26th October 2008, 07:37 AM #1
Team Rocket's Friendship (Anime)
This story was originally posted at fanfiction.net. It's my response to the episode "Pop Goes the Sneasel." Rated PG, for a small bit of (nature-related) gore.
Team Rocket's Friendship
Love is whatever you can still betray...Betrayal can happen only if you love. John le Carré
They landed in the trees, as usual, dropping to the ground as the remains of the balloon settled over the branches above.
"Great," Jessie said. "When the Twerps don't blast us off, your CLAWS do!" She whipped out a small mirror and studied her face. Red scratches criss-crossed her skin. "You heartless brute, look at me!"
Meowth ignored her, but he saw James flinch...not at the scratches (which he had a set of himself), but at Jessie's words.
Then James noticed Meowth watching him, and his face filled with shame and sorrow. "Meowth..."
"Save it," Meowth snapped, "for a cat-type who cares." He got up and stalked to the undergrowth before anyone could reply. He didn't want to hear James's apology, and he sure didn't want to hear Jessie's rant.
In fact, he wasn't sure he wanted to hear either of them ever again.
Tried to ditch me for a lousy Sneasel, huh? Why not? Let's trade Meowth in for the new model, he's just a Pokémon anyway. Meowth , Seasel...why not a flippin' PERSIAN while we're at it? One cat-type or another, they're all the same...
It was the story of his life, Meowth thought. He was only good enough until something better came along.
A Persian for the Boss, a Sneasel for Jessie and James...and nobody needs Meowth no more.
Meowth didn't go far - he didn't want them fixing the balloon while he was gone, maybe taking off without him - so he found a dense cluster of shrubs nearby and crept inside to be alone in his wretchedness.
He couldn't remember feeling this desolate, not since Meowsy broke his heart. He'd felt pretty bad when his partners tried to adopt that Snubbull, but Meowth knew he'd talked himself into that one with his ultimatum, threatening to leave if the other Pokémon stayed. James admitted later that they hadn't taken his threat seriously, anyway. But this...this was different. This time they'd tried to replace him for real, to leave him behind and put Sneasel in his place. You're out, Sneasel's in, as Jessie had said.
He could still hardly believe it. Well, he could believe that Jessie had thought of it, maybe, the girl had a ruthless streak...but up until now, he thought her small but measurable caring streak would win out in the end. And that James had been talked into it, however reluctantly...well, he could believe that, too; James had a big heart but very little backbone, and he just couldn't keep up when someone was fast-talking him. But that they'd both actually gone through with it...
Meowth's sense of fairness tried to intervene. But you pretended to agree, Meowth. James still looked kinda doubtful when they came to break it to you, but you acted like, 'no problem,' so he went along. Maybe if you'd acted like you really felt, he'd've stood up to Jessie...and Jessie might've snapped back to her senses.
Might, maybe...coulda-woulda-shoulda. Meowth didn't really care at this point. They'd done it, and he'd foiled them. Of course, now that he'd gotten his revenge by slashing their precious faces, the pain of their betrayal was really setting in.
Meowth tried to think of something else, but that automatically brought up another memory - one which had, until today, been his favorite, the one he took out to warm himself with when he felt lonely or scared or down in the dumps. Even when he was spitting mad with his partners, thinking of it reminded him that he could trust them in the end.
Of course, today it just ripped into his wounded heart like a hydro-pump of pure rubbing alcohol.
I'm a friend who needs you, too...
Make that double, we both need you.
You protect us both from desperation...
You unite us all in jubilation...
You chase away our loneliness...
You're a mess, but we love you nevertheless.
Ironically enough, it had been Jessie who said:
Team Rocket's friendship never ends.
"Just goes to show," Meowth whispered to himself. "Never say never."
Meowth let his tears fall quietly, almost wishing the Sneasel had ripped his heart out with its hooked claw. It probably would have hurt less than having Jessie and James do it afterward.
Again, his pesky conscience tapped him on the shoulder. You ain't bein fair. Jess and James said all those nice things after YOU betrayed THEM, remember? You told those Meowth-worshippers you never saw them before, and let'em both get thrown in the ocean. Was what they did today any worse than that?
Meowth didn't want to be fair. It FELT different. Maybe because he, Meowth, had felt terrible the minute he did it, but Jessie was still acting like some kind of innocent victim. In fact, he could still hear her griping about the whole thing.
"--sneaky, underhanded vandal of loveliness...two-faced, spiteful, ungrateful little...when I think of all the times--"
And then James said, quite clearly, "All right, Jessie, that's enough."
Meowth's head snapped their direction; he hadn't heard that kind of fed-up tone come out of James in more than...well, ever. James was more of the whine-and-whinge school of complaint.
Meowth got to his knees and peered through the foliage just as Jessie turned towards James, looking astonished. "What did you say?"
"I said...enough." He sounded more tired the second time. "We deserve a lot more than these scratches, so please just...stop talking about it."
Meowth's jaw dropped. Did James just tell Jessie to...shut up?
"And what is THAT supposed to mean?" Jessie folded her arms and glared.
James gave her a funny look. "It means that we tried to abandon Meowth." he sank down against a tree and lowered his head, his hair hiding his face, and went on. "I don't know what was wrong with us. I still can't believe it - that you wanted to, or that I went along with it."
Jessie's diamond-hard reply cut Meowth in new places. "Remember what we wanted to exchange him for, James. That Sneasel is a powerhouse."
"Meowth is our friend," James said, and sighed. "Or, he was. I doubt he considers us friends now."
You got that right, Jimmy, Meowth thought, trying to fight back the hot pressure behind his eyes.
Jessie turned away. "Your typical weepy drivel. If it weren't for squishy sentimental notions like THAT, we'd have been successes a long time ago."
James's head snapped up. "There are more important things than winning," he said, getting to his feet.
Jessie whirled back to him. "It's been so long since we won, no wonder you think so!"
James didn't back down an inch. In fact, he took a step forward and raised a confrontational fist. "You used to know it too, Jessie! Why did you want to replace Meowth, anyway? We could have captured that Sneasel like any other Pokémon, without forsaking our furry friend!"
That was what Meowth wanted to know, but Jessie ignored the question, her own fist coming up as she mirrored James's stance. "You! I'll bet you grabbed Meowth instead of Sneasel on purpose!"
"I only wish I had, Jessie! Then I'd feel like less of a heel!"
"We're Team Rocket, we're supposed to be heels!"
"NOT to each OTHER!"
Looking startled at his own shout, James lowered his fighting stance. He turned wearily away from her and folded his arms. "And then you actually told him, 'I thought we were friends.' You must admit that was cold, even for you."
Jessie flinched - or was that Meowth's imagination? Her voice sure didn't reflect any such reaction. "I was trying to turn our luck around, and that Sneasel was just what we needed. Do you WANT to be a failure forever?"
"We still failed," James said, not even lifting his head. "And worse than ever. This time I think we've actually ruined the one thing we ever managed to get right."
I think so, too, Meowth thought.
And that was the worst part of everything. He'd let himself feel safe with Jessie and James, like he'd found a place where he actually...belonged. Now Meowth realized he was alone again, just like he'd always been, and a very old despair came rushing back, drowning him in a misery he thought he'd escaped forever. Meowth dug his claws into his own palms to keep from bawling like a baby...that would be the final humilation.
Jessie opened her mouth, then snapped it shut and turned away.
Meowth blinked. Was that a sparkle of tears in her eyes? Or was it his own blurring vision and wishful thinking combining to trick him? Ah, you're too soft, Meowth. You've been feeling safe for too long, and you want it back bad enough to imagine things.
James wasn't looking at Jessie, he still faced the other way, arms folded, head down. "I wouldn't blame Meowth if he never forgave us again."
"Go ahead, feel sorry for yourself." Jessie unknowingly mirrored his pose.
The odd thing, Meowth thought, was that James didn't sound sorry for himself, for once. He just sounded...sorry.
Meowth shook his head. Was he softening toward them already?
NEVER! No, not even towards James. What good was James's regret if it wouldn't stop him from being dragged along by Jessie again?
And Jessie...Meowth knew her heart had a shell of ice, but he'd thought it had a warm center. Had she finally just frozen all the way through?
Just then, a shrill Scrrreeeeeech! came from above, making them all jump.
Meowth flinched by reflex - he knew a Fearow's hunting cry when he heard it. He looked frantically overhead. Through gaps in the leaves, he caught sight of the predatory flying-type as it plummeted earthward in a lethal dive. Before he could blink, it struck nearby, and something made a piercing, blood-chilling scream.
"What was that?" Jessie and James chorused.
"It sounded like Meowth!" James added, his voice breaking into a squeak.
That's the guilt talking, Jimmy boy, Meowth thought. The second cry was obviously a Pidgey. Or maybe a Ratata. Or...something. Hmmm. Meowth allowed that after a certain level of terror, screams started to sound alike.
But he was still watching his partners, and he saw something strange...
Jessie had been startled at the sounds, like all of them. But after James said "It sounded like Meowth," a look of...glazed terror slowly came over Jessie's face.
That was the only way Meowth could think to describe it. Her eyes went glassy, and she actually paled. She looked like she'd discovered she was in a nightmare, and couldn't wake up.
But how could that be right?
James turned around to his partner. "I'm going to go find him, even if you don't..." he stopped, staring at her. "Jessie?" he finished, bewildered.
Meowth felt pretty confused, too.
Jessie shook herself; then she glared at James, walked past him and cupped her hands around her mouth. "MEOOOWWWWTH!" she bellowed. "TELL US THAT WASN'T YOU, YOU FURRY BLOCKHEAD!"
She sounded so much like her old self that Meowth nearly called back, but the hurt in his chest kept him sullenly quiet.
"MEOWTH!" James yelled. "PLEASE TELL US YOU'RE ALL RIGHT!"
Hmph. Would it really matter to them if he wasn't...?
They looked at each other; Jessie pointed right, James pointed left, and wordlessly they split up and ran into the woods.
Meowth blinked. Nuts. He scrambled up a nearby tree, trying to see where they went. He couldn't see anything; the foliage was too dense, the trees too close together. They were so close together, he realized slowly, that he could almost run right across the interlocking branches. Kind of a natural woodland network of...well, catwalks. The going was actually easier up here, at least for someone his size.
He could use the trees to beat both his partners to their goal. The beginning of an idea suggested itself to him, but he'd have to act fast.
Meowth scrambled across the criss-crossing branches. It was trickier than it looked; he had to drop to all fours a couple times, and once he took a flying leap that a squirrel-type would envy. But from the high vantage point, and aided by his larger eyes and ears, Meowth found the scene well before his partners did.
The wild Fearow hunched in a small clearing, ripping hungrily into a corpse that Meowth didn't want to examine too closely. He shuddered. Some wild Pokémon were no better than cannibals.
Behind him, Meowth could hear his partners crashing separately through the underbrush, calling his name. As the blundering noise of the humans grew louder, the Fearow raised its head, glancing over its shoulder with a look of avian annoyance. Then it lifted its long wings and drove them down in great strokes, lifting its mutilated prey in its talons, bearing it up and away, over the trees.
Meowth glanced at the spot left, a crushed place in the dirt strewn with tufts of white and brown fur, an enormous dark stain in the center. It had probably been an Eevee, he guessed, and felt sick.
"Meowth!" James cried from nearby. "Please say something!"
"Stop sulking and answer us, Meowth!" Jessie was a little farther off, and Meowth could have sworn there was an undertone of real fear in her voice.
Meowth shook his head, trying to dispel the part of him that WANTED to hear such a thing. You can't trust that anymore, Meowth. They ain't your friends like you thought they were.
So he took his half-baked plan out of the oven, and prepared to serve it up.
Meowth slithered down the tree-trunk and ran up to the crushed patch, trying not to lose his lack of lunch over the sight. The stain in the middle was wide and dark, a Pokémon's lifeblood reduced to a soaked-in blot on the ground. The poor Eevee probably never saw it coming, at least; there were talon marks in the damp earth and a couple of broken feathers from the quick and brutal impact. There was also a piece of...something...that wasn't supposed to be on the outside of a Pokémon, some little gobbet of meat that had dropped from the Fearow's beak. Meowth dug his fangs into his lower lip, fighting a spasm of nausea.
Meowth forced himself to assess the scene of carnage logically. The longer bits of white fur were obviously from an Eevee's soft ruff, but he thought that the shorter brown hairs just might pass...for the short, darker fur on his own feet and tail.
Quickly he scooped up the longer strands of Eevee-hair and stuffed them under a rock. Then Meowth pinched out tufts of his own lighter fur, and added a couple of long strands from his whiskers. He scattered them among the other evidence.
As a final touch, he planted his paws in the earth just beyond the dark stain and dug his claws into the soil, making a set of clear prints and and a pattern of scratch marks that his partners should know very well. Then he retreated to the upper branches.
With luck, Jessie and James would think Meowth had been the Fearow's victim, and then he'd see how they reacted. It wasn't exactly the best test of their affections, cause everybody tended to get sentimental if they thought you were dead...but it would be something to go on.
His annoying conscience piped up again. Jessie never tried to trick you, you know. She came right out and told you what was what, you have to give her something for that.
"I did...and she'll be spending a lot more on concealer for a while because of it," he muttered to himself, but he had to admit it was better to be betrayed up front than to have people sneak around behind your back.
So what are you doing now?
"I'm just...getting information," he told that pesky inner voice, and willed it to shut up.
And, he thought very quietly, if maybe he made his partners feel some extra guilt...well, they had it coming, right?
He heard James's boots crashing closer, and stilled.
"Meowth, please!" James shouted as he came into view. "I know you're angry, but just let us know that you're - AAAIIIIIEEEEEEEEAAAA!"
Meowth winced. He'd forgotten how hard James's girly-screams could be on sensitive Meowth ears. This one could have shattered a whole truckload of crystal goblets.
Jessie's voice came from somewhere toward the right. "James, what's going on?"
James didn't answer her. He sank to his knees beside the splotch of blood, fur, and clawed soil. "No," he said so softly it was barely audible. "Oh, please, no."
Meowth felt something twist in the center of his chest, and had to bite his lip to keep himself from calling out to James. Don't blow it, Meowth. You knew James was soft-hearted. He's not the one you need to find out about.
His real target was fast approaching. "James! James, I see you! What's happening, are you hurt? Did you find him? Answer me, damn it!"
James staggered up and ran to intercept her. "No, Jessie! Don't look!"
"What? Let go of me!"
Meowth watched, stunned, as James tried to wrestle Jessie away from the clearing.
"James, are you - insane? Uh! I have - Pokémon nurse - training!"
"Jessie, there's nothing - OW! - you can do, please don't - "
Jessie let out a scream of frustration, and punched James right in the solar plexus. As he doubled over and went down, she broke free and hurried toward the spot ahead, but she slowed down as she saw what she approached.
Meowth dug his claws into the tree branch he was hugging, holding his breath.
Jessie came to a stop by the patch of despoiled ground. She looked at it for a long moment, and slowly her hands came up to her mouth.
Meowth tried to see her face, but from a spot nearly over her head, it was hard to make out. She looked like she was going pale again, but he couldn't be sure at this angle.
Then Jessie gagged. She clamped her hands over her lips and spun around, staggered to the nearest tree trunk - which happened to be the base of Meowth's hiding place - and grabbed it for support. Then she leaned over and was violently sick.
Clapping his paw over his own lips, Meowth tried to ignore both the nausea in his gut and the fluttering hope in his heart. Don't read too much into this, you sap. Maybe Jessie's just grossed out.
He clung to the branch in front of him and waited while Jessie finished coughing up what he knew were the meager remains of her breakfast. She dry-heaved for a few moments afterward, hoarsely hacking up nothing until Meowth's throat started to ache in sympathy.
Then Jessie turned, staggered a little bit away from the tree and sank down, folding over her knees and hugging her chest. "Oh, Meowth," she said, her voice low and trembling, and drew a long, shuddering breath.
Meowth watched, somewhat horrified, as Jessie started to cry - in gulping, broken sobs, her fists balled up and pressed to her mouth, rocking back and forth like a very young child.
He couldn't believe it.
Jessie wasn't faking. She wasn't even exaggerating; that, Meowth was utterly certain of, because there wasn't anything the least bit...graceful...about any of it. Jessie never did anything that made her look unattractive, not on purpose. She even posed in her sleep. The only things that broke her unconscious poise were events too sudden to expect, and emotions too strong to control.
It looked like Jessie did care about him. More than he'd ever have guessed.
Then why'd she try to get rid of me?!
Jessie muttered something to herself, and Meowth strained to hear.
"Wh-what have I done?" It was barely more than a whisper. "How could I..." She clutched the sides of her head. "What was wrong with me...? Meowth is...oh my God Idid this! I killed Meowth!"
James had managed to get his wind back; he staggered over to her and took hold of her shoulders, pulling her gently to her feet. "Jess, let's go. There's...nothing we can do now."
"NO!" She suddenly tore away from him and tried to run, but James caught her right wrist and hung on. Jessie was spun around by her own momentum, and she swung her left fist at him but missed, clumsy with her off-hand. James caught that wrist, too, and held on tight.
Jessie kicked his shins. "Let go! We have to find him! Meowth could still be all right!"
"No, Jessie - ow! There's too much - blood! EeeeEEEE!" he cried as she nailed his knee with the hard toe of her boot.
"You don't know that," she snarled, and kicked harder.
"Jessie - ow, JESSIE!" James fell to one knee, but hung onto her wrists. "It's too late, you know it's too late! Meowth is gone!"
Jessie stilled, breathing hard. She shook her head. "No. He can't be."
"Jess - "
"He ISN'T! I won't accept it!" she said...and then her determined look began to crumble. Her voice oddly thin, she said, "He can't be... Th-the last things he heard me say..."
"I know," James said, and his voice broke. "Me, too, Jess. I...know."
Jessie sank down again, sitting on her knees, and James sat with her. He tried to put his arms around her but she pulled away, refusing any comfort, closing up like a paper fan.
"What's wrong with me?" Jessie said dully. "He loved us...he even offered to...evolve into a Persian for us, and he - "
WHAT?! Meowth thought, outraged. Never! I HA -
" - HATES Persians," Jessie finished.
Meowth suddenly remembered asking something, just after the Sneasel had wiped the forest floor with him:
(Hey, you think if I eat right and exercise, I could evolve into a Sneasel?)
(No,) James had said, (you'll just evolve into a Persian.)
And then Meowth recalled a voice...his OWN VOICE...replying: (That ain't so bad...)
Ain't so BAD?! Meowth gaped, flabbergasted at his own memory. How on earth could he have thought THAT, even for a minute?!
Suddenly, the little light bulb came on in Meowth's head.
Below him, Jessie said hollowly, "He loved us, and we...and I betrayed him."
"We both did," James said.
That's it - it's time for this cat to come back. Meowth let go of the branch he'd been hugging and turned toward the tree trunk, blinking back tears, to start the climb down.
"No, James," Jessie said, her voice flat and hopeless. "It was me. These things happen because of me."
Meowth didn't like the way Jessie sounded - he needed to get down there NOW. Recklessly he jumped for a lower branch, but with his vision blurring, he missed his grip, and slipped right off.
"YEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" he cried as he plunged down, breaking off twigs and slapping through leaves before landing with a thump right in Jessie's arms.
Silence reigned in the woods.
As they both stared down at him, Meowth gulped like a beached Magikarp, straining to get his breath back. He tried so hard that when he succeeded, his words came out in a wild yell. "I FIGURED IT OUT!"
Jessie nearly dropped him.
"Meowth?" James's mouth hung open.
He grabbed both his partners by the collar and pulled their faces near, desperate to get his news out. "I got it, I figured it out! Jessie, James, it wasn't yous guys' fault! Sneasel have a Charm attack, it musta used it on all of us!"
Jessie and James just stared at him, dumbstruck.
"Think about it!" Meowth went on. "I'd never wanna be a Sneasel if I was normal - and a Persian?! I'd rather be fed to rabid Arcanines! That Sneasel HAD to've used Charm or Attract, there's no other explanation! It just must've hit Jessie the hardest!"
Trembling with the force of his delivery, Meowth let his partners' collars go, and caught his breath. Jessie's eyes met his. She seemed too shocked to take in what he was saying.
"Meowth..." she said. "y-you're..."
"...alive," James finished. His brow furrowed in haggard confusion. "W-we thought..."
Comprehension dawned on Jessie, and her temper flared, her eyes blazing like blue flame. "You MEANT us to think...!"
"Yeah," Meowth admitted. "I did." There was no way to excuse it, really, so he just told the truth. "I thought...you didn't care about me no more."
And he closed his eyes and waited for her fists to fall like twin hammers, knowing he deserved it.
But Jessie did not explode. Instead, she started low, letting her fury build up slowly, from a quiet growl to a towering crescendo.
"You...you miserable, rotten...horrid ball of...mangy, matted, uncombed, unwashed fur! I'm going to...I'm going to break you into Pokéblock! I'll make you WISH that Fearow had ripped you to shreds! You'll be chasing balls of yarn on four wooden legs when I'm through with you!!"
But the whole time she was yelling, she hugged Meowth so tight he could hardly breathe, tears pouring from her eyes. James was hugging them both and crying, too, and Meowth was crying, and it was all okay again. They were okay, and he was where he belonged. It was true, after all:
Team Rocket's friendship never ends.
26th October 2008, 11:56 PM #2
A black and white world
Awwww, that was so sweet! It was so IN CHARACTER for them too, which is disappointingly rare. But you did it fantastically.
1st November 2008, 03:02 PM #3
Thank you! Coming from you that is high praise indeed. :D