A Hard Lesson to Learn

by Erin Salvatore

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon. I'm just borrowing. Only the story is mine.

Note: Hey, everyone! I've had this little gem in mind for a while now. It takes place after the events of "Bad to the Bone."

"You have disgraced the disgraceful Team Rocket!"

James' words were like a hot knife through my chest as I gave Arbok her dinner. At the time, I thought stealing the stolen badges was a clever idea. I was going to use them to get into the Pokemon League competition. Yes, I would have had to lie and say I won the badges fair and square, but I was willing to do whatever I had to do.

I looked over my shoulder toward the camp. James and Meowth were ignoring me, and I didn't blame them for that. I'd ignore me too if I was in their position. I had violated the one rule we had been taught as Team Rocket members – don't go behind your teammates' backs. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they never wanted to have anything to do with me again, least of all James.

James, who had chosen to live the low life instead of inheriting his millions. When I thought he wasn't coming back, I was devastated, hard as it was to hide it from Meowth. Then, my devastation turned to joy when I saw him flying overhead in the balloon. I wanted to take him in my arms and never let him go ever again. Hell, I wanted to kiss him.

I scoffed at that thought. After what I put him through today, I doubted he'd let me do the things I've been fantasizing about since our reunion. Arbok looked up from her bowl and saw how sad I was and gently nudged me with her nose, earning her a smile from me.

"You always know when I'm upset, don't you? Well, given the fact we've been together since you were a little Ekans, I suppose you know me better than anyone." I gently stroked her hood. "I'm so sorry, Arbok. I asked a lot of you today, didn't I? You did great against that kid's Doduo. I thought you were going to win. If his Marowak hadn't shown up, there's a chance you might have."

Arbok asked me in her snake language if I was going to be okay and I smiled at her. "I hope so. But, the only way I'll really be okay is if James and Meowth forgive me for what I've done. After today, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they never talk to me again." Tears stung my eyes. "I'll bet they're going to call the Boss and ask if they can get a better teammate."

Arbok saw me crying and gently wrapped her coils around me. I smiled through my tears and returned her hug. She truly was the best friend a girl could have and it was good to know I could count on her. Even if James and Meowth didn't forgive me, I had the loyalty of the Pokemon that had been with me since I received her as a birthday present.

I stepped back and looked into her eyes. "I'm proud of you, Arbok. You may not win battles, but you always do the best you can."

That's when I saw Arbok snarl a bit and I turned around to see James standing there. Shit, I hope he wasn't listening to our conversation.

"Don't you know it's impolite to eavesdrop on people?"

James looked offended. "Who says I was eavesdropping?"

I was going to argue the point further, but decided not to. "And just what are you doing here? Did you come to yell at me some more? Did you come to tell me how much of a disgrace you think I am? Or that you wish you never decided to come back?"

That last part was a bit harsh, but I didn't care. However, I saw his face soften. "Jessie, those things I said to you today, I only said them because I was hurt. I thought we were in this together and when you went behind our backs and stole the badges we worked hard to steal, I felt betrayed and that's what made me say what I said."

I sighed. "But, it was true. I disgraced the team. I violated the rule about not betraying your teammate. I was greedy, even more greedy than I usually am. What I did today was inexcusable and you had every right to yell at me." My eyes welled up again, even more than they did when I was talking to Arbok. "I don't deserve to be forgiven, especially not by someone like you. No matter what I say or do to you, you continue to stay with me. Why? You could have left me a long time ago."

"You really want to know?"

"Yes," I sobbed. "I want to know why you continue to stay with me when I treat you like shit."

James gently grabbed my arms. "I'll show you."

Before I could react, he pulled me closer and kissed me. When the initial shock wore off, I returned the kiss, closing my eyes as a few stray tears cascaded down my cheeks. I didn't know why he was kissing me when not long ago, he was pointing an accusatory finger at me and yelling at me. Still, I didn't question it, just let myself be enveloped by the emotions I was feeling. We reluctantly broke the kiss, my blue eyes meeting his green ones as he brought his one hand up to wipe my tears away.

"That is why I continue to stay with you."

"I don't understand."

"Jessie, I love you," said James. "That was also why I was hurt by your actions."

I didn't know what to say to that. What could I say to that? I knew he had feelings for me, but I dismissed them, thinking he only wanted something from me. But, now I realized his feelings were genuine, and always have been. Finally, I decided to speak before I looked stupid.

"I love you too. And I'm so sorry for what I did to you."

James smiled and placed his index finger on my lips. "It's all right, Jess, I forgive you."

I returned his smile and kissed his finger before kissing his lips, savoring their taste, moaning as he returned it.

"What about Meowth? Do you think he'll forgive me?"

"Oh, he'll get over it," said James. "If I can forgive you, he can." Curiously, he added, "There's just one thing I don't get it. Why were you going to steal the badges from that kid you met on the road? You already had the ones you stole from us, so why were you going after his?"

I licked my lips as I searched for an answer. "I was stealing them for you."

"What?"

"Yes," I said. "While it was true I didn't want to share the spotlight, the one thing I did want was for you to have your own set of badges and we could enter the Pokemon League together." I sighed. "It probably doesn't matter now, but now you know why."

James smiled and without another word, kissed me again, unaware that Arbok was watching us.

Note: Yeah, this was kicking my ass, but I finally got this one shot done. Hope it sounds as good written out as it did in my head.