An officious Officer Jenny at the door, after cracking a stammering Brock over the head with her cute Growlithe-embellished baton, declared that registered gym leaders alone would be allowed into the inner sanctum. Misty noticed Erika's girls clustered even closer around her, protective hands going around her waist and arms, and felt a vague pang.  She was too busy holding Brock back to analyse her feelings too much.

"I'm Brock, the Substitute Gym Leader of…" Brock dissolved into hopeless stammering as he tried to remember what city he came from, and Misty spitefully twisted his arm behind his back.

"But aren't you worried about them being left alone?" Koga hissed furiously At the officer of the law, gesturing at ????'s large and highly illegal entourage.

Jenny shrugged. She didn't seem to connect ????'s companions uniforms with any, well, illegal pokémon stealing organisations or anything.  Misty reflected that whatever mysterious breeding process produced Jennies, they weren't cloning for brains.  "There will be presents provided for all registered companion trainers and helpers in the outer rooms," the policewoman declared in her usual husky half-shout. "And the convenors would like to register a protest against certain gym leaders who abused this facility by bringing everyone they knew." Her glare drifted from Giovanni to Erika.

The Rockets had already burst into cheers at the mention of presents. Typical greedy pigs, the youngest Cerulean gym leader reflected, somewhat bitterly.  Thank goodness Ash and his Pikachu were safe at home with his mother, Tracey and his new "employer," where Misty herself desperately wanted to be…  Now there was a general rush towards where Aya had already unearthed the rest of her gifts and was waving around an disquieting assortment of weaponry.  Misty reflected happily that if the Rockets attempted to steal her parcels, there would be a fight and a half.  Only Cassidy and Domino retained enough loyalty to fight for care of Persian while their Boss was gone. ???? glared after his attendants.

Misty was too occupied in the next few minutes, restraining Brock in a headlock while attempting to explain to a none-too-bright Jenny that, no matter what the records said, there were actually four Cerulean gym leaders, to notice much of what was happening.  But she did register that Erika was tenderly embracing each of her escort in farewell. She repressed a sigh of jealousy at the thought. Erika's Harem was just… well, it just wasn't fair, that was all. She didn't articulate the thought further. She did feel a flash of malicious amusement, though, when sexy, bitchy little Petunia, receiving her kiss on the cheek, glanced straight over Erika's shoulder, caught Cassidy's eye and flashed a slow, seductive smile.

"C'mon, you," Misty scolded Brock, and they entered together, Erika at their heels. The inner room had a democratic circle of nasty fake-wood chairs, and some rather sad tinsel and fairylights in a pathetic attempt to disguise the fact that no one really wanted to be there.

There was a quite unnecessarily dramatic whirl of cherry blossom, and the Elite Four entered through the other door. There was an awed moment, then a general rush to sit next to the one with the long purple hair, glasses, tiny suit, and very impressive… pokémon. Prima, or Lorelei or whatever her name currently was, sat serenely amidst the general fights breaking out over her, with a mistily dreamy smile that might have suggested she was above silly human lusts -  or merely that her eggnog had been very well spiked.

Misty expertly lunged for Brock and tossed him over the shoulder, only to discover that he'd made her miss her own chance to sit next to the well-endowed trainer. She viciously wrenched her friend's ear in retaliation. She had been really looking forward to…picking up some tips on training water pokémon.

She glanced around. The only empty seats now were by Erika. The plant princess, already edged on the side of her chair to sit as far away from Sabrina as humanly possible, mutely implored Misty not to let Brock take the other seat next to her. Misty obligingly took it herself, hauling Brock into the empty chair on her left. It was hardly a sacrifice, anyway. Erika wasn't Prima, but Misty had always been att – liked her. The blue-haired girl  bestowed one of her sweet smiles in thanks.

"Merry Christmas, all, and thanks for attending.  Now… to business." The surprisingly young head of the Pokémon league tossed back his cloak, looking disturbingly like a poncy preteen. "Firstly, there have been some serious complaints registered against gym leaders."

"Like, hardly festive, is it, to get us down like this at our Christmas party?" Lily asked, sulkily tossing her candy-bright hair.

"Funny you should object, Lily, as one of the major complaints is that trainers turning up at Cerulean tend to expect a battle, not a lot of bimbos doing bad water ballet," Gary said sternly. The girl pouted, and her youngest sister repressed a snigger.

"But at least," Gary continued, "you girls actually show up at the gym, even if you refuse to work once you're there. We've registered complaints of trainers waiting around for weeks against Blaine and… um… " He glared at his notes, obviously puzzling out how to pronounce ????, and settled for something that sounded suspiciously like 'Giovanni.'  "And I personally would like to register a protest against the use of non-league approved pokémon against poor, naïve trainers, making their innocent cheerleaders cry…"

???? gave the kind of cruelly sinister smile that indicated he spent a lot of time practicing in front of a mirror.

"We've also had complaints against the punishment for losers. I would like to make it very clear that when a trainer fails against you, you are entitled to half the money they carry as compensation – not, for example, to turn them into little dollies and keep them in your playroom." Gary glared at Sabrina, who treated him to one of her long, blank stares. He winced.  "And, lieutenant, just one more sexual harassment suit and you're out of there. You're costing us a fortune in legal fees."

"Maybe they shouldn't keep sending me such babies, then," Surge boomed.

"Lieutenant, the usual age for someone starting their pokémon journey is ten years! I'm sick and tired of getting notes of complaint from their mothers. Which reminds me… Blaine, do you really think volcanic craters make suitable locations for battling young children?"

"When you're hot you're hot!" declared Blaine, incomprehensibly. Everyone ignored him.

"Um, the age question does raise a point, Gary…" Brock raised his hand.

"Hi Brock, how's the loser? And thanks for ensuring that we don't have the same no-show problems at Pewter City as we do at certain other gyms."

"No prob. But I would like to register a protest of my own. There's something severely wrong with the current gym setup.   I'm sick and tired of having my, um, bottom kicked by hordes of ten year olds with their first pokémon. It's getting embarrassing."

"Hear, hear!" chorused three out of four Cerulean gym leaders.

"Maybe it's because all the decent pokémon we have, you stole from me!" Misty shrieked at her sisters. Brock patted her arm soothingly, and she calmed down enough to say plaintively, "I think the gyms should return to being teaching and training facilities. I wish Cerulean's gym was more like Celadon's." She was rewarded by a glowing smile and pat on the hand from Erika, and blushed a little.  The girl had a heavenly fragrance, all earthy mossy scents and flowers. Misty remembered that moment when Erika had leaned in towards her to detect her own perfume, and blushed deeper.

"Yeah, you'd spend more time at home if it included a harem too, wouldn't you, Myst?" Violet grinned nastily.

"I wouldn't mind…" sighed Daisy. Her other sisters looked suspiciously at her.

"All right, all right. Look, it's Christmas. Can you all just promise to make a token attempt to do your jobs, and we'll reconsider the strength of starting pokémon?" Misty noticed, suspiciously, that Gary was immediately less take-action when the question of the administration actually doing anything was raised.  For all the swanky swirling cloaks, Gary was becoming more of a red-tape pen pusher with every passing day as Champion. No wonder his cheerleaders had abandoned him to found a commune with Professor Ivy.  For once, Misty heartily sympathised with Ash on the whole rival question.

At that point, Sabrina caused a distraction by going into one of her fits of terrifyingly insane laughter. By the time Misty had forced the green-haired beauty to take more dried frog pills, the meeting had broken up.

"Hiya, cutie," a breathy voice cooed. "Are the flowing waters of Cerulean leading you down to the ocean yet?"

Misty looked up, straight into a magnificent cleavage. She fell into confused blushes. Some small part of her registered that Erika had stiffened disapprovingly beside her and was pointedly looking away.  On her other side, Brock seemed to be going into some kind of fibre-deep shock.  But Misty was much too flustered to pay much attention to either of them

"P- Prima!" she gasped.

TBC