Disclaimer - I don't own Pokemon. According to what I've heard about the new seasons and voice actors, it sounds like I wouldn't want to anyway.

Author - Chibi / Warlordess


Title - "Like Subtitles"

Summary - Ash and friends help Jessie, James, and Meowth rejoin society. A dash of AaML, flavor to taste.


Characters / Ages -

Ash / 16

Misty / 16

Brock / 18

Dawn / 12

May / 14

Tracey / 17

Jessie / 21

James / 21


Ash stared at everyone who had gathered around the long table. He and all of his former traveling companions (save for Max, who had not been available to attend) were sitting around him, though the nostalgia was laced with something closely related to irony. Or something. He wasn't really sure.

The lot of them had all gotten together for a grand occasion of sorts, returning to Pallet Town and now hosting a small party at a local restaurant called "Itadakimasu". They had made special reservations for the celebration and - oh, you want to know what they were celebrating? Well. . .

"Man, I can't believe we won't be chasing you twerps around anymore!" James gave a dramatic laugh, waving an arm around as the other held up the menu for him to examine it.

"You know," Brock was the first one to come up with a response, "you seem to be taking the whole 'kicked-out-on-your-arses' thing rather well."

"Of coise!" Meowth exclaimed with his strange accent. "We's was too good for da boss anywois!"

"Which is why," Jessie eyed the feline with what was perceived to be a glare, "we won't be referring to him as 'da boss' anymore, right? Idiot cat. . ." She scoffed, "Besides, it had to come at some point or another. We never won a damn thing that he could use and he never would have promoted us anyway." She shrugged as she finished speaking. A few years ago she would have been far more furious about the whole thing but, after realizing that there was something she could do right, Jessie had learned not to hold such a useless grudge. She wasn't so bad as a Coordinator, was she?

"Anyway, if you twerps are paying for this dinner, why should we really care right now? So far, we've been in less debt now that we're out on our own compared to when we were part of Team Rocket!" James gave another careless laugh before it caught in his throat and he scrutinized the group of adolescents before him, "Uh, you are paying for it, right?"

"Yeah," it was Ash's turn to step in, and he did so with a sigh.

"You know what though?" May asked, glaring at the trio of former baddies before her, though it was more of an indignant flush than any actual anger. "I think that you guys should at least have the decency to learn our names after what we're doing for you. I mean, what reason do you have to call us twerps anyway? We're not that young anymore!"

"Well, most of us anyway. . ." But Dawn wasn't going to let that confuse them. "Not that I like it either! Yeah, you should learn our names! I mean, especially you, Jessie! How many years have you trained personally against May and I during a Pokemon contest?"

"Awe," and Jessie looked almost friendly towards them all, "but you've always been the twerps! How could we ever call you anything else?" And if the whole thing wasn't still a little bit awkward for them, she probably would have leaned over and ruffled Dawn's hair.

"I agree," Tracey noted almost absentmindedly, though nobody knew who he was supposed to be agreeing with, and his sketchbook was out the next moment. He liked to distract himself with artwork both when he was bored and when he wanted to keep busy during a useless pursuit. Ash wasn't sure which of the two options fit this case but he did recognize when his own feathers were being rumpled.

"It's not that hard, you three," he finally told them. They stared at him in shock. He had been the twerp before any of the others! It was practically a term of endearment, and now he wanted them to just get rid of it? How could he possibly disrespect the shared history between all of them? "It's not like trigonometry or physics. There aren't any long equations or anything to learn here. It should be fine. Just repeat after me. A-s-h. Ash. See? S'not that hard. I've been saying it just fine for eleven years now. . ."

This news was met with confused glances from all directions. He was sixteen years old after all.

"What? I had trouble with my 's' words. . ." He mumbled with an uncomfortable flush.

"Gee, now why is that so easy for me to believe?" Came a voice he hadn't heard all evening.

Everyone turned to face the redhead at the end of the table, but she ignored the unanimous stare and took a drink from her glass of lemonade. She seemed disgruntled but had kept silent about whatever was upsetting her so far. And Ash knew when not to ask questions that would get a mallet to the mouth.

So he chose to ignore her for the time being, something that only seemed to aggravate her further if that murderous stare was any indication.

"Anyway. . ." Brock started, interrupted for a few seconds as a nameless waiter placed their appetizers on the table before them, "If you guys think it'll be too hard for you to just do it on your own, we could try something else."

"Like what?" Dawn asked, curious as to his plan. And she wasn't the only one. Even Misty had decided this might be worth hearing, watching as he picked up the three platters of food that they were all supposed to share and handing one to Ash, who sat to his right, and May, who sat to his left. Tracey stopped sketching for a second, seemingly eager to hear him out.

"Behavior modification. It's a tool used in theraputical treatment." He further explained by nodding to the dishes now held practically underneath the table. "We ask you our names and everytime you get a correct answer, you earn a reward. You guys are hungry, aren't you?"

This question was answered not with words, but with the drool slowly beginning to fall from Jessie, James, and Meowth's mouths.

"Okay then, let's give it a shot. And we'll start with Ash, seeing as he already spelled his name out for you." Not that it was that difficult to spell a three letter word but, hey, Ash would accept any compliments he could get. "A-s-h. A, not as in 'ah' but as in 'at'. Just without the 't'. Then add 'sh'. Jessie, this should be easy for you considering how many times you've told James and Meowth to 'shut up.'"

However, the former Team Rocket did not take well to being treated like children. They were hungry, hadn't eaten in two or so days actually, and wouldn't turn down this free dinner. But what else could they do?

"Dammit, don't make us steal your Pokemon!" James stated firmly.

"And who would you give them to?" May asked. She wasn't sure if she was trying to prove a point or if she was really curious about the answer they would give.

"Nobody; we's could uise 'em faws oiselves!" Meowth commented fiercely.

"Good luck," Tracey started again, apparently entertained now by their (empty) threats, "but none of us have our Pokemon tonight. We left them somewhere top secret. I doubt you three would be able to find them. Especially if you tried." For their greatest failures had taken place when they were trying too hard to succeed. The three of them always did better when they were stumbling and fumbling around.

As it turned out, their super-secret hiding place was with Ash's mom back at his house. Not really much of a secret to it, but the restaurant was a bit classier than most they'd been to and didn't allow Pokemon who weren't in their Pokeballs. And Ash had deemed it unfair that Pikachu would have to stay behind on his own, which meant that all of them had left their Pokemon behind.

"Crap. . ." Jessie sighed, arms crossed and one toe twitching, tapping the ground unconsciously to show her impatience. "Just give us the food, twerp, and nobody gets hurt!"

"Ah, ah, ah. . . Say it."

Eyes crossed as proof of his intense concentration, James decided to give it a try. How else would he eat?

"Ah. . . Ae. . . Au. . .sh. . ." He tried again, tongue firm, and went for it. "Asuka."

"What?" Ash asked, eyebrow quirked. Who the hell was Asuka?

"No, wait, I meant to say A - Ar. . . Arceous?"

"Are you kidding me? It's three letters! One syllable! It's not that hard a name!"







"Well then I give up!" James drew a deep breath as though clearly exhausted from overworking himself. "I guess you'll always be the twerp to me," he ended with a shrug.

"And I guess you three don't plan on eating dinner again tonight," Tracey warned them, the first to say it out loud though everyone was thinking it.

"No way, we're getting that meal you promised us! Now hand it over, Ah. . . A. . . lison?" Jessie tried next.

"What is with all of these girl's names? I dressed up as a girl once, and only because the Gym Leader wouldn't let me battle for my badge any other way!" Ash replied frustratedly, referring to Ericka.

". . . Bet you liked it though. . ." Misty commented under her breath, though the whole table was so silent after Team Rocket's latest failure and Ash's outburst that everyone heard it. Ash sputtered, trying to find a comeback, while May and Dawn sniggered to themselves, wishing to goodness that they could have been there for that.

"Awe, but you made such a cute twerpette, even if it only lasted for one day." Jessie and James said together, reminded of how they had been the ones to help Ash into his costume at the time. However the term they'd used to refer to the female counterparts of Ash's group did not approve of that.

"We're not twerpettes! My name is Dawn!"

"And my name has always been, and will always be, May." You know, unless somebody was watching the series in another country. Then their names could have been Hikari and Haruka, or Aurore and Flora, or Lucia and Maike. . . Misty did not partake of this indignance. Perhaps she had been the twerpette for so long that she just didn't care, or perhaps she had something else so important on her mind that she wasn't even listening.

"Twerpette number two?" James said, pointing at May in question.

"Numbah t'ree!" Meowth yelped, his claw in Dawn's direction almost incriminatingly.

May and Dawn turned to look at each other and sighed. It was bad enough that they were associated with Ash as twerpettes. But it was even worse when they had been reduced to a number. Still they knew they had to stand their ground. They would never get anywhere with these idiots - I mean, with their new allies - if they didn't.

"No, listen closely," And May placed a palm to her chest and sounded her name out, "M-a-y. M-ae, only with a 'y'. May, like the month."

"Oh, yeah, me too! D-a-w-n. D-awn. Like fawn, but replace the 'f' with a 'd'."

"Mocosa numero dos?"

"Mocosa numero t'res!"

"What the hell? Did you guys just go spanish on us?" Ash gaped open-mouthed. He hadn't known Team Rocket was bilingual!

"Huh? What are you talking about, mocosos?" Jessie asked, then, acknowledging her mistake, "Mocciosi?" Nope, try again. "Bobos?" Nada. "Twerp. I meant twerp."

"No, seriously, what languages were those?" Tracey asked, sounding impressed.

"What are you talking about? We've been speaking english this whole time!" James commented. Someone was about to correct him until another point was made.

"But isn't this show japanese?" Dawn asked, brow furrowed. She was pretty sure. . .

"So what?" Team Rocket asked unanimously.

"So. . . shouldn't we be speaking in japanese?"

"Unfortunately Dawn, the english version of the series is more well-known. Some fans have researched the roots of the Pokemon anime, but most never cared enough to do so. That being the case, our english names are more commonly used. So apparently we're english here." Brock said, one finger poised in midair as he sounded like a bad Wikipedia definition.

"Like fish and chips and cheerio and all that?" May asked, eyes wide in wonder. She couldn't wait to call Drew on her Nav and tell him! No, wait, this isn't a contestshipping story. She meant she couldn't wait to call her parents and tell them. Yeah. Her parents. That's what she meant.

"You know what? I could go for a bowl of cheerios, especially the honey nut flavor. Mmm. . ." Ash smiled fondly at the thought before realizing something. "Hey, Brock, I get why you won't let Team Rocket eat, but why can't we?"

"Good point, Ash." Brock nodded in approval. "Go ahead and start on what you've got in your hands. Then pass the tray around to everyone except for Team Rocket." And he showed the younger trainer by doing the same thing with the tray held in his own hand.

"Hey, that's not fair, you twerps! You promised us a free meal and we want it now!" James said with about as much self-assertiveness as he could muster.

"All of you are acting like such idiots. . ." Misty muttered next, clearly not happy with the turn of conversation. However, if her outburst was supposed to stop the stupidity from going on, she would be sorely disappointed during the course of the next few minutes.

"Hey," Jessie whispered, a hand cupped to her mouth as though wanting to keep it private. But everyone wanted to know what she was going to ask next so the room was obscenely silent, "what is wrong with the original twerpette? Did she and the twerp have a lover's quarrel?"

"We're not lovers!" Both aforementioned teenagers reached their feet in record time, palms slammed on the tabletop and sharp tempos and glares aimed in her direction.

"And I'm not 'the original' anything, but first and foremost a twerpette!" Misty shouted, finally losing all patience. May and Dawn cheered in the background at the knowledge that she was now on their side when it came to this particular disagreement. Backup cavalry was always a good thing when facing warfare. "I'm sixteen years old now, I'm officially registered as the Cerulean City Gym Leader, I'm a sensational sister-"

"-Did Daisy and the others finally approve of you, then?" Ash asked, as though he didn't want to live throughout the rest of the night. "Because last time I checked, they were still calling you a runt. And scrawny. Don't forget scrawny." He nodded to himself, not noticing as Brock and May shuffled their seats slightly farther away from him just in case Misty started throwing things. Glasses, plates, hot platters, knives. . .

"Actually, I'll take those for you. . ." Tracey said, thinking ahead and removing aforementioned knives from next to Misty's still-empty plate. She glared murderously at him as he did so, but it was more a show of how purely aggravated she was. Tracey hadn't really done anything wrong, had in fact been the most tolerable person at the table all evening. He definitely shouldn't have been the victim of her wrath.

"Ah, I see what the twerpette's problem is! She's just hungry!" And James pointed at her empty plate as well. May seemed to think this information plausible and automatically handed her tray to Dawn, who skipped her serving and handed it over to Misty.

"I am not hungry," which was interrupted by her empty stomach growling pitifully, "uh, not just hungry! I'm angry because Mr. Pokemon Master here can't afford to say more than five words to his supposed best friend even though he hasn't seen her in almost two years! And I'm not a twerpette! Show my reputation some respect!"

"Wait, her-who? I thought you were my best friend, Misty!" He exclaimed in shock and, quite possibly, sadness at this rejection.

"Ugh. . . I was talking about me, you moron. I was speaking in third person though so it sounds like I'm talking about a her. But I was definitely talking about me."

"But I said way more than five words to you today! I know I did! Let's see. . ." And he drew a finger to his chin as he thought over what had happened earlier that day around noontime, "Hm, yeah, mom came and woke me up early because you had called from the route connecting Viridian and Pallet and said you were almost here. . . I was eating breakfast and then you knocked on the door. . . And when I saw you, I remember it clearly! I said, 'ey; ish ou, Isshy! Assup?'" Which was translated to, 'Hey, it's you, Misty! What's up?'

"You know, he's right, Twerpette. That is clearly six words." James nodded with his arms crossed again, and then he faltered, though nobody was sure if it was because of the glare Misty threw him or if it was because he had realized something about the original language Ash had been attempting to speak with his mouth full at the time, "Well, sort of."

Misty was livid, though. Call her a Twerpette, a runt, scrawny, whatever! But she couldn't believe that Ash would have such trouble greeting her clearly without toast crumbs spitting from his mouth! Dare she remind him - again - that it had been nearly two years since they'd last seen each other in person?

But, before she'd gotten the chance, everyone at the table witnessed Jessie, James, and Meowth's turn to have their stomachs grumble in despair. It was so sad that Ash couldn't help but sympathize, being such a fan of food. And before anybody could say something to stop him or remind him of their plan, he had finally stopped pouring appetizers onto his tray and handed it to Jessie, who was sitting across from him.

Jessie's eyes widened a bit, then rounded, before starting to water with baby tears.

"Don't. You. Dare." Misty said, holding up her fork threateningly, obviously not forgetting her own emotional turmoil like the rest of them. Ash had ruined the plan, after all! Now how were they going to get Team Rocket to call them by their names? Then Misty drew their attention away from that problem for a split second, stabbing repeatedly at one of the rangoon wontons sitting on her plate.

"Thanks, Twerp!" Jessie and James shouted unanimously, looking like they wanted to wrap their arms around each other in an emotionally-wrecked hug.

"Yeah! We's knews ya had a goid heart!" Meowth said, taking initiative and swiping up the tray that had been abandoned between Misty and Dawn.

"Hey, don't. . . ! Ugh, nevermind. . ." Dawn huffed but didn't press the subject further, much like the rest of them. Misty was back to being frustratingly silent and May seemed to remain in a state of shock over Ash screwing up their plan.

During the next few minutes, they all began to eat in awkward silence. The waiter finally braved the walk into their private room, refilling drinks and telling them that their main courses would be up in a matter of minutes. Their group demolished the appetizers in a hurry, wanting to ensure they had space for all of the plates soon to be filling up the table again.

Ash, of course, at more than the rest of them, only rivaled by Team Rocket. But even they couldn't handle his iron stomach, sitting back and watching as he stuffed two wonton, two shrimp toast, and one spring roll into his mouth. All at once. Everyone seemed so appalled at this capability that they could only watch; well, except for Misty anyway.

"Geez, Ash, what is your problem?" She practically yelled, leaping to her feet in just a second. Nobody was quite sure if she was disgusted with his eating habits (you would think she'd be used to them by now) or if she was upset that he hadn't tried to resolve the obvious problem between them. Their lack of communication had not only angered her over the course of the past couple of years but it had also. . . scared her. Yes, there had been some phonecalls here and there, but they had diminished the longer the two of them were apart.

When she had left Ash in Johto and he had told her that there was no way it was a coincidence that he had met her rather than any other person, she had taken his words to heart. They had given her the extra ounce of courage to go home and face her next challenge, and also given her faith that he and Brock (but mostly Ash) would be there for her when she needed it. Somehow. Like when she had been kidnapped during the so-called Togepi Festival in Mirage Kingdom. He had immediately come to her rescue, hadn't he?

Now if something happened to her, she dared to wonder if he'd even bother to find out what the problem was at all. (Incidentally, hadn't he basically blown off her frustrations this very day?)

"Ou, Mishy, wash or pro'lem?" He shouted back at her, reaching his feet as well. She snapped back to reality at the acknowledgment of his response. Though she couldn't help but snort at him trying to fight her with his mouth full.

"Gee, Ash, have you regressed to your five year old self? You seem to be having a lot of trouble with those 's' words." She bit at him in anger. "And my problem happens to be that you're so selfish you can't see past your own stomach, can you? We practically sacrificed half of the appetizers for you! And not only that but there's still how you've been ignoring me all day long!" She hadn't meant to blow off that steam on him just yet. She was rather hoping he'd catch on on his own. . . But then again, when has Ash ever been capable of such a thing? It was better that she just tell him, right? Or scream it, seeing as he might not pay attention any other way. "I mean, when your mom invited me out here for this, I was so excited! And not because Team Rocket had finally decided to do something productive with their lives!"

"Hey!" Jessie, James, and Meowth shouted in unison.

"You guys know it's true anyway." Tracey shrugged, Brock and the girls nodding affirmatively in the background. "Now be quiet for a minute. It looks like they're making a breakthrough."

"I'll show you a breakthrough!" Misty shouted as she cracked her knuckles, but she forced herself to shake off her nerves. Screw it! Tracey was just as bad as the rest of them! Why should she have ever bothered to give him the benefit of the doubt, huh?

Ash finally swallowed the remains of what had been in his mouth, took a quick drink from his glass of soda, and stared back at her evenly.

"Okay. . . then why were you so excited?"

"Yeah, Misty, do tell." Brock said with a knowing grin. May and Dawn were eyeing her with sparkling irises, just as romantic as she, herself, had been when she was younger. But she was over that now. Ash had made her realize that those hopes for chivalrous princes who knew all the right words to say to a girl were just so. She had grown up since then, even if her childish feelings refused to disappear.

"I – I was. . . well, it was because. . ." She really, really didn't like the way that everyone was staring at her, including Team Rocket. Hadn't this whole thing been about them? When had it all turned around on her like this, and how hadn't she noticed it before now?

May seemed to realize that she had been backed into a corner, even if she had done herself in, and she wanted to be of assistance.

"Were you excited because you got to leave the Gym? Or because you got see your old friends? Did you miss us?" And she made sure to generalize the statements so Misty wouldn't be so flustered at admitting these things about Ash in particular.

"Yeah. . ." It took a lot out of her to admit it to such an audience, but at the same time she must have been relieved to get it off her chest. "I missed you. That's all. . . I just wish—"

"—Misty, did you think it was all my mom's idea to invite you here? That I didn't have an opinion at all? C'mon, like I said, you're my best friend! This was just the perfect excu – I mean, the perfect opportunity to get together with you. I could never forget about you, after all." Misty couldn't help the flush that lit up her cheeks. Jeezus, she felt like a streetlight. . . He had just admitted to wanting to see her. He had just admitted to this whole evening being an excuse to see her. Ash had just more or less confessed that she had been on his mind.

"Er, well, because you journeyed with me for over three years while Team Rocket chased us! I figured this whole thing would be just as amazing to you as it was to the rest of us. I mean, we all knew they'd have to quit sometime, right? But they never seemed to catch on! And now we're practically friends." The word seemed out of place, though he couldn't think of one to replace it. "Well, at least they won't be trying to steal our Pokemon anymore. Hopefully."

"Oh, we could be so lucky," Dawn sighed at the bothersome thought that Jessie, James, and Meowth definitely didn't need Giovanni backing them up in order to steal from anybody.

"Hey, would you twerps stop insulting us when we're right here?" James shouted furiously, while Jessie crossed her arms and her brow furrowed angrily on his lefthand side. Nevertheless, everyone else laughed it off, except for Misty. She was still standing at the end of the table, seemingly forgotten. It was alright for now. In fact, she rather preferred it this way. She had been reminded of the fact that she wasn't alone in feeling this way, whatever way it happened to be. Maybe those feelings could stick around but, either way, she knew for sure that Ash wouldn't let her be the only one who remembered that the two of them knew each other best. Friends forever, closer than anyone else.

It was not just a title, but proof that they'd gone through so much together, even if nobody else knew or cared. She was alright with keeping it a secret.


Notes – Huh, that ending was a little. . . eh. Well, whatever. I still sort of like it, even if that wasn't where I was going at all in the beginning. I see that I spiraled way off course somewhere in the middle. Please ignore that. Or you can go ahead and appreciate it. There's a whole series of dialogue that is basically considered crack, which is exciting for me since I don't think I've ever written something that I could call a crack fic before. I hope everything returned to semi-normal after that though. Lol.

This was supposed to be written for my birthday – (last Wednesday, by the by, so where are all of my presents?) – but a lot of things got in the way of my finishing it, including laziness, extra hours picked up at work, school getting back in session for the fall, and even now, I'm actually sick with a stomach virus that seems to be going around. Ew. . .

Please R&R!