Seeing Red

Dedication: This would never have been written without my beloved Floria's support at the crucial stage, and her incredible patience with having ideas flung at her. But mostly it's dedicated to her because I love her, more and more every day.

The title is from a Split Enz song which sums up Cassidy's attitude. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to quote the relevant lines here.

"…And then we finally catch Pikachu!" the Team Rocket girl finished triumphantly.

Her companion did not fully share her enthusiasm. He looked at her with mild concern. "Finally? And don't mind my asking, but has the Boss ever actually expressed a desire for a Pikachu?"

His partner bit her lip in uncertainty. "Jesse and James seem to think the Boss wants that Pikachu. They've been chasing it for years."

"That means a lot," Butch grumbled. "I mean, Jesse and James being the acknowledged stars of Team Rocket."

"They once were," Cassidy sighed. It was incredible to think that Jesse and James had ever been seen as anything more than natural losers, but she had to admit that the pretty poseurs had once had quite a nasty reputation, instead of a purely ridiculous one.

"Yeah. Before it became clear that they were a couple of greedy, incompetent children dressed up as agents. When they're not actually dressed up as the opposite sex, that is."

Butch glanced sidelong at Cassidy's expression, and sighed himself. He knew perfectly well what the girl's recent obsession with catching Pikachu was all about. Money-hungry Rocket bitch with alarming hair seeks same… He grinned to himself, despite his annoyance.

It wasn't just that Cassidy's tastes were fairly well known throughout Team Rocket. Butch's sleeping bag was only a few feet away from her, after all, and when she thought her partner was asleep, Cassidy wasn't always particularly discreet. For the first new nights after they had run into Giovanni's least favourite employees, it had been amusing and mildly erotic. By now, he was thoroughly tired of hearing the same name in a variety of whispers and screams every night, and fervently wishing something would occur to distract his best friend. Her single-mindedness was pleasing when it was good for both their careers, but it could be irritating when it came to illogical infatuations.

"All right," he growled. "The plan should work. So we catch Pikachu, and you finally prove to Jesse that you are far more brilliant, efficient and good at her job than she is, and she swoons with adulation. It's not going to work, you know. Jesse is less likely to admit you've beaten her than you are to admit she's beaten you, which is saying something. And I'd bet my life Jesse and James are bonking each other's brains out," he added, but silently. Cassidy wasn't quite as violently inclined as Jesse, but there wasn't a male member of Team Rocket who hadn't learned when not to provoke their partners too far.

Cassidy flushed. "I'm not trying to prove anything to Jesse. To the Boss," she snapped. "Don't you want to get that promotion?"

"Right, to the Boss, although I see absolutely no reason why a pokémon you could just pick up in Viridian Forest would win us a promotion. And then we all go back to normal - after you and Jesse have a nice little chat about obsessive compulsive disorders," Butch added under his breath.

Cassidy chose to ignore that remark. She considered it blatantly unfair. Jesse was the obsessive one. She'd been chasing after that little electric pokémon for years. Cassidy… just needed to make certain things clear to Jesse. Stupid, naïve child, thinking she could fuck someone like Cassidy and then turn and walk off with her fairy partner. And if the thought of Jesse brought a rush of red-tinged fury and pain to Cassidy's mind, that was only because she wasn't used to being flaunted by anyone, let alone someone she had once condescended to seduce. Not to mention that Jesse was, as well as being an arrogant brat, rather attractive…

There was no question that Jesse deserved a few hard lessons in respect… and her teacher would find them highly pleasurable to give. Just like the good old days back at Pokémon Tech. Jesse may have forgotten who had the power back then, but her 'friend' never would.

Cassidy tossed back her burnt-gold plaits. Butch was wrong - Cassidy wasn't obsessed with Jesse at all. She was simply right, as usual. Jesse belonged to her, and it was time the uppity little dyke came face to face with reality. Cassidy would forgive her… eventually. When she'd been taught the error of her ways. At painful length… Cassidy's scowl began to fade into a dreamy smile as she pictured the paths along which her ex-girlfriend's lessons would progress.

Butch, taking her softened expression as a positive sign, laid a gloved hand on her shoulder. "Shall we go steal Pikachu, Cass?" he offered, somewhat penitent for questioning her.

She smiled back at him, her good temper restored by his docility. Butch, she admitted grudgingly to herself, was all a Rocket girl could want in a partner. That is, if said Rocket girl's objective was to rise in the organisation, rather than to treat it as a combined fashion show and cuddle-fest, like some Rocket girls Cassidy could think of. Much as the thought of Jess and James' easy intimacy bothered her, it gave her an uncomfortable satisfaction to know the kind of disastrous effect they had on each other's ineptitude. Jesse would be much better off with Cassidy, if only she could be persuaded of that fact, than with that effeminate loser.

True, Butch's speaking voice had been known to make strong men faint dead away with pain, but Cassidy had eventually become used to even that, and Butch had other good traits to make up for it. Which was saying rather a lot, because making up for a voice that made steel-drilling attractive by comparison wasn't an easy task. The Rocket boy was good-looking, even-tempered, highly focussed and intelligent enough to be useful to Cassidy, without being intelligent enough to be a threat to her leadership. Most importantly of all, he was usually willing to fall in with Cassidy's plans. Cassidy thoroughly approved of her partner without feeling the least amount of affection for him.

But then, Cassidy had never been very good at affection. Affection was for sentimental weaklings like Jesse and James. It had no place in the heart of a real Rocket Bitch.

She maternally patted Butch's hand. "I'll fly the helicopter," she said.

Hours later…

Cassidy awoke to darkness, heat and crushing pain.

For long moments, rational thought was beyond her. Her body rebelled against the pain and she threw up, dimly aware of the warm vomit splashing against her usually immaculate uniform. She tried to roll over and keep herself uncontaminated, but her body was wracked with convulsions and controlled movement was beyond her powers. She heaved until she was empty, and then lay in her own filth, trembling and dry-retching as knives twisted in her forehead.

After a while the nausea lessened enough to allow some jumbled approximation of thought. Show some discipline, Cass, pull yourself together, she berated herself. Deep breaths, controlled thought. Take charge…

Fighting against her body's weakness, she arduously began to piece together the events of the last few hours. The helicopter… That child's Pikachu had managed to crash the helicopter by thundershocking it from the outside. How the fuck was that even possible? It didn't make sense, it shouldn't have happened… And they'd crashed… That must have been when she hit her head, but she hadn't passed out then, she was sure of it. Something had happened… Cassidy sought the memories, but she was in too much pain, and they couldn't be traced. There were holes in her memory, and she couldn't even tell what was missing.

She didn't want to die alone.

"Butch?' she called out softly, alarmed to hear her voice sound almost as rough as that of her vocally-challenged partner.

There was no answer. And unconsciousness was threatening to crash down on her again, drowning out the pain and sickness… Cassidy allowed herself to be enveloped in its warm embrace.

The nausea was gone, and the burning heat had cooled a little, when Cassidy awoke again. She still felt like someone was doing something extremely unpleasant to her brain with a red hot skewer, but at least that was an improvement on a red hot bowie knife… Even more encouragingly, she felt dry and clean. The stench of vomit she had been half-expecting was missing. Dry, clean and half-naked. Someone had removed her soiled uniform and sponged her skin. At least she wasn't dying alone in a ditch, then.

Cassidy took a moment to build up her willpower, then cautiously opened one violet eye. The sunlight shot sharp agony into her head, and she moaned, quickly dropping her lashes again.

"Drink this," a soft voice ordered, and something was held to Cassidy's lips. The liquid was horrendous, but to her relief it didn't cause a renewed fit of retching, and she gulped it down. "Whttsherizzit?" she managed to ask.

The possessor of the voice seemed to understand perfectly. "Infusion of spinaya weed, laced with morphine."

"Morphine?" Cassidy gasped, her lashes flying up in shock. The pain was an immediate punishment, but this time she fought it, trying to make her vision focus. All she could see was a blur of red and white.

"You've been stun-spored by a Vileplume," the voice explained, gently. It was a very sweet voice, feminine and with a certain musical laziness to it. "Most victims suffer only mild paralysis and perhaps a touch of fever, but you're had a rare allergic reaction to it. You would have died if I hadn't given you spinaya weed earlier. And the morphine will help with the pain. You don't feel very well, do you, dear?" the strange woman added, with a disturbing note of amusement behind her apparent compassion.

"Are you a Nurse Joy?" Cassidy asked, then chided herself for her fuzzy-headedness. Not only was the bright motherly manner missing form her healer, Cassidy wasn't a bloody pokemon. She tried to bring the colours into focus, and even attempt to identify some blurry shapes. There was blue there somewhere.

"No. But I have experience in dealing with stun-spore sickness."

"Your Vileplume?" Cassidy demanded. If this woman had been responsible for putting her through this, Cassidy would be damned if she'd thank her for undoing the damage. In fact, the moment she felt well enough to move, there'd be hell to pay.

"I'm afraid so. I do apologise for the inconvenience." Cassidy felt someone rise from the bed. "You should rest now. I'll talk to you again when you wake."

Cassidy made a superhuman effort, and made out the woman's face. "Jesse!" she whispered, the knowledge falling naturally and easily into her mind. Of course it was Jesse.

But the darkness was waiting to take her, and she passed out once again.