at the disaster-area that used to be the kitchen. "I wanted to surpise James with breakfast in bed."
"Oh, he's gonna be surprised, all right!"
"I guess I'm just going to have to cheat," she said.
Jessie grinned and brought a box of waffles from the freezer. "From now on, I'm leaving the making things from scratch to James."
"Good idea," I chuckled.
With that, Jessie put the waffles into the toaster. While we were waiting for them to cook, I helped her wipe off the counter top and clean all of the dishes she'd dirtied. Once the waffles were done, Jessie sprayed some whipped cream onto them and topped them with fresh strawberries.
"Well, I'll be damned! Dose actually look good enough ta eat!" I remarked.
Jessie stuck her tongue out at me as she placed a single red rose into a vase and put it on a tray table with the plate of waffles. "I like to think that I've picked up a thing or two after all these years of watching James cook," she retorted.
"Come on, Meowth!" she said, winking at me. "Breakfast is served!"
When we got to James's room, we found him standing before the mirror, brushing his hair. He quickly set down his hairbrush and grabbed his Amberite creation, hiding it in his pocket when he saw us.
"Jessie? Meowth? What are you doing here?" he asked nervously.
"Surprise!" Jessie said, holding up the tray table.
His eyes widened when he saw the waffles. "Jessie, those look delicious! Did you make them yourself?"
Jessie blushed. "Well...actually, I wanted to make pancakes for you, but the batter didn't turn out right. And then, when I tried to cook them, they were all burnt on the outside and raw on the inside, and I set the stove on fire...."
"Don't worry -- Meowth and I cleaned it all up!" she added, setting the tray table down on his bed. "These are just toaster waffles. I'm pretty sure I didn't screw them up."
"What is it, Jess?"
"Um...I'm...I'm really sorry about what I said to you yesterday," she muttered, hanging her head. "And...I'm sorry about making you throw away your bottle-caps. Can you ever forgive me?"
James cupped her chin in his hand and forced her to look up at him. "Of course I forgive you," he said softly.
Jessie put her arms around him and began to run her fingers through his hair. "James, why didn't you tell me that those bottle-caps belonged to your grand-papa?" she asked.
"I didn't think I had to," he replied. "I told you they were important to me and that I didn't want to throw them away. That should've been enough."
"Well, it wasn't. I was...I was so caught up in my plan that I never really stopped and thought about you," she confessed. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Jess," he said, returning her embrace. "I already said I'm not mad anymore."
"I felt really bad about what I did to you yesterday. And when I came to your room to apologize, I overheard you telling Meowth about how you and your grand-papa collected those bottle-caps together and how he left them to you when he died," she continued. "James, you can't imagine how awful I felt when you said that...when I realized just what a terrible thing I'd done to you! Making you throw away your grand-papa's bottle-caps...that'd be like making me throw away something I got from my momma! I had no right to do that to you, James...."
"Well, did you overhear when I told Meowth why I did it anyway?" he asked.
Jessie shook her head.
James smiled tenderly at her. "I did it because I love you," came his reply. "Jessie, I know all about the Black Arachnid and all of the wonderful things he did for the poor people of Katalia City during his life. I know how much you looked up to him and how much you wanted to be like him...and I knew that I had to do whatever I could to help you do that...."
"You're more important to me than bottle-caps, Jess. If I loved the bottle-caps more, I would've kept them, no matter how much you yelled at me. It is possible for me to stand up to the all-mighty Jessie Parker, you know," he continued as he gently tweaked her nose.
"Oh, James," she whispered as she held him closer and pressed her lips to his.
The two of them remained that way for several minutes, and even when their kiss ended, they didn't break from their embrace. Instead, they held each other closer than ever and gazed lovingly into each other's eyes.
"I definitely made the right choice," James said at length. "I can always start a new bottle-cap collection and dedicate it to my grand-papa, but I could never replace you."
"James...I have something to tell you," Jessie muttered as she began to trace patterns on his chest with the tip of her finger.
James blushed. "What?"
She smiled shyly at him. "Well...last night, I snuck out of the cabin and went back to the city," she began.
"I...I didn't like how things ended for us -- I had to go back and commit another robbery," she explained. "And...I got a little something for you while I was there."
James's eyes widened. "You did? What?"
Jessie's face turned as red as her hair. "James...can I help you start your new bottle-cap collection?"
"Of course you can, Jess! We'll collect them together, just like grand-papa and I did!"
She smiled again. "Good! Then let's start your new collection now!" she said, bringing the cherry wood jewelry box from the folds of her nightgown. "With this!"
"Jessie, it's beautiful!" he gasped as he took the box from her. "Is this one of the things you stole?"
She nodded. "I got it just for you. Now open it up!"
James gave her a quizzical look as he lifted the lid of the box, but his face lit up when he saw what was inside.
"My bottle-caps!" he exclaimed. "Jessie, where did you....?"
"Officer Jenny was holding them as evidence," she explained. "When Meowth and I went back to the city, I went to the police station and got them back for you...along with a few other things, of course!"
James looked down at me. "Meowth, you were in on this, too?!"
"Yep!" I replied.
Tears welled up in his emerald eyes as he hugged the box to his chest. "Oh, my God! I can't believe this! You two are the best! Thank you, Jessie...Meowth! Thank you so much!"
Jessie shook her head. "It's nothing. Really. James, after everything you've done for me, setting things right was the very least I could do."
"No, he's right, Jess," I said. "It took real courage...and a real hero ta do all of dat stuff ya did last night." Then, to James, "She didn't tell ya what she did with the money!"
James raised an eyebrow. "Money?"
Jessie's face turned red again. "Meowth!"
I then explained how she'd pawned off a lot of the stolen goods and given all of the money to an orphanage. Her face grew redder with every passing second as I told the tale.
James took Jessie in his arms again and kissed her lightly on her burning-red cheek. "Jessie, you really are the best!" he whispered.
Jessie said nothing, just wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. After another moment of silence, James spoke again.
"Oh! I just remembered...I have something for you, too, Jess."
Jessie looked up at him. "You do?"
He nodded and reached into his pocket. "I made this for you last night."
Her eyes widened.
James gently took her left hand in his own and slid a tiny golden band onto her ring finger. The pinkish-purple Amberite stone in the ring's setting was carved into the shape of a heart, and the words Together forever, and that's my oath to you! were engraved into the band of the ring in the smooth, flowing script that was James's handwriting.
Jessie stared at the ring in wide-eyed shock for several minutes. "James! You made this?!"
James blushed and nodded. "It's a promise ring," he told her. "A promise that I still want to ask you to marry me someday...that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Every time things get rough, I want you to look at that ring and remember my promise...to remember how much I love you."
"Oh, James, it's so beautiful!" she whispered as tears streamed down her face. "I'll never take it off! Ever!"
He brushed her tears away and smiled at her. "I've wanted to give you something like this ever since the night I made that promise. But I never really could until now."
Jessie looked again at the ring. "This stone...oh, my God, James, is this Amberite?!"
"Where did...how did....?" she stammered.
"Let's just say our search for Amberite in Donphan Valley wasn't fruitless after all," he said.
I chuckled as I remembered the story of how he'd watched the Donphan trainer find the Amberite deposits. Yes, James was definitely more clever than he gave himself credit for.
"And I got the band from one of the mansions we robbed earlier this week," he continued. "It was your size, and I liked the design, so I held onto it. Fortunately, I had it in my pocket when we blasted off, so I didn't lose it."
"And last night, I just carved the Amberite, put that engraving on the band, and put the stone in the setting. It's no big deal, and not nearly as nice as something from a real jeweler, but...."
She silenced him by placing her finger to his lips. "No. James, this is the most beautiful ring ever. And the fact that you made it for me only makes it all the more special."
His eyes widened. "Y-you mean that?! You love it that much?!"
"Yes," she replied. "And as much as I love this ring, I love you even more. You're the best, James!"
"So are you, Jess."
Jessie leaned closer and pressed her lips to his. "I love you so much, James...my Baby Burglar," she giggled.
James started giggling as he kissed back. "I love you too, Jessie...my Black Arachnid II."
Their lips met again, this time in a more passionate kiss. As their kiss deepened, James lowered Jessie onto the bed and laid himself on top of her. When they began to undress each other, I figured that was my cue to exit.
So, leaving their room and closing the door behind me, I went back to the kitchen to get myself some breakfast.
Pouring myself a big bowl of cereal and milk (and usin' dat jade bowl, of course), I seated myself on the couch in the living room and turned on the TV. And I tell you, I never laughed so hard at the morning news as I did on that day. The entire Katalia City police department was in an uproar about their police station being robbed the night before while the entire force was out responding to "a prank-call." And a lot of the rich people who'd left their belongings with the police to be used as evidence in bringing the copy-cat burglars to justice were pretty steamed, too. In an unrelated story, the owners of the Mercy House Orphanage were overjoyed about an anonymous charitable donation made the night before, and plans for improving the living conditions for the orphans and reaching out to more of the community were already underway.
I smiled as I lapped up the last of the milk from my new bowl. Yep. We definitely did good, I said to myself. I always knew dat brat was the only reason things go wrong for us. Whenever he ain't around, we seem ta do okay!
My smile grew even wider. We'd done more than okay last night -- we'd done great! It still blew my mind how James had been able to make such a beautiful ring for Jessie after the way she'd hurt him. His heart was purer than the golden band he'd engraved...his soul more precious than the Amberite he'd carved! And so were Jessie's. It took real courage to put herself at risk the way she did for a box full of bottle-caps...and real heart to give a hand up to those in need when, more often than not, we could use a hand up ourselves!
It's mind-boggling, really. Jessie and James have been hurt by so much in their lives. All of the abuse, abandonment, and betrayal. And yet, as deeply as they've been hurt, they've never allowed it to mar the beauty of their souls. Sure, they try to hide that beauty from the rest of the world, but it always shines through in the end.
And after being with them for over two years now, I get the feeling that it's no different for me. I, too, know the pain of abandonment and rejection, but I always thought that it had destroyed me. For the longest time, I thought I was nothing more than a freak -- some creature who was no longer a pokemon, but could never truly be a human. I use my smart mouth to hide my aching heart, and I thought that made me evil. But my friendship with Jessie and James showed me just how wrong I was.
I've learned so much about myself in the time I've been with them. I've learned from their shining example that it is, indeed, possible to find friendship and love after being burned. I've learned that I can make sacrifices for someone I love. I've learned that being in limbo between human and pokemon isn't a bad thing -- that it gives me the best of both worlds. And most importantly of all, I've learned that I'm not useless...that I'm not a freak...and that I'm not evil. Jessie and James wouldn't care so deeply about me if it weren't so. I couldn't ask for better friends than the two of them.
As I thought about my two friends and how much I love them, I was suddenly reminded just how much they love each other. I felt my face turning red as I heard the extatic cries of, "Oh, James!" and the blissful moans of, "Oh, Jessie!" coming from the bedroom, and I realized that they needed more privacy than what I was already giving them.
So, I decided to go outside and take a walk until they'd finished making love.
I didn't regret my decision to come outside, either. It was a beautiful morning, and the rising sun was peeking through the trees, bathing the forest in a soft, rosy glow. The summer had recently drawn to a close, and the late October air was cool and crisp. (And after spendin' the hottest part of the year in the tropical climate of the Orange Islands, it felt especially good ta be back in a more temperate land just in time for fall.)
Our cabin was surrounded by rose bushes, and all of them were in full bloom, perfuming the air with their sweet fragrance. The blossoms were lovely, and I thought of what a nice surprise it would be for Jessie and James if I picked some for them and made a bouquet.
As I began to pick the roses, I found my thoughts drifting back to that photograph I'd seen on James's dresser -- the one of him and his grand-papa in the rose garden. And as I thought about that picture, I suddenly got the feeling that I wasn't alone. (Ya see, when Jessie showed me dose cairns the night before, somethin' told me dat dis entire forest was a sacred place. Dat friendly spirits dwelled in dis hallowed land.) And as I closed my eyes and concentrated for a moment, I knew it to be true -- I could feel old Jim Morgan's spirit with me while I was picking those roses!
I could feel the love the old man had for his grandson...a love that extended to his grandson's friends as well. Perhaps he was like Miyamoto -- another friendly spirit who was always with us...always watching over us. And yes, I knew that Miyamoto was here, too. I still remembered the dream I'd had about her, and what she'd told me about how the power of our friendship and love would always keep us safe from true harm. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that she was here.
And who knows? Maybe the Black Arachnid and his Meowth were here, too. This was their forest, after all, and maybe they watched over those who dwelled here.
At any rate, I felt like I was surrounded by love as I stood there in the forest, picking roses for my two best friends. A sense of peace came over me, and a song began to play in my heart. A song that sounded a little like the one Jessie had sung, only the words were slightly different. And as the song filled me and uplifted my spirit, I began to sing:
Team Rocket -- we're thieves as well as friends,
We travel from city to town;
But no twerp or cop can possibly stop
Team Rocket or bring us down.
The girl and the guy with the gemstone eyes,
The cat with the golden charm;
Those two love each other, and I'm like a brother,
And our love keeps us safe from harm.
Team Rocket will stay together a day beyond forever,
And someday we'll reach our dreams;
Because in the end we'll always be friends;
Now and forever...a team.
The line that James engraved onto Jessie's ring, "Together forever, and that's my oath to you!" is the last line from Team Rocket's Togetherness Song, which was written by Amanda Beadle. I love that song, and that line is just perfect for the promise ring James made. I couldn't resist using it! *_*
The song Jessie sang at the Black Arachnid's grave is based on The Ballade of Jesse James by Billy Gashade. (I used only a few stanzas and greatly altered the lyrics for my own twisted purposes, however. ^_~) Not many people know this, but Jesse James was greatly admired by the poor. He only robbed the wealthy banks and railroads, and he was always willing to lend a hand to the down-and-out. His exploits also made him an icon of freedom -- he stood against the reign of the government and fought for personal liberty. He's kind of like the American version of Robin Hood! Jesse James was more than just an outlaw -- in a lot of ways, he was a hero. (Hmmm...perhaps the translators of Pokemon knew this when they chose our heroes' dub-names!) And that's exactly why I wanted to do a fic about the Black Arachnid -- judging from Jessie and James's beautiful motto in this ep, he was a heroic thief like Robin Hood and Jesse James, and I really think he got shafted in Officer Jenny's completely biased retelling of his tale.
And the song that Meowth sings at the very end of the story, while using the same kind of rhyme scheme as The Ballade of Jesse James is my own creation. Yes, I'm a phenomenally bad poet, and it shows, but I like the words. I think they describe Team Rocket perfectly.
And last but not least, a very special thanks to my friend, Shigeru1313, for the gorgeous picture of our heroes in their Black Arachnid costumes!
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