A/N: I know my updates were supposed to be more fequent but my beta forgot to send this before she went on holiday for a week so I didn't get it until yesterday and I had a sleepover last night. Currently, my family are watching the Grand National, the big horse race in the UK at Aintree Racecourse, which is in Liverpool, so I am using the time to publish this quickly. The rewrite of Chapter 7, now Chapter 5 is also complete, so be sure to go back and read that too!

Also don't forget to vote in my poll on your favorite Pokémon Rival, currently Gary is winning.

That's all for now, Princess Tiger.

Chapter 25 – Bound to Return

"I'll be gone, in a day or two…!" the brunette sang joyfully as she pranced about her shared room in the Oakdale Pokémon Centre.

"You really can't hit that note," her travelling companion, a green-haired man, commented dryly.

"Like you can do any better," May retorted huffily.

"I'll have you know I was a choir boy when I lived in Sinnoh," he answered back cockily.

"Prove it," she challenged.

Drew sighed and stood. He scowled as the next song came on the radio, but nevertheless, began to sing.

"Take me now, baby, here as I am," he sang, his infamous smirk playing on his lips as May's jaw dropped. "Hold me close, try and understand."

May scowled, knowing she had lost; Drew was somehow comparable to Patti Smith. Argh, she hated it when he was right, but she had to give it to him, he had the voice of an angel.

"Desire is hunger, is the fire I breathe, love is the banquet on which we feed. Come on now, try and understand, the way I feel when I'm in your hands. Take my hand, come under cover, they can't hurt you now, can't hurt you now, can't hurt you now. Because the night-"

"You win," May shouted, successfully cutting him of., "You have the voice of an angel and I sound like a strangled Skitty."

"You don't sound like a strangled Skitty, you're just not as good as me or the guy from A-ha," he told her simply as he sat back down to pull on his black shoes.

"Thanks Drew," she answered dryly.

"Now, we should probably get going, I want to make it to Petalburg before dinner time."

"Good idea," she said, clipping the pokéball she kept under her pillow for safety onto her belt.

"Let's go!" the pair said in unison.

**~**~**

Mars groaned as she slowly opened her eyes. Her head was throbbing – she must have hit it. Her blurry vision slowly focused and she could make out the rough shapes of the room she was in.

In front of her, she could make out the shape of three human figures, two of which appeared to be sleeping. The other was a pink haired woman, watching her with curiosity.

"Where am I?" Mars asked dazedly.

"On an airship, headed for Kanto," she answered, looking as though she was fighting hard to give out minimal information.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"I'm Jessie, and I helped bust you out of prison," the woman answered.

"I'm Mars," Mars said. "Why did you guys knock us out to bust us out of prison?"

"We didn't, you got hit by a guard's tranquilliser dart."

Mars frowned slightly. "All three of us?"

"No, just you - the others are up front talking with the commanders," Jessie said, and Mars noticed a tone of jealous displeasure creep into her tone.

"Oh," Mars said, and turned to look at Jessie's sleeping companions, a blue haired man and a Meowth. Then she turned to look back at Jessie... she had thought she looked familiar.

"Hey, aren't you those Rocket goons who kept messing up for Saturn?"

"We aren't goons!" she defended hotly.

"Alright," Mars retorted.

The pair sat for a little while, in a silence that was only broken by the gentle snores of the Meowth.

"So, why am I here?" Mars asked Jessie.

"I believe the Boss has a proposal for you and the other two," Jessie said, as her tone adopted a slightly mysterious quality.

"I wonder what Giovanni wants with us," Mars mused.

Jessie shrugged and stood.

"Come on," she said, "I'll take you up front so you can see your friends."

Mars nodded, not bothering to correct her, but Jupiter and Saturn were definitely not her friends. She followed Jessie, staying a few paces behind her as they walked down the small corridor. It seemed to be made entirely of a badly polished steel, that seemed to show the mirror images as blurry and distorted. It was completely devoid of any furnishing whatsoever, other than the fluorescent ceiling lights and the small vending machine that Jessie stopped at, about halfway down the corridor.

"Water?" she asked Mars. She nodded, only now noticing how incredibly dry her throat was.

Jessie slid a golden token, with a simple 'R' on it into the machine and pressed several buttons. A 'thud' was heard as a bottle dropped down and Jessie took it out of the bottom compartment and handed it to Mars.

The redhead smiled softly at the kind gesture and gladly took a long drink of the clear liquid.

"Thanks," she said, walking quicker so she was alongside Jessie.

"No problem," she said, brushing off the comment.

"Jessie," Mars began, glancing sideways at her to meet her eye, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"Best last line of a movie ever, huh?" Jessie answered with a rare warm smile.

"Yeah," Mars said slightly wistfully, following Jessie through the heavy metal door at the end of the corridor.

**~**~**

"How're your mum and dad?" a slightly shaken Cassie asked as her friend entered the small second-floor lounge in the impressively sized Saturn house.

"They're fine," Alex said simply, handing her a steaming cup of coffee. "Dad did a check and Team Rocket only managed to kidnap three Lucarios, I think it was mainly the shock."

"Yeah," she answered, turning to stare at the gently flickering flames of the fire.

She was glad she and Alex had managed to escape the train, and get to the port unnoticed by Team Rocket. Though she was amazed at how they had been able to do it. But then, no more than five minutes after arriving at the expansive Lucario Reserve, there was a huge explosion in the North-East sector followed by a rather large attack. Cassie was glad no-one was really hurt.

"What are Team Rocket doing in Sinnoh?" Alex asked suddenly, breaking the silence that had formed.

Cassie shrugged. "Maybe it's part of a bigger plan – Lance has become more involved in this whole G-men thing a lot recently, Ma was telling me."

Alex nodded as he processed this. "Maybe they're preparing for something."

Cassie's eyes widened. "The Champions' League!" she exclaimed, making Alex jump.

"Of course," Alex said slowly, a hint of excitement creeping into his stoic demeanour. "If all media attention was focused on that, then Team Rocket would be able to coincide anything they're planning so that it would go virtually unnoticed."

Cassie's magenta eyebrows plunged as she frowned for a moment. "But if the thing they're planning is that big, then wouldn't the media notice anyway?"

"Think about it, Cassie," Alex said, his normally cold blue eyes glistening with anticipation. "If it happened at the same time as the League, but nowhere near Saffron, then not only would Team Rocket be able to pull of whatever they're planning with little media attention, but all the most powerful trainers will be competing and therefore unable to stop them."

Cassie smiled. "They don't call you a genius for nothing."

**~**~**

"Wow," Misty breathed as she admired the view of the expansive island before her. A look of awe graced her features as she turned to face the smiling blue-haired girl who stood beside her on the ship's deck.

"Dawn, Sinnoh is beautiful," she said.

"It is, isn't it?" Dawn answered as she admired the clouded contours of Mount Coronet, the towering centrepiece of the Sinnoh region.

"It's so different from Kanto," Ash added from the other side of Misty.

"Kanto and Johto are warmer," Dawn stated, observing the light tan that had developed on her fair skin while she had been travelling through the two connected regions.

"Not as hot as Hoenn," Ash said.

"The regions are all so different," Misty said, turning to gaze back at the peaks of Mount Coronet, "it's no wonder there are so many different pokémon."

"True, Mist," Ash said, following her gaze. "What are your favourite regions?"

"I'm a home girl at heart, so mine's Kanto," Misty said. "Though Sinnoh looks like it's coming in second - it's definitely the most diverse."

"And I'm a home girl too," Dawn said, "so it's Sinnoh my first."

"What about you, Ash?" Misty asked, tilting her head to look at her dark-haired friend.

"I don't know," he said with a sigh, leaning further forward on the ship's railings. "I love all the regions I've been to, all the different pokémon and friends I've met."

"Come on, Ash, pick one," Dawn encouraged in a slightly teasing tone.

"If I had to pick, I would say Johto. Not quite sure why, but I like it."

The trio lapsed into a companionable silence, until Brock approached them, followed by Pikachu, Piplup and Azumaril, who were all carrying sandwiches for their trainers.

"Lunch!" Ash exclaimed happily.

"And you've just enough time to eat it before we dock in Twinleaf," Brock said as he leant back against the railing, his own sandwich at the ready. "Excited?" he asked Misty, Ash, and Dawn who were now greedily tucking into their sandwiches.

"Yeah!" Ash shouted eagerly, spraying a mouthful of crumbs over the deck and Pikachu.

"Pika-pika," the Electric-type protested, scrabbling at the pieces of food on his clean fur with his paws.

**~**~**

May shrieked as the powerful Shadow Ball passed within millimetres of her face. Drew seized hold of her wrist and pulled her back just in time to save her from another of the swirling purple masses that was launched their way.

"Are you okay?" he asked concernedly.

May nodded dumbly as she enlarged a pokéball, ready to fend off the three crooks' Mightyena. Just as she raised her hand to throw it and unleash her powerful Blaziken's wrath upon the unsuspecting Dark-types, Drew's hand shot out and caught her wrist.

"May, let me handle this," he said with his ever-present air of almost unshakable calmness. May scowled slightly, she found it irritating that even after travelling with him for almost two years, he still didn't seem to respect her ability in battling quite as much as she had thought. Wrenching her hand from his grasp, she launched the pokéball in the direction of the Mightyena with a defiant cry of,

"Fire Spin!"

Just as the pokéball opened, a vicious torrent of fire streamed out of its depths and encircled the Mightyena, inducing a howl of agony from the three Bite Pokémon.

"Roserade, go!" Drew shouted, releasing his oldest companion with a habitual flourish at the exact same moment that Blaziken came hurtling from his ball, gathering an impressive amount of speed as he tore across the grassy path, his claws glowing light blue from the friction they were garnering as he dragged them across the floor.

Before the central Mightyena could react, Blaziken swung his arms up and leapt into the air with enough force to carry the large pokémon with him.

"Shadow Ball!" two of the red-hood figures commanded and the two Mightyena on the ground began charging up their powerful balls of swirling purple energy.

"Solar Beam!" Drew ordered quickly, taking advantage of the sunny Hoenn weather. Roserade raised both her coloured rose bouquets and began to collect bright white solar energy in a ball above her head.

May glanced at Drew briefly and he nodded.

"Now!"

Upon their trainers' signal, Roserade released the energy in a bright white beam a split second before the Mightyena launched their Shadow Balls in Blaziken's direction. At the same instant, Blaziken flung the Mightyena he had carried into the air with him towards the ground so it collided with the Shadow Balls, the Solar Beam and its two other team mates in a magnificent explosion that seemed to echo on the empty Route 102.

With a swift somersault, Blaziken landed beside Roserade and let out a victorious cry.

"We'll get you next time," one of the figures snarled with a warning as he and his two team mates returned their defeated Mightyena.

"Mark my word," he added viciously from over his shoulder as they quickly retreated into the bushes.

May let out a sigh of relief as she returned Blaziken in a flash of red light.

"I don't understand," she said as she looked at the patch of bushes their attackers had vanished into.

"What?" asked Drew.

"I thought they disbanded," she told him, her light brown eyebrows plunging as she frowned.

"Who?" he asked, mimicking her action and frowning slightly as he returned his Grass-type.

"Team Magma."