September 11, 2001 & February 3, 2002

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I don't own Team Rocket or any of the original Pokémon characters.  However, Neko-chan, Galaxia, Chan-saw, and Kiosuke are mine.

A Flu Good Rockets

By Nichole (Neko-chan) Johnson

PART FIVE

When Neko-chan and Kiosuke finally emerged from the woods, they were greeted with the welcome sight of Chan-saw.

"Let us go, you losers!"

As well as the Twerp Trio bound together with a whole lot of fisherman's rope.

"Chan-seey!"  .^_^.

Neko-chan smiled happily at the pink Pokemon, who was lovingly hugging a new chainsaw to her chest as she guarded her rowdy quarry.

"Hey, you got 'em, Chan-saw!  That's great!" the redhead congratulated cheerily.

Kio cocked a brow in curiosity.  "Where'd you get the chainsaw?"

If you well recall, Chan-saw's ill-fated power tool had been totaled along with the rest of Kio's car.

Chan-saw looked at him questioningly, and then chirped chipperly and inclined her head in the direction of another bound figure.

"You ran into a lumberjack?" exclaimed Kio dubiously, looking over the plaid-clad man with casual amusement.

"Hey, give me back my chainsaw!" demanded the man gruffly.  "And get me out of these damn ropes, you stupid Pokémon!"

Neko didn't spare the man a glance.  Instead she clasped her hands happily, grinning at Chan-saw and their good fortune.  "Well this is great, Chan-saw!  You've finally got your baby back!"

Chan-saw looked poutily at the old chainsaw.  "Sey…"

"We can get you a better one later."  Neko turned to the prisoners, an evil gleam in her blue eyes.  "But for now, it will do."

Misty looked nervously up at the other redhead.  "W-what are you going to do to us?" she demanded, a bit shakily.

Neko laughed evilly, sounding disturbingly like Jesse.  Kio gave her a look and sweat-dropped in silence.

"Why, we're just going to have a little fun, missy!"

"My name's Misty!"

"It could be 'Moses' for all I care."

Kio looked around sharply, trying to find something to divert the ensuing cat-fight.  "Hey, Neko, you think we should wait for…uh, you?"

The redhead looked confused.  "Huh?"  She blinked in realization.  "Oh yeah!  Me!"  Pulling out a whistle, she blew on it loudly.

There was an answering shout and then a disturbance in the nearby foliage, and an identical-looking Neko-chan leaped nimbly from a tree a few feet away, joining the rest of the group with a self-satisfied grin.

The real Neko, thought Kio grimly, eyeing the two redheads suspiciously.  He frowned.  I think…

Ash, Misty, Brock and Pikachu looked on in dumb shock.

"Pika!"

"There's…two of them?"

"I think we've been drugged."

"That's cheating!" screeched Ash furiously, struggling wildly in his bonds.

Both Nekos grinned cattily.  "No, because we still have four players and you still have four players.  Totally fair."

"Creepy…" murmured Ash and Kio at the synchronized reply.

One Neko sighed huffily.  "So what if our resources are better?"

Kio was getting confused.  Which Neko did I come in with? he wondered uneasily, trying to find any dissimilarities between the two clones.

He grabbed the arm of the nearest one.  "Okay, at least don't pull the confusion trick on me, Né-chan.  Now which one of you did I come in with?"

The Neko he had a grip on swelled furiously, looking at his grip on her arm in anger.  The other looked on in annoyed anger as well.

"If you haven't figured it out by now, then that's your own fault, Kio."  She snatched her arm away from him, shooting him one last dark look.  "And don't call me 'Né-chan' again!"

The Rocket cadet grinned slyly at her, knowing he was this close to figuring it out.  "Alright, kitten.  But you didn't seem so pissed about touching when you kissed me in the woods back there…"

The one who's arm he had grabbed swelled up furiously, a look of horrified rage on her usually pretty face.  The other Neko looked equally mad, but there was a fierce blush rising to her face.

"You pig, I never—"

"I told you not to say anything about tha—"

Both Neko's suddenly froze and looked at one another in horrified realization.  Kio chuckled in amusement, snatching up the nearest redhead's arm once again and marking the exposed flesh of her upper arm with a red magic marker.

Neko glared at him furiously for several seconds, and then the anger melted away to a deviously charming look.  Kio's mouth went dry as he let her arm drop, his smug look turning to one of uneasy suspicion.

"Hmm, you're clever, Kio-chan, but you still don't know which is the real me," she remarked in a charmingly low tone, eyes glittering maliciously.

Kio forced himself to not let it get to him.  He grinned gamely.  "Don't worry.  I'm a fast learner," he replied, narrowing his eyes challengingly.  Shooting her a jaunty wink just to prove his point, he turned back to the task at hand.

Neko turned away hastily, hiding the blush that had risen in her cheeks at his tone.  She forced herself an angry pout, then clenched her fists and turned back to the three bound Pokémon trainers as well.

"I highly doubt those four are as fast," she remarked evilly, mischievous grin returning anew.

Ash, Misty, Brock, and Pikachu shared equal looks of uneasiness.

*           *           *

"Aiiee, you sunk my battleship, Master Meowth!"

"Ha, ha, and dat means I'm da winner!"

James looked down at his board in confusion.  "But I still have ships left."

"Hey, I'm not dead yet!" cried Galaxia, looking insulted.

Mondo peered at Galaxia curiously.  "'Just really badly hurt?'"

Galaxia blinked stupidly.

Exhaling huffily in annoyance, Jesse closed the lid of her own board in disdain.  "This five-way Battleship was a terrible idea."

Meowth shot her a look of annoyance.  "Hey!  Well no one asked you ta participate, missy!"

"Does anyone else here have any ideas on how to amuse ourselves?"

The cat Pokémon went SD on her, waving his arms insanely.  "Hey!  Hey!!  My idea's good!"

"Master Meowth appears to be feeling better, neh?" remarked Mondo cheerily, smiling happily.

As if in answer, Meowth promptly collapsed from the effort of his outburst, looking rather pale and swirly-eyed.  Mondo sweatdropped sheepishly.

"I guess not.  More Dayquil, Master Meowth?"

James jumped up happily, knocking over his board and spraying red and white pellets every which way in the process.  "I'm feeling better, Mondo-kun!  And I'm feeling hungry, too!"

Jesse rolled her eyes dryly while Mondo beamed happily at James.  "How nice…"

"Hey, pick up my Battleship set, James!  You're losing all the pieces!" shouted Galaxia sternly, wagging a finger at the bishonen.

Mondo peered around at the either closed or scattered game boards curiously.  "Does this mean Master Meowth wins after all?"

"Who's going to make me dinner?!" whined James piteously, dancing around hungrily and inadvertently scattering more pieces around the camp.  Galaxia chased after him angrily, brandishing a frying pan.

"Guess G-chan's volunteering," remarked Jesse wryly.

"Ano…Master Meowth, are you alright?"

Meowth remained sprawled on the ground, eyes swirling dazedly.  Mondo sweatdropped further and sighed resignedly.

Uh-huh…We should definitely get away from the sick camp right about now…

*           *           *

Currently, in another part of the forest amidst a rather dense grove of fir trees, Kiosuke, Neko-chan (times two), and Chan-saw have presented their proposal to the hog-tied Ash-tachi.

"Another game?" sighed Misty in annoyance, looking harassed.

"I WANNA' BATTLE, I WANNA' BATTLE!!  LEMME AT 'EM!!"

Neko (both of them) and Kio sighed triple sighs of waning patience and exchanged mutual looks of annoyance.

"They really take the fun out of it, don't they?" remarked both Nekos dryly.

Kio groaned.  "When we get back to camp, I'm paying homage to Jess 'n James, then I'm high-tailing it outta' here and becoming a banker!"

Chan-saw watched the three expressionlessly, gaze bouncing from first one, to the other, and to the other.  "Sey?  Sey?"  Then turning to the bound trainers and Pokémon, she revved her chainsaw and advanced on them with maniacal intent.

"Chaaaaaan…!!"

"AAAAAAGGGGHHH!!!  SCARY!!"

Both Neko-chans waved their hands dismissively at the pink Pokemon.  "Nah, not now, Chan-saw.  I'm afraid we've gotta' keep 'em all in one piece for now."

Chan-saw turned to her/them curiously, chainsaw poised to strike.  "Sey?" she pouted hopefully.

Both Neko-chans grinned maliciously.  "Asa, asa…Arigato, Chan-saw, but not now.  Remember the deal."

Still pouting, Chan-saw abandoned her homicidal attempt.  Kio smiled encouragingly, patting her on the head in affection.

"Don't worry, I'm sure Né-chan would let you practice on her."

"Don't call me that!" shrieked both Nekos simultaneously, drop-kicking the poor bishonen.

Meanwhile, Brock sweatdropped profusely.  "Maybe we should have attempted to escape during this whole thing…"

Misty sighed heavily.  "At least they're untying us in a moment."

"Only to play one of their sick games again."

Both Nekos looked over at Brock in annoyance.  "Hey, they are NOT sick!"

"Told you they're sick."

*grr…*  "Whose side are you on anyway, Kio?!"

"Alright, alright.  Sheesh!"

"Are we going to get started anytime soon?" shouted Misty irritably.

"Urrgh.  I'm getting rope burns."

Neko 1 and Neko 2 'harumphed' angrily.  "Alright already!  I get the point!"  Nodding to Chan-saw, she watched in annoyance as the pink Pokémon quickly sliced through the ropes with her chainsaw.

Ash jumped up in triumph.  "Ha-HA!!  Free at last!"  Suddenly, his pupils dilated in shock.  He looked hastily at his arm where Chan-saw's chainsaw had embedded itself, said Pokémon staring at him with equal surprise.

"YAAAAAUUUUUGGGGHHHH!!!  OWOWOWOWOWOW!!!"

The hyperactive trainer began to run around in a blind panic, arm spurting blood like a leaky drinking fountain as everyone watched in blank-faced wonder.

"TIME OUT!!  TIME OUT!!" he wailed, crying piteously.  "I NEED A BANDAID!!"

Misty and Brock hid their eyes in shame.

*           *           *

Kio rubbed at a temple wearily, the beginnings of a real headache starting to overtake his tried patience.

"This has got to be your stupidest idea yet, kitten," he muttered sourly, giving the redhead beside him a sour askance look.

Neko-chan, or her look alike, stuck her tongue out at him and refrained from a snippy retort for the time being.

Behind them, a worn looking Misty sighed defeatedly, dragging her feet in reluctance.

"Why did I have to come with you two?"

Hands on hips, Neko gave the girl a condescending glance.

"Pipe down!  You should be glad, seeing as how you're on the winning team 'n all!"

Kio snorted lightly.  "A little overconfident, aren't we kitten?"

"Shut up, Kio-chan," came Neko's sugar-coated reply.

Misty gave a groan of despair.  "Somebody kill me!"

Neko gave her a none-to-gentle bonk on the head, hoping to shut her up.  This only succeeded in starting a minor cat-fight between the two redheads.

Kio was forced to drag Neko off of the younger girl before things could get bloody.

"Hey, hey, kitten!  Calm down!" yelped Kio, struggling wildly with the angry redhead as he tried to hold her back.

"Lemme go!  Lemme go!  Just one more hit!" begged the Rockette angrily.

Sighing hopelessly, Kio managed to grab her by the waist and hoisting her off the ground, placed her none-to-gently before him on the path, giving her a stern glare.

"That's it!  If you don't stop acting like a spoiled brat, I'm giving up this mission and you can just go through with your stupid plan on your own!"

Eyes glaring daggers, Neko-chan straightened up huffily, but Kio cut her off with a glare before she could speak.

"I mean it, Neko!  Whether you're Gastly or the real Neko, you have to quit picking fights so hastily!  Aren't you the one that told me that our goal wasn't to kill them, but just to stall them?"

"Don't yell at me, jerk!" Neko exploded suddenly, giving him an angry shove to the chest.  The redhead was breathing heavily with rage, her eyes shining with unshed angry tears.

Kio sighed hopelessly.  He was unwilling to admit it, but her tears had an effect on him, whether they were tears of sadness, or merely tears of rage.

"Neko…" he began, attempting a calming tone.

The redhead lashed out at him again.  He could see it coming—he'd had enough years of training in the martial arts to anticipate such—but he made no move to protect himself.  He hardly felt the blow to his chest, and he knew she wasn't really putting much into it.

"Just leave me alone!  I didn't even want you to come along!  I would've been just fine without you, you know!  You're such a self-absorbed jerk!"

This is the real Neko, thought the martial artist soberly.  Gastly would never make such a big scene over nothing.

Lowering her head stiffly, the redhead attempted to regain control of herself, fists still clenched angrily at her sides.

Kio turned away, deciding to give her room.  Turning about, however, he lost his sobered demeanor and swore lightly.

"Kitten…"

"Shut up," growled the redhead darkly.

Kio shook his head stubbornly.  "Kitten, you better get a hold of yourself quick."

"It seems our prey has flown the coop."

Neko looked up sharply.  "What?  You mean…!"

"It's Misty.  She's gone."

*           *           *

"Arrgh, I hate this game!"

Ash Ketchum stomped his feet moodily, intent on getting his point across to his fellow teammates.

His teammates, however, had had just about enough of his crap by now.

"Just shut up and look for a moss-covered stone," replied Brock sharply, looking again at the list of items on they're list of scavenger hunt items.

"After that, we should have only three items left."

"Alright!"  Neko-chan, a.k.a. Gastly, raised a triumphant fist.  "I bet we're winning!"

Ash turned to Brock with a conspiratory whisper.

"Why did we have to get HER as a partner?"

The redhead was suddenly towering darkly over the two Pokémon trainers, her harisen poised threateningly over their heads.

"What was that?"

"Uh, er…nothing!"

Searching for the moss-covered rock continued.

Several minutes later…

"Um, what's moss look like?"

"AAAAIIIIIEEEEE!!!"

Several more minutes later, after endless Ash-abuse & back-tracking, the trio plus Pikachu finally came upon their moss-covered rock.

"Pika!" sighed Pikachu in relief, sliding to the ground in a little Pikachu puddle.

"Now…!" huffed Brock in a breathless tone.  "Now we have only three items left!"

"Yay," moaned Neko/Gastly in a lackluster voice.

Brock looked down at his shoes in annoyance.  He had stepped in the Pikachu puddle.

"I wanna' die!" whined Ash pathetically, flopping down on the moss-covered rock.

Finally regaining her/his breath, Neko/Gastly turned to Brock.  "What's the next item?"

Brock looked at the list.  "A bee's nest."

Ash whined even louder.  "Not a bee's nest!"  Tears began shooting out of his eyes in a quite unnatural way.  "I hate bees!"

Just then the moss-covered rock started moving.  Because it wasn't a rock at all.

"Aaiie!  Whas' goin' on?!!"

Neko, Brock, and Pikachu placidly looked on as the half-asleep moss-covered Geodude began to whirl drowsily around the clearing with a terrified Ash on it's back.

Brock turned to Neko.  "It still counts as a rock, right?"

"No one has to know."

Meanwhile, Ash continued to cry in his creepy, unnatural way.

"Waaagh!  Get me off this thing!  I'm seasick!"

"Pika…" muttered Pikachu, turning away to look for a bee's nest.

*           *           *

"This is all your fault, you know!  If you had been paying better attention—!!"

"My fault?!  You're the one who was chewing me out for trying to keep you from killing her!"

"Killing her?!  Ha!  I was just trying to rearrange her face a bit!  You shouldn't have overreacted, you great big moron!"

"Oh that's right, just blame everything on me, Neko!  After all, you do it for everything else!"

"Ohhhh…!  Just shut up and keep looking!"

Kio grumbled darkly to himself, pushing a bunch of foliage out of his way.  "You're the one who started it…"

"I heard that!" snapped the redhead from behind him.

The martial artist mimicked her angrily, and then went back to searching the brush.

Neko sighed huffily, forcing herself to look anywhere but Kio's leading back ahead of her.  The dark-haired martial artist never ceased to annoy her, it seemed.  It aggravated her, how he knew just what to do to get a rise out of her.

In more ways than one.

Biting her lip angrily over her own confused emotions, Neko pushed angrily past her partner, trying to get her mind occupied with finding the other redhead.  She growled irritably.  Thinking of Misty was a lot easier than thinking about Kio.  At least her motives and thoughts in that area were clear.

"You cowardly bitch!  Come out here right now!" she screamed challengingly into the trees, sending a flock of Pidgies scattering up through the foliage and into the bright sunlight.

Kio came up beside her, gazing up through the dappled treetops with a look of wearing patience.

"Are you trying to scare her away or find her?" he challenged sarcastically.

Neko shot him a look but said nothing, unwilling to retort this time.  She wouldn't give him the pleasure of letting him know how much his comments got to her.

Forcing a placid smile to her face, she looked down at her gloved hand calmly, as if examining her fingers in the scattered sunlight.

"Who knows?  Maybe she'll rise to the challenge."

She didn't notice, as a slight grin cracked the martial artist's face.

"Not if she knows what's good for her."

Startled, the redhead turned to look up at his face.  He was now grinning quite obviously, his usual cocky demeanor in place.

"After all, I don't think I've ever won a fight with you," he continued.  He still hadn't turned to look at her.  "A scrawny little girl like her wouldn't have a chance.  And I think she knows it."

Neko continued to stare at him in silence, not quite sure what to make of his words.  The sun filtering through the trees made intriguing patterns across his handsome, tanned face, bringing out the gold of his eyes.

As if sensing her surprise, the young martial artist finally looked down at her, still grinning cockily.  But there was a softness to his eyes.

Unable to hide the blush creeping into her cheeks, Neko tore her eyes away from his gaze and turned back to the path with a stubborn stride.

"Hmmph!" she muttered, trying to sound unaffected by his words.  "Don't know what you're talking about.  You always floor me during training lessons."

Kio watched her go, a soft expression in his still-smiling gold eyes.

"You're a stubborn one, kitten—you know that?" he whispered absently to himself.

Giving one last glance at his surroundings, he turned to follow her.

*           *           *

Jerk!  Jerk!  He's a jerk!  thought Neko-chan over and over as they walked.  I hate him!  The jerk!

The fact that she had to repeat it to herself made her even angrier, but this time, the anger was directed more at herself.  Why should she have to remind herself that she hated him?  Couldn't the fact remain?

Hearing the sounds of crunching sticks and brush behind her, knowing he was following her, made her cheeks burn.  She could sense his confident strides, and his tall figure behind her, like a cornered beast aware of the predator following right behind.  She was supposed to be the predator!  She was supposed to be the wildcat; the panther in a woman's body.

She hated the feel of his eyes on her.  Or at least, she thought that was the feeling.  The feeling that made her heart race, and her breath catch in her throat.

Stop it! she chastised herself.  You're letting him get to you again.  Don't be so paranoid!

"Knock it off!" she snapped suddenly, not bothering to turn around to give the harsh command.

"Knock what off?" came the curiously amused reply.

"Crowding me!  You're so pushy, damnit!"

Kio laughed good-naturedly, and Neko had to bite her tongue in order to keep herself from shrieking her frustration.

"Hey, sorry!  I wasn't trying to crowd you," he replied complacently.  He stopped walking, allowing her to get several yards ahead of him.

"Is this better?"

Neko stopped walking, turning to glare at him furiously.

"You don't have to be such a smart-ass about it!" she fumed angrily.  "I just didn't need you breathing down my neck when I'm trying to concentrate on finding that stupid Poké-brat!"

The martial artist looked down for a moment, looking as if her were trying to keep himself from retorting in turn.  Looking up again, he walked back so that he was only several feet from her.

"Do you have to make a fight out of everything?" he remarked, his tone accusing and biting.

The redhead threw up her hands in exasperation.

"You are SUCH an ASS about everything!"  Stepping out of the way, she gestured for him to lead the way.  "Why don't you just lead, if you're going to make it into such a big deal?"

Glaring at her furiously, the dark-haired cadet pushed angrily past her and continued their walk.

Allowing him a bit of a head-start, Neko followed behind him, pushing her conflicting emotions out of the way and directing all of her frustrations towards him as if they were mental daggers.

They had only gone several yards, when the ground beneath them gave way with a groan of wood and a shower of pine needles.

Neko let out a shriek of surprise, reaching out for something to stop from falling, but her hands grasped nothing but falling pine needles and air.  And then she was plummeting into emptiness, the fall seeming to take forever, until finally she hit bottom with a sickening crunch, that sent her spinning into further darkness.

*           *           *

"Do…your…EARS HANG LOW, DO THEY WOBBLE TO 'N FRO!!"

Giggling uncontrollably, Jesse grasped her partner's hands gleefully and let him spin her in a maddening polka about the campsite.

"CAN YOU TIE 'EM IN A KNOT, CAN YOU TIE 'EM IN A BOW!" she continued the song, her voice fading into further giggles and shrieks of delight, as James turned their polka into a rather uncoordinated can-can.

Meowth joined the fun, his raucous singing clashing horribly with their two equally clashing voices.

"CAN YOU THROW 'EM OVER YOUR SHOULDER LIKE A CONTINENTAL SOLDIER!  DO YOUR EARS—HANG—LOW!!"

Mondo watched the insanity with only mild distress, prodding the dying campfire with a stick to keep it from going out.

Pushing her way into the clearing, Galaxia gave the wildly dancing and singing trio a disturbed look and joined Mondo by the fire, a load of firewood in hand.

"What's wrong with those three?"

Mondo sighed heavily.  "They're high on cold medicine…" he replied mournfully, resting his chin in his palm, as the three switched from the can-can to some sort of disturbing, geriatric ballet.

"And now…SHOWTUNES!!" shouted James excitedly, trying to do a pirouette and falling on his ass.

Jesse and Meowth both cheered ecstatically, leaping about the campsite.

Galaxia blinked mildly, watching the three of them completely botch the theme from Chitty Bang-Bang.

"Oh," she said simply, sitting down to her cup of instant ramen.  "Think it'll wear off soon?"

At this, Mondo began to cry rivers.  "It's been going like this for three hours now!  I don't think they'll ever stop!"

Beside him, Mondo's Ditto made a sympathetic noise and melted into the grass.

"Huh.  That's not good."  Fishing into the bag at her side, Galaxia pulled out Raichu's Pokeball and turned away from the dancing trio.  Pressing the little button on the red and white ball, she let the injured Pokémon out in a burst of red light.

"Rai!" exclaimed the Pokémon happily, stretching thankfully.  Still bandaged, he nonetheless had improved quite a lot since his fateful battle.

Grabbing the nearest package of prepared instant ramen, he began to chow down.

"Hey, that's my dinner!" objected Mondo loudly, jumping up from his seat and reaching for the speed-eating Raichu in distress.

"Rai!  Rai, rai-CHU!" countered the Pokémon stubbornly, continuing to wolf down the warm noodles as he put up one large, rabbit-like foot to hold the small Rocket helper at bay.

"Aiyah, Raichu-kun!  You're supposed to eat the Poké-Chow!" pleaded Mondo sadly.

Turning from the mayhem, Galaxia sighed sadly, staring up at the sunset-bathed sky with lonely eyes.

"Neko-chan… I wonder what you're doing right now?"

*           *           *

At that very moment, Neko awoke with a groan of pain and disorientation.

The pit was dark, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust to it.  But once they had, there wasn't much to see.  Just a dirt wall.

As she continued to regain awareness of her surroundings, her aching limbs were made aware to her.  Grimacing tightly, she attempted to move from where she lay on her stomach.

Immediately she cried out in pain.  Sharp searing pain brought bright, white and yellow bursts before her eyes and she clamped her jaw shut fiercely against the accompanying wave of nauseous.

Once the immediate pain had faded, she turned carefully in the dark to peer over her shoulder.  Her leg was lying at an odd angle.  Attempting to move it again, she again cried out in agony, as the searing pain once again shot through her twisted limb.

Broken, she thought bitterly.

Now over that fact, she suddenly became aware of the warm figure beneath her.  She started in surprise, biting back another cry at the pain in her injured leg.

Kio!

Silent and unmoving, the only sign of life in the martial artist was the slow, rise and fall of his chest with each faint breath.

Neko choked back another cry, propping herself up further on the young cadet's chest.

Kio!  Kio, wake up!

Laying her head on his chest, she listened to the faint thump of his heartbeat, breathing a slight sigh of relief at the sound.

Heart's beating—still breathing! she thought thankfully.

Lying there in the darkness, the gentle ba-bump of the martial artist's heart echoing in her ears, aware of the warmth of his body beneath her…  Neko's breath caught in her throat, her own heartbeat threatening to crash through her chest.

"No…"

The word came out softly, trembling with emotion in the still darkness of the pit.

"No…!  Not now!" she choked, pulling herself up on her arms once again to look into the calm, expressionless face.

"Wake up, you jerk!  Wake up!"

Hands grasping desperately at the dark fabric of his Team Rocket uniform, she attempted to shake him roughly; all the while the expression on her face tight with suppressed tears.

"You jerk!" she sobbed, pounding helplessly on his unresponsive chest.  "You jerk!  You have to wake up!"

Still, Kio lay still.

Trying to hold back tears, the redhead pressed her face into the dark uniform.

"Baka… Kio no baka…"

Pulling her head up with sudden resolve, Neko's eyes sparked dangerously.  Pulling her arm back swiftly, she struck the unconscious cadet hard across the face.

"Idiot!  Will you let yourself die like this?!  In this filthy pit?!  Wake up, Kio!  You're worth more than that!"

No longer able to control them, her tears began to fall unbidden, streaking the dust and grime coating her face and falling warmly on the TR uniform beneath her.

"Maybe I don't hate you!  Maybe I don't know what I think about you!  Maybe I just hate myself for being so scared…"

She paused for a moment, pulling herself level with the bishonen's calmly sleeping face.  She was silent for some time, watching the closed lids hopefully, large wet tears spilling onto the cadet's dust-coated face as she waited and hoped.

"Please, Kio…" she whispered, squeezing her eyes tight against the truth of his silence.  "Please just wake up.  I don't want you to die…thinking I hate you."

It seemed an eternity, poised there, eyes closed tight in desperation, her heart beating madly in her own ears in the silence of the pit.

And then the body beneath her shifted.  Neko's eyes flew open with a start.

Face contorting in pain, the young cadet made a sighing groan.

"Kio!"  The redhead couldn't even hope to contain the relief in her voice.

The gold eyes flickered open hesitantly, responding to her voice.  Kio put a hand to his aching head, moaning once again in pain and struggling to sit up.

Forgetting herself, Neko threw her arms about him in relief, crying happily into his chest.

"You stupid jerk!  You stupid, stupid jerk!" she scolded angrily through her tears.

Kio managed a crooked grin, wincing at the screaming pain in his head.

"Hey, hey!  Calm down!  I'm okay!" he managed to assure her, laughing hoarsely.  But secretly, he was overjoyed with the feel of her frail figure clinging eagerly to him.  His heart raced, shocked by the turn of events.

Neko suddenly pulled away from him sharply.  Her eyes were still wet, her face streaked with tears, but her face was furious, blue eyes glittering dangerously.

"Don't EVER do that again, you JERK!" she yelled with sudden fury, pounding futilely at his chest with her fists.  "Do you know how worried I was?!  I could kill you!!"

Before she could realize what was happening, he had grabbed both her wrists in his hands and pulled her to him.  And all of her angry threats were cut off as he covered her mouth with his in a fierce, possessive kiss.

There was silence in the pit for what seemed like an eternity.  All thoughts of hate and anger dissolved, something within Neko bursting from beneath the surface of her carefully hidden feelings as Kio's lips claimed her own.  And the tangled, unfulfilled desires within the young martial artist were at last made clear as he kissed the fiery redhead with all the passion that had so long fueled their heated arguments until that moment.

The bright moment was over as both struggled to regain their breaths and scattered wits.

Kio smiled gently at the redhead, brushing a tender thumb across her cheekbone in the dark.

"God, I hate it when you cry," he murmured, still somewhat breathless.

Neko trembled slightly, closing her eyes against the heat of his gaze.  "It's your fault…you big jerk."

Still smiling, Kio met her pouting lips with another kiss, this one tender and slow.

Neko forgot all about being angry.

*           *           *

"Hey!  Anyone up there?!  Help!"

Kicking at the floor of the pit in aggravation, Kio commenced to pace the dirt floor once again, nerves growing continually more on edge.

"No one can hear us, Kio.  Just stop," came Neko's voice dully from the dark.  He could hear her shift herself in the dark, favoring her broken left leg, and she hissed low under her breath against the pain.

The sound only succeeded in adding further agitation to Kio's already frazzled nerves.

It had been several hours now, since darkness had fallen, and Kio could only guess how long they had been lying there in the dank pit.  He had since giving up scaling the walls, which consisted of powdery sand and dirt that simply crumbled under his touch, and he was about to give up shouting for help as well.  It seemed that no one was coming.

God damnit! He berated himself fiercely.  Do something!  She's in pain!

He could hear her labored breathing in the dark, as well as her attempts to hide her frequent gasps of pain, and the thought tore at his heart.

She must be burning a fever, he thought with dread.  Crossing the small expanse between them, he knelt down beside her, placing a hand to her forehead.

It burned to the touch, her skin drenched with sweat.

Seeing his concern over her, Neko pushed his arm away gruffly.  "Stop it, you fool.  Don't worry about me.  Just figure away out of here."

Kio sighed over her in defeat.  "Why are you so damn stubborn?" he asked gruffly, but his eyes still shone with tender concern.

A faint cry from above sent both their hopeful gazes skyward.

"…sey!  …an!  Chansey…"

Kio jumped hastily to his feet.  "Here!  We're down here, Chan-saw!  Hurry!"

From the floor, Neko closed her eyes thankfully.  "Oh, thank God…!"

There was an excited cry from above, and several moments later, the relieved and joyful face of Chan-saw peered down over the edge of the pit.

Kio laughed shakily in relief.  "Chan-saw!  Oh thank god, we've been down here for hours!"

Bursting into a flurry of speech, the round pink Pokémon gestured towards the hole and to somewhere behind her.  Kio nodded eagerly.

"Good!  Lower the stick down here.  I'll try to lift Neko up somehow."

Giving a demented thumbs up (seeing as how she didn't have any thumbs), Chan-saw's face disappeared from the edge of the pit momentarily.

Kio hurried back over to Neko.  "Come on.  Be careful, I'll help you up," he urged, grasping the petite cadet gently beneath the armpits.  For once Neko didn't argue, complying silently as she concentrated on biting back the pain of her leg.

Once he had pulled her somewhat awkwardly to her feet, one arm wrapped tightly around her waist to hold her against him, the redhead opened her eyes, peering up into Kio's face with inquiring, pain-filled eyes.

"I'm sorry…Kio," she whispered, the sweat once again beading upon her forehead.  "For always causing you so much trouble."

Kio shook his head hastily, too concerned over her to care about the apology.  "Shh, just keep still!  I'll get you back to camp and Mondo can set your leg until we can make it back to Headquarters."

From above came Chan-saw's cry of assertion.  Then an enormous branch was forced down into the pit.

Helping Neko onto the huge branch, Kio smoothed back her hair soothingly.

"Just hold on a little bit longer, kitten," he murmured.  Then he turned to look up at Chan-saw.

"Alright, pull her up!"

Between the two of them and much pushing and pulling, they were able to lift the injured redhead up out of the hole.  After she had been pulled to safety by Chan-saw, Kio climbed up himself.

Kio patted the pink Pokémon on the head.  "Thanks, girl.  You did great."

Chan-saw looked up at him through tear-filled eyes.  "Chan-seeeey!" she murmured sadly, worrying over Neko like a true nurse Pokémon.

Kio's heart quickened, as he turned to look at the redhead once again.  Her breathing had sped up farther, and she was having a harder time containing her moans of pain.

"Neko!"  He crouched quickly by her side.  "Come on, Né-chan!  Hold in there!"

Turning to Chan-saw with a steely light in his eyes, he began to gather the injured girl hurriedly up in his arms.

"You go on and tell the others.  I'll be right behind with Neko-chan."

Nodding hastily, the pink Pokémon hugged her beloved chainsaw to her chest and bounded off as fast as she could manage.

Climbing to his feet, Kio turned to look down into Neko's grimacing face.  One blue eye opened, glossy with pain.

"I told you not to call me that," she muttered stubbornly.  Then she fainted in exhaustion.

*           *           *

Neko-chan awoke sometime later, still cradled in Kio's arms.  She could hear the swish of brush around them and the crunch of his boots beneath them as he walked steadily back towards the Team Rocket camp.  Rubbing her chin softly against the warmth of his chest, she listened once again to the calming rhythm of his heartbeat in her ear, and drifted off once again into sleep.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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