Disclaimer: If I owned the rights, this series would be a lot more interesting. And probably it would be aimed at a completely different demographic.
Notes: Based (albeit roughly) off of the Pokemon Special manga. "Lucky" is a one-shot, but does follow the continuity set up by "Patchouli" and "Analyze." I would suggest you read those first, although this fic does stand on its own.
She woke completely, as she had practiced, and immediately took in her surroundings. Home. Hospital. The sick bay of Celadon City's secret Rocket hideout.
Her memories came to her in a flash, testament to her disciplined practice of recall. The Birds. Silph Company Headquarters. An immense pile of stone, tumbling down. Pain. Blackness.
Sabrina had deliberately never schooled herself against the lesson of shame.
"Sabrina," a quiet voice greeted her.
She recognized his voice, of course, even though she couldn't see him, and felt even more strongly her disgrace. To have lost a battle—that in itself was an embarrassment. To have lost to such a degree as to send her to hospital, more so. And to have the Commander Rocket himself appear at her bedside was positively ignominious.
"Sir," she said, and moved to sit up. A hand on her arm restrained her.
"Don't. You're not strong enough yet."
Her eyes flashed with anger before she could tamp it down. "I have strength enough." Sabrina grabbed the bed rails with all her might and struggled to pull her body upright. To her mortification, her muscles felt weak and noodley. Gritting her teeth, she called on her telekinesis, and floated herself into a sitting position. That, too, was harder than she had expected, but physics had never been a match for her focus. A validation of discipline, she thought to herself, permitting herself the gratification of knowing her skills had been put to good use.
Now she could see Giovanni, who looked amused. "I apologize," he said, extending a hand gracefully. "I underestimated you, it seems. I will be sure not to make that mistake again."
Sabrina recognized the compliment, but ignored it. "What happened?"
Gone was the amusement. "We lost," he bit off.
"The birds are gone. The Amplifier is destroyed."
Sabrina grimaced. I failed. "The Fleet?"
"Damaged. Koga and Surge survived. You were the worst-injured."
Unpracticed, her shame flickered across her face. Giovanni read it correctly and responded in a voice carefully schooled to neutrality. "You were the hardest hit, of course, being so close to the blast. You were buried under the rubble for longer than I would have liked. I thought initially that you might have died."
There was nothing to say to that; replying that she hurt far too much to be dead would have been inane, and in any case would have admitted far more than she cared to.
"You've been here for three days. The doctors were concerned about your spine, but it does not seem to have been as badly injured as they feared." Sabrina did not enquire as to how badly it actually was injured. It was irrelevant. She would heal herself in time. "They were concerned about paralysis but you appear to have escaped that. Your power is intact?"
"Yes," she replied, not needing to confirm it. She would have felt its loss as keenly and instantly as a severed limb.
"Good," Giovanni said. "That was my concern."
Was that an admission? "It would have been mine," she said.
Giovanni nodded. "Of course."
Sabrina digested all this. Fleet damaged. Zapmolcuno gone. Amplifier destroyed. "The children?"
"Escaped, more's the pity. But not unscathed."
"Good," Sabrina said, with more vehemence than she intended.
"My sentiments precisely."
"Police have been around, I expect."
"Less than I had feared. Some of the brighter and more loyal dolts on the Fleet had the idea to pretend that this was all their affair. And of course, they didn't know about the birds. They were as shell-shocked as anyone else about that and had nothing useful to say about it. Some arrests, of course, but no one vital. I suppose we were lucky."
She sighed, eyes cast down on her lap. I should have been able to contain the blast, she thought. Her power had been sufficient; she had made sure of that at home, sparring against Surge's spheres of raw lightning. She had schooled herself for this type of eventuality.
Giovanni watched silently as his best Elite castigated herself. For all her self-discipline, for all her ruthless tamping-down of emotion, she did not react well to shock. He could see pain written on her face, giving her a haggard, haunted look, and saw shame in the hunch of her shoulders and the shadows cast by her brow over her eyes.
"Sabrina," he said, surprising himself with the gentleness of his voice. "This was not your fault."
She could make no response to that without lying or acknowledging her blame, so she stayed silent.
"There was a flaw in our plan," he continued. "We failed to consider it. We considered all else, and found no flaws, but there was one."
"Where, then?" she asked, not even bothering to disguise her bitterness. Imperfection is the sign of an undisciplined mind, she thought, hearing her father's voice.
"We, all of us, failed to remember that the flawless plan survives just as long as the flawed one after first engaging the enemy."
Of course. She herself had taught that precept to the Rocket Fleet. Her own teacher had called it the dumb sot rule. No plan is idiot-proof. The dumb sots you are fighting are always better idiots than you had accounted for.
Giovanni smirked. "Crude, but precise," he said, and Sabrina's eyes widened momentarily as she realized she had spoken aloud. She scrambled mentally for her discipline—she had not intended that!
Perhaps my power is damaged. Perhaps I am hurt more than they thought, she thought to herself before she ruthlessly squashed the thought. The only thing wrong with you is your lack of control! she snarled to herself.
Giovanni watched her curiously, but his face did not betray his interest. "Regardless, Sabrina, I do not blame you any more than I blame myself."
She would contemplate that later. "I am sorry," she managed. For our loss. For the destruction of our plans. That your hopes for a Rocket-dominated global economy have been reduced yet again. For my failure.
She spoke none of these, but he heard them all. "I am sorry too," he said. "But Team Rocket was lucky."
She glanced up at him in surprise, scarcely managing to control a wince as her head spun from the rapid movement. "How?"
"We stood to lose our most valuable Elite, but she lived." He pushed his chair back. "You should sleep, Sabrina. You still have much healing to do."
Sabrina blinked at his even tone. Only Giovanni could go from delivering a high compliment to delivering orders in scarcely a breath. "Yes, sir."
He stood, stretching his strong limbs. She realized he must have been sitting there for longer than just the scant minutes she'd been awake. "Do try to sleep. I will bring you dinner later this evening, if you are awake for it."
"I will try to be."
He smirked. "I believe that."
As she released the telekinetic compulsions that held her upright, exhaustion hit her at once. She barely lay down in time for her vision to blur as she watched Giovanni walk out through the door, and in scarcely a minute, was breathing the depth of sleep.
When Giovanni returned later she had not awoken, but he stepped into her room and set the tray of toast and soup down beside her bed anyway, then went to close the door.
He had said that Team Rocket was lucky, but in truth, she was lucky too. He, personally, had found her buried beneath the rubble of Silph Company's Headquarters, her body held down by the remains of a marble sculpture of Moltres. (He refused to consider the irony.) When he first checked, he had not felt a pulse, and that had concerned him enough that it took the faint, erratic beat to shock him into realizing that he had dug his two forefingers into her jaw in an effort to find evidence of her heartbeat.
Time had been of the essence—Saffron City, as used as it was to loud noise and commotion, could hardly ignore that the centerpiece building of their business district had just exploded. By blind luck Giovanni had found the clasp for one of Sabrina's PokeBalls as he and Nidoking rummaged in the rubble, and he was able to free Kadabra, who hardly had to be ordered. The Pokemon had handed his spoon to Giovanni, psychically pulled Sabrina from under the stone, and teleported them all back to Celadon City before the police arrived. They had been fortunate. Ten minutes more with her back and head under the weight of the stone and she might not have survived.
Giovanni knew that there had been at least five Rocket grunts in the same area that he could have dug out as well, but could not bring himself to care.
He watched Sabrina as she slept and wondered if he had indeed bruised her, scrabbling for her pulse. Carefully he smoothed her dark hair back from her jawline, shaking off the ash and stone splinters, until he saw that indeed her jaw was mottled by a dark bruise where his fingers had dug for her heartbeat. Well, she would ascribe it to the blast, and so would he, if asked.
He had told her that the doctors had been concerned about her back because of the possibility of paralysis, which she'd been fortunate to escape. He had not mentioned the ruptured discs and fractured vertebrae. Even with the powers of psychic healing which had eased her concussion and coma faster than any of the doctors had expected, Sabrina would be bedridden for several days more.
Tomorrow, he decided, he would bring to the sick bay his mother's collection of texts on psychic theory. He had invited Sabrina to his personal library to read them, but she had only once taken him up on it. Now would be as well a time as ever for her to study the books that he had seen tempted her, and it would ease her boredom and irritation at being confined to her bed—not to mention that it would distract her from her shame and self-censure.
Giovanni felt tiredness pass over him and sat up with a groan. It had been three days since he himself had slept, and he was beginning to reach the limits of caffeine and chemical stimulants. He felt the inanity and impropriety he'd fought for the last seventy hours bubbling at his seams and ruthlessly disciplined himself.
He stood up and stretched again, looking down at his sleeping Elite. "Good night, Sabrina," he said quietly, and with a furtive glance at the door, reached out to smooth her hair off of her cheek again. He took in her pale skin, her dark hair, and the lividity of her jaw where he had bruised her in a desperate search for her heartbeat. "We are both lucky," he whispered.
He crossed the room quietly, opened and shut the door with barely a click, and disappeared to the dark, foreign warmth of his own bed.