The early morning sun peeked over the hills and found our favorite trio, and their charge once again outside the Team Rocket Headquarters entrance.
“Whose sadistic idea was it to get up at this hour?” mumbled Jessie, obviously not fully awake, yet.
“I believe it was you, Madam Sadist,” James looked up from his pack to see the raggled pseudo red-head.
“Yeah! You were da one who demanded we start out at da crack of dawn,” added Meowth, who, after his late-night prowling, was looking for a spot for a quick cat-nap.
“I did, didn’t I?” she yawned. “I just never realized before how early dawn is.”
James shook his head at his partner. He glanced over to where Indigo was standing off by herself. She was surrounded by various items, and as she placed each one into her back pack, she would check the item off her checklist. He noticed that Jessie, too, was staring in her direction, with a perverse smile upon her face. James knew right away that she had given Indigo the Checklist.
The Team Rocket Travel Checklist had become a favorite way for some Rocket members to initiate newbies into the gang. By the time the trainee had made it through the nine months of rigorous basic training, it had already been decided who had made the team, so the field training was just a formality before they got their partners. The Checklist usually consisted of such useless items as bug spray for a winter trek, but it also included the things the mentors didn’t feel like carrying themselves. From what James could see Jessie had stiffed Indigo with the tent, most of their food, and several cans of hairspray. He wasn’t sure if Indigo was ready to accept a friendly gesture from him, yet, but he wasn’t about to sit back and watch her being taken advantage of. Not if he could help it.
“I’ll take these for you,” James reached down and grabbed the tent and one of the food storage pouches.
“I’ve got it!” Indigo snatched at the items, scowling at him.
“I’m a big girl, James. I don’t need your help.”
“James?” Jessie called. “Could you help me over here?”
“You sure?” he asked Indigo.
James sighed as he handed Indigo’s cargo back to her. Before he turned away, though, he thought he caught a glimpse of a tiny, impish grin. He headed over to Jessie and her fictitious problem that required his assistance. “By the way,” he called back, “I don’t think a Meowth is on your checklist.”
“Huh?” Indigo lifted the flap of her pack. There was Meowth, curled up atop her spare uniform and already fast asleep. The others might have kicked him out, but she thought he looked too adorable and decided to let him sleep.
“What are you trying to do? Ruin my good time?” Jessie hissed at James when he reached her.
He scowled at her as picked up and slipped his back pack onto his shoulders. Jessie may be his best friend but her judging and assumptions were starting to wear on his last nerve. “Don’t make a habit out of underestimating people,” he offered Jessie, and motioned to Indigo that it was time to go.
They were well into the Cherangoa Forest by late morning. Meowth had awoken from his nap and had joined Jessie and James in the lead. Indigo appeared to be having some trouble walking on the just-barely-there path and Jessie was taking great pleasure in this. She was as thrilled about Indigo’s return as she, herself, was. To her Indigo was competition. It used to piss Jessie off to watch such gorgeous guys wasting their time trying to impress her. And who was it she chose to spend her time with? Jessie’s queer friend, James. She often wondered if Indigo was also gay, but whether she was or not was irrelevant; as long as the male population fawned over her, Indigo would be a thorn in her side. And right now, she was also being a pain in the ass.
“Sorry!” apologized Indigo as she helped Jessie back to her feet. “I guess I’m still getting the hang of carrying this stuff.” She shifted the pack on her shoulders, for emphasis. “Are you okay?”
Jessie quickly gave herself a once over, once she was back on her feet. She growled at the sight of the mud from yesterday’s storm now adorning her “dry clean only” ensemble. She shot a look at an innocent Indigo and then to the guys, both suddenly afflicted with coughing fits.
“Dust,” informed James, tears in his eyes and a slight smirk on his face.
By the afternoon Indigo was lagging behind the others. She had been paying just enough attention to Jessie and James to know in what direction to head, but her mind spent most of it’s time elsewhere. She had to put the current events in her life in their proper place. First and foremost, there was James. She hadn’t meant to vent her anger on him, but those who were responsible for her situation were not around and he was. Her anger triggered his and when James was angry he lost it. She knew he still felt horrible about yesterday’s incident, and her smartass attitude didn’t help. She ran her fingers through her hair. I’m the last person to talk about losing it, Indigo thought. She dropped her head and discovered Meowth was now walking alongside of her.
“Dey want to make sure ya don’t take off,” Meowth replied to the curious look on Indigo’s face.
The sun was getting low in the sky when Indigo and Meowth realized they were by themselves.
“Great!” Meowth exclaimed. “What do we do now?”
Indigo hadn’t consciously gone AWOL, but with the others no longer in their view, and her with the goodies, it didn’t seem like a bad idea. “Um, set up camp?”
With the aid of the map that Meowth had forgotten to leave with James and Jessie when he was sent to check on Indigo, the two found a good spot near a small stream. Together they pitched the tent and laid out their things. Indigo got a fire going and began to prepare dinner.
“What’s on da menu tonight?”
“Let’s see…” she rummaged through the food storage, “we’ve got Instant Ramen Noodles, some peas and a can of Chunky Chicken. You want to go to the stream and fill this pot up for me?”
“Do I have to?”
“Do you want to eat?”
“Meowth is on his way,” Meowth said as he took the pot and headed off to the stream. Soup wasn’t one of his favorites (too much water) but it had to be better than Jessie’s constant barrage of Spam.
While waiting for the pot of water to start boiling, Indigo amused herself by folding cranes out of the scraps of paper she had accumulated. She looked up from one of her creations to see Meowth playing with one of her pokeballs. “Meowth! That’s not a ball of yarn. Please put it back in my bag!” Before she could get it from him, he had hit the button on the ball and was sucked in; the ball and its new contents disappeared. “Damn!” Indigo stomped over to her bag and pulled out her laptop. She attached the pokemon peripheral and was soon logged onto Bill’s computer, accessing her storage boxes. “Argh!” she groaned when she realized she would have to store her prized dratini in order to get Meowth back.
“I can’t believe you did that!” she spat at the pokemon once it was free again. “You, of all pokemon, should know the dangers of playing with an empty pokeball.”
“Save it, sister. You and I both know I deliberately captured myself.”
“Okay, so I know you did it deliberately, but why?”
“I figured it’d be great pay back for da Boss’ trading me in for dat persian.”
“Pay back, great. And how do I fit into this?”
“You seem to forget it was you dat got me into trouble wit him in da first place! You, James, and da Boss’ office.”
Indigo smiled, dreamily. “Ah, yes, the office…”
“…and da chair dat cost a fortune to replace!”
“I loved that chair.”
“I still can’t believe Giovanni caught yous doin’ it in his office!”
“We weren’t ‘doing it’, Meowth. We still had our clothes on.”
Meowth looked at her as if to say: Who are you trying to kid?
“Well, we had the important pieces still on!”
“Sure, whatever ya say. I was dere, remember?”
“Yeah, and I remember it was your choice to partake in voyeurism that got you into trouble with the Boss.” smirked Indigo.
“Voyeurism? I was asleep!”
“Sure, whatever you say. I was there, remember?” she mocked the cat. Indigo stood up and walked over to the pot to check its progress. Noticing that it was boiling satisfactorily, she added the other ingredients, along with some seasonings she also grabbed from the storage, and then sat back down with Meowth.
He knew Indigo had him by the tail. He could’ve gone for Giovanni when the couple had snuck into the office, but thought it nice to give the young woman a break. She had gotten into so much trouble at the time that he knew Indigo would’ve been expelled if the Boss had learned what they were doing. But the Boss found out anyway, having walked in on them; Indigo was to be terminated from Team Rocket, James spent time in solitary confinement and Meowth, who managed to convince Giovanni, at least, that he was asleep during the activities, was replaced as top cat. He shuddered at the thought of what could’ve happened to him if the Boss knew the truth.
It was Meowth who broke the news to James about Indigo’s termination. It was after he had been released from confinement. James was devestated to learn of her fate, especially when Meowth explained to him the Team Rocket defintion of “termination”. He figured the last thing the young Rocket trainee should be was alone, and since James’ “best friend” didn’t have a clue, Meowth volunteered himself (not that he had anyplace better to be). He’d be the last to admit it, but he was grateful when James convinced Jessie to let him tag along with them.
Indigo poured the soup into two bowls. As she sat down she handed one to Meowth. He tasted, held up the bowl and toasted: “To da Team Rocket Travel Checklist.”
“To the Team Rocket Travel Checklist,” she repeated with a smile. The bowls clunked together, being plastic and all, and the two proceeded to enjoy their dinner.
Meanwhile, in another part of the Cherangoa Forest…
“James, I’m hungry!” whined Jessie.
“And what do you want me to do about it? You were the one being oh so smart, making Indigo carry everything.”
“I didn’t expect to lose her!”
James rolled his eyes. “And I’m the dumb one?” He felt the pain of Jessie’s frying pan shoot through his head. As he tried to regain his bearings, Jessie raided his back pack.
“Donuts? All you’ve got are stinking donuts?!”
“It’s my comfort food, Jessie!”
A groan came from Jessie as she took a donut.
“So, in addition to our food and tent, what other neccesities did you leave for her to carry?”
“The cooking utensils.”
“Well that sounds logical, since you left the food with her.”
Jessie hesitated,“toilet paper.”
“Lovely!” James stood up, grabbed his gun and searched his pack for a flashlight.
“Where are you going?”
“To find Indigo.”
“You’re going to leave me all alone out here? It’s getting dark!”
“You won’t be alone. You’ll have your pokemon to keep you company.”
“Oh yeah.” Jessie looked around her. “Um, James?”
“Have you seen Arbok and Lickitung?”