In the campsite everything was packed away, including the now dry tent cover. Ash, Misty and Brock sat in a small circle with a cooking pot and fire ready for lunch, except for one tiny problem. Team Rocket still wasn't back yet. Ash tapped the cover of his watch and peered closely at it.
"Where are they? We were meant to meet here an hour ago."
As if on cue, Jessie and James fell through the bushes onto the floor looking like they'd been dragged through a pile of dust. The trio jumped up, shocked, and stared at the villains. Without looking up, Jessie passed the drawstring Berry bag over to Brock. Brock shook the bag and Misty looked at it intrigued.
"But… that's hardly even half the bag full."
Jessie got to her feet and glared daggers at the water type trainer.
"Well I'm sorry we're not amazing at this!"
Misty held up her hands defensively and sat back down. Brock poured Team Rocket's share into the pot and placed it over the fire, stirring it occasionally. Despite the teamwork they'd all put in the night before, everything was still quite awkward between the two groups. Ash peered into the pot and watched the bigger berries floating round while he talked to Team Rocket.
"So do you guys eat that little every night?"
Jessie and James let their angry defensive guise down and looked at each other with sad faces. Team Rocket had been together so long they could both remember the bad times, and how sometimes, quite often in fact, they went without food at all. James began to doodle on the ground with his finger, not wanting to make eye contact.
"Well actually, we don't normally get as much time to look for food as we did today."
The trio looked at Team Rocket then at each other. Before they had never really had an interest in the criminals, but come to think of it, none of them really knew anything about them. Misty looked back at Jessie and James.
"So you guys don't get to eat much?"
Jessie frowned and looked at Misty as though she was an idiot.
"You think we steal food for fun? Anything that we can sell for money, maybe, but food is just worth stealing to eat."
Brock began to pour the food into bowls, handing one to everyone, Team Rocket sharing one again.
"Why don't you use the money you get from stealing to buy food then?"
Jessie and James went bright red and looked away again. They both knew they were awful at stealing, but letting the Twerps know would be a big step down for them. It would be plain embarrassing. Jessie scratched the back of her head.
"Well, things worth much money are quite hard to come across. We can't even afford to stay inside the towns most days so we just camp the balloon just outside them."
The conversation seemed to be getting a little too personal, so the group quietened down and just finished eating. After Brock had packed away the bowls and cooking equipment, Ash stood up and looked seriously at Team Rocket.
"We have to move on today, so I'm going to get Pikachu and Meowth."
Jessie and James nodded, they knew if Meowth woke up on his own there he may cause trouble. Ash gathered his backpack and jogged to the Pokemon centre. He walked into the lobby of the centre and looked around. It was as quiet as the last time he'd gone there. Ash was happy to see the lights were on still, at least the power line was still working. Nurse Joy came out of the door behind the counter and saw Ash.
"Oh good, you're here. I was getting worried you weren't coming back."
Ash shook his head.
"Oh no, I'd never leave Pikachu."
Nurse Joy nodded, smiling at the young trainer. She beckoned to the back room.
"Come with me, the Meowth is awake but I'm not sure if it's completely healed yet, but it should be able to do that in the wild with a little rest."
Ash followed Nurse Joy down the corridor and into one of the back rooms. The first thing he saw when he entered the room was Meowth and Pikachu both curled up on the pillow of the bed. It was an adorable sight, and despite wondering why they weren't tearing each other apart, Ash could hardly bring himself to wake them. He placed a hand on Pikachu who slowly woke up and looked up at Ash. It's face changed from sleepy to joyful within the space of a few seconds and Pikachu leapt up at Ash, sitting back on his shoulder. With the warmth of Pikachu gone, Meowth woke up too and peered up at Ash. Nurse Joy stood in the corner of the room. Meowth nervously swallowed and looked back to Ash.
Ash blinked. That wasn't right, normally Meowth talked, maybe Meowth hit himself on the head a little too hard. Nurse Joy headed for the door.
"I understand you found this pokemon unconscious, so it might take a few minutes to trust you enough to take it back to where you found it. I'll leave you alone for a while. When you think it's ready, the door out isn't locked so you can just leave. Thank you for coming."
Ash nodded to the Nurse Joy as she left and looked back at Meowth. He crouched by the side of the bed and tried to see if Meowth remembered him.
"Meowth? I'm Ash, do you remember me?"
Meowth sat upright as normal, shaking of his 'pokemon-like' guise. He glared at Ash.
"Course I remember you Twerp! Pikachu here explained everyting, but it'd be suspicious if started talking in front of dat Nurse Joy lady."
Ash jumped back in shock, surprised by Meowth's sudden humanisation. Ash stood up again, keeping eye contact with the cat pokemon.
"Well the others are outside, Jessie and James too. You look better so I'd better take you to them."
Meowth glared again, slightly embarrassed at having to be picked up from the centre by the Twerp like a child at a Daycare. He shakily went to stand up, stood still for about three seconds before he became dizzy and fell flat on his face on the bed sheets. Ash looked at Pikachu, who looked quite worried. Ash leaned forwards again, keeping at cautious distance from the Team Rocket member.
"Are you okay? Do you want me to carry you?"
Meowth looked up, looking disgusted and appalled. He forced himself to his feet and pointed threateningly at Ash.
"Don't you dare, I still have my dignity!"
He took one step forwards and was instantly back on his face again. He clutched tightly to the sheets for a moment, almost worried he'd fall straight off the bed. For the second time that day, Meowth swallowed his pride and looked up again, this time pitiful and embarrassed.
"Well… dis is gonna be just between us, right?"
Ash nodded and slowly picked Meowth up in his arms. Meowth relaxed slightly and sighed. This trainer was gentle and careful, no wonder he had so many pokemon friends. Meowth shook out thoughts like that, this was the Twerp. Ash opened the door and walked out of the pokemon centre, thanking Nurse Joy as he passed.
When Ash reached the campsite he found Jessie and James already waiting to see their team-mate, both looking quite eager and happy to see him alive and well. James ran forwards to take Meowth out of Ash's arms.
"Thank goodness you're alright."
Jessie stepped forwards and leaned over James's shoulder.
"We were really worried about you."
Meowth blinked a couple of times, he never knew they cared, well really cared.
"You were? Aw, James don't cry on me, ya know wet fur stinks."
Team Rocket embraced and Ash and the gang couldn't help but feel they'd done the right thing despite everything between them. James set Meowth on the floor after a lot of persuading and the two groups turned to say farewell. Jessie awkwardly shook Misty's hand, James shook Ash's, rubbing tears away from his cheeks. Meowth stood unsteadily and Pikachu jumped down from Ash's shoulder. They shook paws and Meowth smiled faintly.
"I hope you realise, this changes nothing. We'll be back and we will catch you."
Pikachu shrugged and tried to forget that this nice Team Rocket was only temporary. Meowth turned back to his partners, ready to go. Ash and his friends watched as Team Rocket walked, quite slowly due to Meowth, into the woods.
The instant they were out of sight, Meowth groaned and sat on the ground, still aching like hell. James bent down and smiled at the cat pokemon, still very pleased Meowth was alright.
"Do you want me to carry you?"
Meowth smiled weakly up at his friends."Please."
James picked up Meowth and cradled him in his arms. Meowth looked at his two friends.
"Could we take a break before chasing dem again?"
Jessie nodded and smiled.
"I think we need a break. And just maybe, they do too."
Team Rocket smiled at each other, this time they got lucky, but next time they'd have to be more careful. It was nice though to have a hiatus and think of the Twerps as friends… if just for a little while.
This took too long D:
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