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Catch Me If I'm Falling

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James knew that in the end he would always run. Even now, curled up in the chair, wave of panic after panic washed over him, yelling at his limbs to tense and spring up from his seat and carry him away from this stretch of the hospital corridor. But the bleach white walls of the waiting area closed in on him with every turn around the corner. The off- color doors of the operating room at the end of the wing were still securely shut. And no matter how fast he ran, how long he attempted to distract himself with the song that played on his ipod nano, the truth always caught up with him and rattled him about with a sinking twist in his stomach and a sob. He was a coward. He was despicable excuse for a human being. What kind of a person would just let everyone walk all over him? Who else would just let people push him down so hard into the ground that he would have been buried six feet under and be left to rot? Why couldn’t he just suck it up and stand up for himself? He could have stood up for Jessie if he weren’t so damn scared but in that moment when Giovanni pointed the gun, he only screamed at her to run because that was all he fucking knew. But he didn’t jump to take that bullet like he should have. That deafening bang rang in his ears. The moonlight shone in the white of her bulging eyes. Her magenta colored hair, almost silver like, flowed behind her as her knees gave. And he screamed again, a scramble ahead too late as she sunk to the ground, just within reach of his hands. Jessie’s body felt so limp in his arms. He clung to her with a wail, but she did not stir. Blood gushed from the tear in her shirt. James did not let go. He pushed Meowth aside, refusing anyone to come close until a paramedic tore her away from him. And then the next thing he knew he was stepping into the blinding light of the emergency room. The doctors were wheeling Jessie away, his feeble hand stretched out, and Meowth’s claws were digging into the fabric of James’ bloodstained blue hoodie as the operating room doors closed. There was nowhere escape to except the confines of his mind and the sleeves of his hoodie. So he found himself alone, guilt ridden, worried sick, and cowardly as ever. He should have protected Jessie. She wouldn’t be fighting for her life if it weren’t for him. She should be there with him and Meowth, and the three of them should be planning to go on the next part of their adventures, and Jessie would chime in with one of those sarcastic comments of hers, and he’d laugh, and feel that uplifting warmth in his chest, to only then be overtaken by that sinking realization of how cowardly he was, and that if he only had the guts, way back then or even now, he would have had the courage to tell her----

“Hey man are you ok?”

The voice: gruff yet, youthful, broke through the twangy croon coming through James’ earbuds. Startled from his train of thought, James took them out, careful not to pull up his hoodie that had been drawn low to hide the tears streaming down his face. He still kept his gaze fixed somewhere between his knee and the floor, not wanting to face the man who sat next to him. His instincts kicked in again, his blood boiled, a low grumble of go away or leave me alone climbed up his throat. But in his desperation, something stranger and stronger than any attempt at keeping him safe overcame his senses. He stopped rocking back in forth in his seat and hoarsely tried to steady his breath. The last of the tears trickled down his cheeks.

“My—My—" He could not find the words to describe her. The lines between teammates, friends, and lovers all paralleled and intersected each other throughout the years, and now he found himself tangled up in trying to decipher the everything that Jessie meant to him, and the distance his cowardly self had propped up between them that he managed to keep so well. A frantic hum vibrated in his throat. It forced its way before James could process what he was saying.

“She’s dying and it’s all my fault! I should’ve protected her but I didn’t and now---oh god what if I lose her? I can’t—I can’t imagine life without her and she doesn’t even know that I love her!”

The words lingered in the air, leaving a hollow pit in James’ chest. He felt the other earbud fall out and gazed over to the side to see that it now dangled on his knee. His thumb traced the ipod’s click wheel and grazed over the stop button. He pressed it. The music stopped.

“Why do you think that?” The man asked.

“What do you mean? Aren’t you just going to tell me that this girl I love is going to be better and not worry about anything because we have cutting edge technology that can save lives?” James sarcastically replied in an attempt to cover up his confusion at the man’s question.

“Well, I can offer you my sympathy, but I know that it might mean little, if nothing to you ‘cause I’m a stranger. I don’t know what happened between you and this girl or how you ended up here, and I know that I can’t judge. But something I do know, that I’ve gone through, is blaming myself to make sense of all the terrible things that have happened. And when you’re stuck at the low, that rock bottom, it really has an impact on the way you perceive things,” the man said, a surprisingly wise statement for someone who at least was about two to three years younger than James.

“But I know it’s my fault! She got shot and I didn’t, and that’s because I’m a coward and I’ve always been a coward and I wouldn’t be dealing with this shit that happened to us and if I weren’t one!” James exclaimed.

“You really believe it’s your fault?” The stranger questioned again.

“Yes,” James said with a shaky exhale.

There was a pause. James turned towards his right so that his back was facing the man. He was just about to reach for his earbuds when the screech of a chair scooting close made him shift back to the middle of his seat once more.

“Tell me what happened,” the man gently said.

“I told you. She got shot and—“ James started.

“No, you don’t have to go into that if you don’t want to,” the man clarified. “But I just wanna know, how did you fall in love with—what’s her name?”

“Jessie,” James answered. He blinked and sat into the back of the chair. Although he still kept his gaze down, he rolled his shoulders back and titled his head up just a little so that the front of the hoodie slid back to reveal his bangs.

“Well,” James began. “It’s a long story…”

Chapter Text

Six Years Ago

James, at the tender age of seventeen, swore that Jessie was the most gorgeous woman, no living being in the whole wide world that he had ever laid his eyes on. She was like a flame rising from the ground and searing the ground below: with her fiery red hair curled up high, her gaze burning, determined, and set on her target, the enticing sway of her body searing through the hallway of Team Rocket Headquarters as she charged through with an intent to knock everyone down who stood in her way. He stood straight in her path of destruction and knew that he’d willingly go down with a smile just to feel her flames engulf him. She was wild and reckless and everything he wished he could be. He could worship her, admire her beauty in full, but didn’t feel that he was worthy enough. Jessie, in all her glory, was something for angels and devils to behold, not for a mere mortal like himself.

James’ own darkness wasn’t as straightforward like her fire. It glowed like moonlight, deceptive in its beauty before the clouds rolled in and obscured the light to reveal his true villainous nature: a pitch black sky, with no moon, no stars, threatening to plunge the world into an everlasting night with no hope for sunrise. He and Jessie, opposites as they were, complemented each other perfectly. It was something that he, a known loner, had to grudgingly admit through those first few trials while working together, but little by little, he began to tolerate her, and that cat that had also been saddled with, more and more until that moment when she wrapped her arms around in joy when they had passed the test, and his heart lifted, and perhaps, he thought to himself, a partner wouldn’t be so bad.

The click of Jessie’s lighter made James’ philosophical reasoning about their compatibility evaporate into the back of his mind. He glanced over at her to see that not only she had taken up most of the space leaning against the street lamp, but that she was also lighting her second cigarette. They were the only ones standing on this street corner, entrusted on keeping lookout on some important high- rise building while the other grunts infiltrated it. Her plump, glossy crimson colored lips puckered up and parted to receive the cigarette. His eyes followed the cigarette as her lips clamped down and puckered up over it again, at the deep orange that burned at the opposite end, and at the coolness that washed over her bored expression. He knew he was staring and quickly went to cover his tracks before she noticed.

“Smoking kills you know.”

“So?” Her lips pursed out.

“You’re too valuable to this team. We can’t loose you.”

Her eyelids drooped and her eyelashes fluttered. Her luscious red lips curled up into a seductive grin. She exhaled. The puff of smoke she sent his way spiraled in the air in ringlets before merging together as one trail of smoke. Goosebumps prickled his skin as the smoke caressed the side of his face. He raised his hand up to his face as if to touch his cheek and cradle it but he stopped midway.

“I’m not gonna die soon James. I’m never gonna die. I’ll grab death by the balls and spit in his face before he even tries to get me,” Jessie laughed.

The sound of her laugh made him want to melt like snow turning into slush under a hot sun. God, she was so sexy.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A menacing teenage bike gang had invaded Sunnytown’s town square. Loud hip- hop music with a heavy beat and obscene lyrics, that could be heard from at least a mile away blared from the portable radio on one of the park benches. Dented soda and beer cans littered the freshly manicured grass. Teenagers dashed to and fro on their bikes, showing off the hottest tricks to those who gathered around to watch. A holler broke through the shouts as the teenagers made way for the oncoming rider. Jessie sped through, with her left hand on the handle, right raised up high waving a long metal bike lock chain around as if it were a lasso. She tossed it up in the air. The chain fell back down into her outstretched, gloved hand. Like an onix turning up the earth as it burrows in the ground, the chain slid in between her fingers and she brought it up to give it a final twirl. Not once did she lose her balance.

“Beat that motherfuckers!” She challenged everyone looking at her.

The cheers that came from the onlookers drowned out the song playing on the radio. A stampede as the teenagers rushed forward to congratulate the legend herself. James stood on the sidelines with Meowth, ready to wheel out his tricycle onto the blacktop. One look at the grin that stretched from cheek to cheek on Jessie’s face and he felt the oncoming lovestruck expression creep up on him. He coughed, averting his gaze down at the handles and the ground.

“Big Chain Jess! Big Chain Jess! Big Chain Jess!” The bike gang chanted.

“I still wonda how she does dat witout getting’ a concussion,” Meowth wondered out loud.

James glanced up. The sound of Jessie’s hearty laugh made his ears numb. His eyes followed the movement of her hands as she wildly gestured while talking. The members of the bike gang grew in closer to her, the boys clapping her shoulder, the girls wrapping their arms around her. Jessie basked in their admiration, relishing every second of praise and touch and looking absolutely stunning while at it. And though James wanted to roll his bike up and join them, to look her right in the eye and tell her that she was amazing, and maybe even reach out to pat her arm, he knew that it was better, it was safer, to just stay where he was and admire her from afar. So James tilted his head to the side while pretending to be preoccupied with brushing imaginary dust off of his bike handles to cover up that he was staring.

“James! Earth ta James! I asked you a question!” Meowth’s shrill voice made James flinch.

“Uh, she works on it?” James nervously answered.

“What is up wit’ ya man? You been actin’ weird eva since we got here,” Meowth said.

“Uh I’m fine?” He was lying. He was definitely not fine. Jessie was absolutely gorgeous to the point of it being terrifying and if she even had the slightest suspicion that he thought she was cute there might be hell to pay.

Meowth opened his mouth to say something but the sound of wheels sliding along the pavement made Meowth and James turn. Jessie and the bike gang had reached them. A sudden wave of calmness washed over the nerves that had been tumbling about inside James. He faced them and feigned a convincing smile.

“Hey Lil’ Jim! Why don’ you show us something, man?” One of the bike gang members asked.

“Uh, maybe not today, I’m not in the mood. I gotta practice my moves,” James said with a chuckle.

“You guys should come round more. We miss ya,” someone else said.

“I wish but we gotta hustle,” Jessie answered with a sigh. “But ya know, Team Rocket ain’t so bad…”

Normally on these types of recruits, James would be the one to do all the talking. He had a way with words. He knew exactly how to put that perfect spin to make being a Team Rocket agent sound like the most glamorous job in the world. The sound of his voice, low and seductive, mesmerized everyone who listened to him. But for an occasion like this, Jessie with her ruggedness and street smarts, was the perfect choice when it came to relating with the rough and tumble teenage bike gang. The kids gathered round her like a venomoth to a flame, glued to every word that came out of her mouth. By the time she had cast her spell, more than half of the kids had asked her where they could sign up. And Jessie with a victorious grin, handed over the slips of paper with the training program’s phone number and sent them on their merry way. There was a lilt in her step as she made her way over to James and Meowth. The tip of her sneakers brushed against the pavement. The wheels of her bike hardly made a sound. She was just about to settle right beside the two of them when her eyebrows furrowed and she turned towards James.

“You’re still gonna use those training wheels like a baby?” She flatly asked with a point at his bike.

Her bluntness sent him soaring down to the ground from cloud nine and there was no way to spread his wings and fly away. His body tensed. His gaze was fixed shamefully somewhere between her face and the edge of the town square. Words, sentences, things he could say flashed through his head before being scrambled together into gibberish. Before he could process it all, his mouth opened and he spat out the first coherent phrase that came to mind.

“Well not everyone can learn to ride a bike Jessie,” James defensively retorted. His chest tightened, and a twinge of guilt radiated through him.

“Don’t be ridiculous. If I could do it when I was five so can you. Here, use my bike,” Jessie shoved her bike towards him.

James stepped away from his bike. He reached out and placed a hand on the left handle. He swung his leg up and eased back into the seat. His feet scraped against the ground, not wanting to slide them into the pedals and risk a fall on his first try. To his surprise, he felt Jessie get behind him. Her hands lightly sunk down on his shoulders. Goosebumps prickled on his neck as he felt her breath caress his ear.

“What If I fall?” He asked in an uncertain tone.

“Come on. You know I’ll catch you,” she answered. “Ready?”

His feet moved up and into the pedals. He raised his head and kept his gaze forward.

“Ready.”

“I’m gonna let go---now!”

She lifted her hands from his shoulders. A rush of energy surged through him. He kicked off and the next thing he knew his legs were pedaling as fast as he could. He struggled to maintain his balance. His upper body was tilting side to side. His hands were gripping the handles as tightly as he could and his arms were moving up and out like a marionette. His heart pounded. The sound of Jessie’s shoes hitting the pavement reached his ears. She shouted at him to keep on going. His heart gave a jolt, he leaned forward to go faster, and the bike wobbled. Gravity pulled him down to the side and he crashed. She skidded to a stop and rushed over to him.

“James are you ok?” She sounded concerned.

Leaning back against her bike, trying not to focus on the dull pain that throbbed on his left side, and the scrapes on his arm that were beginning to bleed, James shot her the biggest grin he could muster.

“I think I’ll stick with training wheels,” he joked with a shrug. The pain stung and he winced.

She giggled and knelt down beside him.

“It was worth a shot. You did a good job,” she said with a smile.

Her hand stretched out, palm facing up. He slowly took it and felt her raise him up back up. The blood rushed to his head. He felt unsteady again but in a completely different way. He gazed up and into her eyes. She didn’t scowl back, nor push him away. Instead, there was softness in them that he had not seen before that was staring right into his, until they glanced down at his arm.

“Ugh. We gotta get you cleaned up. Come on!” Jessie tugged his hand.

“Hey Meowth! Where’s the first aid kit?” She hollered.

Jessie was holding his hand and it felt like heaven. His hand sunk into her palm and dug into her glove’s fabric. He tightened his grip, wondering what it would be like to feel the warmth of her skin against hers. There was a spring in his step as she dragged him forward. She was walking way too fast. His arm hurt whenever she tugged on it, but to James every step felt like they were skipping on cloud-tops. But then the next thing he knew someone else was calling her name. Jessie turned back and spun around. The arm holding James let go and he was flung towards Meowth who grabbed him with his free paw. James’ hand stretched out and curled inwards upon feeling air. Meowth yanked him down onto the grass so he could look at his arm better. James was forced forward, unable to look back to see if Jessie had gone up to the bike gang again. Meowth took an alcohol pad and brought it down on the first cut he saw.

“Ow!” James winced at the sting.

“Don’ be such a baby!” Meowth chided him. He grabbed a band-aid from the first aid kid.

James finally got his chance. He glanced behind him to see that Jessie was chatting with some of the girls from the bike gang. For a brief moment, his pained expression softened. The cuts didn’t sting. Meowth’s claws didn’t feel like they were denting into his skin as he slapped on band-aids left and right. All that mattered was Jessie and boy was Jessie---

Meowth burst out laughing. A series of harsh, nasal sounding cackles that made James jolt back from la-la land. He nervously gazed back at his pokemon partner in crime who upon noticing that James’ attention was back on him, snorted.

“What’s-so- funny?” James angrily asked.

“Waz up wit ya face man?” Meowth snickered.

“My face? You have a problem with it or something?” James exclaimed.

“You’s look like a magikarp dat’s what wit ya open all open an’ eyes all big goin’ all glub, glub, glub,” Meowth puffed his cheeks out and he made his voice as low as it can go.

“Knock it off!”

“Ya actin’ like ya neva seen a pretty girl before! Who ya starin’ at? Pretty bikah one? Pretty bikah 2? Jessie---“

Meowth stopped. His mouth jutted out and up into an o shape before deviously curling up into a grin. The sunlight from up above bounced off of the charm on his forehead. Wickedness flashed in his eyes. And he tilted his head to the side as he gazed right at James.

“You like her don’t ya?”

James was on that two- wheeler again. He was speeding downhill, so fast that he couldn’t even imagine, and there was a red rock wall that was about fifty million feet high that would greet him at the bottom. He clung onto the handles for his dear life. The wind chilled his skin. The pedals kept on spinning though his legs had given out. The blood kept pumping, pumping, excruciatingly through his veins. The wall loomed closer and closer, jagged pieces of rock were sticking out like spikes, and James could feel his eyes squeeze shut in anticipation for how much it was going to hurt when he crashed…

“No I don’t! ” James’ green eyes bulged open.

“Ya lyin’! I seen it! No wonda ya actin’ so weird!” Meowth said.

“I—well---maybe—maybe it’s none of your business!” James stuttered.

“Well maybe it is. We’re on dis here team togetha right? What goes on wit you is gonna ‘ventally get out.”

“No it’s not!”

“Iz out now,” Meowth pointed out with a wave of his paw.

“I didn’t say I liked Jessie!”

“Den why ya makin’ such a big fuss ova it, eh?” Meowth snapped back with a smirk.

“Shut up!” James shouted.

Meowth laughed again.

“Hmmm if ya like Jess so much maybe I’ll jus’ spare ya da trouble an’ tell her how ya feel,” Meowth thought out loud.

You better not or I’ll—I’ll-- ” James was at a loss for words.

“Ya keep tryin’ James, I know ya ain’t gonna do nothing. Anyways, I gotta keep ups a reputation too jus’ like you lovaboy. I can’t have dose bikas think I’m jus’ some stupid sidekick who hangs around an’ does nothing. I’m gonna go an’ act cool,” Meowth stood up and snapped his paw. He started to head over to Jessie and the biker girls. He turned back at James once more.

“Don’t worry I got cha back, I ain’t gonna tell her,” he said.

James watched as Meowth made his way up to Jessie and the biker girls. He let out an embarrassed groan and lowered his gaze back down at his bandaged up arms.

Chapter Text

“Hey man, I know that kinda sound like a tough guy but I swear I’m not like Medusa who’d turn ya to stone with one look,” the man piped up.

“I’m fine like this,” James said, still focusing somewhere on the little black specks on the floor. He shifted back to rest his back against the chair.

“Well also if you sit up straight, it helps the blood go up to your head. Makes it easier for you to concentrate on what you want to say and clear out the bad thoughts that come to mind. I do it whenever I’m upset and I find that it helps me.”

“Do you do yoga or something?” James let down his guard to let a little curiosity into his tone.

“I meditate,” the man kept his answer at that. It surprised James who had already anticipated the man to go into some sort of spiel about the wonders of the latest super-hip health fad or other. There was a pause before James piped up:

“Oh. Are you a therapist? You talk like one.”

Nah. I’m just the type of guy who’s used to listening to everyone’s problems. When you’re the oldest of ten, that sort of thing is something you learn early on. You have siblings?” The man asked.

“No, I’m an only kid,” James answered.

“You’re so lucky. I wish my parents had time to give me any attention,” the man enviously said.

Lucky

The word made James’ blood run cold. They coagulated into chunks of ice that expanded up and out through the narrow outlines of his veins until they were close to bursting. His heart gave a painful jolt. It rapidly beat to make up for the frozen blood that blocked off the circulation from reaching. Piping, hot blood sizzled through. The ice melted. Steam rose. The blood boiled over. James clenched his fists. His face flushed with rage. He lurched forward. Spittle flew from his mouth before the blood bubbled and searing up his throat to let his shout out.

Lucky? My parents are fucking monsters!

James slouched back. His hands unclenched, curled out, and curled in again. He took an unsteady breath. The anger cooled, but did not completely dissipate. The man shifted over and turned to face James.

“I’m sorry that I pushed you like that,” the man apologized. “I just thought because I know people who are only kids, and have parents who’d do anything for them and love them unconditionally that your situation would be the same. But sometimes, the people who are supposed to love you, really don’t do they?” The man wistfully said.

“Yeah,” James’ voice came out hollow. He blinked before adjusting his position again. The man had become quiet again. They sat in silence for a while. The hallway was still deserted save for the two of them and the occasional doctor or nurse that passed through. The man then cleared his throat and cautiously broke the silence:

“Is it ok with you if we keep on talking about Jessie?”

“Yeah,” James answered.

“I promise this time I’ll be a bit more careful with my questions,” the man said.

“Don’t worry about it too much. Like you said, we don’t know each other. And besides, Jessie’s nothing like my parents,” James lifted his head up a little.

“You sure?” The man asked again.

“Sure,” James gave him the ok.

“So. Did Jessie ever find out that you liked her?” The man started.

“Yeah. It took time. But you won’t believe how it happened,” a slight smile crossed James’ face as he began to tell his tale.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Five Years Ago

“We’re gonna be late!” Meowth anxiously exclaimed as he and James briskly made their way through the hotel lobby. Meowth squinted as he struggled to see above the chauffeur cap that rested right in front of his eyes. His arms shook as he dragged the heavy briefcase on the floor, and the pair of poor fitting dress shoes on his feet threatened to slip off at any second.

“Relax man, it’s better to show up to galas fashionably late,” James was walking at a reasonable pace. He straightened out his tie and lifted his hands to smooth his hair back.

“Da invitation said da party starts a’ eight. We only have a halfa hour ta get dere. If we’re gonna prove to Da Boss dat we’re da real stuff, we can’ screw up dis mission up! If we’re gonna pull dis off we gotta leave now!” Meowth exclaimed in a stressed tone.

“Come on Meowth it’s not gonna matter either way. The hotshots at headquarters and the gala can give us five or so minutes to assemble. They won’t kill us,” James assured him.

“By da way ya actin’ he just migh’! If dis all goes ta shit I’m blaming da both of you! An’ where’s Jessie? God, it takes da both of you forever ta get ready!” Meowth slammed the briefcase down on the ground.

James rolled back on his heels at the sound. He gave Meowth an annoyed look as he reached to pick up the briefcase.

“And no one said you had to carry this you know,” he said.

Click-clack. Click-clack.

James and Meowth turned. James’ eyes widened and bulged into a stare. His heart began to pound and his hand tightly held onto the briefcase’s handle for dear life. The sound of heels hitting the floor grew louder and louder and he felt like he was dreaming as Jessie advanced forward. She looked like a goddess. Unstoppable, radiating confidence as she held herself upright with her head held high. The bun that bounced on the top of her head did not come undone. Her knees did not buckle despite the heels on her and the flowing ends of her floor length crimson gown. She reached them with a graceful halt. James shakily inhaled and felt his hand loosen on the briefcase.

Wow,” James breathed. “You—you look—“

Beautiful. Gorgeous. Stunning. The words danced around his mouth, on the tip of his tongue but an almost painful twist snapped them in half. They crumbled and fell to the back of his mouth and down his throat.

“It took ya long enough!” Meowth shouted.

“A girl’s gotta look perfect for outings like this! If I’m gonna be around all of these rich people I have to dress to impress! Of course you wouldn’t understand all the effort I put into my appearance because your idea of looking good is rubbing your own spit all over and calling it a day!” Jessie retorted.

Hey! Dat’s not true Ima very clean cat!” Meowth snapped back.

“And you don’t shout at me like that when I come up to you!” Jessie pointed her finger at Meowth. “You have to be a gentleman and tell me that I look pretty! Who’s going to step up and be a gentleman and compliment me?” Jessie complained.

“You look nice,” James piped up.

“Thank you,” Jessie reached out and touched his arm. She wove her arm into the crook of his’ and leaned in. She tilted her head up at him and winked. James felt like he was going to melt under her gaze. She had been doing more stuff like this lately and he still could not wrap his head around the fact that she was choosing to stand so close to him. His lips began to turn up into a smile---

“Well if ya stop foolin’ around an makin’ excuses maybe we’d still have time ta get to da damned party!” Meowth stomped his foot for emphasis.

“It’s called a gala, Meowth,” James corrected him with a smirk. Jessie giggled and leaned her head on his shoulder.

“I don’ care! Let’s just go!” Meowth reached out and swiped the briefcase from James’ hand. He waddled through the revolving doors. The briefcase swung from left to right as he tried hard not to hit the glass. Jessie pulled back and stood straight. Her foot slid out and James followed suit. They slowly started out through the doors together.

___________________________________________________________________________________

James and Jessie strolled arm in arm as they navigated through the packed ballroom. They elegantly held themselves up high; flashing dashing smiles at all they passed. Jessie genuinely was enjoying herself. She totally enthralled with the sights and the sounds: socialites dressed in the latest fashions, the bright light that filtered through diamond chandelier hanging above, the melodious hum of the violins and cello coming from the quartet on the stage. James took no notice of the gala’s beauty like Jessie did. Having been to plenty of galas in the past, he found that for each one he attended, they lost their charm. No matter the setting, each one was repetitive: the same music played, the same people tried to rope him into conversation, and all the money pooled into the fundraising and promised for charity were split among the organizers for their selfish whims. Yet tonight, James felt that perhaps this gala was different. Jessie was by his side. Magic sparkled in her eyes, and her awe was inspiring. It made his heart float, beat in time to the music that flitted about his ears. If she was happy, he was happy, and that was all he needed.

A staticky sound came through the earpiece in his right ear. James held his free arm up and moved his hand through his hair to hide the fact that he was listening to Meowth.

“Ok I’m in,” Meowth said

“Where are we supposed to be going?” James asked.

“I tink upstairs. Hang on,” the sound of Meowth’s paws pounding on a keyboard came through. Jessie realized a little too late that Meowth was giving them instructions. She snapped out of her daze and her hand shot up towards her earpiece. James was pulled to the side.

“Where upstairs?” Jessie said in a very business- like tone.

“Uh---Wait----dere we go! Second floor, third room. I’m disablin’ da camera in dere right now, an den I’ll hook da PC to Team Rocket’s.”

Jessie and James waited a few seconds. There came a beep from the other side and then Meowth said:

“I did it. Ya guys have a’ hour. I’ll guide ya dere.”

James nodded. The two of them turned and started to head back to the ballroom’s entrance. Just as they began to head out James heard a sound that made his blood run cold.

James? James Sasaki?” Came a male voice.

James’ first instinct was to speed up until he broke out into a run in the hallway. But Jessie was on his arm and so instead he spun around with his back to whoever was calling him. Before Jessie could ask what he was doing, a boldness James did not know he had inside him pushed his hand out with his palm facing up. He grinned, and words that he would be tripping upon at another time suavely caressed the air.

“Madam do you want to dance?”

Jessie bashfully covered her lips with her hand to stifle a giggle. She gazed right into his eyes with a coquettish flutter of her eyelashes.

“My James when did you become such a gentleman?” Jessie questioned with a chuckle.

“Everyone has a secret or two Jessie,” James responded.

This new surge of confidence made him stand as straight as he could. His left hand gingerly fastened itself onto her waist. A shiver went down his spine as her hand gripped his shoulder with a squeeze. Their hands intertwined, his foot slid to the side, and in a swooping motion they were off.

James timed his steps to the rhythm of the waltz that was playing. One, two, three. One, two, three. Round and around. And again, and again. He moved slower than he normally would to make sure that Jessie could keep up. She had no trouble. The click of her heels scraping against the floor indicated that she wanted to go faster. It didn’t surprise him; she always had a knack for picking things up quickly. So with a kick of his foot, they spun about in a circle. His arm extended and he twirled her. She laughed. Her body swayed from side to side. She dramatically held her arm out to him. Their hands touched, his fingers curled against hers. And he pulled her back to him. They collided: his hands curving on her waist, her arms wrapping around his shoulders. Her face was only inches away from his’ and he saw in perfect detail how the sparkling gleam of the chandelier brightened the azure of her eyes. His pace slowed. They rocked back and forth, gazing into each other’s eyes. He was lost, lost in the dance, lost in the wonder of her eyes, lost completely in her.

“I didn’t know you could dance,” she remarked.

“I-I know a thing or two,” James said in a more subdued tone.

Jessie serenely smiled up at him. She then leaned her head down against the crook of his shoulder and closed her eyes. His hand moved up and cupped her back. James swore he could feel her heartbeat against his’, dancing together to the waltz of life, and meshing their beats together to become one…

Hey! You guys! You guys!

Jessie and James broke apart and winced as Meowth’s grating voice continued to berate them.

“Whaddaya guys tink ya doin’? Dis ain’t no time ta screw around! Get back on track!”

“We’re on it!” Jessie frustratedly answered him. To make up for her lack of effort she grabbed James’ hand with a determined look and turned.

“Come on! You heard him we gotta get going!” She exclaimed.

Her heels screeched against the floor as they began to move. Jessie kept her gaze set on the ballroom entrance, and fire sparked in her eyes as the two of them pushed against the pairs of couples dancing and groups of people that blocked their path. James’ hand that was twitching against her grip was killing him. He stumbled about and nearly fell as she dragged him through the ballroom, but he didn’t complain. He didn’t even mind. It was his turn to be star-struck tonight.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jessie’s hand reached up and pulled out a hairpin from the top of her bun. She opened and bent it an angle before inserting it into the keyhole. A turn to the right and the door refused to budge. She tried turning it to the left. When that didn’t work she let out a grunt.

“Want me to try?” He offered.

“I can do it myself!” Jessie gritted between her teeth. She pulled on the doorknob.

A crackle came in through James’ earpiece.

“Guys! Incoming at da bottom of da stairs!” Meowth warned them.

“Agh!” Jessie banged her fist on the door.

James spun around to face the staircase. He heard laughter drift up, followed by footsteps.

“Jessie!”

Dammit! Why won’t this fucking thing open? Jessie cursed.

She jabbed the hairpin in and out. James anxiously watched. Her hand clenched over the knob. She pulled. Turned. There came a click. The door creaked open.

“Finally!” She exclaimed.

The laughter grew louder. Jessie and James froze in their places as they saw the dim light shine on the tops of two heads. The heads bobbed up, with a thud of high- heels. Each step revealed the figures of two women making their way up the stairs: faces that glistened with sweat and runny makeup, round shoulders, the sheer sway of colorful gowns, and hands that animatedly gesticulated. Jessie instinctively leaned back against the door’s gap, careful not to rest too much weight against the door’s jamb. James faced her with his back to the stairs.

“Get in! Get in!” Meowth frantically said.

“There’s no time!” Jessie nervously hissed into her earpiece as she glanced over James’ shoulder. She had a clearer view of the two women coming up the stairs, and they were almost at the top.

“What are we going to do? We can’t close the door!” James nervously whispered.

An idea had come to her. She stood up straighter and stared right into his eyes.

“This is going to sound crazy but you gotta trust me on this,” Jessie quickly said.

James nodded.

“Kiss me.”

James’ jaw almost dropped again. His heart thumped as her words ran through his head. Nerves, surprise, and excitement charged through right after and forced him to respond.

“Really?” His voice cracked.

“They might not notice us. We could give it a shot,” Jessie reached up and her hands clasped down on his shoulders.

The kiss was tense and stiff. James felt everything go numb. All that he could properly sense was the painful thumps of his heart trying to burst out of his chest, his tight grip on the fabric of her dress, and the pressure of their lips right on each other, like two puzzle pieces connected together. He couldn’t even hear the two women make their way down the hall.

“The bathroom’s this way right?”

“I think?”

The click-clack, click-clack of high heels grew fainter until they disappeared around the hallway corner. James breathed in through his nose. His eyes flickered in between open and shut. Red and pink flashed before his eyes. The colors of the flush creeping up on her cheeks, the ends of her mouth turning up and her plump lips jutting out, her eyelids were closing, and then before James knew it, they were kissing again.

James’ heartbeat slowed. His whole body relaxed. He gently clung to the curve of her waist. His jaw loosened, allowing him to ease into the kiss. Her lips were soft, plump, and the feel of them sliding up against his’ sent a shiver down his spine. Her arms pulled him in in response to his touch. One hand stretched across the back of his neck and cupped it. The fingers on his back clenched down with a stroke. With a shaky exhale, Jessie gently puckered up against his bottom lip, lingering for a second before she started to deepen the kiss. The tip of her tongue traced the center of his lips, she prodded them open, and her tongue slithered inside. James gasped. His mouth opened. His tongue wiggled about in an attempt to mimic her actions. No one had ever kissed him like this before. It made him feel like he was both burning up and melting in her arms at the same time. There was no space between them now, their chests bumped together, and James’ hand began to boldly slide up---

HEY! DIS AIN’T NO TIME TA MAKE OUT! WE GOT A JOB TA DO!” Meowth bellowed into the earpiece.

Jessie and James quickly broke apart. James fumbled back. Jessie clutched her skirts and spun around. She turned the knob, opened the door wide, and darted inside. A stunned James stared at her departing figure. It took a few blinks and another scream from Meowth for him to get moving.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

No one spoke on the car ride back to the hotel. Meowth kept grumbling underneath his breath about how they could have been caught. James and Jessie avoided looking at each other. He faced the window, silent, still trying to wrap his head around what happened and how to make sense of it all.

Jessie had kissed him. Twice. Out of all of the men that existed and would ever exist in the world, she chose to kiss him. Why? Was it that he provided the perfect scenario for a cover-up? Did she actually like him? There was no way in hell that someone like Jessie could ever like a person like him that way. Maybe she was desperate. That could be it. She was desperate. People have been known to do crazy things in their desperation and perhaps he was also desperate enough to kiss her to show her how he felt. But what if she did like him? There was no way that kiss could have been fake. It didn't feel fake; not many people would dive right in and stick their tongue inside another person’s mouth in the second kiss. She had to feel something for him. The longing and the passion in that kiss that made him feel all bubbly inside in a way he couldn’t describe and god, he wanted to kiss Jessie to feel it all over again. And what if Jessie let him kiss her again? If she felt the same way he did? The idea filled him with both hope and terror.

The car stopped at the hotel entrance. Jessie and James got out while Meowth went to park the car. Jessie’s hand shot up to smooth out the bun that was starting to become loose. She sighed and started to head to the door.

“Jessie?” James asked.

She turned around and faced him. He stopped just in front of her and forced himself to look right in her eyes.

“About—“ He apprehensively started. “Tonight. What we---“ All the words fell flat on his tongue. He tried to smile at her. It felt like he was grimacing so he let out a chuckle.

“Yeah about tonight?” She asked.

“I really—I really like---when we—when we were you know--uh---you know—when you told me to kiss you---“ God, he sounded like an idiot. What happened to the suave James at the gala? Where did he run to and leave behind this pitiful one in his place? He was getting frustrated. She wasn’t responding. And oh boy he was fucking up big time.

Suddenly her finger was pressed against his lips. He gazed out to see that she was grinning from ear to ear. A step in and she lowered her finger to tap against his chest.

“Show me what you’re trying to say,” she said in a sultry voice.

James blinked. He lifted his hands up to cup the side of her face. He leaned in and their lips met. He closed his eyes, bracing himself for what may or may not come next. Two arms shot up to wrap around his shoulders again. Her lips collided with his’ with such a force that he felt like he was going to fall back. So he clung to her and pulled her in just as she did before, hoping that at the least Jessie could keep him up and steady. It was real. It was real. It wasn’t a dream. He didn’t have to pinch himself. Jessie was kissing him. Kissing him back.

Chapter Text

Five Years Ago

It had been three days since the hotel’s AC had inexplicably shut down. Three, long, agonizing days and James was close to his breaking point. He hated how the icky feeling of sweat clinging to his skin and clothes, how all the doors and windows were pried open, save for the front door which was opened a crack, and the bathroom door which was kept closed if someone was inside, the arguments over who got to sit next to the rickety fan maintenance had sent up for the time being that only circulated the hot air about before breaking down with a screech, bill after bill sent up by room service as the trio went through all the drinks in the mini-fridge. But being confined up in these quarters posed another problem that aggravated James more than just the heat. It embarrassed him to no end. He was now an adult. He was supposed to be mature. He had been with Team Rocket long enough to know that being on missions for long stretches of time meant that he and his teammates would have to sacrifice their modesty and privacy. He had seen Jessie in a state of undress many times before, changing in front of him, strutting around in her underwear, or even just a towel. What was so different now, about being trapped in this stuffy space and seeing her half dressed that made him feel so hot and bothered? Was it because the situation between them had changed? That James knew his feelings were reciprocated? That ever since that night at the gala, the two of them sought out every opportunity to end up alone together just so they could make out? Did each rendezvous leave him with a taste of what could be more to come? More that left him craving the crash of her lips against his’? That sent him yearning for the sensation of his hands creeping up her back, clinching her waist, her shoulders? Wanting to feel the jolt of lust that rushed through him that time when she grabbed his hand and placed it right on her breast for him to fondle? Leaving him for a long and tantalizing wait for the next opportunity for him and Jessie to hook up to arise.

James’ frustration manifested in his dreams. For once, he felt grateful that Jessie demanded the bed for herself, leaving him to use his sleeping bag on the floor. The idea of Jessie’s body: its presence, shape, feel, titillated him, but could not compare to the idea of her strength. Strength had always turned James on. In the past the same characters had always appeared him his fantasies: muscular men, confident women, and Jessie, the glamorous badass she was, was the star of his nightly show. She made him toss and turn, and tided him over the waves of sleep til morning came.

________________________________________________________________________________

Meowth had gone down the hall to get ice about a half an hour ago and had not returned. If James didn’t feel like he was dying from the heat, he right now would be loudly griping about how selfish Meowth was to leaving him and Jessie hanging and how he probably was submerging himself in an ice bath over by the ice machine at this minute, but alas, he lay sprawled out on the bed. His shirt was off but the sweat glistened on his skin. A cool washcloth lay on his face, but all the moisture had been dried up. James groaned. He picked up the washcloth and tossed it onto the floor. His hands reached up to rub his eyes. He heard the bathroom door open and the sound of bare feet touching the carpet.

“Hey there hot stuff,” Jessie said in a sultry tone.

James sprung up. He scrambled about, torn between wanting to get into a seductive pose or to just sit at the edge of the bed because the heat had drained him of all energy. Luckily for him, Jessie was faster. She stood with her hands over her hips by the bed, admiring his figure. His hands shot out and gripped the covers. He gazed up with a smoldering look.

“Like what you see?” He winked.

Damn. You could pass for a supermodel or something,” Jessie leaned in and spread her legs to position herself into a half-straddle over his lap. The ends of her skirt inched up as her legs bumped against his’. Her hands gripped his shoulders, slid forward into a rub. The pit of James’ stomach bubbled. He felt the heat radiate inside, a burning need that made his feet curl in and lip tremble as he gazed up at the smirk on her face. The wheels in his head turned and he tilted his head to shoot her another seductive glance.

“Hmm, that gave me an idea. How about our next mission I go as an underwear model and you be my agent? I’ll wear the tightest briefs I have so you’ll get to have the whole package on display,” he cooed.

Gone was the smirk on Jessie’s face. The blue of her eyes were boiling, red lips parted as she took in his words. Her hands clenched down and kneaded his shoulders, the heel of her palms pressing down as hard as they could. She leaned in closer, her hips hovering over his lap.

“Do I have to wait that long? I just wanna rip those pants off now,” Jessie whined.

Jessie took a step back. The absence of her hands on his shoulders made James lift his body off the bed and come to his feet. Her arms wrapped around him, pulled him closer, much closer than they had ever stood before when either of them were in a state of half-dress, so close that their bodies were almost aligned and touching.

“Patience Jessie,” he whispered in a low voice. “Sometimes it’s better to take things in before unwrapping the prize.”

She chuckled before giving him another once over again.

Damn. I can’t believe you’re making me wait. Did you torture all the other girls you’ve been with like this?”

Her words broke James out of the suave persona he had put on for her. The grip on her waist loosened, his glance nervously shifted from side to side before meeting hers again.

“I—well—no one’s ever really touched me like this before,” he admitted.

“Really?” Jessie was surprised. “You’re still a virgin? With a body like that?

“Yeah,” he answered.

Jessie let out an mmm. She flashed him a grin.

“God James, I thought you’d be the type who’d have girls all over you.”

The bubbling in the pit of his stomach twisted. James tensed up, eyes widened, hands loosened on her waist before the heat stirred again as steam and worked to undo the knots, looping around and around until he melted under her gaze once more. He stepped in closer and nestled his face close to her ear to whisper:

“Perhaps I’m the type waiting for that one girl to show up.”

James pulled back and moved his head over to his left, lips grazing against Jessie’s cheeks before settling on her lips in a feverish kiss. His bare chest brushed against her shirt, feeling the perkiness of her breasts, how the heat frantically, began to pump out from his heart. Her hands gripped his shoulder blades in response, sliding down to dig into his back, moving down and then back up again. His pelvis gave a jolt and pressed against hers. The smoothness of her skirt caressed his crotch. His knees shook and he gasped. The heat in his blood cascaded down his veins, from his heart, stomach, down into his groin like a river of lava coursing over molten rock. Jessie’s hips pulled back and the center of her skirt jutted in again to feel the budding outline of his erection. With a breathy exhale, Jessie turned her attention back to his shirtless figure. Her hands slid down from his shoulders. They rubbed the outline of his forearms, and slowly moved down. Her touch was light and gentle, yet the subtle pressure aroused James just as much as the pressure on his crotch. He resisted the urge to moan again. His eyes flickered open and shut, unsure of whether to close his eyes and savor her touch, or to linger on how her hands crept on his skin. The dampness of the air around him made him shiver as Jessie pulled back from him with her hands right in front of his chest. Her pointer finger reached out to caress him. One stroke and James broke out into a cold sweat. His heart began to rapidly beat, pumping blood as fast as it could to radiate heat back into his body. Jessie’s hand stretched out. Her palm jutted out, fingers curled. James’ ears buzzed with a ping as he saw her fingernails sharpen at the tips. His stomach sunk back, limbs tensed, eyes fixed on how her hand had enlarged. It was swollen, flushed red at the knuckles, ready to swoop down and strike. James felt his entire body freeze. He was a deerling in the headlights, watching its life flash before its eyes, with no way to cry out and no where to----

Beep

Jessie’s hand recoiled just inches from James’ chest. The two of them looked around to see where the noise had come from. Another beep sounded and cool air wafted through the room.

“Hey! The AC’s back on!” Jessie exclaimed with a turn around. She spread her arms out to feel the cool air hit her skin.

“Oh my god that feels so good!” She closed her eyes and let out a huge sigh of relief.

The front door began to creak open. A completely different panic washed over James. He sprinted over to the bed and jumped onto the covers. With a turn over on his side, facing away from the door, he took one of the pillows, hugged it close to his body, and pretended that he was asleep. The door was cracked wide open now. He heard the sound of small feet enter the room and a crash as Meowth dropped the bucket of ice he had lugged all the way from the ice machine down the hall.

“I can’ believe dis! I go outta mah way to get dis here ice and we got da AC back!” Meowth shouted at the top of his lungs. It was followed by the crunch-crunch of ice cubes hitting the floor.

_____________________________________________________

The stay in the hotel had been one long, frustrating, and agonizing ordeal. James thought he could put up with the hotel room and its broken AC, the constant horniness, the encounters, twice now, ruined because Meowth just didn’t know how to knock. He couldn’t stand another damn second. It was as if the entire universe was trying to screw up Jessie and James’ plans to screw each other, and right now as James shuffled down the hallway, he was kicking himself in the head because he had no clue how to approach Jessie and tell her: yes he wanted more! He wanted to have sex with her, and had been dreaming about it for the past year. Was she the kind of girl who’d swoon over some poetic rambling about giving into passion and loosing ourselves in each other bodies as our heat mingle or would go for a straightforward: hey we should totally fuck. And he was determined to do this tonight before they would leave the next morning because the opportunity for them to be alone would be close to zero for maybe forever. James’ hand trembled as he took out the hotel key. He closed his eyes as he swiped the card and mentally prepared himself to find her behind the door, and tell her exactly what he had been thinking. The card slot lit up and a turn of the knob and James opened his eyes to find----

Holiest of shits

The colors popped out at James first before he could take in the whole picture: the cream of Jessie’s skin, all exposed save for the tight cups of black that stretched across her chest with a matching fabric of black on her crotch. All of that was piled up on the bleach white covers of the bed: her body lying sideways and facing him. She had her left arm propped up against the mattress for support, the right placed on her hip for show, clad in a pair of underwear James had not seen; not on her, not in the dump pile for laundry, or in her suitcase. It appeared to be new. And it was the fancy kind of lingerie: black and lacy, made of a material that was so sheer that he could make out the shape of her nipples through her bra, and the hint of tiny strands of hair that pressed against her panties. Jessie tilted her head up with a swish of her hair and her burning gaze met his with a teasing grin.

“Hey,” she said in a breathy tone.

Creeeak Went the door as James’ shoulders collided with the wood, forcing it shut.

She got up from the bed and began to head over to him. He couldn’t take his eyes off of the jiggle of her breasts as she sat up, her long, shapely legs that stretched, crossed over into a sitting position and pushed her up into a walk. How her hips swayed, the movement of the curve of her waist, how the AC’s cool air made the rounded tips of her nipples harden into a point against her bra. He felt her hands grab his waist, her chest pressing against his, and it for a second his mind went blank as he tried to come up with something that was just as equally witty and sexy at the same time.

“So---you went to Victoria’s Secret without me?” James said with a croon and a glance over her enticing figure.

“Why? You wanna borrow this?” Jessie sensually replied, knowing that James enjoyed cross-dressing. Her lips puckered up against his neck.

“Why would I wanna borrow your underwear when you’re wearing it? You know that’s rude,” James playfully said.

Jessie noisily pulled away. Goosebumps prickled on his skin where her lips had applied pressure. She gazed up at him. Her lips, plump and luscious curled up into another grin. They parted to let out a puff of air that wafted against his chin.

“I could take it off. And then when you wear it, you can feel me and smell me wherever you go,” Jessie drew out her words.

James’ desire sparked to life. The friction struck him like a flame sparking from the end of a match. The flames raced through his veins, blazing everything in their path. They intertwined, coiled, and yanked him forward to spread his fire to her. His lips tingled as they pressed on hers. His jaw tightened, loosened and stretched as his tongue prodded out and into her mouth. A lean in and his teeth collided with hers. He gasped, his hands hot and clammy as they dug into her waist with a squeeze. His voice came out breathy as he broke off, with a lick of his lips as he took in her taste.

“I don’t want to wear your underwear—I want ---I want to---“

His hands slid up Jessie’s waist, letting go to hover over her arms before nestling into her long, red hair as they kissed again. Her hands gripped his buttocks and pulled him into another kiss. Her hands rubbed, squeezed him and he groaned. He was getting hard and he moved in as close as he could so that she could feel it.

“I really---really---want you,” James moaned.

Jessie and James managed to maneuver over to the bed. They fell back and her legs locked over his thighs. Her hips ground onto his, applying a steady pressure against his bulging erection. James’ fingers slid down the curve of her back and positioned themselves at her bra’s hook. He nimbly unclasped them and the cups of her bra fell forward. The straps slid down her arms and he reached over to pull them off. She leaned back, letting the bra straps fall off her wrists and tossed them aside.

Jessie’s breasts were firm and perky. They curved out into cone shaped points where her brownish- nipples jutted out from the faded circles of her areloas. She sat up and puffed her chest out to let James have a better view. He was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t make up his mind on what he wanted to do and how to go about it. Touch her breasts? Let her touch him? Pull off her underwear, take off his clothes, and they go right to it? The uncertainty and insecurity broke through his aroused expression. Jessie must have noticed because she flashed him another seductive glance and suggested:

“Want me to blow you?”

James’ cock twitched against the tight fabric of his black briefs. He sucked in some air as he wrapped his head around that the idea that one of his many fantasies was just about to become reality. He grinned at her and excitedly answered:

“Yeah!”

Jessie leaned back onto his thighs. Her fingers lightly curled around the band of his pants and tugged. She removed his pants. The tops of her breasts grazed against the skin of his legs before her hands went back to his underwear. Her right hand gently slid up to feel the outline of his erection and caressed it. <

“You ready Jimmy?”

James watched, transfixed as she took of his briefs. His cock rose and moved over to his left side then back center where Jessie’s hand clasped around him. He shuddered as her hand moved up his shaft. Then down. Then up again. And then he could directly see the top of her head as she lowered herself down towards his crotch. She was so close, so close so close that he could feel the heat of her breath right on him. Her lips puckered out and trailed alongside the ridges of his head before her mouth opened to take him in.

A sucking sound came as Jessie’s lips slid down on him. James felt the moisture of her breath engulf his cock, how the head protruded back into her mouth. They wiggled about the sides of her mouth before she came down again continue sucking. Her hand stroked his shaft as she did so, adding more friction that made him want to scream at the top of his lungs. He wasn’t sure whether to stifle it or not, he had been so used to being quiet whenever he jacked off, or having wet dreams that left him with no memory of the pleasure that he wasn’t sure what to do with her in front of him, watching him. So he gasped instead. She made an mmm sound, flipping back the hair that was falling in front of her face behind her and gazing at him with a turned on expression. She directed her hand that held him to let his cock circle inside her mouth before going further down then she had before. She came back up with a suctioning sound, her tongue extended to lick the side of his shaft. James’ eyelids flickered and closed, so that he could properly enjoy this new sensation. Jessie had picked up the pace. Her sucks came, wet and fast. The heat that radiate from her hand as she stroked him made him quiver and the licks that left her saliva dripping down his shaft made him feel like he was on fire. James’ groans were getting louder and louder. The sensitivity in his cock was intensifying. His hips buckled up in the air, he felt that pull upward and he knew he was going to cum. It happened so fast that he had no time to even consider about giving her a heads up. James moaned, spurt after spurt of semen shot out. Luckily she already had him in her mouth, and her reaction besides a slight bulge of her eyes, was to swoop down and swallow.

James’ penis convulsed one last time before Jessie pulled away with a gulp. Excess cum dripped from her mouth and chin. She wiped them off with the back of her hand. And began to cough.

James sprung up and leaned forward to face her. He placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Are you ok?” James worriedly asked.

“I’m fine. It’s just that my throat always burns when I swallow,” she explained.

“Really?” He had never heard this before.

“Yeah. Most of guys don’t know, it’s something you just gotta deal with. Don’t worry about it,” Jessie cleared her throat.

“But you---“ James started.

“I need water,” Jessie got up from the bed and went over to the mini fridge. She took out one of the water bottles from inside. She drained it in two gulps.

James, although still in a daze, sat up straighter. He watched as Jessie tossed the water bottle to the floor and headed back to him. She lay down beside him and gazed up at the ceiling. They remained like that for a while before James piped up:

“I really liked that. I---damn that felt so good,” Even though James still felt wiped from the blowjob, he let out an aroused laugh.

Jessie turned and smiled at him.

“Anytime for you James,” she whispered before giving him a kiss.

Salt and something reminiscent of a thick heat lay on her breath. It tickled the inside of his mouth, making him realize that he was tasting himself. She pulled back with a suck on his lower lip with a smoldering gaze. James stared back at her. He noticed how she shifted in her place, the way her thigh moved up then back, and how her hips pressed forward. She was still turned on. And without giving a second thought that he wasn’t ready just yet for a round two, James’ hand shot out to touch her breast.

His hand cupped it just like he did those times before when her breast had been clothed and moved in a circular motion. Jessie leaned in. The top of her head placed itself against his shoulder, her torso so close to his that he nearly had to readjust his hand. James’ palm gently kept on kneading, his hand expanding to cover as much of her breast as he could. He was surprised to feel how soft and smooth her breast’s skin felt under his fingertips, how the rubbery tip of her nipple slowly hardened under his touch. Jessie breathed against his neck, her chest rising out then back in before her hand clasped over his and lifted it. Before he could even ask what she was doing, she guided his hand in between her legs. She pressed down, and James felt his fingertips brush up against a small, bump-shaped bit of flesh through her underwear. They moved in a circular motion and Jessie moaned. Her hips arched forward, her crotch curved against his hand as she slowly moved her own away from his. James continued to rub her clitoris, applying the exact same pressure and going at the same speed she had shown him. James gazed out at her. Her forehead knocked against his shoulder. Her lip trembled, and cheeks were flushed. Her gasps rang in his ears, and making his body feel that it was ringing along in time with her. With a sudden push back, James realized that he was getting hard again, much earlier than he thought he would. Jessie’s eyes widened as she saw his cock rise. She grinned as she slid away from his hands and moved her body so close that she wrapped her leg around his. She maneuvered James onto his back and groaned as she slid her clothed vulva against his erection. Her hands went to her hips, just skimming on top of the underwear’s band, and James had an unusual moment of clarity as he piped up:

“Um, we don’t have a condom or anything.”

Jessie chuckled.

“Since when did you turn into a worrywart James? You don’t have to worry about it, I’m on the pill, remember? Besides, it feels better when guys don’t use condoms.”

Oh yeah. He had completely forgotten about that little round case of pills she kept in her toiletries bag. Jessie knelt on his thighs and her fingers curled underneath the band of her panties.

She slowly removed her underwear, the fabric revealing inch by inch of skin, grazing the outline of her hipbone, the thickness of her thighs, until they reached her knees. She quickly slid them down and they fell back, off the bed and onto the floor.

James’ eyes widened and his mouth gaped open. His whole body felt numb except for his erection that twitched. His gaze lingered on her, at the short brown curls that were cut close to her pubic bone, at the way she widened her legs, giving him a peak at the ridged pinkish flesh in between her legs. One hand grabbed his cock. She lowered herself, and the tip of his penis caressed the folds of her labia. The tip circled her opening before she eased down.

Oh

James’ cock felt like it was being submerged into the tightest space imaginable. It was a tightness that rivaled the confines of Jessie’s mouth, smooth and slick with squishiness that made him let out an audible groan. He watched as she jut her hips forward and then back. Her thighs jiggled, her hands palmed down by his collarbone, her hair flowed behind her with a tilt of her head, and the carnal cry she let out was almost enough to make James cum then, if his attention didn’t turn back to that pressure he felt inside her. She rode him at a steady pace, not too fast nor too slow, her hips alternating between moving back and forth and straight up and down. Occasionally her hands would graze over her breasts, circling her nipples into her palms, or a finger or two would slide into the tiny visible space where the front of her crotch lay and press against her clit. Her body arched back with a series of gasps as she did so, making him squirm with a frenzied jolt of his pelvis. His own hands rested on her hips, shaking, aching to explore her body, but unable to properly do so thanks to the overwhelming pleasure that immobilized his entire body, save for the burn in and around his cock. She was moving down faster now, plunging down as far as she could to feel all of him. Her face glistened with sweat, her cheeks were flushed a deep shade of crimson, and her mouth hung wide open in a passioned scream, so loud that James swore that it echoed all throughout the hotel. And then his whole body tensed. He felt like he was a rocketship taking off from the ground, the thrusters burning, soaring through the sky, blasting off at the speed of light, and stars flashed before his eyes as he screamed:

“I—I think I—Ah—AH---AHH!”

The blazing heat of his ejaculate made her muscles clench around his cock and push down. Jessie moaned at the top of her lungs. He felt his cum circle about the tightness inside her, cascade down his shaft and onto his crotch before the orgasm began to fade. He became still. Jessie however was not. She got off of him and her hand shot to her crotch. She rubbed out the last of her remaining lust, her hips rapidly thrusting back and forth as her hand cupped over her crotch. When she finally did, her legs pressed down hard on his’, her cupped hand shook, her hips were uncontrollably bouncing up and down, and a vulnerability vibrated through the shrill breathy cry that was emitted from her trembling lips. He watched, fascinated by the sight. She slid off of him and took her place back next to him on the bed. She looked over at him with a sigh.

“I wanted that for so long,” she told him.

“Me too,” he replied.

“Good for your first time?” She asked.

“Incredible,” he breathed.

Jessie chuckled. Her cheeks dimpled as she grinned over at him. James’ eyelids fluttered, and his heart felt like it was floating as he gazed over at her with a lovestruck look. The drowsiness kicked in, and as James’ eyes slowly shut, he thought about how lucky he was to have lost his virginity to the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world.

Chapter Text

Wow, that does sound incredible,” the man said.

“It was the best night of my life,” James smiled as he finished reminiscing.

“You’re so lucky to have that experience. Not everyone’s first time is as special as that,” the man said with an underlying wistfulness and envy.

For the first time, James turned his head over to his right where the mystery stranger sat. He caught a glance of two navy-blue sneakers that were firmly planted onto the ground and the wide cuffed ends of brown, baggy cargo pants. James stopped. Then squinted. Slowly his head tilted towards his left as he curiously went to take a closer look at the man’s clothes. His gaze started to move upward…

“I’m still confused about something. The first time you guys tried to hook up, why did you guys stop?”

James’ head sharply turned back down and center. A dull pain throbbed by his temples, and the faint lines on the ground appeared to vibrate before James’ body readjusted itself from the sudden movement.

“Uh---the air conditioning came on and my friend barged in,” James hastily answered.

“Well, the way you told me, it kinda sounded like you wanted to stop.”

James became very still in his spot.

“Stop?”

“I don’t know, something about her trying to touch your chest---“ The man continued.

“I got nervous I guess, everyone does,” James’ words felt like they were being ground into tiny bits through his teeth.

“Ok,” the man got the hint that James wanted to drop the subject. He became quiet. James tried to imagine how the man was pondering over his next question. He seemed like the type of guy who would stare out deep in thought with a hand over his chin, perhaps with the occasional scratch or two by the side of his head for good measure. It almost made him want to venture out and gaze over again when the man started:

“So I guess you guys were already like dating---“

“Dating? No, we never dated,” James interrupted him.

What? Why?” The man was surprised.

“Well---I---you see--- this thing-----we,” James was tripping on his words. His hands clenched over his knees and gripped so tightly that his legs started to shake.

“At my---my tea---where I work—it’s—it’s bad to get into relationships with your coworkers, it’s better to hook up and not get attached,” James nervously answered.

“Ah, I see,” the man intoned.

“Yeah,” James said with a nod.

___________________________

Five Years Ago

The code for Jessie and James was stress relief. Dropping it was akin to the act of foreplay. Innuendos wove into their conversations. Whispers teased what would come next. A smoldering gaze, a furtive touch or kiss, and it was then Jessie and James snuck away: to the hotel room they were staying at, her room at Team Rocket headquarters, the tent that was too tiny to hold just the two of them, secluded areas away from camp, a deserted alleyway, a club’s bathroom sink. Some encounters were quick and intense, leaving them temporarily satisfied. Others were drawn out, passionate midnight trysts. Hours upon hours of heightened sensations, touches, that built up to an orgasmic bliss that engulfed them both. Then, Jessie and Jessie would fall asleep in each other’s arms, tangled up until morning came.

__________________________________________________________

The women’s room on the second floor hardly garnered any traffic, and whenever James had to disguise himself as a woman before setting out from headquarters, he chose to change there. The men’s room was dangerous place to set foot in with feminine attire and makeup. When his fellow agents and grunts realized what James was wearing, they cornered him. First the came taunts and slurs, then the threats to beat him up or worse. It was James’ quick reflexes that saved him. A push forward, a knock of his elbow against their hands, before he scrambled towards the door before slamming the door in their faces and breaking out into a run for his life.

If any girls came in the women’s room while James was getting ready, they didn’t give him a second glance. With an androgynous body and peach fuzz on his cheeks that still hadn’t taken root as actual hair at age eighteen and a half, James could pass as a young woman if he didn’t speak.

So far everything was going well. James had already changed into the dress he’d wear and he teetered on top of his heels as he adjusted his hair extensions in the mirror. He leaned back, gave the extensions a flip and smiled at the mirror.

“You are gorgeous,” he blew a kiss to his reflection.

James reached over to his right to grab his makeup bag.

Bam

Laughter. Panic.

James perfect posture slouched over. His elbows knocked against his sides. He lowered his head, his bangs bounced on his forehead. His lips trembled. Low masculine sneers rang in his ears. He shut his eyes, his hand gripped the makeup bag and then the laughter came again.

They were giggles. High pitched ones.

James relaxed with a glance behind him. Six girls entered the room. Their clique began to disperse: two headed into the stalls, two took place either side of James at the sinks, and the other two hovered behind them with an occasional glance and shout over at the stalls to include them in the conversation about the latest gossip going around headquarters. James was used to maneuvering about tight quarters but now with four girls crowding about him, he found it nearly impossible to move. The girl on his left shifted in place with sudden movements as she applied her makeup. The girl on his right who was washing her face was splashing the water everywhere. The two girls behind him jutted in and out through the small empty space between him and the girls beside him. A flush, creak of the stall door, and James was nearly shoved to the side as another girl rushed forward to wash her hands with an apologetic shout. He sharply inhaled through his nose and took out his eyeliner from the bag.

“But honestly give me a good reason why The Boss would invite a level one agent like Matori to his fortieth birthday party if it wasn’t to sleep with her?” The girl on James’ right turned the faucet off and gazed up into the mirror.

“Promotion?” The girl on James’ left brushed powder on her cheeks.

“Honey you are so naïve. If The Boss directly promotes girls that are lower than level three, it’s because they either fucked him or sucked his cock,” one of the girls behind James pointed out with a wag of her finger.

James raised the eyeliner pencil towards him. He tilted the pencil and applied slow strokes underneath the curve of his eyelid.

“No but I also heard that Mai chick and that Joey guy hooked up at that party and now they’re going out,” came a shout from the stalls.

“Mai is dating Joey? She has such bad taste in guys,” said the girl who was drying her hands over by the paper towel dispenser.

“They were all over each other before The Boss’ party, they were probably going out before then.”

James went to put makeup on the other eye. The girl on his left set down the powder brush and picked up a tube of lip- gloss. She opened it and dipped the brush end of the applicator in the gloss.

“But you guys, you know those agents Jessie and James?” The girl on James’ left brought the brush up to her lips.

“Yeah,” all the girls exclaimed.

The girl applied the gloss. With a circular motion, she lifted up the applicator and put it back into the tube. She puckered up her lips. They parted into a grin as she began to speak:

“They are totally going out.”

___________________________________________

“Huh?” The Mystery Stranger interrupted. “Didn’t you say that—“

Five Years Ago

They are totally going out

James’ fingers curled. The eyeliner pencil fell with a clatter into the sink. It spun about the basin until the end of the pencil slid into the drain.

 

“I know right? I saw them walking together, and you know how like Jessie wears a crop top? His hand was on her waist and was like squeezing her skin.”

James reached into the sink and scooped up the pencil into his fingers. The base was slippery. His finger-pads twitched as he struggled to hold the pencil firmly in his grasp.

“One time, I saw them in the library and she was like leaning against the stacks and he was standing super close. It looked like they were gonna make out,” came as the stall door opened.

James’ eyes were rapidly blinking as the tip of the pencil touched his skin. A flutter of his lashes sent the tip of the pencil off course. He raised a knuckle to wipe the excess eyeliner off but found that it smudged it about instead.

“You sure they’re together? I thought that dude was gay,” one of the girls questioned.

“Second that, everything about him screams gay,” the girl standing right behind James added.

It was too risky to even try to force his voice to go higher to ask the girl next to him for a paper towel. James stepped back and crossed over, making sure not to bump into anyone.

“But if James was gay, why would he act like he likes her?” The girl who had brought up the rumor pointed out.

“Simple. She’s his beard.”

“But it looks way too real to be fake,” one of the girls at the sink stepped aside to let the girl who had been in the stall through.

“Totes agree. When I saw them in the library they were the only ones there. If he was gay he’d ham it up in public but ignore her the second they’re alone. He’s straight and they are so together,” the faucet turned with a creak.

James looked up from dabbing the paper towel underneath his eye. He shook his head and his mouth hummed to let out a chuckle that didn’t come. He wasn’t gay. But he definitely wasn’t straight either.

____________________________________________________________

Jessie slammed her beer down on the table with a snort. The beer swished and curved up the bottle’s neck before tiding back down. She raised her head up to the ceiling, giddy, cheeks flushed, her lips curling up into a grin to let out a shout so loud that it almost got the attention of the entire bar.

“This is our most ingenious plan ever!”

James clenched his teeth, and his lips quivered and stretched straight from side to side. He looked at her, then to his left at Meowth who pursed his lips before picking up his tumbler filled with heavy cream.

“No. I ain’t doing dat,” Meowth flatly replied.

James’ fingertips curled along the edge of the table before reaching out to grab his glass of dark n smoky. It sat on the table, untouched since the conversation had turned to the upcoming mission when Jessie started spewing out her ideas.

“But you gotta admit I get points for being creative,” the bottom of Jessie’s beer bottle scraped the table’s surface.

James flinched.

“Jessie you are talking way too loud,” James said in a hushed tone with a darting glance about him.

“I don’ care! Dere’s no way in hell dat ya gonna have me dress up like a baby. Not if ya pay me a trizillion dollars, not even if ya kick out dat mugface to da curb so I can be Da Boss’ numba one pokemon. I ain’t a cub ta be coddled, I’m a grown ass meowth!” Meowth took a sip of heavy cream.

“Then you tell me how else we’re gonna get into this family event thing or whatever it is without anyone being suspicious of us,” Jessie jabbed her finger at James and Meowth.

“Do I look like da one who has da answer ta everything?” Meowth snapped back.

James wrapped his hand around the glass.

“If you can’t come up with anything, we’re doing my plan and that’s final!” Jessie said.

James’ fingers slipped. His elbow jutted in, his hand curled, and then fell flat against the table. Both Jessie and Meowth jumped back.

“Jessie are you crazy?” He shouted.

“My plan is a great idea! What is your deal?” Jessie retorted.

“I’m not doing it! I don’t wanna do it!” James’ teeth chattered.

“Give it up Jessie, even James agrees dat it’s dumb,” Meowth pointed at him.

A dull pins and needles sensation throbbed in James palm. It shot through his veins, up his spine, slowing everything in its path. His thoughts slowed and blurred, unable to match up with the panic that lurked deep within him that was rapidly being reeled up his throat and flung out as repetitive, strung out phrases:

“I’m not doing this! You can’t make me do this! Jessie you gotta listen to me!”

“Yeah! Listen ta him! Tell ‘er James! Tell ‘er!” Meowth mockingly said to Jessie with a laugh.

“You’re both being stupid and I am not listening,” Jessie said as she took a swig of beer.

James’ hand slid forward to grab his drink again. Jessie waved the bottle about again, spilling beer over the sides as she exclaimed:

“Just admit you’re jealous! Not even that chlamydia chick and bitchface would ever think about disguising themselves as a married couple with a kid!”

Crash

Ice cubes tumbled out before the rest of James’ dark n smoky followed down to the floor. A crack cut through the side of the overturned glass and shattered into tiny bits. Jessie’s eyes widened and then she snorted again.

“Shit. That’s a waste of a good drink,” she drained the rest of her beer.

James slouched back in his chair. He had become still save for the hand that hovered mid air between the table and his lap that shook.

“I ain’t cleaning dat up,” Meowth put his paws up in the air.

“I’m gonna get us some more drinks!” Jessie’s voice had become bubbly with a grating screech.

“I can get my own drink,” James quickly said. His throat felt hoarse.

“I don’t care I’m getting drinks!” Jessie started to push herself up from her chair. She still held onto her beer bottle.

“Jessie, it’s fine, really,” James mumbled under his breath.

Jessie was up on her feet. She leaned in over the table to stare right at James. Her hand clasped over the beer bottle’s neck.

“Then least let me make it up to you or something,” her hand slowly slid up over the neck and then went back to her side as she turned.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sweat glistened on James’ forehead. He kept his eyes of Jessie’s figure in front of them as they navigated the bar’s dimly lit back hallway. Her fingers slipped through his as she picked up her pace. Waves of red flowed over her bare shoulders and then down to cover the body of her tube top. James lowered his gaze to follow the movement of her hips swaying from side to side. It turned into blazing stare as he noticed how the ends of her miniskirt crept up her thighs, how the fabric clung to the outline of her buttocks and he felt himself go weak in the knees.

The noise coming from the bar had become muffled. They both stopped. James turned to make sure that no one was coming in their direction. A numbness prickled on his skin as he felt Jessie’s presence behind him. She drew in closer.

“James,” Her arms wrapped around his waist.

He leaned back into her with a sigh. He was already imagining how her hands would creep down to the band of his jeans. How she’d tease him by playing around with the belt buckle, giving it a tap, a jiggle, but never venturing further. Her low croon of how she’d jack him off until to the point of cumming, and then she’d take him, in her mouth, in her throbbing wetness, and they’d go off that edge together.

Her hands clenched around him.

James stiffened. His heart painfully constricted. It felt like Jessie’s ekans was coiling around him for the kill, winding and winding until his bones cracked, his insides turned into sludge, and its fangs sharpened to sink into his flesh.

“Guess what I’m not wearing---“

Jessie’s words struck his ears. They echoed with a crack before warping into a sing-song drawl that sounded nothing like her voice.

“I want you to rip my skirt off and fuck me against the wall---“

Her breath on his neck painfully prickled his skin. Sharp, red nails scraped against his shirt. James flinched. His hands balled up into fists. Torso jutted forward. Foot dug into the ground and ready to kick back into a sprint. His mouth gaped open to scream but nothing came out.

Jaaaames

“Hey! Are you even listening to me?” Jessie’s shrill voice broke through.

Her grip loosened. James blinked and became still against her.

“Yeah?”

“I’m trying to fucking turn you on here!” Jessie pulled back with a groan.

“I need a drink.”

James watched her leave. His hand shot up and hovered over his chest. The palm of his hand pressed down with a curl and he gasped for air.

Chapter Text

Five Years Ago

There was no shelter in sight and running was out of the question. James scrambled as the tornado picked up speed. Lines of red slashed and circled through the air and its silver body touched ground. The earth quaked. James toppled over and cowered for dear life. It was hopeless. In last desperate attempt to protect himself he held up his issue of Bottle Caps Collector Monthly in front of his face. He shut his eyes, the ends of the magazine flickered, and a harsh shriek followed.

“The RSVP is like in two days and if I’m going to fucking show up Cassidy once and for fucking all, I gotta send them in now!”

James’ eyes flickered open. He slowly lowered the magazine to face Jessie.

“But---doesn’t it say that you have to bring a date to this Valentine’s Day thing?” He stuttered.

Jessie’s hands shot up and gripped strands of her long red hair with a groan.

“I’m not talking about you, you stupid dummy! I’m talking about this lazyass hairball who won’t get his shit together!”

Jessie pointed over at Meowth who stiffened in place. Fur spiked up on his arms and the top of his head. He nervously glanced over at Jessie, then James before letting out a choked up laugh.

“I’m—I’m workin’ on it I swear,” Meowth said.

“Then who did you ask?” Jessie questioned.

“Uh—uh---I—I—“ Meowth twiddled his paws together and looked down to avoid avoid Jessie’s piercing gaze.

Jessie pulled at her hair with a scream.

“YOU LITTLE---“

“Jessie why is it so important that Meowth gets a date for this Valentine’s Day thing? Don’t you have to find a date?” James interrupted.

Strands of red spun through the air. Two shaking hands shot up to the sky. Lightening crashed and thunder boomed as Jessie’s mouth open to shout:

“You’re going with me! Duh!

“I am?” This was news for him.

“Do I have to fucking repeat myself? Who else would I go with you moron?”

Oh yeah. He and Jessie worked together. And sometimes hooked up and slept together when it was convenient. It made sense that she’d choose him to go to the Valentine’s Day party, even if he was acting like a moron right now.

“Uh—I’m sorry—I didn’t know?” Jessie’s furious gaze on him felt absolutely terrifying.

Jessie whirled about over to Meowth.

“Do not give me that bullshit!” She shouted.

“I really am tryin’! Ya know how hard it is ta ask chicks out?” He retorted.

“Does it look like I date girls?”

“James ya gotta help a brotha out, back me up!” Meowth pleaded.

James held up the magazine in front of him again. It pushed into him and he fell back. He lay motionless on the ground, staring up at the pages on the best fishing tips and rare caps as Jessie and Meowth went at it.

“If you’re going to be a pussy about it go with my ekans!”

“I don’ think she likes me dat way!”

“We have a fucking reputation to uphold! We have to go as team! If we don’t that fucking skank and her fa-“

James’ eyes widened. The air against the pages suddenly felt uncomfortably warm. His limbs stiffened before he pulled himself up into a seating position.

“---boyfriend are gonna do it first!”

___________________________________

“She said that?” Came the Mystery Stranger’s voice.

“Yeah? So?” James glanced over at the man’s shoes with a surprised expression.

“She knows you’re bi right?”

James paused and unclenched his hands from his knees.

“She does. She’s known since we’ve met and she’s cool about it,” James said.

“Then why would she still go and say what she said in front of you?” The man asked.

“Eh, Jessie doesn’t always think before she speaks. Whenever she gets angry she gets into a state and says a lot of stuff she doesn’t mean. She just thinks that she’s showing how angry is she,” James tried to brush it off.

“But she’d know that that word would offend you.

James’ head sharply turned back to center. He tapped his foot and sucked in some air before speaking.

“I’ve heard worse. Stuff like that doesn’t really bother me anymore. And she wasn’t talking about me, she was talking about the other guy.”

“But why would she still call him that? Does she think he’s gay?”

“No, I told you, she’s just angry and getting angry for her is like getting blackout drunk. You really can’t predict anything she’ll do or say. And besides this guy’s a dumbass.”

“Even if this guy is a dumbass,” the stranger sounded uncomfortable swearing. “Does he deserve to be called what she called him?”

James’ hands pressed over his knees again. He gazed back down at the floor. His bangs dangled over his forehead, nearly obscuring his eyes.

No,” James’ voice came out as a whisper.

“Why?”

“Because I know what it’s like, and it’s not even something I’d wish on a piece of shit like him,” James slowly said.

Both men became silent. Footsteps sounded from the end of the hall. Cool air brushed by as two people passed them. The Mystery Stranger cleared his throat.

“Did you feel like saying anything to her?”

What? You crazy man? You know you can’t reason with a rage monster like her when she gets like that,” James laughed.

“True,” James imagined that the man nodded.

“All I could do was just tune her out. It was hard ‘cause she and my friend were screaming at each other. He actually won the lucky cat---dog,” James stopped himself before he let slip.

“Then you two went to the party?” The Mystery Stranger asked.

James blinked, then sighed.

“I wish I’d never gone.”

__________________________________________

Five Years Ago

The latest number one chart topper blared at the highest volume as Jessie and James stepped into the club. White and red rave lights flashed in time to the music, casting an unusually eerie and sinister glow on the couples on the dance floor. A pink heart streamer dangled right in front of James’ face. It swung forward and gently tapped his nose. He jumped back behind Jessie who only let out an eager shout. She gripped James’ hand and pointed through the crowd.

“To the bar! To the bar! To the bar-bar-bar!” She exclaimed to the tune of the William Tell overture.

James couldn’t keep up. He let himself be whacked left, right, and center by the heart streamers that extended down from the ceiling. Jessie only laughed as she dragged him across the room as fast as she possibly could on high heels. Her pigtails bounced on her shoulders. The fabric of her pink minidress tightly stretched around her upper back and shoulders. She finally paused for a second and gazed about the club with a confused expression. He took the chance to slide his hand out of hers. She noticed and turned.

“Um, don’t you wanna go to the dancefloor?” James gestured over to the crowd.

“The dancefloor don’t have any shots sunshine. Where am I supposed to get them then?”

“We could get a drink later. It’s good to wait a bit before drinking again,” James suggested.

“I want my shots!” Jessie protested with a stomp of her foot.

“Ok. Ok. But we go to the dancefloor next.”

Jessie and James took their seats at the bar. The bartender approached them.

“Good evening. May I offer you our house special tonight? A sparkling rosé, straight from Kalos, courtesy of Mr. Giovanni himself,” the bartender greeted them.

“I didn’t come for that crap! Gimmie my jager shots!” Jessie rudely said.

“I’ll take the rosé,” James said, slightly embarrassed.

The bartender went to make the drinks. Jessie impatiently squirmed about in her seat. She snapped her fingers and hollered:

“Hey! Hey! Step it up!”

“Jessie,” James nervously hissed.

The bartender handed them their drinks. James held up his flute glass to toast. Jessie picked up her shot glass and drained the contents before he was able to clink his glass with hers. She moved onto the second shot glass and leaned back in her seat with a smack of her lips.

“Ah that was so good!” She raised the shot glass to see if any of the jager still remained. She slammed her glass down and scooted at the edge of her seat.

“Hey! Hey you! I need a chaser! Give me some beer!” She yelled at the bartender.

The bartender was serving drinks to other guests. Jessie pushed herself forward so that she was directly touching the counter. Her arm swung up, hand balled up into a fist and she brought it down.

“Gimme some beer!” Jessie shouted.

“Jessie, he’s kinda busy,” James gestured over to the other side of the bar.

“But we were here first!” Jessie complained.

“They don’t have drinks. And besides, you already had a drink, you’re good right now right?” James gave her an uneasy smile.

Her open palm crashed down on the counter this time. James’ rosé swirled about in his glass and splashed over the rim. He quickly grabbed it as she began to bring her palm down to accentuate her point.

Fuck them! We’re the real fucking deal. We’re agents!We should get the drinks! We don’t get shit round here!”

“Jessie I think---“ James started.

“We’re the only agents here!

“Butch and Cassidy are like right over there,” James pointed over at the club’s entrance.

Jessie’s eyes narrowed. She gripped the counter, her knees bent and she jumped up to her feet.

“Hold my drink,” she pushed her shot glass in James’ direction.

Jessie staggered over to the pair. Her high heels screeched against the wooden floor, leaving a trail of white scratches in their wake. Her arm shot out, finger tipsily jabbed the air, and James could only imagine the fury in her eyes as her shout eclipsed the noise of the club.

“YOU!”

Butch and Cassidy turned around, clearly startled. Cassidy’s blonde curls bounced as she faced Jessie with a smug look.

“Who? Are you talking about me Jessica?” Cassidy taunted.

“YOU THINK YOU CAN JUST WALK IN HERE YOU FUCKING CU-“

James nearly choked on his rosé. He set the glass down and bolted from his seat.

“Hey! Don’t call her that!” Butch retorted in a nasally whine.

The only giveaway that Cassidy had been affected by Jessie’s offensive remark was the way the anger flared in her eyes before a tide of mischief washed over. Her lips turned up into a devious grin, blonde curls bounced on her shoulders as she titled her head and said:

“That’s a bit rich coming from you considering that you’re an even bigger one.”

The shouting that followed came so loud that James nearly huddled over with his hands cupping his ears. He looked up to see Jessie lunge at Cassidy with a violent shake of her fist. He rushed over immediately.

“YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SUCH A FUCKING LIAR!”

James reached out and apprehensively tapped Jessie’s shoulder.

“Jessie come on, we’re supposed to have a good time. We can save this shit for later.”

“FUCK OFF JIMMY I TOLD YOU TO HOLD MY DRINK!” Jessie spat in his face before turning back to Cassidy.

“YOU LISTEN TO ME YOU---“

“Oh Jessica you think I’d listen to the drivel that comes out of your mouth? Do you ever shut up for once? Because I’ve heard that the only way you do is if there’s a dick being jammed down your throat.”

Butch laughed like it was the most hysterical thing he had ever heard. James glared at him and Cassidy before turning back to see Jessie’s enraged expression.

“I’M NOT A SLUT YOU ARE!” Jessie roared.

“Jessie don’t listen to her! She’s just trying to push you!” James exclaimed.

“Ha, that’s funny! That’s what a girl like her would say!” Butch chimed in to make fun of Jessie. No one listened to him.

“YOU’RE THE ONE WHO TAKES IT UP THE BUTT!”

“It’s not worth it, let’s go,” James gently placed a hand on her shoulder.

She shoved him off. He felt woozy. The world spun in front of his eyes with flashes of red and white. James’s vision adjusted and he blinked to see that Jessie and Cassidy were still arguing. The accusations that piled up on each other became more and more preposterous.

“Jessie—Jessie—“ He stuttered.

Just as Jessie was searching for a new insult to hurl at Cassidy, the girl turned with another bounce of her blonde curls. Looking victorious, she beckoned Butch to follow her. They strutted past Jessie, past James and into the club.

“What a fucking bitch,” James heard Butch say.

Jessie’s body swayed from side to side as she started to storm after them.

“DON’T WALK AWAY FROM ME YOU BITCH YOU KNOW I’M RIGHT! TELL HER JAMES! TELL HER!” She leaned over and tugged on his sleeve.

James didn’t say anything. Jessie groaned. She turned and stumbled back to the bar.

“Why doesn’t anyone pay attention to me?” She hoarsely whined.

___________________________________________________

James hovered around area between the tables and the dance floor. An up-tempo song was playing and the floor was packed. He longingly gazed at the couples and the groups of people dancing, knowing that he could not join. He’d look stupid dancing alone. People wouldn’t want him in their groups. Jessie was too busy getting wasted to dance with him, so all he could do, like all those times before was just watch.

A series of high- pitched shrieks broke James from his daze. A bunch of drunk girls rushed onto the dance floor and headed directly under the rave lights. They formed a circle and one of the girls pushed forward to the center. The lights flashed on her, accentuating the vibrant hue of red in her pigtails. She held her head back and whooped. Gone was the nastiness from before. Instead Jessie obnoxiously laughed in a tone that didn’t sound anything that would come from her. She stumbled back, the straps of her dress sliding down her shoulders, knees buckling, and her arms flailed. She reached out, grabbing random hands, hair, violently colliding with whatever stood in her path. James’ arm shot out in the air as if to catch her if she fell, his foot backing up against the floor as if to break out into a run, yet with all the energy coursed through him he remained rooted to the ground. He watched her catch her fall in time with a laugh and spin about to the cheers of the other girls.

Why did he think that she needed help? Jessie was a force of destruction, she’d rather pull down everyone with her than accept a hand to catch her fall.

The sound of a record scratching came. The DJ tapped the mike and then announced in a suave voice:

“Alright everyone how about we take a breather? Let’s slow things down.”

An electric piano chord sounded. It progressed into a cheesy love ballad popular about ten years prior. One by one the couples around James got up to dance. They joined the coupes on the dance floor, each pair lost in a tight embrace in their own little world as they swayed back and forth. Some whispered sweet nothings to each other. Others snuck in kisses on the cheek, head, or lips. The bolder ones left no space between them as they James looked on from the sidelines, feeling a pang of somethingin his chest that he couldn’t describe.

“WHERE’S MY BOYFRIEND?”

James was too lost in thought to recognize the shriek.

“WHERE’S MY BOYFRIEND?”

The air suddenly felt cold. A flash of red. A flash of white. Pigtails knocked into his face.

WHeRES MY BOyFRIEnD?”

Jessie’s cheeks were flushed red. Her eyes were glassy and wide. She nearly tripped on her high heels as she reached out and grabbed his arm.

“Jamsey-coo, oh Jamsey-coo!” She drunkenly slurred.

She was crushing him. Her nails stung like talons. Needles. Palms like steel. His arm was going numb. She was crushing him. His heart, beat, faster, faster, faster. The blood rushed. He couldn’t feel his arm. She was crushing him. The blood boiled over. One more squeeze and he would explode. A pop of flesh, shower of blood and bone all over the dance floor.

“You’re mah boy! You’re mah baby boy Jamsey! You my cutie pie!”

A flicker of red. A flicker of white. Red, white, red, white. Dots. Dots. Dots. Black. Eyes as cold as ice. A howl. Her hair whipped. A whip. She was crushing him SHE WAS CRUSHING HIM. NO WHERE TO RUN NO WHERE TO HIDE.

“Ah luv ya Jamsey!”

I LoVe YOU JAMES I’M ONlY DoInG ThIS BEcAUSE I LOVE YOU

In a flash, James tore away from Jessie and ran.

“Come back!” She cooed. “Come back!”

Run

Jessie grabbed onto the arm of a passing girl. With a laugh, she pulled on her and they spun around in a circle.

Run

Don’t look back. Don’t look back.

RUN

___________________________

“She wakin’?” Meowth asked. “Hey! Rise a’ shine sunshine!”

James watched as Jessie’s eyes flickered open. A groan vibrated on her lips and her arms and legs tensed against the mattress. She pushed herself up into a seating position. Sunlight filtered directly on her from the window on the opposite end of the room. Her hands shot to her head and she pulled her knees close to her chest. The ends of her party dress were pushed up, unintentionally exposing her underwear.

“Ow! Ow!” Jessie rubbed her head.

“Jessie?” James’ voice cracked.

“Wow Jessie ya really had a night,” Meowth flatly said.

“Wha—wha—happen’?” Jessie muttered.

The night before flashed in James’ mind in red and white lights: her drowning down shots at the bar, the fight with Cassidy, her dancing, her grip, her words.

“You—you said I was your boyfriend,” James finally said in a nervous voice.

Jessie looked up and shot him a dubious expression.

“That’s stupid. I don’t date guys I work with,” she curtly replied.

Before James could say anything, Jessie clasped her hand over her mouth. Her cheeks puffed out. Sweat glistened on her skin as her face turned green. She rose from the bed and dashed past James and Meowth into the bathroom. James and Meowth looked on as she sunk down before the toilet bowl and struggled to get the seat up in time. James averted his eyes as a thick brownish liquid pooled out from her mouth with a sickening retch.

“Aren’t we sa-posed ta hold ‘er hair back o’ somethin’?” Meowth asked.

James said nothing. He turned his back on her and stared blankly at the bed where she once lay.

Chapter Text

The corners of James’ mouth curved up as he gazed out at the wall on the opposite side of the hall. The overhead lights shone on his face. Nostalgia glowed in his eyes. The dourness in his tone gave way to an enthusiasm not present since he had talked about losing his virginity to Jessie.

“We started to travel a lot for work. I was so excited. I was living out my dreams. Every day was an adventure. We were making it big and we were so damn good at it that I could see us becoming the top-dogs at our work one day.”

James sighed. His posture stooped down, the point of his shoe pushed into the ground, and he was back to studying the lines on the floor.

“But it only lasted for so long. You can’t climb up so high without falling right? Everything went downhill after a couple of months.”

“What happened?” Came the Mystery Stranger’s gruff voice.

Anger flashed on James’ face. He pushed himself to the edge of his seat, hands clenching on his knees. With a painful gulp, he attempted to steady his voice.

“While we were out doing fieldwork, we kept on running into these kids who had it out for us. And we were stupid for underestimating them. They jus’ a bunch of brats. All dey need is a good ass kicking and dey won’t get in our way. And whaddya know? They just kept on getting stronger and smarter and even more annoying. Everywhere we went, each town, city, region, they made it their mission to screw us over. For five years. Five fucking years and we still can’t get shit done and move up because and they don’t know how to mind their own goddamn business!”

The sharp inhale that topped off his rant stung the sides of his nostrils. James clamped down on his tongue. Hands uncurled and fell flat on his knees. He slouched back with his gaze up at the ceiling again and let out a huge sigh of relief. His breath tickled the back of his throat, loosening the tightness in his jaws up into a grin. He laughed. The sound traveled about the hallway: zig-zagging from wall to wall, bouncing off of the ceiling, back to James where it struck his ears like a gong. He raised his hand and sent a sweeping gesture over towards where the other man sat.

“And so my friend, what wisdom will you bestow on me now?” A hint of the old James peeked through with pizazz.

Nothing.

A painful jolt from his heart, blood pounded through his veins, and James stiffened in his spot. His cheeks burned then paled as he resumed his usual gaze down at the floor with an embarrassed look. His outburst had been too much. The poor man was probably terrified by his anger. James slowly lifted his head. It began to move towards the right…

“That sounds…very frustrating,” the man piped up.

“Yeah,” James’s voice came out subdued. He rubbed his eyes. His hands slid down his cheeks and settled back down on his knees. He looked straight over at the wall.

“Somehow we managed to keep it all together in the beginning. We did what we had to do, went about Kanto, then Johto…”

James’ eyes closed. His chest puffed out, throat vibrated as the breath that surged up hit the air as a rattling wheeze. He opened his eyes. Vulnerability washed over the blue of his irises, making the pupils appear to rock about like a boat on stormy seas. A blink and James forced the tears back. He continued on.

“Hoenn was when we---when I realized that everything had taken its toll on us.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Three Years Ago

“Hey Jess? Jess wake up!”

James pulled back the tent’s flap. Light streamed in, reflecting Jessie’s facedown body on top of the sleeping bag. She shifted her body forward with a groan and planted the top of her head down as far as it could go in between the crook of her elbows. Her tangled locks of magenta (permanent thanks to a dyeing experience gone horribly wrong) curled up at the ends before settling against the back of her pajama tank top.

“What?” She grumbled.

“It’s ten thirty. Matori’s calling us in a half an hour remember?” James reminded her as she crouched down next to the sleeping bag.

“I’m not gonna get ready for some four eyed hag,” came Jessie’s muffled voice.

“She’s up even earlier than we are. It’s eight thirty back in Kanto,” James gently nudged her shoulder.

“I don’ care I wanna sleep.”

“Yeah but Boss doesn’t want us to be late for meetings like this,” James added, knowing that Jessie would immediately perk up.

“The Boss can suck it. A girl like me needs my beauty sleep,” she replied with a hmph.

James nervously glanced about the tent, bare save for the three sleeping bags on the ground and the suitcases and backpacks that were piled up on the other side.

“Jessie, careful. What if the rumors about him bugging everything turns out to be true?” He whispered.

“Are they?” She doubtfully said.

“I don’t know, either way we’re all gonna get in trouble, and you don’t want that right?”

Jessie groaned again.

“Come on. We’re a team right?”

Jessie slowly got up into a sitting position. She turned towards her right and smoothed her hair away from her eyes.

“Fine. Fine,” she sounded annoyed.

Before getting up to her feet, Jessie reached for the canteen on the ground. She opened it and took a sip.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

Luckily for James and Meowth, Jessie was used to getting ready under pressure. They had a minute to spare when she emerged from the tent. She straightened her skirt as she rushed over. Once she had reached their side, her hands went back to smooth her just brushed hair one last time. James noticed with a closer look that she had put on a touch of lip-gloss and a thin line of eyeliner outlined the creases of her eyes in hoping of concealing the sleep bags underneath her eyes.

The laptop’s webcam beeped. The small square screen in the corner of the video log flashed with the message of an incoming call. Jessie, James, and Meowth all stood up as straight as they could with their arms firmly planted by their sides.

The secretary from hell and The Boss’ rumored lover Matori appeared on the screen. She pushed back the sides of her glasses as she scrutinized the trio. A whitish light bounced off of the lens. Her arms lowered and crossed in front of her chest.

“Good morning,” she curtly greeted them.

“Matori,” James said with a slight bow of his head.

“Good morning,” Meowth made the effort to not cut off the ends of words like he usually did.

Anger flared in Jessie’s eyes. The hand by her side started to ball up into a fist.

“You—“ She started.

“Jessie,” Meowth hissed at her.

“I have received information from our contact in Slateport City that you have not sent him any pokemon.”

Jessie, James, and Meowth all exchanged nervous glances. James shifted from side to side and then forward to address Matori.

“We’ve only been here for a couple of weeks. We’re still getting settled in,” James explained.

Matori picked up a folder on her desk. She shuffled through the papers, one by one, before gazing up at the trio again.

“If my records are correct, you had no trouble acquiring pokemon back in Johto. You managed to make a shipment within the first week.”

Her words stung. They were backed up in a corner with no way to get out. A guilty look crossed James’ face. Jessie clenched her teeth and muttered something under her breath about how Matori was a snoop. It was Meowth who had the courage to answer her. He stepped forward with a twiddle of his paws.

“Johto was different Miss. We didn’t have any problems with catching because we had a full team.”

“Then why haven’t you made an attempt to replace the pokemon you lost?” Matroi questioned.

The flush on Jessie’s cheeks darkened. The beads of sweat on her forehead appeared to enlarge as her arm swung back. Her hand balled into a fist, foot crashed onto the ground and kicked up dirt, and James swore that the earth quaked underneath as her anger was unleashed.

“We nearly fucking died!

James’ shoulders pushed up. He craned the back of his head with a wince. Meowth’s mouth hung open. Matori’s cool expression on did not change. Jessie continued to shout. Her voice cracked with a screech. Droplets of spit flew from her mouth. Angry tears boiled over from the blue in her eyes and cascaded down her cheeks.

You tell me what other choice we fucking had! Go on! Go on you stupid bitch! But of course you wouldn’t know shit ‘cause the hardest fucking decision you’ve ever had to make was whether---“

“Jessie! Don’t!

As soon as his own words hit the air, James felt a chill creep up his spine. His head felt heavy, teeth chattered as he tried to make sense of what he just blurted out. Jessie was so caught up in her tirade that she did not hear him. She held up her fist at Matori. It curled out, four fingers fell flat, leaving the third one up.

“Go FUCK YOURSELF!

It was if all of Jessie’s rage had been drained out of her, forming into wisps of steam that evaporated upon contact with the scorching air. She shook as Arbok escaped her lips. Hands rose to shield her face. She fell. Words became whimpers. Head lowered, trying to burry her shame. She crumbled. Hands dug into her face. Fingers gripped her hair. Sobs racked the air.

James turned. Reached out.

“Jessie.”

Her shoulder pushed his fingers off. She stormed past him, past their camp, into the forest, until she disappeared from sight. The insects buzzed. The birds chirped. And ever so faintly, an anguished cry could be heard in distance.

____________________________________________________________________________

It was another sweltering afternoon. Jessie, James, Meowth, and Wobbuffet had been out for hours trying to search for pokemon but it seemed that these Hoenn ones were shyer than their Kantonian or Johtan brethren. If startled, they’d peek out from the safety of the tall grass to let out a shriek once the nets swooped down. And in a blink, they’d vanish, not to be encountered again.

James was exhausted. His arms were sore from waving the net about. The start of a bad sunburn prickled on his face. Damp patches of sweat collected under his armpits and on the back of his Team Rocket shirt. Meowth was faring no better, with drooping whiskers, fur prickling up on his arms, and almost panting as he tried to balance his net and stay upright. Wobbuffet was distracted by a patch of flowers that popped out from the blades of grass. He picked one up and held it up closely to admire it with a sniff and an overjoyed Wobba!

James decided to let the pokemon be. He wiped the sweat off of his brow with his sleeve and then reached for clip on his belt to unhook his canteen of water.

“Ugh! Why are these suckers eating me up alive?”

James turned towards the edge of the field where Jessie had set up her folding chair. The ends of the large beach hat on the top of her head flopped about as she rummaged through the backpack. She lifted her arm, a blotchy red and covered in painful bumps, to take out her own canteen. She popped off the top and angled the canteen to her mouth. She latched down and drank. A series of gulps that made her throat puff out, mouth slide over the top’s ridges as she tried to not let the liquid inside run down the sides of the canteen. She pulled back with a contented sigh that sounded like a cough to James’ ears. A glint bounced off of the lens of her sunglasses. She glanced up and returned James’ stare.

“What?” Her tone was surly with a hint of accusation.

“Nothing,” he shot back.

Meowth poked up from the grass with leaves sticking out behind his ears. He glared over at Jessie before positioning his paw into a point.

“Hey! Why don’ ya come out here an’ help?”

“I am helping. I’m scouting,” Jessie replied.

She set down the canteen by the chair’s side and reached for the backpack again. Out came a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

“An’ when was da last time ya scouted Jessie?” Meowth said with another point of his paw.

“I’ve been scouting. Without me, would you have noticed that what- cha- mah call it running about in the grass? No, because I have a bird’s eye view of this entire field.”

Meowth’s fur and whiskers stuck out and sharpened into a point. His tail coiled up, he bared his teeth, and out came a snarl.

One: it’s not a bird’s eye view! Two: Ya did dat two hours ago! An’ what have ya done since? Tell me Jessie. Wha’ have ya been doing besides lyin’ ‘bout ta get a pretty lil’ tan?”

Jessie ignored him. She leaned back in the chair and fanned herself with the cigarette pack.

“It’s so damn hot out here! I can’t do anything in this heat! It’s so untolerable!” She whined.

“Well I’m hot too ya know an’ I’m out ‘ere workin’ mah tail off! Ya problem is dat ya lazy!”

The lighter clicked. Smoke trailed up into the air, right in front of Jessie’s eyes. The black of her pupils appeared to bulge in between wisps of smoke. Her eyebrows furrowed, lips stretched out into a scowl, and she violently jabbed the cigarette in Meowth’s direction.

“I’m not lazy! I do a whole hell of a lot around here and all you do is just complain, complain, complain! Meow! Meow! Meow! You should be grateful to have someone as talented as me on your team!”

Talented? Da only ting ya talented at is yappin’, yappin’, yappin’, an’ leavin’ ya shit for everyone ta clean up like da bitch ya are!”

Jessie bolted up from her chair and yanked the cigarette out of her mouth. A cloud of smoke pushed out, blanketing the air with its noxious fumes. James coughed and rubbed his eyes.

“HOW DARE YOU! HOW DARE YOU!” She shouted.

“Did I hurt ya feelings princess? Is da truth too tough ta handle?” Meowth taunted.

“You guys---“ James weakly started.

“YOU’RE THE ONE WHO’S FUCKING USELESS! WHAT KIND OF A HALF ASSED MEOWTH CAN ONLY USE FURY SWIPES? WE’D DO A WHOLE LOT BETTER IF YOU WEREN’T AROUND!”

“OH YEAH? OH YEAH? WELL I TINK WE’D BE MORE SUCCESSFUL IF WE DIDN’T ‘AVE A STUPID, SELF -ABSORBED, TWO- FACED HAG TA DRAG US DOWN E’VRY SINGLE FUCKING SECOND ‘CAUSE SHE CAN’ KEEP ‘ER MOUTH SHUT!”

Jessie threw her cigarette at Meowth. He ducked and jumped out at her with a hiss.

“GUYS!” James rushed over as fast as he could.

Jessie and Meowth charged and collided into James who was ready with his arms out to prevent Jessie and Meowth from tearing each other apart. Meowth’s claws ripped apart James’ sleeve. Jessie’s hands slapped somewhere between James’ shoulder and the air, struggling to get a good hit.

“YOU GUYS NEED TO STOP!” James shouted as loud as he could.

The commotion reached Wobbuffet. He dropped his flower with a yelp and bumbled over to the trio.

“WOBBA!” Wobbuffet waved his arms in the air. He picked up speed and began to circle them.

“DID THEY ALSO CUT OFF YOUR BALLS? NO WONDER YOU’RE SUCH A PUSSY!”

“WE NEED TO WORK AS A TEAM!” James was shaking. His arms and shoulders started to give, pain throbbed and started to swell on his skin as patches of black and blue, yet he held his ground.

“WOBBA!” Wobbuffet clutched the sides of his head.

“YA TINK DAT’LL HURT ME JESSIE? YA JUS’ THROWING DAT SAME SHIT YA THROW AT E’VRYBODY ELSE! TINK OF SOMETHING CLEVER FOR A CHANGE MISSY AN’ MAYBE I’ll REACT!”

James’ legs bent. His hands curled and elbows jutted out. His body began to slide down, battered by the constant hits and misses. He closed his eyes. Frustration rattled deep from his gut and forced its way out as an exasperated shout:

“DO YOU WANT TO LET THE BOSS DOWN? WHAT WILL HE THINK IF HE’D SEE US LIKE THIS?”

Meowth and Jessie stopped. Guilt flashed in Meowth’s eyes. His whiskers and tail drooped down and sagged. He shamefully stepped back and turned away.

Jessie’s hands were in her hair. They were turning red as she yanked at the strands. She screamed.

“FUCK YOU! FUCK ALL OF YOU! FUCK THIS PLACE! FUCK EVERYTHING! FUCK! FUCK!”

Wobbuffet let out a pained cry. He started over towards Jessie. He reached out, only to have her shove him away. He fell over and burst into tears. James’ expression fell as watched Wobbuffet curl up into a ball and rock back and forth to console himself. But instead of going over to the pokemon’s side, James walked back over to where he had dropped his net and picked it up. There was work to be done and they were far behind.

__________________________________________________________

The day dragged on, strenuous and silent. Jessie and Meowth avoided each other as they worked, leaving James running back and forth as the go between. By sundown, no pokemon had been caught and the team returned to camp, disappointed. James set himself to work again, this time by preparing dinner. He started towards the tent. He passed Wobbuffet who was intent on drawing squiggly lines in the dirt. Meowth sat in front of the tent, still fuming from the fight with Jessie. The curses he muttered under his breath were so harsh that they sent shivers down James’ spine as he stepped inside. Inside, Jessie had made herself comfortable on the sleeping bag. She was on her stomach, propped up by the elbows, with her feet dangling in the air. She had taken the cellphone and was in the middle of an intense tell-all from her friend Ashley who was relaying the latest scandals back from headquarters. She laughed and then grabbed for the canteen that lay by her side.

James bent down next to the cooler and glanced from her over to Meowth. It felt strange watching one stew over the fight while the other was acting like it never happened. But James knew that eventually Jessie and Meowth would make up. There was no other choice for them.

“She what?

Jessie leaned forward on the sleeping bag and intently listened to the blabbering on the other side. She shook the canteen.

Cassidy? You’re kidding right? Oh my god,” Jessie’s eyes widened. A smirk stretched from cheek to cheek as she sat up and hollered over at James:

“Get this! Cassidy slept with the boss!”

James was still lost in thought. He glanced up from the ingredients he was carrying a pack of instant ramen noodles and a carrot.

“Huh?”

Jessie’s attention turned back to the phone. She took a sip from the canteen. She coughed, her cheeks bulged, and down went the canteen as she quickly covered her mouth to stifle both spit and snort from escaping.

“No way. No way. He what?” Her hand waved as if it were pushing something. She then gasped.

“Oh my god. I knew that little slut was a walking doormat! She’d do anything to get The Boss’ praise.”

Her lips jutted out into the shape of an o. Her free hand went up and twirled a strand of her hair as another devious expression crossed her face.

Oh Boss give me a good spanking,” Jessie’s voice took on a husky tone in an attempt to imitate Cassidy’s voice.

Spank me again! And then push me up against the desk and fuck the living daylights out of me! You can even cum all over my face when you’re done. And then kick me out ‘cause I’m not only Team Rocket’s worst member, but I’m also the worst fuck you’ve ever had!

Jessie’s shrill cackle filled the tent. She brought down her fist on the sleeping bag. With a swoop of her head, her forehead touched ground and her feet kicked the air. Each laugh grew louder, grating, obnoxious to the point where James felt the need to drop the food in his hands and cover his ears.

Perhaps a year, a month, or even a week ago, he would have joined in with a comment about he knew that Cassidy had an ass whooping coming for her, but didn’t expect that it’d play out like this. James desperately wanted to laugh, he felt like he needed to laugh but something was clogging up his throat and making him feel guilty inside. Who in their right mind, even someone like Cassidy would willingly choose to sleep with The Boss?

______________________________________________

“Why is Jessie so obsessed with putting other women down?” The Mystery Stranger’s voice came through the pause while James was collecting his thoughts.

“What’d you mean?” James asked.

“Listen, I know you care a lot about Jessie, but I can’t beat around the bush with something like this. The things she says about other women are downright cruel.”

Cruel? Oh come on man have you been paying attention to anything I’ve been saying? What did you think she’s a ray of sunshine or something?” James threw his hands up.

“I have listened. You told me she has a mean streak. You’ve told me that sometimes in the heat of anger she doesn’t think before she speaks. But the way she intentionally goes out of her way to brand any woman she doesn’t like: like that girl she hates and the secretary, as promiscuous, accusing them of participating in degrading sex acts and saying that they deserved to be treated badly, calling them some of the worst names that could possibly exist, that’s not normal.

The man’s words harshly echoed in James’ ears. He uncomfortably turned towards his left side, feeling like he was being judged as well. He struggled to keep his expression blank.

“Have you ever thought about why she does it?” The Mystery Stranger’s voice came again, neutral in tone.

“No,” James admitted. “Like I know a lot about girl stuff but there are some things that you can’t understand.”

“I don’t think this is necessarily a girl thing. I see it as more of it affects everyone type of thing. Think about it like this: you see a bully picking on kid. The bully threatens the kid, and he runs off crying. If you saw that happen, how would it make you feel?”

“Bad for the kid I guess,” James answered.

“Like how you did when you heard Jessie talk about the girl she hates. But getting back to the bully and the kid, why do you think this bully chose to pick on the kid?”

“‘Cause the kid’s an easy target?” James shrugged.

“While there are a select few who get a kick out of making people miserable, most people don’t decide to be cruel on a whim. Maybe these bullies are being treated badly at home, are insecure about themselves, are scared of being picked on by others, and rather than finding a healthy way to confront their problems, they choose to lash out and hurt people. I don’t know Jessie at all, and what I hear I know from you. But it sounds like-- to me, I could be wrong, that she puts down other women because she’s insecure about her own reputation.”

James’ mouth hung open. His glance shifted towards his left once more. A nervous sound escaped his lips and the words that tumbled out came out as blabber.

“Jessie? Insecure? She’s like the most confident person I know. She doesn’t care about anything. She told me herself!”

“You don’t always know what’s really going on in someone’s head. There are people who go through their day like everything’s fine when really they’re hurting and don’t want to admit that their lives are short of perfect,” the Mystery Stranger pointed out.

James didn’t say anything. He gazed back at the floor again.

“And sometimes when people are insecure about themselves, they believe that everyone else has got it together when the opposite is true,” the Mystery Stranger’s voice gently came.

With a tilt of his head up, James opened his mouth to speak.

“I guess I want to believe the best. After every fucked up thing that’s happened to us, I still want to hold on to that dream of her that I had when we were seventeen, and that things could be bright,” James voice came out hollow.

His hands clenched over his knees again.

“But life isn’t a fairytale. There’s no happy ending for us because life has screwed us both over time and time again, and Jess has definitely gotten the worst of it. Before she starting working where we work, she told me her life was hell. Until she was eight it was just her and her mom, no dad around, probably a druggie or an alcoholic or something. They were poor, so poor that they spent one winter eating snow. When she was eight, her mom went on a work trip and disappeared in a freak accident. After that she dropped out of school and started working. Well after a time, they found out how old she really was she was put back in school. Then she got kicked out, ‘cause she kept getting into trouble, and started working, but she eventually got fired or laid off from every single job she had. And, yeah, she was alone, with no friends, no family. Everyone hurt her. She hit her teens, started dating and all those bastards broke her heart. First dude was an older guy who only used her for sex and dumped her once he found an even younger girl to prey on. Second pretended to care but really didn’t ‘cause fifteen year old guys are assholes. Third was a dude from work who ended up cheating on her with a girl she thought was her friend. And on top of all that, the good ol’ gov decides that because she works full time, she doesn’t need any help from them. And boom! She can’t pay rent so she’s kicked out of her own home.”

James sighed.

“I can’t imagine going through that, and not coming out of it wanting to hate the world. If that were me, I—I’d be miserable 24/7. I probably would try to kill myself.”

James could feel the other man’s stare on him. He couldn’t tell if it was meant to judge, understand, or sympathize with him.

“Why do you think Jessie treats people the way she does?” The Mystery Stranger asked.

James blinked and his expression fell. Slowly, his hands rose from his knees.

“Because she feels that the world is crumbling down on her,” James whispered.

He looked out at the wall.

“I never wanted to acknowledge it. I thought, I wanted to believe, but life doesn’t work that way does it?”

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Three Years Ago

The signal was fading. Black and white static flashed on the screen in between shots of Giovanni’s sitting figure. Shadows obscured his face, giving him a sinister appearance.

“I am disappointed in you,” he repeated.

Beads of sweat formed on James’ forehead. He gulped. His throat tightened. He gasped. Specks of dirt on the ground below appeared to enlarge. His hands curled into the fabric of his pants. One finger slipped into a hole and scraped against his leg. They had failed The Boss. He had failed The Boss. He was a disappointment, A disgrace. There was no hope, no second chance, The Boss would just do away with them like he did to the others. It was over. It was all over.

“I believe apologies are in order.”

White light filled the screen. The camera tilted to show Matori, standing right next to Giovanni, peering out at them with a cool expression.

James finally peeked over at Jessie. Her face had gone pale, fear shone in her eyes, but one look upwards at Matori made her teeth grind. And chatter as Giovanni looked right at her. She became stiff and bowed her head.

“I’m sorry.”

James watched Matori nod. She let out a sound to indicated that she had heard Jessie. Her lips curled up into a smile.

“B-bitch,” Jessie stuttered under her breath.

Giovanni clasped his hands together and gazed out at the trio once more.

“That will be all for today.”

A black light flashed. Static began to cover the screen.

“I expect more from you.”

_______________________________

He was sinking. This was a disaster.

The air was unbearably hot. The crickets and other creepy crawlies that made their home in the woods chirped and squeaked at loud intervals. The sleeping bag underneath Jessie and James was damp with sweat. James’ hands lay on either side of Jessie’s head. They shook, torn between wanting to slide back down and rub against the mat to find some relief for the mosquito bites that lined his arms, or slide up to nestle his hands in her hair. His sore legs struggled to hold his body up. Jessie lay still underneath him. Her skin was as just red and marked with mosquito bites like his’. Her legs were sprawled out, not wanting to hook against him like she normally did whenever he was on top because she did not want him to feel the week and a half old stubble that prickled up on her legs. Her face scrunched up, but not from arousal.

He eventually did cum, but it felt like something his body needed to expel rather than a sensation to enjoy. He pulled out, feeling his semen trickle down from the tip of the condom and down the shaft. He slid back with his eyes anxiously on her. Jessie groaned. She sharply turned over on her side, her feet almost kicking into him, and huddled her body close together. James glanced back down with a sigh. He removed the condom (Something that he had gotten used to using ever since The Boss cut their salary, and by extension Jessie’s birth control pills) and got up to throw it away in the little plastic bag where they kept the trash.

He had failed her. He had failed her big time. Time and time again, even back in those early days when he was a virgin, Jessie only praised and encouraged him on his efforts to pleasure her. He had a better standing than her past and occasional present sexual partners she ranted about. And oh, how those tales of mishap chill him to the bone. Guys who believed that deep shoves and rapid, violent thrusts would bring her on the brink of orgasm alone. Presented her with a wild, sprawling patch of pubes to push back when she went to give them head. Had penises wide in girth that hurt when inside her, or left her choking for air when they protruded to the back of her throat. The time she got caught by a teacher when she and her first boyfriend hooked up in an empty classroom. A night with a later boyfriend ruined when her period unexpectedly dropped by. James had become too confident, too self- assured of his sexual prowess, believing that he would never make that list, but now staring down into the trash, he wondered that if later, a week, months, years from now, if he’d be the misfortunate star of her recall. The worst night of her life, the time where Jessie and James had sex in stuffy, cramped tent in Hoenn: covered in bites, burns, and hair. Stinking of sweat, and in desperate need of a shower. Squirming underneath him as the passion faded, and leaving her too unsatisfied to even take care of it herself.

God, James wished he could take a shower, or even splash water on his face to wash away the guilt. He knew that he should be saving his own water for when he was thirsty, but he went over to the cooler to get his canteen anyway. He opened it to find nothing, not even a drop.

He glanced over back at the sleeping bag. Jessie was asleep. Her own canteen lay next to her on the ground like it always did at night. James was desperate, tempted enough to take the canteen. It wouldn’t be like going through her other things, where their absence or misplacement would be jarringly noticeable. She drained that canteen day in and day out. She probably didn’t keep track of when she filled it, and could be made to believe that she took a drink in the middle of the night and forgot about it.

James crept over to Jessie’s side and crouched down. He picked up her canteen and turned from her. He unscrewed the top.

A strong, thick odor penetrated his nostrils.

He crinkled his nose. The black of his pupils dilated as he gazed down at the darkish liquid inside the canteen then over at Jessie’s sleeping figure. His hand squeezed the canteen’s body, hand jerked forward to his face, and his eyes were shut tight as he forced the liquid into his mouth.

An overpowering syrupy taste paralyzed his tongue. His face scrunched up. It took all he had not to spit the drink out. It surged down his throat, like a tidal wave, wiping out the oncoming gulp, cough, Jessie that shook in his vocal cords.

James opened his eyes. The canteen of whiskey slipped through his hand. It clattered to the ground and spilled over.

Chapter Text

Beep! Beep!

The Mystery Stranger suddenly sat forward in his seat. An arm bent. James caught a glimpse of a hand shoving into the folds of a pocket to pull out a pager.

“Hang on, I have to take this,” The Mystery Stranger apologized.

A pull upward. The sound of brisk footsteps hit the ground and grew fainter. James once again was alone. His posture stiffened. The eerie white noise of the hospital was amplified: the hum of machines, the monotone drone that occasionally broke through the intercom, the low garble of medical professionals who walked at a slow pace. About an hour ago when he was at his wits end, James would have bolted out of his seat to reach them. He would have sunk to his knees with a tug at their coats, begging, pleading for any news about Jessie. Feeling the force of a shove that toppled him over. The start of a sob pounding in his throat as the ends of their coats brushed against the ground as they began to walk away. Now that all that frantic energy had been drained out of him, he could only follow the doctors with his eyes, feeling a whimper push out and form into nothing as they passed him.

Before James knew it, the man had returned. He heard him plop down beside him and saw the pager slide back into the pocket.

“Sorry about that. I have to check whether or not I have to get back on the floor,” The Mystery Stranger said.

“You work here?” James asked.

“I’m doing an internship. I help out the team in charge of the service pokemon at the hospital.”

“You’re in college? Med school?”

“Pokemon med school. I’m doing this for my Service Pokemon and Society Class. Although I’m going into a field where I’ll only work with pokemon, it’s good to know how medical pokemon do their jobs in other settings. And it’s absolutely fascinating to see how pokemon treat other pokemon compared to how they treat humans. Did you know that pokemon have to use even more power to treat humans because their biological makeup is so remarkably different on a molecular level?” The man’s voice was filled with excitement.

Oh my god. This guy’s a nerd. I’m spilling my heart and soul out to a nerd. Hah, I bet he’s jealous ‘cause he’s never had anyone touch him before.

A wave of guilt passed over James as soon as the thought formed. This man, a complete stranger, had gone out of his way to hear James out. He had been nothing but understanding and compassionate towards James. It was something that touched him. No one had ever done this for him before. Not even Jessie or Meowth, who were the closest friends he had, and they would end up losing interest and changing the conversation or butting in with a sarcastic comment on how James had it so “bad.” To be fair though, James thought, he did the same to them. Well to be fair again, it was more towards Meowth, not Jessie. He could never tell Jessie that he had it worse than her. That would just be cruel, and that was coming from someone who wasn’t exactly the nicest person around.

“Uh? Cool?”

The Mystery Stranger let out a chuckle.

“I’m boring you aren’t I?”

“No you’re not!” James quickly said.

“It’s ok, I’m used to people zoning out once I get all technical and sciencey.”

James felt guilty again. He could feel the lump in his throat moving up. The I’m sorry that I wasn’t listening to you. And that I was making fun of you even though you didn’t know it. I know how it feels like to not have anyone understand you, I feel that all the time.

The Mystery Stranger spoke.

“So, Jessie developed a drinking problem.”

The lump in James’ throat went back down. His thoughts redirected back to their topic of discussion.

“At first, I thought things would get better with time. Catch a new pokemon. Get her an outlet and she’d be fine and think less about drowning in booze. She read up on these contests—you know what contests are?” James asked the Mystery Stranger.

“I do. I had a few friends who used to do contests a few years back. They were at the top of their game too,” the man replied.

“It just got worse. She went to the all the afterparties. Every single one of them! Didn’t matter if it was one of the official ones where all the schmoozing happens with the likes of the big time stars like Lisia or the circle jerk of wannabe coordinators chugging jungle juice in the back of the venue. She just wanted an excuse to get wasted! That’s all she wanted to do. All the fucking time! Do her contests, party, party, party, get hung over, half-ass her way through work, and go back do the exact same shit all over again!

James had not realized that his voice had escalated into a shout. He tensed up in his seat, embarrassed that he had let his anger get the best of him again.

“I’ve never heard of any of those parties,” The Mystery Stranger said.

“Don’t even bother going. Once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all,” James spat.

___________________________________________________________

Three Years Ago

Testing. Testing. You can do this Jessie! Contestant twenty- three please approach the stage. The curtain’s going up, let’s go! Go! Go! Lights! Camera! Action! Applause! Cheers! Arms out! Twirl! Use poison sting! Show! Ooh! Use whirlwind! Reach for the rainbow light. Point! The buzzer! Point! Come on! Press! Come on! We gotta do something! Whirlwind! Why won’t the damn thing work! Bang! Whoa! Oh wow! That is beautiful! Applause? Applause! Applause! Bow. Turn. Curtain down. We did it! We did it! And the results are in— First place! Yes! In the battle round---Kiss me for good luck! Go! Attack! Use poison sting! It didn’t hit! Weaken it with string shot! Ah! Dodge it! The opponent’s too fast! Dodge it! What’s going on? No! And judges---Her world is crumbling. She is screaming. Screaming.

Bang!

Jessie jumped back from the tree with a yelp. The heel of her boot scraped against the semicircular indent her boot had left on the trunk before she grabbed it.

“It’s not fair! My dustox is a good battler it fights all the fucking time! I should have won!” She howled.

“But you did great,” James tried to assure her. The smile that stretched cheek to cheek struggled to stay upright.

“Great? I lost James!” She spat.

“Jessie, we were first place in the appeal round! That’s pretty damn good! I’m sure you just need some more practice with battles, that all,” He pointed out.

Bang!

James skidded back. Jessie’s foot twitched as it pulled back from the tree. She swayed back then forth before catching her near fall.

“I practice and practice and nothing is paying off!”

Jessie raised her leg again. It bent and her foot curled in.

“Why—“

Her foot collided into the tree.

“Can’t---“

Bits of bark splintered off and went flying everywhere.

“I---“

Her voice soared.

“Win for fucking ONCE!

She hobbled back in pain with a sharp breath. She shut her eyes. A tear rolled down her cheek.

“I deserve it! I deserve it more than some stupid twerpette! I’m better than her! I’m older than her! All she has going for her is the si--”

Jessie.”

The sound of James’ voice, loud and powerful hit the air like the crack of a whip. He immediately placed a hand over his mouth, eyes downcast at the ground with a flinch. Jessie looked up. Surprise washed over her face before it gave way to a scowl, then crushing defeat as she lowered her head. She sunk to the ground.

“Why can’t I do anything right?” She whispered.

Her words made his heart sink. James took a step towards her with a hand out.

“Jessie—“

“Leave me the fuck alone,” she said in a low, calm tone.

It scared him. He wished that she would go back to shouting and kicking the tree. At least that meant she was trying to cope with the emotions that bounced around inside her. Now that she was keeping them all inside, James did not know how long they’d sit and fester inside of her until they forced their way out to hurt her. Or others around her.

With a sigh, James turned away. If she wanted to be alone then so be it. He couldn’t tell her otherwise.

_______________________________________________

“Hey! We gotta get goin’! Tell Jessie ta hurry up!” Meowth called out.

James opened the door a crack and peeked into the bedroom. Jessie was lying face down on the mattress with her head nestled in the crook of her elbows. She still wore her clothes from the night before. She shifted in place with a snore.

“She’s not up yet,” James answered with a glance back at Meowth.

Stomp! Screech!

James’ eyes nervously followed the way Meowth’s foot dragged across the wooden floor, leaving a trail of white scratches from where his claws touched ground. They already were having trouble paying the rent for the cottage and if the owner stopped by to see this, they would be kicked out for sure.

“She’s always doin’ dis!” Meowth angrily exclaimed.

“Uh—I’m sure she’ll be up soon, don’t worry about it,” James answered.

Shring!

James scuttled back against the door. The light that shone from the tip of Meowth’s sharpened claw was blinding. It slashed through the air before cutting forward into a point at James.

“Stop makin’ excuses for ‘er!”

“I’m not making excuses!”

“You’re makin’ one right now! You an’ me both know she ain’t gonna get up anytime soon. We should just go!”

“We can’t just leave Jessie all alone!” James exclaimed.

“Don’ be stupid, Wobbuffet can take care of ‘er,” Meowth crossed his arms.

“You expect Wobbuffet to look after her? It’s better if she comes with us. It’s only fair Meowth, we have to work together.”

Anger flared in Meowth’s eyes.

“Since when has Jessie ever been fair to us Jimmy? All she’s eva’ done since we’ve gotten to dis godforsaken place is waste our time! An’ I’m sick of it! And I’m sick dat ya let all her shit slide an’ dat you keep on enablin’ her over an’ over again ‘cause ya worship da ground she walks on!”

“I don’t—“ James started.

“What are ya in love with ‘er or something?” Meowth accused.

“No!” James retorted.

“ ‘Cause ya care way too much ‘bout her. Maybe ya should lay it off ‘cause she keeps takin’ advantage of ya lack of spine ‘cause ya ain’t got da guts ta tell ‘er ta cram it an’ piss off!”

James’ eyes widened. His heart gave a painful jolt. The blood boiled, shot through him, and his lips stretched to let out the shout that was tightening up his throat before Meowth beat him to it:

“Ya want da promotion so bad Jimmy? Do ya huh? Well you can kiss it goodbye! ‘Cause if she keeping pullin’ dis crap, we gonna end up back where we started! Somebody’s gotta step up ‘round here, and it’s gotta be me cause you two ain’t doin’nothin’!”

James lowered his head. He shut his eyes tight, trying to clear his head of Meowth’s scathing words that wouldn’t fade away no matter how hard he tried. Defeated, he looked up and meekly met Meowth’s eyes.

“I---“

“Will you shut up I’m trying to sleep!

James slid back from the door. Meowth joined him by his side. They watched the doorknob rattle.

“She’s awake,” James said.

The door gave with a violent push and Jessie stumbled through. Her face shone with sweat and smudged eyeliner that pooled underneath her eyes. An extra layer of black eye shadow that James had not seen her put on the night before popped out over her left eye. Jessie winced. Her hands clutched the sides of her head.

“Ow!” She groaned.

Her hands pressed down, moved towards her forehead. She rubbed her face before letting her hands fall back down. The heels of her palms were stained with eyeliner. Her fingers remained clean.

“Jess your eye!” James pointed at the swelling over her left eye.

“What ‘bout it?” Jessie grumbled.

“God! It’s all swollen and black and blue and what happened last night?” His hands clasped over his mouth.

“I dunno---ugh,” Jessie leaned against the side of the door and stooped over.

James rushed over to her. He stopped and gently placed a hand over her shoulder.

“Let’s get you back to bed and I’ll get some ice---“

Sharp claws dug into his arm. James tensed up.

“We’re going,” Meowth hissed.

“Meowth we---Ow!” James cried out. Meowth’s claws had ripped through his sleeve. He felt them scratch his skin.

Meowth yanked James back. Beads of blood surfaced. James’ arm shot out and extended towards Jessie who had begun to sink down towards the floor.

“Jessie!” James cried out.

She cradled her head in her hands. Meowth pulled again. The world spun, she remained still, and then before James knew it they were outside.

_____________________________________________________

Past the flashing strobe lights and the crowds of spring breakers and twenty somethings who had a weekend to kill, lay the VIP room. There had to be only about a hundred people in total, and the room was large enough to accommodate everyone, but the thumping of the speakers, the screaming, and the shoves of people darting to and fro, made James overwhelmed and vulnerable with only the overly priced beer that tasted like crap in his hand for company. Jessie had gone her own way over the course of the evening and now he couldn’t find her. And to make matters worse, every single one of these pretentious, self- absorbed coordinator wannabes had made it their mission to drag James into their conversations.

“Hey there sunny boy do I know you?” A hand grabbed James.

“Ugh today’s venue was such a dump.”

“You look like model material,” a business card was thrust into James’ hands

“Look at my skitty! Isn’t she the most adorable being on the planet?”

“Did you see her performance today? I don’t know how she keeps on qualifying she totally sucks,” came a sharp whisper as someone passed by.

“So my stepmom has a house in Undella Bay---“

“That’s nice,” James tried to step away.

“I don’t know what that dude what thinking but dressing up as tuxedo mask is like so last year. What a lameo!”

“I was thinking of doing matching costumes for me and my gardevoir but the judges told me they were too slutty and like not appropriate for a family event.”

“This party is so cool!”

“Listen, I’m sorry but I gotta---“ James started.

“So I was on the phone with my dealer---“

“That guy is a total douche stay away from him honey!” Another hand grabbed him again.

“You’re not a coordinator? Then who’d you come with?”

James’ expression had gone blank. The noise inside his head sounded like TV static that had gone haywire. He squinted, trying to come up with something to say, and confused about why it was taking him so long even though he knew the answer.

“My—my friend?”

The bar was still packed but Jessie wasn’t around. James set down his beer on the counter. The person next to him grabbed it.

“That’s—“ James started.

The can tilted back. A finger pointed up in the air as the beer’s new owner took a sip.

“You can have it,” James muttered.

The lounge was an absolute mess. The tables were littered with empty glasses, crumbled up napkins and crumbs and it appeared that nobody was coming around to clean them up. The floor beneath him was wet. He cautiously set out, with his hands out in front of him to keep his balance, swerving around the puddles in his path so that he wouldn’t slip. A couple was making out on the couch. Lips suctioned against neck, a hand slid underneath a shirt, and James picked up his pace to pass them. Cheers reverberated amongst the group that had gathered around two guys who were edging on the other to fight with macho gestures. Out came the pokeballs, blinding light filled the air, and a machoke and harriyama landed on the ground with a thud. Roars filled the air and the two pokemon charged at each other. The floor cracked. James ran.

Was Jessie over by the dance floor?

The air was damp and heavy with sweat. The floor had been split into two based on how the people danced. Over by the left side, the partiers were so intoxicated that their movements posed a danger to themselves and those around them. He skidded back as one guy toppled right in front of him, fist swinging in the air with a whoop. James’ hands shot up to shield himself as the full force of bodies crashing into him came at a lightening speed. He moved as fast as he could, gritting his teeth together as a sore pain radiated in his arms. The sea of bodies parted. James stopped in his tracks to catch his breath. Hands clutching his knees, he straightened his stance.

The scene was straight out of a scene from a high school dance that James had never attended. All of the guys and girls were paired up with each other. The guys remained static, except for a clench on their partner’s hips and the occasional slide up to squeeze her breast. The girls did most of the dancing, jutting their buttocks into their partner’s crotch with fast grinds. Some leaned back to get that full body feel, others bent down so their hands touched the floor.

James blinked, trying to process what he was seeing. He raised up on the top of his toes to scan the crowd.

A feminine high-pitched scream made him freeze.

There was a flash of curls, a bright bubblegum pink dress, a grin that stretched to reveal pearly-white teeth before letting out a cackle that made James’ heart pound. Ringlets of hair whipped his face. Her back pressed against his chest, buttocks onto crotch. She pushed in.

A paralyzing numbness washed over him. His vision began to flicker in black dots. The dance floor in front of him flashed white streaks. His legs tensed up, body slid down, and his heart sent a frantic tide of blood through him.

GET OFF ME!

A trembling hand shot out. He broke free. Pink bubblegum spun about, the curls bounced, and the woman teetered on her heels.

“Hey! Did you just push me?”

DiD YoU JuSt PuSh ME?

James’ hands cupped his ears. His face had gone ghost white. His whole body felt hot. He gasped, feeling the air clog up his throat. A pull down, he feared he’d fall, and then the rush kicked in.

The next thing James knew he was back in the lounge. A darkened stain that reeked of hennessy blotted his shirt. Tears were streaming down his face. Party- goers passed by. No one noticed that he was upset.

He staggered over to the men’s room to wash out the stain. A push of the door sent James promptly out. There was a guy backed up against the wall, jeans dangling by the ankles, mouth gaping open and fixed at the cracked tiles above as the girl crouched in front of him bopped her head back and forth with audible slurps.

The line for the women’s room nearly stretched out towards the dance floor. Inside, he was greeted by a group of girls who all squealed as they passed out little white pills amongst each other. They titled their heads back to swallow them in unison before rushing out. The gut wrenching sound of retching came from the middle stall. In the far corner, a barefoot girl with runny makeup was uncontrollably sobbing while her friends tried to console her by drunkenly patting her on the head. James felt too hollow to even react to her cries. He didn’t bother to turn off the tap when he left.

The strobe lights flashed. People danced. Bragged. Drank. Wasting the night away, and every single one of them all looked the same in James’ eyes. Why did Jessie have to drag him here? Why did she keep on insisting that he’d be good company when he knew that she’d just ditch him? He couldn’t even find her in this goddamn place and now he was really starting to---
Jessie?

Her hand slammed the shot glass down on the bar counter. She threw her head back to let out a drunken war cry to the cheers of those around her. With a throaty laugh, she wobbled forward. The strap of her tank top slid halfway down her shoulder. Her left foot rose up. Her toes grazed against the floor. Her right foot crashed down with a clack as her heel made a dent.

“Jess-ie! Jess-ie!”

She slumped over a table. Her arms stretched out and with a push, she climbed on. Her knees knocked against the edge of the table. Her skirt crept up her thighs, revealing the red thong she was wearing. There came a wolf whistle. The sound rang in James’ ears, making him feel jittery.

“Nice ass!” Some guy jeered.

Anger bubbled inside and surged through his veins. James took off towards the group surrounding the table. His hand clenched into a fist. He gained speed, arm swung back, and missed hitting the man by a few inches.

“Dude what the fuck is wrong with you!” The guy exclaimed.

“You! You don’t—you don’t---say that---fucking prick!” James’s tongue felt like it was twisting. Hands were holding him back. He had become limp in their grasp. His outburst had drained him. He couldn’t even struggle to break free.

Jessie laughed again. James turned his head to see that she was on her feet. Her arms were out, basking in the attention of the crowd before stumbling. Fingers pointed at the chandelier above. Jessie grinned.

“Jessie!” James called out.

Jessie’s arms reached up. Her hands grabbed onto the chandelier’s hinges.

“JESSIE!” James cried out

She pulled up with a shriek. She precariously dangled over the table. The crowd cheered even louder, goading her on to take flight. She swung back. Then forward. Her remaining shoe fell down with a thud.

“JESSIE GET DOWN FROM THERE!” James shouted.

She couldn’t hear him. She was so far up high, higher than any height he could ever imagine. The chandelier’s blinding light made it look like stars were in her eyes. Her greasy magenta hair appeared to be kissed by sunlight. The chandelier shook. She pushed harder. And finally, James’ arms broke through to reach up.

JESSIE!

Chapter Text

The air in the hotel room was heavy with crushing defeat. James sat on the edge of the bed with chimecho in his arms. Using Double Edge at the contest had taken its toll on the delicate pokemon. It was still shaking in James’ arms. It emitted pained after pained cry that made James’ heart feel like it was shattering into pieces. The pink zig-zag lines on its face vibrated. Its eyes flickered, as if they were going to roll back in its head again. There was nothing else that James could do except hold chimecho close as if it were his own child. He tenderly stroked the oblong yellow bell on the top of chimecho’s head and leaned down to kiss it.

“It’s ok. You’re safe now,” he gently reassured it.

The sound of the bathroom door hitting the wall startled both trainer and pokemon.

Motherfucker!

Chimecho cowered. It nestled its head in James’ shirt. James tried hard to remain still, but Chimecho’s vibrations made him flinch.

Jessie stormed out from the bathroom. She had ditched her loose fitting disguise of a long red shirt and black turtleneck for a more revealing and form fitting outfit: a white jean miniskirt and a pink tube top. Her white heels scraped against the floor as she made her way over to the nightstand. With another curse her hand grabbed the cellphone and pocketed it.

“Where are you going?” James asked. His hands cupped the sides of Chimecho’s head as if to shield it from Jessie’s foul language.

Out, ” Jessie replied in a tone that a rebellious teenager might use with their parents.

Chimecho whined. It began to cry again. James glanced up to see Jessie’s departing figure slam the door behind her.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The digital 3:00 on the nightstand clock glowed a vibrant red that illuminated the dark room. Next to the clock, the cord that was tethered to the phone receiver sprung and coiled out until a final tug ceased its motion. A frantic turn of the page. A finger slid over the names of every bar and club in Lillycove city. James’ shoulder pushed the phone up towards his ear. The other side rang.

“Um hello? Is there a girl named Jessie there?”

(“Hi?”)

“Sorry, you’re not the right Jessie.”

“Are you hosting any contest parties tonight?”

(“We’re closed.”)

“No? Thank you anyway.”

(“Chelsea?”)

“Not Chelsea. Jessie!”

“I’m looking for a girl named Jessie. She has pink hair, and she’s also wearing pink.”

(“Oh ladies, if your name is Jessie, your loverboy James is on the phone.”)

“She’s not---tell her it’s James. I’m her—I’m her friend.”

(“Yeah right bud.”)

“This is really serious she hasn’t picked up her phone in hours!”

(“Listen man, I get that this chick dumped you---“)

“You’re not listening to anything I’m saying!”

James threw the phone book across the room in frustration.

“Come on Jessie pick up the cell!” His fingers pressed down on the buttons.

You have reached Buncha Disguises. Please leave a message after da beep.

“Jessie where are you? Pick up!” James shouted.

The phone went back down on its hook with a crash. James buried his face in his hands.

Bring. Bring

James gazed up. His fingers parted, giving him a view of the little yellow light that lit up on the receiver.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The cab came to a halt. James bolted towards the club. A faint dance beat drifted from inside. Waves of people were beginning to leave, chatting animatedly about their night. Two bouncers escorted a rowdy club goer out, shoving him out past one of the building’s pillars were a woman clung on to dear life. Or reckless abandon, for with a shake of her magenta hair she laughed as if she were embracing a lover who whispered saucy nothings in her ear.

“Jessie!”

She let go. The weight of her body shifted back. Her arms remained frozen in the same position, unaware that she wasn’t holding onto the pillar or unable to move them as she fell. James rushed over. His left arm shot out to support her shoulders. Right gripped her waist. He moved slowly so she could get her bearings properly. Jessie tilted her head up at him with a squint.

“Do—I? Know---you?” Her words were slurred. Her mouth clenched like it hurt as she spoke.

“Jessie, it’s me James,” He said.

Surprise shone in Jessie’s glassy eyes. The crimson flush on her cheeks darkened and the glossy sweat on her forehead shone. She opened her mouth. A laugh, and foul smelling breath hit him right in the face.

“Ha! You know my name?” A sugary sweetness that James did not know existed rang in Jessie’s tone.

“Jessie, it’s late. We need to go,” James said in a firm tone.

He began to lead her over towards the cab. Jessie swayed about in his grip. Head knocked into the crook of his neck. Hand pawed his chest and clutched the front of his shirt.

“Hey are you mah prince charmin’?”

The pounding in James’ chest intensified as her words flitted about his ears. The hands holding her up shook. He could feel his palms jut out, wanting to push her away. To be free of her. But rationality got the better of him and his desperation rerouted into words.

No! Jessie we don’t have time for this!”

She let go of his shirt. Body swayed again as she peered over his shoulder.

“Huh? You’re har’ to get. That’s how you wanna play ok. Ooohhh, you have a really nice butt,” Jessie remarked.

He helped her into the taxi. Jessie’s hand tried to snake down and fondle his behind. With an annoyed sigh he moved away from her grasp. She couldn’t stop giggling.

“This is fan—c—hee—hee!” She gushed.

Her hand tapped against the window. She pressed her face against the glass.

“Is that my face? I’m so pretty!” She marveled at the view outside of the cab.

The cabbie turned down on Central Avenue. Jessie hummed to herself, bopping up and down in her seat. James laced his fingers together. He took a moment to collect his thoughts before gazing over at Jessie.

“How come you—“

Jessie had stopped bouncing about. She had that look on her face and James scrambled forward to clutch the back of the passenger seat.

“Stop! Stop! Stop!” James motioned to the driver.

Too late. Her mouth was open. Out spewed a noxious brownish- yellow waterfall of bile. It ran down her shirt, on the taxi seat, down to the carpeted floor. The car came to a jerking halt. Acting fast, James opened the side door to let her out. Jessie keeled over onto the curb with another retch.

“Oh god, oh god, oh god,” James muttered as he reached into his pocket for his wallet as he made his way over to the driver’s window.

“I’m so sorry. Here, take this, take all of this,” James thrust the last wads of cash he had at the taxi driver.

The car sped off. James knelt down beside Jessie. A hand gripped her shoulder. The other made its way to hold her hair back. He counted the passing seconds in his head. One. Two. Three. His fingers tightly strung her hair into loops. The acrid stench wafted right against his nostrils. His eyes burned. Thirty---thirty-one—thirty—This wasn’t normal. Wave after wave of vomit splattered onto the ground, giving her no respite to catch her breath. Her throat puffed out. Each gag sounded like her airways were tightening up. Fifty- five—fifty five-- Seventy---three----a hundred—how long had they been sitting here? Spit trickled down her chin. She heaved but nothing came out. He was helping her up with a close eye on her in case she got nauseous again.

“Oh god. Your shirt.”

Jessie’s arms jutted in towards her. She grabbed the ends of her shirt and glanced down to examine it. Clumps of half-dried up vomit rolled off, revealing the greasy stains that they had left behind.

“Wha? You wan’ it?” She started to pull her shirt up.

“No! I don’t want your shirt!” James quickly exclaimed.

Jessie’s confused expression turned to bemusement as she gazed up at the pitch- black sky. She pulled away from him with another laugh. Her arm swung from side to side, hand directed up. Fingers trembled as she tried to extend her pointer finger out and let the others fall back.

“Can you walk?” James asked.

Wa-lk? Why do that when I can fly?

Jessie sprung forward. She crumbled and slid back into James’ waiting arms. She felt heavy. His hands slid from underneath her armpits to wrap around her waist. He steered her around and down the sidewalk.

Although Lilycove’s Central Avenue was well lit, and had plenty of space between the building and the line of trees that dotted the sidewalk, it was difficult to navigating Jessie about. She still swayed in his grasp. Her mouth gaped open between fits of giggles and gibberish. Her eyes had a far off look to them, fixed at nothing in front of her.

“Jessie how much did you drink?” James asked.

“Na’ ‘nough I wan’ more.”

“How much did you drink at that party?” He rephrased his question.

“W’a party?” She fumbled. James’ grip tightened on the small of her back.

“Jessie cut it out! I’m trying to help you!” James said, frustrated.

“We goin’ som’w’ere?”

“Jessie just listen to me for five seconds. What did you drink at that party?”

Jessie’s tongue protruded out. The tip touched the top of her lip. Her eyes briefly closed.

“Iz salty.”

“Jessie what did you have at that party?”

Confusion filtered through her dream like gaze. Her left hand tensed and swung into James’ side. Her eyelashes twitched. Breaths came out short as drool trickled down from the corner of her mouth.

“A party?” Her dilated eyes lit up.

Goosebumps prickled on his arms. He glanced over at how her knees buckled, the tremor in her hand, and how she struggled to keep her eyes open. His heart began to pound.

“Jessie do you remember anything?” He said, panicked.

Her head tilted down towards her shoulder. Her body became limp like rubber. A throaty laugh and James had to squeeze her waist to keep her from falling.

“Mickey I tol’ you re-la-a-ax,” she cooed.

“It’s me James!” He exclaimed.

Jessie squirmed. With a tug, she broke free from his grasp and stumbled over to one of the trees. Her heel slipped on the curb and she sunk down onto the dirt.

“You need to puke?” James crouched down behind her with his hands ready to hold back her hair.

“I-got-ta--pee,” the fingers clutching at her skirt were shaking.

James uneasily shifted up to his feet. There was no use in telling her to wait until they got back to the hotel. Her skirt and underwear were dangling by her ankles. He turned so that his back faced her.

“Ok, I’ll keep lookout and you let me know---“

Jessie wobbled back and forth. James spun around.

“Hold onto the tree so you don’t fall!”

There were boundaries that were set up for a reason. Moments that were meant to stay private and remain that way. That line was gone. The sight and sound of her urine hitting the ground made him more squeamish than seeing her throw up and rendered him frozen in place.

She lost her balance and fell forward. Her heels pressed up, shaking hands clawed at the ground, unable to catch her fall. It was then that James’ hands shot up over his face. His fingers slid down, positioning themselves somewhere over his eyes and the top of his cheekbones. He shook his head.

“Jessie you’re peeing all over your skirt!

It was like James blacked out himself. One second he was gazing down at Jessie in disbelief. She had sunk down onto her side, legs tensing as it struggled to move up towards her chest. Put your skirt on! I’m not doing it for you! Come on! Drifted from his mouth before vanishing into nothingness. A blink of an eye and her clothes were intact. His hands dragged her up and away. Her eyes flickered open and shut. The prattle that rolled out of her mouth was almost impossible to decipher.

“Owwwdiseelsheayaaa.”

The lights above in the streetlamps dimmed. The sidewalk winded, curved narrowed as Jessie slumped against him. Her body felt heavier with each step they took. Her head hung loosely by his shoulder. Her mouth twitched. A rattling noise clogged up her throat. The heat of her breath barely brushed up against his neck. Then without warning, her muscles loosened. Her feet slid and they both tumbled down.

James winced. The ends of his shorts moved up, revealing the blood that overflowed from the cuts that crisscrossed his kneecaps. Stifling a cry, he readjusted his position to balance her more comfortably and prevent his blood from getting onto her.

“Jessie?”

The pressure of his hands supporting her head and back sent a wave of pain back at him through his wrists and arms.

“Jessie?”

Jessie’s body hung limp in his arms. The hand that cradled her head forced it to tilt up.

“I’m not carrying you back! We gotta move!

Eyes that would have burned with wrath remained shut tight. Her lips were sealed, unable to lash out a harsh comeback, groan, or even a defiant sigh to batter against his ears. Her arms weighed further down into the ground, not even tensing up to knock into him or push him off. He shook her.

“Wake up!”

His voice cracked into a shrill cry.

Wake up!

James pulled Jessie in in a panic. He nearly toppled over her, desperate to reawaken something in her. His screams pierced the night silence. His tears dripped down to wash the sweat off of her skin and rolled off the curves of her face.

Suddenly she convulsed. He took all he had to not drop her. It was then that her eyes bulged open, bug-like, hollow, and fixed straight up at him.

“Jessie? Jessie speak to me.”

A gurgling sound answered him. Her lips parted and stretched from side to side and then up to let out---

More vomit.

_____________________________________

Pressure pushed down his shoulder and forced him forward. James’ eyes opened and he let out a startled sound.

“Oh, sorry son, I didn’t realize you were asleep,” came the doctor’s voice.

James blinked and then sat up in the chair to get his bearings. He was still parked outside of the nurses’ station in the ER. He gazed up at the doctor.

“Jessie? Jessie! Is she ok? Please tell me she’s ok,” he blabbered.

The doctor sat down in the chair next to James and faced him.

“She’s going to be fine.”

James let out a relieved half-sigh half-sob. The doctor tentatively placed his hand back on James’ shoulder.

“Oh thank god I was so scared!”

“She’s very lucky to have pulled through. If you two hadn’t come sooner, she might have not made it. There was a high amount of alcohol and—“ the doctor rambled off a complicated, scientific sounding word. “In her system.”

The doctor must have noticed James’ perplexed expression.

“It’s a date rape drug,” he clarified.

James’ hand clasped over his mouth in shock.

“She’s currently in stable condition but is very weak and dehydrated---“

I should have been there to protect her.

“She might experience some lingering side effects over the next few days from being drugged---“

Why didn’t I stop her from going out?

“If all goes well, she’ll be discharged this evening.”

I’m a coward.

Meowth arrived soon after, with the spare change of clothes for both Jessie and James like he had asked him to bring. To not draw any suspicion, he had come dressed like a teenage boy going through a skater phase: a snapback hat turned backwards to hide his pointy ears, a t- shirt, long sleeve shirt combo to hide the fur, his tail tucked into a pair of cargo shorts, and sneakers that concealed his paw like feet.

“Yikes,” Meowth said as he glanced over the faded vomit stains on James’ shirt.

“You should have seen Jessie,” James flatly said.

Meowth scooted up with a jump into the chair next to James. He passed the backpack to James.

“How much does it cost?” Meowth looked straight at James.

James turned his attention towards the backpack in his hands. He tugged on the zipper. Meowth’s cold stare was upon him. A yank and the zipper unraveled with a screech. The backpack’s top flopped over. James’ hands dug in and clenched the contents inside.

“I don’t know. We didn’t get the bill yet.”

The fur on the top of Meowth’s head prickled up. He tightened his grip on the chair’s armrest. The tips of his claws scraped against the ledge. Meowth rapidly turned at James with a hiss.

“Don’t lie ta me.”

James didn’t look over at Meowth. He rummaged through the backpack, pretending to be interested in what was inside.

“It’s 2000 dollars.”

A tense second passed. James grabbed the sides of the backpack, ready to hoist it up in case Meowth lost it. But not a swipe or a shout came his way. Only the sound of Meowth’s back hitting the chair.

“We’re screwed! Dat’s da last of our savin’s!”

“Maybe we can send it to HQ---“ James started.

“Dey ain’t gonna pay it. Dey’ll jus’ use it as a’ excuse ta demote us. Looky here, dat team’s a buncha drunks. ‘Xplains a lot eh? No wonda dey so lousy. Why did we ‘ire dem in the da first place? We shoulda gotten rid of dem a long time ago.

James pulled the backpack close to him. His arms folded over each other on the top and he slumped down to rest his chin against the point of his knuckles.

“We’re one of the best agents. I’m sure they’ll understand—“

“Dey don’ care ‘bout us James. How long is it gonna take ya to get it into dat thick noggin of ‘ours?”

James didn’t answer him. He sighed. His hand moved up. His head pushed back. It hurt.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

If it were any other occasion or time, James might have mentioned that the campfire looked beautiful. The rays from the sunset made the flames brighten. They crackled, rising higher to illuminate the oncoming darkness, motion reminiscent of a dance. But no one was in the mood to talk. Jessie sat on the opposite side, arms crossed and grumbling under her breath about how the berries James picked tasted disgusting. Meowth sat next to him, focused on throwing as many sticks he could into the fire. James picked up the last of the berries in his hand and raised it to his mouth. Its sour taste made him spit it out immediately.

“Where’s my new outfit?” Jessie piped up.

“Hospital staff threw it away,” James answered the berry stains on his hand.

Hell burned over. Her arm swung back and the berries fell into the pit. James slid back, arms crossed in front of him as he watched the berries blacken into dust.

“Do you know how much money I spent on that?” She shouted.

“Yeah, well we spent da our last 2000 makin’ sure dat you wouldn’t die. An’ it gonna be a hella long time ‘til da next pay comes so shuddup an’ cannit missy!” Meowth finished his retort with a jab right at her.

Jessie shot Meowth a surly look. With a grunt, her foot dug into the dirt. James flinched.

The purple streaks of dusk deepened to black. The rustling that came from the seedots high up in the forest trees ceased for the day. The illumise ventured out, lighting up the grass with a pulsing yellow glow. The fire was starting to go out, and Jessie let out another groan as she unsteadily got up to her feet. James followed, making sure that his steps only brushed against the dirt underneath his feet. He found her leaning back against a tree, shaking hands fumbling with a little red and white box. She pried the top open and her fingers reached in to take out a cigarette.

“Jessie what are you doing?

She turned. Her fingers squeezed the cigarette inside the box, lips stretched into a sneer. James’ heart lurched. Blood boiled and shot through his veins, bones, up his throat, cutting her off before she could even say a word.

“You just got out of the hospital! Jessie that’s not good for you!”

Jessie looked over at him with a pout. She started to pull the cigarette up, bit by bit, to reveal its oblong shape.

“Jessie!”

He rushed forward. Hand shot out. Swiped so fast that it rivaled Meowth’s speed and he tore the pack away from her.

“I NEED that!”

James stretched his arm up to hold the pack over his head, balancing on the tip of his toes. He stumbled as Jessie’s hands slapped aimlessly in the air, threatening to hit him. He spun about, arm swung back, and he hurled the cigarettes far up and away over the treetops.

Jessie howled.

GIVE IT BACK!

She lunged forward. James swerved away, arms crossing into an X in front of his chest. His fists clenched, arms fell down at his sides, chest puffed out and he screamed back:

“WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO KILL YOURSELF?

Jessie froze. Her hands spamsed. Eyes widened and mouth gaped open. A hollow sound came from her throat.

“YOU REALLY FUCKING SCARED ME LAST NIGHT! I THOUGHT YOU WERE GOING TO DIE! AND YOU’RE JUST ACTING LIKE---YOU’RE ACTING LIKE SOME OVERGROWN TODDLER THAT’S THROWING A FIT!

Hot tears began to stream down James’ cheeks.

“I AM SICK OF HAVING TO TAKE CARE YOU! I AM SICK OF YOUR CONTESTS! I AM SICK OF YOUR DRINKING! I AM SICK OF YOU USING ME! MEOWTH! MY CHIMECHO! AND EXPECTING US TO GO ALONG WITH YOUR SHIT AND DRAG US DOWN WITH YOU!”

Spittle flew from James’ mouth.

“YOU’RE SO SELFISH THAT YOU DON’T EVEN REALIZE HOW YOU’VE BEEN MAKING US WORRY ALL THE GODDAMNED TIME BECAUSE YOU CHOOSE TO DESTROY YOURSELF! AND THEN WHEN WE TRY TO HELP YOU, YOU PUSH US AWAY! WELL NEXT TIME I WON’T GO OUT AND GET YOU! I’LL LEAVE YOU TO ROT JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE WOULD!”

Through blurry tears, James saw Jessie shudder. Her lips were trembling and a series of hiccups followed.

“Why do you hate me?”

The anger in James’ blood cooled and froze over. His heart sunk, and his eyelashes rapidly fluttered to stop more tears from flowing.

“Jessie I don’t hate you! I’m only telling you this because I care! Because I---“

He had no words to describe the feeling that lifted him up and pulled him down when he looked at her. The terror and excitement that tumbled inside when he clung to her, pulling her in, closer than he had ever let anyone in before. How she was the downpour that threatened to wash him away. The hint of sunlight that peeked out behind clouds of gray. This feeling that only grew, deepened, ever since that moment their paths collided four years ago.

“I—“

Her cry broke him off. She had covered her entire face with her hands, a last attempt defense to prevent her from falling apart even more. She stifled another sob and shoved past him.

“Jessie!”

His call bounced back at him like a pendulum's swing. His hollow plea crashed back into, sending a new wave of sadness over him as he struggled not to collapse against the tree where she once stood.

Chapter Text

All the talking had taken the wind out of James. For a second he swore that he was back in the woods, voice hoarse and struggling to fill his lungs up with air, sliding down the bark of the tree to the ground. The overhead light’s glare made his eyes twitch. The cracks on the ceiling cut through the layer of white, multiplied, before a blink snapped James back to the present. He coughed and slid up from his uncomfortable slouch in the chair.

The sound of breathing came from his right. The breaths shook each time they hit the air, thick and thinning fast as the next breath surged up to prevent the tears from overflowing.

James sat up straight. He had become so locked into himself while recalling that night that he had not realized that the Mystery Stranger had not interrupted him once. No questions, no confusing comments, nothing. Starting from the moment when James picked up Jessie from the club.

“Hey man are you ok?” James’ hand reached over towards him.

The Mystery Stranger’s elbow was propped against the chair’s armrest. James’ hand hovered in the air before tentatively placing itself on the side of the man’s arm that faced him.

“I’m sorry---oh god---what---“ James started to turn his head to face the man.

“What’s your name?”

James let go of the man’s arm. He spun around to the center and was facing forward again.

“My name?”

“Yes,” an exhale. “What’s your name?”

James’ lips parted. Air swirled from the depths of his lungs. It drifted up, tickling his vocal cords, before a strong gust pushed it out into sound.

“James.”

The sound of his name echoed through the hallway. The Mystery Stranger’s arm went to his lap where his other arm rested.

James.

His tone lifted at the end like if he was asking a question. Before James could say a word, the Mystery Stranger began again:

“James. I don’t ever want you to think that you’re a coward. What you did that night, that was very brave. You saved her life. You went to pick her up. You saw that something wasn’t right. You got her help. You did something James, a good thing, and I want you to remember that.”

Out of the corner of James’ eyes he saw the Mystery Stranger’s hand lift up from his lap and out of sight.

“It’s just that--- this---there was a time in my life--- when I---that---“

The Mystery Stranger’s words trailed off into the air. He took a deep breath. His voice came out hollow and low.

“When I was fifteen, I was raped.

Chills went down James’ spine. With wide eyes, his body began to turn. The Mystery Stranger’s voice came again and James froze in his place.

“That summer I was doing an internship at a research lab. The woman in charge who was like thirty or so kept on hitting on me. I didn’t realize how messed up it was. When you’re that young, inexperienced, and wanting to please, you gravitate to any kind of attention you can get. I thought that I was so lucky that a gorgeous woman like her noticed an awkward guy like me.”

The Mystery Stranger’s tone was flat and detached, similar to how a doctor would break the news of a difficult diagnosis to a patient. But James could hear the underlying pain through the layers of technicality that threatened to unleash his emotions out.

“It escalated to the point where we’re alone in the lab one night and she comes on strong. She’s kissing me. Touching me in ways I’ve never been touched before. And I tried to tell myself that this was what I wanted, but it scared me. Then she takes me to her place. We’re in her room, I’m on her bed, she’s taking things way too far and I’m not ready to loose my virginity, and I can’t do anything to stop her and she doesn’t stop. After that night, she acted like I didn’t exist. At the end of the internship she moved onto a college freshman.”

He took another deep breath. James imagined that the man had closed his eyes as well.

“The thing is when you’re so used to taking care of other people, you don’t see your own problems as important. You get used to shoving them to the back of your mind, and hoping they’ll go away in time when all those problems keep on building on top of each other and topple down on you when you break. After I was raped, I became depressed. I couldn’t find the energy to do anything, and whatever energy I did have I spent hating myself. And the worst part that I was isolated from everyone. My friends were far away, and even if I took a chance to confide in them about my problems, they wouldn’t be mature enough to understand them. I was estranged from my family, especially my parents since I resented them for ditching their kids, and leaving me with all the responsibility. I had nobody. It took me years to realize that I had been raped. That what she did to me was not normal for a woman her age and that she shouldn’t have done it at all.”

Out of the corner of James’ eye he saw The Mystery Stranger’s arm slide up the armrail. The points of his sneakers dragged on the floor before kicking back underneath the chair.

“It’s just that during back, I wish I had someone like you James. Someone who would have been quick to act at the first sign of trouble, who would have done so because they cared, and who would have helped me get out before things got worse.”

A light, yet heavy sensation wrapped around James’ heart. He reached out again and placed his hand gently on the man’s arm.

“I wish I had someone like you too.”

__________________________________

Three Years Ago

Click

James lifted his thumb up from the back button on his Walkman. The sound that came through the tears in his headphones was faded and staticky. The music jumped occasionally with a grating screech, forcing him to rewind. As night progressed into day the skips became more frequent. Words broke down into nonsensical noise that hissed and sputtered that grew louder and louder until a pop resonated in James’ headphones. He looked down to see that the CD wasn’t moving about. A press and nothing played. He then removed his headphones so that they sat by the base of his neck, and held up the Walkman closer to him with a saddened sigh.

Ever since his lonely days at boarding school, his Walkman had been the only reliable source of comfort. Its slick, cool body resting against his hands felt like a hug. The warm, full sound that blasted through his headphones perked him up and soothed him. No matter where James went, his Walkman was always in his bag. Now, under the heat of Hoenn’s morning sun, James watched it spin its last for him. He popped open the Walkman and took out the CD he had been listening to.

“Maybe I can sell my CDs,” James said out loud.

In his heart of hearts, he didn’t want to give up his CD collection. They were the only pleasant and tangible remnants of his childhood and teenhood that he had left. If he sold them, what would he have left? Memories? And with a shudder, he knew that the bad ones would quickly surface to the front of his mind and haunt him 'til the end of his days.

But they desperately needed the money and the next paycheck wouldn’t come for another two weeks. Sacrifices had to be made, and James had to be the one to step up since he knew no one else would be willing to do it. Just like how he would eventually have to make that move to apologize to Jessie. If he didn’t, then no one would, and they’d go on trying to act like the other did not exist until they were forced to be together. Jessie was quick to hold a grudge, and too stubborn and self-centered to admit that she had screwed up. She wasn’t the one for changes, and James knew that he had to act fast, or that their, and the entire team’s relationship would be in shambles.

___________________________________________________

He found Jessie by the pond close to camp. She rigidly stood at the pond’s edge, facing out towards the water. Her arm loosely swung forward. Her palm uncurled, out flew a stone and with a plop it fell into the pond.

The water rippled. James decided to make his move.

“Jessie?”

She had bent down to pick up another stone. The marsh grass brushed up against her boots and the ends of her skirt, leaving damp stains behind as she came back up. Whether she was intentionally ignoring him or was so focused on throwing stones that she had drowned out the world around her James couldn’t tell. So he spoke a bit louder.

“Hey Jessie? Can we talk?”

Plop

The stone sunk to the bottom of the pond. Jessie turned around at last.

James’ heart sunk too.

Jessie unashamedly wore her heart on her sleeve. If someone made her day or broke it, they had the fortune or misfortune to feel her gratitude or wrath first hand. Now, gazing at her, James couldn’t tell what she was feeling. Her eyes didn’t well up with water or burn over with fire. Her lips were stretched out into a flat line, not turning up to scowl or down to tremble. Her hands lay stiffly by her side, and her gait was robotic as she stepped towards him.

“I feel terrible about lashing out at you last night. I didn’t want to make you feel like shit. I was to caught up worrying about you that I didn’t think about how you’d feel.”

A pause. Her eyes remained emotionless. She did not make her move to interrupt like she always did. James continued to talk.

“And, I know. You must be scared and confused, and I don’t blame you if you think that the whole world’s out to get you. I shouldn’t have been so harsh, but it came out all at once without me getting to think over it.”

The lump that had formed at the pit of James’ stomach swelled up. It jiggled uncomfortably back and forth, shedding off the excess weight so it could hook onto the membranes that lined his throat and climb.

“I worry so much about you. You’re my best friend Jessie. I could never hate you, even in a million years. Sometimes, I feel like you’re all I’ve got. I wouldn’t risk anything to loose you. Not even the world.

His last word hung upon the humidity before dissolving into particles of water and empty sound.

“I’m really sorry.”

Jessie’s expression hadn’t changed. Emotion briefly flashed in her eyes.

“Are we ok now?” He asked.

She blinked. The emotion flooded over, washing away her stoic facade as she opened her mouth to let out in a gravely tone.

“Ok.”

Jessie leaned in and fell into James' arms. He supported her up, feeling the way her back pushed into his hands, her head against his shoulder, how their hearts beat together as she melted into the embrace. They stood still for a long minute before James lifted her chin up with his hand. He tenderly kissed her forehead before leaning in to whisper in her ear:

“Want me to go down on you?”

__________________________________________________

God, this was everything.

He lived for moments like this. To give into this primal, base desire that had him gripping at her flesh. Salivating as his lips pressed, trailed down the cliff’s edge of her thigh. Her shudder, the jump down into the heat of the valley, and there, kneeling, he immersed himself in her. Taking her scent through his nose. Tasting it on his tongue. Her groans. Flickering. Circling. Suctioning his mouth against folds of skin. Her clit. That squeal. Back. And forth. The squeeze. Of her thighs. Fingers taut against her skin. A jut as his tongue slid in. Inside her. Engulfed in that sensitivity. The wetness that dripped that set him on fire. That sent her hips buckling towards the sky. Twitching under his tongue. And he gazed up to see her chest heave, her head tilt back towards the ceiling, the quiver of her lip as each moan grew louder, louder, until her whole body tightened and he swooped back down to feel the vibrations of her orgasm on his lips before the convulsions grew too intense and he was forced to pull away.

Chapter Text

Three Years Ago

Come on Jimmy don’t tell me you’re scared.

James peered through the window’s glass. The music’s thumping sent vibrations against the glass, making James already tense hand curl. His hand began to slide.

Jessie hooks up with dudes all the time. Lighten up, The inner voice that James had conjured up crooned in a deep and unusually masculine voice.

“But what if she does care?” James nervously eyed the blurry figures of the people (almost all of them men) inside.

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jessie won’t give a shit.

“I don’t wanna ruin anything for her.”

Come on bro. Why are you so set on cockblocking yourself? Do you wanna do this or not? The voice’s tone had an almost angry edge to it.

The back of James’ hand flexed, pressing against the glass, before the pull of his arm forced him to let go. His posture straightened, yet his arms hung stiffly by his sides. He turned over to his left and shuffled over to the door.

Tonight you are on the prowl. Act like it.

James’ limbs loosened. To the beat of the faint music he moved: a stretch of his lips, bulge of his eyes, and a sway of his hips, a shove and the door opened.

Hello world. James is here.

The world did not stop. It kept on turning, spinning as the song’s chorus blared and fists pumped in the air. The backs of the heads at the bar remained static, focused down on the drinks, at the bartender who dashed to and fro with glasses that threatened to spill over the rim. Right in front of him, the only two girls in the building clung to each other in a close embrace as they danced.

“What would Jessie do?” James said out loud.

Stop thinking about her! Move forward dumbass! The voice spat at him.

Into the chaos he went. He teetered on the heels of his boots, with a nervous gaze down at the shoelaces that dangled by the sides. The tight fabric of his black leather pants stretched uncomfortably as he pushed forwards. Arms jutted in close to his sides. Ready with a sorry here, gentle tap there as he passed people by. Jessie didn’t do that. She just charged through, everyone in her way could drop to the ground dead for all she cared.

“She’s not going to care right?” James asked himself again.

The bar drew closer. The ceiling lights shone down brightly on the last empty seat in a sparkling yellowish glow: upon the grooves that crisscrossed the chair’s wooden surface, the steel beams that held it firmly in place, and upon the sides of the two occupants that flanked either side of it. Its vacancy beckoned James to hurry up and take a seat before the opportunity would slip through his hands.

Clack and crash went his right boot. How on earth did people go from hello to let’s hook up? Thump, thump, thump came the anxious beating of his heart. What if no one was interested in him? What if he froze? If it all fucked up and turned out to be a bust? Skid, screech, skid, white lines marked the floor from where he stepped. The murmurs at the bar buzzed. Glasses touched down with a clang. Foot slid, almost slipped. Arms stretched out, hands ready to grab. And---

How on earth did Jessie do this every single weekend?

Jesus Christ you just love to obsess over her don’t you?

James gripped the back of the chair. The tip of his boot collided with the chair’s leg. He flinched with another roll back onto his heels.

Are you scared that she’ll find out that her favorite little loverboy has gone out to play? The voice taunted in a sing-song tone.

“N-no,” James stuttered as he pulled out the chair.

Stop trying to lie to me. You’re scared shitless she’ll flip.

“Well yeah ‘cause she overreacts to everything,” James sat down and stared down at the little brown lines that were etched into the table’s surface.

Oh come on Jimmy, this is the same girl who doesn’t worry about hurting your wittle fweelings whenever she fucks another guy. I mean, she tells you everything ‘bout what goes on. She even showed you a photo the last time.

Grainy textures popped out at James. Jessie’s hands clutching at sheets, legs anchored firmly in a crouch. The curve of her body that arched back, just barely pressing against the figure of the man penetrating her. A meaty hand gripped against the skin of her hip. Another tangled through her hair with a yank. Jessie’s lips were parted. Eyes wide and nearly spilling over the brim with an oncoming orgasm. It was a gaze that James was intimately familiar with. One that filled him with pride in knowing that he had brought her to that state when no one else could. And with the proof that someone else had been successful in making her cum, it just, it just made him--

The butterfrees twisted in his stomach again. The lines on the table lengthened to wave about. James’ eyes tensely followed their movement, feeling his teeth sink down on his lower lip like a sharpedo would as it stared at its prey. His mouth loosened and opened to mumble:

“She’s allowed to do what she wants and she told me the same thing, we both agreed on that.”

But why are you so jealous?

“I’m not,” James said in a low voice.

You wanna get back at her or something?

James’ hand pressed down flat on the table.

“No, I just wanna know what this whole hooking up thing is like,” it was the truth.

But here you are still fretting over how she’ll take it like she did with that guy. Why should you care Jimmy? It’s not like you’re cheating on her. Unless if you want a little something more from her than what she’s giving.

James imagined that the voice’s lips turned up into an evil smirk.

You’re not falling for her are you? How disgustingly cute. It chuckled.

“I’m not in love with her!” James anxiously mumbled.

Ha. Prove it. Play her game. Let’s go meet someone. Let’s go fuck them. And even better, let’s brag about it the morning and laugh in her face.

Anger seared inside James.

“Are you crazy? I would never do that to her!”

Chickening out already? I knew you would, you’re such a fucking wimp.

“I—“

Do you WANT to do this or NOT? The voice threatened.

“I do!”

Then what’s WRONG with you?

James’ hand curled on the table. It clenched and blood boiled inside his veins.

“No! What is wrong with YOU!” James angrily shouted inside his head.

The tip of his nails scratched against the table. The black nail polish on his pointer finger started to chip off.

What? The voice was shocked by James’ response.

“Jessie is my best friend.She’s stuck with me through thick and thin and I care about her with my life! I don’t wanna ruin what we’ve got just because I acted on this whim!

But Jessie--

“She does care about how I feel! She’s been considerate enough to check in on me whenever she goes out. I know she’d want the same; it’s what any decent person would expect,” James shot the voice down.

Hey! Calm down man! I’m just trying to get you what you want! The voice now sounded nervous.

“You do not know jack about what I want! You’re just an asshole who thinks he’s the tightest shit and that everyone should do what he says. Why don’t you fuck off and let me decide what I wanna do tonight!”

The voice feebly whimpered.

“What can I get you?”

James’ thoughts vanished with a pop. He sat up straight in his seat to see that the bartender was standing right in front of him.

“Uh,” the list of two to three drinks James normally ordered weren’t coming to mind. “What’s good here?”

“The margarita’s the bomb,” came from his left.

With a flip of his hair, James turned to see who had addressed him.

Whoa.

James’ face suddenly felt warm. He could feel his cheek muscles tighten to hold up the corners of his mouth so that they wouldn’t drop and make him gape like a magikarp.

He’s hot

Had his dreams come to life? Was this guy even real? Oh he was! And oh god he was sitting right next to him and he was the splitting image of absolute perfection. Well toned (the stretch against his tight fitting t-shirt, the size of those biceps!), with captivating gaze that sparkled underneath the dim overhead lights, and that smile. Oh god the sight of his thin lips curling up and the rise of his cheeks made James want to swoon!

“This place is famous for them. Let me tell you I’ve been all over, and I keep coming back here to this hole in the wall ‘cause there’s none like it.”

James opened his mouth to speak. Carefully.

“I’ve never had one before,” his voice had become breathy.

“Try it! It’ll be an experience.”

An experience. He liked the way this guy talked.

“Ok,” James reached for his wallet in his front pocket.

“Uh-uh. This is on me,” the guy held out his hand in front of James. He took out a bill and handed over to the bartender.

“Oh wow! Thanks!”

James kept his eye on the bartender as he mixed the ingredients together. (The incident with Jessie had him on edge when it came to these things) The bartender was back in no time and handed the two men their drinks.

“Cheers,” the man said to James with a wink.

James blushed.

“Cheers.”

The glasses clinked. James raised the glass to his mouth. Hm. Mm. The power of the liquor inside (he tried to remember if it was tequila or not) contrasted nicely with the tanginess of the lime and orange flavors. He let the remaining droplets rest on his tongue before taking another sip. Drinks were best savored over time It was like Father always said about wine and champagne at parties: that consuming them was an art in itself. One must have the proper balance between partaking in the conversation and drinking. The grip on the stem should be light but firm. Quick sips in between phrases were the proper way to drink. A good listener, even during boring conversation, should never divert their attention to their drinks. It was ideal to have a half a glass of alcohol remain in the glass at the end of the conversation, just enough when its drinker moved on to another group.

Father.

James could feel his fingers slip on the glass’ side.

“What’s your name?”

He held on. Blinked. And looked up at the other man with a smile.

“James.”

“I’m Ryan.”

Ryan. What a charming yet simple name. James turned towards him so he could better admire his beauty.

“So, you say you’ve been all over?” He asked.

“I’m what you call a free spirit. I’m the type of guy who goes wherever the wind takes me,” Ryan chuckled.

Ryan’s warm laugh broke through the din of people murmuring. James’s heart lifted at the sound, soaring above the insides that had turned into mush at the sight of Ryan’s smile. James set down his margarita.

“Sounds romantic. Well—much more romantic than what I have to do. I just travel for work?”

James didn’t mean for his voice to turn up as if he were asking a question. The air in his throat clumped up into a ball and his gaze anxiously tightened on Ryan.

Ryan took another sip of his margarita and smiled at James.

“Nice. What do you do?”

The ball of air in James’ throat loosened and decompressed. It tumbled about as he gathered his thoughts together. Everything became clear and out came the answer.

“Ah, it’s nothing really I work for a trading company,” James intentionally downplayed the lie.

“Hey man we all gotta work somehow,” Ryan gestured with his free hand.

“Yeah but at least traveling’s a perk. I’m actually here on business,” James said.

Ryan scooted in closer to James. He set down his drink and placed his hand flat down on the table.

“Where are you from?”

James’ hand slid down the glass. He gently cupped the side, imagining that Ryan’s hand was in his’ and that his palm felt warm instead of cold. A dreamy look crossed his face. His hand settled down on the table.

“Kanto,” James answered.

“I was just there not too long ago! Kanto is a beautiful region. Every single time I’ve gone there, it felt like I was falling in love for the first time. Last time, my—I went on a cruise and explored the bay area. The beaches there were absolutely gorgeous I could spend the whole day there just lying there, working on my tan.

He noticed that Ryan’s hand had slid over while he spoke. It lay only inches from James’. His fingers were spread out, the back of his hand slightly curled upwards. It was so tempting to reach over and stroke it, but James wasn’t one hundred percent sure if this guy was into him just yet.

The sweet and sour taste of the margarita tickled his tongue. And without warning, he felt the tip of his tongue protrude to lick his upper lip. A throaty mmm escaped before his mouth closed again. James felt his bangs slide as he tilted his head, eyelashes flutter, and he shot Ryan a seductive grin.

“I like a good tan.”

His hand inched closer to Ryan’s. He lifted his hand up.

“Unfortunately I can’t sport one myself but I admire those who do.”

His finger gently tapped on one of Ryan’s knuckles then circled it.

Ryan grinned back at James and leaned in.

“Saying as someone who does, I appreciate that handsome.”

Ryan’s breath brushed up against James’ lips, forcing them to part. His eyes, wide, stared right at Ryan who stared back, just as entranced before gazing down at their hands.

The tips of James fingers traced over the back of Ryan’s hand. The fingertips rubbing against the knuckles, slid down the fingers, before creeping back up. Ryan hummed as he looked back up at James. Then his hand curled. Moved up, and out to clasp James’ hand. Palm pressed against palm. Fingers interlaced. And the two men became still.

They were sitting so close that James could just lean in and kiss Ryan right then and there. His heart started to pound as Ryan’s lips parted.

“I forgot how good it feels to hold someone else’s hand.”

James chuckled.

“My mama said to always treat people like a gentleman and I live by that rule.”

“An old soul eh? You’re a rare breed. It’s not every day I run into guys like you.”

James coquettishly tilted his head again and blinked.

“I might be but perhaps tonight---“

Boldness took over him. He removed his own hand from Ryan’s and lowered it underneath the table to place it on Ryan’s thigh.

“I’d like to prove to you that this old soul can do more than just whisk you off your feet with words and courtly gestures.”

James gave Ryan’s thigh a squeeze. Then rubbed. His fingers tapped and slid against the strands of faded denim to slip into one of the holes. There, he delicately He slipped his fingers inside one of the holes and moved around in a circular motion.

Then he felt a pull. Ryan’s lips were puckered up against his ear. They brushed against the outer ridge, through strands of hair to let out a breathy whisper:

“Wanna head back to my car and show me more?”

____________________________________________

Oh

James’ legs dangled along the sides of the driver’s seat. He pushed his weight forward towards Ryan who supported him with his hands on James’ hips. They moved to creep up James’ back. It sent a shiver down his spine, forcing a hum up and out to vibrate on the edge of his lips. The sensation sparked. A jut inward and his lips pressed even harder onto Ryan’s. They loosened. Slid in a motion that was sloppier than was James was normally used to. Ryan’s tongue flickered in. James gasped. His own hands clutched the sides of Ryan’s face.

Oh god, the kiss felt so good.

Ryan pulled back. He grazed his lips against the corner of James’ mouth as he maneuvered the seat back. Once the seat was fully down he gripped James shoulders and pulled him into another kiss. Ryan’s hands cupped James’ buttocks. He squeezed them. His hands rolled up and over. The feel of his palms made James jolt. His back arched up.

“You have a really nice ass,” Ryan’s breathed into the front of James’ neck.

With another grope, his lips suctioned against the skin and lingered before James sat up. He rolled his shoulders and held his hands out. They tentatively settled onto the front of Ryan’s shirt and ghosted over the fabric. Ryan shuddered. James did it again. His own hands shook, eager to feel and explore every inch of torso that lay in front of him. His left hand clutched at the shirt’s fabric and pulled it up. The other slid up and over skin. Ryan gasped. James’ own lips were trembling. The muscles felt like how he had always imagined them to be. Firm, yet at the same time, soft to the touch. The outlines smooth yet defined. The abdomen flat, and rock hard. The pecs curved and bulging against the shape of his palms. He pressed and kneaded. Massaged. Hand slipped, moved back up. His own body lowered bit by bit onto Ryan’s. He ground against him and applied more pressure with each thrust, until he felt the bulge of Ryan’s erection in the crook between his own crotch and thigh.

He sat up again and leaned back to the edge of Ryan’s knees.

“You’re hard,” James crooned.

His hand moved towards the front of the jeans. It lightly pressed down then slid over and up to follow the outline of his cock. His fingers delicately traced the sides, ran over the body of the shaft before reaching where the head could be properly felt if the jeans weren’t in the way.

Holy shit I’m touching another guy’s cock!

The excitement that had been shooting through James rose to even higher and higher levels. It made his mind churn.

“He’s a big fella,” James remarked with another slide of his hand up Ryan’s cock.

James’ hand itched to grasp, wrap around it and feel its skin against the palm of his hand. His mouth salivated. A new idea came to mind. His jaw tightened to suck some air before he said in an aroused tone:

“Let me take care of that for you.”

James crouched down. He adjusted his position so he wouldn’t lean back and hit the steering wheel. He was eye level with Ryan’s crotch. His hand moved over the erection. Face moved in and his lips puckered up to brush up against the bulge. He knew that the sensation would be nothing like skin on skin, that his lips were pressing against stiff denim fabric, but the warmth he felt made him shiver.

His hand almost slipped as he moved his head back center. Hands clutching the belt of the guy’s jeans, he looked up and shot Ryan a seductive, asking gaze.

“May I suck you off?”

Ryan nodded with an aroused glance down.

Please.”

James’ nimble fingers pushed the jeans’ button out of its loop. He then moved down and tugged on the zipper.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Jessie was right. His throat was on fire. Like if he had drained a gallon of bleach on fire. It burned. Oh god it burned.

He quickly rolled down the car window and spat. Droplets of spit and cum hit the pavement. More dribbled down his chin. He coughed, hoping that it wouldn’t lead up to a gag.

How on earth did Jessie do this every time she sucked him or other guys off? She made it clear that swallowing wasn’t the most pleasant of sensations but how did she just suck it up without any outward reaction? How did she not gag? Vomit? Even make a face like James knew he did when he felt Ryan’s searing cum course into his mouth?

The other parts of giving head felt incredible. The feeling of having a dick in his mouth, sucking on it, pumping his hand up and down the shaft, and his pride at hearing how Ryan’s moans grew breathier and louder with each passing second. He loved pleasing, just as much or even more at times as he loved receiving. But now, as James wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, he wondered if there was a limit to how much he could give without it firing back in his face.

Did he make Jessie feel like this whenever she blew him?

“Do you want my number?”

One last spit and James turned back to face Ryan.

“Uh, no thank you. I’m actually not looking for a relationship,” James replied.

Ryan took James’ rejection fairly well. He shrugged and began to pull up his underwear and jeans.

“Ah it’s ok. I’m not looking for anything either. Tell you the truth, I’m getting over a bad breakup. That trip to Kanto I took, it was with my ex. I was trying to save the relationship, but it didn’t work. And here I am trying to move on like says I should. Go out, have fun, but I just can’t forget about him. I miss what we used to be. I miss him.

Ryan wistfully sighed.

“I’m sorry,” James said.

“It’s ok. Someone new will eventually come my way. That’s how it should be in a perfect world. But what am I supposed to do when he’s already moved on, and I’m still fucking around, and hoping that it will make my pain go away. It’s sounds like some shit you’d see on a hallmark special, but I’d rather be miserable and with him than just be miserable and alone. That’s romantic for you eh?”

James became quiet. He watched Ryan zip up his jeans with a pensive expression.

“You remind me of Jessie,” he said softly.

“Jessie? He must mean a lot to you.”

James sighed and gazed out the front window at the rows of cars parked in front of them.

“Yeah. A lot.

___________________________

Jessie sat hunched over at the table with her coffee. Hair was falling her in face as her head tilted down. Eyes drooped and nearly closed as she gripped the mug’s handle. Her elbow struggled to prop her arm up on the table so that it would be easier to angle the mug to her mouth. She drank. A half yawn-half groan followed.

James looked on from the doorway. He hoped that Jessie was at least in a decent mood to talk to him. The best he could hope for was tired. The worst: hungover.

“Hey Jess,” James nervously greeted her.

She glanced up.

“Oh hey.”

No questions about where he had been last night. Was it a good or bad sign? He took a step forward.

“Uh, sleep well?”

She raised an eyebrow as if to say what do you think?

The air had become tense. James looked over at her, then down at the ground. His lip trembled. Hands clutched at the fabric of his leather pants. She gave him a blank look, then back to her coffee.

He gulped. Shut his eyes tight. Then blurted out:

“I hooked up with a guy.”

He opened his eyes to see Jessie looking at him from the rim of her coffee mug. She wasn’t surprised, jealous, curious, or even confused. Her expression was as blank and tired as it was seconds before he spilled the beans.

“I-I didn’t sleep with him but we did stuff. In his car,” James’ attempt at bragging made him internally cringe.

Jessie raised the mug to her lips again.

“Kay. Whatever. Fine,” her voice was muffled by the mug and a slurp.

Why wasn’t she reacting? Why couldn’t she do something like she normally would? Like slam down the coffee mug onto the table in anger and scream at him? Let out a squeal and beckon him over with a twinkle in her eye so that he could spill all the deets? Interrupt his tale with a pout and a haughty lift of her head to remind him that no matter how good this hookup was that nothing would compare to her? Express dismay that someone could actually do better than what she could?

He hated prodding her. But if worst came to worst, he had to.

“I blew him and I liked it.”

“Ok,” she said in a flat tone.

Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. It was almost like if she was trying to shut him out. James tried not to let his mouth hang open. He blinked and stared right into her eyes.

“Is that all you’re going to say?”

The hand on the handle loosened. Jessie’s mouth opened slightly and her pupils widened before she brought the mug up again.

He gave up and turned to leave her just as he found her.

Chapter Text

Two Years Ago

CEO Killed In Car Crash

The CEO of the popular wine and spirits brand Antebellum Windmill, Jonathan Sasaki fell victim to a fatal car crash on Saturday. Mr. Sasaki (58) and his wife Cecilia (née Greene, 49) were out on a morning stroll in their hometown of Bellview Falls when they were struck by an out of control car going 50 mph on a 25 mph road. The couple and the driver of the car, Damien Fukoshi (27) were killed upon impact.

Mr. Sasaki joined Antebellum Windmill as a share partner and manager in 1980 before being promoted as CEO in 1987. Under his leadership, the company underwent a period of great expansion in the 90s. Antebellum Windmill became Kanto’s leading vintage, winning Wine of the Year for six years straight from 1991-1997. After a brief creative setback in the early 2000s, they reemerged to great acclaim and new recognition in international wine circles. Just last year, Antebellum Windmill was the recipient of Kalos’ most honored award for foreign wine: 2006’s meilleur vin étranger de l’année

The Sasakis left no surviving relatives. Their son James (21), went missing six years prior, and is presumed to be dead.

“I’M GoNna BE FAmouS!”

Startled, he lowered the newspaper in his hands. He sat up in his seat with a squint. He scanned the empty dressing room then over at the door as the shouting commenced again from outside. Its speaker was pushing the limits of her upper vocal range. Each squeal soared, dropped, and soared again as it warped into gibberish. It grew louder, accompanied by the striking and scraping of her shoes touching ground. And underneath the commotion, he could pick the sound of a man struggling to shout over her: frantic yelps that were drowned out by her gushing excitement.

There came a bang. The body of the door almost seemed to push forward. A rattle and the door burst open with a violent swing. In ran one of the contest girls. Her braided pigtails bounced at her shoulders, the skirts of her antebellum styled pink and red dress poofed out, heels slid as in tumbled the young man she had been dragging by the hand. With a laugh, she spun them both around before letting him go with a shove.

“KANTO 1! I aM GoNnA BE oN KANTO 1!” She settled back and leaned against the vanity set. Her hands clasped over her chest and she moved up into a jump.

Crash

The little stand next to him that held the newspapers and magazines shook. One or two fell to the floor. He glanced over to see the man wobbling on his feet before getting his bearings. His hands cupped his knees. He panted then straightened up with a pout.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah I’ve got that by now,” the man brushed imaginary dust off of his kakis, then his hands.

The woman did not seem to hear him. She plopped down on the vanity chair and kicked her feet off of the wooden floor with another grating screech. The wheels of the chair dizzily spun about as she continued to prattle on.

“Out of all the girls here they choose me! They asked for my thoughts, my fabulous taste in style, and how I manage to wow the crowd. By this rate I’m gonna shoot for the stars! After this interview airs I’m gonna be the most sought after contest girl from here to Kanto!”

“You’re probably gonna get a five second blurb,” the man muttered under his breath.

Her skirts lifted as she sprung up from the chair to dash about the room again. Her fingers grazed against the ridges of the red curtain that marked the dressing area. The rod squeaked as the curtain pulled towards her. With a laugh and a lean back she draped herself in the velvet. A hand on her forehead, smile stretched out and up towards the sky, she gazed over at the man and dramatically sighed.

He straightened out the newspaper with a turn of the paper. He tried to redirect his attention but the woman’s shrill laugh made him look over the rim. Her hands gripped the loops of the pink bow tied around her waist, undoing them with a tug. She took the sash and wrapped it around the man’s waist. Her arms jutted in, he swayed forward with the sash, and her lips puckered up against his nose.

“I feel absolutely divine I want to celebrate! Let’s go out! Let’s go out on the town!” The woman’s voice took on a suaveness that he had only heard in old movies.

He saw the man cock his head and frown again. He could imagine a soundtrack playing in the background. A jazz song: smooth on the surface, sensual in depth, the kind reserved for lovers of a temperamental nature.

“You went out partying yesterday,” the man’s tone had changed, deepened, assumed the same Trans-Atlantic cool of the woman’s.

“So?” She huffed. She pulled tighter on the sash. The man’s head tilted up with a jerk. His lower lip puckered out.

“I don’t think it’s good for your health to go through a contest and hit the town two nights in a row. Doesn’t that tire you out my dear?” His voice struggled to keep up with the fast movements of his mouth, like if his speech were being dubbed over.

It was rude to pry, even listen in as he was doing right now, but the duo proved to be too distracting to tune out. It was almost even entertaining, much more than the crummy newspaper in his hands.

In a blink of an eye, the sash unraveled. With a wave it streamed through the air, looping around and around until it slid into the woman’s outstretched hand. The man fell back, legs furiously pedaling to stay upright, arms flailing about like an exaggerated cartoon.

“What’s the matter with you?” The woman cried out with a stomp that shook the floorboards.

“Nothing!”

“Aren’t you happy for me?” The harshness in her voice was layered over by a high-pitched feminine squeak that didn’t sound anything like her.

“I am,” the man unconvincingly said.

“Then act like it why don’t you?” She exclaimed.

“I have other things on my mind!” The man snapped back.

His eyes darted back down to the headline’s glaring bold print before the woman’s shout came again.

“That are more important than me? Your ticket to fame and fortune? The one who’s gonna actually get us somewhere?” Her hands were on her hips.

________________________________________

“What did you say?”

The words that flitted in, out, and around James’ ears registered as a buzzing sound. Syllable by syllable, they scraped against his skin, stinging him.

“What did you tell her?” Came the stranger’s distorted voice.

James’ eyes strained. The white of the wall across from him took on a monochrome color. It flickered like an old film reel being shown on a projector. The title card, all in newspaper type, the kind that was garishly bold and oversized, rolled on and wouldn’t leave past the three- second mark.

“James?”

His hands clenched like if they were holding onto the sides of a newspaper. He gazed down then over at the wall. The letters had expanded, were close to bursting as they touched the thin outlines of the card.

OEC DELLIK NI RAC HSARC

The letters scrambled. Bounced. Shot across the monochrome that infected the white of the wall. His head was locked in place. Feet glued to the ground. Eyes fixed out and with fear. He couldn’t look away. He was trapped. He couldn’t escape. He was TRAPPED.

“James? Are you ok?”

Two Years Ago

A gust of violent wind blew against the sides of the tent. It was sturdily built, and thankfully so, he thought as he backed up to feel the chill of the night air and the blades of wild grasses brush up against his jeans. Sinnoh’s wind storms around this time of the year were notorious for their damage, leaving fallen trees, electric poles, and broken houses in their wake. It was a wonder the three of them survived at all.

They were tough, he had to give them that. Those three could adapt to just about anything. They had to out of necessity.

A piercing, sharp, howl broke through the wind’s cries. The tent’s flaps fluttered back and forth, pushing forward the figure of a man who frantically got up to his feet. There came a click and the beams from the flashlight in his hands shone from the distance. Left, right then out. He could make out the man cupping a hand on the side of his mouth.

“Wha—who’s there?” James called out, frightened.

A rustling sound came from the bushes close to the tent. James jumped back. The flashlight slipped from his hands. He fumbled about before catching it in a tight grip.

“I’m-I’m armed! I have a gun!” James waved the flashlight about.

James’ threat did not deter the rustling. Typical James, he thought. He was such a drama queen who was cowardly for his own good to do anything about it.

The wind picked up again. James tightened his stance, keeping his arms close to his body. The flashlight’s beam darted about the bush, lingering on the movement of black and orange stripes between the gaps in the leaves. The stripes zig-zagged. Pushed forward, and leapt out.

The flashlight’s beans flickered, a sharp turn that kicked up dirt, and James took off with a shrill scream. How comical, he thought as his gaze went from the dull flashes of light that passed over the forest scenery, to the flailing of James’ shadowy body and the canine pokemon wearing a square shaped collar that was hot in pursuit.

“DON’T EAT ME PLEASE! I DON’T TASTE GOOD! I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!”

The canine pokemon barked. It jumped up once more and tackled James to the ground. James curled up onto his side. His hands shot up to shield his face.

“PLEASE! PLEASE!”

The pokemon’s excited cry carried over the wind. It lowered its head and nuzzled its nose against James’ cheek. Its warm, slobbery tongue stuck out and licked the side of James’ face.

“Huh?”

James sat up to get a better look at the pokemon pawing at his legs.

Growlie?

James wrapped his arms around the growlithe. With a wag of its tail, the growlithe laid its head on James’ shoulder. James’ hand pressed into Growlie’s warm, soft fur with a gentle stroke.

“How did you find me?”

Growlie’s bark was quieter. He pulled back from James’ hug, eyes eagerly fixed on his friend.

“No one’s heard from me sinc--What’s this?”

James reached out for Growlie again. His fingers ran along side the outline of an envelope that was attached to Growlie’s collar. With a tug, he pried it loose, and shone the flashlight over the delicate script.

James Kojiro Sasaki

James glanced down at Growlie. He gave him a quick pat on the head before turning back to the envelope. He opened it to find a letter folded in half. The letter was written on the beige stationery that mother and father used for invitations and thank you cards. The family crest: a bunch of grapes stenciled on a windmill had been stamped in red on the top. The letter was dated two weeks prior from that day’s date.

__________________________________________________________

“And he looked up and saw that the growlithe had disappeared back into the bushes,” James continued on.

“You mean you right James?” The Mystery Stranger asked.

James’ legs bent as if he were about to leap up from the chair. His fingers uncontrollably twitched against the chair’s arms. His palms pressed down against the cold, metal surface. Slick with sweat, they slid. James tensed up. His heart raced.

______________________________________________________

Two Years Ago

Young Master James,

I am overwhelmed by the news that you are alive and in Sinnoh, a great relief to lessen my sorrow from the tragic passing of your parents! They, may they rest in peace, would be most overjoyed. They have been most gracious and benevolent for not only did they keep you in their prayers, but entrusted you as the sole inheritor of all their riches. Of course provided that you that you fulfill your duties as a member of this family and marry Jessebelle Fairfax.

Yours faithfully,

Sebastian

______________________

Leave Sinnoh?”

James winced in pain as his elbows prodded back into the wall. Legs shaking, heart uncontrollably racing, fear paralyzed him as Jessie and Meowth advanced. Meowth’s claws shot out and sharpened. The skin on the back of Jessie’s hand wrinkled as she clenched her hand into a fist.

“Are ya crazy?” You wan’ us ta get in trouble again? Da boss already’s crankin’ down on us wit’ Matori!” Meowth exclaimed.

“But we haven’t captured any pokemon—“

“Come on second place is great!”

“What letters?”

“We’ve only been here for two months!” Two fingers zoomed in and out of James’ line of vision.

“That the twerps freed.”

“You don’ rememba las’ weekend ‘cause you was on a bender again!”

“Yes we did!”

My fault?”

“Is this about those stupid letters?” The hand behind his back crumbled up the piece of paper it held.

Twerps? A bender? Letters?

“Everythin’s your fault!” The wind made the fur on the sides of Meowth’s face stick up.

“I’m not out of control!” The pearl bracelet around Jessie’s wrist rapidly circled about.

“I’m not lying!

“Dis is our only chance to get back into Da Boss’ good graces!” Meowth gestured at the board.

“She stole my spotlight!” She spat into her glass.

“Anything can go wrong!” He glanced down at the dirt stains on his uniform.

“Says da girl who spent ‘er entire time pukin’ backstage!”

“You’re a fucking liar!”

“Dat face ya made jus’ now tells meh ya lyin’ James!” Meowth jabbed his paw into James’ blazer.

James can you slow down a bit? I’m having trouble keeping up.

“I’m finally starting to win contests and you want to take that away from me?” Jessie stomped her foot.

The noise made James flinch. He unwillingly lifted his head to stare at her flushed, enraged expression.

“I’m sure they’ve got contests in other regions. We could go back to Hoenn, now that you’re actually good---“

“I’m not going back to that shithole!” She exclaimed.

“Well I don’t wanna go back there either but we definitely cannot stay here!” He exclaimed.

Why? Is it because you want me to fail!

Spittle and the heat of her breath made James’ face twitch. His hands clasped over his ears.

“No I don’t. Jess I only want the best for you. For us.

He was sliding. She was screaming. Somewhere in the distance, he heard a bark.

Hey James?

____________________________________

My Darling, My Sweetest Darling,

Oh how I have ached for you in these long six years. When you took off a running, everyone was certain that you’d perish in the freezing cold. I cried so much that my tears could drown the entire vineyards in the back of your house. You wounded my poor heart James, and I admit you made me very ANGRY. I was so angry that I wanted to wrap my tiny little hands around your THROAT and throttle some sense into you until the color of your skin was the same shade as the strands of your hair. But then I remembered that if I did that, that I’d be saying my vows to a corpse, and I can’t handle any more death. The thought of you sitting up in heaven with my mama and DEAREST PAPA makes me feel so lonely that I at times imagined tightening my pearls ‘round my neck just to join you. If you did this all to SPITE ME, then you succeeded James. I’m TIRED of you hurting me. Do you LIKE it when you HURT ME? I don’t like it one bit. Which is why I’m coming back to GET YOU. And you ain’t gonna escape this time. You can RUN James but you’ll always fall back into my arms. Then I’ll be your blushing bride and we’ll be bound TOGETHER FOREVER in HOLY MATRIMONY under the EYES OF GOD. YOU WILL BE MINE.

“Who’s Jessebelle?”

Jessie’s words, low and cold, seeped over and snuffed out the warmth that churned from the heater in the corner of the room. Her words crystalized into hail. They violently blew into him, pushing him back to the edge of the doorway and froze him in place.

The letter was in her hands. Her nails scratched at the sides, poking a hole through the paper. Black ink stained through the red polish on her nails and trickled down her knuckles. Her free hand that had been resting against the bottle of vodka on the table slid. It slammed against the wooden surface, propelling her forward.

“Jessie why are you going through my things?” His voice cracked.

“Who is she?”

“Jessie you just can’t—“

“Who is this Jessebelle?

The iciness in her tone, the stoic expression on her face, her freezing glare, it scared him. Jessie wasn’t the bitterness of a winter blizzard, cold and calculating that spread ever so slowly to smother everything in its path. She was the fire of a volcano, hotheaded and irrational that spewed and stomped and pouted whenever she was set off. Where was the drama? The rage? His role in all of this, to combat her flames with reason that poured down on her like rain.

“Jessie, can we talk about this in the morning?”

“You’re not answering me.”

Realization crossed over her. Her grip on the letter tightened.

“You’ve been lying to me this entire time.”

“I’ve never lied to you!”

“You’re lying to me now.”

“Jessie, there’s a reason why I kept all of this secret from you, from Meowth---“

Her nails dented into the letter. The paper ripped at the top left hand corner.

“Don’t. You. Jessie me. I’m not stupid. And I’m not drunk. And I’m sick and tired of you treating me like I’m some sort of idiot!”

The tear widened.

“I thought you were one of us. I thought you were like me. Some turned out kid with nowhere to go and the whole world against him and some shit like that. And you never really suffered did you? All this time while I had to beg and steal and try to do anything so I could eat and stay under the roof of my own house you were rich and you had the whole world as a first course meal on a silver platter! And you had a family and a fiancé.

The tear in the letter zig-zagged. Loops and lines were split into two.

“What else did you lie to me about? That I was your first everything? ‘Cause it’s obvious that you fucked her.”

She tore the letter apart.

The ground beneath him began to quake. The avalanche, the suggestion, the accusation that he’d dare consider touching her letting her place her hands, her body against his’ crashed over him. His vision went red. The chirp of her chortle cracked like a whip to announce the presence of her ghost that had long lay dormant in James’ mind. Hands snaked and reached out to strangle him. Nails, like claws, slicing up his skin raw. The snap of his bones breaking one by one until all that remained was ooze and sludge that once belonged to something human.

“Why would you- you don’t even know anything about her—“ James was sinking.

“I. Know. Enough,” Jessie’s eyes scrunched up to freeze the water that threatened to overflow. “They want you to get your fucking money right? Then why don’t you just be a good little rich boy and marry her like you always wanted!”

__________________________

Marry her

James lurched forward. The phrase scorched through his ear and down the nerves of his spine until it pounced upon his heart. The letters stretched out and coiled around his heart in a constricting grip. It was like felt his heart lash out, struggling to slip through the rope that threatened to shrivel it up and squeeze the blood dry. It rattled about, denting his ribcage in. The fluorescent light from above flickered rapidly. The black specks on the floor enlarged and shook. His hands were pulling the sides of his hoodie as low as he could go and he wanted to GET OUT NOW There was no way to run, no way to hide, and the blood that was pumping through his veins couldn’t make him run.

“James?”

He crumbled with a howl.

“James!”

Everything felt so hot. The thickness of the air that clogged up his throat, the tears scorching his cheeks, the heat of the lights above, yet he felt his knees lift up and huddle against his chest. His heart felt like it was going to jump out of its cage, his head was spinning and there was nothing that he could do except sob and rock back and forth.

Cool air wafted against him for a brief moment. James looked up from the crook between his knees and elbows where he had nestled his head to make out the figure of a man sitting down next to him. Through his teary vision vibrant shades of tan, brown, green, orange, and a cylindrical white flashed before him.

“James? It’s me. I got you some water. Can I hand it to you?”

With a hiccup, James nodded and reached out to grab the paper cup the man offered. It was cold. Soothing on his hands. The feel of the water gushing down his throat a relief. Once he was done, James took a deep breath and then wiped his eyes with the sleeve of his hoodie.

“I’m sorry James. I didn’t mean to—“

“You don’t have to apologize,” James interrupted him.

James blinked away the last of his tears. He sat up straighter in his seat and began to turn.

“It just came out. It’s not like you caused it or anything—“

James stopped. His eyes squinted, suspicious at his own line of vision and blinked again to verify if what he was seeing was right. A second passed and James lurched back into the corner of his seat.

You!” He exclaimed, dumbfounded.

Perhaps, if this particular corridor were filled, James’ commotion would have caused quite the stir. But it so happened that it was the dead of the night, and the only two occupants in sight were sitting side by side. One: a former Team Rocket member known as James Kojiro Sasaki. The other: a young twenty- year old aspiring pokemon doctor by the name of Brock Peterson who in the eyes of James was a former menace known by the name of “twerp.”