Wrote this a couple years ago, been a long time since I posted it anywhere. I'm wondering what people will think of it now...I'm not sure if I'd write things the same way now as I did then, but it got a lot of good reviews at the time.
No Longer the Silent Observer
Disclaimer: Do you honestly think I have anything to do with the Pokemon franchise? Yeah that's what I thought. Anyway, on with the story...
Hmmm, I thought, studying my map again. Looks like the shortest way back to New Bark Town is this road. I traced it with my finger. Slowly a voice came into my consciousness. No, two voices. Two voices that were arguing. They'd apparently been arguing for a while, but I hadn't noticed. Ok, maybe I had, but I guess I'm so used to hearing this same type of argument that I subconsciously tune it out while I try to find a way out of the situation. Oh yeah, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about right? Well let's tune in shall we?
"Good going, Ash Ketchum! You got us lost AGAIN!"
"Me? You were the one who insisted on taking that left turn because you thought it led to the ocean where you could see some water Pokemon!"
Yep, Ash and Misty were arguing again. Happens every time we get lost. I exchanged a glance with Pikachu, who had an annoyed expression on its face. I'm not sure why those two don't just wait for me to trace out the route on the map, and then get going, but I do have a theory on why they argue so much. As you may be able to tell, I'm frequently lost in thought. I think about things and Pokemon I've seen, people I've met, all of the Nurse Joys in every Pokemon Center....ooohhhh....ok, get ahold of yourself, Brock. You've got to tell the story. Anyway, recently I've been thinking about lots of little "hints" I've noticed since way back when I first met Misty and Ash. I've suspected for quite some time now that she likes him, but is nervous about showing it. It's probably because, in her mind, Ash thinks she's only following him to remind him of the bike...but I don't believe that for a minute.
"Well it's getting dark, we might as well camp out for the night since we're lost anyway. Do you think this is a good place, Brock?" I was snapped out of my thoughts by Ash's question.
I looked around. "Yeah this looks good," I replied. We were in a small clearing surrounded by trees. One tree stump was off by itself, and it was big enough to make a perfect table.
As I prepared supper, I noticed with mild amusement that my two young friends had apparently forgotten their earlier argument. They were going through their camp-out routine now: unpacking their sleeping bags, placing them next to each other but not too close, separately going into the woods to change into their pajamas...it's second nature to all of us by now. Yes, I know what you're thinking. You've got a sharp mind. I did say they usually place their sleeping bags next to each other. Neither one has admitted any true affections, yet this sleeping bag thing seems to be a normal thing that they're comfortable with. Neither of them seem to want to go any farther towards admitting anything than that. That is of course if they have anything to admit.
I looked down at what I was doing, and was surprised to find that I'd automatically prepared rice balls. I've heard of people being able to do things in their sleep, but while wrapped up in thought? Weird. Didn't know I could do that. Hiding my surprise I called out, "Rice balls are ready!"
Before I'd even finished the sentence, Ash and Misty bolted to the makeshift tree stump-table. I served the three of us healthy portions, with smaller plates for Pikachu and Togepi.
"These are great, Brock!" Misty grinned between bites.
"Yeah, I always love your rice balls," came Ash's slightly muffled voice. He was gobbling them down as usual.
"Thanks, guys," I said. "I always like to know my cooking is appreciated."
As I cleaned up, I started to think again. We've been travelling for over three years now. I've suspected that those two like each other for quite some time now, but I haven't said or done anything because I wanted to let them work it out for themselves. But now that it's been three years, I'm starting to wonder if they ever will. Ok, that's it. I've decided. I'm going to watch for my chance, and try to help these two get together. They're my best friends in the world, and if my suspicions are correct, it must have been really hard on them holding back their feelings for all this time.
Later that night, I was awakened by a noise. Half-expecting yet another Team Rocket attack, I instictively reached for my vest which was lying next to my sleeping back. It held my Pokeballs, and I was ready to call out Onix if necessary. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I looked around. No Meowth balloon, no Jessie and James. Must have been a false alarm. From my lying position, I craned my neck to look at Ash and Misty's sleeping bags on the other side of the campfire we'd extinguished earlier. Ash was still sound asleep, but where was Misty? I quietly sat up a little straighter and took a better look around the clearing. A little distance away at the edge of the clearing, with her back to me, I could barely make out Misty sitting, staring into the woods. It looked like she was sitting with his knees drawn up and her chin resting on them.
Maybe I was overly alert because of my earlier thoughts, but in any case I had a strong feeling that I now needed to be especially quiet to make sure not to awaken Ash. As quietly as I could, I slipped out of my sleeping bag, crept over next to Misty, and sat down. She seemed to acknowledge my presence, but kept staring straight ahead.
"Is there something you want to talk about, Misty?" I whispered. "Confiding in someone always makes you feel better."
Misty sniffled, and I then realized that she'd been crying. "What is it?" I whispered.
"The truth is..." Misty began slowly, still staring straight ahead, "I've had a wish for a long time...almost our whole journey...and now I'm afraid it might never come true."
"What are you wishing for?" I asked gently.
"I wish that...ugh, this is hard...I wish that Ash would see me as more than a friend."
"How do you think he sees you now?"
"Well...I used to be really optimistic. When we were still in Kanto the three of us did fun stuff together like the Princess Festival and Kids' Day, but over the last few months all Ash has wanted to do is train and go after his next badge." She then turned to look at me. Even though it was dark, I could see a tear forming in her eye. "What if this continues, Brock? What if all he wants to do from now on is train and battle? I'll...I'll lose him." I handed Misty a tissue, as I sensed that she was about to start crying again.
I thought for a moment, trying to choose my words carefully. "You two are my best friends, and I wouldn't want to see him drift away like that either. The three of us have been through too much together over the last couple of years." I paused for a moment. I really meant what I said, and I hoped Misty understood that. "Maybe we should get some sleep, we'll both be able to think better in the morning."
"Yeah I guess you're right," she admitted, so we both returned to our sleeping bags and went back to sleep.
The next morning, as we were eating breakfast, I decided to try to talk to Ash alone. He isn't the best person in the world at putting two and two together, so I thought my best chance was to tell him outright what Misty had confessed last night. Now to figure out a way to separate ourselves...got it.
"Would you do the dishes, Misty? Ash and I are going on a short walk to look for berries. I'm going to make something different for supper tonight." She hesitated. She knew that it was a strange request, because I usually took care of all that myself, but then understanding dawned in her eyes and she agreed.
Ash hadn't noticed any of this. Pikachu had playfully swiped one of his rice balls and was holding it just out of Ash's reach, with Ash pleading to have it back. Amused, I watched the scene for a moment, then broke it up. "C'mon Ash, let's see if we can find some berries. I bought a new recipe book at the last PokeMart."
"A new recipe book? Say no more!" responded my food-loving friend. Leaving Pikachu to finish eating and play with Togepi, he jumped up to join me. I smiled inwardly. It really meant a lot to me to have my best friends love my cooking so much. I made a mental note to let them know that sometime soon, but now wasn't the time, I had to talk to Ash.
"So, what kind of berries are we looking for?" Ash asked as we started walking through the forest, brushing aside the occasional tree branch or bush as we went.
"Well, for this new recipe, I need as many Mint Berries as I can find. I'm going to make a new kind of jam I've never tried before."
"Mint Berries...those are the pink ones right? They grow in bunches?"
I nodded. "Yeah that's them."
(A/N: I don't know if Mint Berries really are pink, not sure if it's ever been said in the games or anything, but just pretend they are for now.)
Ash pushed ahead, no doubt anticipating tasting that new jam on some rolls or sandwiches. I glanced back. We were out of earshot of Misty and the camp, now was as good a time as any. "Ash, hold up. I need to talk to you for a minute."
Ash froze in place, then turned around with a serious expression on his face. "What is it?" he asked. I guess something in my tone of voice made him realize that there was more to this than berries.
I paused. I thought I'd be all right with this, but I should have planned my words a little better. Oh well, here goes nothing... "What do you think of Misty?"
Ash's face instantly reddened. "What do you mean?"
I smiled slightly. "Think about it. The three of us have been travelling together for what, a little over three years now? Which means you've spent a lot of time around Misty, like it or not. And when a guy spends a lot of time around a girl, you know what can sometimes happen..." I let the thought dangle, hoping Ash would get the hint. He did.
"Whaaaaaaaaaa?" A large sweatdrop formed at the side of his head. "You think I..." he couldn't say those last two words. I couldn't help but grin at his embarrasment, but feel sorry for him at the same time, since I was the one who made him embarrassed.
"Thanks, Ash, you just confirmed my suspicions. Hey, I think I see some berries over there." I said, pointing.
"Wait a second, you're not getting away that easily! What makes you think I..." again, he couldn't say the next two words. He was debating something with himself, and I knew exactly what it was.
"...Like her?" I finished. "Well for one thing, that incident with the sleeping bags last night."
"Huh?" unsurprisingly, Ash was totally confused.
"Look, you and Misty argue a lot right?"
"Yeah..." Ash said guardedly.
"...But in some ways you're really comfortable with each other. It's funny how two people who argue as much as you two do don't seem to mind having their sleeping bags practically next to each other. And that time in that big clearing a while ago...you two were tending to your Pokemon, sitting under a tree, but you were sitting almost next to each other. Strange, coming from a guy and girl who fight so much." My words had had the desired effect. Ash was speechless, probably trying to think of some way to refute what I was saying. "And not only THAT..." I filled him in on what Misty had told me last night.
Ash was completely subdued. "She...actually said that stuff?" he whispered.
"Mm-hmm. It sure seems like you mean a lot to her."
Ash reached up and put his right hand behind his head, a nervous habit of his. "Wow...I never thought that...I mean, that she might...that it would work both ways..." he looked at me and searched my eyes, hoping I understood.
"Believe me, I heard her last night. It definitely does work both ways," I said seriously.
Ash's face suddenly hardened. He had that determined look in his eyes again. Maybe that's one of the things Misty likes so much about him, his unfailing determination. "C'mon Brock, let's pick those berries you saw. I've got an idea."
I looked at my young friend warily. "Um, Ash..."
"That idea of yours...that doesn't INVOLVE those berries, does it?" The last time Ash tried cooking, it took the three of us about a week to get rid of the aftertaste.
To my relief, Ash shook his head. "Nope, it's just that we told Misty we were going here to look for berries. She'd get suspicious if we came back without 'em."
I nodded. "Right, let's go."
Later, after I had made the Mint Berry Jam, I fished some bagels out of my backpack and spread the jam on them. My friends loved it, they even offered some to Pikachu and Togepi, who shared their enthusiasm. I tasted it myself and was quite pleased with my cooking.
Anyway, enough about that. You're probably more interested in what Ash's idea was right? OK, let's fast-forward to the next afternoon. We had just entered the Pokemon Center in the next town, Evergreen City, which wasn't far from Cerulean City. We dropped our Pokeballs off to Nurse Joy and got our room assignments, and I vaguely remember saying something to her about how I knew right away that we were made for each other and how I'd gladly stay and help her in her duties. The next few moments are a total blank, though. The next thing I remember, I felt a sharp pulling on my ear and felt my feet scuffing along the floor as I was being dragged off. I came to my senses and twisted away from Misty's grasp, rubbing my ear in silent protest.
"OK guys, if we're going to be here for the night, I could really use a shower," Misty announced, and headed off to her room.
Ash breathed a sigh of relief. "That's one less thing I have to do."
"What do you mean?" I asked. He still hadn't told me his plan.
"At least now I don't have to think of a reason to get her out of earshot," Ash explained, heading back to the reception desk.
"Hey, hold up, Ash! I still don't know what your plan is, and I want to help you."
"OK, come over here." He led me to a far corner of the Pokemon Center opposite the reception desk, looked around to make sure nobody was in hearing range, and told me his idea.
"Sounds pretty good," I said, nodding. "But are you sure there's a dance in town tonight?"
"That's why I wanted Misty out of the way. I was going to ask Nurse Joy if she knew of one."
"Good idea," I said, looking forward to being in the presence of the beautiful nurse again.
Before I could make a move to follow him though, Ash held out his hand to stop me. "Better wait here, Brock, it'll be easier for me to get an answer without you asking her to marry you or something." My face fell, but I knew he was right. I just lose all sense of...everything around a pretty girl, and I guess Ash didn't want to have to drag me off before he found out anything about a dance.
I'd hardly finished my thoughts when Ash returned from the desk, looking excited. "There's going to be a dance tonight in the banquet hall of the Evergreen City Hotel. I asked about tickets, and she said it was free!"
"Free? Wow," I said. I didn't expect us to be THAT fortunate.
"Yeah, the hotel's celebrating the tenth anniversary of its opening or something like that. Now I'm going to go tell Misty about it. I can't wait to see the look on her face!"
Ash had good reason for that last comment. The past several times we'd heard about a dance, Misty had wanted to go, but Ash was either too focused on training to notice, or we couldn't afford the tickets. I think that might have been one of the reasons I'd found Misty crying two nights previously. We all knew Misty loved romantic things like dances, so I guess the times that we couldn't go must have really disappointed her. But it looked like all that was about to change, and I was proud of Ash for taking steps to give Misty something I now knew she really wanted.
"I can't miss this tonight," I said. "I'm coming too, but I'll let you two alone. By the way, how do we have to dress for this dance?"
"Nurse Joy said it was just casual, so I guess we can just wear our regular clothes."
"Sounds good, since we can't exactly afford to rent tuxes and stuff," I said dryly.
"Right. You wouldn't catch me at one of those ultra-formal things anyway," Ash said, rolling his eyes. He hated dressing up. "Well, I'm gonna go give Misty the news, then I'll meet you in our room."
"OK. I'm gonna go across to the store, I think we're all running low on lemonade for our Pokemon." With that, we split up, but I hung back for a few minutes, listening for Misty's reaction. Our rooms were near the end of the hallway to the right of the reception desk, and even from that far away I could hear Misty's exclamation of delight at the news of the dance. I was tempted to take a peek down the hallway to see if she was hugging Ash in joy or something, but I didn't want to get caught spying on them, so I went to the store and quickly purchased the lemonade we needed. After discovering not too long ago that lemonade was, dollar-for-dollar, the best healing item for Pokemon available, we all switched to using it instead of Super and Hyper Potions. We also liked to drink some of the lemonade ourselves every now and then if we had some extra.
That evening, I arrived at the banquet hall of the hotel. It had been agreed that we would leave separately, since Ash wanted to walk there with Misty alone. They'd even left Pikachu, Togepi, and their other Pokemon in Misty's room back at the Pokemon Center. I'd brought my Pokeballs with me, just in case. I was a little worried, since we were about due for another Team Rocket attack. It had occurred to me not long after my trip to the store that they'd left us alone for the past several days, and while it was a welcome relief, I couldn't help but wonder when their next strike was going to be. Ash would've probably wondered the same thing, if he had stopped talking about Misty at all in the few hours before the dance. The last time he'd danced with her was way back at Maiden's Peak in Kanto, and he was visibly nervous. I suggested that he stick to the easy, basic slow dances, since that's all he could do anyway. For the faster, free-form ones, it was just a matter of getting up and moving to the music. Ash seemed to take in my advice, but I could tell he was still nervous.
But anyway, back to the present. I scanned the banquet hall, looking for my friends. The entrance was at the far east side of the room, and a few feet in front of me was the end of a long buffet table, up against the east wall. The room was rectangular, with the east and west walls forming the short sides. Immediately to my left were a couple of rows of round tables, which stretched parallel to the buffet table towards the north wall. The rest of the room, on my far left, was the dance floor. The place wasn't TOO full, but it wasn't totally empty either. I guessed that the room was at about half capacity for an event like this. Finally spotting my friends seated at one of the tables, each with a plate of food from the buffet, I stood in line, got a plate of my own, and found a seat where I could watch them, but was far enough away that I hoped they wouldn't see me. I figured they'd be too busy talking to each other to notice me anyway.
It wasn't long before they had finished their meal. Misty stood up from the table first and said something to Ash. He nodded and said a short reply, and I didn't need to hear the conversation to know that she'd just asked him to dance. The expression on his face was hard to read, he looked nervous and elated at the same time. A slow song was playing then, but even so, they were quickly lost in the crowd. I was starting to wish I was out there too, so I decided that there was no reason I couldn't be. I scanned the room again, looking for a girl who wasn't with a date. I'd have to be really careful here. My body was telling me to run around and ask every girl in the room for a dance, but my mind really didn't want to embarrass Ash and Misty, so I struggled to keep myself thinking straight.
Suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and received quite a shock when I saw that none other than Nurse Joy was standing in front of me. "Are you here alone?" she asked.
I couldn't believe what was happening. My first instinct was to spring forward, clasp her hands in mine, and say, "Yes, but I'll never be alone again if you'll stay by my side forever!" That was what my body wanted me to do. For some reason, my mind was winning the war that night though, so I said, "I came with a couple of friends, but they're out dancing right now. I'm curious though, if you're here, who's working at the Pokemon Center?"
Nurse Joy smiled. "I have to have time off sometimes, Brock. Officer Jenny is covering for me right now, but I'm still on call." She indicated the pager that was clipped to her belt. For this casual dance, she'd exchanged her nurse's uniform for a simple white t-shirt and blue jeans, and I thought she looked great. "Would you like to dance?"
"S-sure," I said nervously. She offered her hand, and I took it as we moved out onto the dance floor. I STILL couldn't believe this was happening! I was actually dancing with one of the Nurse Joys! I suddently realized that my hands were getting sweaty, as was the rest of me.
"You seem nervous...any particular reason why?" she asked as she cocked her head to the side slightly.
"I--I've...never...danced with a...Nurse Joy...before," I stammered. "I usually...get shot down or make a fool of myself before I can even get this far." I hung my head a bit.
To my absolute astonishment, she slowly nodded. "I understand."
I looked her straight in the eye. "You do?"
"The truth is, I was about to tell you off as well for going crazy on me like you did earlier today at the Center. But then...and I'm a little embarrassed to admit, I overheard the conversation between you and Ash. It was pretty slow this afternoon, and you weren't quite talking quietly enough. I didn't intend to overhear, it just happened," she apologized. To my nod, she continued, "Then, as I went about healing your Pokemon, I noticed something. All of your Pokemon, and that applies to all three of you...they all look very healthy and extremely happy. I figured that someone who does as good a job at taking care of both his Pokemon and his friends deserves at least a chance. And you've been a nice gentleman so far."
"Uh...thanks! I don't know what to say." I really didn't.
Nurse Joy smiled again. She had had my full attention during that whole conversation, and it was almost like I wasn't capable of any other conscious thought, but some part of the back of my mind was still working. My subconscious suspected that maybe she didn't get many dates herself because she was so dedicated to her work at the Pokemon Center. I made a mental note to find out about that later.
"Hey, speaking of your friends," she said, "I wonder how they're doing?" she craned her neck to look around for them.
"Right...I kinda lost track there for a minute," I said, blushing. It was taking all my self-control not to gush over this girl like I'd done before. Something about her was just putting me at ease, though, and I was slowly becoming more and more comfortable around her. Looking away from her finally, I let my eyes wander around as well. I finally spotted my friends on the other side of the dance floor from us. "Over there," I whispered, nodding to the spot.
Following my gaze, Nurse Joy stared. "Well, what do you know..."
"You can say that again," I agreed. Ash and Misty had started out dancing almost at arm's length. It was somewhat amusing to see, as Ash was quite awkward and nervous about the whole thing, but they now had drawn much closer.
"They've got it bad..." Nurse Joy said slowly.
"You can say that again too," I quipped. "She really has an effect on him. I've been noticing it for quite a while now."
So you've heard the expression "time flies when you're having fun," right? Well, that's what happened. Before I knew it, the song was over, so Joy and I went back to our seats. As we approached the table and I started to sit down, I suddenly became aware of something -- I was still holding Joy's hand! I hadn't really thought about doing it or planned it or anything, it just happened. I also realized that the nervousness of the night so far had left me a little dehydrated, so I decided to take the opportunity to practice some old-fashioned chivalry, something this Joy seemed to like. "Would you like something to drink?" I asked her.
"Sure, just some punch would be fine, thanks," she replied, nodding.
"Coming right up." I got up again and headed to the drink table, which was only a few steps away in the corner, still surprised at the degree of...normal-ness that I had been behaving with. I was more convinced now that Joy was having an effect on me, somehow making me comfortable around her and not prone to my usual behavior around girls. I glanced at the partially empty bottles near the punch bowl to try and guess what the punch contained. Fortunately, they were all various flavors of pop and juice, no alcohol. I poured two glasses of punch, returned to our table, gave one to Joy, and sat back down. Looking into Joy's eyes, I noticed that she was staring at something behind me and slowly starting to form a smile, so I turned around to see Ash and Misty walking toward us. At first I wondered why Joy was smiling simply at their approach. Then, when I looked more closely, I realized to my surprise that they were holding hands, just like Joy and I had been after the dance. When considering how positively the night had been going, I guess that shouldn't have surprised me much, but it did anyway.
"So...I noticed you guys managed to dance. That wasn't so hard, was it, Ash?" I asked with a grin. The pleased look on his face was the only response I needed.
Misty was the first of the two to speak. "Brock, I wanted to thank you for what you did. If it wasn't for you, this whole thing never would've happened." A lot of things had surprised me that night, and what Misty did next only added to the list. She let go of Ash's hand, bent over to where I was sitting, and gave me a gratitude-filled hug. Whispering in my ear, she said, "You really mean a lot to me, Brock. You're the closest I've ever had to a brother." I glanced at Nurse Joy, who was smiling as she watched the exchange. I wondered if she heard what Misty whispered to me, but put that thought aside as the beginnings of a tear formed in the corner of my eye. Misty let go, straightened up, and took Ash's hand again.
"Thanks, really," I said, and I meant it.
Then it was Ash's turn to speak. "We were talking out on the dance floor, and we figured that this might have actually been hard for you to do. Misty thought you might have been worried that if we got together, we'd want to be together all the time and you'd get left behind. I was gonna tell you that we'd never do that," he glanced at Nurse Joy, "but instead I want to congratulate you."
I wiped away a tear from my left eye, and hesitated at Ash's last words, confused. "Congratulate me for what?" I asked.
"For not acting like you usually do around girls," Misty spoke up. Ash glared at her, and she sweatdropped, but I knew she was right.
I smiled warmly at Nurse Joy. "It's different this time, guys."
Suddenly, the mood was broken by an all-too-familiar double laugh from behind Ash and Misty. They spun around, and Nurse Joy and I stood up for a better look. Across the room at the DJ table, the two DJs sprang out from behind the table and flipped off the baseball caps they'd been wearing pulled low over their eyes. We could now see that one of them had blue hair parted in the middle, and the other had long, waist-length red hair. "Oh, no, not now..." I groaned. They ripped off the sweatshirts and jeans they'd been wearing to show their Team Rocket uniforms, leaving no doubt that they were Jessie and James, and started their motto.
"You've had your dance, now prepare for trouble!" said Jessie.
"Now's our chance to make it double!" added James.
"To protect the world from devastation!"
"To unite all peoples within our nation!"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
"Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"
Meowth popped out from behind them. "Meowth, dat's right."
"Why do you losers always show up at the worst possible times?" I snapped. The night had been going perfectly, and although I'd feared that they might be coming, their actual presence still ruined things.
"Yeah, and what are you after this time?" Ash demanded.
Jessie crossed her arms. "Hmph. Your Pokemon, what else? This is a big event with lots of Pokemon trainers in attendance, which means lots of Pokemon for us to steal!"
Without further ado, Meowth pulled a remote from behind his back and pushed a button. In response, one of the stereo's large speakers seemed to "grow" by several extra sliding panels. A couple seconds later, it had grown to several times its original size! It was now approximately 15 feet tall and about 6 feet wide. A vacuum hose extended from it, and it began powerfully sucking in anything in its path. I realized that Meowth's remote also controlled the hose itself, as it methodically went from person to person, looking for any Pokeballs they had. Fortunately most people, like Ash and Misty, seemed to have left whatever Pokemon they had at home or elsewhere, since the hose only sucked up Pokeballs from a few of the people. But it's hard to get moving air to be selective, so anything else in the hose's path was being sucked up as well.
"We've gotta do something!" Ash said angrily, as the hose threatened to rip off his cherished Pokemon League hat.
I grabbed his arm and yelled to be heard over the din. "No, not yet! You and Misty don't have your Pokemon, remember! And if I try to battle this thing in this enclosed room, I'll be at the disadvantage and they might get away! Besides, someone could easily get hurt in here!"
Misty suddenly tugged at Ash's arm. "Ash, I have an idea! That speaker robot may be controlled by Team Rocket, but it's still hooked up to the rest of the sound system! If you can pull the plug, that might stop it!"
"You do that, Ash!" I agreed. "I'll try to lure them outside!" Ash struggled through the crowd towards the stereo, while I quickly checked the buttons on my vest to make sure they were all closed. I hoped I could lure the machine outside without letting any of my Pokemon get sucked up. I ran to the exit door and stood in front of it. "If you're looking for Pokemon, there are lots over here! You haven't got mine yet, now come and get them...if you can!" I taunted.
James apparently heard me, because he looked confused and said something to Jessie, only to be met with an angry reply. Meowth used his remote to turn the machine around on its wheels and make it charge straight for me. I backpedalled enough to get me just outside the door, then dove to the right at the last second. The speaker-mech crashed through the doorway, just where I had been standing a few seconds before. The machine was still going strong, which meant that either Ash couldn't get to the plug or it had another power source. In any case, this had to end now before someone got hurt or the Pokeballs that the machine had already sucked up were stolen.
My mind raced. I couldn't send out Forretress or Crobat, they'd probably only get sucked up by that hose, which was still madly inhaling random items, and the occasional Pokeball from someone. Making my choice, I unbuttoned my top left vest pocket and tightly gripped the Pokeball inside so the hose wouldn't rip it out of my hands. I drew it out and enlarged it. I couldn't risk tossing it, since the speaker machine's hose might suck it up before it could open, so I simply opened it in my hand, letting Onix out. Onix was too big to fit in that machine, so it was my best chance. I knew things may get a little rough for the Pokemon trapped inside the machine, but I figured they'd be ok in their Pokeballs.
"OK Onix, Tackle that thing!" I ordered. The rock snake Pokemon that had been with me ever since I started training obediently slammed its head into the side of the speaker-mech. A large spider-web splinter appeared in the wood. "One more time should do it, Onix!" Onix Tackled the machine again, and this time it completely broke apart, revealing the Pokeballs, food, silverware, and miscellaneous other items that were piled up inside. Now that the machine was destroyed, the hose finally stopped sucking air.
Jessie, James, and Meowth appeared at the door and looked shocked. "You've got some nerve destroying the machine we worked so hard to build!" Jessie exclaimed.
"You mean, da machine WE worked so hard ta build," said Meowth, referring to himself and James. "You just stood by and 'supervised' da whole time!"
All that did for Meowth was earn him an economy-sized slap from Jessie. "That doesn't matter now!" she exclaimed. "We still need to grab those Pokeballs and make our getaway!" The three of them ran for the broken mech, which lay about 20 feet from the doorway after Onix had knocked it for a loop.
"Onix, block their path!" I said immediately. Onix shifted its giant rocky body to position itself between Team Rocket and the Pokeballs that lay in the mech's wreckage.
Jessie stopped short and drew out a Pokeball. "OK then if that's the way you want it...go, Arbok!"
James followed suit and tossed a Pokeball of his own. "Victreebel, get in there too!" But of course, instead of attacking Onix, James suddenly found himself wearing an upside-down Victreebel. "Aw, c'mon, this is really getting old!" he complained, finally managing to throw off the Grass-type and get it to attack.
I knew Onix could handle Arbok, but Victreebel might pose a problem. Now that the hose was disabled though, I had the perfect counter, Crobat. I drew out a Pokeball, only to have someone grab my arm from behind before I could toss it. "Wait, Brock, let me help," said a familiar voice. Nurse Joy stepped forward to stand beside me.
"Are you up for this?" I asked, a little skeptically.
Joy smiled. "I think I'm about to surprise you." She produced a Pokeball from her jeans pocket and tossed it. Unsurprisingly, a Chansey materialized. I wondered just what Joy had in mind, but there was no time to ask now. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ash and Misty watching anxiously, not far away. Ash looked a little annoyed at not being able to help, but Misty said something to him that seemed to make him calm down.
"Onix, hit Arbok with Rock Throw!" I said loudly. Onix scooped its tail into the ground and flung several rocks of various sizes at the cobra Pokemon. Arbok managed to dodge some, but it got hit squarely by a medium-sized one.
"Victreebel, Razor Leaf attack!" commanded James.
"Chansey, counter with Flamethrower!" Joy suddenly said. Wow, there seemed to be more to this girl than met the eye. Chansey opened its mouth and released a powerful Flamethrower, easily burning up the leaves and doing major damage to Victreebel.
"Arbok, try a Bite attack!" said Jessie.
I thought quickly. "Onix, counter with Headbutt!" Arbok and Onix both dove towards each other. In this case, weight prevailed, as Onix knocked Arbok right back into Jessie.
"Chansey, finish them off with Thunderbolt!" Joy cried. Chansey brought its little arms in close to its body and strained, much like Pikachu usually does with its own Thunderbolt. A split second later, Chansey launched a blast of electricity towards Team Rocket and their Pokemon. It wasn't quite as powerful as Pikachu's regular Thunderbolts, but it was still more than enough to give the crooks a bad shock, cause an explosion, and send them "blasting off again".
I turned to Joy. "Wow," I said, "When did you teach those moves to Chansey? It seems like quite the battler."
Joy grinned. "Told you I'd surprise ya. Sometimes trainers come around the Pokemon Center looking for some extra battle experience before challenging their next Gym Leader, so Chansey and I often oblige them. It helps them by giving them experience, and it helps me because they often give me battle tips in return, or show me how to teach Chansey certain new moves."
Just then, Ash and Misty approached. Misty knelt down next to Chansey and congratulated it, while Ash said, "Joy, you and Chansey were both awesome."
"Thanks, Ash," said Nurse Joy. Behind us, the rest of the partygoers were picking through the mech's wreckage, claiming their belongings.
Joy's battle skills had really impressed me as well. As I recalled Onix and thanked it, I wondered what would happen now. Ash and Misty are like a brother and sister to me, but now that they have each other, where did that leave me? And what would Joy want to do about our relationship? I knew that was something the four of us would have to talk about.
Later, after we and our Pokemon pitched in to help clean up the mess caused by Team Rocket, I offered to walk Nurse Joy back to the Pokemon Center, which also housed her apartment. "We're both going there anyway," I joked, "so you might as well accept." She did, laughing.
Ash and Misty decided to walk through a nearby park together for a while and talk. So they set off from the hotel entrance, holding hands and talking quietly. Ash told me later that he really enjoyed their walk, and he knew Misty did too. They strolled through the park together, occasionally pointing out a nice-looking flower, or watching a wild Pokemon run by, but mainly just enjoying each other's company. They sat down on a bench for a while, staring up at the stars and talking some more. In Ash's words, "it got late early out there," so then they headed back to the Pokemon Center. As for what they talked about exactly, I still don't know. When I asked Ash, he just smiled and said, "I've gotta keep SOME secrets, right?"
Joy and I set off in the other direction, slowly walking back to the Pokemon Center, not in the least bit of a hurry. As we talked, I learned that "Nurse Joy" was just the title given to Pokemon Nurses, that their real names weren't necessarily Joy, and that they all looked alike because it was basically a dress code for their job. The Pokemon League wanted to give new trainers a sense of security and familiarity when they reached the next town, and knowing that a Nurse Joy would always be there at the Pokemon Center helped, according to their research.
I smiled. "Ah, so that explains it all. But you still haven't told me one thing."
She looked at me quizzically. "Oh, what's that?"
"What's YOUR real name?"
Joy instantly turned beet red, then started to laugh nervously. "Oh, I'm sorry! I guess I'm just so used to being known as Nurse Joy, and called that on the job...I don't have very many friends because of my work, but when I do make a new friend, sometimes I forget to tell them my real name. And with you, I was so nervous about meeting you, hoping I wouldn't mess up...that I forgot something as fundamental as that. After all that's happened tonight, it must seem pretty ridiculous that you still don't know my real name."
"No, it's ok, I understand," I assured her.
"Well, it's Stacey Bradley," she explained.
"Nice to finally meet you, Stacey," I joked. "But I really do understand, especially the part about being nervous. I really was too. I kept thinking I was going to step on your feet or something when we were dancing. Worse, it took all of my self-control several times not to make a fool of myself around you. But I didn't, and it worked. I think you're a very special person, and I'd really like to see you again."
"I'd like that too, Brock," she admitted, moving a little closer to me as we walked.
"I do have a problem though," I started to say.
"Yeah, you're a traveller..." she interrupted, looking a little downcast.
"Yes, but there are ways to deal with that. I really want this to work." I looked her straight in the eyes. "You're the first girl who has ever had this effect on me. Seriously. I have never felt as calm around a girl my age as I do with you."
"And you're the first guy who's really taken an interest in me. Most of the local guys think I'm too caught up in my work to do mundane things like date. You really make me feel special."
We had been drawing closer all this time. Now all talking ceased as we stared at each other and our faces drew still closer. 'Here it comes,' I thought. 'My first real kiss, and I'm not freaking out! Where exactly has the old me been hiding all this time?' But I knew exactly what had happened to the old part of me that went crazy with love at the mere mention of a Nurse Joy or Officer Jenny's name. Jo...I mean, Stacey had shelved that old part of me for good, and had opened up a part of me I always secretly hoped existed, but had never shown itself until now. She had shown me that I DID have the capacity to be mature around girls, that I COULD handle a relationship in a mature way, and that there WAS someone out there who could reciprocate those feelings. And right now, she was doing exactly that, as our lips touched for the first time. If you're wondering how deep the kiss went, I honestly couldn't tell you. All I remember is thinking about what I just described, and how the kiss just felt...right. It was peaceful, exciting, blissful, and passionate all at the same time. To say that we both enjoyed it would be the understatement of the year. My search was over, and I had found the girl I had been longing for.
As we finally pulled apart, there was a long silence. I was thinking about how I felt about her, and Stacey seemed to be thinking the same way. I finally said, "Wow...after that, I REALLY want to see you again."
She giggled at my reaction, then said seriously, "Yes, I feel the same way. So I guess we need to talk."
"No, not here. This involves Ash and Misty too, so let's get back to the Pokemon Center and we'll meet up with them there."
When we got back, Stacey thanked Officer Jenny for covering for her, then the officer went home. For the first time, I didn't even feel the least bit of urge to use some sort of pick-up line on her, I just watched her leave. I had found Stacey, and she had put the girl-crazy part of me to rest permanently. We decided to wait for Ash and Misty in the lobby, since they might ask some embarrassing questions if they found us in the room that Ash and I were sharing.
When they arrived, I introduced Nurse Joy by her real name, then explained that we wanted to talk to them. Pikachu and Togepi were still in Misty's room, so we made sure they went to sleep, then we all went up to Ash's and my room. We sat down on the two single beds; Ash and I on one, Misty and Stacey on the other. The seating arrangement was kind of automatic. I guess we all felt awkward about sitting with a member of the opposite sex on a bed, since we had only just started dating.
We had a long conversation that night, lasting until the early hours of the morning. Stacey had to leave twice briefly to check on the Pokemon in the recovery room and tend to them if needed, but there were no major problems. With his newly realized relationship with Misty, Ash said that he was more determined than ever to do his best to become a Pokemon Master. Misty's goal of learning all there was to know about Water Pokemon remained the same, except now she could safely say that she would do it while at Ash's side.
"I'm really happy for you guys." I said. "Now that you know each other's true feelings, having that new level of support will prove to be a big help to you in many ways. So I guess now that you have each other, you'll be wanting time alone and won't really want me around. But I have Stacey with me now, so it's ok."
"That's not true at all, Brock!" said Ash, looking shocked. "We would never want you to leave the group, unless that's what you truly wanted to do. Don't leave just on our account. Misty and I talked about it while we were in the park, and we'd be happy to have you still travel with us, as long as you understand that we'll sometimes want time alone."
"Yeah, you've been like a big brother to us for our whole journey, Brock," Misty added. "I told you already that you mean a lot to me, and I meant it. We want you to stay, if that's what YOU really want."
Stacey and I had talked a little bit about that on the rest of the walk back, and while waiting for Misty and Ash. I relayed our discussion to them now. She had her duties at the Pokemon Center, and loved her job. I highly respected her for it, since the Nurse Joys provide a tireless, valuable service to all trainers. I really enjoyed being with her, but I wasn't done with my own goal yet, and I'd also come to really enjoy being with Misty and Ash. Stacey said that it was obvious to her that the three of us were the closest of friends.
"So if it's ok with you guys," I finished, looking at Stacey, Ash, and Misty, "I'd like to continue to travel, as before, and work towards my dream. But Stacey, you have my solemn promise that I will email and call you as often as I possibly can."
"He means it too, Stacey," said Misty. "It seems like you've taken all of his girl-craziness and directed it all towards you...but in a more mature way. You two really have something going." Misty was a hopeless romantic, and I knew she really meant what she said. She liked to judge the chances of couples getting together, and was usually right, in our experience. She considered herself a good judge of character, and it looked like Stacey met with her approval.
"OK," said Stacey, "as I said, I've still got my work here, and Brock still has his dream to go after. I think this will work out just fine. Look after him, will you?" she asked, looking at Ash and Misty.
"Don't worry, we will," said Ash.
"At least now I know I won't have to drag him away from every new girl he meets who thinks he's a weirdo...right, Brock?" said Misty, teasingly.
"Don't worry, Misty, those days are over now," I responded seriously.
Not long after that, we all said good night to each other, and split up to our respective rooms and beds, reflecting on the past two days that we knew had changed our lives forever.