Let Me Love You

Warnings: Even though this is mostly rocketshippy, there's a fair amount of same-sex innuendo here, too, so biphobes consider yourselves warned. (And this is kind of an answer to the "Is James gay" debate – turning the tables on Jesse and her thigh boots.) And the characters aren't mine, I'm only having a little fun with them…

This story stands alone, but it's part of the "Pretty Pictures" continuity, after "Girl Next Door" and "Boys Keep Swinging." Title is from a Geri Halliwell song.

James lay back on the grass, watching Jesse eat. When she wasn't actually bingeing in fear of stolen food being reclaimed, she ate with the ravenous fastidiousness of a Persian. He remembered the way Jessibelle ate, with elegant manners and complete disinterest in her food. Perfect etiquette could never be as effective as Jesse's natural, graceful sensuality.

She finished eating, and delicately licked the tips of her fingers. James shivered with pleasure. Yes, table manners had their disadvantages, when compared to the sight of that red tongue darting over her fingertips…

Jesse looked up to catch him staring, and he blushed. "You're not eating," she said, sharply. "Why not? You normally can't wait to shovel food down your throat. I don't know where you put it, though," she added thoughtfully, glancing down at his lean form. "Probably straight into your arteries."

James couldn't exactly tell Jesse he had forgotten his breakfast because watching her eat turned him on. He began to wolf down his own food, and she rolled her eyes and sighed.

It would be nice to think that she was lovingly concerned about his lack of appetite, or alternatively about his early death from heart disease. It would be hazardous, though. Jesse was not known for her selfless consideration of others at the best of times. And especially not now, with repressed anger emanating from her pores. James knew from experience that when Jesse felt free to express her little spurts of temper with screaming and violence, there wasn't much to worry about, except a few random bruises. It was when she brooded and built up her fury that she was really dangerous.

And he didn't want her mad with him. He wanted…

James heaved his own sigh. Jesse was sitting less than a metre away. All he had to do, in theory, was lean over and kiss her. Unfortunately, Jesse was a lot less intimidating in daydreams than she was in concrete reality.

Last afternoon, still glowing from his encounter with Tracey, everything had seemed simple. Go home, declare his newly realised feelings for Jesse, and watch her drop the little redhead like an outdated handbag. But she had been very late back – why? a nagging voice in his head demanded – and he had been sated and tired. He lulled himself to sleep with a mixture of delicious fantasies and pleasant reminiscences. He never even heard her return.

And now… Now, in the bright light of the morning that had followed the storm, Jesse looked as hard and lustrous as ice. James could almost imagine a sparkling coating of frost over the scenery for miles around. The psychic impression was that years of brooding over tragic childhood holidays had inspired Jesse to murder a Jynx and spread its remains over the landscape. Eventually, however, James knew she would crack, and the ice would melt. The trouble lay in avoiding being incinerated in the resulting conflagration.

Perhaps, he thought with dawning hope, Jesse was upset because she had quarreled with the tomboy. Misty seemed to be in training to become as formidable a bitch as Jesse, when she grew up. Not quite as formidable, James decided. No other girl was quite as good at being violent and temperamental as his Jesse. James beamed proudly at her, and opened his mouth to make some sort of declaration.

Instead, he heard himself say, "At least my idea of healthy food intake isn't eating snow."

Jesse had, if he had been paying proper attention, been thawing a little under the warmth of his all-too-visibly glowing adoration of her consummate bitchiness. Perhaps that is why, despite severe provocation, she didn't hit him. Instead, Jesse's small mouth tightened. "Fine. Die young for all I care," she snapped. "I had Team Rocket insure your life in my favour anyway." She threw her paper plate into the fire.

She was definitely upset about something. James watched her thoughtfully as he bolted the rest of his breakfast. He wondered what had happened last night.

The silence suddenly hit him. "Jesse, where's Meowth? Didn't he come back last night?"

Blue eyes blazed, but at least her fury wasn't directed at James this time. "The Boss wanted him back for a special assignment, and he went running back with his tail between his legs. Disgusting. Anyway, who needs the stupid furball?"

Not me, James thought, happily. His stars were clearly smiling on him, and he smiled back, startling a reluctant half-smile from his partner in turn. Great. Now they were all grinning at each other…

He was beginning to face the fact that he was actually going to have to do or say something. It felt deeply unnatural, to be considering taking action when Jesse was right over there to do it for him. Action was her job. But, as she seemed unreceptive to his mental pleas to just walk over and ravish him, he was going to have to do, or say, something. Preferably something that would induce her to take action, and him.

He took a deep breath, just as Jesse stood up and stalked away to stare into the bushes. Great. Oh well...

James glanced over to make sure that Jesse's back was still turned to him, and pulled out one of Tracey's pictures for inspiration. Oooh… Now, there was an incentiveAll James had to do was imagine that it was because of him that Jesse's mouth was bared in a silent scream, not because of Misty… He tucked away the already-worn square of paper.

"Jesse…" He stood and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Yes, James?" Her expression was unreadable, but those huge cobalt eyes were gleaming.

James prepared to spill his heart, then caught sight of something on Jesse's usually immaculate cheek. A small stain. Not a stain left by a tear. It couldn't be…

A horrible thought struck him. Maybe… He had assumed Misty was only incidental, a mere grasped-at opportunity for Jesse, in the way Tracey had been for him. But what if Jesse was really at point six on the Kinsey scale? He had assumed she was at least vaguely bisexual, but what if she was just really well closeted, and all those bishounen fantasy sequences were merely carving on the wardrobe door?

James knew he looked dead sexy in a dress, but he doubted he could get away with a long-term relationship with a true lesbian. He had the wrong equipment, and he didn't think he could face the surgery, even for Jesse. Especially not with Team Rocket Breeding Centre surgeons, which were all he could afford. James had a sudden vision of Butch and Cassidy approaching him with knives, and shuddered. He'd almost prefer it taken care of by Tracey's Scyther.

No… It wasn't possible. James tried to calm down his suddenly racing heart. He remembered all the times Jesse had flung herself into his arms for pathetically inadequate reasons, and her open appreciation of his legs in a good pair of tights. Surely that outweighed even thigh-high boots as an indicator of sexuality. After all, if he was going to consider outmoded stereotypes of sexual orientation, James himself had a tendency to wear skirts and molest male twerps in the woods… No, Jesse swung both ways, and deep in her self-absorbed heart, she knew James was her soul mate. She must.

But she hadn't hugged him for quite a while. Or slapped him.

There had to be a way to test her, one way or the other.

"Jess, I'm going for a walk. See you later."

Ignoring his partner's surprised expression, James headed off to look for Tracey.

R

Around another campsite, not too far away, certain people were having difficulty waking up.

"Come on!" Ash whined, tugging on Misty's sleeping bag. "If one of you two don't start breakfast soon, we'll never make it all the way across Mandarin Island."

"You could try making it yourself!" Misty shrieked.

At the commotion, Tracey peeped over the edge of his own sleeping back. He saw Misty, wan and with dark shadows under her eyes, rouse herself from exhaustion just long enough to punch Ash in the eye. Apparently satisfied by the way he fell backwards half-conscious, she sank back into her sleeping bag. The poor little dear, Tracey thought sentimentally. She had apparently had a rather hard night…

Tracey grinned at the thought of how she might have been tired out, and climbed out of his own sleeping bag. Ignoring Ash's demands for breakfast, he stood up and walked off into the forest, his brain already filling with images of what he had been doing while Jesse had been… tiring Misty out.

It wasn't that he didn't care if Ash had his breakfast or not. Tracey loved, in a fittingly chaste way hovering between fraternal and paternal love, both of the youngsters that had come into his care. It was just that, occasionally, the eldest member of Team Twerp needed a little private time to himself.

He wasn't going to get it. He had just rifled through his sketch pad for a suitable visual aid, when he heard a high voice behind him ask, "Tracey? Can we talk?"

He knew exactly what he would see when he turned around – a cute redhead clutching a baby pokémon and blushing. Typical. Much as Tracey enjoyed the big brother role, this not quite the moment. The person he wanted to focus on was somewhat taller, with purplish blue hair and green eyes, and wore dresses much more frequently than Misty did.

But then… Misty was so young and inexperienced under her superficial toughness. Maybe he had been wrong to leave her in Jesse's hands… Tracey's basic niceness guilt-tripped him into turning around and trying to think pure thoughts.

"Tracey?"

He grinned at her, carefully holding his sketchpad in front of himself. "Yes, Misty?"

He waited for her to say something about Jesse. Instead, Misty's flush deepened, and she asked, "Tracey, what do you think of Prima?"

The question took him by surprise. Thinking about the answer made it necessary to readjust the sketchpad. "Well, Misty – I think she's an excellent pokémon trainer – and – "

"And?"

"She seems nice, in a laid-back way. And she's, uh, very attractive…" He was aware he was making the understatement of the century.

"Yeah." Misty's sea-blue eyes grew large and luminous. "And she has these incredible…" Toge – PRIII! filled in her pokémon. Misty hastily dropped Togepi and, if possible, went an even deeper shade of cherry. "She promised to teach me to, um, find my inner peace and my true talents." Tracey's own eyes must have widened, because Misty hurriedly added, "As a pokémon trainer. I mean, I already know my specialty is water, but Prima offered to help me find my other… areas of interest. D'you think I should accept?"

Tracey could only gape at her. Wow, he thought. First Ash, then she moves on to the acknowledged babe of Team Rocket, and now she's cornered the sexiest, if spaciest, trainer in the Orange League. My little tomboy baby's really growing up, he thought proudly. And she's a fickle little tramp, too.

She was waiting for an answer. Tracey couldn't really say anything that would suggest he had been, well, not perving on her, just taking some purely documentary nature sketches. Instead he said, "Well, Misty, if you really like her, that might be a good idea to, um, accept some training from her. But what if you have other commitments? Like – " Jesse. "Ash."

Misty frowned. "I think I have to look after my own… career. After all, a girl has to look out for herself."

She stopped and looked down at the picture Tracey's sketchpad was open at. It was the picture he had drawn the first time he had encountered Team Rocket, and been fascinated by the talking Meowth. Because he only drew from life, and because his time with Team Rocket was usually spent falling into holes and engaging in pokémon battles rather than sketching, it was his only picture of James. Misty, however, wasn't looking at James.

"Jesse's really very good looking, isn't she? But she's also an evil, vain, incompetent bully with bad dress sense. And, of course, she's not really nearly as stacked as she seems to think she is. Not in comparison to some other trainers." Tracey was too flummoxed at the idea of Misty daring to critique anyone else's clothing to reply. In any case, he was too sweet natured to make the obvious comparisons between the endowments of the redhead in front of him and the other redhead under discussion.

Misty smiled brightly. "I think I'm going to find my true centre as a pokémon trainer."

She scooped up Togepi and strolled away.

Tracey stared after her for a moment, then decided to turn back to the matter at hand. He leaned back against the tree and began to visualise…

"Just who I was looking for," a voice drawled. "And you've started without me. How rude."

Tracey's eyes flew open to take in a pair of familiar jade eyes, sparkling wickedly.

"Tracey, I find I need your help," James announced. He began to take off his jacket. "I want you to draw me a few pictures…"

R

Jesse was depressed. Not suicidally depressed, because Jesse preferred to find other, less perfect targets to vent her feelings on, but verging on homicidally depressed. What she really required was a small white cat to stomp on, or, failing that, a lavender-haired bishounen to slap. And, just when she really needed them, the self-centred bastards had abandoned her. Some friends they were.

Not that she wasn't glad of the excuse to avoid another failed attempt at catching that bloody electric mouse. Her pride had taken enough of a battering last night without being thrashed by a little boy in a baseball cap, and a selection of unevolved pokémon. She didn't particularly want to see Misty, either.

Of all the humiliating things to happen to someone as beautiful and breathtakingly desirable as herself. To be ditched by a flat-chested baby dyke with an egg fixation.

Well, Jesse would just have to find someone who came closer to being worthy of a diva's attentions. Someone who actually knew what a hairbrush was. It wasn't that she had really wanted Misty anyway, the Rocket girl told herself. It was just against Jesse's deep ethical convictions to pass up a blatant chance to corrupt sweet innocence. And she had been bored. And she had a sick sense of humour. And, finally, it was a wonderful opportunity to really humiliate and emotionally devastate Ash, as some payment for all the perfectly tailored uniforms his pokémon had destroyed over the years.

As well as a chance for… Well, Misty had those long legs and those high little breasts and that tempting blend of naivéty and spirit, along with that weirdly irresistible blend of deep distrust and reluctant admiration. What was Jesse, a nun?

It wasn't as if anyone else had even hit on her since that wimp Dr. Proctor. Even Brock didn't go pop-eyed at the sight of Jesse, when she was so much more attractive than any Nurse Joy. Giovanni had never once attempted to abuse his professional relationship with her, even though everyone knew he was the walking definition of polymorphous perversity. Cassidy was probably sleeping with Butch by now – she had that 'it was only a passing phase' air about her. And as for Jesse's own partner…

Jesse broke down and sobbed the heart-wrenching sobs of the truly desperate woman, seeing her last chance of a regular sex life going up in smoke.

She was so caught up in indulging her own misery that she was taken by surprise when warm arms wrapped around her.

"Jess, what's wrong?"

Jesse looked up into an apparently limpid green gaze. It was, if she had only known, one of the best simulations of innocence James had ever produced in a long and glorious career. It was perhaps fortunate that, instead, she just contemplated how very sweet James could look when he was completely clueless. He was the best friend she had ever had… She decided to confess to him the true core of her heartbreak.

"No one seems to know how gorgeous I am!" she wailed, flinging her arms around his neck.

"Oh, Jesse, of course they do," he soothed, cuddling her back. "How could they help noticing?" She gave him a watery smile. "Ask anyone, Jesse, and they'll say you're nearly as pretty as I a- Ow!"

Jesse glared at him and put away her mallet. She felt better already. Thank goodness she still had James to slap around. "Then why does everyone di - rej – seem to prefer people who look almost like me? Only with bad hair and bigger fans. Or with bigger busts."

James nursed his new head injury. He was wondering why she was talking about fans, and hoping she was thinking what he thought she was thinking. Freedom is important, but it isn't everything. Oh, well. He decided, like the loyal friend he always had been, to put his own little… project… aside, and focus on cheering his partner up.

"Jesse, anyone with bigger – fans – than you would be some kind of obscene mutation. Or possibly," he added guiltily, "wearing some kind of prosthesis."

Jesse felt even more comforted. "That's true. I am perfectly proportioned, aren't I?" I'll bet Prima is wearing a padded wonderbra. She reached over and hugged him again. "Thanks, James. I feel much better."

"I know what would make you feel even better." He looked hopefully at her, and she felt her lips curve in a Persian-like smile. Maybe she had underestimated him. Maybe he was going to suggest… "We could try out the costumes for tomorrow's plan. I have such a pretty white lace minidress," he cajoled.

Jesse swallowed her disappointment and tilted her head on one side, considering. James added temptingly, "And tight leather pants for you. We could even try out their effectiveness by going shopping. I, uh, acquired someone's credit card today. "

Jesse visibly brightened. "'Kay," she sniffled, and let him lead her off. Maybe love – well, random tumbles in the bushes– was not for her, but life was still worth living. She still had theft, shopping and bad drag.