13

Jessie felt James's arm around her as she awoke and heard his steady breathing. So, he was still asleep. She had to wake up, and he ought to get up along with her, but she'd rather stay like this a few moments. "Hey," she said, softer than she usually would. He still didn't stir. "James, let's go," she spoke again, a little louder.

"Hm?" James seemed to finally be waking up. Instead of moving, he pulled her closer.

She couldn't say she didn't like it. The previous night had been a bit awkward at times. James was apparently a virgin. She wasn't about to go all the way with no protection on hand, especially with a guy that had said some of the things that he'd said, but he'd had no idea what else they could do. Even so, he'd wanted to please, and gone with her lead. She couldn't really say she'd totally hated that experience either.

Recalling it and realizing the man involved was still there and very much into her, Jessie stayed silently with his arm around her before she finally spoke again. "We really should get going."

"Of course," James said. As they sat up, she noticed his shy gaze, how he smiled, averting his eyes, before he stood up and looked for his uniform.

Oh boy. Jessie shook her head, also starting to make herself presentable. If they were going to work together, she really needed to get over being so affected by any subtle implication of his mutual feelings toward her. Anyone would get pissed off at seeing them acting like they were on a honeymoon.

She was able to shake off that overly sentimental mindset as they went to meet Meowth. So was James, apparently, as he paid close attention to everything the talking pokemon was saying. "Just swiping off the shelves is asking for trouble," it explained. "That's why we've got to interrupt before it gets there."

"At the factory?" James asked.

"No way. Who needs to bother with a big building like that when we can go to where everything's already packed up nice on a truck." Meowth grinned to itself, pacing back and forth. "I did the job of finding out the schedule, and the best time to strike, for today at least." Jessie and James both listened to the pokemon's plan. "Any questions?" it eventually asked.

"None. You explained everything well," James said. He smiled to himself, holding up a rose.

"Where do you keep getting those?" Jessie asked. James shrugged.

"Hey, Jess, you paying attention or what?" Meowth demanded.

"Yeah, yeah, I've got it. We just swoop in and steal everything, right?" Jessie said. She had been listening, even though the details had gotten boring. There was no need to keep discussing things.

"I'm gonna need you two on alert and ready to battle! Are you serious or what?"

"Of course," Jessie declared.

"I know I am as well," James added.

"Good. I'm counting on that." Meowth nodded.

"Master Meowth!" Mondo interrupted, opening the door. "I've got your stylish mode of transportation ready. Please, come to the roof."

Jessie exchanged glances with James, who had his eyebrows raised in surprise. So, apparently it wasn't just Meowth's talk, they were going to be able to travel by air. Once they got to the roof, Mondo held his hand out. "I was able to customize it!" he said.

"You did it, Mondo. It's beautiful," Meowth wiped away a tear, looking up at its giant likeness.

Jessie had to giggle. "So we're going with your face instead of the rocket brand?"

"No need to be too obvious!" Meowth declared.

"I like it," James said. "Are we going to get going right away, then?"

"Let's move!" Meowth ordered.

Jessie wasn't sure how they'd be able to maneuver in the hot air balloon, but Meowth and even James were comfortable, and controlled it fairly well. They landed in a clearing by a somewhat isolated restaurant, then hung out incognito, monitoring the building with binoculars. "What makes you think they'll even stop here?" Jessie asked as she got bored of the lull.

"I got the right info, trust me! It's this guy's routine," Meowth insisted.

As if people couldn't vary in their routines, from choice or running into other issues along the way. As soon as Jessie relaxed her attention, James spoke. "There!" he said, pointing to building. "In the back, like you said, Meowth. I see him parking."

Meowth hopped on top of their heads, pushing them both down. "Let's give him some time." After a while, Meowth made a silent motion for them to come out. It used a device to unlock the back of the truck itself, then James quietly opened it. "Hurry up," Meowth muttered. "Grab as much as you can, but don't drop anything."

Jessie and James both took two boxes each, walking back and forth as they unloaded the truck and loaded up the basket of the hot air balloon as much as they could. "We won't be able to fit it all," James pointed out as they placed one set of boxes in.

"Let's try anyway," Jessie said. "It's not like we can't dump things later."

James appeared to agree. Jessie got ready to carry more with the next load. "Hey, hey, don't get careless," Meowth snapped as Jessie put the next box in front of James's face.

"Hello?" a voice called, coming to the back of the truck. James dropped the boxes and shouted. They all could see the driver of the truck frowning. "So, it was you Rockets who were stealing from me," he said.

"Hey, hey, it was different rockets last time," Meowth pointed out.

The driver didn't seem to care. "You'd better put everything back," he said.

"You think you can order us around?" Jessie said, standing tall. A peasant like this wasn't going to see her sweat.

"If you don't, I'll have to get the police involved."

"Oh, no, not the police," Jessie said, then gave a forced laugh. "Who do you think you're dealing with?"

"Nidorina, go!" James went aggressive, beyond words, releasing his pokemon. "Stay back and let us finish up here," he said. Though she'd hoped they'd just be able to intimidate the guy to leave without further effort, Jessie followed James's lead, releasing out her ekans next to Nidorina.

"You rockets always think you're tough. You're not the only ones with pokemon. Go, Machop!" The man released not one, but two machop, who stood ready in identical fighting poses.

"It's fine if you want to battle, but I can't say you won't regret it. Nidorina, poison point!" James ordered. His pokemon shot the attacking, hitting both pokemon, one of which flinched, seeming like it might be poisoned itself.

Jessie decided to go for that weakness. "Ekans, bite!" Ekans bit the poisoned machop, causing it to flinch.

"Both of you, low kick!"

Both the attacking machop and Nidorina cringed as the low kick attack hit James's pokemon. On Jessie's side, the attack missed. "Ekans, bite," Jessie ordered, to hopefully a finishing blow to what didn't seem like a very high level pokemon.

"Nidorina, fury swipes."

Once their attacks hit, both pokemon were knocked out. Jessie and James then accosted the driver of the truck, tying him up before they continued. James swiped the hair out of his face, staring down at their defeated foe. "We'll just be finishing up here," he said.

He really looked cool as he spoke. At the same time, they both only grabbed one box instead of what they'd planned, running to their escape route. Once they were in the air, James almost squeaked in happiness at their success. "We did it! We really did!"

"Were you expecting anything else?" Jessie asked.

"Yeah, you both did great and all, but maybe you could return your pokemon so there's a little extra space," Meowth said.

"Nidorina is enjoying itself," James pointed out. "You do deserve a reward, Nidorina. Maybe a treat later."

"Just put it back!" Meowth shouted, hunching against the opposite side.

"What's up, Meowth?" Jessie asked as she leaned down. "As a fellow pokemon, you also think pokemon should be rewarded, don't you?"

"It's fine, but maybe later," Meowth said. "We're bunching close up here with all these boxes, and you know some of those nidoran line pokemon poison you even by accidentally touching you," it added.

"It's okay, Nidorina," James said, leaning down and giving his pokemon a hug. "I'll let you out later, where there's more space."

As James returned Nidorina to the pokeball, Jessie noticed him put a hand to his head, squinting. "What is it?" she asked. "Oh, it didn't happen to you, did it?"

"Oh yeah, looks like poison status to me," Meowth commented.

"I'm, I'm fine," James insisted, even as he looked around in the bag where some medicine might be. Jessie took over and found it for him, shoving the bottle in his direction wordlessly. "Thank you," James said before he took the medicine.

After she saw him looking calmer, she decided to comment further. "With your history, why would you even choose a pokemon like that? You didn't know?" she asked.

"With my-" James stopped himself. "Well, you didn't think Nidoran was cute, stylish, with the potential for power?"

"That's all true," Jessie admitted.

"It was the perfect first pokemon, for multiple reasons," James said.

"Well, I just think there might have been a better choice, so you wouldn't have to deal with this," Jessie said.

"I'm not going to let fear stop me from anything," James spoke plainly. He then smiled, holding the pink pokeball close to his chest. "And of course, Nidorina didn't mean anything by it. My pokemon is sweet, beautiful, strong, and loyal."

"I guess so," Jessie said with a shrug. She still thought it was weird for him to pick that particular pokemon, but it was also a good thing that James stood tall and didn't let certain things gets in his way. Similar to his pokemon, he'd seemed to become stronger himself in just the short time since she'd known him. Between that and what romance was developing between them, things were going very well. Jessie reached over and grabbed his hand, squeezing it briefly. As James stared at her reassuringly, she couldn't help but let her mind drift from work and missions to other things.

"What's up with you two?" Meowth asked.

Jessie unsuccessfully tried to stop the heat from entering her cheeks. James looked away, touching his head awkwardly. "I'm just hoping the boss will be pleased with us," he said.

"Of course he will! What's not to be happy about? It's just another star for us as star agents!" Meowth cheered.

"Even me?" James asked.

"Yeah, for now. The boss sees you as tops for a newbie," Meowth informed with a nod. "But now, you two have other things to do, don't you?"

"Oh... Well, yes," James confirmed, his eyes moving downward as his smile fell.


After returning and hearing Mondo's praises, there really was nothing left to do. They didn't even spend another night in the dorm, just started back toward James's parents' place. Mondo drove them to the train, cheerfully handing them a hand made meal before leaving them to head back. Even though they were alone again, Jessie noticed James didn't talk much, just staring out the window as they ate. He was definitely tense. She hated it, but decided not to call him on it.

Once they reached the correct station, they changed. As they went into the city, the butler was around, and caught sight of them. "Master James, and Miss Jessebelle!" he exclaimed, running closer to them. "Master James, your parents have been so worried about you. You'll return so they know you're safe, won't you?"

James simply nodded in affirmation. Even as they were driven back, he didn't say anything. Jessie wanted to start a conversation, but decided to wait until they got back, not wanting to seem out of character to their butler.

As they entered the mansion, the parents were both sitting by the door. "Mother, Father! So good to see you," Jessie greeted cheerfully, perfect acting on her part.

"Jessebelle, you've found him," the mother said, speaking without airs for once.

"Thank you for returning him," the father said, speaking similarly.

"Of course!" Jessie said, internally wondering what was wrong with their phrasing, talking like she was bringing back some kind of inanimate object. Though true to that role, James still didn't speak.

"You can go upstairs, I'm sure it's been a trying few days for you. We'll speak with James," the mother said, waving her hand.

Jessie nodded. There was something different about them this time, she thought. As soon as she reached the top of the stairwell, she heard them shouting, so maybe things were the same.

"You're grown up now, James! How could you still be giving us trouble like this?" his father demanded. Jessie peeked down, trying not to be obvious about it.

"As an adult, I don't have to answer that," James said right before his father punched him.

Jessie turned around as both parents started to berate their son. No point in witnessing any of that. Even thinking about it, she started to get angry. Something here was very wrong. Why did he put up with it? Jessie slammed the door to the room, telling herself it wasn't any of her business.

Except now she knew James much better, had gotten close to him even. So maybe it was her business, just a little, not that she wanted it to be. If she stood back, maybe he'd think she thought it was all fine. Did he? If not, why didn't he do something besides sit back and take it? As she got into bed, Jessie wondered if there was even anything she could, let alone should, do about it. It was difficult enough to see when she didn't even care about him. She wasn't going to just watch anymore. If this was how it was just going to be, she didn't want to be there at all.