Let Me Love You (Part II)
That night, James did his level best not to watch Jesse undressing, and went to work on his scheme instead. The moment seemed right. They only had two more days until Meowth returned, and James wasn't certain he could launch a grand seduction with the cat pokémon snickering in the background. And he had, hopefully, just proved to Jesse just how caring and indispensable to her he really was.
Of course, the stolen credit cards had turned out to be useless. Tracey might have decided that James had hidden talents, and the artist might be essentially a generous and trusting lad, but he wasn't stupid. The first thing he had done after the morning's encounter with James was to check his backpack, and cancel his cards.
Still, the afternoon had done wonders for Jesse's mood. Team Rocket had been so taken up with pokémon-poaching lately, they had almost forgotten how much fun straightforward shoplifting and meal bludging was. And, by some miracle, they had avoided running into Ash-tachi and being blasted off.
James' new Baby Spice look had been a raving success. He had been addressed as "Miss" by everyone he talked to. Not only that, but he had passed the ultimate test in a masquerade of femininity. Officer Jenny had hit on him. Of course, the same went for Jesse – he had been rather worried for a moment that she was going to take the policewoman up on her offer - but she was surprisingly happy about the failure of her new disguise.
"I think I'll have to wear a dress tomorrow," she said now. "Of course," she added, rearranging the neckline of her new nightdress in a rather distracting manner, "these are a dead giveaway." Her smile was decidedly smug. Take that, you hippie bitch…
"You don't want to wear my new dress?" James asked anxiously, once she had stopped playing with her décolletage and he could breathe again. He had no idea where Jesse's new obsession with the size of her own breasts had come from, but it did have its up side.
"Oh, no. You look so good in it. I think I'll just wear my uniform – after all, you're the one putting up the front. I'm just hanging around to scoop up the pokémon. And the Team Rocket uniform is always in style." She giggled, and climbed into her sleeping bag.
James followed suit. The obvious thing to do, with Meowth missing, would have been to put his sleeping bag right next to Jesse's, but James was determined to be subtle and stick to his plan. His sleeping bag was on the opposite side of the fire to that of his partner. This was far too important to mess up through over-eagerness.
He dropped his lashes and feigned sleep. He watched through the crack of his lids as Jesse wriggled around, trying to make herself comfortable. He heard the crackle of paper, and grinned to himself. Oh, she's found her little present…
Jesse half sat, and pulled the pieces of paper from her bag. She glanced down curiously at them and then, lightning-fast, shot a look across at James. He risked a faint snore, and she relaxed, turning her attention back to the pictures. Her breath hissed between her lips, and her eyes grew very wide.
James repressed a smile. Good old Tracey. Someone else might resent the proposition that they have sex with a boy and draw pictures of him in his full, aroused glory, in order to facilitate the seduction of a third party. Tracey, though, was a true little romantic. Once he was sure his friend Misty's feelings were no longer at risk, he was only too happy to assist in the course of true love. And, James flattered himself, Tracey had been amply rewarded for his cooperation.
Jesse was slowly – very slowly – moving through the little pile of sketches. James held his breath when she reached the bottom. If she threw them in the fire… But Jesse sent him one more curious glance, then carefully folded the pictures and placed them under her pillow. He could tell, in the firelight, that she was smiling.
Exultation flooded through James. Point six be damned…
He closed his eyes fully and dreamily considered his next move. Crawl over and ask to see what she had been reading? Confess that he thought Jesse the most lovely, lovable, desirable being in Creation, and that she was wasted on a girl with a Psyduck? Or just pull her up into his arms and kiss her…
James was leaning strongly towards the third and simplest option, when a soft noise caught his attention. He looked across at his partner.
Jesse's neck was arched back, and her eyes were closed. Her crimson lips were parted, and as he watched, the strangled whimper that had caught his attention came from them once more. He could see very little, but the movement under the sleeping bag made it very obvious what she was doing, even without the soft sounds of someone trying very hard to be discreet.
Oh, my own darling partner.The thought was so strong that for a moment James imagined he had actually spoken. Affection and desire surged through him. His Jesse was reacting like this to him, or at least to images of him. You don't have to be so secretive – there's nothing I want more than… Jesse gave a muted moan as one hand slipped out of her sleeping back and came up to caress her breasts through her silk gown, and it was all James could do not to echo her. He prepared to move across to her.
Unless she's thinking of Misty,the treacherous thought came. He tried to shove it aside, but it was enough, even hard and aching as he was, to make him freeze. He was still lying there, his libido and his paranoia having a rather sharp argument, when Jesse gave a final shuddering sigh.
The whisper drifted away in the firelight, and for one mad moment he thought Jesse was calling him over. The she rolled onto her stomach, still visibly trembling, and the sweet, electrifying knowledge came to James. She had called his name as she climaxed.
He still didn't move. He lay and listened to Jesse's breathing calm and slow, and then drop into the regular rhythm of sleep, and was still motionless. He knew, with blinding clarity, that – at least on his part – this was more than having erotic interest in a friend woken by a few risqué pictures. He loved her, blindly and completely, and he needed her to love him back.
And he couldn't go over to her. Not after seeing and hearing that. The risk was too great that she would feel tricked and humiliated, and he would receive a sound thrashing when what he really wanted was true love.
When he was sure Jesse was really asleep, James climbed out of his sleeping bag and moved into the forest to take care of his own aching arousal. Tomorrow, he promised himself as he spurted out his dreams into his own hands. I'll make her love me, tomorrow.
The white lace dress would quite possibly help.
Misty folded her arms across her chest, and spoke softly. "You two are my best friends, and I'm only saying this because I love you and I want to help you overcome your faults." She took a deep breath. "You're a pair of brain-dead losers!" she screamed.
Pika-CHUUUU!concurred the little yellow pokémon, demonstrating his agreement by thunder-shocking the boys.
When he had recovered the ability to speak, Ash began to whine. "You're so mean, Misty. We were only trying to help that poor girl find her lost clefairy. You're probably just jealous because she was cuter than you."
"THAT WAS JAMES!"
Pikachu thunder-shocked Ash again for good measure.
As Ash was currently in too much pain to speak, Tracey decided to try to soothe the increasingly agitated waters. "It was very clever of you to work that out, Misty. You're so much more perceptive than we are," he said, dispensing oil with his most liberal hand. He tried to rearrange his sizzled hair back into his stylishly trendy sweatband.
"Hmmph." Misty seemed slightly mollified. She took Togepi out of her backpack and put it down to play with Pikachu.
Ash recovered the power of speech. "Pikachu, you're supposed to be my best friend," he wailed.
"Yes. And Pikachu's best friend was willing to hand it over to James of Team Rocket to look for a non-existent clefairy," said Misty. "No wonder it's electrocuting you."
Pi!Pikachu shot Ash a dirty glance, and wandered off after Togepi.
"Yeah, Ash. That was really dumb," Tracey said, unwisely trying to placate Misty by dumping on Ash. She produced a mallet and whacked him with it.
"What about you, Tracey Sketchit? Who was volunteering to lend James Marril's supra-natural senses?"
Tracey rubbed his aching head. "Um… Well, he did look, um, really pretty…" Even more so than usual, he added silently. "It's not as if Marril's very valuable, anyway. There's no such attacks as 'swim' and 'listen.'"
Misty groaned. "Men are so pathetic. All they care about is a well-stuffed bra."
"Look who's talking," muttered Tracey. She shot him the glance of death.
"How did you know it was James, anyway?" asked Ash.
"Wasn't it obvious? And Jesse being right nearby was a good clue."
"Yeah… Uh, Misty, how did you know Jesse was nearby?"
Colour flooded Misty's face. "Couldn't you tell?" she asked, lamely. How did I know she was nearby? I just sort of… sensed her presence, that's all. Not that it means anything. Jesse is nothing to me anymore. I don't want anything more to do with a lecherous dyke like her. I should have been warned by the fact that even though she only has two pokémon, one of them is a Lickitung… And she's such a bitch. What I really deserve is someone sweet and kind, with really impressive… pokémon.
"No," the boys chorused.
"Well, that's because you're both hormonally impaired half-wits," Misty declared, triumphantly. "I'm going off to, um, take some training tips from Prima." She ran off into the forest, forgetting Togepi and her backpack.
"How can she train without any pokéballs?" Ash wondered.
Tracey tried to control a grin. "I'm sure Prima will find a way."
"Prima was supposed to be helping me train!"
Tracey looked speculatively at him. It was sometimes difficult to work out just how dense Ash really was. Maybe he was just very good at denying unpleasant reality. After all, the boy had developed a rather painful crush on Misty. And Tracey knew the younger boy had seen Misty with Jesse. "Ash," the older boy said, "Misty just tends to... get along really well with a certain kind of lady."
Ash rocked back on his heels, looking thoughtful and unhappy. "Like Jesse?"
Tracey nodded, relieved that Ash was finally showing some comprehension. "Jesse is a good example."
"A good example of what?" Ash asked bitterly, but he didn't seem to expect an answer. "Oh, I suppose Prima is better than Team Rocket, anyway." Tracey flushed guiltily, but didn't answer.
Ash sunk to the ground and rested his head in his hands. "When I was a little kid, Mom always told me that when I got older, I'd find a special girl, and we would fall in love and eventually get married. She never said the special girl would find her own special girl. Or girls, in this case." He brooded for a moment. "I mean, I can't even figure out what they do…"
"Well, I could have shown you some pictures, but James borrowed them," Tracey said, without thinking.
There was a long, fraught silence. Tracey closed his eyes.
Ash tried to decide what he wanted to find out first. Why Tracey had apparently been sketching Misty and Jesse doing – whatever it was they did – or when he'd been cozy enough with James to be sharing erotic drawings with him. "Why would you…" He noticed the flaming colour in Tracey's cheeks. "Oh, no. Oh no. Not both of you…"
"Ash, I'm sorry. It's just that… Well, didn't you think James looked sexy in that white dress?" he asked helplessly. "You said he was pretty."
"I thought he was a girl! I'm surprised Misty didn't jump him," Ash added resentfully.
"Well, with the dress off –" Now, there was a mental image. Tracey tried to focus on the current problem, which was saving the team before Ash took off on his own. The little idiot would get himself killed within a week. "What I mean to say is, sometimes – sometimes you just need to be close to people. And perhaps it should matter who you decided to be close to, but, um, realistically, sometimes it doesn't."
"Doesn't matter whether they're male or female, or doesn't matter that they're psychotic, egotistical morons?" Ash snapped.
"Um. Both? Either?"
Ash's wide brown eyes filled with tears. "I might as well let Jesse and James steal my Pikachu. They've already stolen both my best human friends," he sniffled pathetically.
Had James been watching, he would have been torn between delight at the pain he had been visiting upon his hated enemy, and jealous resentment that he was not the only male around who could pull the 'look how vulnerable and winning I am' trick. Tracey felt himself softening. Just as he put a comforting arm around Ash's shoulders, Pikachu worked out the essence of what Ash had just said, and delivered its third trainer-directed thundershock for the day. The boys clutched each other in agony.
"Ow! Pikachu, I didn't mean it!" Ash complained.
Tracey leant away to look into his eyes. It seemed like a good opportunity to show Ash how much he was really cared for, and forestall a team breakup. "Ash," he said, very gently, "whatever lifestyle choices Misty and I might make, we're still your friends." He realised he sounded like the advice column of a teen girls' magazine, and hastily attempted some more natural dialogue. "Anyway, I don't think Jesse and James are much of a threat, anymore. From what James said last time, I think they'll be too occupied with each other to fool around with outsiders from now on."
"Really?" Ash wiped his tears away, and looked hopefully up at him. "You mean, they just used you for meaningless sex and dumped you when they found true love?"
Ouch."Yeah, something like that."
Ash's gaze trembled. "Oh, poor Tracey." He suddenly flung his arms back around his friend.
Tracey hugged him back, mildly troubled by where his thoughts were taking him. Ash was wrong. Tracey wouldn't exactly break his heart over James. He was merely grateful for having his mind opened. Yesterday afternoon he had been a little inclined to resent being used to get to Jesse. But then… James had arrived far better equipped than the time before, and Tracey's umbrage had melted in the face of a very comprehensive education. James' family would never had allowed him to become as involved in anything as déclassé as the Boy Scouts, but Lord Bayden-Powell would certainly have approved of how well-prepared the Rocket boy had been…
And now Ash was snuggled up disturbingly closely. Tracey couldn't help remembering some of the things James had done, and wondering if he could try them out himself. He fought with his conscience. Ash and Misty are just like your little brother and sister, and there are certain things you don't do to younger siblings. Still… It was important to convince Ash of how much he was really loved and wanted, Tracey reasoned, and Misty wasn't about to help. Tracey began to worry that he'd picked up Team Rocket's moral reasoning, which was like learning race relations from Hitler.
He's probably too young, anyway."Ash, how old are you?"
Ash sniffed. "Fourteen."
Well, it's only two years difference… No. It's still on the far side of dodgy.
Ash lifted teary eyes up to Tracey's. "Nobody loves me, either."
"Fourteen's close enough," Tracey decided suddenly.
"Ash, I think there are some things we need to discuss, and…" Ash looked tearfully and uncomprehendingly up at him. There was something fascinatingly endearing about his complete naiveté. Tracey sighed, and decided that a practical demonstration would be more effective than discussion. "Where does Misty keep her hand cream?"