Would You Make a Sacrifice?
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! Pokemon the Movie 2000: The Power of One is probably my most favorite Pokemon thing of all. I wrote this as a missing scene from the film because it looked like within the movie, no one other than Slowking (and the "lots of people" watching the movie, LOL) found out that Team Rocket survived their heroic and selfless act. There is the slight possibility that Ash saw them land, since he asks about all the Pokemon gathered in the area and they fell in that area, but I really think he was up too high to see that they were okay. The novelization handles things differently, with Ash seeing them climb up the mountain later, but I wasn't crazy about that version since it seemed to downplay their sacrifice and had them and Ash share a rather negative exchange. One of the best Team Rocket moments of all should be appreciated and revered, not downplayed.
Everyone in the Orange Islands was celebrating. The world crisis had been averted, although most didn't know exactly how. But it was over and everything was back to normal and that was worth celebrating.
On Shamouti Island, where everyone did know exactly how it had come about, the celebrations were even stronger. The Legend Festival proceeded, but with meaning unlike it ever had in the past. For centuries, their odd traditions had prepared them for this very day. Now they had lived to see the fulfilling of their legend, and in ways they had never thought they would.
Ash, however, hadn't really joined in many of the festivities. He had tried for a while, especially since his mother had decided to stay on for the evening and participate in the party, but it was obvious that something was weighing on his mind. When the music and dancing grew to be too much, he quietly excused himself and slipped outside.
"Ash?!" Misty called after him in surprise. But he didn't seem to hear her.
"Hey, he's had a long day," Melody shrugged. "You can't expect him to be up for a lot of partying after that."
"You don't know Ash," Misty retorted. "He loves to celebrate victories. Now, he didn't even eat that much! Something's wrong."
"I have the feeling something happened out there that he hasn't wanted to talk about," Tracey said.
"Maybe when he almost drowned?" Misty worried.
"Maybe," Tracey said. "Or maybe something else. In any case, I think we should find him."
"Are you talking about Ash?"
Both kids looked up as Delia Ketchum hurried over. "That's right," Tracey said. "He slipped out the door just now."
"We were just going to look for him, Mrs. Ketchum," Misty added.
"I'll come with you," Delia instantly determined.
They were fine with that.
The group was surprised and confused when they found Ash some time after nightfall at the shrine, standing on the cliff's edge as he looked out over the other islands. It had been a long, hard struggle, but Ash and Lugia had triumphed. The Legendary Birds were calm; the world was safe. But Ash looked sad, even grim.
"Ash?" Misty came closer. "What is it?"
Ash started and looked over. ". . . I was just thinking . . . how you think you know someone, and suddenly you realize you really don't at all."
Misty paused and blinked, not sure what to think or how to reply. Maybe it was all of Melody's ribbing, but her first thought was Is he talking about me somehow?
It was Tracey who took the plunge. "Is this about Team Rocket? We saw them helping you in that engine-powered rubber raft."
"Yeah, it is," Ash said. "They said they just didn't want the world destroyed because there wouldn't be anyone left to steal from even if they survived."
"That sounds like them," Misty grumbled. Inwardly she relaxed. Of course Ash wouldn't have been talking about her. She should have known he meant something else. But . . . why was he sad?
Ash nodded. "But . . . it wasn't true. They were just saying that. Guess they didn't wanna admit that they really cared about the world."
Misty raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah," Ash said weakly. "What they did later proved it."
Misty and Tracey both regarded Ash in confused surprise.
"What could possibly prove they didn't have an ulterior motive?" Tracey wondered.
"Nothing, as far as I'm concerned," Misty hmphed.
Delia also looked confused. "Who are you talking about?" she wondered. "Those horrible people who wanted Mimey and kept crashing the Pokemon League?"
"Yeah, them," Ash agreed.
Misty was still confused as to why Ash was so sad. "Well, every now and then they've done something to help," she said. "Where are they, anyway?"
Ash looked away again. "They're dead."
"Dead?!" the others echoed.
Togepi gave a confused and sad chirp.
"Pikachu," Pikachu replied in confirmation.
". . . How, Ash?" Misty softly asked. Now things were starting to make sense. She could see this had affected him quite deeply.
"Lugia came to rescue us after the raft got busted," Ash said. "He took us flying through the air and Team Rocket was holding onto his leg. But they realized they were slowing him down and putting him and me and Pikachu in danger from the birds. So they . . . they let go . . . and fell. . . ."
"Oh no," Tracey whispered.
"There's no chance they were okay?" Misty asked. "I mean, they don't seem to get seriously hurt by all the blasting off. . . ."
"I wanted to believe that," Ash said. "When they first fell, it was too unbelievable. I told myself over and over they had to be okay, that maybe we weren't as high up as I thought. And I had to distract myself from thinking about them falling to their deaths somehow, so I asked Lugia about all the Pokemon gathering around. I think he knew what I was doing, but he didn't try to tell me the truth until I finally asked."
"And when you did?" Delia quietly prompted.
"Lugia said it was a fatal drop for humans. He'd seen people die from shorter distances." Ash sniffled and pulled his hat low. "They knew it was too big a drop to survive, but they took it anyway. They sacrificed themselves so we wouldn't fail!" He looked up, and the tears were streaming from his eyes. "I never would've thought they'd do something like that. . . ."
"I don't think any of us did," Misty said. She was stunned by Ash's revelations. Out of everything she could have pictured happening to end Team Rocket's lives, it certainly wasn't this.
"You're right, Ash," Tracey said quietly. "They couldn't have had ulterior motives or they wouldn't have sacrificed themselves."
Misty and Delia nodded.
"Even I have to admit that," Misty agreed.
"They were a lot braver than we ever gave them credit for," Ash said. "I was wondering . . . would we have the strength to do the same thing? Would I?"
"Pikachu," Pikachu nodded.
"Of course you would, Ash," Misty said with fire in her eyes. "You almost sacrificed yourself as it was! You were scared, but you did what you had to do to protect the world. So did they."
"That's right!" Delia exclaimed. "Ash, you've been so brave all of your life, never turning away from anything when the going got tough. It just made you want to try even harder! I know that no matter what comes at you, you'll make the right decision. I just pray . . ." She swallowed hard. "That it will never be the one Team Rocket had to make. . . . Because yes, you would do it if you felt it was the only way!"
"Yeah. . . . You're probably right, Mom." Ash sighed. "I wouldn't set out to do it, but if I realized it was going to have to happen . . . I'd do it. Just like they did."
A far-away look came into his eyes. "It's funny how I was just talking to them a few hours ago. . . . At first they were causing trouble . . . or trying to. But then we all got thrown together in a crazy situation and they were trying to help out. . . . You know, we were right there in that collector guy's airship with two Legendary Pokemon and Team Rocket never once tried to steal them? They just helped out in trying to free them."
"Hey, yeah, that's right," Misty remembered.
"Then we were in Melody's ship again and I saw them flying off on the raft when we crashed. I didn't think I'd see any more of them. I figured they'd get out of there as soon as they could. Instead, they came to help me. . . . Now they're . . . gone."
"And you saw them fall, Ash?" Misty said softly.
"They were holding hands like skydivers," Ash said. "Only they didn't have parachutes. We were up too high to see them hit the ice, but I can just imagine what happened. There's no way they could've survived."
No one could disagree.
Ash stared out over the water again. "I asked Lugia if he could try to find their bodies, and he said he'd look, but he didn't sound hopeful. He said a lot of bodies are never found under the water anyway, and the new underwater current made by the Birds fighting was really churning and could've carried them almost anywhere." He blinked back tears. "I never thought I'd want Team Rocket around, but knowing they won't be coming back ever again . . . and why . . . I miss them. . . ."
"I think we all do," Tracey said. He went over to a patch of pink flowers and gathered some in his hands.
"What are you doing, Tracey?" Ash blinked.
"Saying Goodbye." Tracey handed some of the flowers to Ash, some to Misty, and some to Delia. Pikachu and Togepi each took one as well.
". . . Yeah." Ash sniffled. "Okay then." He took a deep breath. "Goodbye, guys. And . . . thanks. I couldn't have got the last treasure without you. And who knows what would have happened if you hadn't let go of Lugia. . . ." He threw the flowers over the cliff, into the water below.
The others followed suit.
"Goodbye, Team Rocket," Misty whispered.
"I hope you find peace," Tracey said.
"You saved my boy's life," Delia said quietly. "I owe you everything. Thank you . . . so much."
"Pika-Pika," said Pikachu.
Togepi gave a soft trill.
The flowers floated on, a memorial to the villains who weren't really very good at being bad . . . but had been good at being heroes when they were needed.
"You ran into them so often, Ash," Delia said after a moment of silence. "What were they like?"
Ash paused, thinking. There were so many memories with them. . . . All the crazy schemes . . . all the off-the-wall disguises . . . all the times he had been so frustrated and angry . . . and then the times when he had seen a different side to all of them.
"Well . . . Jessie was kind of the leader," he said. "She was really short-tempered. . . . Didn't like to admit that she had a heart, but she did. If James or Meowth was hurt, she got really protective. She liked fashion a lot . . . nice things. . . . And she was really loyal to the team.
"James . . . he was kind of quiet and submissive most of the time, but then other times . . . he showed he still had kindness and strength. Sometimes he'd stand up to Jessie if he didn't agree with her. And . . ." He smiled a bit. "He liked dressing up like a girl."
"Really?" Delia gave a good-natured chuckle. "Oh my."
"Meowth . . . sometimes he was the smartest of the group, sometimes not. He was a real wiseguy, always sarcastic. And sometimes he acted like a cat. Well, he was, you know, but I mean . . . a lot of times he tried to be a human. I think . . . I think he really wanted to be cared about.
"They all really loved each other." Ash looked up at the oncoming night. "Funny to think that bad guys could love, but they did. And . . . well, sometimes they showed that they weren't really such bad guys after all. Like today."
Delia laid a hand on his shoulder. "So much happened to you on this trip, Ash," she said softly. "You grew up in a lot of ways. I wish it hadn't been put on you to save the world, or to see people you've known for so long die. That pain will never fully go away. But I believe what happened here will make you a better person."
"Thanks, Mom," Ash said quietly. "I hope so." He looked out at the ocean. "And I hope that if anything like this ever happens again, no one else will have to die."
"Oh Honey. . . ." Delia pulled Ash close in a hug.
He leaned into it and accepted it as the tears built up in his eyes again. "I didn't want them to be dead," he whispered.
"I know," Delia said softly. "I know. . . ."
"And maybe they wouldn't want me to cry over them," Ash continued. "But right now I can't help it. . . ."
Misty and Tracey looked away, giving them a bit of privacy and space. They had to admit, at least to themselves, that their eyes were a bit moist as well. It wasn't the ending they had wanted. But in some strange way, they owed a lot to Team Rocket. Had they continued to weigh Lugia down, the birds more easily could have landed an attack, perhaps a fatal one. Delia was right-Team Rocket had saved Ash's life, at the expense of their own.
"Good luck and Godspeed," Misty said under her breath.
"It must be even worse for you and Ash," Tracey said quietly. "You knew them longer than I did."
"Yeah," Misty said. "But I guess you're sad too."
"I am," Tracey admitted. "I only knew them a short time, but I saw them show decency more than once. And it just seems sad for anyone to die that way, especially when they were trying so hard to live. . . ."
"No more preparing for trouble," Misty said.
"Or making it double," Tracey added.
"Not that I want to hear that again," Misty said. "It's just that it's sad knowing why we never will."
Tracey nodded. "It is. . . ."
Misty blinked, brushing aside a tear. "I never thought I'd cry for Team Rocket. . . ."
Tracey smiled sadly. "Tonight, I think they deserve the tears."
"I think you're right," Misty agreed.
The gentle tropical night seemed bittersweet and sad and lonely. Saving the world had come at a price. And while they were grateful it had been paid, they wished it hadn't had to have been. For better or worse, they would all be leaving here as different people than when they had arrived . . . and leaving others behind.