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Prepare for Trouble

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Ash’s anger was growing by the minute, and Team Rocket’s taunts weren’t helping. No matter how many times he slammed into the back door of the truck currently speeding down the road it wouldn’t budge open, but he couldn’t give up. Not when he had something so big at stake. but time was ticking.

Electricity crackled through Pikachu as he prepared to blast the door with a bolt of lightning, but he was cut off by the voice of one of the drivers, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you Pikachu!” Meowth’s voice came, and Ash could tell a smug grin was plastered on his face although he couldn’t see the cat.

“One false move and this vehicle could be swiveling out of control and the least thing we want is an accident,” James smooth voice came from the front of the truck.

“As if you care if I get hurt or not!” Ash yelled his voice drowned in anger. He hated to admit but they were right. He wanted to get to the League match and keep his promise with Ritchie but if he winded up getting seriously injured it wouldn’t solve the problem. He bit his lip, if he had Squirtle he could’ve filled the truck with water, but Team Rocket had managed to steal his pokeballs. He slammed into the truck once again. He needed to get out of here!

“We care a little enough that we’re willing to prevent you from doing something stupid.” Jessie said, and he could hear her seething as she spoke.

“If you cared enough you’d leave me and Pikachu alone and let me go to the match!” Another slam bared no new results.

“Jessie, watch out!” Meowth cried, and the truck made a sharp turn, causing Ash and Pikachu to slam into the side of the wall.

“Enough wasting time!” Jessie roared. “Hand over the Pikachu and we’ll hand over the rest of your pathetic Pokémon. We get the Pikachu and you get to attend your precious match, it’s a win-win.” 

“Never!” He gave Pikachu nod. “Pikachu use quick attack!”

Pikachu gave a fierce nod, bent down, and burst forward in a display of brilliant speed, crashing into the door of the truck. The doors burst open and Ash quickly grabbed Pikachu before he fell out.

“Alright!” Ash cheered.

“Pika Pi!” Pikachu grinned in return.

Ash turned to look at the road that the truck was speeding on and cringed at the thought of how bad it would hurt to jump out now. He bit his lip again as he turned back to the side of the truck Team Rocket was in, he still had to get his other Pokémon back.

He turned back to the outside and recognized the area as the place where Team Rocket had driven the day before when they were taking league participants’ Pokémon. He smirked as an idea formed in his head.

“Jessie, they opened the back door!” Meowth said in panic.

“Jessie, hurry up and make a sharp turn so we can trap them in again!” James screamed.

“I’m trying but do you see any turn I can make here?!”

Ash was not waiting to see that turn happen, so he grabbed Pikachu, “Hold on tight buddy.” And he jumped sideways to avoid the road and land near the grass.

He stumbled a bit as he rolled out and let out a few grunts of getting hurt but for the most part he was OK as they landed on a soft patch of grass.

“You OK Pikachu?” 

“Pikachu!” Pikachu smiled happily at their escape before turning to where Team Rocket’s truck had turned and vanished in the distance. “Pika…” His ears flopped down.

“Don’t worry buddy, we’ll get them back. You weren’t there because Team Rocket had gotten you, but this is how me and Richie rescued you and the other Pokémon!” He grinned at his partner before darting off, happy to hear Pikachu dashing behind him.

Ash ran down the hillside in haste before slowing down a little bit, remembering what Richie had warned him about the day before when he had been running down the same cliff. 

“Pikachu are you still here?!” He yelled as the wind blew past his face, drowning some of the surrounding sounds. It was far too dangerous to take his eyes off the steep hill in front of him.

“Pika!” He replied, and Ash was thankful his Pokémon wasn’t doing something as dangerous as what he did yesterday.

Ash slowed to a stop as he came to the cliff that he and Ritchie had ran into the previous day, “Alright Pikachu, get on.” Pikachu hopped onto Ash’s back and the two began descending downwards, quickening the pace as they heard a truck zooming nearby.

His heart was pounding, his mouth was dry, and he was breathing heavily. He was feeling far more stressed out than he should be before his league than person should be but with the situation at hand he could do nothing. His only option was to try and retrieve his Pokémon and hurry back and hope he could make it to the match on time. Handing over Pikachu was not an option.

His eyes focused on a truck racing down the road in front of him, and he gave a wry smirk seeing that Ritchie and his plan from their last encounter with Team Rocket had worked again. This time though, Team Rocket wasn’t getting away.

“Pikachu use your thunderbolt on the lower side of the truck!”

“Pika… CHU!” A bolt of electricity rose from Pikachu’s body and sunk into the truck. A loud boom emanated in the area and smoke quickly filled the area.

He rushed to the truck and his heart only beat faster at the sight of it toppled over onto its side. He cared enough about Team Rocket to not wish them any pain besides enough electricity from Pikachu and he didn’t really want to anything to serious to happen.

The grunts of pain echoing from the inside of the truck showed that Team Rocket was at least breathing, and Ash released a sigh of relief he didn’t know he was holding in. Climbing to the top of the truck door, he opened it and saw the sight of the trio unconscious.

He struggled pulling James and Jessie out but somehow managed the feat. He only pulled them onto the top of the truck, which was the side, as he couldn’t carry them safely to the ground. Pikachu picked up Meowth by his fur and dragged him next to him.

“Pikachu.” Ash heard Pikachu call him over and he turned to see the electric mouse pointing at a small bag resting in their Jessie’s pocket. 

Ash picked it up and saw his pokeballs, undamaged and intact. He grinned before securing them in place, feeling a food of relief that everything worked out in the end. His jaw dropped as he remembered that he still had a league match to get to.

“Pikachu we gotta- !”

Ash paused as his eyes landed on Team Rocket and the smoke that began emanating from the truck they were on. It was dangerous for them to stay anywhere near that truck. Knowing it would cost him some time, he released Bulbasaur from his Pokeball and ordered him to use vine whip to take Team Rocket away from the truck.

He and Pikachu gave a silent nod to each other before heading off with a jump in their step. Somewhere in Ash’s heart, he could feel that the match was long over.

“I’m here!” Ash yelled as he walked out to the stadium field, but he was met with silence. 

There were no one in the stadium, he looked over to the battlefield, it looked like it hadn’t been touched that day. He looked at where Ritchie should’ve been standing happily ready to battle, it was empty. He looked over to where the crowds should’ve been cheering, it was empty.

His heart dropped, and he could feel Pikachu burrow into his neck a little bit.

“There he is!” He heard a familiar voice call. He turned to see his mom, Professor Oak, Brock, Misty, Ritchie, and Officer Jenny standing towards the far side of the stadium. Before he could tell his mother had rushed directly to him and wrapped his arms around him.

“Ash Ketchum where have you been?!” But her voice wasn’t strict like it should’ve been, it was brimming with caring and concern.

“I ran into trouble on the way here…” He slowly said before returning his mom’s embrace tightly, feeling a little guilty he made her worry.

“Ash!” At that moment everyone else made it over to him all with similar looks of worry.

“Where were you Ash?” Brock asked.

“I ran into Team Rocket, they tricked me and took my Pokemon beside Pikachu. They told me they would let me out if I gave him to them, but I got out.”

“I was right!” Misty bit her lip. “Richie told me that he never called to talk to you and I felt something was fishy… I should’ve tried to find you sooner.” He saw her look at him with sad, watery eyes.

“Ash…” Richie spoke up and Ash turned to his new friend to see him hiding his eyes under his hair. “I tried everything I could do to extend the time limit but…”

Ash finally spoke what he had meant to say since the start, “The league match…”

“I’m so sorry Ash, Ritchie won by disqualification.” Oak spoke up.

Time froze for Ash as he stood there and took it in. All his work and dreams building up to this amazing battle with Ritchie in the Indigo Plateau and it was ruined. He shadowed his face, “Richie… our promise… I’m sorry.”

Richie looked at Ash’s statement in surprise, “Its not your fault, there’s need to apologize.”

Ash looked at him silently before nodding.

And for a few moments, everything was silent everyone was staring at Ash waiting for him to speak but the boy didn’t speak for a while.

He then plastered a fake grin on his face before breaking the ice, “Well good luck, in your next match Richie, maybe I just wasn’t meant to move any further in the league.” He gave an awkward chuckle before shadowing his eyes once more and beginning his trip back to the hotel they were staying at.

“Hey Ash, wait a second!” Brock shouted as he tried to run up to his friend before a hand stopped him from moving any further.

“Let him think things over with himself for a bit, I’m sure he has a lot of thinking to do.” Oak sagely informed and Brock stopped his movement in disdain.

“Oh Ash…” Ash’s mom said as he faded into the darkness of the stadium exit. She pet Pikachu’s head as she placed him on her head, “Everything’s going to be OK, Pikachu.”

Brock clenched his fists and grit his teeth, “Team Rocket’s has gone and done it now!”

Officer Jenny walked up to the group and spoke up, “I was going to question him about Team Rocket’s whereabouts, but I suppose I’ll do it when he’s feeling better.”

Jessie, James, and Meowth jolted to consciousness when the truck they had been driving exploded into flames not more than 20 feet away from where they were laying down unconscious. 

A breeze brought the smoke from the flames into their vicinity and they covered their noses quickly. They shivered from the chilly, night breeze… wait it was night now? They looked at the sky to see the full moon bathing their area with light. How long were they unconscious?

“What the heck happened?!” Meowth stumbled onto his feet and clutched his hand in pain.

“I don’t know…” James staggered away from the flames to breath some fresh air. His body ached in pain.

“Last thing I remember is making off with the twerp’s Pikachu and next thing…” Jessie blinked as she remained sprawled on the ground. She tried to stand up, but she fell right back on her butt. “My ankle…” She winced and grabbed her ankle in pain.

“Jessie!” James rushed over to his partner in concern- not taking the time to cover his mouth and nose- and helped her onto her feet, she winced the entire time up.

They coughed as they caught a fistful of smoke brought over from the wind before stumbled away to a fresh spot.

They remained in silence for a bit as they leaned against the trunk of trees and watched the crinkling flames from the truck. James and Jessie were so enthralled and stunned by the events that they didn’t hear Meowth tell them to begin moving before any officers arrived until he poked them.

“The twerp really did a number on us this time.” Meowth shook his head as the three began walking away from the site slowly. “But that raises the question, how did we get out of the truck in the first place?”

He rose a good point, but James and Jessie were silent in response till a lightbulb flicked on in Jessie’s head.

“It had to have been the twerp!” She exclaimed, in disbelief at the words.

“I suppose it must’ve been, anybody else would’ve just called the cops if they had seen us.” James agreed.

Meowth shook his head in shock, “I hate to admit it, but he might be the only reason we’re alive right not…” And the trio shivered at the thought of if Ash hadn’t taken them out, they really had gotten out of a bind this time and it was all thanks to the twerp.

Jessie sighed, she was tired, aching, hungry and she knew focusing on what happened wasn’t going to solve anything. “Well, let’s get out of here for now…”

Misty looked to Brock and shrugged worriedly as the two walked side by side with Ash in between. The League had decided to throw a massive festival for the celebration of the day before the Grand Final match and most of the people in attendance were partying their lives away, except Ash Ketchum.

They weren’t sure how they managed to convince him to join with them, as his disqualification had only been the day before, but he agreed to come. He wasn’t having fun though, he was silent and wasn’t interested in any of the stalls or activities that were offered which was a far cry from his usual self.

Professor Oak was working on contacting Gary and Delia was off doing something special. That left Brock and Misty with their friend.

Laughter rang around the area as various people ate, played at the stalls, or were simply chatting with other attendees. It was festive atmosphere and the sounds of music and singing only brought an even more enjoyable experience.

But to contrast the festive atmosphere was Ash’s saddened demeanor.

Brock stared back at Misty confused before she glared at him, obviously telling him to do something. He bit his lip a bit before speaking, “Hey Ash, let’s just take a quick breather by the benches, all this festive fun is really taking it out of me.” Brock gave an exaggerated sigh of exhaustion as he took a seat waiting for Ash and Misty to follow.

To his delight, Ash followed meaning his plan was a success. To his sorrow, Ash remained silent instead of arguing that they still have so much more to do in the festival.

“So, Ash… how are you enjoying the festival?” Misty ended their few moments of silence.

“It’s okay I guess.” He replied.

Brock gave a fake laugh, “Yeah, you’d think for a festival made for the Pokémon League they’d at least have something good there.”

“I guess.”

Brock glanced at Misty and gave a shrug. Misty sighed at the failed attempt before cutting to the point. She was getting annoyed at this beating around the bush and Ash surely wasn’t going to bring anything up unless they asked directly, “Alright, Ash are you going to tell us how you’re feeling or are you going to act keep acting like a baby?” Brock cringed at Misty’s blunt words.

“I’m feeling fine!” Ash yelled in reply, not expecting his voice to get so loud so quickly.

Misty cringed, having not expected Ash to snap so quickly, and glared at the boy“Quit lying, ever since yesterday you’ve been acting differently and unless you open up you’ll never move on.” 

Brock sighed and sweat began forming on his neck as he realized they were starting to attract the attention of the attendees. He ignored the stares in favor of his friend, “She’s right Ash, bottling up emotions is never a good thing. Talk to us about it, we’re your friends.”

A vein ticked Ash’s forehead and he turned his head away from them, “I said I was fine, quit bugging me about it!”

“Pika…” Pikachu mumbled to his owner sadly as he watched him yell in anger. 

“Not you too Pikachu!” 

“Hey, isn’t that the trainer that was disqualified yesterday?” A person attending the festival asked.

“Yeah, it’s a shame too he was a really good trainer but sometimes I guess the stage fright gets to you.” Someone replied.

Ash clenched his fists as he spared the attendees a glare before dashing into the forest without another glance at his friends.

“Ash!” Misty and Brock screamed in unison before following their friend with Pikachu.

“Woah, the twerp really going through it right now…” Jessie spoke from a festival stall near Ash who was yelling at the other twerps, sitting on a chair to give her legs a rest.

The Team Rocket trio had been running a small stall to procure funds for whatever ventures they would take to get Pikachu next and just like all the other small-time gigs that had been doing during the Indigo League they were enjoying it. James’ bottlecaps and collector’s pins had garnered a lot of money and it was the first time in a while they were successful at anything. Maybe they could pay their debt to the organization and still have some leftover cash to spare for themselves.

“You don’t think that’s because of us, do you?” James asked a hint of concern in his voice.

“You idiot, of course its because of us, did you think the twerp would get over missing the match overnight?” Meowth informed.

“I guess but…”

Jessie gasped, “Don’t say you feel guilty about it.” 

James sighed before he sheepishly scratched his head and confirming, “I think so.”

Meowth and Jessie stared back and forth between each other and James before shaking their heads.

“Ash!” They heard the shout of the twerp’s friends call before they looked to see them chase after him.

“Let’s go see what happens next.” Jessie said as she grabbed her single crutch and stood up.

“Why?” Meowth raised an eyebrow.

“M-Maybe we’ll have a chance to steal Pikachu?” Jessie stumbled over her words.

Ash ran through the forest still shaking in rage with his fists clenched tight. He noticed Pikachu wasn’t with him like usual, but he was too mad to care, he just wanted to run far, far away. The forest he was in was the same forest from before and he starting to get sick of the entire place to begin with.

His thoughts focused back on his friends. Why were they so adamant that he was feeling bad? He was fine! They should just mind their own business.

The voice of his friends calling him reached his ears and he picked on his pace in accordance.

So, what about the Pokémon League? Maybe Team Rocket’s interference was just some legendary Pokémon’s way of telling him that he wasn’t meant to go any further. But he didn’t care anymore about that. In his pace he ran into a tree’s root that had grown above ground and tripped causing him to slam head first into the ground.

He didn’t stand up though, deciding to ponder on what he was just thinking about. And everything came crashing down around him. His head filled with the scenario of him having fighting Ritchie like he had promised. He didn’t care about the Pokémon League? Yeah, right.

A set of sighs of relief reached his ears as he heard Misty and Brock rush over to where he was but he remained face in the ground.

“Alright, Ash are you done overreacti-“ Misty began harshly before she stopped as she saw what Ash was doing. He was crying. She felt guilt sting her heart as she dropped to her knees and rubbed his back. “Ash… please just tell us what’s wrong.”

Her heart sunk as Ash spoke in between sobs, “Ever since I missed the match… I keep thinking that Team Rocket’s interference was just some sign that I’m not supposed to be a Pokémon master.”

Misty’s eyes widened as his words before Brock spoke, “Ash, you know that’s not true. You’re one of the best trainers I know and how can you not be a trainer when you’ve made it all the way to the Indigo League.”

“I shouldn’t even have most of my gym badges though, I didn’t even beat most of the gym leaders including you and Misty.” The thought of all the times Misty would tease him that he never received a gym badge without the pity of the Gym Leader drowned any other thought in his mind. He wasn’t mad at Misty about that though, she was right. What other trainer in the Indigo League had received most of the gym badges without defeating the gym leaders in a proper battle? Gary surely had beaten each and every single leader through sheer talent.

“But you’re fighting with the best people in the region and you won your first four matches.” Misty reassured.

“Beginner’s luck…” Ash mumbled as he rose to his feet and wiped his tears. Pikachu ran into Ash’s arm and looked into his trainer’s eyes with concern. “Let’s just head back to the room, I’m not really up for the festival.”

Misty watched Ash walk away in silence as her anger slowly built up, “Team Rocket… I’ll never forgive them!”

From behind a tree within audible distance from Ash, the Team Rocket trio stared at the interaction in surprise and were left speechless at the twerp’s words. They had never seen him so down before and to hear him. The twerp who they had never seen doubt himself as a trainer, the twerp who constantly beat them, the twerp who had helped so many people. It was jarring to hear him suddenly speaking about not being cut out to be a trainer.

Each member of the trio knew that if there were any moment to try and steal Pikachu it was now while the twerp was at his worst, but Team Rocket had no trap, no machine, and no will to even attempt something like that.

“What did the twerp always blab about, something about being a Pokémon Master?” Jessie grimaced as the twerp and his friends faded into the forest, she gripped her crutches tightly.

“Hard to be a Pokémon Master when you don’t think you’re a good trainer…” Meowth uttered turning his vision from the retreating twerps to the ground in thought.

“I think we just crushed his dreams.” James said and the three of them took a chance to digest his words. The thought of their own dreams before joining Team Rocket came to mind. “I guess I can relate to what the twerp is feeling. When my parents told me, I was being engaged to Jessebelle I felt I would never be able to do anything I wanted with my life. Then I found you guys and I finally felt free from the pressure of my family.”

Jessie gave a sigh of remembrance, “I had some of my dreams crushed too. After my mom disappeared I tried going out to Pokémon Nurse School but couldn’t become one because I wasn’t a Chansey. I tried doing contests in Hoenn, but I was told pretty quickly that I wasn’t cut out for it and plus you need a lot of money for accessories for coordinating.”

A shiver ran down her spine remembering her early endeavors while she did like to brag that she was versatile and skilled in many things she was no Jack-of-All-Trades, she simply gained most of those skills because she had tried to do so many different things and failed to succeed at each one of them.

“Back when we were at that test for participation in the Pokémon League, I wasn’t lying when I said I wanted to become a Pokémon Master. When I was younger I wanted to do what the twerp’s doing. I never realized it, but I never had the money to afford to travel while I was younger though… I guess being so poor when I was young and not realizing it made such a big impact when I realized what I could do if I had money.” A wry laugh escaped her lips.

Meowth looked between his two teammates before shaking his head and leaning back against a tree, “I can’t relate, ever since the day I learned how to speak I’ve been fueled by cold hard cash.” He said coolly.

Jessie furrowed her eyebrows in skepticism, “So you mean you’ve never had a dream before? Besides getting rich.”

Meowth stared back at her before pondering on his past for a quick bit, considering his circumstances of living, “Living on the streets, the only dream I was allowed to have was to get enough food to survive the day.”

“Wow Meowth, I didn’t know…” Jessie uttered, Meowth had never shared his growing up circumstances with the two of them so this was a first.

Meowth shook his head, signaling to Jessie not to worry, before turning his back to the two and walking in the direction the twerps had, “So are we going to do something about this?”

“Huh?” 

“There’s no way I’m going to let the twerp quit on his dream because of some failed attempt to steal Pikachu. And there’s no way I’m going to live with the fact that a kid that won’t even try to become a Pokémon Master manages to beat us every time we encounter him!”

James nodded, a smile growing on his face as he kept pace with Meowth, “Yeah, let’s cheer the twerp up!”

Jessie sighed jokingly before a smile tugged her lips, “Yeah… Wait up for me I still have to wear this crutch for another day!” She yelled as the others ran off ahead.

Ash laid on his bed in his room, which doors were locked shut, and stared up at his wall in apathy. He was debating the recent events over his head. He hadn’t seen Richie since the day before, he couldn’t stand being near him after the broken promise. He was still rooting for him but at this point he didn’t have the heart to watch the Grand Final.

Pikachu was sleeping on his chest as he didn’t want to leave Ash’s side since they had gotten back. It had been a few hours since the festival; the night sky was now scattered with stars and the bright moonlight which gave a small glow to the outside.

Enraptured by the beautiful sky, Ash didn’t hear the pebbles that slammed against his windows till it increased in strength becoming small bangs. He jumped and fell off his bed before scuttling to the window to see the commotion. Pikachu fell off him in the process and was jolted by the sudden landing.

The moon entered the clouds, so Ash could only make out a few features. There were three figures two of adult height and a strangely small one that couldn’t be more than 2 feet tall. They stopped throwing as they noticed him.

“Ash Ketchum, I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!” A feminine voice demanded, and Ash could’ve sworn the voice was a little familiar.

“Pika?”

“No.” Ash said, he wasn’t up to any battle at all considering the recent events.

As he walked away from the window the voice yelled back to him, “And where the heck do you think you’re going?!”

Ash just simply glanced back outside, “I’m not in the mood for a Pokémon battle, so just go away.” He waved his arm wanting them to go away.

“Alright, we’re scrapping Plan A! Jessie, do what you do best!” The smaller figure said.

Jessie, smirked as she threw off her costume, “With pleasure!”

“Prepare for trouble!”

“And make it-“

“Team Rocket… why can’t you just leave me alone. You made me miss my League match haven’t you caused enough trouble for one week?” Ash said in a somber, yet frustrated tone as he cut of their motto. “I’ll never forgive you guys for what you did…” He said as he clutched his fists tightly.

Jessie bit her lip, stopping her from releasing a feisty retort to the twerp interrupting their song. She could hear the malice in his voice and it was obvious the boy was genuinely mad at them this time. At a loss for words, Jessie turned to her partners for an answer.

James shrugged with a sigh, he didn’t have a clue of how to cheer up the boy if he wasn’t going to go out of his way to stop them. The twerp usually was mad at their schemes but the tone he used was something entirely different. 

The two were dragged from their thoughts as a cocky laugh came from Meowth who was shaking hysterically with a mad grin on his face. Jessie and James looked at each other and blinked in confusion.

“I never would’ve thought that you would wimp out from a challenge, but I guess you aren’t as good of a trainer as I thought,” Meowth said as he scanned Ash’s face for any reaction. He couldn’t see much as the kid hid his facial expression through the shade of his hat, but he did clench his fist in anger. He was falling for the bait. 

A strong elbow into James’ ribs, and a look into Jessie’s frustrated eyes informed him to speak as well, “I mean at this rate we could just go ahead and steal Pikachu and you wouldn’t even be competent enough to stop us.

Ash snapped, “Alright then, if it’s a battle you want… PIKACH- “

“Hold onto you thunderbolts, this isn’t your average Team Rocket versus Twerp and Co. battle.” Meowth interrupted as he pointed a finger upward and wagged it. “This time we’ll be using official league rules: A three-on-three battle, substitutions allowed, and all that jazz.”

They noticed Ash’s rage contorted into confusion, “You mean… no cheating, no attempts to steal my Pokémon, and no dirty moves?”

“That’s what league rules mean twerp.” Meowth crossed his arms and gave Ash a look as if he were being stupid.

Ash shook his head in frustration before grabbing ahold of his one of his pokeballs. He was not into having a battle now, especially against the people who made him miss his match, but he was frustrated and maybe a battle would change that.

No point in turning this down now.

“Bulbasaur, I choose you!”

The pokeball flew from his fingertips and landed a few feet away from Team Rocket before exploding in a flash of white light. When it dimmed down, Bulbasaur appeared and gave a fierce cry of its name, ready for the battle.

“Then I’ll go first,” James confirmed as he stepped forward and tossed a pokeball forward. “Go Weezing!”

As the poison Pokémon landed on the field Ash burst into action, “Bulbasaur use vine whip and drag Wheezing over to you!” 

Vines appeared from Bulbasaur’s bulb and shot towards the wheezing. Bulbasaur felt a tug on the vines as it wrapped around and retracted it pulling James’ wheezing towards him. Wheezing struggled against the vines’ coil but failed to remove himself from it.

Ash smirked as Wheezing was brought closer but it quickly faded as James called for another attack.

“Wheezing use sludge!” James said causing Wheezing to vomit a torrent of black, viscous muck at Bulbasaur. 

With the distance the two Pokémon closed because of the vines, the sludge found its way to Bulbasaur within seconds. The sludge hissed as it began corroding into Bulbasaur and he yelped in pain and stumbled backwards weakly. Busy with the sludge, Bulbasaur releasing its wrapping on Wheezing allowing the poison-type some breathing room.

James smirked. “Tackle.” Wheezing gave its cry in response and rammed into the poison-covered Bulbasaur, who was too staggered by the sludge to respond.

“Come on Bulbasaur, shake it off!” Ash said as Bulbasaur skid to a stop next to him and regained the balance lost by the attack. “Close the distance with tackle!”

Bulbasaur charged towards Wheezing before James’ voice called, “Wheezing, use smokescreen.” The field was enveloped by smoke which billowed from Wheezing’s mouth and Bulbasaur stopped in his tracks. He stared around in bewilderment as it tried to find its opponent.

Ash’s view of Bulbasaur was blocked but he could hear the confused cries of Bulbasaur sounding from the center of the field. Bulbasaur should’ve kept charging ahead since Wheezing had to remain motionless to use smokescreen but it was too late now. He stared into the fog and looked around and sighed as he couldn’t make anything out.

With the type-disadvantage and the fact that Wheezing now had the element, Ash was considering switching Bulbasaur out, but he couldn’t do that if he couldn’t see the Pokémon to begin with. He had to think quick on his feet if he wanted to get out of this.

“Bulbasaur just use vine whip until you hit something, it’ll show up eventually!” Ash said, still visibly frustrated.

Bulbasaur followed his order and began whipping his vine in the smoke in random direction, frantically awaiting any purchase. It failed to find any and before long it stopped its frantic whipping to take a deep breath.

“Wheezing! Sludge!” James exclaimed and Bulbasaur suddenly felt a downpour of toxic muck fall onto it from above and yelped in pain once more.

“Bulbasaur!” Ash yelled as he tried to wave the smoke away from his face. He heard nothing in response. He awaited with bated breath as the fog began to dissipate and when it did it revealed an unconscious Bulbasaur covered in sludge. He grit his teeth before grabbing Bulbasaur’s pokeball and returning it.

Jessie and Meowth shared an astonished look at the first battle before exploding into cheers for their friend. James gave a nervous laugh in response until Wheezing tackled him to the ground with both of Wheezing’s heads grinning.

“It wasn’t anything spectacular, I had the type advantage, that’s all…” James scratched his head sheepishly as he laughed before he stood up and leveled an inquisitive stare at Ash, “What’s the big deal? You aren’t battling like you usually do.”

“So, poison types are strong against grass types huh?” Jessie pondered.

“Well duh.” Meowth replied as he raised a brow to Jessie. “Everybody knows that.”

Ash was shocked by James’ insight before he glared, “What do you know?!”

“I’ve battled you and your pesky Pokémon enough times to know that this definitely isn’t how you usually battle.” James placed a hand on his hip before brandishing a finger in his direction. “If battling you was this easy, we would’ve captured Pikachu a long time ago.”

Ash ignored the words as he reached for another pokeball. How low would he have to stoop to accept Team Rocket’s words as truth? As far as he was concerned they were just being an annoyance and he wasn’t going to take anything they take with anything more than a grain of salt. He didn’t need this battle anyway, he was just letting some steam out and he wasn’t going to let Team Rocket make him any angrier.

He wanted to wipe the floor with them right now and instinctively he reached for Charizard’s pokeball before pausing. Charizard still hasn’t been listening to me… Ash bit his lip before moving to a different pokeball, if Charizard didn’t listen to him at his best, then he wouldn’t appreciate him when Ash felt like he wasn’t good enough to be a trainer.

As Ash was still on the 2 nd floor of the house he had to toss his pokeball downwards, but his hand shook during the throw- due to the doubt still fresh in his mind- and the pokeball landed a little way away from where he had wanted it to land. Ash flinched at the action and looked to see if Team Rocket had noticed, they didn’t.

The pokeball popped in a flash of light and Squirtle came out with a look of confusion on its face as it looked between Ash and Wheezing. In Ash’s frustration he forgot to say Squirtle’s name as he summoned him.

The distance between Wheezing and Ash’s pokémon had reset, so there was only one option for Ash now.

“Squirtle use water gun!”

Squirtle nodded at his trainer before releasing a torrent of water from his mouth. Wheezing grunted as the water hit but shook it off. Wheezing would be a little sluggish, but it could still take a few more hits.

“Wrap your smog around Squirtle.” 

A faint pink gas appeared from Wheezing mouth before flying towards Squirtle and encircling him. He breathed in some of the gas and it gained a look of nausea as it stumbled back and forth of its legs.

Ash noticed that Wheezing wasn’t using smog as strong as it usually did because smog usually wrapped around the whole field and even possibly getting in their own noses. James was telling it to hold back for safety purpose most likely, just like in a real battle with League rules. He really is serious about playing fair.

“Squirtle, withdraw into your shell and use water gun to get rid of the smog.” Ash said and Squirtle followed by withdrawing. As he used water gun water poured from all four openings of it shell causing the gas to dissipate and Squirtle to fly forward towards Wheezing at high speed.

“Finish it off with skull bash!”

Squirtle reappeared from its shell and aimed at the top of its head at Wheezing while bracing for impact. He a sickening thud he slammed into the Wheezing causing the wheezing to fly backwards with a yelp of pain. James, upon seeing this, ran forward and put his body in the way of Wheezing collision course to stop the Pokémon.

Wheezing fell on top of James, but he didn’t seem to mind it as he laughed, “Good job. You deserve a nice rest.” And with a smile he returned it into his pokeball.

“Alright Jess, you’re up.” James smiled as he walked towards his partner. “Don’t go to hard on the twerp.” He raised an open palm.

Jessie smirked as she walked forward and slapped his open hand, tagging herself into the battle, “Have I ever been one to pull my punches James?” She giggled before turning to Ash and crossed her arms with a pokeball in her right hand. 

“If you really do lose to bad trainer like us, maybe you really aren’t meant to be a trainer.” Jessie said.

Now Ash was suspicious, Jessie had said that as if she had known that he was feeling down about being a trainer. His gut was telling him that something was up, but he placed the thought to the back of his head as Jessie released Arbok.

“Arbok close the gap and use bite!” Jessie ordered and Arbok began slithering towards Squirtle while hissing with an extended jaw. Ash called Squirtle to withdraw in its shell just as Arbok prepared to clamp down on Squirtle’s head. The attack missed leaving Jessie visibly irritated.

Ash waited for a second, expecting Jessie to make another attack at the proximity and when she didn’t he acted. “Squirtle use water gun.”

Arbok cringed as water slammed into him and it hissed as it slithered backwards, sticking its tongue venomously at the Squirtle.

“Arbok wrap around Squirtle.” Jessie ordered. Ash ordered Squirtle to withdraw again, in frustration, but seeing the smirk that arose on Jessie’s face made him feel uneasy. Arbok wrapped its tail around Squirtle’s shell before slamming it into the ground repeatedly.

“Use poison sting inside Squirtle’s shell.” Arbok moved its mouth to the opening of the shell and unleashed a rain of poisonous needles into the shell. It hissed in pleasure as it slithered back to Jessie as Squirtle came out of its shell fainted.

“I-I did it…” Jessie stammered in disbelief. She looked at Ash who was clenching his knuckles to the point they were becoming white. “Maybe you really aren’t a trainer, we really should’ve blasted off before this battle even began. What happened to the twerp from before.”

Ash glared at Jessie as his hand inched towards Charizard’s pokeball. Now he was furious, what was Team Rocket trying to play at? First, they make him miss his match with Ritchie and now they torment him? At this moment, all he wanted to do was wipe the floor with them and call it a night.

He felt words erupt from his throat before he could even think, “Team Rocket… I’ll never ever forgive you for making me miss my match. Don’t think I don’t see what you’re trying to do!” Ash snapped, and he realized that he was being too loud and was acting on impulse, but he didn’t care.

“Don’t think that trying to cheer me up is going to work because it’s not!” He pulled his hat backwards as he grabbed Charizard’s pokeball. Charizard, please listen to me just this once . “Charizard, I choos-“

His throw was stopped by Pikachu who jumped to the battlefield from the 2 nd floor and stood determined in front of his trainer.

“Pika!” Pikachu cried.

Ash lowered his hand but kept a tight grip on the ball in his possession. “Move out of the way, Pikachu…”

Pikachu shook his head, “Chu. Pika pi, Pikachu.”

Meowth stepped over to where Jessie was and crossed his arms, “Pikachu’s saying that he wants to battle to show you that you can be a trainer, you can tell that though.”

Pikachu nodded as it continued to stare at Ash. The trainer and pokémon stared back at each other for a few moments and Ash took a moment to gain a few much-needed deep breaths before returning Charizard’s pokeball onto his belt.

“Pikachu, I choose you.” For the first time in a day or so he gave a small smile and Pikachu beamed back.

The sound of rushed footsteps came from the bottom of the house and the doors slammed open to reveal Misty, Brock, Ash’s mom, and Oak in their pajamas panickedly searching the field.

“Team Rocket!” Misty and Brock exclaimed.

“You have a lot of nerve showing up here after making Ash miss his match.” Brock glared at the trio.

“Don’t think that we’re letting you off easy this time.” Misty continued.

“Don’t worry guys leave this to me.” Ash said as he looked down to his friends below. They looked to him in surprise and he smiled back, “We have something to settle.” Misty and Brock looked at each other in shock while Delia giggled, and Oak nodded his head sagely. 

“Hey Jessie, tag me in will ya?” Meowth asked.

“I’m only just getting warmed up.” She pouted as she crossed her arms. She raised an eyebrow in irritation, “Anyway, why should I anyway?”

Meowth shrugged, “No reason really, guess I want to settle this grudge I have with Pikachu while I have the chance.”

Jessie kneeled to her companions eye level and scanned him before she shrugged as well, “I guess, besides its not like we actually want to beat the twerp.” She laughed as she patted Meowth on the head and walked back to James.

“Yeah- Hey what’s that supposed to mean!” Meowth yelled causing Jessie to laugh louder along with James. Meowth flicked a finger to Jessie before turning to Pikachu and chuckling, “So, this is it huh?”

“Pikachu.”

“What do you mean stop acting like we’re rivals?” 

“Chu Pikachu.”

“I’m just annoying…” Meowth grit his teeth as a vein began growing on his head. His claws pushed forward out of his hands and he brandished it towards Pikachu. “Now you’re going to pay.”

Meowth ran forward and jumped to close the gap between him and Pikachu before swiping downwards. Pikachu sidestepped before doing a low jump and rolling through the air to smack Meowth to the ground using his tail.

“Thunderbolt!” Ash ordered, and Pikachu quickly sparked with electricity and fired it at Meowth. Meowth rolled over on the ground to avoid the blow and popped onto his feet before following up with a slash at Pikachu powered by a glowing right claw. When Meowth made contact he continued with a flurry of slashes which caused Pikachu to stumble back in pain.

Ash wasn’t worried though, Pikachu could handle this, “Pikachu get out of there!”

Pikachu took a few steps backwards to avoid a slash from Meowth’s left claw and when his opponent only leapt forward he bounced on his tail to jump a good distance backwards. Meowth smirked and as he finished his short hop he dug a bit into the ground before leaping after Pikachu’s landing spot.

Meowth dragged his claw across Pikachu causing the mouse pokémon to not land on his feet and harshly land on the ground. Pikachu attempted to bounce back on his feet but Meowth held a claw to his head and stepped on his body.

“You show em Meowth!” James exclaimed, waving a flag with Meowth’s face on it happily.

“Maybe you’re stronger than I thought!” Jessie smiled at Meowth, cheering him on.

Meowth hid the blush at the praise as he pointed his other claw up towards Ash’s place on the 2 nd story.

“If you don’t realize already, you and Pikachu combined should be more than enough to beat me.” Meowth smacked his lips in disgust at the words. “And as much as I hate to admit, honestly you’re not a half-bad trainer yourself but if you let some minor setback like this stop you from following your dreams then you’re not ready to ascend to the Hall of Fame.”

Meowth turned his eyes away as Ash gazed at him blankly. Ash inhaled and digest Meowth, Jessie, and James words. They were right, he shouldn’t be letting this setback stop him from following his dream. He had faced several setbacks before and he overcame them, what made this any bigger?

Ash looked at Meowth, Jessie, and James and smirked, “You’re telling me!” Ash felt rejuvenated vigor rush through him and he finally felt a sense of peace reside in his body he hadn’t felt in days.

Meowth looked at Ash and nodded before turning back to Pikachu, “Then how about you finish this already?” Jessie and James approached Meowth and nodded to Ash.

“Pikachu use thunder!” Ash yelled, confidence flowing through his voice and Pikachu chirped in response before bolts of electricity shivered through his entire body.

Meowth looked to Jessie and James and they all gave confident nods as they watched Pikachu glow as the electricity built up to its max power.

Pikachu let out a roar, and a large bolt of lightning shot out from Pikachu and landed just a few feet away from the trio. It ripped the ground asunder, drawing a fissure in the ground, before shattering it and creating an explosion which gave birth to a huge cloud of dust and smoke.

Team Rocket was sent flying high into the sky thanks to be being near the explosion.

“Looks like Team Rocket’s blasting off again,” they said in unison, strangely not out of defeat.

Ash watched Team Rocket sail through the sky until they were just a twinkle in the distance and he grinned. 

Team Rocket, thank you.  

A sigh of relief escaped Meowth’s lips as he walked with his hands behind head along with Jessie and James. For once, the trio had done a good thing and it felt oddly good.

They hadn’t really said anything since they had blasted off, so their walk to their hideout near the Indigo League stadium had been comfortable silent. Comfortable besides the strange question which had lingered in their minds.

What do they do next?

Usually, this wasn’t something that was needed. It was to cut losses for the day and prepare for the next chance to catch Pikachu, but something was different this time. The thought of trying to steal Pikachu felt mucked up by the thought of how they had almost broken Ash’s dreams. Now that they had solved that issue they didn’t want to try anything that might do it again.

So, while a feeling of content washed over them, a feeling of distaste had accompanied it. 

What type of bad guys were they if they couldn’t stomach the thought of breaking a person’s dream by stealing their Pokémon? If they had succeeded in stealing Pikachu the same thing would’ve happened.

So, as these thoughts racked their brains the Team Rocket trio didn’t know what they were going to do next until James said something which surprised even himself.

“Jessie you said you always wanted to become a Pokémon Master?”

“When I was younger, yeah.” Jessie frowed a brow, not sure if she wanted to know where James was going with his words.

James’ eyes shimmered in excitement as he exclaimed, “Well then, let’s go to Johto so you can challenge the Pokémon League!” 

Jessie and Meowth’s faces faltered as the words registered in their head, “James are you out of your mind?!” They screamed in unison.

“And what about our job at Team Rocket, do you think the boss is really going to sit down and let two members run away?” Meowth asked, wondering if James had a screw loose. He knew what happened to Team Rocket members who went rogue, you can’t really expect to just resign when you know the secrets of the organization and who the top dog of it is. When you join Team Rocket you sign an imaginary contract to stay with the team till death or else you enjoy spending the rest of your days being hunted down by agents.

“I know, it won’t be easy but it’s only a matter of time before the boss eliminates us because we’re terrible at doing bad.” James admitted and the two agreed at the statement.

Jessie remained silent though, she wouldn’t lie saying that she didn’t want to still become one and seeing the twerp, who was less than half her age, make it all the way to the Indigo Plateau was enough to make her jealous. Still, the threat of being hunted down wasn’t appealing.

“But why would you go out of your way to help me with something?” Jessie found herself asking.

James gave an exasperated sigh at the fact that she even had to ask the question before grabbing her hands, “Because even if we leave Team Rocket, we’re friends till the end and if we end up helping you accomplish something then I’ll be happy for you.” His eyes shimmered in sincerity and Jesse’s cheeks flushed at the words.

“And Meowth?”

Meowth shook his head as he gave a small chuckle, “And what kind of friend am I if I leave you idiots to fend for yourselves.” 

Feeling her eyes start to water, Jessie quickly rubbed her eyes. A smile graced her lips as she abruptly pulled her friends in for a massive hug, “Let’s do it, let’s go to Johto!” James and Meowth were surprised by the sudden embrace but returned it happily, grins also falling on their lips. 

“But before that, we’re out of money thanks to destroying the rental cars back to back. So, we need to make as much dough as we can selling merch and food tomorrow!”

“Yeah!”

And for once, the Team Rocket trio - or now the Ex-Team Rocket trio - went to sleep with a goal other than stealing Pokémon. For them, a new adventure none of them were ready for was on the horizon, and for better or for worse, dangers lurked around every corner.

Chapter Text

Giovanni roughly his Persian, leaving said Persian purring in discontent, and held back a sigh at the report being given to him. Some way into the briefing, he had leaned back into his chair and stopped listening - already well aware of what was going to be said. He grumbled as it creaked and filed a mental note that he would have to get a replacement. 

The Team Rocket branch in Johto had reported no trouble regarding insubordination to Giovanni, which was expected. Why would any faction tell the organization they are subservient to that they were trying to revolt? Giovanni knew he wouldn’t have.

Two years ago, he had his sights set on establishing a faction of Team Rocket in Johto- the only region to not have any dominating underbelly. It was a fresh opportunity for more cash and expanded control, and as an added bonus, it was close to headquarters. He decided to strike while the iron was hot, and sent some of Team Rocket’s top prospects to recruit new members, establish a base, and gain access into the greener than grass underground world of Johto. They succeeded, to no surprise as they were Team Rocket’s finest members, but in recent months they had gone quiet, only contacting Giovanni for monthly updates and nothing more. Something was going on there that they didn’t want him to know.

He wiped the sweat building upon him at the thought of a revolution within the organization, the possibility that everything his mother had built for him vanishing before he could do anything about it was something he didn’t want to think about. Maybe he was being paranoid, but when you were the boss of a criminal organization paranoia should become common sense and the worst-case scenario should always be treated as the most likely one. At least that’s what mother told him when she was teaching him how he should lead the organization when she was gone.

A revolution would set back any plans to establish a faction in Hoenn, Sinnoh, or Unova. Not that those regions had been in any near future ventures, with underbellies like Team Aqua, Team Galactic, and Ghetsis’ wannabe cult running amok it would require more manpower and money than Giovanni could afford spending

Persian purred in discomfort and Giovanni stopped his rough petting to allow his prized Pokemon to breath.

He turned his attention back to the Team Rocket admin who was informing him about news from the Johto branch. Maria had vibrant red hair which reached her waist and wore black square glasses. Instead of the traditional Team Rocket attire she wore a black dress with a red R on the front. The dress itself was rather revealing of her beautiful figure. Giovanni had told her countless times to wear her attire more professionally - for more reasons than one- but she kept it open enough to show cleavage and reveal her legs. 

“-Admin Archer has also informed us that he is looking into a recent surge of underworld brokers that have come into Johto.” Giovanni finally heard something which had gotten his attention.

“Tell Archer that he is more than equipped to deal with something as frivolous as greener than grass brokers!” Giovanni snapped causing Maria to stumble back in shock. Giovanni silently cursed at his lack of control before adjusting his black suit and sitting forward, regaining his professional demeanor. “I’m sorry, Admin Maria, I’ve been dealing with a lot recently.”

Maria brushed back her frayed red hair and adjusted her glasses before replying, “Your anger is understandable Boss, you have a lot on your plate on the moment.”

Giovanni nodded as he shifted to another item on his plate, “And how many assets did we lose in the Cinnabar Island research?”

“Sir, we lost around 15 million pokedollars in scientific equipment, we also lost some of our leading scientists such as, Dr. Fuji.” Giovanni winced.  “Luckily most of our research conducted there was saved but our researchers are having trouble retrieving the information.”

“And has-“

Maria cut him off, “Sorry sir, we have yet to find out what we were conducting research and why the laboratory even exploded.”

He grit his teeth in anger and returned to petting Persian, lighter than before, to relieve some stress.

How he and every member of Team Rocket had forgotten what research was being done in the Cinnabar Islands escaped his mind. It was unbelievable, it was as what they were researching or who they were researching had escaped their minds. Was Arceus testing his ability to solve problems or was Giratina trying to deceive him into insanity?

Regardless, the last thing he remembered was that he left Viridian City to deal with matters concerning the research, and the next thing was that he had returned to Viridian City without any semblance as to what happened in between. And for the love of Arceus, what had told him that leaving the Viridian City gym to that bumbling trio of buffoons was a good idea? It was in absolute shambles, and they were lucky that the location of Team Rocket HQ hadn’t been leaked during the incident.

The moral of the story was that Team Rocket was going to need some quick influx of cash to cover some finances and make up for the scientists lost, meaning he wouldn’t have time to deal with the Johto faction. He clenched his fists at the thought; this was all getting to be far more troublesome than he had anticipated.

“Good report as always, Admin Maria, you’re dismissed.” Giovanni flashed the semblance of a small smile for the lady, which had to be the most reliable member of Team Rocket to him. She was truly a reliable person for him, in more ways than one.

Maria repositioned her glasses and her silver eyes simmered with mirth, “Actually Boss, I was searching through your call history and I realized that the trio of idiots haven’t called you in the past week, the week since they’ve been at the Indigo Plateau.”

He raised an eyebrow but let out the faintest laugh thinking of the trio’S exploits in infiltrating the Indigo Plateau and trying to steal the flame of Moltres. They had guts and ambition, one of two reasons why he kept them around.

“I must say, the past week has seemed much more relaxing without them rambling about their failures. On another note, what did I tell you about looking through things I don’t assign to you.” 

“I fired the person who was meant to record your calls, I had a suspicion that he was trying to act like you when calling other people. So, I took the responsibility of that.” She smirked and happily adjusted her glasses. “It is my duty to take care of you.” Maria’s lips curved into a smirk.

Giovanni shuffled in his seat as he tried to maintain his posture at Maria’s words, “Maria, I told you that we are to keep a professional relationship while dealing with Team Rocket matters.”

Maria placed a hand on her hips, swayed them- in a flirtatious way- before jokingly pouting, “Aww you’re no fun.”

Giovanni coughed into his hand as he averted his eyes from her attempts at seduction; he had to focus. “And what is the importance of the trio’s failure, to annoy me?”

Maria pouted, seemingly for real this time, before returning to her normal demeanor, “My intuition is telling me that something’s up, they usually report all of their failures but to go a week without anything is suspicious.”

“So, are you suggesting they are running away from the company?” Giovanni almost laughed before he watched Maria nod. Even those idiots knew that running away from Team Rocket was a fool’s errand. The trio were idiots and didn’t possess the power to run away from him for very long.

“I’ll look into it,” he said with full intentions to not really put too much thought into the manner. Maria gave him a warning glare and he leaned back in his chair to avoid the gaze.

“And one more thing.” Maria said and turned to the entrance of the office. “You two can come in now.” Giovanni’s interest spiked at the words. Had someone been listening to their conversation the entire time?

The doors opened inwards, and two people Giovanni didn’t expect entered. The female on the right had light, long orange hair while the male on the right had short, dark green hair. They were clad in their black Team Rocket uniform.

“G-Greetings Boss!” The male said as he stiffened his position and looked in the direction of Giovanni, noticeably avoiding direct eye contact.

The female elbowed his stiff posture. “Greetings Boss Giovanni, we’re humbled to be in your grace.” She nodded with a smile.

“Grunt Butch, Grunt Cassidy.” He nodded at them before giving a side glance to Maria. He could only wonder at what she was planning.

“Boss, I think I’ve found the solution to your Johto problem,”  Maria said, and Giovanni leaned forward. He heard Maria lightly giggle at the fact that she had gotten his full attention. “I’ve already informed them of their duty, so I’ll keep it simple. The plan is that they’ll infiltrate the Johto branch’s ranks as newbies and gain the trust of the Admins...”

Giovanni allowed a smile to rest on his lips as he pieced the plan together, “And once they gain enough trust they’ll be informed of any plans to uproot me, and then they’ll send word back to me. None of those Admins would ever expect me to use lowly ranking grunts as spies. Impressive as always, Admin Maria.” He turned his attention to Butch and Cassidy, “You’ve been assigned your task, you’ll be arranged a means of transport to Johto soon. You are being trusted with a very monumental task, don’t fail me…” His voice lingered to emphasize the importance of the mission. 

“You won’t be let down… but I also have a request,” Cassidy said catching both Giovanni and Maria off guard.

“We overheard that the trio has possibly gone AWOL and we’d like to take care of them for you,” Butch said, sweating bullets.

Giovanni shared a look with Maria, who shrugged and mouthed that this wasn’t a part of her plan. He closed his eyes, juggling the idea, while he didn’t think the trio did go AWOL if Maria really felt like they could’ve… Better safe than sorry.

“You’re allowed to chase after the trio, but your main priority is heading and completing your mission in Johto. The arranged transport’s date of departure is the final day you have to get to Johto, do not let the idiot trio get in the way of the bigger picture.”

Cassidy and Butch shared a grin before nodding and bowing to Giovanni, “Thank you for this chance Boss Giovanni.”

“Yes, now you are dismissed.”

He watched Butch and Cassidy walk out the door and this time waited for the door to click behind them before he leaned back in his chair and let out a sigh of relief.

“You’re always thinking towards the bigger idea, Maria,” He said as he continued to pet his Pokémon.

Maria chirped as she took a seat on the couch next to Giovanni’s chair.  “I do try, but this isn’t easy. I didn’t know getting hitched to a crime boss meant so many responsibilities…”

Giovanni chuckled. “And what exactly did you think it entailed?”

“The usual: stressful days, passionate nights, kids…” She smirked before quickly stopping in her tracks, stunned by her words.

Giovanni sighed at the final word before shaking his head. “Well, you did get a kid and all the troubles which came with that.” He scowled at the thought.

Maria remained silent, and GIovanni looked to her with concern, regretting the words he had spoken. He opened his mouth to apologize, but was cut off by words he had never expected to hear.

“My dear…” Maria whispered, and Giovanni realized that her eyes were beginning to water. “They found him… In Johto… Silver, my- our baby boy.”

Giovanni jolted from his chair in shock and felt a headache coming on. He clenched his fist as he sat next to his love, providing her the comfort of his chest to cry on.

Silver, you troublesome brat, why won’t you just accept that you will inherit everything of my own one day, including this organization… Giovanni thought as Maria snuggled into him. And what on Earth are you doing in Johto

“Ugh… James are we there yet?” Jessie groaned as she stumbled forward with weary steps. She was sweating profusely thanks to the noon sun’s radiant beams bearing down on her.

“Not quite yet.” James replied for the millionth time in the past hour as he jogged at a faster pace than his other two companions. Jessie figured he must’ve been getting tired too because he wasn’t moving as fast as earlier.

“Can’t ya just tell us where we’re headin’.” Meowth groaned as his tongue was stuck out in thirst. He yanked the canteen clutched by Jessie and took a mighty gulp of refreshing water. The cool liquid felt like heaven on his lips.

“Meowth!” Jessie snarled as she snatched the canteen back and shook it in panic. Her eyes widened as she felt no weight to it, and she quickly turned it upside down, only a few droplets of water came out. Her face of shock contorted into rage as she crushed the canteen with her hands, “You idiot that was all the supplies we had left.”

Meowth gulped as Jessie walked over to him with heavy footsteps before he felt the canteen slam into his forehead.

James sighed as he crossed onto a stone bridge in the area. It had only been two days since the end of the Indigo League and for those past two days they had been making an extreme trek to a place James hadn’t revealed yet. The trio made a lot of money thanks to sales booming during the final two days of the League matches, but they hadn’t bought anything with it because Jessie wanted to buy all sorts of things in Johto (James was beginning to wonder if she was going to view the adventure in Johto as a vacation more than a journey). Regardless, the trio hadn’t stocked up on adventuring supplies yet, so they were faced with the problem of lacking food or water to survive on.

The reason for his sigh wasn’t because of their current circumstances, however, it was because of their current destination. He paused as the extravagant mansion he spent his childhood years in appeared in the distance lit up by the afternoon sunlight.

Jessie stopped berating Meowth as she realized that she and Meowth had caught up James. She looked at him in confusion before turning her head to see what she was looking at and she blanched.

“J-James are you alright?!” She asked with mild concern. She had no idea what was going through James’ brain that would make him want to come back to his mansion; she was certain that he hated the place after their first encounter with his parents. Her mind landed on the possibility that James was going to claim his inheritance money before they leave for Johto, and the thought of so much money made her excited for a second, but she cast the thought away when she saw the frown on his face.

“Don’t tell me you’re gonna call it quits on this whole Johto thing and go live with your parents again,” Meowth said with trepidation, and Jessie found herself listening with vigilant ears at James’ possible response.

James chuckled. “Of course not. I just came to tell Growlie that I’m heading off to Johto, I just hope Jessebelle isn’t around…” James muttered the last bit quietly before he continued his jog. “Well let’s hurry, we should be able to get there in an hour or so.”

Meowth looked to Jessie who shrugged before he spoke up, “So, what’s the deal with your parents anyway? They want you to marry this Jessebelle chick and learn to be a proper gentleman or somethin’ right?”

“It’s more than that, my parents just don’t let me do anything that I want…” James said, and his two friends noticed the frustration leaking out of his voice to. "All they care about is marrying me to Jessebelle and molding me into the son of their dreams.” He clenched his fists tight.

“So, you never wanted to marry Jessebelle?” Jessie asked as she and Meowth tiredly tried to keep pace with James.

“Well I was interested in her, but I wasn’t thinking about marrying her. My parents suddenly decided to betrothe her to me.”

“So, do you even like your parents?” Meowth asked.

James deliberated in his head for a few seconds, “I don’t dislike them I just dislike their style of parenting and how they treat me.” He gave a wry chuckle. “But that may be the same thing as not liking them.”

Jessie saw the alerting look Meowth gave her before she said something, “So how exactly did they treat you?”

James placed his hand on his forehead to block the sun from his eyes and scanned the distance. Seeing Growlie’s house doghouse made the frown he didn’t realize he gained disappear. “Like I said, they don’t let me do anything I want. One time, my mom discovered my bottle cap collection and threw it all away because “only commoners hoard”.” Jessie and Meowth gasped, throwing away James’ prized collection must’ve been like a punch to the gut.

“And what did your parents say when ya told them ya didn’t like the way they treated ya?” Meowth said.

James’ frown returned as his shoulders slumped forward, “I never told them that… I kind of just ran away.”

Meowth blanched before he began rolling in laughter on the stone bridge. James bit his lip before crossing his arms and increasing his pace a little, and noticing this, Jessie gave Meowth a kick to the stomach to cease his obnoxious laughter.

“But why didn’t you tell them? Wouldn’t that have been the better thing to do?” Jessie asked.

“I can’t muster the courage to ask my parents to buy me something I want, how am I supposed to tell them that I don’t like the way they’ve raised me or that I don’t care about being a gentleman?” 

“James…” Jessie said softly.

Meowth stood up from laughing and bit his lip in guilt. “Sorry, I guess I didn’t really get da whole picture…”

James turned around and flashed his friend a small smile, “It’s alright Meowth, I guess running away is just a big overreaction.” A wry smile crossed his lips as he continued forward.

Jessie and Meowth turned to each other and shared a fierce nod before they ran ahead of James in a new burst of energy. James just watched his friends leave him in the dust in shock.

“Hurry up, we don’t got all day!” Meowth yelled.

“The sooner we get this over with, the sooner we get away from it!” Jessie yelled.

James shook his head and sighed jokingly as he ran to keep up. What would he do without them?

“Wait for me!” 

-

“Alright then… I’m just going to knock on the door now…” James hesitated as his hands reached the Arcanine shaped door knocker. He was sure he would regret this, especially since his parents were likely home, but he would be damned if he would leave Kanto without saying bye to Growlie. He stood there deliberating for a few seconds, unaware of the curious stares his friends were giving him, before he finally steeled himself and knocked.

Within seconds the door swung open and James was face to face with a bald, old man with a thin mustache. He bowed and smiled at James.

“Welcome back, Master Jameson,” James’ butler, Hopkins said.

“It’s a pleasure to see you again but do me a favor and don’t tell my parents that I’m here,” James whispered as he put a finger to his lips.

Hopkins frowned. “Forgive me Master Jameson but I have received orders from your parents to escort you to them upon sight. I have also been told to inform you that Growlie is in their custody for the time being.”

James growled as he grit his teeth. He was playing right into his parents’ cards now and with Growlie with them they had him hook, line, and sinker. There was nothing he could do now.

“Alright then, arrange a room for my friends, I can find my way to Mother and Father’s chambers.” James entered the mansion with a frown.

“Wait just a minute!” Meowth said as he jumped in front of James, blocking his path. He placed a paw on both his hip. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“I’m not going to accept any possible inheritance deals my parents try to offer me.” James all but sighed as he crossed his arms. He raised a brow in as Jessie came next to Meowth and assumed a similar pose.

“Cut it out James, while we would like a share of the inheritan-“ Jessie was cut off by a sharp elbow to her ankle by Meowth, she glared at him before continuing. “We know that you won’t really like what your parents have to say...”

“So, we’re going to back you up when you talk to them!” Meowth and Jessie said in unison.

James’ took a step back at the intensity of their words, “W-what do you mean, back me up? All I’m going to do is say goodbye to Growlie and leave as soon as possible.” He cast two quick curious yet worried stares at them as they began to grin.

“You’re going to tell your parents how you feel and we’re going to back you up!” Jessie chirped, and she didn’t get a chance to see James blanch as she turned to Hopkins. “Hopkins, lead us to Master Jameson’s parent’s chambers.”

“But-“ 

“No buts!” Meowth said as he kicked James forward.

Hopkins showed a smile at the actions of his master’s companions, “I’m happy to see you have established a friendship with two reliable people. I’ll show you to the chambers.” He walked down the main lobby, and Jesse, Meowth and a reluctant James followed, with the former two smirking, 

Trying to distract himself from the confrontation that was inevitable, James began paying attention to the décor of the mansion and wasn’t surprised to see his father’s love for the fine arts hadn’t changed. Countless numbers of canvas, depicting pictures of human and pokémon in awe-inspiring detail and finesse, lined the walls, and James was sure that there were a few more paintings then when he was last there.

His eyes turned to the vermillion carpet that they walked across. Every few inches or so an insignia of an Arcanine marked the carpet down the middle. The insignia was the noble houses’ old one. The title of Noble Clan used to be given to a few families in the older ages of Kanto but since had been removed. James had heard that traditional Noble Clans were still a thing in Johto.

James could recall his father telling him that the family was a noble one in the past and that Arcanine was their mascot Pokémon because the family’s ancestors had specifically bred them to protect the civilians. Apparently those breeds were still used by the Global Police to this day. 

The spacious, extravagant hallways brought a rush of nostalgia to James. He remembered the countless times he stumbled across the corridors with a hand full of books on the various subjects he was being tutored in, and the many times he would run away with Growlie during a social event instead of hanging out with some of the children his age.

It reminded him so much of his childhood and reminded him why he wanted to leave so bad.

“Master Jameson we have arrived.” James snapped out of his stupor as Hopkins called him. “Good luck, young master.” Hopkins left with a bow.

James stood in front of the large red doors which were the only way into his parents’ quarters. He looked behind him to see Jessie and Meowth standing side to side, with their arms crossed over their chest, as if to block his only way of escape. He sighed, knowing he had no choice in the matter.

He knocked on the door and just as a hollow thud bellowed across the area, the door swung open.

Jessie’s eyes widened at the brilliant décor in the room. An amazing carpet tapestry lined with gold silks and depicting an Arcanine was on the floor, and a king sized bed was fit into the top right corner of the room and a transparent vermillion curtain was hanging over it in splendor. A breeze flew into them and Jessie looked forward, away from the room’s furniture, to what appeared to be a door leading outside. It was a terrace that overlooked a beautiful garden sprinkled with flowers of all kinds.

James wasn’t focused on the beauty of the room as his eyes focused on the two figures sitting by a fancy oak desk that was lined with gold. The man sitting on the desk took off his glasses and snapped his book shut as he stood up and beamed.

“Jameson, you’ve returned,” James’ father greeted. His dark blue hair and mustache had been groomed to perfection, and he wore a well fitted suit that gave him the presence of a professional.

“Yes,” James said with a meek nod. “Father I’ve come to see-“

“Tsk, tsk, tsk…” James’s mother stood up from the desk as she placed a hand over her hip and frowned at her son. Her purple hair was curled into a bun, and she wore an elegant dress accompanied by jewelry that gave the impression of well-kept, matured beauty. “Do please inform us that you’ve chosen to stay and inherit our fortune?”

James clicked his tongue in distaste. “Where is Growlie,” He changed the subject as he drew his attention away from them and looked around the room.

“Growlie is unharmed, Jameson,” James’ father said as he shook his head in disappointment. “You may as well be a disgrace to the family at this point, Jameson.”  James cringed at the statement, but his parents didn’t seem to have noticed. “Me and your mother have decided to revoke your marriage with Jessebelle.”

James’ face flared in shock. His parents doing something for him for once? He had to be dreaming because that shouldn’t have happened in a million years.

“Honestly, we’re surprised you didn’t say something about not wanting to marry her earlier. She’s far too much of a wuss, and if she can’t handle our house’s signature Pokémon, she is worthless to us.” Jessie’s mom began fanning herself with a fan covered by a flowery, intricate design. Near the bottom of the fan was a red button which her finger lazily covered.

James mentally sighed at his mother’s words. Why was he even expecting there to be a chance that his parents had realized he never wanted to marry Jessebelle in the first place? They only had their own interests in revoking the marriage, so while he was happy that Jessebelle was out of his hair, it didn;t make him feel good.

“James never inten-“ Jesse began before James placed an arm signaling her to remain quiet. She glared at him but refrained from talking.

“And you’re still hanging with these Team Rocket ruffians? Jameson, we invest in the company, but we don’t actually work in it.” James’ father said with a bit of a chuckle. James wasn’t too surprised at the comment, but Jessie and Meowth were. They probably didn’t know that many wealthy families invested in Team Rocket to make a profit off what they saw as a lucrative business. James’ parents were no different.

Meowth stepped forward. “Hey, whaddya call us!? I’ll show you ruffian! Besides, we aren’t even a part of Team Rocket anymore.” He approached them with a single claw unsheathed before James picked him up and stopped him from getting any closer.

“Oh? Well I suppose you can even make a sensical decision, Jameson. Imagine what would have happened if you had been discovered and traced back to us?” James’ father said. James ignored the selfish remark and agreed with his father’s words, they were lucky he hadn’t been identified by the Global Police as a member of this family.

“Well now, enough beating around the bush darling,” James’ mother said, brandishing her fan towards James. “We’re going to take the initiative this time Jameson. From here on out we’ll be back to tutoring you on becoming on our heir personally.” She giggled. “It’ll be just like old times.”

James’ jaw dropped before he focused and grabbed Jessie and Meowth’s arms to drag them away. “We’re leaving!”

He should’ve known better to come here. His parents hadn’t changed a bit, so what could him saying do about it anyway? He gave a wry, shaky smile at the possibility of him having declaring his desire. Nothing would change, he would be in the same position as now.  There was no point wasting energy on saying something that he found difficult to say when his parents likely wouldn’t change.

“Do please cease your retreat, darling. The same trick of running away gets old after two times.” Mother gave an obnoxious giggle before she clicked the button on her fan. The door to the quarters slammed shut just before James reached it, and bars locked in front of the doors.

“This is for your own good Jameson.” Father sighed.

Jessie slapped James’ hand away before turning to his parents. “James, if you won’t say it then we will!” 

“Yeah!” Meowth backed her up, moving to stand by her side. He stood defiant, brandishing a claw to Mother and Father. “Listen up you snobs!” 

James’ parents glared at Meowth.

Jessie and Meowth screamed in unison, “James doesn’t-“

“NO!” James interjected as he shot forward and placed himself in between his family and his friends. 

He felt pathetic. Nothing had changed from the time he had been with Team Rocket, he couldn’t speak up for himself, he couldn’t tell his parent’s his opinion, and he only allowed himself to be pushed around. He still wanted to run away, to act like his parents didn’t exist and live the lifestyle he wanted. He hated it but ignoring the things he hated was easier than facing them.

“Mother… Father…” He stuttered, and his parents turned his head to him in interest after their dirty looks at Jessie and Meowth ceased. “I… I…” 

Time slowed as his head raced to find the courage. The memories of countless hours of tutoring, balls, and dinners flowed into his head, threatening to fill him with nostalgic sadness. He hated it all! His thoughts flowed to the time he spent with his friends. Meeting Jesse at the trainers’ school and then Meowth when he joined Team Rocket. He loved every moment spent with them and he would let his parents take that away from him.

His mouth opened, and his eyes felt the stares of his parents bearing down on him. They were only looking at him in intrigue, but he felt scared. He hated his parent’s way of raising him, but… but...

James placed a fake smirk of challenge on his face. “We’re nobles, so we’ll act like it!” He brandished his pokeball to his parents. “I challenge you to a Pokémon battle, if I lose I’ll stay here and learn to become a gentleman, but if I win I get to leave here, and my future is yours to decide.”

Jesse and Meowth’s eyes widened while James’ parents gained an inquisitive look. The latter pair shared a look and whispered into one another’s ear before they glanced at James with a smirk.

“Alright then, I’ll be your opponent Jameson,” his mother said before she closed her eyes and placed a sole finger forward. “Under one condition.” James remained silent and his mother continued, “You shall use Growlie to challenge me. I do not find appeal in battling a wild, Ill-bred Pokémon.”

“Accepted,” James blurted.

Mother smiled and reached into her chest to pull out a pokeball with the house’s insignia emblazoned on it. She delicately tossed it to him and James’ easily recognized it as Growlie’s pokeball. 

“Well then, all this conversation has gotten me famished. Shall we have lunch darling?” Father said holding out his arm.

“We shall,” Mother replied and took his arm. Her eyes darted to Jesse and Meowth and her eyes grew cold. “Feel free to join us in the dining room.” Her tone indicated that the last thing she wanted was for Jessie and Meowth to join them.

James stood for a moment dazed at the turn of events. He found himself gripping Growlie’s pokeball tightly. He had really screwed himself over. His eyes felt watery, but he wouldn’t stay around for his friends to see him like this, so without another glance he darted away, leaving a confused Jessie and Meowth in his wake.