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Cerulean Dreams


Cerulean Dreams


Nikolai Mirovich
Author's Note: This is the second story in my series of Pokemon
based fanfics. It continues the plot from "The Courier", but for
the record, I'm not completely happy with it. But that happens;
all I can do is make the third story even better! Anyway, there's
many people I'd like to thank, but mentioning their names could
get me killed, so I won't. Oh! And I'm preparing an FAQ for this
series which should be at my ASSTR page
("") some time soon,
so hopefully this ride will be less confusing to some of you.

Legal Stuff: If for some reason legal reasons keep you from
reading this story (I.e.: Your age is too young in your country to
be reading such filth), I'm obligated to tell you to go away. Not
that I think that'll stop you. And certainly not that I care who
reads my stories, so long as somebody does! So, with out anymore
of my ranting, on with the show!

Chapter I

Misty gritted her teeth as she stood at one end of the fairly
uninteresting playing field. Rocks and boulders really weren't her
idea of fine décor, but it seemed to suit the Pewter Gym's style,
and the trainer wasn't planning on staying any longer than she had

"If you're ready then," the burly fellow at the other end of the
field replied with a shrug, almost absently tossing a pokeball a
few feet away and calling out his pokemon, "Time to defend our
Gym's honor, Grinder!"

Grinder turned out to be the second biggest onyx Misty had ever
seen. And this one also seemed to have been through a whole lot
more than the others. The enormous stone serpent had many large
scars across his body as testament to the many years that he and
his trainer had been traveling the world, avoiding the
responsibilities of family life and battling against others who
knew them only by reputation.

Misty glanced over at Miranda, who was calmly leaning against the
wall, her arms folded across her chest with a confident smile upon
her face, her eyes half closed. Upon her shoulder Nezumi sat on
his haunches, mimicking his trainer's pose.

"I have faith in you," said Miranda quietly, speaking softly even
as her voice echoed off the vaulted ceiling.

Misty smiled, knowing the fight would be one sided. She knew that
the old onyx was tough, but his kind was known for their incessant
hydrophobia. "Shadow," she commanded, holding a small pokeball up
with two fingers in an attempt at copying Miranda's sense of
melodrama, "Time to win you first badge!"

She tossed the ball into the air as it expanded before popping
open with the characteristic mechanical noise they all made. A
half second later, a wash of crimson light spilled forth from the
split sphere, forming a large five-pointed pokemon out of seeming

The trainer at the far end of the field gave a stern look to hide
his disappointment. "A staryu, eh?" he commented, rubbing his
stubbly chin, "alright then, let's get this over with! Grinder,
tackle attack!"

"Shadow, power-up!" Misty ordered in response, causing her
levitating staryu to turn sideways and begin spinning in a
counter-clockwise direction as the stone snake bore down upon him.

The onyx roared, a sound akin to a mountain avalanche, as he arced
his way into the air before slithering quickly across the field
and swooping down upon the smaller pokemon, his jaws agape.
Seemingly undaunted by the prospect of becoming a star shaped
stain on the rock strewn floor, Shadow's speed increased, spinning
faster until his five arms were but a blur, the red orb at his
center glowing fiercely with the exertion.

"Now, Shadow!" called Misty, the tension coming across in the
slight quaver in her voice, "Neptune's Might!"

The staryu gave a quick affirmative that was lost in the cacophony
of sound that followed the powerful water technique he unleashed.
The spinning pokemon now appeared to be more of a circle than a
star, and with an exclamation akin to a battle cry, Shadow let
loose with quintuple blasts of high-pressure water.

The onyx, now doing something of a power dive let out a roar of
terrified panic, even before the spinning wall of water bisected
him. Unable to pull back from the attack, the silicate-based
pokemon followed through, although it seemed that he more fell
forward more than actually attempted to tackle, but the effect was

However, as he hit the spinning arms of Shadow, Grinder's head was
violently jerked upwards in a movement that would have given a
creature with an actual spine whiplash. He let out a sound that
could have been construed as a yelp of surprise, but sounded more
like two rocks crushing a diamond, as the staryu hit him several
dozen times in the jaw.

Misty smiled at the effect. "Just as I planned," she replied,
knowing that the water would more than soften the onyx's armor,
allowing her pokemon to knock the nearly invulnerable beast into

Just then, Shadow's multiple jets of water slowed to a dribble,
and the starfish pokemon flew off into the air on sheer momentum,
leaving the wounded Grinder to fall beneath him.

"Not a bad victory," Flint replied, returning the onyx before he
turned in to mud, "But I'm getting a little sick of being beaten
on by you water obsessed trainers."

"Try getting more diverse pokemon," replied Miranda, running onto
the field with open arms just in time to catch the falling staryu,
"Ah! Gotcha! Oh goodness you're heavy!"

The staryu almost seemed offended by the comment, but levitated
slightly as Miranda set him down on the ground. "Nice going,
Shadow!" his trainer exclaimed happily, holding up two fingers in
the traditional symbol for victory, "Couldn't have done it without

"And congratulations to you, dear," commented Miranda as she stood
up, untucking her now wet t-shirt so she could wring it out a bit
and smiled.

Misty returned the smile as she walked past the woman. "It was
easy," she told Miranda as their fingers entwined, "You were my

Miranda turned as Misty continued on, her shoes making squishing
noises in the now muddy floor as the two held out their arms to
maintain contact for as long as possible.

"I think that's my line," Miranda chuckled as their fingers slid
over one another until contact was reluctantly broken, "But I'll
let you get away with it this time."

Misty glanced over her shoulder as she approached the gym leader.
The girl caught Miranda's gaze and smiled mischievously. "That'll
be one Boulder Badge, sir," she said, walking towards Flint
without breaking eye contact with her lover.

The man grunted in reply, holding out his large hand. Misty turned
back to him and nodded as she reached out with her much smaller
fingers to take the badge. "Thank you," she replied politely, her
voice a sounding a little sad as she took the small object.

"Not a problem, lady," said Flint with a shrug, in a tone that
implied that he was getting too old for this, "Just make sure you
tell my son to get his butt down here next time you see him."

Misty shuddered involuntarily as she turned away, the look on her
face causing Miranda's heart to sink. "I'll be sure to do that,"
Misty answered quietly before running over to Shadow and hugging
him happily, covering her mood with a bright smile, "Look what you
one us!" she laughed, but Miranda could see the turmoil in her

"We'll talk later," the courier responded, putting a hand on
Misty's shoulder.

The water trainer glanced up, her expression becoming more
serious, and nodded before standing up and leading her pokemon off
the field. "It's just bad memories, dear," Misty said with a shrug
as Miranda stood ready for her crack at a Boulder Badge.

The gym leader met her calm, serious gaze with a slight shiver,
and Miranda smiled a little at the thought of such a large man
being afraid of her. "Are you ready?" she inquired politely, "Or
would you like to establish some extra ground rules?"

Flint nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, actually," he answered with a
gruff, but not unfriendly tone, "One on one as with your friend
there, but this time, please no water pokemon. Okay?"

Miranda's half smile became a full-fledged grin. "Not a problem,"
she said glancing at the rattata on her shoulder, "You're up,

The man nearly burst out laughing as the rattata leaped to the
floor where he stood upon his hind legs. "Nez, umi!" he exclaimed
in challenge, rolling one small forepaw into a fist and raising
into the air.

With a polite cough Flint pulled a second pokeball from his belt.
"A rattata, eh?" he said rhetorically, tossing the sphere onto the
field, causing a squat, round rock-type to materialize, "It'll be
nice to have the advantage for once. Go, Krystal!"

"Don't bet on it," chuckled Misty, kneeling beside her exhausted
staryu on the sidelines, "That's no ordinary rattata!"

"Indeed," replied Miranda, reaching into her shirt, and pulling
out the small, rounded, and very well polished dark, stone she now
wore on the end of a silver chain, "Nezumi, show the nice golem
what you can do."

With a confident grin, the rattata took a deep breath before
firing an ice beam over the golem's head. Both trainer and pokemon
ducked instinctively, their heads moving to follow the path of the
beam as it struck the wall near the ceiling. Then, as the beam
faded out, a small section of wall began making unpleasant
crackling noises as a small sheet of ice formed upon it.

"A- An ice beam?!" stammered Flint, looking back at Miranda in
astonishment, "Where the heck did he learn that?!"

Miranda folded her arms across her chest, shifting slightly as she
put most of her weight onto her left leg. "Nezumi's quite an
exceptional rattata," she said simply, keeping her smile polite,
"You would do well not to underestimate him."

"I see," the gym leader said thoughtfully, shaking his head in
disbelief, "Oh well, at least if the rumors are true I won't spend
so much time getting my butt kicked..."

"Firstly," replied Miranda, raising her index finger slowly into
the air, "Never assume you've lost until after the battle, and
secondly," she lifted a second finger, "What rumor?"

"Oh, haven't you heard?" Flint exclaimed in surprise as his golem
sat down heavily and Nezumi yawned, looking bored, "They're
opening a ninth gym."

"Ninth gym?" inquired both Miranda and Misty in unison.

The aging Gym Leader nodded. "I thought you trainers were always
up on such news?" he pondered, "Oh well. Hasn't been officially
confirmed yet anyway."

"We've been on the road for a while," replied Miranda with a
shrug, "And this badge collecting thing is just a hobby for me.
Misty's the one who's serious about it."

"Irregardless," he continued, glancing down at his golem as she
staggered awkwardly to her feet, "Shall we begin?"

"So be it," answered Miranda dramatically, as the previously prone
Nezumi kippupped to attention and grinned toothily at his
opponent, "Nezumi, prepare for battle."

"Go!" exclaimed Misty from the sidelines, as anxious to see
Miranda win, as she was to leave the town of Pewter behind.

Without hesitation, the Pewter Gym's leader pointed dramatically
at Nezumi. "Krystal! Avalanche attack!"

The golem didn't hesitate to obey her trainer, withdrawing her
stubby limbs and even head like some strange round turtle made of
stone, and beginning to spin in place.

"Nezumi, 'there not there'," Miranda replied simply in a calm

Flint blinked loudly as his golem spun off with the sound of
scraping stone, hurtling herself at the little rattata. Nezumi
narrowed his eyes slightly as the spinning boulder barreled
towards him before leaping into the air at high speed. The golem
flew past his original position, but stopped herself after only a
few feet, before sailing off in the direction Nezumi had leapt.

"Nice variation on the 'quick attack'," the gym leader commented,
having trouble following Nezumi as he bounded off several large
boulders and short stone pillars.

"Effective use of the 'withdraw' technique as well," Miranda
complimented, enjoying the game as Krystal smashed her way through
the rocky outcroppings that Nezumi began continually using to
propel himself through the air, dodging the giant sentient boulder
without much of a problem.

"But your pokemon is running out of room to maneuver," the man
replied, watching with satisfaction as Nezumi barely rebounded in
time to avoid becoming a part of a pile of dust that was once a

"Ne! Ratta!" taunted Nezumi, the purple blur streaking towards the
final stationary object on the field.

Krystal gave an angry exclamation, turning at such a high speed
that she dug out a small trench in the stony ground before
rocketing towards the infuriatingly rebounding rattata.

"Now, Nezumi!" exclaimed Miranda, expressing a rare emotional
outburst, "Cone of cold!"

"Raaaa!" Nezumi shouted triumphantly as he hurtled towards
Krystal, the unstoppable force verse the immovable object, and let
loose with the crackling blue hued energy wave known commonly as
an ice beam.

Krystal's trainer gritted his teeth, and nearly had an aneurysm as
the beam went wide, sailing overtop of the rock pokemon to impact
with the far wall.

"Nezumi!" exclaimed both Miranda and Misty in unison as Nezumi
went flying end over end through the air.

"Give up?" the gym leader inquired as Krystal rolled after the
rattata, the loud stone on stone noises of her passage almost
drowned out by Nezumi's unhappy wail.

"I-! I-!" stammered Miranda, her mind too focused on Nezumi's
well-being to think straight, but as her mouth began to form the
words, Nezumi's blur began to glow.

"Nezumi!" called Miranda, "What are you-?!"

But the woman cut herself off, understanding perfectly her
pokemon's intentions and motivations as his form expanded in size.
The rattata's mass becoming at least ten times its former stature
for the second time in his life.

Then, just as the glowing white light dissipated, and Nezumi
landed on his feet, the golem gave out a loud surprised shriek.
"Nez!" exclaimed the raticate as he leaped forward and grabbed
hold of the golem's round body before using Krystal's momentum
against her, tossing the huge boulder into the air behind him.

The three humans followed the suddenly airborne pokemon with their
eyes as she sailed up into the air and crashed into the wall,
taking a considerable chunk out of it.

"Nezumi! You evolved again!" commented Miranda, uncertain as to
whether to be happy or just amazed.

"Nez, nezumi," the raticate replied, with a nonchalant shrug.

Meanwhile, Krystal had managed to unfurl her limbs and was
glowering darkly at the over grown rodent before her. "Goooolem,"
she growled menacingly, grabbing a fair sized chunk of rock from
the ground in front of her, and hefting it into the air.

The raticate looked from his trainer to the golem with his usual
confidence, and smiled as he filled his lungs, anticipating the
attack. It came in short order, with a loud exclamation from
Krystal. Nezumi watched the hurtled rock as it flew unerringly
towards him for a moment before unleashing his now much larger ice

The rock didn't seem affected at first as a thin coating of ice
covered its dull gray surface, but as it fell towards Nezumi with
all the force of a Second Impact, its intended victim sprang into

With a sound that could have been a triumphant laugh as much as it
could have been a smart assed remark, Nezumi spun on his heel and
swung his now much longer tail around. He hit the rock while it
was still in the air, eliciting a face-fault from Krystal as the
projectile shattered into a thousand pieces.

"Wow!" laughed Misty from the sidelines as Nezumi brushed the
gravel from his shoulder like it was nothing, "When'd he learn
that trick?"

"You amaze even me, dearest!" agreed Miranda, laughing as Nezumi
held up a paw, waving it dismissively.

"He certainly is something," agreed Flint, focusing on his own
pokemon, "Krystal! Underground, now!"

The golem nodded once, before retracting her limbs again and
spinning in place. As if by magic, the ground rumbled beneath
their collective feet, opening up under Krystal before swallowing
her up seemingly without a trace. Thus leaving Nezumi alone on the
field. For a moment the silence was almost deafening.

"Ratta?" the rodent pokemon exclaimed, looking at the golem's
trainer like he was an idiot before leaping forwards and burrowing
underground himself, his sharp claws ripping and tearing at the
dirt floor in a method far less stylish than the golem, but no
less effective.

"That's quite a versatile pokemon you have," commented Flint in
the dreadful calm that followed.

"Normal types always have the advantage," assured Miranda, her
eyes focused on the hole Nezumi had disappeared into.

"Except of course, against fighting types," the man corrected her,
causing the woman to flinch.

"Don't remind me!" Miranda growled, her hands becoming fists as
bad memories assaulted her mental defenses.

"My apologies," the man replied a little too offhandedly, paying
attention to the sudden rumbling sound beneath their feet, "What

"An earthquake?" inquired Misty rhetorically as the walls of the
old warehouse that held the Gym began to shudder visibly.

"No," responded Flint, looking thoughtful, "Definitely not an
earthquake. More like our pokemon just found each other!"

Both trainers glanced down at the floor as the rumbling became
louder and more ominous. Just on the edge of their hearing they
could hear scratching noises, interspaced by the voices of both
pokemon scrambling around in the dark.

"What do you suppose they're doing down there?" inquired Misty,
looking worried and hugging Shadow protectively.

Miranda shook her head, seemingly unconcerned. "I have faith in my
Nezumi," she said simply, glancing up at Flint as a peculiar white
light suddenly burst forth from both holes the raticate had dug.

"Evolution?!" the gym leader exclaimed, immediately recognizing
the source of the light.

"Interesting," commented Miranda, her calm unbroken by the tension
in the air, the strange light, or the fact that the rumbling was
getting louder, and that the floor was cracking at its center.

"But golems and raticates don't evolve any further," muttered
Flint, shaking his head.

"Perhaps they found another pokemon," Miranda postulated, smiling
as the floor began to buckle and small jets of water began
spraying out of the cracks, "Or maybe not..."

With that, the center of the floor exploded upwards and outwards,
sending chunks of rock and cold water flying in all directions. In
the middle of it all, a large rounded shape was scrambling in mid
air, its stubby limbs scrambling for purchase.

"Krystal!" exclaimed Flint, running onto the field, becoming
soaked and bruised in the process.

"Nezumi?" inquired Miranda, sudden concern gripping her as a small
shape became visible on top of a panicking golem.

"Nez, ra!" the once again little pokemon called back reassuringly,
laughing as he scampered across the continually rotating surface
of Krystal.

For its part, the water seemed unwilling to let up, traveling at
high speed most of the way to the ceiling before raining down in
all directions like a geyser. At first it seemed that a simple
water main had burst, but as the smell caught up with them, all
those present realized it was high-pressure sewer pipe.

"Nezumi!" called Miranda, her voice sounding odd as she held her

"Krystal!" called Flint, his gruff voice almost comical as he
followed suit.

"Return!" commanded both trainers, each holding out pokeballs and
sending out crimson beams of light that dematerialized their
pokemon for easy storage...
Chapter II

Misty was jostled awake as the truck hit a bump in the road. Her
sleep-blurred vision caught a passing road sign. "Route 3, Mount
Moon next left," it read.

"You're awake," said Miranda quietly, giving her lover a sideways
glance as she drove and reached over to take her hand.

Misty nodded. "I wasn't totally asleep," she replied, unbuckling
her seat belt and sliding over closer to Miranda, "I was just
thinking about the other day."

Miranda looked thoughtfully out at the road ahead, sliding an arm
around Misty as the girl snuggled in close. "Any thing you wanted
to talk about?" she inquired sympathetically, turning the wheel
slightly to avoid another pothole.

"No, not really," Misty explained, looking out the front window at
the way the headlights barely illuminated the poorly maintained
road, "You got a large delivery call, and I needed a boulder
badge. Simple as that."

"Bad memories, eh?"

"Kinda," Misty admitted, smiling in spite of herself as Miranda
half hugged her, "But at least we both won our challenges. I
suppose that kinda counts as closure."

"One more ghost of the past not haunting you," replied Miranda
mostly rhetorically, trying not to yawn, "But are you sure that
you're okay with us heading to Cerulean? It's not like either of
us actually needs a Cascade Badge."

Misty watched the road for a few moments before answering. "It's
no big deal," she said, a small smile coming to her as she
snuggled against Miranda, "I have you to look out for me, and with
you by my side I know I can stand up to my sisters."

"That's good," replied Miranda, giving Misty a small hug, wishing
she could kiss her, but the thought of going off the road wasn't
the least bit intriguing, "Just remember, you're your own person.
Not your sister's plaything."

Misty nodded in agreement; trying not to dwell upon the literally
hundreds of times her sisters had manipulated her into doing
things she didn't want to. "Last time you were there," asked
Misty, trying to change the subject a little, "how did you get
along with them?"

Miranda shrugged. "It really wasn't a social call," she explained
as the passed another sign advertising a rest stop just a ways
ahead, "You see, I kinda got into a small argument with this
trainer about which one of us had better pokemon. It was silly
really, but he insulted Nezumi, and I couldn't let go by..."

Misty glanced up at Miranda and smiled. "You really love him,
don't you?" she asked rhetorically.

Miranda thought about it for a moment, her mind becoming a bit
cloudy after the long drive over rough terrain. "He's my second
acquisition," explained the courier, "But he's favorite. I suppose
it's because he makes me laugh and reminds me how to smile when I
forget but also he's just too darn cute sometimes."

Misty smiled, snuggling closer and awkwardly putting her arms
around Miranda. "I love you too," she sighed contently, her heart
swelling with emotion, "I just hope Umi, Wraith or especially
Nezumi don't get jealous!"

"Yeah," chuckled Miranda, giving Misty a gentle half hug, "but I
think they understand. If not, Nezumi will explain it to them.
They listen to him, and he's good at understanding humans it
seems. Which is odd, because dratini are the one's who're mildly

"Maybe it's because Nezumi spends more time outside of his
pokeball," Misty suggested, "And Umi is still quite young in
dragon years."

"She'll be fifteen in November," Miranda agreed, slowing as the
exit off Route 4 to a rest stop loomed closer, "Nezumi's only
five, but he's older in rattata years. Anyway, I wound up having
to show that guy in Cerulean why rattatas are just as good as

"Did, did you say 'eevee'?" interrupted Misty, glancing up at
Miranda with an expression that crossed shocking realization with

The woman nodded. "Yeah, why?"

"No reason," chuckled Misty, "Go on."

Miranda gave Misty a suspiciously amused glance as she pulled into
the parking area and killed the engine. "Anyway," she continued,
adding so much emphasis to the word that Misty almost burst out
laughing, "we went to the park and had it out. And that's about

Misty gave Miranda a look of unsatisfied curiosity, making it her
turn to laugh.

"Okay, okay," she chuckled, shutting off the headlights and
unbuckling her seatbelt, "It was a tie. Now then, what's with the

Misty exhaled her held breath, smiling and shaking her head as she
unbuckled herself as well before getting a little more
comfortable. "By any chance, was his name 'Gary'?" she asked,
"With an eevee named 'Lilith'?"

Miranda glanced out the windshield at the now more visible stars.
"Yeah, Gary something or other," she replied thoughtfully, "I
don't really remember, though. Is he another friend of yours?"

"Goodness, no!" laughed Misty, "He's an obnoxious braggart! But
then, I'm beginning to think that's a common trait amongst Pallet

"Ah, I see," replied Miranda, turning back to Misty, "he's a
friend of Ash's."

"More like a rival," corrected Misty, swinging her legs onto the
seat so she could sit in Miranda's lap with her back against the

Miranda smirked. "You know," she said slyly, wrapping her arms
around her beloved, "it's a good thing he's got a real attitude

"Oh? Why's that?" inquired Misty in amused suspicion, resting her
arms on Miranda's shoulders, awkwardly encircling her neck.

"Because he's kinda cute," Miranda responded, almost unable to
keep from laughing.

"Should I be jealous?" Misty asked, bowing her head a little so
that she could look up at Miranda with a pitiful look.

"Only if he suddenly becomes an irresistibly beautiful trainer
specializing in water pokemon," Miranda replied, her voice
becoming quiet as their lips moved closer, "And of course he'd
have to change his disposition to be that of someone who is both
sweet and full of fire. Becoming someone that I would treasure
even beyond death. Someone so special that my heart nearly bursts
every time I look into her eyes and her devotion reflected in

Misty pressed her lips against Miranda's, cutting her off again in
an attempt to ease the emotional buildup she felt. Her lover
offered up no resistance, instead holding the girl closer, and
tilting her head obligingly as they kissed, running her hands down
Misty's back affectionately.

"I do love you," assured Misty breathlessly as she pulled back,
"More than I've ever loved anyone or anything."

"Thank you," Miranda replied, brushing her nose against Misty's,
"I never grow wary of hearing that."

Misty nodded slowly, the feeling of safety in Miranda's arms
making her wish the courier could hold her forever. "If I wasn't
so tired I'd show you just how much I love you," she assured,
kissing Miranda teasingly, playfully nibbling her bottom lip.

"That's okay," Miranda assured, sighing contentedly as Misty's
fingers brushed her bangs out of her eyes, "I love you for you,
not for what you can do 'for' me. If I was suddenly cursed so that
all I could do was hold you; that would be enough. If the Heavens
above decreed that may only kiss you but once a day, my heart
would almost burst, but it would still be enough. And if distance
itself separated us physically, even staring across a bottomless
chasm into your eyes would be enough. I love you, Misty. With out
condition, and without regret."

Her beloved let out a long sigh, resting her head on Miranda's
shoulder, basking in the moment. "You're as beautiful as your
poetry," she sighed, closing her eyes and nuzzling Miranda's neck.

"My muse gives me little rest, my love," assured Miranda with a
chuckle, "But I guess I'm just hunting for a perfect moment."

"A perfect moment?" inquired Misty, looking up suddenly into the
stormy gray depths of Miranda's suddenly distant gaze.

"Yes," the woman explained reminiscently, "In my Father's diary,
he wrote that he had two such moments. He would even ponder them,
trying to decide which was more perfect, because you can only have
one perfect moment. He never wrote which it was, so I suppose they
both were..."

"What were they?" asked Misty in a quiet tone, knowing how
thoughts of her deceased father affected the woman.

Miranda smiled. "The day he found Selece was the first," she
explained quietly, "He found a clutch of eggs on the beach one
summer when he was in Porta Vista, but most of them had been
broken open and devoured by sea birds. He never found out what
happened to the parents, but he brought the surviving egg home and
hatched it. That's why I have Umi..." Miranda smiled at the
memory, "But the 'perfect' moment came when that egg hatched. The
first thing little Selece saw was my father. Their eyes met, and
there was instant love. And somehow, that dratini conveyed his
desire to be named Selece. So he basically named himself."

"Was it the same for you with Umi?" Misty inquired, wiping away
Miranda's tear for her.

The courier nodded. "Yes, I remember my parents waking me up at
three in the morning and rushing me into the Cavern. I was only
wearing a nightdress, and didn't have time to even dawn some
slippers, so the hot sands beneath my feet was almost unbearable.
But when I walked in, and saw that Undine was backing away from
her eggs, I knew it was something important! My father wanted my
experience with my dratini to be even more special that his own.
And it was... I'll never forget the first few cracks that appeared
upon the shell. The pitiful cries as that the sweet baby dragon
pushed against the walls of her egg, until finally shattering it
into a thousand pieces! Then her little eyes shifting from red to
green as she saw me... I knew her name in that instant. Just like
with my Father. And I knew she hungry too! Although I wasn't
officially 'given' Umi until Umi was old enough to leave her
parents, and I was old enough to handle the responsibility. Those
were very happy years, though..."

"Before it all ended," concluded Misty, seeing the sad look in
Miranda's eyes, "But at least you still have Umi..."

"That's true," whispered Miranda, determined not to cry as she
continued her story, "The second moment for my Father, though, was
when I was born. I have a picture at home of him and my mom
together that day. They look so happy with me, little more than a
bundle of blankets between them. It was a long harsh Winter, but I
added warmth to both their lives."

"You, you don't resent your Mother's decision to remarry, do you?"
Misty asked carefully.

"Goodness no," Miranda chuckled quietly, shaking her head in
amusement, "I like Bob. He makes my mother happy, and that's all
that matters. But, much like my Father, my moments keep competing
for the title of Perfection."

"And may I ask, what moments are currently in the running?"
inquired Misty a touch coyly.

Miranda closed her eyes and smiled. "Right now is something of a
front runner," she admitted, "But I think the first time you told
you loved me ranks pretty high. As does Umi's hatching... Like
father like daughter, I suppose. Hm, I have his eyes, you know.
Gray as the sky on a cloudy day, just before a storm. Except that
in my case, I guess it's a snow storm, because that's what I was
born during."

"That's okay," assured Misty, thinking back to their last vid-
phone conversation with Vivian Lilcamp, "I think you look better
with gray eyes, rather than magenta."

Miranda suppressed a laugh as she removed her glasses. "That's
true," she agreed, "but I received my vision defect from my

"That's okay," assured Misty, "I think your glasses add a certain
intelligent look to your over all appearance. I like that."

"I'm glad!" replied Miranda, giving Misty a sarcastically relieved

"How about me, though?" the trainer inquired, taking Miranda's
glasses from her and sliding them onto her own face.

Miranda leaned back a little, examining the effect. "I never
realized how big those make my eyes look!" she commented, reaching
up to untie Misty's hair so that it fell free, "Hey, not bad..."

"Think so?" Misty giggled, trying unsuccessfully to focus, even
though Miranda's prescription wasn't that strong.

"Yes," Miranda agreed with a smile, sliding the spectacles off,
"Very cute. But you'll hurt yourself if you wear these for too

"Oh, my heroine," said Misty jokingly as Miranda put them away,
taking a moment to stretch her legs out, "Oh! Sorry!"

There was a suddenly dull thud as Miranda's clipboard slid off the
far end of the seat. "Tis okay," the courier assured, looking over
and trying to make out the image of the clipboard in the darkness,
"I'm sure its fine."

"Hey, what's on here, anyway?" commented Misty, suddenly struck by
her impulsive curiosity as she leaned forward and reached under
the dashboard, "I never thought to ask."

"Food for some fancy restaurant," answered Miranda with a shrug,
"We get that sometimes. It's usually local delicacies that need to
be shipped from far away to please immigrants. That's why the back
of the truck is refrigerated."

"I noticed," said Misty, leafing through the papers and squinting
to read the words, "Twenty-eight boxes of an eighty piece order. I
guess someone else is delivering the next load."

"It's probably something that needs an over night shipment,"
Miranda explained, "Like sushi or something. Oh well, the job's
not glamorous, but I prefer it to working in Admin. It pays better

"And this from the sole heir to the family fortune," Misty
commented slyly, sending Miranda a sideways glance.

"Hey! You're right!" gasped Miranda in mock surprise, "I'd better
call mom and Bob to tell them to get crackin' and make me some
step siblings soon, or I'll have to become a 'real' responsible
adult by the time I'm like fifty! What'll I do?!"

"Well, I'd better be careful too!" added Misty, laughing in spite
of her wariness, "Because if something happens to my sisters, I'll
inherit a pokemon gym!"

Miranda smiled, taking Misty's chin in her hand and tilting
Misty's head to making eye contact. "Then I shall bequeath my
fortune to my Aunt Laurna and learn to raise fish!" she concluded,
"For a few thousand credits and some cracked china cannot compare
to the treasure of your love..."

Misty sighed contently as Miranda's lips pressed against her own
for a few precious moments. "And in my case," she chuckled between
kisses, "I'd rather have you than the world's biggest fish tank
any day!"

Miranda pulled back, unable to keep from laughing. "It's more than
that," she chuckled, smiling adoringly at Misty as she shook her
head, "A pokemon gym's supposed to be a sacred place, something to
be taken seriously. They don't give official gym status to just

"I know," assured Misty wistfully, "but so is love. It's a
precious thing and should never just be cast aside, or put off. It
should take precedence over everything!"

"I must be rubbing off on you," replied Miranda with an amused
smile before sitting up a little straighter and stretching out,
"Which isn't a bad thing, really. But sleeping in this position
just might be."

"You're probably right," Misty agreed, backing away and setting
the clipboard on the dash, "Do you think we'll be warm enough
tonight, though?"

"More than likely," replied Miranda teasingly, making Misty blush
as she shuffled down to the opposite door and pulled it open.

"Yeah, you're probably right," responded Misty coyly, bowing her
head to hide her reaction as she unlocked the backrest and pulled
it forward a short distance, "It'll be at least a few weeks before
the cooler weather comes."

Miranda leaned forward as she opened her door and slid out. "I
guess that means we'll hit Cerulean in time for the End Of Summer
Festival," she commented, taking in a deep lungful of the cool
night air.

"Hey! You're right," responded Misty, pulling her sleeping bag out
from behind the seat, and waiting for Miranda to retrieve her own
before slamming the backrest into place once more, "I wonder if
this delivery's for the festival?"

"More than likely," replied Miranda, making her way around the
truck to make sure everything was in order, "Eighty some odd
creates of food does seem a bit much."

"I wonder if there's any ice-cream..." pondered Misty hopefully as
Miranda came around to her side and gave one of the tires a light
tap with her shoe.

"That's dishonest," said the courier in an amused tone, "Besides,
I thought you were worried about keeping warm."

Misty blushed again, causing Miranda to catch her breath as a
flood of emotion hit her out of nowhere. "Okay," Misty conceded,
in a tone that suggested a scolded child, "I'll be good..."

Miranda shook her head, and put an arm around Misty's shoulders.
"But, it can't hurt to look," she replied.

"Yay," Misty responded with token enthusiasm and a mischievous
smile as Miranda lead her around to the back of the truck, "But
just remember, Miri, we're just looking!"

Miranda gave her an amused sideways glance. "I promise if you do,"
she replied, dropping her sleeping bag on the ground and letting
go of Misty so she could open the back doors.

"Well, okay," giggled Misty as the metal latches strained against
Miranda's efforts to unhinge them.

"Must be the temperature," the woman commented as the mechanism
unlocked and she strained against the door, "It's frozen shut."

"No problem!" announced Misty, her enthusiasm getting the best of
her as she pulled out a pokeball, "Leviathan, you're up!"

Miranda's eyes widened as she took a step back, trying to stammer
out an appropriate objection while her beloved tossed out the
pokeball. It opened a moment later, and from the crimson light
Misty's gyarados materialized.

The monstrous sea serpent bowed its head and turned his gaze
towards his mistress. "Gyaaaa," he growled contentedly as Misty
scratched his eye ridges affectionately and Miranda could only
shake her head in amused dismay.

"I need to you heat the doors up," his trainer explained in a
maternal tone, her voice going up and octave as she spoke to her
latest pokemon acquisition, "But just a little, okay?"

Leviathan leaned back and nodded, something resembling a smile
coming to his lips as he stared down at Misty adoringly. "This-
this could be misconstrued as a touch excessive," stammered
Miranda, giving the pokemon a wide breadth as she went to stand at
Misty's side while the gyarados began making a sinister hissing

"Well, he does have to practice his dragon rage technique,"
chuckled Misty as small orange flames flickered between
Leviathan's twin rows of razor sharp teeth, "And neither of us
really have any fire pokemon."

"I've always found them a touch unreliable," admitted Miranda.
"Except for growlithes. Cops use them for that reason, I suppose.
Too bad their unavailable as starter poke's for Lavender Brats."

"'Lavender Brats'?" inquired Misty, the flames lighting up her
face in the dim light.

Miranda nodded, smiling reminiscently. "That's what a lot of
people call pokemon trainers from Lavender," she explained, "It
started out as derogatory, something about a disagreement with
some Sunny Town residence as I recall, but we're proud of the
nickname now."

"I have trouble seeing you as a 'brat'," laughed Misty, leaning
against Miranda as Leviathan carefully blew a light dusting of
orange flame against the back doors of the panel truck, "A
'Lavender Girl', maybe, but not a 'Lavender Brat'."

Miranda titled her head and looked down at Misty with a serious
look. "I wasn't always the person I am today," she said teasingly,
"And I'm sure you were quite a handful for your parents when you
were young too!"

"My, my parents..." muttered Misty, suddenly looking glum before
becoming alarmed, "Leviathan! That's enough!"

The gyarados gave his trainer a sideways glance. "Dooosss?" he
inquired, blinking his huge amber eyes innocently, oblivious to
the fact that the paint had peeled off and the door was beginning
to melt.

"Stop!" Misty ordered, holding out Leviathan's pokeball and
activating it, "That's enough for now."

The pokemon gave an apologetic sound, and looked downcast as he
dematerialized and was once again and drawn back into his

"I'm sorry," came Miranda's quiet apology as Misty stepped
forward, leaving Miranda suddenly feeling very cold and alone, "I,
I didn't mean to..."

"It's okay," assured Misty, staring off into the space between
herself and the now smoking doors, "It my fault for never
mentioning it to you. I, I think that you of all people have right
to know."

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," assured Miranda,
her stomach twisting into knots as guilt hit her conscience rather

Misty shook her head. "There's not much to tell," she continued
after taking a deep breath, "My parent's Fate was nowhere near as
dramatic or even interesting as you might think. They were lost at
sea, that's all. It was supposed to be a second honeymoon to the
Orange Islands, and their ship went down in a storm..."

"I see," Miranda replied, coming up behind Misty and placing her
hands carefully upon Misty's shoulders, half wondering if she

"Don't worry," assured Misty, closing her eyes and bowing her head
to hide her tears as she put her hands over Miranda's, "It's just
that I'm not as strong as you are, Miranda. As you've said, I'm
full of life. It makes it hard to deal with death, so I ignore it,
or try to forget about it. You're comment just caught me off
guard, 'tis all."

"I'm still sorry," said Miranda, sliding her arms around Misty
from behind and holding her close, "I guess that I'm just so used
to mourning my own losses, that I forget that other people have
them too."

Misty snickered in spite of herself. "It's funny," she commented,
resting her head upon Miranda's shoulder and staring up at the
stars, "I almost envy you."

"How so?"

The trainer inhaled the now warm air and held it for a moment
before speaking, hoping that her tears would stop. "It's stupid
really," she replied, "just a silly childish jealousy. You'd only
laugh at me."

"No," corrected Miranda, "Nothing you say or feel is silly. You
mean everything to me, and if there's something on your mind, I
want to hear it."

"Okay," continued Misty, glancing into Miranda's caring eyes,
"Here goes. You see, you have a story to tell when it comes to
your family tragedy. The Rockets came to steal your parent's
pokemon, and everything went horribly wrong. You have someone you
can point to, and say 'You killed my Father, you murdered Undine
and Selece, and your stupid machoke paralyzed your Mother. Who do
I have blame? Who do can I seek revenge upon for dramatically
changing my life for the worse? Nature? Fate? Blind luck?!"

"Misty..." choked Miranda, holding the girl as close as she could,
the sight of her beloved tears, and the pain in her voice cutting
though her usual calm and leaving behind a numb sorrow.

"I, I told you it was stupid and childish," replied Misty, her
small fingers digging into Miranda's forearms as she held on for
support, "Being envious of such a thing... I'm nothing like my

"Misty!" exclaimed Miranda through her own tears, turning her
beloved around before taking hold of her shoulders and meeting her
gaze, "It's- It's all right. And not being like your sisters is a
good thing."

Misty met Miranda's gaze and nodded. "Thank you," she whispered;
falling into her lover's embrace, "You seem to be able to put up
with so much..."

"I'm not putting up with anything," assured Miranda a little
indignantly, "And it's not childish, it's just human. It's not
stupid, it just means that you aspire to greatness. And that's a
good thing."

Misty pulled away and looked up at Miranda once again, smiling
weakly. "Is this what it's like?" she inquired, her heart feeling
a little less burdened to have someone love me? To put up with my
moods? To listen to my problems? To not just cast me aside because
I don't live up to some stupid outdated 'beauty myth'?!"

Miranda found a smile tugging at the edges of her mouth as well,
and quickly succumbed to it. "I'm thinking that it might be," she
replied with mock uncertainty, feeling her heart rejoice
proportionately to Misty's mood improvement, "But I'm not sure. We
may need to research this theorem."

Misty laughed as Miranda leaned down to give her a light kiss.
"Oh, and it was a Machop at the time," the woman added, finding it
surprisingly easy to contain her negative feelings at speaking the
word, "When we saw him last, he'd evolved."

"Oh, sorry," replied Misty thoughtfully, "But let's change the
subject, okay? Hm. You never did finish telling me about that time
you won a cascade badge..."

Miranda smirked reminiscently. "Oh yeah, that," she chuckled, "You
know, I only challenged them because I tied with Gary. It seemed
like a logical choice at the time. Which one of us could walk away
with a badge."

"And you both did," finished Misty, placing her head upon
Miranda's shoulder and nuzzling her neck, "So I guess you're still
even. Oh, and I hate to mention it, but you forgot your glasses."

"Yeah, I know," responded Miranda jokingly, "just don't go too far
or else I'll loose sight of you!"

"Even if we weren't in the middle of nowhere, I'd still prefer to
be safe in your arms," the girl replied as Miranda reached out her
hand testingly to see if the metal had cooled.

"Not even to perchance snag a few mouthfuls of your favorite
dessert?" Miranda inquired slyly, "I think we can get in now."

"No," said Misty, shaking her head and laughing at Miranda's
sudden sarcastically shocked look, "I'm sorry, but I'd rather just
get ready for bed. Ice-cream can wait until tomorrow."

"Wow..." replied Miranda, barely keeping from laughing as she
tried keep acting like she as in shock, suddenly realizing that
the door was indeed melted shut, and thankful for the change of
subject, "I- I don't believe it! Like, this is the big one!"

Misty laughed out loud as Miranda backed away, clutching her heart
melodramatically, and waving her free hand in the air. "M-Misty
doesn't want ice-cream! Ah! My heart can't take that kind of a
shock! Quick, call a doctor! Oh no, It's too late, make that an

"Oh you!" laughed Misty as Miranda fell carefully backwards onto
the ground and faked a heart attack as her voice echoed off the
nearby mountain range.

"Me?" inquired Miranda all too innocently, looking up with a
toothy grin, "You're the one we should worry about! My poor
Misty... Loosing her appetite for ice-cream... Oh! What is this
cruel world coming to?"

"Stop it!" the girl laughed, walking over and straddling Miranda's
hips, "You're embarrassing me!"

Miranda held out her arms and smiled. "There's only one way to
stop me," she teased.

Misty laughed and fell into Miranda's arms, kissing her repeatedly
as the two rolled over several times, both of them giggling at
themselves, laughing until their stomachs ached from the humorous
exertion, and their hair and clothes were damp and covered in
loose bits of grass.

"Had enough?" teased Misty as she lay atop Miranda, staring down
at the courier with her hair full of twigs and dead leaves.

Miranda smiled, playfully kissing Misty on the nose as she tried
not to laugh. "For now," she promised with a sigh, "I guess you're
just too much for me."

Misty sat up, a sad look crossing her face as she straddled
Miranda's hips. "Don't you love me?" she inquired with false
sadness, causing Miranda to sit straight up and hug Misty

"I don't think that love's a strong enough word," she teased,
making Misty laugh as she tried to find a stronger word, "Looove,
perhaps? Or lub? Or loolooove?!"

"Just 'love' will do!" Misty laughed, kissing Miranda before
getting to her feet and holding out her hands, "And I
'looooloooove you too!"

Miranda grinned at her own silliness accepting Misty's offer to
help her up. "Come on," she said, picking a twig from Misty's
hair, "let's get cleaned up a bit and make use of those sleeping
bags. It's kinda late and I'd rather not go off the road in the

Misty nodded slowly, enjoying the feeling of Miranda's fingers
searching her hair for more bits of foliage. "I'll find us
something to wear," she offered, tugging her damp shirt away from
her body, "'cause I dread the thought of sleeping in wet clothes!"

"Especially socks," shuddered Miranda as they walked back to the
truck, "Oh, and can you grab the keys? I'd rather keep them with

Misty nodded and headed towards the cab as Miranda grabbed their
sleeping bags so she could unfurl and zip them together. "Is the
nightshirt with the rattata okay for you?" called Misty from a
short distance away.

Miranda glanced up from her work and smiled as she saw Misty
climbing part way into the truck's cab in search of their
backpacks. A moment later, Misty was lying across the front seat,
only her lower half visible as she rifled through their belongings
for what was needed. As she watched for a moment, feeling a bit of
a voyeuristic thrill as her lover's denim clad legs flailed a bit
as Misty went about her work, the water-trainer's bottom making
and all too tempting target.

"That's, that's just fine dear!" called Miranda suppressing shiver
that had nothing to do with the chill in the night air.

The courier then found it a little difficult to concentrate on her
work, watching Misty scramble a little farther inside as the light
from the overhead lamp illuminated Misty's visible bottom half.
Misty then issued a small curse as some inanimate object or other
incurred a slight portion of her wrath, and lifted her leg to
maintain balance, yet the effect remained unbroken.

"I'm such a pervert," sighed Miranda, shaking her head at the
thoughts running through her mind as she stood contemplating
Misty's shapely legs while her hands worked on their sleeping
arrangements with practiced moves she could have done in her
sleep, "But I just can't help it. She's just so cute..."

"You say something?" inquired Misty, pulling herself out of the
truck and slamming the door shut.

"Oh, nothing," replied Miranda as Misty tossed her the keys, "Just
acquiring some inspiration."

"You've been writing quite a bit lately," Misty commented as she
began to strip off her damp clothes, "Are you ever going to get
any of that stuff published?"

"Maybe," said Miranda with a noncommittal shrug as she dropped the
keys on to the now merged and Twice as spacious sleeping bags a
slipped her shirt over her head, "Brr! It's a little chilly out

"Try standing by the engine," offered Misty, now standing naked
except for her undergarments.

Miranda nodded and went to join her, only to find Misty's arms
about her naked torso. "Gotcha," she whispered with a giggle,
giving Miranda a hug before letting go and donning a long
nightshirt that covered her to the knees.

"Oh, you're no fun!" laughed Miranda with mock disappointment as
she slipped off her jeans and hung them over the hood of the truck
to dry.

"No, but at least I'm warm!" countered Misty mischievously.

Miranda glanced over her shoulder as she struggled into a loose
fitting shirt with the aforementioned rattata on it. She could
only smile as Misty buried herself within the warmth of their
joined sleeping bags, and shiver as a cool breeze blew past her
own bare legs.

"Well, you'd best be moving over," Miranda warned, rushing over
and finding the opening, "It's positively freezing out here!"

"Oh, poor you!" Misty sighed in amusement, making room and sighing
contentedly as Miranda slid inside the sleeping bag, her arms
intent on holding her beloved. "But you know," replied Misty
thoughtfully as their arms wrapped around one another, and their
legs entwined, "You never finished telling me about that time you
challenged my sisters."

"There's not much more to tell," admitted Miranda, thankful for
their shared warmth, "As I said, myself and Gary had a little
battle, and it turned out to be a draw. So we decided to see who
could win out in a battle against the allegedly 'sensational'
Cerulean sisters."

Misty chuckled as Miranda rolled her eyes and shook her head. "So
I take it you both won then?" asked Misty, to which Miranda
shrugged and nodded, "But what happened afterwards? Did you ever
resolve the issue?"

Miranda blushed and tried to stammer out a reply. "It's... It's a
little odd," she admitted, rousing Misty's curiosity.

"Odd?" she inquired, moving closer and trying to catch Miranda's
averted gaze.

"Um, well you see," began Miranda, desperately trying to avoid the
topic, but failing miserably, "Well, to be blunt. Gary slept with

Misty's expression became on of surprise before she burst out
laughing. "So," she inquired after calming down enough to breath,
"Which one did you sleep with?"

"You," replied Miranda in such a serious tone and with such
intensity that Misty was taken back.

"Me?" the trainer inquired, her tone giving away a sudden growing
anxiety, "Just me, and only me?"

"Just you," assured Miranda, "Gary said he only did it because he
knew I couldn't. I know it was just because he couldn't stand
being upstaged. Besides, she's not my type. To... Prissy."

"Yeah, but still," pondered Misty, shaking her head in disbelief,
"I can't believe she'd do that!"

"Would your sisters believe that you're here in my arms?" the
courier countered, extenuating her point by giving Misty a gentle

"No, I suppose not," she agreed, glancing up at the stars, "I
guess they're in for quite a shock tomorrow."

"We don't have to go there if you don't want to," Miranda offered,
"we can just book a hotel or whatever."

"No," said Misty firmly, "I'm willing to face them so that I can
look them in the eye and say 'Hey! I have a right to be happy
too!' and if they don't like it, then too bad!"

Miranda smiled, kissing Misty upon the forehead affectionately.
"You know what?" she commented wistfully, snuggling closer as she
spoke and whispering her words directly into Misty's ear, "I just
find your delightful combination of power and vulnerability
appealing beyond the dreams of Avarice."

"Yes, but Avarice was only interested in money," Misty pointed out

"Ah, but you are a beautiful treasure that even he would have
appreciated," countered Miranda, kissing her playfully, "One that
I shall never trade for all the money in the world."

"Promises, promises," chuckled Misty, sighing contentedly as
Miranda's fingertips lightly traced a path down Misty's side,
causing her to jump a little.

"I never make a promise I can't keep," replied Miranda, gently
kissing Misty's neck, savoring the warmth of her lover's skin upon
her lips as her fingers touched bare hip where Misty's nightshirt
had ridden up. Part of Miranda's mind wondered if it was a
coincidence, or on purpose, but it hardly mattered.

Misty of moaned softly, feeling perfectly safe and content, even
as her lover's hand slid beneath her nightshirt and over her
stomach. "Looking for something?" she asked coyly.

"You need only to tell me to stop," responded Miranda, giving
Misty's earlobe a gentle nibble as her fingers playfully
threatened to slide within her undergarment.

"That's funny," replied Misty, her voice sounding a little
distracted, "'cause I- I can't seem to remember how..."

"Just. Say. Stop," said Miranda, speaking each word between kisses
along Misty's neck, causing her lover to shiver despite the

"But I just can't," sighed Misty contentedly, jumping a little in
sudden excited anticipation as Miranda's fingers slipped
underneath her panties and slowly traced their way across her soft

"But if you don't tell me to stop," countered Miranda as her
middle finger slid slowly along the line between Misty's labia,
and smiled as she felt a subtle moisture growing there, "I won't.
I'll just keep going and going until your cries of passion fill
the night, and all the creatures of this place know that this is
but one expression of the love that I have for you."

Misty let out a small whimper, closing her eyes and breathing
slowly through her mouth as she tried to speak, somehow unable to
find the words. Clutching desperately at her lover's back as
Miranda's fingers teased her womanhood, sending pleasant chills
through her, causing Misty's entire body to tingle.

She couldn't help but let out a small gasp as she felt Miranda's
gently probing middle finger slide a little deeper, drawing it
slowly back and forth between Misty's labia. She then couldn't
help but push herself closer, abandoning herself to the sensation
as her fingers clenched and she panted breathlessly in Miranda's

"Patience," her beloved whispered teasingly in her ear, kissing
Misty's neck as she spoke, her free hand moving closer to her own
womanhood, "there's no need to rush things."

Misty managed to catch her breath as Miranda's pace slowed. She
could still feel the warmth of her lover's hand between her legs,
the gentle caress just enough to give her a gentle sensation of

"What are you doing?" whispered Misty, feeling Miranda's body
shiver a little.

"N-nothing," came Miranda's giddy reply, and Misty's eyes widened
as she reached between them and touched Miranda's hand.

"I-I could help you, you know," she offered, taking hold of both
Miranda's hands and gently guiding them.

"I'm fine," the courier replied with a smile, shivering pleasantly
at her lover's touch, "But for now, just show me what you want."

Misty smiled, gently pushing the Miranda's middle finger inside
herself. The little cry she let out in response, causing Miranda a
convulsive shiver as she closed her eyes and held onto the moment.

"Right there..." Misty gasped, her voice breathless as Miranda
felt a deep need building inside herself.

"Like this?" teased Miranda, dragging her wetted fingers up to
Misty's clit as she let Misty guide her other hand, copying the
motion almost exactly.

"No," whimpered Misty, her breathing coming in long drawn out
breathes, "I need to feel you inside me. Like this..."

Miranda gasped, shivering happily as Misty pushed her hand back
down and felt her finger slide inside herself. The courier
couldn't help but smile, knowing that that was exactly what Misty
suddenly desperately wanted as she made slow playful circles upon
Misty's clit, teasing her lover as she rotated the small nub with
a wetted finger that seemed to know just what to do.

"Here," the girl offered, sliding one hand between Miranda's
gently rubbing thigh and her own womanhood. With a small-
embarrassed exclamation, Misty slid her finger inside herself
before bringing her hand up to her shoulder,

"Please, Miri," came Misty's almost desperate tone, the pressure
of her fingers upon the courier's back increasing, "I need you so

Misty's voice bordered on pleading and Miranda felt as though
she'd melt at the sound. "As you wish, my beloved," she whispered,
at last obeying the request.

Misty arched her back in reaction to the sudden sensation, her
breasts pressing invitingly against Miranda's as she tried to
stifle her voice. For a moment, she merely clung to Miranda, her
mind swimming as her lover's finger did its work, barely noticing
as the courier abandoned her own pleasure and moved her free hand
up under Misty's shirt.

She couldn't help but shiver and move as close as possible as
Miranda's hand cupped her small breast, the woman's fingers
clasping the nipple and gently squeezing it as the others caressed
her skin.

"Wha- What are you-?" Misty began, hardly thinking straight as the
sensation filled her and she kissed Miranda's neck affectionately
in hopes of letting some of it out.

"Nothing..." chuckled Miranda, her voice full of mischief, her
middle finger sliding deeper as her thumb moved to rub Misty's
clit, "Just making you the center of my undivided attention."

"But- But what a- about you?" Misty gasped, but Miranda leaned her
head back, and caught her lover's lips in a kiss. One Misty
couldn't the desire to pull away from as she kissing back with
every ounce of passion she could muster.

"Just- Just don't stop," she panted, pulling away to catch her
breath and Miranda smiled at the look in Misty's eyes.

"Not unless you tell me to," Miranda assured, the sound of Misty's
now incoherent, yet lovely voice filling her ears and bringing
moisture to her nether regions even without the girl's touch and
making her shiver unconsciously.

"Miri-?" Misty inquired helplessly, first feeling Miranda stop,
then noticing the way Miranda's body quivered, and finally heard
the gasping sound of the courier's quiet exclamation that
accompanied the sudden look upon her face.

Misty giggled quietly, enjoying the feeling Miranda's body against
her own before mischievously reaching down to continue guiding her
lover's fingers.
"Sorry, dearest," replied Miranda after a moment, an embarrassed
tone to her voice, "I guess you just 'pushed the right buttons'
there for a second. Now then, were was I...?"

As her finger slid back and forth, Misty's inner walls pressing
firmly against it, Miranda's other hand traced its fingertips
across her lover's breast. Touching lightly against the soft, yet
firm flesh she found, Miranda moved across from one to the other,
lightly dragging her fingers as she went.

"Is this okay?" she whispered, watching Misty's expression,
knowing that there was little she could do that her lover would
object to, but selfishly loving the sound of Misty's voice when it
was lost in ecstasy.

"Wo- wonderful-!" Misty stammered, to which Miranda could only
sigh happily as her lovingly cupped the breast she had found,
squeezing it with fond gentleness and half wishing to be rid of
the nightshirts they both wore.

"What's wonderful?" inquired Miranda, leaning forward and tracing
the tip of her tongue along Misty's earlobe, following its natural
curve in a gesture as teasing as her tone, "Tell me, dearest. I
want to know..."

Misty shuddered a little, and Miranda could feel her body heat
intensify from both the building sensation as well as her
embarrassment. "Your- your fingers..." Misty managed to stammer
after several shallow breaths.

"My fingers?" inquired Miranda, slowing her pace despite the way
her lover tried to move her hand, "what about them?"

Miranda gave Misty's nipple a playful squeeze as the girl tried to
speak again, causing her to suddenly stretch out and dig her nails
into Miranda's back almost painfully. She then let out a sound
that started out low, and slowly grew into a long, drawn out cry
of ecstasy that though not loud, spoke volumes. The sound was
musical in its own way, and Miranda could almost feel the waves of
pleasure coursing through her lover as Misty's body shuddered
before going limp, all the tension in her body finally relaxing.

"You- You know well enough..." panted Misty with a smile, glancing
over up at Miranda, the courier's stormy gray eyes still holding a
hint of mischief.

"Hm, can I help it if I'm verbally stimulated?" replied Miranda
innocently, before laughing and giving Misty a kiss on the cheek.

Misty closed her eyes, smiling as she snuggled closer. "If that's
all it took," pondered Misty, "Then all I'd have to do is whisper
things to you, and there you'd go."

"That wouldn't be much fun," commented Miranda, her tone shifting
from thoughtful to amused as her fingers continued to idly caress
her lover's intimated areas, "Unless you did it at awkward

Misty laughed at the prospect, but caught her breath and let out a
giggling moan as her mind focused on the sensation once more. "And
speaking of which," she inquired, "What about you?"

"What about me?" inquired Miranda, her arms going around Misty's
body as one leg moved to hold hers, thus holding Misty as closely
as possible.

"You're willing to just lie there, bringing me to ecstasy again,
and again, with out worrying about yourself?" she asked

"Sometimes just holding you is enough," answered Miranda, giving
Misty a playful kiss upon the nose, "And besides, it's not as
though I'm bored. I rather enjoy 'watching' you..."

Misty bowed her head and smiled. "You're too much," she replied,
glancing up and giving Miranda a serious look, "But are you sure
you're alright? It may be rather late at night, but I-"

"Shhh," whispered Miranda, placing a finger against her lover's
lips to silence her. "I'm fine," she explained with a small,
reassuring smile, "That's just it. It's late, and I have a fair
bit of driving to do in the morning. Besides you know me. When I
get too hot and bothered, I'm up half the night!"

"That's true," laughed Misty, shaking her head in wonder, "But I
think you had just one tiny one while you were 'pleasing' me."

"One tiny what?" inquired Miranda, her tone teasing as she leaned
close and gave Misty a conspirative look.

"You know!" whispered Misty as loudly as she dared, her cheeks
turning red as she glanced around nervously.

"Tell me," her lover replied playfully, her fingers moving down
Misty's flank in a gentle tickling motion.

"Why?" the girl laughed, twitching as the sensation finally became
too much to bear.

"Maybe I just like hearing you say things like that," chuckled
Miranda, idly running her fingertips down under Misty's nightshirt
before coming up again and brushing her skin more attentively.

"Do you have any other fetishes I should worry about?" asked
Misty, jerking forward suddenly, arching her back to avoid being

"Maybe..." the courier replied, playfully kissing the end of
Misty's nose before laying her palm flat and running her hand over
her lover's back, "But I'd have to say that bringing you to the
brink of ecstasy again and again is fairly high on the list."

Misty smiled as Miranda moved closer. "So, how about you?" her
lover countered, causing Misty to smile nervously and glance away,
"Anything I should be worried about? Anything I should take a book
out on and study?"

"I-! I-!" stammered Misty, giving up and simply burying her face
in Miranda's ample hair and making her laugh at the gesture. "I
really wouldn't know," Misty confessed, relaxing as she felt
Miranda's warm touch upon her back, her beloved's fingers no
longer tickling, but caressing in a familiar, comforting way.

"Well, I'm here to help if you need me," Miranda assured, unable
to keep the amusement from her tone as Misty moved her head back
to face her.

"I know," she replied softly, giving Miranda a gentle kiss upon
the lips, "but right now, I'm happy and totally content. Thank
you, Miranda."

Her lover closed her eyes, basking in the moment of well-being as
wariness began to creep up on her. "You're welcome, my love," she
replied, opening her eyes just enough to hold Misty's image in her
mind while she slept, "sleep well."

Misty nodded, snuggling closer to Miranda, and waiting patiently
for the courier's breathing to begin to slow. "Miranda," whispered
Misty into her ear, a smile she couldn't contain crossing her

"Yes?" she inquired quietly, feeling a touch guilty for drifting
off so quickly.

"Orgasm!" whispered Misty directly into Miranda's ear, causing her
to laugh despite her wariness.

"Oh, go to sleep you!" the courier replied, trying to sound stern,
but only succeeding in laughing as Misty gave her one final hug
Chapter III

It was early in the evening of the next day by the time the
Western gates of Cerulean City were visible. Beyond them, the main
road stretched out all the way out to Route 9, intersected by
several dozen lesser roads, including the main North to South road
that marked the easiest routes to the Gym and the South gate...

"Won't be long now," commented Miranda, taking the notepad off the
dashboard and checking the small scrawled map she'd been given,
"then we can drop off this junk heap. Apparently another courier's
supposed to take it somewhere else after we're done."

"That's good," replied Misty, leaning back with her feet firmly
placed against the dashboard, her arms hugging her legs, her head
on her knees and looking bored, "I feel like we've been driving
forever. And it would be nice just to walk around for a bit. See
what's changed since I've been gone."

"It's worse in the Winter," Miranda told her, shaking her head as
Nezumi ran down her arm from her shoulder and sat on the steering
wheel in hopes of seeing what it was that the humans were all on
about, "You almost never get to ride your bike anywhere, and you
wind up walking. Mostly on snowshoes if you're up north, which
always takes longer."

"No secret shortcuts that way?" inquired Misty, glancing over at
Miranda with a sly grin.

"What?" inquired Miranda in mock defensiveness, the beginnings of
a silly grin crossing her face, "I doubt that that farmer will
even notice the those two or three stalks of corn we knocked

"Two or three dozen," countered Misty mirthfully, smiling as she
shook her head at the memory, "And didn't the news report say
something about 'cutting a path of destruction'?"

"Details, details," laughed Miranda at Misty's exaggeration.
"Besides," she teased, slowing the truck's speed as they entered
the city limits where Route 4 became Sea Breeze Way, "whose idea
was it to pull the fire alarm so we could use the elevator that
time at the Pewter City Museum?"

"Um, it was Nezumi's!" stammered Misty, looking around nervously
and causing the rattata to glace over at her with an alarmed
expression, making both humans laugh.

"She's just kidding," chuckled Miranda, scratching Nezumi between
the ears in a reassuring manner, "Although you're lucky I'm not a
literal person."

Misty smiled, leaning against Miranda as several familiar
buildings slid by her vision as they traveled. "Yeah," she sighed,
"Although it's too bad that security guard thought I was serious."

Miranda shrugged, turning the wheal as reached a street called
Staryu Lane. "Well some people just aren't as laid back as they
should be," she replied with a sudden shudder, "And we got the
package delivered eventually. Although I never want to walk up
seven flights of stairs carrying an eighty pound, sixty-five
million-year-old femur EVER again."

"For sure," commented Misty, nodding in agreement before sitting
up straight and squinting against the light of the setting sun,
"Hey, is that it there?"

Miranda pushed her glasses farther up her nose and nodded. "I
believe so," she said, quickly checking her map again, "Just have
to find the service entrance now."

The old truck rattled, shaking unpleasantly as it slowed and
turned into the restaurant at the end of the street's nearly empty
parking lot. Glancing out at the two story building, Misty could
see that the wall of windows that covered the front half of the
restaurant were still covered in brown paper to conceal whatever
last minute renovations were in progress. Above the door, a huge
sign proclaiming "Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue" was only
partially covered by a smaller sign that read "Opening Soon!"

The back of the building, in contrast to the friendly inviting
whitewashed brickwork of the front, seemed rather dingy and dull.
The ruddy coloured bricks the building was made of were already
grimy from the exhaust fumes of several delivery vehicles, and
dumpster they passed on the way to the loading dock was already
brimming with dark sealed bags of unspeakable refuse.

As Miranda shifted into reverse and leaned out the window so she
could line the back end up with the large square doorway of the
loading dock, Misty grabbed her arm. "Look out!" she exclaimed
pointing to the passenger side mirror.

"Oh, for-" began Miranda, breaking hard as she caught site of a
figure running foolishly through her temporary blind spot and
heading towards her side of the truck. "Z- Zack?!" she stammered,
smiling broadly as the figure of a tall man with unkempt red hair
leapt up onto the driver's side running board and grabbed hold of
the door.

"Miranda!" he exclaimed, grinning like an idiot as the rattata
gave an excited shout and leapt onto the windowsill, "Oh! Hey,

"A friend of yours?" inquired Misty, leaning forward to see past
Miranda and the excitedly babbling Nezumi.

"A friend?" laughed Zack, giving Misty a winning smile that seemed
a touch on the crazy side, "I'm like a big brother!"

"More like a big bother, you mean," chuckled Miranda, leaning to
see around see around him as she continued to back up, "So, what
brings you here, Zachary?"

"Hey, that's 'Zack'," he corrected in what passed for a stern
tone, but didn't quite make it, "Anywhat, I'm the lucky courier
who gets the privilege of driving this heap down to Saffron after
you're done with it. By the way, who's your friend?"

Miranda gave a hint of a satisfied smile as she lined the back of
the truck up perfectly with the loading dock. "Her name's Misty,"
the courier explained, glancing back and smiling at her, "Misty,
this is Zack. He's a courier as well, but..."

"But...?" inquired both Misty and Zack, one with a leery tone, the
other with a sly grin.

"But you're absolutely crazy!" Miranda exclaimed meeting Zack's
wide blue eyes with her own version of his hyper attitude.

"Hey, I'm an insane genius," he defended, hanging onto the door as
Miranda swung it open and hopped out.

"Well, it is true that your IQ is in excess of two hundred,"
replied Miranda in a neutral tone as she leaned back into the
truck and pulled out her clipboard.

"In excess of two fifty, you mean!" the male courier corrected,
hopping off the door and giving a Nezumi a silly grin before
walking around to face Miranda.

"So, if you don't mind me asking," inquired Misty, crawling across
the seat and looking out at Zack, "Why are you a courier, and not
a famous scientist or a teacher or something?"

Zack glanced over at Misty and shrugged melodramatically. "Must be
the A.D.D," he laughed before standing taller on his toes and
glancing down on an angle, "That and there's a surplus of mad
scientists in Lavender."

Miranda smirked, glancing over her shoulder before doing a double
take and smacking Zack's arm. "Hey!" she warned somewhat
playfully, "Stop that! Those are taken."

Misty's eyes widened as she followed Zack's gaze down to where her
shirt was hanging dangerously low in the front and quickly clasped
her hand to her chest, moving her shirt to block his view. "Hey!"
she exclaimed, blushing her way through several shades of red.

"Don't worry," chuckled Zack with a dismissive wave of his hand,
"Just being a guy."

"You never look at me that way," teased Miranda, giving the
service entrance an impatient glance.

"They said they'd be back in ten," explained Zack with a shrug
before skipping topics, "And I would look, if you had anything to

"That's it!" laughed Miranda, turning to face her fellow courier
with mock severity, "Nezumi! Give Sparkles a taste of 'alacrity'!"

"Nez?" the rattata inquired from his vantage point on the open
door, glancing around in confusion.

"Hey," his trainer inquired, her tone becoming serious as the
small door beside the loading bay finally opened and a man in
Chef's whites came out, "Where's Sparkles, Zack? You didn't sell
her for three magic beans again, did you?"

Zack chuckled, shaking his head as the tall, stern looking man
approached. "She's around here somewhere," he explained, giving
the approaching chef a wide grin that was pointedly ignored,
"probably asleep as usual."

"This is MY delivery?" the chef inquired imperiously before
Miranda could comment.

"Yes, sir," she replied with a nod, holding out her clip board and
a pen, "although some of your order may have been adversely
affected by the cold. I noticed a while back that the seals on the
doors are frozen shut, so there may be a freon leak."

"There is no culinary adversity that 'I' cannot overcome," the man
replied, waving his hand dismissively as a small dark shape
stepped out from behind him and rubbed itself affectionately
against his leg, "all that matters is that the final preparations
can begin."

"Cute, um, pokemon," commented Miranda, glancing down at the dark
furred, long eared creature that stared back up at her with
gleaming red eyes as she spoke.

"THAT is Salmonella," the chef explained, taking the clipboard
from her without giving his pokemon a second glance, "simply
ignore her and she won't bother you."

"Cute pokemon?" inquired Misty happily, hopping out of the truck
and not noticing the hurt look Nezumi gave her as she scurried up
behind Miranda, "What is he?"

"An umbreon," explained Zack, a strange nervousness entering his
voice, "It's what happens when eevee's get too close to moonstones
at night. Frightful little things. No offence, though, eh!"

The chef glanced over at Zack with a bemused expression as the
muffled sound of the truck's rear doors being forced open could be
heard from inside the building. "They're really not that bad Mr.
Jones," he explained patiently, letting slip a hint of a German
accent, "But I can see that Salmonella's presence has scared away
your little abra. My apologies. However, once the truck is
unloaded, you can be on your way. Good evening, couriers."

Miranda scowled as the man roughly handed the clipboard back, his
signature nearly illegible and headed back to the safety of his
culinary realm. "Creepy," she commented, watching the umbreon
follow along at his master's heels, pausing only to give the group
another sinister glance before disappearing through the small

"Not cute at all," added Misty disappointedly, standing just
behind Miranda and shaking her head as the metal door swung shut
and locked securely into place.

"Darkness types are like that," said Zack, his voice sounding
distracted, "They give me the creeps in ways ghosts can only dream

Misty and Miranda turned in time to see the courier close his eyes
and concentrate with all his might. He held his hands out before
him, joining them together to form a small platform as beads of
sweat formed along his brow.

"What's he doing?" whispered Misty, taking Miranda's arm as she
approached from behind.

"He's psychic," Miranda explained as Zack gritted his teeth, "He's
just probably arguing with Sparkles again."

After a tense moment, a small flash of light lit up the gathering
darkness, and an abra appeared in Zack's open hands. "See," her
trainer assured her as she glanced over her shoulder, "It's gone.
No need to worry."

Misty smiled and waved politely at the abra, who turned back to
her trainer before slouching and snoring loudly. "I just have no
luck with cute pokemon today," the girl commented, as Zack
chuckled at his now soundly sleeping little bipedal vole.

"It's not you," he assured, "Sparkles sleeps more often than not.
The funny thing is, is that she only snores when she's pretending
to be asleep. Well, I'd best help you ladies get your stuff
together and take off. It's getting dark, and they're almost done
in there I think."

"Just about," agreed Miranda, turning to face the spot where the
truck seemed to become part of the building as somewhere inside
someone dropped something heavy and cursed loudly, "But are you
sure you can't stay 'till morning? And there's a festival going on
this week you know."

Zack shook his head wearily. "Naw, they want this bucket of bolts
down in Saffron by mid-afternoon, so I'd best get my butt in gear.
Need any help getting your bikes?"

"Only if you're offering," replied Miranda, a knowing smile
crossing her face.

"Hey, I need the practice," chuckled Zack, moving around to the
front of the truck where the two mountain bikes had been secured
to the carrying rack.

"And you like to show off," Miranda added, taking Misty by the
hand and leading her around to the front.

"Ra," agreed Nezumi with a nod, leaping onto Miranda's shoulder as
she walked past while Zack put Sparkles down on the hood of the

"Hey, watch it, cheese breath," chuckled Zack, stepping back and
holding out his hands dramatically as he concentrated on the
several bungi-cords that kept the bikes attached, "Or for my next
trick I'll levitated you to the moon."

"Rat, ra," the rattata replied dismissively, causing Zack to
chuckle even as several of the cords moved of their own accord and
sprang loose.

"You hear what he called me?" the psychic chuckled, closing his
eyes to maintain focus.

"You've been called worse," assured Miranda, smiling at Misty's
amazed expression as her bicycle levitated off the rack and
floated down to the ground, "Besides, he only insults people he

Zack's smirk became a laugh, and Miranda cringed as her bike
dropped to the ground before crashing into Misty's with a series
of unpleasant clattering sounds.

"Sorry," he said with a smirk as the others cringed.

"Oh, I'll just bill you later," Miranda sighed, moving to fetch
their backpacks from the truck.

"Hey, don't you have a bike?" asked Misty as she hurried over to
help Zack balance the two fallen bicycles.

"Somewhere," the man replied with a reminiscent smile, "But I
haven't hauled it out of storage since Pesto evolved."

"That'd be his pidgeot," explained Miranda, hauling out the two
backpacks, "Just be sure to say no if he offers you a ride."

"Hey, he flies better than your Uncle used to drive," chuckled
Zack, brushing his hair from his eyes and snatching up the keys
Miranda suddenly dangled in front of him, "Which reminds me.
You'll never guess who's in town!"

"My Uncle?" guessed Miranda with a mirthful tone, walking over to
her bike and pushing back the kickstand.

"Aw! You guessed!" laughed Zack in mock disappointment, "How'd you
do that? You must be psychic!"

"Ha, ha," replied Miranda dryly, smiling warily as Zack made his
chuckling way into the driver's seat, "And don't forget to do a
'walk around' this time!"

"Yeah, yeah," assured Zack, shaking his head in dismay, "I'll do
it clairvoyantly!"

"I'm sure," chuckled Miranda waving as Misty hopped on her own
bike and the two began to coast forwards, "Just make sure to head
back this way if you get the chance. I'm terrible at carnival
games, and I could use a little TK help!"

"Miranda, I'm shocked!" called Zack as the two began to ride off,
"That's cheating!"

"And it's not when you read people's minds at the card table?" the
courier laughed in reply, glancing over her shoulder and waving
farewell, "See you soon, ya brat!"

"Ditto!" called Zack, hopping back out of the truck as Miranda and
Misty rounded the corner and headed towards the brightly lit
parking lot.

"Wow," commented Misty with a chuckle, "Your friends are almost as
amusing as your pokemon."

The woman sighed in dismay, shaking her head as she switched on
her bike light. "My Uncle is worse," she replied with a wary
smile, "If we meet him, you'll see."

"You have an Uncle?" asked Misty curiously, "You never mentioned
you had other family.

Miranda shrugged, her gray eyes looking distant for a moment as a
peculiar smile crossed her lips. "He's more of an 'almost' Uncle,"
she explained, her tone sounding a little sad, "A friend of the
family who almost married my Aunt Laurna. But he just took off one
day. Sure, I still get birthday cards from him, and he writes from
time to time, but I'm not sure my Aunt really ever forgave him for
taking off like that."

"He didn't leave her at the alter I hope," commented Misty a
little annoyed by the thought.

"No, no," assured Miranda with a laugh, "Actually, he fled the day
after she proposed to him. I'm still waiting for an explanation
for that one. Especially considering how much they loved each

"People do strange things," agreed Misty, standing on her bike
pedals and taking a deep breath of the damp, cool air, "But
running out on someone like that just isn't right. Are you sure we
want to meet this guy? If he runs in fear just because-"

"No, don't misunderstand me," assured Miranda, stopping at the
intersection, "Uncle Frank's a really nice guy. He just... screwed

Misty nodded slowing to a halt beside Miranda and watching as a
single car headed down the main street towards the residential
areas. "It still doesn't seem right, though," she commented,
meeting Miranda's gaze with a serious look, "I can't imagine what
that must be like. To pour your heart out to someone, and even ask
them to marry you only to have them leave."

"I sorta can," the courier replied glumly, "My first love left me
under rather unpleasant circumstances."

"Oh, Miranda, I, I'm sorry," said Misty sadly, reaching out her
hand to touch Miranda's shoulder, "I didn't know..."

"I'm over it," assured Miranda, a smile returning to her lips as
she touched Misty's hand, "I was lucky enough to find someone to
talk to not long afterwards, and saved myself a pile of therapy

Misty smiled in spite of herself and shook her head in dismay. "I
think your friend's sense of humor is rubbing off on you, dear,"
she chuckled, "That or it's Nezumi's."

From her other shoulder, Miranda's rattata leaned over and blinked
at Misty in dismay. "Rata..." he muttered sadly, looking up at his
training with a moonie eyed expression.

"It doesn't mean she doesn't still love you, dear," said Miranda
in an assuring, maternal tone, reaching up to scratch the little
creature under the chin lovingly.

Misty laughed as the rattata made a blissful sound and settled
back down on Miranda's shoulder, looking contented as he prepared
to take a nap. "And you're way cuter than that icky umbreon,"
Misty assured, smiling as Nezumi exhaled loudly in relief at the

"Just who's pokemon are you?" inquired Miranda rhetorically before
turning to Misty with a more serious tone, "So, any thoughts as to
where you want to spend the night? I know of this okay hotel on-"

"No, no," interrupted Misty, "I'm sure my sisters won't mind if we
stop in. The gym is my home too. Besides, they're probably out
right now anyway."

"Prowling the streets in search of fresh victims, no doubt,"
replied Miranda teasingly and making Misty smile, "But if you're
sure they won't mind, I'm fine with it."

"Oh, they'll probably mind," chuckled Misty slyly, "But I think
it's about time I started asking for a little payback. If they
don't like it, they can run away from home! Besides, I have a few
pokemon there I've been meaning to get back. I just hope you don't
mind sharing my bed... It's kinda small."

Miranda smiled, taking Misty's hand and shaking her head. "Even a
narrow cot is as better than anything a five star hotel can offer,
so long as I get to share it with you."

"That's nice," replied Misty, smiling as she felt the surge of
emotion slowly travel along all her nerve endings before seeming
to sublimate off into the air around her.

"Yeah," agreed Miranda, choosing her words carefully and trying to
hide a sudden bemused grin, "That and it gives me an excuse to
cuddle you for eight hours."

"You make it sound like a bad thing," laughed Misty as she
prepared to lead the way, "Now come on, if we're lucky we can have
dinner be settled in before my sister's get back."

"I just hope they don't remember me too well," chuckled Miranda a
little nervously as they headed West, away from the bright lights
of what passed for downtown Cerulean, "Otherwise it might be
mildly embarrassing..."

"Hey," assured Misty with a sly grin, "At least you're not the one
who slept with Violet."

"Poor Gary," laughed Miranda in agreement, pushing down her
nervousness, and following Misty homeward...
Chapter IV

The lights were out as the two moved through foyer, into the
expansive, domed ceilinged area were people came to be entertained
and to challenge for cascade badges. The room itself was quiet
except for the gentle lapping of water against the edges of the
Olympic sized swimming pool at the center, and the gentle hum from
down the hall. This was also where a pale light that barely
illuminated the calm water issued forth, marking the site of the
enormous aquarium the gym held.

"This place doesn't seem to have changed," commented Misty, her
feet padding quietly along the waterproof tiled floor as she led
Miranda by the hand through the quiet twilight.

"Home never should," the courier mused, pushing up her glasses and
rubbing her wary eyes, "It should always be safe and comforting."

"I wish," sighed Misty, leading Miranda towards the pale light,
down a short hall, and into the long, circular corridor that
surrounded the expansive aquarium, "but at least I could come here
to relax sometimes, when things were bad. I used to just stand her
for hours watching the fish and water pokemon."

Miranda nodded, placing her hands upon her lover's shoulders and
staring past their mutual reflection into the clear water. "It's
very nice," she agreed, looking out at the hundreds of lazily
floating sea creatures who moved about the artificial reef, "And
your pokemon must like it."

"They do," replied Misty, leaning back as she crossed her arms and
laid her hands gently over Miranda's, "Infact, I think that's my
starmie over there."

Miranda stood a little taller to see past a large clump of seaweed
that swayed in the artificial current. Once her eyes had adjusted
to the dim lighting, she could just make out an odd shape half
buried in the sand. A large red crystal that glowed with its own
inner light, surrounded by a ten-pointed star resting quietly
after a long day of doing whatever it was that starmie did in
their spare time.

"See your anything else anywhere?" Miranda inquired, keeping her
voice low as not to break the spell the quiet dimness seemed to
cast over the area.

Misty shook her head, leaning forward and taking a few steps away
from Miranda as she searched along the reef for any sign of her
other pokemon. "I'm sure he's in here somewhere," she replied in a
tone that held a hint of worry.

"Are they nocturnal?" asked Miranda, walking in the opposite
direction, her gaze sifting through the swarms of fish for any
sign of pokemon.

"No," called Misty, her voice sounding distant.

"The he shouldn't be too hard to find," Miranda whispered to
herself, glancing at a sleeping shellder and wondering both why
and how it was snoring.

For several minutes, she walked along the arcing corridor, taking
careful steps across the thinly carpeted floor, paying more
attention to the aquarium than where she was going. After a short
time, however, Miranda noticed a large, dark shape descending
towards her through the water. Looking up, the woman could just
make out a wide circular form with eight long, dark tentacles.

With a smile, she watched it slowly descend, moving carefully
through the water and adjusting its angle of descent with subtle
movements of its tendrils. "Curious creature," Miranda commented
as the octopod angled itself forward and stared out at her with
small curious eyes.

"They're beautiful, aren't they?" commented Misty, walking up
beside Miranda as the woman stared back at the tentacruel.

"They have a certain appeal," she agreed, giving the creature a
mysterious smile that caused it to back away a bit, a look of
alarm showing in its gleaming amber eyes, "Is it yours?"

Misty sighed sadly, shaking her head. "No," she replied wistfully,
"She belongs to Lily. But she still listens to me though."

Miranda smiled, putting an arm around Misty. "I guess the
tentacruel can just tell who better trainer is," she teased as her
lover waved to the pokemon.

"You bet," chuckled Misty, finally catching the tentacruel's eye,
"Hey! Over here," she called with a wide smile, her eyes full of
affection, "I need a favor."

The tentacruel moved closer, extending her tentacles and placing
two against the glass even as she gave Miranda a suspicious
glance. The woman smiled, shaking her head in amusement as Misty
placed her hands against the glass across from where the tendrils
touched it. "I'm not sure she likes me," commented Miranda
mirthfully, glancing at Misty and catching her eye.

"She's just cautious," the water trainer assured, leaning forward
and raising her voice a bit to be heard. "I'm looking for the
pokemon I left here!" Misty explained, her mouth close to the
glass, "Have you seen them?"

The tentacruel bobbed up and down in an affirmative gesture before
extending a tentacle meaningfully. "In there with you?" inquired
Misty hopefully, to which the tentacruel replied by detaching from
the wall of glass and darting off through the water.

"Come on, she's going to show us," said Misty, grabbing Miranda's
hand impulsively and leading the courier off down the hall,
suppressing a laugh as she ran.

"I don't think she means in the tank," replied Miranda
thoughtfully, tracking the pokemon as they hurried along, "I think
she's headed for the entrance."

"I think you're right," replied Misty glumly, slowing as the
tentacruel floated before the short exit hall and pointed with a
tentacle out into the main gym area, "I guess my sister's took the
other one to the pokecenter or something."

"That's alright," assured Miranda, waving goodbye as the
tentacruel began a rapid accent when she glanced at her, "He'd be
asleep anyway. Which reminds me, should there be this much light
in the aquarium?"

"No," responded Misty, warily shaking her head as she looked up at
the light source far above them, "the timer must be broken again.
I'll just shut it off up stairs."

"Is that where your kitchen is?" asked Miranda, her voice changing
to a slightly playful tone, "I'm really hungry after looking at
all these yummy fish!"

"Don't you dare!" laughed Misty, making her way back towards the
pool, "And yes, our living quarters is on the second floor along
with the top of the aquarium. My parents always said that it was
so we could keep our personal lives separate from our social

"Makes sense," Miranda agreed as they walked through the near
darkness until they came to a locked door with a 'No Entry' sign
on it located at the far end of the pool, "That's sorta what my
family does as well. My parent's house is attached to the company
buildings, but it's kept separate just the same. Oh, and it's near
the ocean as well-"

"So I'd like it," finished Misty with a smile as she opened a
second door and lead Miranda into a comfortable living room, "Ah!
Welcome to my parlor!"

"I thought you hated bugs," commented Miranda with a smile,
squinting as Misty hit the wall switch and several lamps

"Just making sure you don't have a monopoly on melodrama," Misty
assured her, glancing over one shoulder and heading towards a
dimly lit hall, "Now just make yourself at home and I'll be right

"Sure!" called Miranda, chuckling to herself as she took it all
in, "I'll just hog the remote, sit on the couch with no pants, eat
everything in the fridge and yell at your kids..."

"You say something?" came Misty's echoing voice from down the
hall, followed by several loud clicking sounds.

"Nothing!" laughed Miranda, sitting down on an overstuffed couch
and grabbing a handful of cashews from a small crystal bowl on the
coffee table, "Just quoting my mom!"

"Nice place, though," she commented, only half paying attention to
the sound Misty made as she went from the aquarium room to the
kitchen, "And then I'll leave my under-things all over the place,
run up a huge long distance bill, and- Oh my!"

As Miranda's eyes scanned the room with it's thick plush
carpeting, simulated wooden walls, a shelf filled with books that
seemed untouched, and a wall unit filled with family mementos. She
then spotted a large a painting that gave her reason to pause.

"Wow," she commented, suddenly feeling guilty as she slid to her
feet and stepped out from around the coffee table.

Against one wall was a large fireplace that was probably only used
for special occasions, its mantle filled with pictures of Misty
and her sisters, but above it was a large, expensive looking
painting. A small light fixture set innocuously into the ceiling
illuminated the large portrait of a man and woman. They both
seemed to be in their late twenties, with clothing that was in
fashion at least three decades out of date. The woman had long
dark hair, curled loosely and tumbling over the shoulders of her
comfortably fitting dress, her emerald green eyes seeming to smile
knowingly down at Miranda. The man at her side, who lovingly held
her hand, was much taller, with long reddish hair that he tied
tightly back, his icy blue eyes almost laughing with amusement as
he gave Miranda a toothy, but benevolent grin.

"Those are my parents," said Misty, startling Miranda as she
quietly stepped up behind her, "About a year or so after they were
married. I'm just glad my sisters haven't done anything strange
with it."

"I like it," replied Miranda, letting go of the shiver that crept
down her spine and put her arm around Misty, "It's better than
some of the stern looking, grim portraits of some of my relatives.
They look so happy, so alive. So in love."

"They were," agreed Misty sadly as she leaned closer, "And for a
time they shared that love and happiness with us. But when they
left, that's when things changed, and this place rapidly began to
feel less and less like home."

Miranda turned to her, and carefully wiped a tear from Misty's eye
with her index finger. "And eventually you just left," she
replied, causing Misty to nod sadly in agreement.

"When I was old enough I told Violet that I couldn't take it
anymore," continued Misty, allowing herself to be taken in by
Miranda's warm embrace, "I told her that our parents would never
approve of the way she ran our household, and that I wasn't going
to stand by and be used and mistreated anymore. I said I was
leaving and never coming back."

Misty laughed, shaking her head at the thought before glancing up
at Miranda with a wary smile. "The things we say as children, eh?"
she said rhetorically, making Miranda hold her closer for a
moment, "But, as you know, I came back a few years later. And I've
visited once or twice since then. I just don't think that I could
ever stay for good."

"That's alright," assured Miranda with a small smile, feeling
strangely fulfilled as she held her lover in a time of need, "I
kinda know what that's like."

"But you visit home more often," added Misty, laying her head upon
Miranda's shoulder and looking contemplatively up at the painting
of her parents, "Once a year in October."

"Since I caught Wraith," Miranda agreed, giving Misty a soft kiss
atop the head, and breathing in the subtle scent of her hair, "But
I just use Hallowe'en as an excuse. It still hurts to go back, but
I can't just abandon my Mother, even if she has Bob and my Aunt
Laurna. But tell my something, my love. Would they approve of me?"

Misty tilted her head back and gave the portrait a serious look.
"I'd like to think so," she replied thoughtfully as Miranda turned
her gaze towards the couple as well, "They were very easy going
people. That's probably why my sisters became such brats, though.
But what about your parents? What would your father have thought
of me? And what does your mother think of me?"

Miranda chuckled, shaking her head slowly as Misty gave her a
questioning look. "My mother has yet to voice a strong opinion on
the topic. But she never completely formulates and opinion of
someone until she meets them face to face. So far we have her
approval, though. So that's something."

"And as for my Father," said Miranda, sighing heavily and smiling
sadly as she turned back to Misty and caught her gaze, "He'd say
that if can you make me happy, then you're a welcome addition to
the family."

Misty smiled, feeling a bit embarrassed as Miranda leaned closer
and gave her a small kiss. "And what about your stepfather?" she
inquired with a hint of amusement.

"He thinks you're cute," chuckled Miranda, giving another quick
kiss and trying not to laugh.

"That must drive your mom crazy," Misty laughed in reply, leaning
back and guiding Miranda back towards the couch.

"Naw, Mom's a lot more easy going than she let's on," Miranda
replied with a mischievous smile, "She only pretends to act like a
real mom. She's actually not even half as serious as people think
she is. But I'm sure she'll just love you to pieces!"

"Ow! That could be painful!" laughed Misty, letting herself fall
backwards, pulling Miranda down awkwardly over the arm of the
couch and laughing as her lover struggled to regain equilibrium.

"So's this," agreed Miranda with a laugh before rearranged herself
so that she was straddling Misty, who's legs were bent over the
arm of the couch.

"Sorry," Misty chuckled, reaching up to push Miranda's glasses
back up her nose as they threatened to slid off, "You just bring
this out in me."

"And you bring out my laughter," her lover added, giving Misty yet
another gentle kiss, "And for that, I thank you. By the way, are
you cooking something?"

"Oh crap!" Misty exclaimed, squirming out from beneath Miranda
before hopping off the couch and pulling her shirt back down, "I
almost forgot!"

"I thought I was the one who was no good in the kitchen!" laughed
Miranda, leaning on the back of the couch, watching Misty as she
fled into the gloom.

"It's your curse rubbing off on me!" replied Misty, chuckling
before cursing loudly and making a bit of a commotion in the

"Need any help?" inquired Miranda with concern as the clattering
of dishes issued forth, followed by the sound of a glass breaking.

"No, I'm fine," assured Misty, her voice seeming unconvinced, "I
traveled with an unofficial chef for nearly five years remember. I
had time to learn a trick or two!"

"Unofficial?" inquired Miranda with amusement as Misty staggered
from the kitchen with a huge platter held at least one quietly
sizzling dish.

Misty nodded as she came around the couch and set the platter down
on the coffee table. "Brock was a natural at cooking," she
explained, taking a seat next to Miranda and turning to face her,
"But pokemon were his obsession, so to my knowledge he never went
for his red seal and became a real chef. Just his breeder

"He chose to bring new pokemon into the world instead of cooking
them, I guess," chuckled Miranda, glancing at the fajitas Misty
had thrown together with whatever she could find in the kitchen,
"But it looks like you weren't wasting your time with him."

"Yeah, only with Ash," agreed Misty, glancing distantly at the
food, "But I hope you like it."

Miranda took Misty's hand and held it close to her lips, causing
her to glance back and smile a little at the mischief she saw in
her lover's cloudy gray eyes. "Then before I taste that which you
have wrought, my love," replied Miranda melodramatically before
giving Misty's knuckles a gentle kiss, "I thank you for this
delicious meal, so unlike any I've had before."

"I'll call the hospital and tell them to expect two cases of
salmonella," chuckled Misty, unable to take the gesture seriously.

"You know me too well," said Miranda with a smile, kissing Misty
on the cheek before reaching out and carefully picking up one of
the strips of meat that lay upon the pile of still steaming

"I found it in the back of the fridge," said Misty, smiling at
Miranda's concerned look, and laughing at the horrified expression
the woman wore as she took a small, all too careful bite.

"Hey, not bad!" replied Miranda with genuine appreciation; popping
the rest into her mouth and quickly eating before speaking again.
"Spearow, right?"

Misty nodded. "One of the only pokemon I don't mind eating," she
agreed with a touch of malice, "Those things are just vicious!"

"So much for no pokemon being innately malevolent," Miranda
chuckled, grabbing a plate and putting together and proper fajita,
"Although I'd argue that that umbreon we saw tonight wasn't
exactly Miss Congeniality."

"The glowing red eyes threw me off," agreed Misty with a shudder,
reaching for a plate as well, only to have Miranda hand her fajita
one she'd been putting together, "Thanks."

"Hey, you made it," replied Miranda with a loving smile as she
went about fixing one for herself, "And anyway, I wouldn't let red
eyes throw me off if I were you. Bulbasaurs have red eyes."

"Yeah, that's true," agreed Misty as Miranda poked at the
guacamole skeptically, "But bulbasaurs are cute. And they make
flowers grow and stuff."

Miranda chuckled at the thought. "Cute?" she inquired, giving
Misty an amused look.

"Mmm, hm!" assured Misty, nodding with a mouthful of fajita.

"Well, I have heard that they're quite loyal, I can't argue with
that," pondered Miranda, taking a bite of her food and chewing
thoughtfully as Misty swallowed hard and reiterated her statement.

"In a strange, lizard with a flower growing out of its back kinda
way," she said thoughtfully before glancing mysteriously at her
food, holding the fajita to her ear and whispering quietly out of
the corner of her mouth, "Bulbasaur!" causing Miranda to cover her
mouth laughing.

"Last I checked, their on the 'No' list in cerulean as far as
eating goes," she replied with a smile as Misty gave her fajita an
alarmed look and took another bite, "Something about 'sufficient
sentience' or something?"

Misty nodded as she finished chewing and swallowed. "Yes," she
agreed, suddenly remembering she'd forgotten to bring them
anything to drink, "It's only legal to consume certain types of
pokemon in most major cities. Even then they usually have to be
only up to a certain evolution and can only be hunted for food at
certain times of the year."

"You planning on becoming a chef, dear?" inquired Miranda.

"No," laughed Misty in amusement, shaking her head and looking
reminiscent, "But as I said, Brock knew a lot about pokemon, and
he occasionally talked about stuff like that. Although on the
budget we had our meals were usually rather uninteresting."

"Now you have a decent budget, but you lack a descent cook,"
chuckled Miranda.

"That's true," agreed Misty, finishing her fajita and getting up
to get a drink, "But don't make your credit card smoke on my

"Nothing's too good for you, my dear," replied Miranda, leaning
back her head back over the couch and looking at Misty with an
upside down view.

"There you go spoiling me again," her lover replied in amusement,
giving Miranda a quick kiss before heading down the hall once
again, "I just hope you don't mind my bedroom."

"Why would I?" asked Miranda, settling back down.

"I have a really small bed," responded Misty, leaning out of the
kitchen, "But at least I don't have to share a room with Daisy
since Violet claimed our parent's room."

"That's okay," assured Miranda, "Even the most humble of cots
would be the lap of luxury were I to spend the night there with
you in my arms. Although I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable
sleeping in my parent's room. It would just feel... Wrong

"Superstitious?" Misty teased, ducking back into the kitchen.

"Hey!" laughed Miranda, "I'm from Lavender Town! What do you
Chapter V

Miranda awoke the next day by the method she liked the least; the
blinding morning sun shining directly into her eyes making it
impossible to stay in bed. With a grumble she lowered her head in
an attempt to go back to sleep, only to hear a loud -thunk!- as
her forehead knocked against something at least as hard as it was.

With a quiet curse the courier opened her eyes and suddenly
remembered where she was. Before her was Misty, until seconds
before dozing contentedly in her arms only to be awaked by an
unexpected collision.

"Oh, well good morning to you too," commented Misty wryly, rubbing
her forehead and opening one eye.

"Sorry," replied Miranda, brushing her lover's hair out of her eye
and kissing her on the forehead, "I don't usually don't hurt
people to wake them up."

"That's alright," assured Misty, snuggling closer and closing her
eyes again, "We only have a few minutes left any way."

"Oh?" inquired Miranda, her arms giving Misty a gentle hug to
alleviate her sudden need to do so.

Misty nodded, opening her eyes again as she listened to the quiet
sounds coming from the rest of the building. "Listen," she
whispered as the sound of arguing voices carried from down the
hall and through the door to Misty's bedroom, "It's like that
every morning."

For several minutes, the two lied quietly, listening to the sounds
of the three sisters arguing over some trivial matter. Violet's
voice was easiest to make out, not necessarily being the loudest,
but certainly the most authoritative. The argument seemed to be
going in her favor, which was no surprise to Misty, as the eldest
of the sisters was also the most manipulative. Lily seemed to be
the one doing most of the arguing, however, being Violet's main
rival and contender for 'head of the family'. Daisy, though, was
the least vocal of the terrible trio, seeming to only interject
when things got too out of hand or when she really had something
important to say.

"They'll stop when we go out there," commented Misty, stretching
out but feeling no actual desire to get out of bed.

"I know," said Miranda with a nod, feeling a touch guilty as she
realized that the three sisters were arguing about who'd left a
mess in the kitchen the night before.

"We might as well get this over with then," Misty grumbled before
noticing the look that crossed her lover's face, "Hey, what's

Miranda shrugged, her gaze a little distant. "This is what I've
always hated about staying at other people's places," she
explained with a weak smile, her glaze moving to catch Misty's,
"Every morning it seems like their arguing about something I did."

"No, it's alright," assured Misty, brushing Miranda's bangs out of
her eyes, "They're always this way, and we might as well put a
stop to it right now."

"As you wish," agreed Miranda with a smile, kissing Misty lightly
on the nose before reluctantly tossing back the blankets and
shivering against the sudden chill.

"Say, do you think they'll remember you?" asked Misty with an
amused grin as she rifled through the pile of clothing the two had
left beside the bed.

"Only one way to find out," chuckled Miranda, reaching onto the
night stand for her glasses, "If not, I'll just as Violet how
Gary's doing."

"Do it anyway," laughed Misty, standing up to get dressed, "But
seriously, let's hurry. I'd just like to get this over with..."


"Misty!" came the ringing chorus of happy voices that oozed all
the insincerity of a scripted greeting as the two stepped into the
living room.

"Oh, like we're sooo happy that you're awake!" commented Violet,
gliding across the room with open arms, "Welcome home!"

"Hey," inquired Lily, looking over her sister's shoulder, "Who's
your friend?"

"You guys remember Miranda, don't you?" asked Misty, accepting a
sisterly hug that was almost choreographed in it's

"Hey, like I remember you," laughed Daisy, getting out of the
comfortable chair she'd taken refuge in, "Like your dratini
totally annihilated my shellder last time you were here for a
badge battle!"

Miranda smiled, bowing her head to hide her amusement. "Yes," she
said softly, "Just try using an ice attack next time, okay?"

"Oh!" exclaimed Violet, here eyes gleaming darkly as she turned to
face the courier, "You were that girl who came here with that guy
from Pallet... What was his name again, Lily?"

"I- I'm sure I can't remember," stammered her sister, her face
turning almost as red as her hair.

Violet smirked and held out her hand. "Pleased to meet you again,"
she said with a smile that almost seemed predatory, showing far
more teeth than was necessary, "Sorry about us being a little
disorganized today, but as always our thoughtless little sister
just dropped in unexpectedly."

"Like, yeah," added Lily as Misty glared at the both of them and
Miranda gritted her teeth, not wanted to seem like an ungracious
guest, "And she didn't even tell us she was bringing a guest!"

"Stop it!" exclaimed Misty angrily; clenching her fists as she
almost growled out her words, "I absolutely hate it when you talk
about me like I'm not even in the room!"

"Like, take a chill pill, little sister," commented Lily,
seemingly offended even as Miranda slipped her fingers through
Misty's and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze.

"Yeah," added Daisy, shaking her head in mock disbelief, "We were
just trying to make your guest feel totally welcome."

"Then I thank you all for your hospitality," said Miranda, biting
back the sudden urge to put the three spoilt brats in their place,
and keeping her voice surprisingly level, "But if you'd like, I'm
sure we could find other accommodations."

"Oh! No, no, no!" assured Violet with a laugh, waving her hands
before her enthusiastically, "Please feel free to stay as long as
you want. I'm sure we can find an extra cot in storage for you to
sleep on in the future, though. I'm sure Misty's floor was
extremely uncomfortable-"

"Actually," interrupted Misty, a wide grin crossing her face as
she saw the expressions on her siblings faces change subtly, "We
simply shared my bed. It's a little cramped, but we're used to
sleeping fairly close together. Now then, I'd like to see my
pokemon if you don't mind."

Miranda clenched her teeth and tightened her facial muscles to
keep from laughing as she glanced at Misty. 'Such a brave,
wonderful person she is,' thought the courier as a feeling of
pride filtered through her amusement, 'How can I not lover you?'

"Hold on," assured Daisy, collecting her wits first and taking the
opportunity to leave the room, heading down the hall, "I'll just
go fetch your starmie from the aquarium!"

"So you're both become very close friends then?" inquired Violet,
turning around and walking towards the door to the gym area below
to hide her expression.

"Very close," assured Misty, grinning to hide her embarrassment,
but still enjoying the effect it was having on her sibling,
"Miranda's really turned my life around."

"I see," commented Lily, picking up a tall glass from an end table
and taking a long sip as Misty took hold of Miranda's arm and
leaned against her happily, "Well, like congratulations then."

"Yes," added the eldest of the Cerulean sisters, her voice
wavering ever so slightly as she slid open the door, pausing at
the threshold, "Congratulations..."

"Here we go!" exclaimed Daisy, bounding back into the living room
wielding a dripping wet pokeball, "One starmie, as promised!"

"Oh good!" laughed Misty, releasing Miranda and grabbing the
pokeball, practically yanking her sister's hand off in the
process. "Oh! I've missed you sooo much!" the trainer told the
pokemon within as she held it against her cheek and smiled
contentedly, "But I'll never leave you again, I promise!"

"Like, it's just an overgrown starfish," sneered Violet before
taking the opportunity to stomp off down the stairs.

"Strange," commented Miranda to the now empty doorway, "I thought
you guys liked water-types."

"Oh, we do," assured Lily, chuckling nervously, "It's just that
Misty's starmie won't really listen to anyone but her."

"Can you blame her?" chuckled Misty, cutting short her happy
reunion as her other two siblings made their way to the door.

"I can't," assured Miranda, taking Misty's hand again and giving
it a squeeze.

"You're only saying that because you're in love with me," chuckled
Misty, raising their joined hands to her lips and giving Miranda's
a fingers a quick kiss before leading her from the room, "Now come
on, I want you to meet my two long lost pokemon."


At Misty's command, the pokeball sprang open and her starmie
materialized within the calm waters of the Olympic sized swimming
pool next to her overjoyed looking horsea. "Miss me, guys?" the
trainer laughed, leaning forward and smiling happily at the

"Is there any doubt?" inquired Miranda in amusement as the two
water-types called out their agreement.

"I'm so glad you did, even if I missed you more," said Misty with
smile she couldn't suppress before motioning to Miranda, "But I
think it's time you two meet my friend here."

"Hi," the courier replied simply, smiling a little as she gave a
short wave, "I'm Miranda, but I think you'd like my friend Umi

"Hey, good point," chuckled Misty as Miranda held out a pokeball
that was black on top and gray on the bottom and activated the
release mechanism, "Hey wait! That's not-!"

There was a surprised sound from the cloud of dark smoke that
materialized from the ball, and a shriek of panic from Misty's
horsea as Wraith collected himself and stared down at the water
curiously. "Gaaa?" he inquired, swiveling to face Miranda with a
questioning look.

"Oops! Sorry," apologized Miranda with a hint of amusement at the
way Misty's sisters suddenly went into a controlled panic, "I
wasn't paying attention..."

The courier held out the ball once more, intent on returning the
ghost, not noticing the rather odd noise the nearly terrified
horsea made before a blob of something dark wet and sticky flew in
Wraith's direction.

"Gassst!" the ghost exclaimed in alarm, throwing up a shall
telekinetic barrier as the blast hit, harmlessly deflecting most
of the horsea's ink-jet attack but sending one blob of oily, black
ooze sailing towards his trainer.

"Ahh!" exclaimed Miranda, dropping her pokeball in surprise as she
found a rather large, and particularly cold wet stain form on her

"Miranda!" yelped Misty, turning to help, but pausing as she saw
how little damage had been done, instead turning bravely towards
the gastly. "You!" she scolded, collecting all her courage to
chastise the little ghost, "You're supposed to protect your
trainer, not humiliate her!"

"Wra..." pouted Wraith, looking downcast and fading into
invisibility even as he floated over to his trainer and nuzzled
her shoulder.

"It's okay," laughed Miranda as Misty's sisters hurried over, "I'm
fine. I've had worse things happen to my clothing."

"I'm, like, sure we can lend you something to replace it," offered
Lily, suddenly taking a step back as Miranda reached out with her
hand and petted something that didn't appear to be there.

"And you can take a quick bath before that stuff stains your
skin," added Violet a little too hastily as Miranda whispered a
few reassuring words to her saddened, invisible gastly.

"Thanks," the woman replied glancing at Misty, "I take it you'd
like to bond for a while?"

Her lover nodded with an amused smile. "Yeah, and I'd like to
borrow Umi too if I could," she replied, kneeling down to pet her
horsea reassuringly, "But I'll join you next time."

Miranda chuckled quietly and nodded before returning Wraith and
actually looking carefully at the second pokeball with its blue
and white colour combination. "Alright, Umi," she called as the
dratini's ball snapped open and sent out its curious luminescence,
"time to make some new friends!"

The serpent appeared a short distance above the water, but dove in
happily without missing a beat. A moment later she popped her head
out near the edge of the pool and looked up at Miranda
imploringly. "Dra?" inquired Umi hopefully.

"No, sorry, dear," her trainer replied with a sad smile, "Maybe
next time. But I'm sure Misty'll go swimming with you while I'm
gone." "Now then," asked Miranda, turning towards Violet, you said
I could take a quick bath?"

"Ah yes, this way," the woman explained with a conniving glance in
Misty's direction, "I'll arrange something to put on when she's
done, like okay?"

"Have fun," commented Misty giving a small, sad wave as Miranda
was lead off, causing her to wonder what horrors awaited her,
"We'll miss you!"

"If I'm not back in an day, you can keep Umi," the courier
chuckled as Misty laughed at the comment and the little dragon let
out a long sad sound as her trainer followed Violet up the long
flight of stairs...


The room illuminated automatically as Miranda slid the door open
and entered, filling the room with soft light. "Gee," she
commented, noticing not only the raised dais upon which the sunken
bathtub rested, but also the expansive dressing table, crowded
with every conceivable beauty product on the planet, and equipped
with a large mirror surrounded by clear round light bulbs, "They
really take this stuff seriously!"

With a chuckle, Miranda walked up the tiled steps to where the
bathtub dwelt. It seemed deep enough to fully submerse herself in,
and spacious enough to hold at least another person comfortably.
The waterspout was designed in the shape of a seadra, the two
faucets on either side turning easily to expel a combination of
hot and cold water into the tub.

"I should have known," the woman commented with a smile as her the
water ran between her fingers, the temperature near perfect, "In a
city obsessed with water, you can always bathe comfortably."

Miranda shook her hand dry and walked to the dressing table,
noticing the small bench that had been pushed underneath it.
"Well, that'll take a while," she commented to her reflection,
reaching under to pull out the padded bench and sat herself in
front of the mirror, "Might as well take my time."

With a gentle push against the far wall with her feet, Miranda
moved the seat back a bit further and spun around to face the bath
as she disrobed. "I really should be more careful," she muttered
to herself, holding out the front of her shirt and shaking her
head at the ink stain, "I just hope Umi's okay out there."

After removing her shirt, Miranda hung it on a small hook on the
side of the dressing table to dry and went about detaching the
three pokeballs from her belt. "But what to do with you two
trouble makers?" she inquired in a maternal tone before setting
the two occupied and one empty ball down on the table behind her,
"Naw, unleashing Wraith into their computer system and Nezumi into
their kitchen would be mean."

She then stood up and undid her pants so that they could fall to
the floor at her feet, before undoing her necklace and setting it
carefully on the counter beside the pokeballs. "Ah, freedom,"
chuckled Miranda, stretching out her arms, rotating her shoulder
muscles before pulling down her undergarments and taking a good
look at what the not-so sensational Cerulean Sisters considered
bathroom necessities.

"'Serene Seel Bubble Bath'," read Miranda aloud as she picked up
the first bottle she found, "I guess that's not such a bad idea.
Oh, and 'Happy Jynx Hair Care'? Um, maybe not."

Miranda picked up the second bottle and shook her head in dismay.
"I'm glad Lavender Town isn't this bad," she commented, finally
settling on a bottle of shampoo that didn't have a cheesy
marketing ploy, "I can see it now, 'Gengar Toothpaste! Keeps your
teeth as white as a corpse, or your money back! Oh well..."

The courier turned her attention back to the filling bathtub and
was pleased to find it nearly done, the waterspout doing its job
rather efficiently. So, with only a moment's hesitation, she
uncorked the bottle of bubble bath and moved to drop in a small
amount. As promised on the label, thick suds immediately erupted
from the churning waters, and by the time the tub was nearly full,
Miranda began to wonder if she'd over done it.

"Good enough," she commented, shutting off the water and stepping
carefully into the pleasantly warm water, prepared to enjoy the
first real bath she'd had in weeks.

As she settled in, the warm water already taking its soothing toll
on her wary muscles and the suds making pleasant little
crackling/popping noises, Miranda closed her eyes and sighed
contentedly. "Showers just can't compare to this," the courier
whispered to herself, casually slipping off her glasses and
putting them on the edge of the tub before holding her breath and
sliding beneath the calm waters.

Once submerged, the ambient sounds of the Cerulean City Gym
banished from her ears, and only the warm caress of the gently
moving water filled her senses. Within seconds Miranda felt all
her tension drift away. With a small smile, she folded her legs
into a sitting position, allowing herself to float to the surface
once she neared the limit of her stamina.

The cooler air that touched her face felt like a welcome morning
kiss as she broke the thin membrane of water-tension, and the
fresh oxygen that filled her lungs seemed sweet. "Misty," she
whispered absently, feeling a subtle longing lurking quietly in
the back of her mind, "I love you..."

Leaning her head back against gently curved rim of the tub,
Miranda let her mind wander. With a small sigh of contentment, she
lifted her knees once more, but not enough for them to leave the
water's warm comfort.

'Mmm, this is nice,' the woman thought wistfully, brushing her
dark wet hair over her ears with both hands before slowly dragging
her fingers downward, gently caressing the tension from her neck.

In her mind, Miranda imagined the touch was Misty's. Her lover's
hands slowly weaving their way downward, pausing only to gently
cup her breasts and brush her fingers teasingly across Miranda's

"Like that..." she breathed, taking both nipples between her
fingers and imagining Misty's pretty face leaning forward to tease
Miranda with little kisses as she ran her fingers downward, gently
tugging at them while whispering words of adoration.

Miranda let out a long slow breath; her head tilting to one side
as she brought her hands down lower, giving in to her body's
sudden need. "Maybe I should save this passion for the real you,"
Miranda chuckled quietly, biting her lip as her fingers slid lower
"Or maybe not..."

The courier held her breath as her fingertips teased her labia
before both hands moved out to trace the length of her thighs,
causing Miranda to shiver despite the warmth of the water.
Miranda's inner thighs had always been a pleasurable weakness when
caressed in the correct manner, and now she wished it were her
lover's touch upon them, not her own.

"I need you, dearest," said Miranda so quietly she barely even
heard her own words, and as she brought a hand up to her breast to
tease herself further, Miranda conjured an image in her mind of
her beloved.

She imagined a spacious room, whose far off walls and ceiling were
enshrouded by both shadows and veils of coloured silk. The
lighting was dim, provided candles whose flames somehow failed to
burn anything but the wax, and cast strange shadows about the
expansive room. The shadows themselves seemed to flit about,
impatient for what was to come, intent on quietly observing.

From somewhere, hidden behind thin walls whose colours ranged
through all the spectrums of blue and purple, music played. It was
soft, crossing Celtic and classical in a unity so perfect it
rivaled the love Misty and Miranda felt for each other.

As Miranda approached the center of the room, the silken veils
parted to allow her passage, obeying her unspoken command as she
stepped barefoot across the marble floor that, strewn with rose

The courier closed her eyes, breathing in the sweet scent of the
dying petals, and feeling the soft caress of the loose fitting
robes she wore. The light material could have been silk, yet it
clung to her more like solidified ephemera as she moved, trailing
out behind the woman with every step, revealing the length of
Miranda's legs as she walked.

When at last she had reached her destination Miranda paused,
spreading her arms wide and leaning her head back with a contented
smile. "All this is for your benefit, my dearest love," Miranda
said aloud, leaning her head forward and opening her eyes as she
heard the quiet sound of Misty's breathing. What she then saw,
made Miranda shiver, and almost laugh out loud as a way to release
the sudden desire that flooded her senses even as the music
reached a minor crescendo.

Misty stood with her back to Miranda, her arms to her sides, her
head held high and her orangish hair tied up, revealing her
slender, ever so tempting neck. The only garment that she wore,
however, was a long, loosely fitting robe of white silk that was
so thin Miranda could just make out tantalizing, yet shadowy
glimpses of Misty's body beneath.

"Don't be afraid," Miranda whispered, walking up behind Misty and
speaking directly into her ear, "I love you far too much to ever
hurt you."

The girl nodded slowly, but was otherwise silent. Her only sounds
the quiet moan she let out as Miranda's hands rested upon her
strong shoulders for a moment before running down her back, the
courier's skilled fingers seeking out the tension in Misty's
muscles. As her lover leaned back in response to Miranda's touch,
her hands moving slowly up and down her back, she rested her head
against Miranda's chest and smiled up at her.

"I love you," sighed Misty as Miranda's hands moved downward,
taking her firm bottom in both hands and squeezing gently, causing
Misty's eyes to flutter shut, and her voice to falter.

"I know," Miranda soothed, bowing her head to kiss Misty upon the
forehead with as much subtle passion as she could muster, "and I
hope to one day find all the right words to tell you how much I
love you in return. But for now, just relax. I have so much to
show you..."

Misty smiled, sighing contentedly as she leaned her head forward
to hide her sudden blush, giving Miranda ample opportunity to kiss
the back of her neck, and run her hands up over the swell of
Misty's hips, across her stomach, until finally reaching the
gentle rise of her lover's breasts.

Although soft silk lay in a thin barrier between Miranda's hands
and her lover's skin, the woman didn't mind. The gentle rustle of
the fabric was just noticeable on the edge of her hearing, but the
firm, but her tactile sense was very much in tune with the toned
curves of Misty's body beneath her fingers. The way Misty caught
her breath as her head leaned to one side adding yet another
inviting aspect to the girl's allure as Miranda traced a line of
slow kisses across her neck, up to her ear.

"What good are my hands?" whispered Miranda rhetorically in the
tone she used for quiet recital as her fingers gently caressed
Misty's breasts through the translucent fabric, "If cannot hold
you safe in my arms?"

Misty shivered, clenching her fists unconsciously as Miranda ran
the tip of her tongue with excruciating slowness along the curve
of her lover's earlobe. "And what use do my lips serve?" she
questioned, giving Misty's hardening nipples a gentle squeeze
before running her hands up to her shoulders and back down her
arms, "If I can never know the joy of your kisses?"

"Then just hold, my dearest love," came Misty's whispered reply as
Miranda's fingers slipped through her own, carefully lifting
Misty's arms above her head, "Let not the past besiege the walls
of our passion, let no other come between us."

Miranda could feel Misty shiver as she reached past the girl's
hands and took hold of two conveniently dangling lengths of silk.
One was of a deep blue colour, the other simply of lavender.

"And taste my love upon your lips whenever you so desire,"
continued Misty, her soft, beautiful voice quavering slightly as
Miranda loosely bound her wrists with the silken binds, "Trace
them across my skin, use them to provoke my desire, use them to
taste the sweet ambrosia of my passion. Just always be my dearest

"Always," promised Miranda, running her hands back down Misty's
arms, which were now held out at comfortable angles, making her
only seem helpless as Miranda's fingers pushed the sleeves of
Misty's garment down her arms to her shoulders.

Miranda then took a step back, smiling at her handiwork with a
touch of amusement as she pulled a length of white silk from
within her own flowing robes and held it at its ends. "You can
easily break free," the woman's voice echoed through Misty's mind
as the length of white silk came from behind and covered her eyes,
"Those wonderful, soft hands of yours could easily slip free of
these loose knots I've bound your wrists with."

"Why would I want to escape your love?" replied Misty, her voice a
sounding a little sad at the prospect before becoming a coy
chuckle as she said, "When I can finally know what it's like to
have someone whose love comes without condition?"

Miranda smiled as she tied the silken blindfold loosely behind her
lover's head, covering Misty's eyes before playfully running her
fingernails the girl's back as she followed them with kisses.
Finally, though, as Miranda's fingers moved across the gentle rise
of Misty's bottom, she knelt down behind her lover, and let her
hands drop the rest of the way down.

"Because of my past? Because of yours?" answered Miranda, trying
to keep her tone serious, but not succeeding as her fingers
touched Misty's calves causing her to gasp, Misty's lithe body
shivering at the touch, "Because you have dreams to chase down?
And I have a job to do?"

Misty had to catch her breath as Miranda's hands pushed the fabric
of her gown up as they slowly, appreciatively moved up her legs.
"Never," promised Misty, her fingers wrapping around the lengths
of silk that so loosely bound her wrists and pulling at them to no
avail, "If I were to loose you, who would I have to hold me on the
coldest nights? Who would I have to share the joy of my victories
with? Who would I have to make love with...?"

Miranda closed her eyes, sighing contentedly as she listened to
her beloved's words. All the while her hands traveled higher,
occasionally sliding back down over the wonderfully toned muscles
of Misty's calves before moving higher, and soliciting a small
gasping moan.

"No one who would care for you as deeply as I," Miranda agreed,
sliding her hands around the front of Misty's thighs, gently
caressing the smooth skin as she maneuvered her head underneath
the dangling robe, "And besides. No one else who knows just how to
touch you."

Misty's reply was stifled by the sudden chill that ran up her
spine. Miranda's lips touched her inner thigh, kissing her
playfully before moving across to the other. The woman then
glanced up and smiled as she moved slowly upward towards Misty's

"I want you so much that nothing else has meaning," added Miranda,
pausing to teasingly run the tip of her tongue a short distance up
Misty's inner thigh, "I feel as though I've been poisoned by my
desire for you, and the only cure is the taste of your sweet

Her lover inhaled sharply as Miranda's hands slid up her thighs,
carrying the hem of the thin robe ever higher, until the courier's
fingers slid appreciatively across the gentle rising curve of
Misty's bottom. With little gasps of anticipation, followed small
moans of longing, Misty staggered slightly, standing with her legs
slightly apart as she felt the tip of Miranda's tongue touch her
womanhood, tasting Misty's infinite desire.

As Miranda's tongue ran slowly between Misty's labia, she push her
bottom out invitingly, trying to position herself to Miranda both
more room to maneuver, and a better view. In response, it was all
that Miranda could do to not just slide her tongue deeper and
simply suckle forth the moisture that formed in response to her
touch. The sounds Misty was making, combined with her own desire
causing Miranda's body to quiver as she slowly lapped at Misty's
labia, patiently teasing her beloved to orgasm.

"P-please," came Misty's breathless response as Miranda switched
to using the flat of her tongue, still not penetrating, nor going
near her lover's clit which was surely yearning to be touched,
"Don't tease me so."

"Am I teasing you, my love?" responded Miranda, unable to banish
the smile from her lips as she leisurely drew her tongue back and
gave Misty's firm bottom an appraising squeeze, "I could always
stop, and leave you alone if you'd like."

"Don't you dare-!" gasped out Misty, both laughing and shouting
out her joy at the same time as Miranda's tongue finally slid
inside her, and the courier's lips covering her labia.

Misty threw her head back, crying out in her elation. The soft,
warm caress of Miranda's tongue upon her inner folds causing her
whole body to convulse as she neared orgasm. She could feel the
knowing touch of Miranda's hands, now moving slowly up her back,
pushing gently against her muscles in just the right places to
relieve the tension she herself was causing. Misty could hear the
quiet, approving sounds Miranda made as the woman went about her
work, relentlessly suckling against Misty's labia as her tongue
moved about inside her.

Finally, as Misty felt as though she could take no more, she felt
Miranda pull away and nearly cried as the cooler air touched her
where once there had only been her lover's warmth.

"Wha-?" stammered Misty, only to hear Miranda's quiet chuckle, and
a low rustling as the silken garment she wore came magically
apart, falling from her shoulders and pooling at her feet in a
pile of tattered silk as Miranda stood and walked around to the

"We're not finished yet, my love," came the sound of the courier's
voice, coupled with the quiet licking of her lips followed by
Miranda's arms around Misty and a passionate kiss.

Miranda had slipped her own garment off, and slid her now bare
arms around Misty's naked body before moving in close to kiss her.
The girl's lips quivered as they touched, but were quite more than
willing. Miranda shivered unconsciously as she hugged Misty
tightly, tilting her head to one side and sliding her tongue past
Misty's slightly parted lips.

Again Miranda was delighted to find her lover so willing to
indulge her, yet she knew that the poor girl needed release. The
brewing orgasm had been brought to an end all too soon, but
Miranda's need to kiss her lover had been too great. "I just love
you so much," she whispered, pulling away from the equally
breathless Misty, smiling at her lover's appearance. Though she
was near helplessly bound, unable to see, there still the
delightful self-confidence and complete trust in Miranda that made
the woman fall in love with Misty all over again.

Miranda then had to smile as Misty leaned her head forward,
playfully nipping at the air between them as though to capture
Miranda's kisses. "You, you can't leave me yet," replied Misty, an
equally playful smile crossing her face even as her voice sounded
pleading, "I still need you..."

"And I shall always need you, my love" assured Miranda, stepping
back as she slid her hands around to the front where they came to
rest just under the pleasant handfuls Misty's breasts, "Just be
patient for a moment longer."

Misty nodded slowly, quietly accepting one final kiss upon the
lips before Miranda traced a line of them down her neck, every so
often giving the her sensitive skin a gentle nibble. All the
while, Miranda's hands moved upward, her fingers fanning out to
cup the gentle rise of Misty's breasts before caressing them

"I love you," Miranda whispered again, just loud enough for Misty
to hear over the quiet music as she kissed her way back down to
the same level as her hands.

Misty's only reply was a nod as she began breathing though her
mouth, reaching out with one leg in a desperate attempt to touch
Miranda in the way her hands longed to, as Miranda's hands slid
across Misty's soft skin, around to her back as she pushed her
bosom forward invitingly. And without a second thought, Miranda
gladly accepted the offer.

Before her Misty's breasts seemed to be longing for her touch,
even as her caressing fingers played across the sensitive skin.
And as Miranda moved her hands aside, she could see how Misty's
hardened nipples seemed to ache to be suckled.

As her hands traced their way across her lover's skin and her
fingers scratched lightly down Misty's back, Miranda's slow,
patient tongue made careful circles around each of the girl's
nipples in turn before she gave one breast a playful kiss, and
slowly brought a portion of it into her mouth.

Misty reacted with a visible shiver as she bit her lip her head
fell to one side as her mind swam so close to compete euphoria. As
Miranda's tongue played across the captured portion of her breast,
flicking her nipple playfully before cautious teeth gave it a
gentle nibble, Misty released her grip on her binds, letting
herself hang limply. She then sighed deeply, leaning into Miranda
who gladly supported her weight, kissing her way to the other
breast and repeating the process before slowly sliding downwards.

"And now to finish what I started," promised Miranda, crouching
down and dragging her parted lips across Misty's stomach as her
fingers pressed against the girl's back, tracing long lines down
to her bottom once again.

"Please don't tease me," replied Misty dreamily, smiling as
Miranda's hands slid playfully across her bottom before behind
Misty's legs and lifting them off the ground.

Misty gasped, half expecting the silken cords to snap, but they
gave no protest, even as her thighs were placed comfortably upon
Miranda's shoulders, and the courier supported her weight without
a problem.

"I shall not, my love," Miranda assured, kissing one of Misty's
inner thighs passionately, and causing her lover's fingers to curl
unconsciously as her body reacted to what was to come, "But I will
take my time."

"Please hurry," Misty panted, gritting her teeth against the
sensation that was building up inside of her as she leaned back,
smiling, as she pulled against the unbreakable silken binds and
found that they didn't so much as tighten against her wrists.

"You cannot rush an artist," teased Miranda, her hands pushing
against Misty's bottom so that her face was closer to her goal,
"And patience is half a virtue."

As she ran her tongue across Misty's inner thigh, bringing it
tantalizingly close to her lover's womanhood, Misty's legs pushed
against Miranda's ears, drowning out most of the outside world.
All that Miranda's could hear as her tongue slid up the line
between Misty's labia were the muffled sounds her beloved's gasps
and little exclamations, coupled with the faint sound of her

Trapped as she was, Miranda couldn't help smile inwardly at the
irony her imagination had woven. Both lovers trapped by the other,
both unwilling to do the one thing that would set them both free.
But it was a comforting feeling, knowing that neither would
willingly let the other go.

Finally, though, as she imagined licking Misty's clit in the
quick, deliberate lapping motions she knew would push her lover
over the brink, Miranda felt herself let go as well. 'This is how
it should be,' she thought wistfully just before the feeling hit
her, banishing all coherent thought, 'both of us sharing this
feeling together...'


Violet paused before the closed bathroom door, a few towels and
some of her old clothes bundled in her arms. 'I have such a
strange family,' she muttered, about to slide the door open with
her foot when a sound caught her ear.

An amused grin traced its way across the woman's face as she
leaned her ear against the thin wooden door. "Ohh!" Violet
whispered to herself, listening to the occasional splashes of
water, and the quiet sounds of Miranda's uneven breathing, "Like,
I totally thought so!"

With a gleam of mischief in her eye, Misty's eldest sister set
down her burden and slid the door open ever so slightly. Through
the narrow opening, Violet could see Miranda a short distance
away. She had slid down a ways into the warm water, and what was
left of the bubbles conspired to obscure Violet's view, but by
virtue of the movements and sounds courier made, Violet had no
doubt in her mind as to what Miranda was up to.

'So this is the sort of company my little sister's been keeping,'
thought Violet from the doorway mirthfully, licking her suddenly
dry lips as the soft sounds filled her ears, 'This like so totally
needs further investigation...'

Miranda, unaware of her silent observer continued about her task.
With a contented smile and a soft exclamation she brought her
knees up as the feeling of ecstasy finally caressed her mind.
"Misty..." she whispered quietly, leaning her head back and biting
her lower lip to keep from crying out.

Beneath the soapy water, two of the courier's fingers gently
traced teasing paths across her labia before coming together at
her clit, playfully teasing it before Miranda's middle finger
moved between them to rub softly against it. The woman's body
tensed as she slid her finger back and forth with almost painful
slowness, urging herself forward slowly and carefully.

'I shouldn't make so much noise,' she chided herself sternly,
reaching up with her free hand and giving one breast a bit of a
squeeze to alleviate the sudden peculiar ache it felt, 'I can't
let them hear..."

From the doorway, Violet stopped the unconscious clenching of her
fingers as she leaned forward, one eye closed as she peered
through the barely open door. 'I wonder,' she thought wistfully,
pushing her legs closer together in an attempt to alleviate the
mild tingle she felt between them, 'Like if Misty knows just how
much of a total perv this Miranda girl is!'

Violet tried to add an extra touch of self-righteousness to her
words, but hardly felt it. She could see many reasons why her
sister had chosen the courier as her lover, even if Miranda was by
Violet's standards a 'hick'. Even now Violet could remember the
thoughtful mystery of Miranda's gray eyes. The way they could look
right into a person's soul, yet reveal nothing about the woman
herself. They were almost the colour storm clouds, or at least
that of the quiet haze that often surrounded the mysterious tower
in her hometown of Lavender.

That same place had more than likely given her the 'Lavender look'
people from the south often commented on. Though Miranda's skin
was a touch pale, it still showed life. Almost in defiance against
entropy itself, yet at the same time embracing the eerie twilight
most citizens of Lavender spent their lives enduring. By the same
token, Miranda's hair was the colour of murkrow's feathers, a deep
blackness that reflected little light, and drew one's eyes to it
like an inescapably beautiful void. And though it seemed to have a
bit of a mind of its own, and needed to be kept mostly tied back
save for the woman's stubborn bangs, Violet felt a tinge of envy.

She knew it was more than likely that Miranda had never dyed it;
she had never 'had' to spend hours taking care of her bountiful
locks. Miranda's life style and small town values made her the
sort who simply let it be. Occasionally hacking off the last few
inches of it to keep it at vaguely the same length. But what it
was a beauty that Violet had tried to find in her own hair of
deepest purple, yet had never quite achieved.

'I must have her,' the woman thought almost hungrily, kneeling so
that she could bunch up the front hem of her long skirt and touch
herself through the unnecessarily frilly undergarment she wore,
and pushed the door open a little farther, 'Misty like totally
doesn't deserve such a creature.'

For several long minutes, Violet spied upon Miranda, teasing
moisture to her fingertips before sliding her fingers under the
waistband of her unnecessarily complicated undergarments and
moving one slowly between the twin rises of her labia. "It's so
not fair," she whispered, dragging her middle finger back and
forth until she could take it no longer, "Like, little sisters
should only get 'hand-me-downs'!"

Violet stopped herself from crying out as her middle finger slid
up insider herself while she leaned against the doorframe for
support. For one agonizing moment, she thought Miranda had heard
her, and Violet's mind quickly conjured up images of the younger
woman quickly sliding open the door only to stare in shock as
Violet half knelt before her with one hand under her long skirt.

Once the tense moment passed, however, and she realized that
Miranda had merely stopped to unbind her hair, the image actually
sent a small exited chill down Violet's spine. "Yes," she hissed
under her breath, closing her eyes tightly as she imagined Miranda
flinging the door open and standing before her naked except for
the water that glistened across her skin, and the stray suds that
still clung to her body, "Just like that..."

Violet continued with the thought, imagining herself blushing
deeply as Miranda's eyes reflected a stoic calm, yet her face held
an expression of barely concealed embarrassed amusement. Without a
word Miranda stared down at Violet with an almost demanding look
as she glanced back up with a mixture of embarrassed desire.

Violet smiled to herself as she knelt down upon the floor, pulling
her skirt up in the front and leaning forward slightly in an
imagined attempt to retain false modesty yet still entice her
sister's lover. The gym leader further imagined herself trying to
speak, desperate to offer an explanation as her fingers ruthlessly
continued their task, unhindered by her predicament. "Please..."
Violet said to the conjured image before her, letting the woman
formulate her own opinion as to what Violet needed.

Through half closed eyes, she could almost see a small smile cross
Miranda's face as she watched, a gleam of satisfaction finally
showing in the courier's eyes. "Continue," Violet imagined Miranda
saying, her voice full of the focused confidence she remembered
the woman having over two year ago when she'd first arrived at the
gym, "Show me the opportunity I passed up the last time."

Violet could only nod obligingly, unbuttoning the front of her
blouse as her wetted fingers slid back and over her clit. "Oh-!"
she exclaimed helplessly, popping a button off the garment.

The image of Miranda chuckled, watching as the button skittered
across the floor behind her. "No matter," the woman said in the
maternal tone she reserved for her pokemon, "There are greater
needs to be attended to, my dear."

Violet let out a small exclamation as the courier stepped closer
and brushed her deep purple hair from her eyes. "An- Anything,"
stammered Violet, staring up at Miranda with a sudden hungry
desire that contrasted her fantasy lover's suddenly loving caress,
"Anything you want..."

Violet then stood up upon her shaking knees, raising her head
above Miranda's waist level and kissing her stomach just above the
navel. For a moment, the thought sent another envious chill
thought Violet's mind. Miranda more than likely had never been on
any kind of forced diet. Even with her rigorous swimming routine's
Violet still had to overcome the temptations brought on by
Cerulean's finer restaurants, the sweet smells of sugary snacks
from the frequent Summer carnivals and the ravenous hunger she
felt after hours of swimming. Yet here was a woman who's life
style meant constant exercise, and often only healthy food was
available in the seemingly endless expanses between human cities.

But Violet pushed the thought from her mind; she was determined to
enjoy the gift that chance had brought her. She imagined drawing
back her hand and reaching towards Miranda with a mischievous

Her image of Miranda gave Violet a questioning look, but Violet
merely shook her head slowly, carefully watching Miranda's
expression as she slid her wetted fingers across Miranda's
womanhood, pushing gently and rubbing until Miranda's body
quivered and she found it hard to stand.

"There we go," chuckled Violet, bringing her hand back and running
one finger across her tongue provocatively, "Hm, we taste good
together. It like, must be totally meant to be or something!"

Violet couldn't help but smile as she dropped down a bit and moved
towards Miranda's womanhood, licking her lips in anticipation as
she felt fingers slide through her hair and guide her forward.
"You are like, so mine..." Violet whispered, opening her mouth
slightly and reaching out with her tongue, exercising every ounce
of patience she could muster before-

From the bathroom Violet heard a rather loud gasp, followed by an
embarrassed exclamation and a splash of water. "Crud!" she cursed
under her breath, opening her eyes and gritting her teeth in
annoyance, "So close..."

The Gym Leader shook her head, sighing as she gathered up the pile
of towels and stood up. From the bathroom she could hear Miranda's
movements. It was easy to tell she was embarrassed by her sudden
out burst, but Violet ignored the temptation to simply walk in
unannounced, even if her fantasy had been cut short.

'Oh well,' she thought, straightening out her clothes and suckling
the moisture from her fingers as an after thought, 'It can't be
half as good as the real thing.'

Miranda turned her head to the sound of a nock at the door. "Come
in," she called a touch nervously as she fumbled around for her
glasses, "I'm almost done in her anyway."

Violet smiled almost knowingly as she stepped quietly into the
room, causing Miranda to look away and grab the bottle of shampoo
she'd found. "I was just about to wash my hair, actually," she
lied, quickly finding her wits as she pushed back the

"Oh, like you're not using that brand are you?" inquired Violet
with a disapproving look as she put the towels down on the counter
and looked around for another bottle, "Cause it totally doesn't
suit you!"

"Doesn't suit me?" inquired Miranda, skeptically reading the

Violet nodded as she walked towards the tub, a different bottle in
on hand, and two folded towels in the other. "Here," she offered
with some concern, "give your hair a quick rinse and sit on the
edge of the tub so I can wash it for you."

"Thanks," replied Miranda, thankful that her hostess either hadn't
caught her or at least was polite enough not to mention it, "Just
be careful, I think there may still be a bramble or two caught in

Violet cringed at the thought of getting anything in her hair as
Miranda took off her glasses and leaned forward, dunking her head
and hair under for a moment.

"That's better," commented Violet, setting the folded towel near
the edge of the tub and watching surreptitiously as Miranda stood
with her back to the older woman and sat down upon it.

"This is rather nice of you, considering," said Miranda
conversationally, not bothering to put her glasses back on as
Violet knelt behind her on another towel.

"It's like, totally not a big deal," the Gym Leader assured,
adjusting her skirt so she wouldn't get them it before squirting a
blob of oddly coloured liquid into her hand, "But like I just had
to get away from the others for a couple of minutes."

"Oh?" inquired Miranda a little suspiciously as she felt the
woman's fingers attempt to bunch up her dripping hair.

"Oh, like you know," explained Violet, finding the task of
arranging Miranda's hair properly more difficult than she'd
anticipated and needing more shampoo, "I can only take so much
family reunion stuff at a time. And like my sister's so over
reacting about seeing her pokemon again, it's just like, so
totally weird!"

"I don't think so," replied Miranda a little defensively, "If I
hadn't seen one of mine in three years I know I'd overreact too.
Heck, I'd probably have a pile of poetry written about how much I
missed him or her. Besides, the way she's so free and uninhibited
with her emotions is one of the reasons I love Misty."

"You write?" inquired Violet, half surprised as she finally
managed to get most of the courier's hair into one place before
emptying the nearly half the bottle to lather it properly.

"Yeah, since I was little," the woman admitted, self-consciously
folding her arms across her chest and crossing her legs as Violet
worked into a rhythm, "I guess it just wasn't important last time
I was here so I just never mentioned it what with everything else
that was going on."

"Well, like actually," commented Violet, leaning forward a little
and lowering her voice as her fingers traced paths across
Miranda's scalp, "That's quite the coincidence."

"Oh? Do tell?"

"Well," replied Violet, a satisfied smile crossing her lips as she
found an excuse to lean closer to Miranda's ear and speaking in a
hushed tone, "There's a contest being sponsored by that new
restaurant that's opening... 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La
Rue' I think it's called."

Miranda nodded thoughtfully. "Indeed," the courier explained,
"It's the one I dropped a delivery off to last night. Is it at the
restaurant or at the fair grounds?"

"The grounds," replied Violet, leaning back and smiling in
satisfaction as she made slow, purposeful motions, dragging her
nails as she worked in an attempt to send chills down Miranda's
spine, "The grand prize is dinner for two at the restaurant."

"There's an irony there," Miranda chuckled, "Looks like Misty'll
get that ice-cream she wanted after all."

"Say wha-?" stammered Violet, giving Miranda quizzical look as the
commented caught her off balance.

"Nothing," the woman chuckled, shaking her head slightly and
trying not to blush, "don't worry about it. So, when is it? Where
do I sign up?"

Violet shrugged, suddenly cursing herself for not paying more
attention when she'd head about the contest. "Like, I'm not sure,
eh," she explained carefully, "But I'm sure it'll say in the
paper. And like, there's likely to be fliers at the fairgrounds
that'll tell you everything anyway."

"Okay," said Miranda thoughtfully, "I'll be sure to check it out.
But in the mean time, I guess I'll have to find a source of

A grin crossed Violet's lips as she suppressed the comment that
immediately came to mind. "You know," she said, changing the
subject as she unraveled the length of Miranda's now thoroughly
soapy hair, "this is like, really quite amazing!"

"What is?" asked Miranda, feeling a bit distracted and easily
ignoring the sensation of Violet's fingers as they tried
unsuccessfully to untie a few loose knots.

"You're hair, it's like totally to die for!" the woman laughed in
reply, holding it out to its full length with both hands.

"Thanks mom," Miranda chuckled, not taking the comment completely

"No, like I totally mean it," assured Violet letting Miranda's
hair fall wetly against her back, "It's so long and vibrant. It's
like totally the opposite of Misty's."

"There's nothing wrong with your sister's hair," replied Miranda
coldly, jumping immediately to her lover's defense.

"But its like, totally short!" explained Violet, taking the length
of Miranda's hair and forming it into a pony tail, "And the way
she wears it! Yeesh! Like when was that in style?"

"Being in style isn't important to myself or Misty," continued
Miranda, her eyes narrowing in annoyance, refusing to be baited
so, "Besides, short hair suits her. Misty has a natural beauty
that shines from within, and her personal sense of style some how
extenuates that."

"So," inquired Violet mischievously as she tossed Miranda's hair
over one shoulder and brought her lips close to the woman's neck,
"You like 'tomboys' then?"

"When it suits me," Miranda replied coldly with a shrug,
regretting that she hadn't invited Misty to join her, and hating
the feeling of Violet's hot breath upon her bare shoulder.

"So what you're saying then is," Violet continued with a
mischievous giggle as her fingers ran through the length of the
courier's soapy hair, "Is that you've had better?"

"I think that your sister's beauty stands in testament to that."

Violet clenched her fingers slightly, but managed to keep her
voice level. "Then perhaps someone should show you the other
possibilities that life has to offer," she said in a quiet, sultry
tone as she leaned forward in one final attempt at more blatant

Miranda felt an unpleasantly cold shiver run down her spine as
Violet's lips touched her neck. An unpleasant mixture of guilt and
revulsion fought hard against the small glimmer of pleasure she
gained from the gesture before pushing it back down and muting it

"My love is taken," said Miranda coldly, carefully reaching back,
"It belongs to Misty."

"But like, what about your lust?" inquired Violet in a smug,
sultry tone, only then noticing the way Miranda had suddenly
grabbed a handful of her hair before yanking it forward.

Not wanting to risk having such a generous handful of her precious
commodity torn out, Violet leaned forward into the pull on
instinct. Without hesitation, Miranda followed through with the
movement, refusing to take pleasure in the fact that Misty's
sister was willing to somersault willingly into the tub fully
clothed rather than risk having a few hairs yanked out.

The enormous splash of water was accompanied by a loud shriek, and
Miranda had to shield her eyes from the spray as she pulled her
legs out of the water. "My lust has not meaning in the face of my
loyalty," the courier hissed quietly as the sound of footsteps was
heard out in the hall and a thoroughly soaked Violet came up for
air gasping with embarrassment and anger.

"What happened?!" exclaimed Misty as she burst into the room, once
more with Umi draped about her shoulders.

"Your sister had a little accident," said Miranda simply, glancing
sideways as Violet as she stood up and gave her soaked through
clothes a look of complete embarrassment.

"You okay?" inquired Lily as she entered the room just behind her

"I- I'm fine," Violet replied coolly, glancing at Miranda with

"You should really be more careful," chided Lily as she grabbed
one of the unused towels and held it open for her sibling.

"But I feel like a drown rattata," Violet pouted, not glancing
back at Miranda as she stepped out of the tub and into the warmth
of the towel.

"I'd watch what you say about rattata's," chuckled Misty as the
dratini she held glared at the woman, her eyes swirling a
dangerous combination of red and orange as she made a quiet
hissing sound through her sharp, thin teeth.

"It's just an expression," assured Miranda reaching out to pet Umi
as Misty came closer, "Don't worry, little one, you needn't defend
Nezumi's honor today."

Misty laughed as the dratini slid from her shoulders and wrapped
herself protectively around Miranda's arm before nuzzling against
her affectionately. "Should I be jealous?" the girl inquired
glancing over her shoulder as her siblings filed out of the room
to find Violet some dry clothes.

"Of Umi or Violet?" asked Miranda, trying to keep her tone light
as she gave the little dragon's eye ridges an affectionate

"Um, both?" offered Misty, turning back with an amused expression,
yet her eyes mirrored concern.

"Never," replied Miranda sincerely as she swung her feet down onto
the bottom step before pushing herself up and stepping down onto
the floor, "You know me better than that."

Misty nodded, the smile slipping from her face as her eyes teared
up. "I know," she said quietly, gladly accepting the embrace that
Miranda immediately offered, "But you don't know what these people
are like. My sisters, it's like I'm a play thing to them..."

"Shh, I know, dearest," Miranda whispered into her ear as Umi
slithered into the still warm water of the tub and stared back at
the human's with eyes that glowed greenish with sympathy, "but
there's no reason to worry. You're the only Cerulean sister that I
want. The only one who's sensational in my eyes."

Misty took a deep breath, inhaling the combination of Miranda's
scent and the vanilla-ish flavor of the shampoo in her hair. "Just
tell me you love me," she pleaded, looking up at Miranda with an
expression that made the courier's heart break just to look upon

"With all my heart," said Miranda her tone serious as she met and
held her lover's gaze, "I love you Misty. And nothing, not the
span of year, not even if there's a hundred thousand miles between
us, and certainly not one of your sisters is going to change that.
I love you so much that sometimes I feel as though I could
burst... Is there nothing that I can do to assure you of this

Misty lifted her arms and returned the embrace, not caring that
she was getting soaking wet as she hugged Miranda back. "I'm
sorry," she whispered, noticing the tears in her beloved's eyes,
"I... I shouldn't be so insecure. It's not like me."

"And tears aren't like me," replied Miranda, a smile coming to her
lips as she saw that Misty wasn't completely distraught, "But, can
you forgive me? Even if it's just for worrying you?"

Misty looked thoughtful for a moment, glancing at her sibling's
wet footprints across the tiled floor. "Only if you tell me the
truth about what happened here," she said simply, glancing back at
Miranda with a serious look that made Miranda's stomach clench
almost painfully.

"Even if I must run the risk of hurting you, my love?" inquired
Miranda, a feeling of deep uncertainty creeping up on her.

Misty nodded slowly. "I can handle it, Miranda," she assured,
resting her head against her beloved's naked shoulder, "I'm
stronger that I look."

"I know," replied Miranda, a hint of amusemnt entering her voice,
"It's one of the things that I love about you. But, if it will
make you feel better, your sister... Violet, she tried to seduce

Misty tensed, and Miranda felt a deep sense of dread overcome her.
'Here I am,' she thought mirthlessly, 'Standing naked, wet, and
vulnerable in a stranger's house. And now I'm about to loose one
of things that makes life worth living...'

"Go on," said Misty after a moment, her voice seeming a little
distant, yet still lacking malice. To Miranda, though, it sounded
akin to the voice judgment.

"Violet... She kissed my neck," the woman explained, tears falling
from her eyes as she spoke, "She just thought it was all a game.
Like somehow my love for you is just a game I'm playing... So I
just reacted without thinking... I- I tossed her head first into

Miranda felt a horrible tension overwhelm her as she finished her
story, and a dread uncertainty as Misty looked up at her
questioning. "You threw her into the tub?" she inquired, a small
smile budding upon her lips.

Miranda nodded, a glimmer of hope finding a place in her despair.

"That's... That's..." stammered Misty, starting to laugh, "That's

"Then you're not mad?" inquired Miranda, as Misty squeezed her
tightly laughing.

"What?! No! Of course not!" assured Misty, leaning back with her
arms around Miranda's torso, "I trust you, Miranda. And I love

Before the courier could reply, Misty kissed her. With the
gesture, Miranda felt her worry drain away, replaced by a sudden
mirth as she put her arms around Misty once more. 'Thank you,
Violet,' she thought in amusement, 'You've given me my
Chapter VI

Miranda tucked the bottom of the unfamiliar frilly white blouse
into her jeans as she followed Misty down the narrow flight of
steps to the gym area. Once again the humid scent of water filled
her lungs, but this time it wasn't accompanied by the echoing
shouts of happy pokemon. The only sounds were the quiet lapping of
the water against the sides of the pool and their already echoing

"You're sure it's still alright to stay here?" the woman inquired,
taking the towel from her shoulders and giving drying her hair
another chance.

Misty smiled as she entered the stadium-sized room and turned to
face Miranda as she slid the door closed behind them. "Don't
worry," replied Misty, trying to banish Miranda's doubtful look,
"Even if Violet's really mad at you, this is still my home. And
you're always welcome here."

Miranda nodded and glanced out over the quiet pool, spotting a few
of Misty's pokemon several meters down. "I think he's sulking,"
she commented as she crouched down and Misty walked up behind her.

"My horsea?" the trainer inquired, leaning on Miranda's shoulders
and looking down in time to see the pokemon in question swim
rather quickly away, "Yeah, I see what you mean. I guess he's had
some time to think about what he did."

"Well, I really can't blame him," responded Miranda, glancing up
at Misty, "The first time I saw a ghost I was a little unnerved
too. Heck, when I first met Wraith I was actually really scared."

"Really?" commented Misty, surprise crossing her face as she
focused on Miranda, "I thought you had no problem with ghosts."

Miranda smiled sagely and shrugged. "That's different," she
explained, "Most of the ghosts I grew up with avoided people for
the most part. When I met Wraith I was actively hunting him."

"Oh yeah!" laughed Misty, "He was making a huge mess of the Sylph
Co mainframe, wasn't he?"

"The whole building, actually," she correct with a laugh, waving
when she noticed the horsea glance up at her guiltily, "Say, any
thoughts on what to name him? Or the others?"

Misty stood up and walked around to crouch beside Miranda,
watching her goldeen go back to pestering her starmie. "Um, I was
thinking of 'Marina' for the goldeen," she explained thoughtfully,
"Maybe 'Umberlee' for the Starmie. Hm, I guess Poseidon would work
for my horsea. It's a rather impressive name for such a small
pokemon, but he can use the self-esteem!"

Miranda laughed, motioning to the shy water-type to come closer.
"Come on, Poseidon," she called as Misty smiled encouragingly, "I
forgive you. And I've put away the big scary ghost!"

The horsea turned his head to one side curiously, only hearing
water muffled words, but knowing that they were intended for him.
With a glance over at his happily smiling trainer, he pushed
himself upwards, leaving a trail of bubbles as he went.

Misty laughed and shielded her eyes as the horsea broke the
surface of the water, splashing both trainers with warm water.
"Sea?" he inquired leaping at his trainer, and forcing her to
throw out her arms in time not to let the poor thing drop on the
ground at her feet.

"You two okay?" inquired Miranda as Misty fell back wards, still

"No worries!" assured Misty, holding her water pokemon out at arms
length and speaking to him in a serious tone. "Now listen up,
you," she said, trying to copy Miranda's teaching tone as best she
could, "I've decided on a real name for you, but I want to make
sure you like it, okay?"

The horsea tilted his head questioningly but attentively. "Sea,"
he said pensively, glancing at Miranda with a bit of a worried

"Fear not, little one," assured Miranda, reaching out and petting
the pokemon lightly upon the head, "See, new shirt. No problem."

The horsea nodded, looking happy before turning back to his
trainer with an expectant look. "So, as I was saying," continued
Misty, struggling back into a sitting position despite the damp
floor, "I'd like to officially name you 'Poseidon'. Is that
alright with you?"

The pokemon blinked at his trainer, looking confused for a moment
before making a few happy sounds. "I guess he doesn't care, so
long as you're happy," commented Miranda in an amused tone.

"Ah! Unconditional love!" laughed Misty, giving the officially
named Poseidon a hug before placing him carefully back in the
pool, "Now I just have to get the other two's attention."

"What about 'Aussie'?" inquired Miranda as the horsea swam happily


"That's what Nezumi calls your psyduck," replied Miranda a little

"Do I even want to know what he calls me?" the girl chuckled in
response, reaching onto her belt for the psyduck's pokeball.

"Not really," laughed Miranda as the duck appeared dangerously
close to the edge of the pool, "But for the record he's called you
'water chick', 'boss lady's babe', and 'Miri's dream come true'."

"'Boss lady's babe'?" inquired Misty, giving Miranda an odd look
as the woman shrugged helplessly, "if he wasn't so cute, I'd smack
him for that one. But did he really call me 'Miri's dream come

Miranda smiled sheepishly, turning away as she exhaled slowly.
"No," she admitted, trying to hide her blushing, "I just made that
one up. Although he does call me 'Miri' sometimes."

"'Miri'," replied Misty thoughtfully, "You know, you never
explained that nickname to me. Is that what people called you when
you were little?"

Miranda nodded, turning back to Misty, her eyes seeming a little
distant behind her glasses. "Well, mostly just my father and my
mom's sister," she explained, smiling as Misty's psyduck suddenly
lost his footing and began flailing his arms in a desperate
attempt not to fall into the pool, "but my father's the one who
actually came up with it."

"I see-!" responded Misty, lunging forward just in time to grab
her pokemon by his stubby arms and pull him back from the brink
and the very real danger of drowning. "Look you stupid 'duck!" she
scolded her pokemon as he leaned against her, shivering with
fright, "You're a water pokemon! Learn to swim already! Yeesh!
Anyway, as I was saying, I like it. But does it bother you to have
people call you that?"

Miranda shrugged thoughtfully. "Sometimes," she admitted as Misty
lead her pokemon a short distance away from the edge of the pool,
"Because it was sort of my father's own private name for me. My
relatives use it sometimes, but I don't mind usually."

"Do you mind when I use it from time to time?" inquired Misty in
mock meekness, causing a small smile to cross Miranda's lips.

"I feel honored that women I love has chosen to use the name my
father once called me," she answered melodramatically, bowing her
head once in approval.

"Thank you," replied Misty, glancing down at the pokemon she still
held, "Now as for you!"

The psyduck cringed a little, his eyes going wide with fright at
the sudden change in Misty's tone. "I've got the perfect name for
you, psyduck," his trainer announced in a sly tone, "'Kappa'."

"Psy?" inquired the psyduck, clutching both sides of his head as
his head ache suddenly got worse at the mere thought of having to
remember something new.

"Oh that's just too funny!" laughed Miranda, "But don't kappas
have no top to their heads, and if the water leaks out they die?"

"Something like that," chuckled Misty, scratching her pokemon on
the head to make sure it was firmly attached, "But also some
people call golducks 'kappas'. Maybe it'll be a lucky name for

"You just want him to evolve," said Miranda teasingly as she
walked over and sat cross-legged beside Misty.

"Have I ever denied that?" the trainer replied with a smile before
turning her attention to the quiet splashing she heard by the
pool, "Oh! Great timing ladies!"

Her starmie and goldeen stared back at her as Misty turned to face
the sound, an aura of expectation seeming to surround them. "I
guess they talked to 'Poseidon'," commented Miranda.

"Guess so," Misty agreed pointing at her goldeen first, "Okay
girls, firstly, Goldeen. Your new name is Marina. Starmie? I'm
calling you Umberlee. Unless either of you object..."

The goldeen gave a nonchalant reply, flipping backwards and
disappearing under the water, not seeming to mind the change. The
starmie, however, gave a more meaningful reply.

Misty felt a gentle brush against her mind, and a moment later
felt a deep sense of approval emanating form the Umberlee.
"Wow..." the girl stammered, leaning back against the strange
sense of vertigo that overcame her, "When did you learn to do

"About a week ago," came the voice of Lily as she pushed the door
to the upstairs open and walked towards them, "I guess her psychic
half is starting to assert itself."

"Really?" inquired Misty, a wide grin crossing her face, "Has she
learned any actual psychic techniques at all?"

"Not really," replied her sister with a shrug, tossing her long
red hair over one shoulder as she moved to hand Miranda a
newspaper clipping, "Well anyway, Violet said you wanted to see

"Thanks," said Miranda absently as she took the cut out and
scanned it over quickly, "Say, um, is your sister okay?"

"Violet's fine," assured Lily dismissively, "Her pride's bruised,
but she'll recover, "On, and, Misty?"

"Yes?" her sibling inquired, her tone somewhat defensive as she
glanced suspiciously.

"Yeah, like the three of us are going out shopping," Lily
explained, not even noticing her sister's reply, "so would you
mind watching the gym for a few hours? Thanks, don't wait up!"

Misty shook her head and turned to Miranda. "See what I mean?" she
asked rhetorically as her sister headed back upstairs, "I'm
furniture to them. Not that I mind looking after the place and
all. So, what's with the secret note?"

"Um, a love letter?" offered Miranda, smiling at the expression
that momentarily crossed Misty's face before reading the article
more thoroughly, "It's the contest your sister told me about
before she tried something stupid."


"Poetry contest," she continued as Misty shuffled closer and read
over her shoulder, "It's being held at the Festival, and the first
prize is rather ironic."

"A free dinner for two at 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La
Rue'," read Misty, leaning her head on Miranda's shoulder, "Isn't
that the place-?"

"Where we made a delivery to last night?" finished Miranda with an
amused grin, finishing Misty's sentence without thinking, "Yes. A
delightful irony really."

"Hmm, and it does sound kinda romantic," added Misty, slipping her
arm around Miranda's and holding it tight, "Don't you think?"

"Kinda..." replied, Miranda reluctantly, struggling to translate
the strange, snooty sounding name, "But we'll find out when I

"Oooh! You're confident," teased Misty, looking up at Miranda with
an amused smile.

"I afford to be," the woman assured her, "I have the greatest
source of inspiration in the know universe by my side."

"Kappa?!" inquired Misty, unable to keep a straight face as
Miranda's jaw dropped and she struggled to speak.

"That's it!" scolded Miranda mock severity as Misty laughed,
startling Kappa awake, "Now you're in trouble!"

"Why? What'd I do?" asked Misty, chuckling as she looked up at
Miranda as innocently as possible.

Miranda sighed and shook her head as she crouched down and scooped
Misty up into her arms. "Well normally I'd say that you're guilty
of making me deliriously happy," she explained as Misty put her
arms around Miranda's neck for support, "But I think that joke
deserves a harsher punishment that simple reciprocation."

"And just what are you going to do about then, my love?" inquired
Misty, using the sweetest tone she could muster, brushing her nose
against Miranda's as she spoke.

"I think," her lover replied, slyly before turning towards the
pool, "That I'll just toss you in!"

"Ah, no!" exclaimed Misty, laughing even as she clung to Miranda's
neck for dear life, "At least not fully clothed, anyway!"

"Oh all right," the woman chuckled, a mirthful smile crossing her
face as she turned around before releasing Misty's legs, "Then
I'll just have to undress you first!"

"What?!" laughed Misty, as embarrassed as she was amused by
Miranda's sudden playfulness, "My sisters are coming down soon! I
can't let them see me naked!"

"They've seen me," Miranda teased, one arm still about her lover's
shoulders as she lifted the front of Misty's top just enough to
get a reaction, "It's only fair. Besides, it'll take them hours to
put on their make-up!"

"Hey! That's not nice," Misty giggled, grabbing the bottom of her
shirt and pulling it back down before pushing against Miranda with
her hip, sending the courier a step back, "Although it's very

"I suppose," agreed Miranda, looking thoughtful, "And actually,
it's better that they don't see you naked."

"Oh?" inquired Misty, giving Miranda a knowing glance, mostly
sensing what was to come, "And why's that?"

"Well," the woman explained with an expression of helplessness,
"Then they'd see what true beauty is..." at this point, she
adopted Violet's 'Valley girl' tone and said, "Then they'd like
totally not be able to compare to it, and they'd just like to
totally die!"

Miranda smiled as Misty's laughter echoed through the room as the
door slid open and her trio of siblings entered the gym area. "To
speak the name is to invoke the power," she quoted, smiling
politely and nodding as the three sisters stopped and stared at

"Like, what's so funny?" inquired Violet, as always the leader of
the terrible trio.

"Oh, nothing," assured Misty, waving her hand dismissively as she
wiped a tear from her eye, "Just us being despicably cute."

"I see," commented Lily suspiciously as Violet cringed and Daisy
smirked, "Well, we're off.

"So, like take care of the Gym while we're gone, okay Misty?"
replied Violet, her falsely friendly tone sounding more like an
order to Miranda's ears.

"No problem," assured Misty with a shrug, "I checked the register,
and we're not expecting any challengers today."

"Well, we'll probably be gone until this evening," Violet called
over her shoulder as the trio wandered past them and towards the

"So don't wait up, you two," chuckled Lily mysteriously.

"Shopping is such a total chore!" added Daisy, their heals
clicking noisily across the floor as they entered the foyer and
their voices became a muffled cacophony before the being silenced
by the final sounding boom of the main doors sliding shut and
locking behind them.

"You know," commented Miranda, shaking her head as the echoes
faded, "They kinda scare me."

"Just don't give them too much leeway," Misty advised, walking
towards the stairs, "Anyway, you want anything? I was going to
throw on my bathing suit and take a swim."

"Well, my back pack if it's not too much trouble," said Miranda a
little sheepishly, "I have this idea for a poem I could enter in
the contest, and it's going to burn a hole in my head if I don't
get it down soon."

Misty smiled, shaking her head in amusement as Miranda checked the
back of her head with her hand, a perplexed expression crossing
the woman's face. "Okay, I'll be down in a second," she promised
before jogging up the stairs.

"Thanks," Miranda called before glancing down at Kappa. "You need
swimming lessons, don't you?" she inquired rhetorically, causing
the psyduck to tilt his head to one side and stare blankly at her
in confusion, "Okay, this is probably spoiling her, but I'll see
if I can get Umi to help you."

Miranda unfastened a pokeball and hit a hidden switch, causing it
to expand to functional size before holding it out towards the
pool. "Umi, dear," she called out lovingly, "It's time to spoil
you rotten again!"

With a flash of light and a splash, Miranda's dratini reappeared,
floating happily in the immense pool. "Draaaa!" she exclaimed,
about to dive under causing Miranda to shake her head sternly.

"Not just yet, love," she told the little dragon, causing Umi's
eyes to swirl from contented yellow-green to a disappointed mauve,
"I need you to help Kappa learn to swim some more. You've done
okay teaching him before, but he still needs practice, okay?"

Umi nodded, looking a little forlorn before glancing at Kappa and
blasting him with a small jet of water. "Psy! Psy! Psy!" the
pokemon exclaimed, running in fear from his own element as Miranda
suppressed a laugh.

"No! Not like that, dear," she scolded half hearted, "try just
getting him into the water first, then make sure he doesn't drown.
For some reason Kappa hasn't figured out he's amphibious yet..."

Miranda shook her head, grumbling at the bizarre ludicrousness of
Misty's psyduck, yet strangely reassured that the Universe had a
sense of humor. With a wary sigh, she went up into the bleachers
and took a seat in the front row before pulling out her note pad
and scribbling a basic outline for her latest work.

"Started already?" inquired Misty as Miranda scratched out the
first few notes and stared down at her note pad in dismay.

"Yeah," she replied warily, glancing up at Misty and smiling, "I
want to make sure it looks alright before I add it to my book.

Misty nodded, lifting Miranda's heavy backpack over the short wall
before leaning over and glancing at the small booklet Miranda
held. "Can I see?" she asked playfully, feeling more mischievous
than curious.

"No!" chuckled Miranda, trying to sound worried as she held the
precious note pad close to her heart as she set her backpack down,
"Not until the tomorrow. Then I shall reveal the depth of my love
for you to thousands of people! Unless you'd prefer that I didn't.
I'm sure I've got something old I can dig out of my poetry book."

"No, that's alright," assured Misty with an amused grin as Miranda
opened the weather-beaten pack and yanked out a thick, hardcover
book, "I certainly have nothing hide. And I have no fear of
showing off my chosen lover to the masses."

"Then I'll be sure to make it extra sappy and embarrassing, just
for you!" assured Miranda jokingly as she smiled down at the old
black covered book, filled with yellowing parchment and a decade's
worth of memories.

"Hey, I like sappy and romantic," replied Misty, trying to sound
hurt as she took her first real good look at the tome Miranda
held, "Hey, what's with the scratches?" she asked as the woman
turned the book over and opened to the first page.

"It's from a persian," Miranda explained grimly, looking up at
Misty over her glasses and pausing for a moment as her brain
registered the fact that the pale green two piece bathing suit her
lover wore was new to her, "It happened The year I left home; the
same year that I received Nezumi. If it wasn't for this book, I'd
probably be the one with the scars."

Misty gulped, cringing at the thought of how big the feline would
have to have been to carve out the four long, deep gashes in the
precious book. "He doesn't remember the incident himself," Miranda
continued with a shrug, idly running her fingertips along the deep
gashes, "But he doesn't like felines much. I suppose the memories
still in his subconscious somewhere. It's a good thing I was
there, or he'd have made a quick snack for that monster."

"By the looks of things," added Misty, feeling concerned though
she knew the incident had been long before they'd even met, "You
were on the menu as well. I don't think I like that idea much."

Miranda shrugged, flipping the book closed as she thoughtfully
searched Misty's eyes. "I'd do it again," she promised, her tone
distant, but loving, "He was worth it. Even with his smart mouth."

Misty smiled; laughing a bit under her breath as Miranda looked
down at the book and opened it's creaking binding to one of the
last poems. "Well, I should go make sure Umi doesn't drown Kappa,"
she commented, glancing over her shoulder at the sudden frantic
splashing and frightened yelling from the pool, "Don't work too

Miranda glanced up and smiled in amusement. "This is work?" Misty
inquired laughing and holding her book back protectively as Misty
dove gracefully into the pool as though it were the most natural
thing in the world. 'For you I doubt it is, my love,' the courier
mused, glancing at the first poem she'd ever composed for Misty.
The black ink staining the special paper the book was bound with
almost symbolically, 'Not that this is for me.'

She closed the book a bit hesitantly and tossed the note pad on
top of it, partially covering the cover's wounds. 'Okay,' Miranda
told herself, 'Time to show the world what I'm capable of.'

Once her pen touched the paper, Miranda felt could almost feel the
weight of unused words pressing against her mind, their deep
desire to spill out upon the page unhindered by the fact that it
was merely a rough draft. Without looking up, she wrote
frantically, pausing only to haphazardly cross out spelling errors
and occasionally put tiny 'X's before whole stanzas to symbolize
the fact that they were simply to be abandoned. As she wrote,
Miranda even gave up any sense of chronology with the work,
writing as the ideas came, and making little number notes to tell
her which stanzas went where, occasionally adding bracketed
alternate phrases at the ends of lines in case her other ideas
either meshed better with a different wordings, were more
meaningful, or just plain sounded better.

As time ticked by, Miranda absently noted that she couldn't hear
the splashing of the water, the joyful calls of the pokemon, or
Misty's nearly musical laughter. She took a moment to focus a part
of her brain on it, letting it in so that her love for Misty could
focus her creative energies. Giving her muse a truer focus, and
ultimate goal.

'This is almost like making love with her,' the woman mused, her
ears half listening, her senses all but unaware of the world
around her save for the sound of Misty's voice, and what she was
doing in her name, 'My mind focused on a single goal, my senses
focused only upon my beloved.'

Miranda glanced up in time to see Misty pull herself from the
pool. In that instant, the image burned itself permanently into
her mind. Time seeming to slow to a near halt with Misty's hands
placed firmly on the edge of the pool, pushing her upper half into
the air as her serene smile was reflected in a million tiny
droplets of water that seemed all but reluctant to fall to earth
rather than hang suspended for all eternity, reflecting a beauty
they were but a shadow of.

Misty opened her eyes, unfreezing the moment, and blushing as she
noticed Miranda admiring her. With a wider smile, she pulled
herself the rest of the way out of the water, and glanced over her
shoulder absently, making sure that the pokemon could get along
without her for the moment. Then, as she turned back to face her
lover, Misty reached up and unfastened her hair, letting it fall
wetly across her face as her amused smile became one of mischief.

Without a word, Miranda set down her note pad and returned the
smile, looking on with admiration as Misty stepped closer,
dripping as tiny beads of water covered her body as her bathing
suit clung so tightly it left little to Miranda's imagination.

"I haven't worn this thing in quite a while," the trainer
explained in a curious tone, tilting her head ever so slightly to
one side as she reached up to unfasten the clasp in the front, "I
found it when I went upstairs and I'm surprised it still fits. But
it's a touch uncomfortable..."

Miranda pursed her lips as the clasp came undone with an almost
ominous -click-, and the two halves of Misty's top fell to the
sides, allowing her only tantalizing glimpse of her lover's bosom.

"You know," continued Misty, leaning forward just a little as she
took hold of the bottom half of her bathing suit with both hands,
her voice wavering ever so slightly as she spoke, "It's
interesting how different pokemon view our need for clothing..."
Miranda swallowed, exhaling slowly as Misty slowly pushed the
bottom half of her pale green swimsuit a short distance over the
swell of her hips, "Staryu and starmies don't seem to notice. The
lack of real eyes, I suppose. Where as goldeen think we're silly
to worry about such things..." Misty's smile broadened somewhat as
she turned around, teasingly protecting her modesty as her
swimsuit slid down on her toned, athletic legs, "And psyducks are
just to stupid to notice."

"I- I see," commented Miranda, crossing her legs uncomfortably and
nearly breaking her pen in half as Misty stepped out of the
garment, the firm rise of her bottom an unavoidably provocative
eye-catcher before standing up straighter and stretching out her

"I hope so," Misty chuckled as her top fell from her shoulders
before glancing over her shoulder at Miranda and blushing as she
leapt forward, diving into the pool once more, scattering water-
pokemon in all directions.

"Breathtaking," Miranda mused, standing up and leaning on the
retaining wall as she watched Misty swim at an amazing speed
towards the bottom of the pool, "A creature worthy of a thousand

Setting her notepad down on the wall, and scribbling a few notes
whenever her muse whispered new inspirations into her ear, Miranda
stood and watched Misty as she swam. Her graceful movements almost
making Umi seem clumsy by comparison as she glided through the
water, holding her breath for longer than seemed possible.

When Misty finally returned to the surface for breath, she broke
the surface as dramatically as possible, ever aware of Miranda's
quiet voyeurism. With a joyful smile, she held her arms out and
head back, her orangish hair falling flat by the weight of the
water. Then, as Misty arched her back and continued her forward
momentum, she inhaled another lungful sweet air, and slid into the
water, head first into her favored element. Leaving Miranda with
images of water glistening of her naked skin, clinging almost
hungrily to Misty before her lover disappeared beneath the waves
once again. There one moment, gone the next, almost akin to a half
forgotten dream or an unconfirmed sighting of a legendary pokemon.

"I'm going to be here all day," chuckled Miranda, taking off her
glasses and rubbing her eyes before brushing her bangs back to
distract herself long enough for coherent thought to return, only
to have the moment stolen fully by the chime of her watch.

With a wary sigh, she glanced at the timepiece, clicking it into
pager mode. As she feared, the Courier Crew dispatch number was
scrolling hurriedly across the tiny screen. "I'm only half
thankful they gave me one of these," she muttered sitting down and
digging through her backpack until she found the cell-phone she
hated using before hitting the speed dial.

The line made a few odd noises as the satellite automatically
rerouted the signal to the closest dispatch center. "Cerulean
Dispatch," came the mildly edgy tone of the man on duty, "How can
I help you?"

"Yeah, this is Lilcamp. Courier number 09143102, I just got a page
from you guys?" replied Miranda, leaning back in her seat warily,
wishing she was allowed the simple contentment of watching Misty's
naked form glide effortlessly through the calm waters of the
Olympic sized swimming pool.

"Oh! Oh good!" came the dispatcher's all too relieved response,
"Sorry to bug you, ma'am, but it seems there's been a small
accident and-"

"An accident? Where?" demanded Miranda, leaping to her feet, "It
isn't Zack is it?!"

"No ma'am," assured the dispatcher, "It was our usual mail
courier. Some joker thought it'd be funny to toss a crowbar
through the front spokes of his bike."

"Ouch! Is he okay?"

"He's expected to live," the man commented with what must have
been a mirthful grin, "but we're still waiting to hear from the
hospital as to when he'll be on his feet again. He flew quite a
distance over his handlebars apparently. Good thing he had that
jigglypuff with him to land on..."

"For sure," laughed Miranda, the thought of the hapless courier
sailing head first into his over inflated jigglypuff making her
chuckle despite the seriousness of the matter, "So, how big a
route are we talking here?"

"Oh, maybe an hour," assured the dispatcher, "Two if the weather
decides not to cooperate. You're lucky, though, it would've been
longer but if he hadn't been attacked at the midway point."

"Lucky me," commented Miranda giving Misty a mournful look as she
surfaced again and gave the courier a quizzical look, "Anyway, I
can be at the hospital in ten minutes or so to grab the rest of
his delivery in about ten minutes."

"Great," replied the dispatcher, cheering up considerably, "Thanks
Ms. Lilcamp, we appreciate it!"

"Not a prob'," commented Miranda, hitting the 'End' button and
tossing the phone back in her backpack as Misty walked over and
leaned over the wall.

"What's up?"

"Oh, duty calls," the woman explained, stuffing her book back in
with the phone, "No rest of the wicked, I suppose."

"You'll be back in time for supper, I hope?" asked Misty,
shuffling her feet as Miranda stood back up and met her hopeful

"I won't be gone a half second longer than I have to be," Miranda
promised with a reassuring smile, holding Misty's chin
affectionately as she leaned forward to kiss her.

"Oh, and I heard you mention a hospital," added Misty as Miranda
pulled reluctantly away, before coming out from behind the short
wall, "I hope everything's okay."

Miranda nodded, a reminiscent smile crossing her lips. "I'm sure
I've had worse injuries," she assured, idly wondering just how bad
off the courier was and who'd had the audacity to do such a thing,
"But if not, I might have deliver the mail for the next few days."

"I see," commented Misty worriedly, "Then I guess you'd miss the

"It's the price we non city-bound courier's pay for our freedom,
my love," Miranda explained, coming around to give her a half a
hug good-bye, "We have to stand in when the city-bound couriers
are sick or injured."

"That's okay," assured Misty, being careful not to get Miranda
wet, but trying to give her a hug good-by all the same, "I'm not
going anywhere."

Miranda nodded, smiling sadly before turning and walking towards
the foyer, refusing to look back. 'I must be getting soft,' she
sighed inwardly, 'My dedication to duty seems to be failing... Oh
well, it is a small price to pay for love.'

"Ooo! Draaa!" came a panicked voice behind her as she opened the
double doors that lead to the Gym's front foyer.

"Umi?" asked Miranda, spinning around in time to see her dratini
slithering out of the water to race frantically towards her. A
panicked took had crossed the suddenly stricken dragon's face as
she slithered awkwardly across the tiled surface after her

The courier could only smile at the forlorn sounds the dratini
made as she stopped at Miranda's feet and reared up, her eyes
swirling a combination of orange and yellow.

"I'll be back soon, dear," Miranda assured, picking up the
slippery serpent and holding her wet body at arm's length, "Just
stay and play with Misty for now."

"Iiiini!" exclaimed Umi sadly, reaching forward to poke Miranda's
nose with her snout in a gesture that always filled the woman's
heart with love and made her laugh.

"Are you sure you don't want to stay and play with your friends,
Umi?" Miranda inquired, glancing past the little dragon at the
group of pokemon who looked on in curiosity.

Umi turned, following Miranda's gaze. Her eyes changing to a
thoughtful lavender as she mulled it over before turning back and
brushing her trainer's cheek with her snout affectionately.
"Draaa!" she agreed before slithering free of Miranda's grasp and
making her way back to the pool.

"Bye!" called Miranda in a maternal tone, laughing in her
amusement, and glad to see that her pokemon cared about her as
much as she cared about them, "See you soon!"

She gave Misty a final glance, and the trainer blew her a kiss.
"Farewell, my love," the courier whispered, turning away before
her resolve could erode any further, and hurried out the door...


Even from under the water, Misty could hear the front doors of the
gym open and close, followed by the sound of unhurried footsteps
across the tiled floor. With a 'follow me' motion to Umberlee, she
swam to the surface, a strange suspicion over coming her.

What Misty saw when she partially left the water caused anger to
immediately stir within her. Before the trainer, standing by the
pool with a determined look upon his face and an apprehensive
looking pikachu on his shoulder, was Ash.

"What are you doing here?!" she demanded as Umberlee surfaced
directly in front of her, protecting her modesty, "A Pokemon Gym
is sacred ground! You can't just wander in any old time you like!"

Ash shrugged, nervously glancing around the gym as though Misty
weren't even there. "Well, sorry, but I heard you were in town and
I thought I'd stop by. Maybe see if you'd gotten bored of
following that old woman around."

"Old woman?!" demanded Misty, clinging to Umberlee with one arm as
she shook an angry fist at Ash, "How dare you! Besides, Miranda's
only two and a half years older than me, ya know! Which means
she's way more mature than you'll ever be!"

"Oh, whatever, Misty!" countered Ash, meeting Misty's hard gaze
for the first time as Umi broke the surface of the water, resting
upon Misty's shoulder with eyes that swirled an angry red, "Look,
we've been together all this time, why leave now? You know I'm
going back to the League again, eh? And this time, I intend to

"Yeah, so?" laughed Misty cynically as she felt the dratini's tail
wrap protectively around her torso, "You'll only loose again
anyway. And the League isn't accepting challengers until next year
anyway. Furthermore, there's no way I'm wasting one more second of
my life with you! If I want a heartless, unfeeling, immature
traveling companion, I'll find myself a lobotomized geodude!"

Ash glowered at her dangerously, but said nothing, instead opting
to turn and storm out the gym in a huff. As he went, Misty glanced
at Pikachu. The yellow furred rodent glanced over his shoulder at
her and shook his head sadly. His eyes would have had tears in
them if pikachus could cry, and it made Misty's heart sink to see
a friend get caught in middle of it all.

"I'm sorry," she whispered once Ash was back out in the sunlight,
and hugged her starmie for support, "I'm sorry you had to get
stuck with such a crappy trainer, Pikachu."

Umberlee made a concern sound and sent a feeling of deep concern
into her trainer's mind as Umi made sympathetic noises and nuzzled
Misty's neck. "It's okay, guys," she assured them, turning around
to see her other pokemon looking on with equal concern, "I'll be
alright. Now, let's see about teaching Umberlee to use her psi
powers to their fullest potential, and getting Kappa to learn to

Chapter VII

The sun was high above, yet its rays were showing the first signs
of weakness as the Earth began to slowly drift away from it,
heralding the end of Summer. Throughout the park, a few people and
most of the staff were wearing light jackets. The tourists from
Cinnabar where easiest to spot, however, they were the ones who
continually had to remove their Winter gloves to prove that they'd
had their hands stamped.

But the cooler weather failed to stop most of the local population
from showing up to the End of Summer Festival, and Misty and
Miranda found themselves waiting in a rather long line up to get

Once at the ticket booth, Miranda paid for them both and led the
way to the closest information booth. Behind the park
representative, obviously paid not to look bored, was a huge map
of the area, complete with tourist friendly large print and far
too happy looking symbols for all the points of interest.

According to the map, the Festival used the natural lake near the
center of Cerulean City, with the entrance to the festival at the
South shore near the marina, which advertised a weeklong boat show
with free admission to all festivalgoers. At the opposite end, the
wooded parkland area at the lake's North shore was being used as a
place for people to relax and have lunch. If one could ignore the
omnipresent concession stands and people shouting out the days
specials, while the rest of the End Of Summer Festival encircled
the lake with mostly rides games on the West side, and shows and
various game booths were confined to the East side. In the lake
itself, however, floated the Festival organizer's huge yacht that
served as their base of operations. It was also a convenient base
camp for the small group of Pokeforce Officers who mostly sat in
their motorboats looking bored as they kept an eye on things,
waiting to back up their land bound comrades if need be.

"So, what's first on the agenda?" inquired Miranda, giving Misty's
hand a squeeze.

"Well, I think we should get you signed up first," her lover
offered, checking out the large plague with that listed off the
times and locations of the festival's scheduled activities, "We're
fairly close to where the contest's going to be held..."

"And that's dangerously close to that water pokemon show their
having in fifteen minutes," added Miranda, giving Misty a knowing

"Hey, I never said I didn't have an ulterior motive!" she laughed
in reply, suddenly grabbing hold of Miranda's arm and hugging
herself against it, "Besides, we're here to have fun, right?"

Miranda smiled, giving Misty a gentle kiss on the forehead. "How
could I possibly deny you anything?" she asked rhetorically,
"Besides, I don't think they have a gyarados there, and you could
probably teach them a few things!"

"Hey, I'm not that good!" laughed Misty, leading the way past a
group of lost looking tourists, "Besides, Professor Myria is
always there to do a short talk about water types."

"Is she Cerulean's Poke' Prof?" inquired Miranda as they passed
through the gates of the marina and followed the brightly coloured
cutouts of water pokemon that lead the way to the area they

"Yup, our very own para-zoologist," replied Misty with a nod,
"She's the one who gave me Shadow, way back when. Although I did
eventually manage to catch the other two types she had available
on my own later."

"The goldeen and the horsea?"

Misty nodded. "New trainers in Cerulean City can only choose water
types," explained Misty as they found a good seat in the bleachers
overlooking a cordoned off section of lake, "Some people might
call that a weakness, but I've always thought of it as something
to be proud of."

"Lav'Brats get a choice of a rattata, pidgey, or a bellsprout,"
added Miranda reminiscently.

"That's an odd combination. And um, 'Lav'Brat'?"

Miranda smiled reminiscently, giving Misty a sideways glance.
"That's what we started calling ourselves," she explained, shaking
her head at the thought, "Well, usually it's 'Lavender Brats.' I
can't even remember who started it originally, but last time I
checked new generations of trainers from Lavender started using
the term. It's both flattering and disturbing!"

"It must be interesting to be from a small town like that,"
chuckled Misty, giving Miranda a playful nudge, "I'll bet it's
really hard to keep secrets there too."

"Painfully!" agreed Miranda with a laugh, "Infact, Lavender's so
small, that my aunt's our town's pokemon professor."

"Wow," commented Misty, looking up at Miranda with a touch of awe,
"That must have its advantages."

"Oh, sure," chuckled Miranda, "If you don't mind being a guinea
pig now and then."

"She didn't make you spend the night in the Tower, did she?"
inquired Misty in a nervous tone as several people walked out onto
the small platform at the water's edge and began releasing pokemon
in the lake.

"Goodness no!" cringed Miranda, the Lav'Brat's tone serious as her
complexion paled a little, "No one's THAT crazy! Well, maybe
Zack... Oh, I see the show's about to begin."

Misty turned in time to see a smiling woman with long, dark green
hair that was giving way to gray and emerald green eyes, partially
hidden by glasses so huge they made Miranda's seem small by
comparison, step out onto the stage. "Hi all!" she called out
enthusiastically, waving to the group of mostly families who had
assembled in the bleachers as the wind blew the hem of the long
dark green dress she wore under her official looking lab coat, "My
name's Professor Myria, and this-" the woman tossed a pokeball
into the water, releasing a an ancient looking kingdra, "-is

"Hey, he evolved since last time I was here," laughed Misty over
the applause to the crowd as Professor Myria tossed a fish to the
suddenly very pleased looking water-type who snatched it out with
his snoutful of razor sharp teeth.

"They're allot bigger than I thought they were," commented
Miranda, glancing over at Misty, "I guess that means Poseidon's
going to be a match for Leviathan when he grows up."

"Oh, ya!" laughed Misty, her sea green eyes reflecting future
victories, "I'm going to show the world just what water pokemon
are capable of. Just you wait!"

Miranda put her arm around Misty, giving her half a hug. "For
forever and a day," she promised as Professor Myria stopped mid-
sentence and glanced at her watch.

"Hey," she commented, sounding a little annoyed as she glanced out
over the lake, her voice echoing as the hidden microphone caught
every word she said, "They should be here by now..."

"'They?' inquired Miranda, glancing at Misty who suddenly covered
her face in her hands and shook her head.

"I should have known..." the trainer muttered, "It's like an
ancient Egyptian curse!"

"Say wha-?" began Miranda, looking in the direction of the lake as
a huge volume of water was rapidly displaced by large object
rising out of it, "They aren't-? That isn't-?"

Misty only nodded, not even bothering to look as a huge mechanical
tentacruel cast a long dark shadow over Professor Myria and
Waterstorm. In response the woman, who had been standing with her
arms crossed and her foot tapping impatiently sighed heavily and
lifted her arms above her head with a bored look upon her face.

"Alright, already," she muttered bitterly as the four of five
people in the crowd who began to panic were settled down by those
who had started laughing, and two huge tentacles came down to wrap
around the woman and her pokemon, "Let's get this fiasco over

"Get this over with?!" came a trio of voices, the sound echoing
strangely from within the metal monster, "Whatever do you mean?"

Myria sighed heavily, once more folding her arms and looking bored
out of her tree as Waterstorm yawned widely and swished his scaly
tail idly. "Every year it's the same old thing," she chided,
seemingly oblivious to the fact that she was suspended a dangerous
distance above the ground, "You guys build some new contraption
that's supposed to be a pathetic attempt to resemble a water
pokemon, and you march in here expecting all of us to just hand
over our pokemon. Like some how the concept of being horribly out
numbered means nothing to you! As if being surrounded by Pokeforce
Officers wasn't a criminal deterrent-!"

"You know," interrupted a male voice as small hatch on top of the
giant tentacruel opened and familiar looking figure popped out, "I
think she's right."

"So what James!?" exclaimed an equally familiar woman with long
red hair, "This is more than just our responsibility to our

"It's a tradition!" added Meowth as he popped up between the two,
"And you have to admit that last year's 'contraption' wasn't that

"I suppose," agreed Myria hesitantly, "But kinglers are supposed
to walk sideways. I don't really think that it was realistic to
have it run forward like that."

"Hey, we're villains!" defended Jessie, as Waterstorm nodded in
agreement with his trainer, equally serene despite their
situation, "We don't have to follow the rules!"

Myria opened one eye and gave the trio a sideways glance. "And
what about the dewgong?" she inquired with a hint of a smirk, "Or
the starmie that couldn't stand and fell flat on its face? Or the-

"Alright! Alright!" the trio exclaimed, covering their ears and
crying, "We admit it, we're no good at this!"

"Maybe we should start paying you morons to show up and get your
butts kicked," Professor Myria commented as she and her pokemon
were put back down, "It couldn't hurt the show. Might even bring
in a few more people."

"Hmm, that's an interesting thought," pondered James as Jessie
smacked him hard on top of the head.

"Forget about!" she growled, pulling out a remote control that
started the tentacles flailing about threateningly, "Team Rocket
doesn't do legitimate business! We're a crime syndicate, we should
start acting like one!"

"But Jessie," continued James, grabbing the remote as well and
trying to pull it away from his partner, "Don't you remember what
Professor Vlad said?"

"The illegal gambling is just a front?" offered Meow, "The real
money's in the dry cleaning?"

"I don't care!" yelled Jessie, planting a foot against James'
chest and yanking at the remote with both hands for all she was

"Okay that's enough," commented Myria, with only mild amusement,
"Waterstorm, blizzard attack."

"Wow! I'll bet Umi could learn that," commented Miranda
thoughtfully as the enormous draconic seahorse turned his long
snout to face the mechanical tentacruel and let loose with
swirling blast of what appeared to be snow and hail, accompanied
by a howling wind, "But I think I'd call it 'Cone Of Cold'."

"Hey!" complained Misty as she peeked out between her fingers,
"Why didn't you tell me they were using a tentacruel this year?"

"They do this every year?" asked Miranda, smiling in bemusement as
she watched the swirling blast of Winter's might spread outwards
in an ever increasing area until it enveloped most of the
mechanical pokemon causing most of the surrounding water to freeze
solid around it.

"Every year for the last five," assured Misty as several uniformed
Pokeforce Officers on jet skis sped onto the scene, lead by an
Officer Jenny who seemed oblivious to the chill even though her
uniform consisted of her hat and uniform jacket over a dark blue
one-piece bathing suit, "Fortunately, though, I've managed to miss
most of them."

"Well, that about wraps that up," laughed Myria, turning back to
the crowd as the Pokeforce officers tossed out ropes with
grappling hooks on the ends that caught hold of the small ice-flow
before towing the three wannabe criminals and their mechanical
tentacruel off into open water.

"Close, but not quite!" called Meowth, laughing as he pulled out a
second remote and hit the overly large red button that took up
most of it.

Within an instant, a second hatch opened and a huge balloon had
inflated. There was a loud mechanical -clank!- and part of the
tentacruel's head detached, taking the three Rocket's with it.

"Sorry!" the three called down laughing, "But not today!"

"They'll be back," shrugged Misty warily, "They always are..."

Chapter VIII

After Professor Myria's somewhat energetic discussion on water
pokemon, and a few rather breath-taking performances, Misty and
Miranda hurriedly made their way the relatively short distance to
the poetry contest area.

A surprisingly large crowd had assembled around the little wooden
stage, and despite arriving a bit late; Miranda had no problem
adding her name to the list of eight other contestants. The
broadly grinning, elderly man at the sign up booth was more than
happy to add her in at the last minute however. The two then made
their way through the crowd, and found a relatively open area near
the stage in which to stand and watch the competition.

"Nervous?" whispered Misty as the first contestant, finished his
poem and left the stage to thunderous applause.

"A bit," admitted Miranda, digging out her scarred poetry book,
"But I don't mind not winning. It's your opinion that matters, not
a panel of judges."

Misty smiled, clinging to Miranda's arm again and resting her head
on the courier's shoulder. "Thanks," she said, her face becoming
flushed, "And it'll be nice to finally hear this mysterious poem
of yours."

"Well, let's just say I almost thought about entering another
one," Miranda replied, taking her turn at blushing, "But that one
was a bit too personal."

"Oooh! Sounds scandalous!" teased Misty, glancing up at Miranda
with a mischievous smile, "You'd better not keep that one a secret
much longer."

"Oh, I won't," she promised at the second contestant began to read


Miranda felt Misty's hand tighten up one own as the applause died
and the contest spokesman came back on stage and thanked the
previous contestant. "Alright, our next contestant hails from
Lavender Town," announced the old man from the signup booth, who
turned out to be the festival coordinator, reading off the small
cue card he held in his hand, "Her name is Miranda, and her poem
is entitled, 'Shattered Temptations'. M'Lady?"

The courier looked up at the man and met his all to knowing smile.
"I'm here!" she called from the crowd, causing him to nod and make
way for her.

"Good luck," offered Misty as Miranda turned to face her.

"So long as I spend tonight with you, a loss here means nothing,"
assured Miranda, catching a glimpse of something familiar out of
the corner of her eye, "But I promise to do my best."

"You'd better-!" chuckled Misty, caught momentarily off balance as
Miranda placed a hand upon the small of her back and leaned her
lover back a bit, before kissing her with all the passion she
could muster.

"Have I ever broken a promise to you?" inquired Miranda, pulling
away slowly, and leaving Misty breathless as a few people in the
crowd made 'awww...' noises.

"Never," whispered Misty, gasping for breath as her eyes mirrored
her lover's passion, "Show them how it's done, Miri dear."

Miranda smiled uncontrollably as she backed reluctantly away.
"We'll talk," she promised, turning towards the stage and
sprinting off as the on lookers applauded.

"Glad to see you have all the time in the world," chuckled the
festival coordinator mirthfully on stage, making Miranda blush as
she met his all too firm handshake and glanced at Misty, "I just
wanted the extra luck."

The man chuckled, shaking his head in amused dismay as he left the
stage, and Miranda glanced to the left as she stepped up to the
mike. Sure enough, the courier caught a second glimpse of the
figure she'd caught out of the corner of her eye earlier.

Standing a short distance away from the stage and off to one side
was the sullen, bitter looking figure of Ash. The trainer caught
Miranda's gaze and his dark eyes narrowed. 'So you were watching
us,' thought Miranda smugly, 'Good.'

"Hello, Cerulean City," said the woman with her patented 'dealing
with the public' smile as she adjusted the microphone stand to her
height, "Today I'd like to read you something I wrote over dinner
last night. Which I suppose is ironic considering the first prize

Several people in the crowd chuckled as Miranda opened the nearly
tome sized black book she carried and opened it to the half way
mark. 'Actually,' she mused, adjusting her glasses for effect, 'I
memorized it, and haven't had time to write it down in here. But
there's no reason to tell you all that...'

"Anyway," said Miranda, taking a deep breath to dispel the
nervousness she felt well up inside her, "it's a little something
I whipped up the other day. I hope you like it..."

As she read, Miranda tilted her head down, simulating actually
having to read from the book, but all the while, her eyes peered
over her glasses at Misty, who stood quietly in the crowd staring
back. A small smile creeping across her face as Miranda read...

"These temptations mean less than nothing to me, when I think of
how your heart
would break,
The finest of treasures laid out before me, all turn to dust when
I imagine your
For of all the gifts that I have been offered, your kisses are the
only ones
that I dream of,
And with every moment of false passion that I reject, I hope to
another of your fears..."

For a second, Miranda glanced out at the rest of the onlookers,
trying to gauge their reactions. Most seemed fairly intent on
listening, but a few had seemed distracted by something, and were
muttering irately...

"My loyalty to you is unquestionable; as sure as the sun rises
every morning,
You are all that matters, and you shall find me in your arms every
No one else shall I allow to compromise my virtue, no other is
afforded that
And only your wish to be rid of me, shall ever banish this one
from your

Miranda's eyes panned back towards Misty, nearly choking on her
words as she caught sight of something that made her scowl a
little. Not far from the front of the stage, and far too close to
Misty for Miranda's comfort stood Ash. He was silent, at least,
but it was obvious that he'd butted through the crowd to get so
close to the stage. Fortunately, though, he seemed content to
glare up at her contemptuously...

"So please worry not my dear, for your happiness is all my all
consuming need,
You are the only one that I could ever want, my heart's greatest
No mere mortal could ever tear me away, especially those whose
beauty is but an
empty shell,
For only your undying love, could ever hope to quench this all-
consuming fire..."

Miranda took a deep breath as the last syllable fell past her
lips, closing her eyes for a moment to compose herself and focus.
"That's it," she quietly told the crowd, most of whom cheered

"Thank you Miss!" called the festival coordinator, clapping as he
walked back over to Miranda with his stack of cards.

"No problem," said Miranda with a bit of a smile, covering the
mike as she spoke to the man, "It just comes naturally to me."

The man nodded, smiling as he always did, showing off his
perfectly straight white teeth. "Well, then you should have no
problem out doing our next contestant," he replied with a bit of a
laugh, turning his attention to the crowd, knowing Miranda could
dismiss herself.

"Well, that was fun," commented Miranda as Misty leaped into her
arms the instant the woman had both feet upon the ground.

"It was wonderful," said Misty, happy tears forming in her eyes as
she hugged Miranda.

"Just like you," assured the courier, leaning down to kiss Misty
and missing the next poet's name and point of origin.

"I keep telling you," warned Misty in an amused tone, "I'm going
to get a huge ego if you keep that up."

"No, not to worry," replied Miranda with a smile, moving out of
the way to let a tall, scruffy looking man with dark glasses and
bluish hair make his way nervously up the stairs, "I'll be sure to
compliment you in moderation."

"Good," responded Misty with a quick kiss before looking to one
side to check out the competition, "'cause I wouldn't want to wind
up like my sisters."

"Sensational?" chuckled Miranda, moving to one side and taking
Misty's hand so they could both watch and listen.

Misty gave her a sideways glance and tried not to laugh. "That's
worthy of Nezumi," she whispered before glancing at the stage and
biting off a curse.

"What's wrong?" inquired Miranda, eying the contestant
suspiciously, but not really seeing anything peculiar about him.
His clothes seemed rather worn, and he hadn't shaved in several
days, but the traveler seemed normal enough.

"I'm positive I know him," responded Misty, giving Miranda's hand
a warning squeeze that put the woman on the defensive.

The festival coordinator stepped aside as the rather haggard
looking fellow staggered up to the mike. "Howdy, y'all," he
addressed the crowd as Miranda put her book away and gave her arm
a gentle shake, causing a mirconized pokeball to fall into her
hand, "You'll have to forgive my appearance, but it's been a long
walk from Celadon."

"He must have signed up just in time," Miranda commented, glancing
at Misty's worried expression as the man spoke.

Meanwhile, the crowd gave a sympathetic murmur as he reached into
his dusty gray trench coat and pulled out a rolled up piece of
paper. "This one's kinda old," he told them, pulling his pants up
a little higher, wishing that the rope that served as a belt was a
bit tighter, "But it has meaning. Especially to my closest

Again the sympathetic crowd gave an "awww...", but as Miranda
glanced around to find Ash again, this time she noticed he wasn't
paying attention to the poet on stage. The bitter trainer was
talking to his pikachu and the pokemon didn't seem too happy about
the conversation.

"It's simply called 'I need you'," continued the man on stage, his
thick hickish accent wavering a little as he spoke and unrolled
the paper, "I 'ope that some of ya all can get somethin' from

"The light in my universe seems to vanish every time you slip
through my
The sun, the moon, the stars, what purpose do these serve without
you in my
Why can't you just see that it's better this way?
With you on my side, there'd be an end to this daily strife..."

The mysterious man read the words slowly, his voice quiet for the
moment, but rising in tone as he poured his heart out into it. The
crowd could see his pain, even through the dark glasses, in the
way his voice quavered and his expression became even more
haggard, causing several people shake their heads in wonder at the
tortured soul's deep sadness...

"It seems as though not a day passes that our two sides do not
Every week that passes only seems to bring more pain,
Wedging this rift between us ever wider until I can barely heard
your voice,
And this longing just to hold you, is driving me nearly insane..."

There were tears in his eyes now, and the man wiped them away as
he read, not bothering to move his shades out of the way. But as
he came closer to the end, the stranger reached inside his coat
with his free hand, clutching something as he eyed someone in the

"So next time we meet upon the field of battle,
Please listen to these words that I say to you,
So that never again shall I have to beg, grovel and plead,
For some little twerp to hand over that pikachu..!"

With that, the man tore his loose fitting garments from his body,
revealing his light gray uniform with a large red "R" stenciled
across the chest, and leapt off the stage in the direction of Ash
and Pikachu.

"I knew it," replied Misty sullenly under her breath, shaking her
head in dismay as James dove into the crowd, only to have them run
back in time to have him fall flat on his face.

"Oh, it's only him again," responded Miranda with a vague sense of
disappointment, glancing at the purple and white pokeball in her
hand and suddenly wondering why she'd bothered, only to have a
sudden thought strike her like a ton of bricks.

"Pathetic!" laughed Ash a short distance away, "Pikachu! Thunder-

"Dreck!" cursed Miranda, hearing Misty's quick intake of breath.

"It's alright," assured Misty, keeping her voice level as James
screamed and someone blew a loud whistle, "I'm fine."

"Good," said Miranda sincerely, letting go of Misty's hand and
grabbing up her book, a sudden inner turmoil brewing behind her

"What's wrong?" inquired Misty, trying to keep from looking in
Ash's direction.

"Last time we saw him, he was helping Kathy get away," replied
Miranda after taking a deep breath and centering herself, "So now
I'd like to ask him a few questions. Assuming that's okay with

Misty nodded and reached up to run her hand down Miranda's cheek.
"I understand," she said, not bothering to compete with the sudden
noise of the crowd, "Come on; there won't be much left of him in a
moment. And James is too pathetic a villain to give Ash the
satisfaction of electrocuting him to death."

Miranda smiled in spite of herself. "Oh, and I'm sorry," she
replied as they pushed their way through a wall of gawkers.

"What for?" shouted Misty, following in Miranda's wake.

"For not telling you 'he' was here."

"That's alright," assured Misty catching a glimpse of two
Pokeforce Officers that broke through at the opposite end of the
circular clearing that had formed.

"Thanks," said Miranda, smiling as she caught Misty's eye for a
moment before cringing at Officer Jenny's gravelly sounding voice
reminiscent of someone grinding their teeth in their sleep.

"Hold on!" the woman shouted over the all the noise, "You there,
leave him alone or I'll have you and your pokemon brought in for

"But he tried to steal my-!" began Ash as Pikachu flopped down,
exhausted from the exertion.

"Quiet, you!" ordered Jenny, before glancing down at James with a
sympathetic look, "Are you alright, sir?"

James looked up at the woman as a cunning smile crossed his lips.
"I will be in a moment, Officer," he chuckled, staggering to his
feet and raising his fist dramatically.

"Wow," laughed Ash as James's smile began to fade, "Looks like
you've been thunder-shocked so often, you're immune!"

"What? Where are they?" demanded James, glancing around
helplessly, "Meowth? Jessie?"

"What seems to be the problem here?" inquired the second cop,
walking up behind Jenny, followed by a growlithe.

"It's him, actually," called the festival coordinator from the
stage, pointing a shaking hand at James, "he tried to steal that
poor guy's pikachu!"

"I see," the cop pondered, rubbing his stubbly chin thoughtfully
as his growlithe tossed her rather lacy looking fur out of her
eyes and began sniffing at James.

"But this one still used a pokemon to assault and unarmed human,
Frank," added Jenny, grabbing Ash by arm and making him cry out in
protest as she tried to cuff him.

James meanwhile, turned in a slow circle, a helpless look of
complete hopelessness crossing his face. "Jessie?" he pleaded to
the crowd, "Meowth? Any one...?"

"Looks to me like the pikachu acted on instinct," replied Officer
Frank, catching James off guard as he grabbed his wrists and
yanked them painfully behind his back, "I say let the other one go
with a warning."

"I don't know..." muttered Jenny, shaking her head as Ash tried to
look innocent.

"They were supposed to back me up..." muttered James sadly,
looking up in time to see Misty and Miranda approaching. As he met
Miranda's gaze, the man turned pale and spun around, falling to
his knees and pleading, "It was me! It was all me! Please Mr.
Pokeforce Officer, toss me in jail and throw away the key! Just
keep me away from- From her!"

"Say what?" inquired Frank, turning back to James as his growlithe
let out a low growl and sparks danced across her pearly white

"Uncle Frank?" inquired Miranda, her tense stance relaxing as the
anger she'd been prepared to unleash all but vanishing as she
looked at the Pokeforce officer in amazement.

Officer Frank forgot about James for a moment, accidentally
kicking the poor man in the side as he ran towards her. "I don't
believe it!" he laughed as he ran into the courier's arms, "Little
Miri, so far from home!"

"Oh, ha, ha!" countered Miranda, laughing joyfully as Frank lifted
her off the ground and spun his niece around before letting her
go, "You knew I'd be a member of the Courier Crew since I was
little girl! But I didn't know about you..."

Officer Frank gave a sarcastic grin that would make Nezumi envious
and took a step back, dramatically motioning to his badge. "Would
you believe they let ME carry a gun? Heck, I even get my own car!
Pretty cool, eh?" he laughed before spotting Misty for the first
time, "Oh hello! Friend of yours, kid?"

"Kid?" inquired Miranda with mock severity, staring at her uncle
over her glasses as Jenny shook her head and walked over to the
frightened looking James.

"Hi, I'm Misty," said the trainer, holding out her hand with her
warmest smile, only to withdraw it as a warning growl filled her
ears, "Oh, sorry."

The three glanced down at the growlithe at Frank's feet. "Don't
worry," the cop assured Misty, crouching down to scratch the dog
behind the ears, "Bow's just in 'on duty' mode. She actually loves

"Really?" inquired Misty, leaning forward with her hands on her
knees, and turning her head to one side as she glanced at the
growlithe, "Are you actually friendly behind all that growling?"

"She's a friend," said Frank, glancing at Miranda who gave a quick
nod, "You can relax, Bow."

The growlithe looked at Frank for a moment, but seemed satisfied
and began sniffing at the air between herself and Misty a somewhat

"So, who died and made you the law here?" teased Miranda, turning
her attention back to Frank, her eyes gleaming with the man's
infectious amusement.

Her uncle chuckled as his fingers brushed back his bushing brown
hair, revealing his graying roots. "Keeps me out of trouble, I
guess," he told her without looking up.

"And why didn't you stay in Lavender town?" she continued somewhat
accusingly, "If you wanted to be a cop, you could have at least
come home!"

Frank's smile faded as his growlithe gave in to Misty's charm and
let herself be petted. "It's a long story, Miranda," he replied in
a serious tone that his niece never knew he had, "I, I just didn't
want Bob to feel threatened or anything. That and your not the
only one who wants to avenge your father's death you know... That
and things were getting a bit weird with your aunt."

Miranda gave him a serious look, pushing down the feelings his
words sparked and nodding sagely. "I see," she said simply,
folding her arms as she spoke, knowing the Officer was full of it,
"Well, this probably isn't the time for this. And to answer you're
question, Uncle, this is Misty..."

Frank's smile made a small showing as his niece turned away,
looking a little embarrassed. "Now who's hiding something?" he
teased, glancing down at Bow and shaking his head in wary
amusement. "That's it," he warned Misty, "You've just made a
friend for life. You're doomed! Doomed I tell you! Dooooomed!"

Misty glanced up, laughing as she crouched down to scratch Bow
behind the left ear. "Why's that?" she inquired as Bow went slack
jawed for a moment.

Frank chuckled and caught the growlithe's contented gaze. "For
some reason," he explained, "Bow can't quite reach that spot. So
just be careful or someone will make you a Pokeforce officer!"

"Oh?" inquired Miranda, happy for a change in topic, "Is that how
it happened?"

Frank shook his head in dismay. "Well, not really," he admitted,
"But she's what clinched it for me. Isn't that right?"

The pyrotechnic canine glanced up at her trainer and showed a
mouthful of teeth in an approximation of a smile, making the trio
of human's laugh. "So," said Frank, crouching down as Bow walked
lazily over to him and sat down on his feet possessively, "What
brings you both to Cerulean?"

"The festival," replied Misty with a shrug.

"My job," added Miranda, glancing at the pokeball she'd forgotten
to put away.

"My family," finished Misty as Miranda set the pokeball down at
Bow's feet.

"Ah, I see," commented Frank, pondering for a moment, "Oh yeah, I
suppose they should meet, eh."

Bow looked up at Frank curiously. "Growlithe?" she inquired before
sniffing at the pokeball and yelping loudly as it activated.

"Bow, meet Umi-," began Frank, suddenly startled as a rattata
appeared, "Okay, maybe not..."

Miranda chuckled as Nezumi yawned, looked around warily and then
yelped as he spotted the relatively huge ball of red and white fur
that stood over him. "Ratta!" he exclaimed, scampering behind
Miranda's legs, and making Bow bark excitedly.

"Don't eat him," warned Frank, "I'm sure Miranda'd be upset!"

"Better believe it," the woman chuckled as her pokemon stood on
his hind legs and began talking almost too quickly for her to
understand, chastising the growlithe for scaring him, "But Nezumi
likes anything that has a problem with felines."

Frank chuckled. "I thought he'd be your dratini," he explained,
"Still have that?"

Miranda nodded seriously and was about to reply further when a
flurry of shouted words came across Frank's radio, followed by a
horrific grinding, tearing sound and a dozen or so people
screaming in the distance.

"Frank! Frank I need back up!" screamed Jenny's voice over the
sounds of panic, and James's pleas of "Help me! He's gonna kill
me! Help!"

The assembled group glanced up in time to see a flat, mostly
square object fly up into the air and come crashing down into a
screaming mob of tourists. "My car!" exclaimed Frank, bolting off
into he direction of the brewing carnage, immediately followed by
his angrily barking growlithe.

"What's that all about?" inquired Misty, standing on her toes to
get a better look, but between the distance, the people in the
away and the festival exhibits, it was hard to make out.

"There's only one way to find out," replied Miranda, reaching into
her coat and pulling out a black and gray pokeball. "Go check it
out, Wraith!" the woman ordered, tossing the ball high in the air,
where it split open in its customary fashion issuing forth the

"Ga?" inquired Wraith, surprised to be so high up.

"I need you to run recon," Miranda explained, looking up at the
ghost as Misty stepped behind her, "And keep a link, okay? I want
to 'see' what's happening."

Wraith nodded, and after glancing in the direction of the
screaming with an excited twinkle in his eye, swiveled to face his
trainer. "Gasss..." he whispered, his eyes glowing for a moment
before Miranda staggered back a bit and the pokemon flew off like
a dark comet.

"You okay?" inquired Misty, helping Miranda to stand as the
courier regained her balance.

"Yeah, I- I'll be fine," assured Miranda, sitting down on the
grass and holding her head as both Misty and Nezumi gave her a
concerned look, "He's just traveling so fast, and- OW! Wraith!
Don't do that!"

Misty took a step back, and glanced at Nezumi. The rattata glanced
over his should at her and chuckled before hopping onto Miranda's
knee and looking bored. "What... What are you doing?" the girl
inquired, sitting down cross-legged in front of Miranda, her look
of concern deepening.

"Psychic link," replied Miranda, holding her temples and squeezing
her eyes tightly closed, "A ghost's psi powers aren't as good as a
true psychic's, but they'll do in a pinch... What the-?! Oh no!
Not HIM!"

"What?! What is it?!" demanded Misty, grabbing Miranda's shoulders
and shaking her, "Miranda, what's wrong? You're scaring me!"

The woman shook her head as she slowly opened her eyes and spoke a
single word. "Tashiro..."

Chapter IX

Wraith didn't bother to turn invisible as he flew through the air,
diving low now and again and phasing through people to harmlessly
frighten them. 'She never said don't have any fun along the way,'
the little ghost chuckled as the scene of the destruction neared,
'Ah! Here we go!'

Wraith stopped his forward momentum entirely as he reached the
parking lot, soliciting an angry retort from the other end of the
'link'. "Sorry, Miranda!" he called out half-sincerely, but
couldn't help laughing as several gawkers screamed and ran at the
sound of "swallow your soul! swallow your soul!" a few feet above
their heads in pokespeak.

But the ghost stopped laughing when he looked up and saw what was
causing the mayhem. A large, obscenely muscular bipedal reptile
with a strange, helmet-ish device upon his head was tearing a
wheel off an old beat-up looking pokeforce car, and was following
up the motion by tossing it at a pair of humans who the onlookers
seemed reluctant to go near.

"Hey!" the gastly chastised, reaching out with his mind and
grabbing the wheal telekinetically, "Play fair, muscle head!"

"AHHH! A ghost!" exclaimed one of the humans, and with a sideways
glance, Wraith noticed that one of the machoke's victims was
already unconscious. Her aura said she'd need medical attention

"Bite me!" the machoke growled in a voice that spoke volumes about
his tiny reptilian brain and reached into the engine block before
tearing away at the transmission.

Wraith took a moment, and turned to face the man he had
frightened. "Swallow your soul! swallow your soul!" he laughed,
making the man scream and pass out.

'WRAITH!!!' shouted Miranda loudly in his mind.

'Sorry, ma'am,' he send back with a chuckle, 'couldn't resist!'

'Wraith,' sent Miranda again, this time her voice seemed panicked,
'Get out of there! That's Tashiro! Kathy's machoke!'

'Look Boss Lady, I'm already dead. I think that I can handle ONE
little fighting-type,' Wraith chuckled back, amused by the fact
that the wall of muscle he was supposed to be afraid of was
ignoring him, 'I mean seriously, what can that overgrown lizard
do? Kill me?!'

'I'll be there soon,' was all Miranda said, and Wraith felt his
mind empty once more, except for the tenuous connection they still

"Oh man! She's gonna be sooo proud of me," chuckled the little
ghost, focusing his attention on the machoke as the monster tore
the car's transmission free, and hefted it easily over his head.

"Oooh, this is gonna be too funny!" commented Wraith, his eyes
glowing as he focused his mind, and prepared to bring forth a
psychic blast his opponent wouldn't soon forget.

As Tashiro strode purposely towards the unconscious bodies of
Jenny and James, Wraith let loose the focused beam of mana,
targeting the machoke's walnut sized brain. But as the wave
rippled out, the device upon Tashiro's head activated. Small red
lights swirled around the base of the helmet, and the little
antenna atop it hummed as the psychic energy was harmlessly
dispersed into the surrounding area.

"What-?!" hissed Wraith in aggravation as the machoke turned and
smiled toothily.

"So, da little ghostie thinks he can harm Tashiro?" the pokemon
chuckled, stomping heavily, leaving dents in the pavement as he
went as the machoke reoriented on Wraith, "Ha. Ha. Tashiro merely
laughs at your pathetic powers!"

Wraith merely laughed as the machoke tossed the transmission at
him, letting the device pass right through him and crash noisily
into a hotdog cart. "You can't even talk in complete sentences,"
taunted Wraith, not noticing as Tashiro brought his now free hands
together and began to focus his chi, "And now you expect to hurt
me by demolishing a car? Oh, that's rich-!"

The gastly was caught off guard as Tashiro opened his palms, and a
blast of kinetic energy fired forth, catching him between the
eyes, and punching a fist sized hole through the center of his
ethereal mass.

"Wow!" exclaimed Wraith in astonishment as he filled in the hole,
"That actually hurt a teeny tiny bit! NOT!"

"Almost as much as this will!" promised Tashiro, running forward
with one of his fists crackling with electricity.

"Oooh, ya!" chuckled Wraith with a humor he suddenly didn't feel,
"This is bad!"

The little ghost willed himself invisible, and easily slipped
under the machoke's thunder punch before spinning in place and
throwing another psychic blast his way. Once again, however, the
energy was absorbed by Tashiro's helmet, and dissipated.

The machoke paused as his fist connected with nothing, and scanned
the area for a moment. "Running will not save you," the monstrous
pokemon promised, tapping a button on the side of his helmet,
"Hiding will not save you..." a pair of dark spectacles came down
to cover his eyes as he spoke, "Nothing can save you!"

With that, Tashiro oriented on Wraith's exact position and
uppercutted the ghost with a second fist, wreathed in flames.
'Miri!' Wraith sent in mental panic as he spun end over end, up
into the air and totally out of control as he tried desperately
just to keep his ephemera from leaking away, 'Where are you! I
need back up!'

But no response came. As Wraith righted himself several hundred
feet off the ground, he tested the invisible mind link and found
nothing. The device Tashiro wore not only blocked his psychic
attacks, but had shut down his less offensive abilities as well.

"Allllrightyyyy then!" muttered Wraith, licking his lips as dark
purple energy crackled cross the surface of his body, "Nightshade
it is!"

The ghost took a second to target the device upon his opponent's
head, giving Tashiro the time he needed to tear the engine fan out
and pull it back as if to throw it at James like a discus, before
letting the beam of visible purple hued light fly.

Once again the machoke was distracted, as the attack passed
through the helmet, and enveloped his body. "Uhh," the pokemon
muttered, dropping the fan and clutching his stomach with both
hands, "Tashiro is not feeling so good..."

"That's the idea, lizard lips!" taunted Wraith, flying down
towards his opponent, spiraling as he fired off several more
blasts of ghostly purple unlight."

Tashiro gritted his teeth as he went down on one knee, the
repeated ghost attacks making his stomach turn with the negative
charge his body was building up. "Tashiro feel sick," he muttered,
opening his now glowing red eyes so suddenly that the crowd of
onlookers turned back on itself as people began running for their
lives, "But it is good that I have strong stomach!"

The machoke rose slowly to his feet and turned to face the
oncoming spirit with a loud roar of defiance. But the laughing
ghost simply kept coming; firing repeatedly bursts into the
pokemon's chest once he determined that the soulless mechanism
upon his opponent's head was immune.

"This one's for Selece!" he laughed, hardly paying attention as
both of Tashiro's fists lit up with suddenly focused chi. One was
on fire, the other seemed surrounded by icy winds, "And this one's
for Undine, and this one's for Vivian, and this one's for-! Ahh-!"

Tashiro growled incomprehensibly as he hammered both fists into
Wraith's sides, the elemental effects making up for the lack of
actually physical contact. In response, the ghost's body became a
featureless black ooze that splattered across Tashiro's face,
blinding him as his fists came together painfully.

"Argh!" the machoke cried, staggering back as he clawed at the
sticky black goo that clung stubbornly to his face, "Get off, bad

"Ha! Not until you stop calling me that!" replied Wraith, oozing
part of his body towards the device on the machoke's head as he
clung tenaciously to his face.

"Foolish ghostie!" growled Tashiro, dropping to his knees and
flinging his head forward.

"What are you-?!" began Wraith, only to feel the front bumper of
the police car pass through him, and impact painfully with
Tashiro's snout.

"Wow!" the ghost laughed, as Tashiro howled in pain, "They really
don't make you fighting-types like they used to!"

"I show you!" the lizard shouted, his voice muffled by the ghost
on his face, and leapt to his feet, just as a confused canine
voice spoke up.

"What the-?!" she exclaimed, "Ah! Monster!"

"Monster?" inquired Wraith, forming eyes in the approximate
location of Tashiro's just in time to see a fluffy growlithe expel
a gout of flame aimed at Tashiro's head, "Oh dreck!"

Wraith phased completely, and let himself pass through Tashiro's
body just as the flames washed over the machoke. He then did his
best to reconstitute himself and flew in to get a closer look at
the firedog.

"Criminals!" the growlithe exclaimed, spotting Wraith and firing
another jet of flame at him, "Destroying my human's toy! Bad
criminals! Eat my righteous burning wrath!"

"No thanks, lady!" called Wraith, arching around Tashiro's body,
using the muscle bound pokemon as a shield, "I've had enough pain
for one day!"

"Which one of you?!" demanded the growlithe, her eyes burning with
anger, "Which one did this?!" She motioned to the trashed
Pokeforce car with her snout, but never broke eye contact with

"It was him!" exclaimed both Tashiro and Wraith at the same time,
causing the growlithe to howl with rage.

"Then I'm taking you both in!" she promised; leaping at Tashiro,
ready to bite into him.

"No, don't lady!" warned Wraith, coming around to the front in
time to see the machoke back hand the poor growlithe, "Told ya..."

Tashiro ignored Wraith for the moment, his simple mind finding it
difficult to focus on too many things at once. "It fun to crush
little puppies!" he chuckled, pulling back an ice-punch readied
fist as the growlithe hit the ground a few feet away and tried to
get her bearings.

"Look out!" called Wraith, zooming between Tashiro and the
growlithe, catching the frozen fist in the side, and solidifying
to keep block it's forward momentum, "Now-! Run!"

"Wow," commented the growlithe, shaking her fur back into place
"Maybe you're not a bad ghost."

"Just get out of here, lady!" ordered Wraith, gritting his teeth
and closing his eyes as he put all his energy into nightshading
Tashiro's still painfully icy fist, "I don't know how much longer
I can keep this up!"

"Not, 'Lady'," corrected the Growlithe, adjusting her stance as
she focused on Tashiro's free arm, "Bow! My name is Bow!"

With that, Bow leapt into the air and sank her fangs into
Tashiro's opposite wrist, filling her mouth with all the flames
she could conjure. "Ah! Bad doggie! Bad ghostie!" shouted Tashiro,
spinning around as quickly as he could, hoping to dislodge his
attackers, "No fair, you gang up!"

"Hang on Bow!" called Wraith, feeling himself slipping as the
machoke's rotation picked up speed, "Help's on its way!"

"Mrrf! Aggff!" replied Bow, unable to speak properly with a mouth
full of machoke and her own scorching flames.

'Just... One... Chance..." thought Wraith, looking up at the psi-
dampening helmet Tashiro wore, 'If only... If only I had...

With that, the little ghost's spherical body glowed with a
brilliant white light, all but blinding the remaining spectators,
who cheered as they realized what was happening.

"Huh?" managed Bow as she glanced over at the ghost, half startled
as he began to grow to more than twice his former size.

"What he-?!" began Tashiro, his slow mind finally catching on as
real worry entered it for the first time.

At the end of his left arm, Wraith's body expanded and reshaped
itself as the white light faded into nothingness. "Yesss!" hissed
Wraith, staring delightedly at the two black blurs that hovered
before his face, "Just what the doctor ordered!"

Tashiro's eyes went wide with horror as a pair of disembodied
hands flew towards him, followed by the echoing laughter of a
newly evolved haunter. "No!" he shouted in denial as one of the
four-fingered hands reached under his chin and unbuckled the
safety strap, as its partner flicked the helmet off his head
rather nonchalantly.

"Back up!" exclaimed Wraith, vaguely hearing familiar voices
shouting behind him, "They're here!"

Wraith glanced over at Bow as he dislodged himself from Tashiro's
fist, thankful to be away from the painful cold and stopping
himself a few feet away, not bothering to listen to the laws of
physics that insisted he go flying.

"Bow?" he inquired, his good humor returning, only to see the
growlithe's grip finally give way, and her go flying through the
air in the manner Wraith would have had he been mortal.

"Noooo!" shouted Wraith, his eyes glowing a burning red as he
reached out with his mind, and snatched the flying firedog out of
the air with telekinesis. The ghost then turned his attention to
Tashiro, a malevolent grin crossing his face as he set the
disoriented growlithe down on the ground.

"That..." he growled angrily as the machoke stopped spinning and
clutched his face in an attempt to steady himself, "Was a

Tashiro barely had time to give the suddenly larger ghost a
puzzled look before the wave of dark mana struck him. The
machoke's eyes went wide, and he struggled for breath as his brain
suffered a small aneurysm before toppling over and leaving machoke
shaped crater in the pavement...


Miranda was the first to force herself through the wall of
assembled onlookers, and gasped as the growlithe flew towards her
only to be caught in mid air by Wraith's psychic grasp.

"Wraith, dear...?" the woman stammered, feeling her anxiety over
the severed connection between them abate as she spotted what was
now her haunter, "You evolved!"

The ghost seemed not to notice his trainer, however. His
concentration was focused solely on the stunned Tashiro, and
Wraith's eyes were glowing brightly as he readied an attack.

"What's he doing?" inquired Misty, breaking through the crowd just
behind Frank as Bow was set carefully down on the ground.

"I renamed it 'mana bolt'," explained Miranda, folding her arms
and watching her ghostly pokemon's actions intently, "But most
people just call it 'psi-beam'."

Misty gasped as Tashiro's expression became pained, and he toppled
over with a loud thud that shattered the pavement. "Ouch!" she
commented as Bow waddled over to Frank.

"Groooow..." the little growlithe whined, staggering from side to
side as her trainer crouched down to pick her up.

"It's okay," he told her, just before noticing his car, "You did
well, girl- What the-?! My car!!!"

"Not so fast, Detective," chuckled a smug voice, stopping Frank
dead in his tracks as he saw two figures daring to stand upon the
roof of what was left of his car, "Tashiro! Return!"

"Who-?" began Frank, shielding his eyes from the sun as he heard
his niece curse just behind him.

"Kathy," the courier hissed, recognizing the voice immediately,
even though her features seemed unfamiliar, glowering as the older
woman hopped to the ground and chuckled quietly in dark amusement.

"So glad that you remember me," the scientist replied with a cruel
smile, "Even with this little disguise I cooked up recently."

"The pleasure is all yours," muttered Miranda, reaching to her
side and gripping the hilt of her bokken, as Kathy's skin seemed
to flow across the surface of her face like water.

"You know," she said casually, an evil smirk crossing her face as
her features altered and became more familiar, "If I'd had this
power a decade or so ago, I wouldn't have needed to kill your
father. Not that I wouldn't have or anything..."

"You'll pay for that!" growled Frank, forgetting about his car for
a moment, and awkwardly reaching for his gun.

"Get in line, Uncle!" said Miranda, drawing her wooden sword as
she took a half step backward, spinning the weapon over her wrist
before aiming it at Kathy.

"What are you?!" growled Frank, his pistol held at arms length as
he crouched, holding his growlithe the awkwardly, but
protectively, "Cause it sure as the Tower ain't human anymore!"

Kathy gave a chuckling sigh, and spread her arms as the figure
that had appeared beside her leapt the ground, revealing itself to
be a female alakazam. "Oh, this?" the woman inquired, pointing to
her face, "A simple enough trick. It's amazing what you can
accomplish if you're willing to sacrifice a few hundred dittos in
the name of science."

"Don't you mean murder?" corrected Misty running to Miranda's side
with a pokeball in hand as the woman raised her sword to eye
level, its 'sharp' end pointed up, its business end facing her
opponent's eye level.

"Whatever. It's not like hundreds of thousands of rattata don't
die in medical research every year or anything," said Kathy with
an offhanded shrug, having no patience of semantics, "besides, at
least now I can change myself and get into a new position at Sylph
Co. Hopefully without sleeping with Balthaza'ar Iago again...

"You..." growled Miranda, her body tensing as she poised herself
to strike, "You can change your face as many times as you like.
But you will always have my father's blood upon your hands!"

With an incoherent cry, Miranda charged her nemesis, swinging her
bokken down and up in a wide arc. In response to the attack, the
alakazam crossed her spoons before her, and with a shout of
"Al'zam!" followed by a loud -POP!- the two teleported, vanishing
just as Miranda's sword sliced through the air Kathy had occupied,
rebounding off the bumper of Frank's car.

"Nooo!" the courier exclaimed, almost loosing her footing as her
sword rebounded and she staggered backwards, "Not again..."

"Miranda!" shouted both Frank and Misty as the courier slumped to
the ground and both her friends ran to her side.

"I don't believe this..." she muttered, not really hearing the
sudden footsteps race towards her, and barely feeling the hands
that touched her shoulders sympathetically as her sword clattered
to the ground.

"Miri," whispered Misty, crying as she saw the look of defeat in
Miranda's eyes.

Frank opened his mouth to speak, but glanced at Misty and
understood. "Come on," he told Bow, "Let's issue some crowd
control. If you're up for it, that is."

Bow slipped from his arms and glanced at Miranda concernedly
before nodding and running excitedly towards the crowd of people
who seemed to believe it was safe to draw closer.

"Alright, people!" called Frank, waving his arms authoritatively
as Bow barked at them, "Show's over. There's a park full of fun
things to do that beat standing around gawking! Let's go! Oops-!"

With those two simply words, Bow's attention locked on Frank. Her
eyes going wide with glee as she was filled with a sudden rush of
joy and excitement. But as she glanced at the car, the growlithe's
tail fell and her ears went back. Bow then glared at the crowed
with all the menace she could muster and growled with all the
supernatural intimation a pokemon could muster. Everything about
the firedog's stance seeming to scream, "How dare you take away my
chance to go for a ride in the car!?"

Frank merely smiled and nodded. "Yup, yup..." he sighed, shaking
his head in amusement, "That's why I love her..."


Nezumi finally managed to scurry between the last few humans that
threatened to unwittingly step on him, and stood panting at the
edge of the crowd. "Just my luck," he muttered, standing on his
hind legs and holding his stomach as he surveyed the carnage,
"Missed it!"

"Hey! Nezzy!" exclaimed a familiar, yet somehow different sounding
voice, causing the rattata to do a double take, and almost run for
his life as the dark shape of a haunter materialized before him,
"Where've ya been pal?"

"Wraith!?" the exhausted pokemon inquired, taking a step back from
the haunter, sniffing the air between them, "Hey! It is you, ain't

"Hey," chuckled Wraith, waving a finger warningly, "That's 'Fang
Face' to you! Although I guess you can't call me that anymore..."

Nezumi smiled, a mischievous gleam in his eye. "Hey," he said
reassuringly, "You'll always been 'Fang Face' to me!"

Wraith clapped his hands together, ethereal tears forming in his
eyes. "Really?" he inquired with joyful sadness.

"Really," assured Nezumi, "Now give us a hug, bro!"

"Ah, thanks!" exclaimed Wraith, grabbing Nezumi up and holding the
rattata against himself affectionately, "That means a lot to me!"

"Is this a warm moment?" inquired Bow as she walked over to the
two pokemon with a look of complete befuddlement, "Or should I be

"Hey! It's the pyro-puppy!" exclaimed Nezumi, hopping down and
smiling broadly up at the growlithe, "Have you met Fang- Err,
Wraith yet?"

"Yeah," replied Bow shyly, "We met. He's pretty tough for a

Wraith smiled and chuckled secretively. "Well ya know," he said
shyly, "I used to be a growlithe... Back in my breathing days."

"Hey!" exclaimed Nezumi, turning towards the ghost with a look of
betrayal, "I thought you said you was a rat!"

"Um, guys," interrupted Bow, "I hate to bother you, but your
trainer looks really unhappy about something... Which reminds me!
The car! Oh my goodness, the car...!"


"Shh, it's okay," whispered Misty, her arms around Miranda as they
knelt in the parking lot, Miranda's head upon her friend's

"I wish it was," responded Miranda, holding onto Misty as though
she were drowning, "But I had her. She was right there, and I... I
just feel like I let my parents down today."

"Hey," said Misty, taking the courier's chin and tilting her head
up, "You tried your best. Heck, your pokemon not only beat the tar
out of Tashiro, but he evolved! Look."

Miranda glanced over her shoulder and smiled in spite of herself.
Nezumi and Wraith were walking/hovering over to her. Both pokemon
seemed concerned, but Wraith had a certain smug satisfaction
lurking behind his dark eyes.

"They don't think you let anyone down," continued Misty, trying
not to look at the haunter too much, "They love you, and so do I.
We don't think this is a failure, we think this is a victory."

Miranda nodded, smiling motherly at her pokemon who immediately
started yammering excitedly at her. "Whoa! Hold on," she told
them, suddenly focusing in on Wraith, "What's this about Jenny and

The haunter turned and pointed to the two incapacitated bodies,
currently lying prone between two parked cars. "Oh, man,"
commented Miranda, turning to her uncle and calling out as loudly
as she could, "Uncle Frank! Over there!"

Frank turned to his niece, following her outstretched arm and
immediately running over to the downed officer. "Oh man!" he
muttered, pulling out his radio, "That poke' beaned her with my

"Is there anything we can do?" inquired Misty, looking concernedly
at her hometown's Officer Jenny.

Frank shook his head as he finally got a hold of dispatch. "No,
you guys just head on back to the festival for now," he explained
warily, trying to sound like an actual cop, "The fun's over, but
I'd like to see you both again once I get this mess cleaned up."

"Gotcha," replied Miranda, sliding her hand over Misty's and
leading her away from the parking lot.

"Do you think they'll make it?" asked Misty, glancing over her
shoulder to where Officer Frank was shouting into his radio, and
only James's feet could be seen sticking out between two parked

Miranda nodded as she gave a few of the lingering gawkers a dirty
look. "I believe so," she assured, pausing to let Nezumi clamber
up her leg to find her jacket pocket, "Jenny's are a lot tougher
than they look, and I think that James guy just fainted."

"I hope you're right," her beloved replied uncertainly, ducking as
Wraith zoomed past, over their heads before turning to face the
humans with an hopeful look.

Miranda used her free hand to grab his pokeball and return Wraith
before turning to face Misty. "You really care about people, don't
you?" the woman asked, rhetorically as her arms slid around
Misty's torso.

Misty nodded sadly, leaning against Miranda with her head on her
shoulder. "It just bothers me to see people get hurt that badly,"
she explained somewhat distantly, "Sure, I'm a trainer, I know
that getting your pokemon and occasionally yourself knocked around
is par for the course, but..."

Miranda brought up her hand and gently ran her fingers through
Misty's hair affectionately as she spoke. "But this was
different," she surmised.

"Yes," said Misty quietly with a nod, "I don't know if it's just
that I've never really seen someone that badly hurt before, or if
it's just because of who did that to her. I dunno, maybe that's
it. Maybe I'm just picking up on your sorrow. I guess I just don't
like the thought of you getting hurt again."

Miranda smiled, resting her cheek against Misty's hair and
breathing in her scent, holding her lover ever closer in as if in
an attempt to assure herself that Misty was real. "Careful," she
whispered softly in a teasing tone, "I might get the idea into my
head that you love me or something."

Misty found a smile crossing her lips of its accord. "Yeah," she
agreed, sighing contentedly, "I should be careful about that. I
wouldn't want there to be any harsh misunderstandings."

"But seriously," continued Miranda, after trying unsuccessfully
not to chuckle, "I think I like you're compassionate side. I've
known for quite a while that you hated to see pokemon abused, but
I didn't realize how much it applied to humans."

Misty pulled her head back, forcing Miranda to meet her gaze. "But
I think that it helped me fall in love with you," she explained,
her hands coming together and resting against the small of
Miranda's back, "You shared your pain with a complete stranger.
You weren't afraid to be completely vulnerable, and it was such a
nice change from certain people's constant macho posturings. It
was a pleasant change to see someone so strong not being afraid to
show weakness..."

Miranda closed her eyes, smiling with a touch of embarrassment as
Misty spoke. "Strange how that worked out," the courier mused,
opening her eyes just enough to see her love echoed in Misty's,
"We both fell in love with someone who's both strong and weak at
the same time. But I really don't see compassion as a weakness, my
dear. It's just another reason to love you."

Misty leaned her forehead against Miranda's shoulder to hide her
embarrassed smile and took a deep breath to push her sudden rush
of emotion down to a manageable level. "And to be honest," she
added, struggling to find just the right words, "Sometimes it's
nice to be able to be able comfort you. Maybe I'm being selfish,
but it makes me feel wanted and needed-"

"No," interrupted Miranda, barely noticing the passers by any
longer, "It's not selfish, at least not in a bad way. And you are
needed, and wanted. More than I can say just now. Maybe in a
hundred years I'll have composed enough words to express my
feelings for you in full, but yes, Misty, I do need you. I do want
you, and I do love you. And there's no one else in the world that
I want to have comfort me. Don't worry, and don't feel guilty. It
shall always be your shoulder that my tears fall upon."

Misty sighed heavily, leaning against Miranda as the words
filtered through her mind. The woman's love for her still
astounding the small doubtful part of Misty that refused to
believe that anyone could truly care for her that much. 'This
woman,' she thought wistfully, 'Is she compensation for all I've
gone through? Or am I hers? No matter...'

"Then I hope you don't succeed, Miri, my love," responded Misty,
lifting her head and placing a soft kiss upon Miranda's surprised
lips, "Because if you don't find all the words you need in a
hundred years, it means that you'll need another hundred to find
them. And that gives me an extra century in which to love you."

Miranda stood quietly for a moment; simply staring down at Misty,
marveling at the fact that such a perfect creature could exist,
that she could find herself so in sync with another human being.
'Is is for real? Is this more than just a cruel joke?' she
questioned the Universe as she gazed lovingly at Misty, suddenly
feeling happy tears forming in her eyes.

"Are you just a dream?" the courier inquired at last, her voice so
quiet that Misty could barely hear it over the noise of the
festival, "Are you going to suddenly vanish one day, leaving me to
find myself sitting sullenly, sipping bitter tea in a hotel
restaurant in Vermillion City?"

"Only if it means that I'm going to spend the rest of my life in a
hollow loveless, and completely meaningless relationship," her
beloved responded, brushing away Miranda's tears as she spoke,
"Unable to break away from a man who would find more pleasure in
victory in a pokemon battle, than he ever would in my arms."

"Then, if Fate is so cruel, my love," finished Miranda shakily,
"and this is all just a dream we're both having, then let us never
ever awaken."

"I agree," Misty replied, tilting her head as she pressed her lips
against Miranda's for a moment, "Let us sleep forever, let's make
this dream carry on for all eternity."

Miranda tilted her head obligingly, feeling Misty's lips slide
across her own as the girl spoke. "I promise," she breathed,
giving her lover a few soft teasing kisses before following them
up with a more passionate one.

All too soon, however, Miranda heard a strangely
uncharacteristically polite voice in her ear. "Ratta," warned
Nezumi quietly, causing Miranda to reluctantly pull away and
glance at Nezumi on her shoulder.

"Where?" she inquired softly, really only hearing the sound of
Misty's breath as she panted in an exhaustion that was purely

Nezumi stood on his haunches and motioned with his nose to where
several festival officials were rounding up the stray poetry
contest contestants. "I guess that means us," commented Miranda,
turning back to Misty.

The trainer nodded in agreement, finally managing to breath
normally as a few stray thoughts lingered in her mind. "Something
wrong?" inquired Miranda, running her fingers gently down Misty's
cheek, "You look a bit flushed."

"Um, ask me later, okay?" responded Misty, hoping her words didn't
sound like too much of a plea as she tried to cover her

"Count on it," chuckled Miranda, a small knowing smile crossing
her lips as she took Misty's hand and turned towards one of the on
coming officials. "I'm over here!" she called out to the man in a
shirt that proclaimed 'Cerulean End Of Summer Fest' on one side
and 'STAFF' on the back before glancing at Misty again, "Shall

Chapter X

Once the crowd had calmed down, and all the contestants had been
accounted for except for James, the festival coordinator finally
returned to the stage. He took his time crossing it, the stress of
the interruption showing upon the old man's face despite his
attempts to hide it as he adjusted the microphone to his height.

"Is this on?" he inquired after a moment, pleased by the way his
voice echoed through the area, "Okay, now I know that all you
youngin's are all hyper over the excitement we just had, and you
all want to gossip about it, so the judges have decided to speed
things along a little."

He waited a few moments for his words to sink in, and to make sure
that he had everyone's attention. "Now then," he continued after
clearing his throat, and pulling out a small card containing the
names of the winners, "Our third place winner is; Caitlin Storm of
Viridian City."

One section of the crowd immediately applauded louder than all
rest, throwing in a few cheers just for good measure as a rather
hyperactive trainer bounced up and down before grabbing her meowth
and tossing the poor thing into the air several times in her

"We must have missed that one," commented Misty, noticing that the
meowth seemed to be enjoying the treatment. Or simply didn't care.

"That'll teach us to be late," Miranda teased, squeezing Misty's
hand a little tighter as the old man read off the second name.

"Good luck," replied Misty, immediately turning her head back to
face Miranda, carefully watching her expression as the name was
read aloud.

"The second place winner," the festival coordinator told the
audience, "is Josh Thompson of Neon Town."

Not far away from where they stood, Miranda could see the tall,
thin man who'd gone before her politely smile and wave to the
people who glanced at him, but otherwise remain silent.

"Our second and third place winners will both receive free passes
to the park for the remainder of the Festival," continued the old
man, obviously anxious to leave the stage and sit down somewhere,
"But first, our first place contestant, and winner of dinner for
two at 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue' is..." He paused
for a moment, chuckling as he pretended to shuffle through the
three cards he held concealed in his hands.

"I have faith in you," whispered Misty with a smile, watching as
Miranda stared intently at the figure on stage, barely breathing,
and suddenly sweating despite the cool breeze that passed over

"Miranda Lilcamp of Lavender Town!" the old man called out,
grinning broadly as she joined the applause spread throughout the
crowd, "Now then, would Ms. Lilcamp please come up to accept her

"That's your cue," giggled Misty, having to give Miranda a small
push to get her legs working again.

"Thanks," laughed Miranda, pushing down the nervousness she didn't
think she should be feeling, "I owe it all to you."

Misty smiled happily, applauding as loudly as she could as Miranda
walked towards the stage on legs that felt as thought they were
made of straw. Yay, Miranda!" she called, causing the rattata on
her lover's shoulder to turn around and grin mischievously, "Way
to show 'em how it's done!"

The festival coordinator smiled and held out his hand to Miranda
as she walked back up the stairs and over to the mike once again.
"Congratulations," he told her, his voice echoing via the
microphone as he took Miranda's hand and shook it before the
moment could really sink in, "how about a few words while we find
you those passes?"

Miranda smiled, hoping she didn't look as silly as her elation
made her feel. "No problem," she told him before taking her place
at the mike and scanning the crowd for Misty.

"Okay," she said at last, catching sight of the smiling water-
trainer as Nezumi stared out at the sea of people before him in
amazement, "I really don't know what you want to me to say, but I
think just a general 'thanks' is most appropriate. It was fun, and
I intend to make the most of my prize. Thanks..."

Miranda stepped back from the microphone as the spectators
applauded and the old man returned with a peculiar gleam in his
eye and an envelope. "Here you are," he said simply holding it out
to her and glancing at the sea of people, "enjoy your prize, Ms.

Miranda nodded, and was about to thank him again when Nezumi let
out a sudden quiet hiss. "Nezumi?" she inquired quietly, accepting
the envelope and glancing in puzzlement at her rattata, "What is
it, dearest?"

The rattata's eyes gleamed with suspicion as he watched the old
man motioned for the crowd to cheer louder. "Ra ra, 'zumi," the
rodent muttered under his breath, his snout close to his trainer's
ear as he spoke.

"I see," replied Miranda, her feelings of elation being pushed
aside by the suspicious doubt her pokemon had placed in her mind,
"Let's go while can."

The courier gave the old man a wide birth as he turned to face
her, still grinning broadly and applauding heartily.
"Congratulations!" he called after her as Miranda headed down the
stairs, "You deserve it, Miss! Way to go!"

"Looks like you were right!" laughed Misty, bounding out of
nowhere and flinging her arms around Miranda, "You did win!"

"Um, yeah," chuckled Miranda dryly, smiling as best she could as
she met Misty's happy gaze, "Mind if I talk to you for a second?"

Misty gave her a suspicious look, searching for any sign of
elation in Miranda's eyes and finding only thoughtful worry.
"Okay..." she agreed reluctantly, letting Miranda take her hand
and lead her away from the stage and the main mass of the crowd...


"It's Nezumi," explained Miranda once they'd found a park bench
and had sat down.

"Oh?" inquired Misty, holing out a finger and scratching the
rattata under the chin affectionately, causing Nezumi to relax to
the point where he nearly lost his footing.

"He sensed something about the festival coordinator," explained
Miranda as she opened the envelope she'd won, "Something he didn't

"That's not good," agreed Misty, half a smile remaining on her
face as Nezumi tilted his head way back and stood helpless upon
his haunches, letting her finger gently scratch the nape of this
neck as the rattata exaggerated his approval, "He usually likes

"If you can see past the sarcastic, often off-colour remarks he
makes about them," the rattata's trainer agreed, smiling lovingly
despite her mock disapproval as she tilted her head to one side in
order to brush her cheek against Nezumi's soft, purplish fur.

Misty laughed as the rattata made a happy noise and flung his
forepaws about Miranda's neck. "Nez, ra rattata," he assured,
closing his eyes and smiling contentedly.

"Although something must have really freaked him out if he's being
that affectionate without being sarcastic," commented Misty,
starting to catch on to Nezumi's voice inflections, and just a
little bit of the rodent pokemon's words, "Did he say what is was

Miranda shook her head as she extracted Nezumi from her neck and
out him in her lap before shuffling closer to Misty. "He's not
sure," she explained, putting an arm around her beloved as she
examined the two tickets in her other hand, "there was just
something very... 'Unnatural' about him."

"Any ideas?" inquired Misty, leaning her head on Miranda's
shoulder and smiling to herself as Nezumi made himself comfortable
in the small crevasse where their legs touched.

"Yes," admitted Miranda, glancing down at Nezumi and smiling as
the rattata made it perfectly clear to any passers by that the two
humans were 'his', "But I don't like my suspicions. Remember what
Kathy said about dittos?"

Misty shuddered at the thought, not even wanting to contemplate
what the scientist must have done to synthesize their metamorphic
abilities. "Unfortunately," she admitted.

Miranda nodded. "What was her accomplice's name, again?" she
inquired rhetorically, "Oh yes. Victor. Strange that someone like
him would be so close to someone like her."

"You mean because he's so attractive?" inquired Misty, with a

"Yeah, I suppose I'm just being superficial," the woman agreed
thoughtfully, "but it does make me wonder why, if she can change
her face, she doesn't wear a more pleasant one."

"Bones," replied Misty thoughtfully, "A while back I- 'We'; met
this girl who specialized in training dittos. They're just globs
of pinkish goo in their true form, and even when they transform
they're really only imitating solidity. Maybe Kathy's actual
facial structure makes it so she can't improve her looks, just
change them."

"Makes sense, I suppose," agreed Miranda with a shrug, glancing
down at the now snoozing Nezumi, "It's not a big limitation, but
it means that there's only so many faces she can wear, right?"

"At least two others that we know of," added Misty, breaking her
reverie and looking up at Miranda until the courier turned to face

"Yes, the one she wore at the Sylph Co installation, and the one
she showed up with today," Miranda paused for a moment, turning to
look into Misty's eyes, searching for the moral support she knew
she'd find, "But I suppose that Kathy was right. If she'd had that
ability the day she went after Selece and Undine, my father would
probably still be alive."

"No," said Misty sadly, "I think she was right. Kathy probably
would have wanted no witnesses irregardless of her face changing
power. Or worse, she might simply have impersonated your parent's
voices and lured the dragons out into a trap. I've seen that trick

"I hadn't thought of it that way," said Miranda sadly, staring at
the ground at her feet.

"I, I'm sorry..." whispered Misty, searching Miranda's eyes for
the tears that didn't seem to want to come.

"No, it's alright," assured Miranda, forcing a weak smile to her
lips, "You've given me the strength to move on. And now that I
know she's here in this city somewhere, there's finally some hope
that'll I'll catch up to her. But most importantly, my love,
you've shown me two very important things."

"And what are they?" inquired Misty, her heart feeling as though
it were lodged in her throat, as a mix of uncertain emotions
fought for supremacy within her.

Miranda's smile returned, and her gray eyes filled with love as
she spoke. "You've shown me how easy it is to fall in love a
second time," she explained, giving Misty a playfully teasing kiss
upon her nose, "And you've shown me something far more important
than just revenge. No one else has ever done that."

"You've been in love before?" inquired Misty, inwardly chastising
herself for the sudden surge of jealously she felt.

Miranda nodded, smiling sadly. "Yes," she admitted guiltily, "Long
before I even knew you existed, "That's one reason why it bothered
me to see poorly Ash treated you. I sorta know what it's like..."

Misty's eyes went wide for a moment as the revelation sank in.
"How long were you together?" she inquired nervously, not
completely certain if she really wanted know, but willing to talk
about anything that would take Miranda's mind off Kathy.

"Five, five months," answered Miranda hesitantly, suddenly looking
away sadly, "Misty, I..."


"I promise not to leave you like that," said Miranda rather
quickly, turning back to meet her beloved's discerning gaze once
more, "And that poem I wrote, just for you. It was more than a
promise; it's an oath. You're the only I'll be with so long as
we're together."

Misty reached up, careful not to disturb Nezumi, and put both arms
around Miranda. "Your previous lover," she inquired softly,
without malice, only concerned love, "Was unfaithful?"

Miranda nodded. "I really should have confided in you sooner," she
responded, guiltily, "But it's something I've put far behind me.
It was only yesterday when your sister tried to seduce me that it
all came back to me. I- I don't think I've ever felt that
horrible. Even though I didn't do anything, I felt... I felt just
like I had done something. Is this making any sense whatsoever?"

Misty's smile was reassuring, as she gave Miranda a small kiss.
"Yes," she agreed with a little nod, "And I don't want you to
worry about it. I have no more right to be jealous of this person
that I've never even met, than you have to be Ash, right?"

Miranda found it nearly impossible not to smile, and Misty
chuckled at the woman's attempt not to. "You're right," she
agreed, smiling broadly as she glanced at Misty overtop of her
glasses, "I bow to your superior logic, M'Lady."

"So we're even, then?" laughed Misty, giving Miranda an impulsive

"Mmm, mostly..." responded Miranda, glancing around
conspiratorially, "But I think this is where a horde of ex lovers
are supposed to come streaming out the woodwork."

"And if they do?" inquired Misty in a mock tone of suspicion.

"Then I'll banish every last one from my site!" assured Miranda,
announcing it as though it were a proclamation.

"Good!" laughed Misty, kissing her lover again, "But one question.
How many people have you been with?"

Miranda's mirth suddenly vanished once more as her stomach started
becoming used to the emotional roller coaster the day was
becoming. "In total? Three," she admitted solemnly, somehow
finding the strength to not break eye contact, "But the second one
was more like therapy."

"Oooh, a rebound relationship," teased Misty, desperately hiding
her sudden feeling of insecurity.

"Kinda," agreed Miranda, feeling both embarrassed and guilty, "But
it was more like someone not being able to stand seeing me having
such a difficult time. I don't regret that 'relationship' and
perhaps because of it, I know that I'll never regret this one."

Misty nodded, and Miranda could see that she was thinking hard
about something. "Well, you're the first person I've ever 'been'
with," she admitted, "But now I can't help wonder if you might
compare me to the others..."

"Oh, I do!" laughed Miranda with a mischievous grin, catching
Misty off guard, "And they were terrible lovers compared to you!"

It took a moment for Misty's brain to shift tracks as Miranda
found both her hands and kissed them both. "But I can think of
about ten or so someone's you were with long before you found me,"
she teased, smiling as Misty's eyes went wide with sudden

"T-Ten?!" Misty stammered as the laughing courier took hold of her
index finger.

"Yup!" agreed Miranda, waggling the captured digit, "Here's one

"Oh-!" exclaimed Misty, not having time to be embarrassed before
Miranda grabbed her next finger.

"And here's another!" exclaimed Miranda mirthfully, giving the
finger a playful tug before moving on, "And another! And another!
And another-!"

"Hey!" laughed Misty, laughing uncontrollably as Miranda tugged at
her fingers and proclaimed them to be another of her secret
lovers, "You're embarrassing me!"

"Then fight back," laughed Miranda, grabbing Misty's thumb, "Oh! I
didn't know he was you're type, Misty!"

"You-!" the trainer laughed yanking back her hand before darting
them forward, finding Miranda's ribs almost instantly.

"No-!" shrieked Miranda, laughing and hardly caring how silly she
sounded, as Misty's fingers ruthlessly tickled her sides, "Hey, no

"Oooh!" teased Misty as Nezumi managed to extricate himself and
promptly hid underneath the bench where it was reasonably safe, "I
didn't know you were ticklish!"

"I'm not!" laughed Miranda, not even trying to make the lie sound
convincing as she was forced onto her back into a near fetal
position by Misty's tickling tactic.

"Yeah, and I hate ice-cream!" countered Misty, leaning over
Miranda and stopping short of kissing her, yet not letting up,
"You know, if you kiss me, I'll stop."

Miranda managed to open one eye, and desperately tried to bring
her lips together. "You-!" she gasped, laughing as she struggled
to even raise her head enough, "You're so mean!"

"Come on," teased Misty, smiling broadly as her fingers wriggled
their way down Miranda's sides, "You can do it!"

"Um, would you two like to be alone...?" came a familiar half
concerned, half amused voice, breaking Misty's concentration, and
giving Miranda a moment to breath.

"Uncle Frank!" Miranda exclaimed theatrically from her awkward
position, her arms and legs out at odd, uncomfortable angles as
she turned her head to face the Pokeforce Officer, "It's not what
you think!"

"Oh Miranda!" the cop replied with equal melodrama, throwing the
back of his and against his forehead, "What will I tell the

"That you're both completely crazy?" offered Misty with an amused
smile as she rested her head on Miranda's chest as her lover
caught her breath.

"Guilty as charged!" laughed Frank as his growlithe peeked out
from behind him, "But I just thought you both might like to know
that Jenny's fine, and the perp's awake if you'd like to talk to

"You, you'd let me?" inquired Miranda, her tone suddenly serious,
here teary ears going wide with astonished endearment.

"Hey, how can I say no to my favorite niece?" inquired Frank
stepping aside as Nezumi crept out of hiding and ran over to Bow.

"I'm your only niece!" laughed Miranda pushing herself and Misty
up to a more dignified position as the two pokemon got

"And even then," she continued secretively, "That's conditional."

"I-! Ah-!" stammered Frank, clutching his heart and looking hurt,
"You'd stop calling me 'Uncle'? Miri, how could you?!"

"You know I wouldn't do that," assured Miranda glancing down at
Nezumi who seemed rather annoyed about having wipe growlithe
slobber off himself, "You're my favorite uncle first, and my
favorite friend of the family second. But if you'd just have
married Aunt Laurna..."

"Okay!" exclaimed Frank, clapping his hands together loudly, "Who
wants to go down to the station and interrogate criminals?!"

"Someone's avoiding the subject," chuckled Misty under her breath
and trying not to be too embarrassed about getting caught in such
an awkward position.

"Long story," assured Miranda with a smile as Bow began running
around Frank's feet excitedly at her trainer's use of the word
'Go', "Ask me later..."
Chapter XI

As they entered the small, poorly lit cellblock, the three human's
and their pokemon could hear James' quiet muttering echoing off
the gray painted stone walls. But, as they approached, their
footsteps echoed as well, causing the prisoner to halt his quiet
sobbing as he realized that he wasn't alone.

"There he is," commented Frank, idly motioning to the third of the
six cell lock-up, causing James to stand up and come to see who
his visitors were.

"I won't tell you anything!" the Rocket promised, holding one of
the iron bars as he clenched his other fist, shaking it in defiant
melodrama, "You won't get anything out of me! I am not a number!"

"Not even in exchange for leniency?" inquired Miranda, stepping
forward and giving him a dark look as Frank muttered something
about, "Be quiet #6.".

"Never," replied James defiantly, folding his arms and turning
away, "I won't betray my friends."

"Some friends," chuckled Frank, soliciting a chuckle from his

"You'll see!" announced James turning back to the group and
rattling the bars of his cell again, "Jessie and Meowth will get
me out of here; just you wait!"

Both Miranda and Nezumi shook their heads in dismay as the Rocket
began laughing in what was supposed to be a sinister manner. "Ra.
Rattata, nez," commented Nezumi, leaning back on his haunches and
shaking his little head dismissively.

"What?!" demanded James, glaring at the rattata with sudden
irritation, "What did that little rat-fink say about me?!"

Miranda folded her arms across her chest and smirked. "Only that
you really have to work on your maniacal laughter," she commented,
not bothering to hide her contempt for the organization the man
belonged to, or the evil they represented, "He said he's heard
better villain laughs out of slowpokes."

James glared angrily at Nezumi for a moment before stepping back
and taking a deep breath. "I'll show you!" he exclaimed before
filling the room with his off-key, rather unconvincing laughter.

"Has he always been this way?" inquired Frank as Bow did her best
to cover her ears and let out a long whine.

Misty nodded. "From day one, I'm afraid," she explained in dismay,
"I'm not even sure why he bothers."

"Why do I bother?!" demanded James, breaking off his laughter to
glare at the girl angrily, "How dare you insult me like that! I
have a perfectly good villain laugh!"

"I've heard better," replied Miranda skeptically as the others
nodded in agreement.

James gave them an imploring look for a moment before finally
giving up. "Oh, you're right," the man muttered, sliding his hands
down the iron bars as he sank to his knees, "I'm just no good at

"Hm. Then perhaps we can make a deal," said Miranda thoughtfully.

"Oh?" responded everyone in the room, their collective surprise
nearly taking on a palatable quality.

Miranda nodded carefully, and took out a black and gray pokeball.
"Yes," she answered, choosing her words carefully as the ball
expanded from it's storage size to active status, "If your willing
to give us some information Kathy Forester."

James cringed visibly, his eyes betraying a sudden fear. "Her?" he
asked weakly, a touch of hysterical laughter entering his voice,
"Why would you want to know anything about her?"

"Because it was HER pokemon that busted up MY car!" growled Frank,
soliciting a bark of agreement from Bow, and causing James to fall
backwards before crawling back across the floor to escape their
sudden animosity.

"That too," agreed Miranda, "But my reasons are my own. That
machoke was Tashiro, registered to Dr. Katherine J. Forester of
Team Rocket. Just tell me where I can find her, and her partner,
and I'll have my gast- Err, haunter teach you to laugh properly."

James's eyes went wide with disbelief as a meek grin crossed his
face. "Really...?" he inquired sheepishly.

Miranda nodded, glancing at Misty. "Can we trust him to keep up
his end of the bargain?" she inquired.

"No way," she responded, shaking her head and glaring at the
prisoner, "I've never seen him keep a promise in his life!"

"That's not very fair," pouted James, looking imploringly up at
Frank, "Shouldn't you arrest her for slander, Officer? Listen to
what that little twerp's saying about me!"

"I really don't think so," chuckled Frank, smiling in amusement as
Misty quickly grabbed Miranda's arms from behind, holding her back
from doing anything rash.

"Twerp?!" the courier demanded, her anger flaring at the insult,
"How dare you?! You wanna be bishonin!"

"Now that's just mean," replied Frank with a smile, trying not to
enjoy the banter too much.

"Yeah!" agreed James, nearly on the verge of tears, "I'll have you
know that I went to the very best evil bishonin school in all the
land! The fact that I flunked out not withstanding..."

"Irregardless," replied Misty, relaxing her grip as Miranda calmed
down a notch, "I think it's better that you tell us what we want
to know first."

"And why should I trust you?" inquired James, jumping to his feet
and glancing suspiciously at his old adversary.

"Um, because we're the good guys?" offered Frank.

"Oh, well that's true," sighed James, contemplating the floor at
his feet, "Very well them, she's going to be a the of 'Ces Batards
De L'autre Cote De La Rue'."

"That fancy-shmancy restaurant that's opening?" inquired Frank,
glancing at Miranda who nodded.

"Yes," she agreed, glancing over her shoulder at the bemused
Pokeforce Officer, "The prize for winning that poetry contest we
were in was dinner for two opening night."

"That's right," added James sadly, his head bowed, "a free dinner
for two at the fanciest, classiest, most overpriced restaurant
this side of Saffron City. I was going to go there with Jessie...
We haven't eaten properly in weeks! It's just so unfair, Officer.
I could have been a contender!"

"Yeah, whatever, but it's still no excuse to steal some poor guy's
pikachu," replied Frank sternly, almost behaving like a real cop
for once.

Misty cringed a little at the mention of the 'poor guy' and his
pikachu, but managed to keep her voice level as Miranda held up
Wraith's peculiarly coloured pokeball.

"You can trust us," promised Miranda with a smirk, "It's my
pokemon I'd be afraid of."

James turned pale and fell backwards onto the floor once again as
the pokeball split down the middle and the dark image of a haunter
shimmered into existence just above it. "Oh no..." he stammered,
fear creeping down his spine and clawing at his heart, "Not

Wraith, however, didn't seem interested in the incarcerated man;
instead he turned to his trainer with a proud smile, and held his
hands before him. "Haunt!" he exclaimed happily, spinning his
disembodied palms in the air for Miranda to inspect.

"They're lovely," replied Miranda sweetly, taking one of her
haunter's hands in her own and turning him around slowly so that
Wraith faced James, "But right now I need you to do me one more
little, tiny favor."

"Haunt?" inquired Wraith, one of his eyes moving around to the
back, independent of the laws that governed corporeal beings and
stared at Miranda curiously.

"Teach this man to laugh manically," his trainer instructed,
making the haunter burst out laughing.

"No, no!" chuckled, not noticing as Misty took a few steps back,
Bow let out a low whine, and Frank kept his eye on her ghostly
pokemon, "Not like that, like you do when you REALLY want to scare

"Haun, wra!" agreed Wraith, nodding as best he could as his eye
swiveled the rest of the way around and he began to float towards
James with an evil grin.

"What-? What does it want!?" demanded James, cowering against the
far wall, shivering at the thought of getting to close to Wraith.

"He just wants to communicate with you directly," Miranda
explained as though it were nothing, "When you feel his mind touch
yours, just let it in. Don't worry, though, he's not a true
psychic, so human minds are still pretty alien to him. Your
thoughts will still be your own. Wraith's just going to talk in
your mind for bit."

From her shoulder, Nezumi chuckled at the comment, before catching
James's eye and giving his own sinister grin. "Raaaaa!" the
rattata exclaimed, doing his best ghost impression as he stood on
his hind legs and reached his forepaws into the air dramatically.

"Nooo!" shrieked James, his back pressed against the far wall as
he felt something dark press against his mind. Somewhere, beyond
his actual range of hearing, the Rocket could hear a quiet voice
whispering over and over again.

"Just don't fight it," ordered Miranda sternly as Wraith passed
through the bars of the cell as though they weren't even there,
"he won't hurt you. You're not the one responsible for what
happened to my family."

One of Wraith's eyes swiveled around to look at his trainer again.
There was a curious sympathy in the single, strange looking eye,
and Miranda could only smile lovingly back.

'Before you, I had no one to chase away my nightmares,' thought
Miranda in response to the gentle touch she felt against her mind,
'Thank you, dearest.'

The haunter pursed his lips for a moment, almost blushing as both
eyes turned to focus on James. "Haunter!" he ordered in a loud
voice, an ethereal wind suddenly stirring up all around him, and
blowing the human up against the wall even harder.

"Alright! Alright!" pleaded James, fighting against the wind only
he could feel, covering his ears against its sinister howl that
only he could hear, and shutting his eyes against horrible images
that only he could see, "I'll let you in, just make it stop!"

"Stop?" inquired Frank, blinking loudly and trying to figure out
what the borderline hysterical man was babbling about.

"Illusions," explained Misty with a shudder as she crept back up
behind Miranda and peeked around at the scene, "Wraith's illusions
must be stronger since he evolved."

"Indeed!" replied Miranda, her tone that of a proud mother,
"Wraith is certainly extraordinary."

"Ra," commented Nezumi indignantly, causing Miranda to laugh and
reach up to scratch the top of his head with her index finger

"But you're still my favorite," she promised, making the rattata
smile happily as he leaned against her neck and gave a contented

"Grow? inquired Bow a hint of jealousy in her voice as she glanced
up at Frank,

The cop sighed and leaned down to scratch his growlithe's ears.
"You really are a pain, you know that!" he told her, trying not to
laugh as she licked his face.

"Gee," commented Misty, deciding not to watch what the haunter was
doing, "Makes you wonder who the trainer is."

Miranda laughed in agreement, reaching behind her to take Misty's
hand. "We all have our own ways of doing things, love," she
replied with a reassuring smile, glancing over at James as he
tried to laugh once more.

"I know," responded Misty reluctantly, slipping her fingers
through Miranda's as she stepped closer to the growlithe, "I'm
just not sure that I'm totally comfortable being so close to
Wraith in such a confined space right now."

Miranda nodded keeping half an eye on Wraith as he covered his
eyes and rotated his body from side to side in lieu of being able
to shake his head in dismay.

"You don't have to stay if you don't want to," the courier
offered, feeling deeply guilty for making Misty feel

"No, no," her beloved assured, kneeling before the growlithe and
holding out her hands, "It's okay. Hi there, Bow. Feeling ignored,
are ya?"

Miranda nodded and turned her attention back to Wraith and James,
concentrating on the task at hand. "See the problem?" she
inquired, and Wraith nodded in agreement.

"L-look," stammered James, "maybe this isn't such a great idea."

"Just relax," commented Miranda in an annoyed tone, "and just
listen to what Wraith has to say. I'll be right here to keep him
from doing anything... Rash."

Wraith turned back to James chuckling. 'Don't you feel it, human?'
he inquired directly into the man's mind, 'the urge to laugh? To
shake loose the cobwebs in your mind and soul? The need to fill
the world with your thunderous laughter!?"

James desperately wanted to take a step back as the ghost hovered
closer, but the cold stone wall bared his path. "I-! I-!" he
stammered, feeling what could best be defined as Wraith's hot
breath upon his face, yet he wasn't entirely certain as to how
that was even possible, "I do! I really do! Just leave me alone!"

Wraith grinned malevolently before letting loose with a deep,
thunderous laughter so maniacally sinister that it even made
Miranda jump about a foot in the air and clutch her heart.

Behind her the courier heard Misty scream and Frank curse as Bow
started barking and Nezumi fell off her shoulder, grabbing hold of
her ponytail just in time.

"Wraith!" she exclaimed, breathing heavily as she tried to slow
her pulse.

"Haunt...?" replied Wraith meekly, turning around and floating
over to his trainer with his hands together in front of his face
in a gesture of meekness.

"Ap-Apologize to Misty!" was the only thing she could think of to
say as the ghost hovered a little lower and looked up at her, his
eyes going wide in an attempt to look cute.

"It- it's okay," stammered Misty as Miranda turned to face her,
"I- I think he could probably use that as a new technique!"

"Yeah!" agreed Frank, laughing as the primal fear exited his mind,
"That was great! It was like the ghost version of the 'Roar'

"Lithe," muttered Bow in reluctant agreement, glaring up at the
ghost with little flames dancing along her bared teeth.

"Wra?" inquired Wraith peeking around Miranda as his disembodied
hand phased through his trainer's torso and took gentle hold of

"Absolutely!" assured Frank, petting Bow to try to calm her down,
"Ms. Lilcamp, you do have quite the ghost. Just try to tone him
down a little."

Miranda nodded as Wraith deposited Nezumi back on her shoulder.
"Are you both okay, though?" she asked, glancing at Misty and the

"I'll be fine," responded Misty, taking a deep breath as Miranda
walked over and took hold of her shoulders, "I'm just not used to
him yet."

"I guess it's a Lav'Brat thing," Miranda commented as Misty stood
up and hugged her, "I'm sorry, though. I really hate scaring you."

"It's fine, it's fine," repeated Misty, looking up at Miranda
before reaching up to pet Nezumi, "And you're okay too, right?"

The rattata grinned sarcastically and nodded before turning to
Wraith and shaking a small claw at him. In response, the haunter
looked even more downcast, yet smiled just enough for Nezumi to

"Alright then," said Miranda with a wary sigh, "Let's get back at
it. Wraith, wake up James and try again."

The haunter chuckled, as he turned to the unconscious human.
'Wow!" he thought with grim satisfaction, coupled with amazement,
"Did I do that?! Dang, I'm good!'

James suddenly felt insatiably hungry, more so than he had in
days. With an unhappy grumble, he stretched out and rubbed his
eyes. "Another day, another lost pikachu he muttered, opening his
eyes to the sight of Wraith hovering before him with one of his
strange dark hands missing, "Ah! Oh no! It's a nightmare!"

'No actually,' chuckled Wraith in his mind, suddenly drawing his
missing hand out of James forehead, 'Those are much more tasty!'

With a look of disgusted horror, the man curled into the fetal
position at the sight of what Wraith held in his hand. "Ah! Put it
back! Put it back!" he cried as the haunter held what appeared to
his brain.

The ghost merely chucked, poking at the gray matter with his free
hand, and giggling as James stopped feeling hungry, and started
feeling positively euphoric. "No!" the human pleaded giddily, "Not

"Wraith, knock it off," ordered Miranda, not having to see the
illusion to know what her ghost was up to.

Wraith gave a pouty look and tossed the chimerical brain over his
shoulder, causing it to shatter into small fragments of coloured
light. 'Now then,' he instructed, pulling out his real hand, and
ceasing his literal 'playing with James's brain', 'Listen up. For
a really good maniacal laugh, you have to start with proper
breathing. No, no, hold your stomach in, the vibrations come from
your chest, not your gut. But that's where you have to feel it.
Yes, that's it! Now, push it out in long waves..."

James nodded, concentrating on his breathing for several moments,
and almost hyperventilating in the process. "Like this?" he
inquired, holding his stomach in as he went through the motions.

'Exactly!' cackled Wraith, rubbing his hands together with glee
before looking down at them proudly, 'Oh, I don't know what I did
without these! Now then, let's try it with the laughter.'

James nodded, taking on a huge grin as he threw his head back and
did his best to emulated Wraith's truly supernatural laughing

'No, no, no! You're doing it all wrong!' hissed Wraith in
irritation and reached his hand into James's chest, 'Here, I'll
show you..."

"What-? What are you doing?!" exclaimed James, panicking as usual.

'Look, you bag of bones,' he replied irritably as he stared
directly into the man's eyes, and almost into his very soul, 'If
we're going to work together, you're going to firstly, have to co-
operate, and secondly, NEVER ask my that question. You probably
don't want to know.'

James nodded, trying to hold back his tears as Wraith looked to
one side and began nibbling his tongue thoughtfully. 'Oh! Here we
go,' he replied gritting his ethereal teeth as James felt
something odd within his chest, 'Now, just trust me, and follow
the feeling with your laugher. Now, as you do this, imagine your
greatest moment of triumph! The columniation of all your dreams!
See in your mind, all your goals achieved!'

The man sighed heavily, abandoning all hope, but thankful that
this ghost wasn't as bad as the others who'd used him as a chew
toy over the years.

After taking a deep breath, James slowly let his laughter build,
all the while imagining a glass cage held firmly in his hands.
Within it, was Pikachu. The lightning rodent looked up at him
imploringly and with a happy grin, he opened the cage. With that,
Pikachu leapt into his arms, making happy sounds as Meowth
translated that he wanted James to be his new trainer. That he
wanted nothing to do with the twerp who had forced him to hurt the
one human he truly respected. Beneath him, James envisioned Ash
screaming and yelling in betrayal, desperately ordering Pikachu to
thunder-shock the three Rockets, but the pokemon would have
nothing to do with it.

'Now,' whispered Wraith, 'Feel the laughter. BE the laughter...
Push it up, one wave at a time. You're not just filling the air
with sonic vibrations; you're telling the world that you, and you
alone have done what no one has ever succeeded in doing before!
You're the best, you're number one! Tell not just this world, but
also the entire universe! Let your laughter ring through all the
dimensions your mind can fathom and beyond!!!'

James closed his eyes, filtering out all other distractions; the
quiet murmur of the other human's, the oppressive cold of the
concrete floor beneath him, the terrible rash his fire-proof, yet
not non-carcinogenic Team Rocket uniform was giving him...
Instead, he focused his mind on the image of finally being able to
tell Augustus Giovanni that he'd finally captured Pikachu. That
he'd finally proven to himself, to his boss, and most importantly
to Jessie, that he was indeed, a true villain!

The laughter started out as more of a quiet giggle, centered deep
in his throat. The man could feel the odd tingling sensation
slowly rising as he began, and he followed the feeling with his
laughter as it rose through his throat. Louder and louder the
crescendo of maniacal laughter became, rising and falling in waves
as it exited his mouth and filled the room with it's echoing,
satisfying quality, filling James with an as yet unfelt euphoria.

'That's it! That's it!' exclaimed Wraith excitedly, clapping his
hands together, but only really succeeding in making odd, muffled
squishing sounds, 'You see?! I knew you could do it, human! Way to

As the last notes fell from his lips, James leaned forward to
catch his breath. He then pulled in his legs and hugged them
against his chest as he wallowed in the feeling of deep
satisfaction that filled his very being. "Amazing..." he muttered,
shaking his head in disbelief, "I never knew I had in me!"

"Rattata!" agreed Nezumi calling out loudly and causing James to
look up at the onlookers.

"Well I'm impressed," commented Misty with a look of honest
astonishment as she politely applauded.

"Thank you!" exclaimed James, leaping to his feet and bowing
deeply, "Thank you all!"

"This is so twisted," laughed Miranda, putting an arm around Misty
and giving her half a hug as tears of joy filled the villain's
eyes, "But I think I like it!"

"Yup," commented Frank, shaking his head and trying not to laugh,
"This almost makes getting my car busted up worth it. Almost..."

Chapter XII

The North side park was annoyingly crowded as the three walked the
short distance across the soft grass to one of the few free picnic
tables. All around them, the voices of tourist and native
Ceruleans echoed in their ears as children ran about and wind blew
the tops of the abundant shade giving trees far above their heads.

"This place was a real forest when I was growing up," commented
Misty sadly as she set down her tray, "It's scary sometimes how
things change when you leave and come back after such a long

Frank nodded as he sat down across from Miranda as she sat beside
Misty. "Yeah, but I guess you have that problem every year," he
agreed, glancing at Miranda.

"Not really," said the woman with a shrug, filling her teacup as
Nezumi grabbed several fries off Frank's tray and disappeared
under the table, "But then, not much changes in Lavender from year
to year. mom still wants me to spend more time at home, a few more
morons think they can just walk into the tower and capture ghosts,
and Aunt Laurna wonders why you left her at the alter."

Frank nearly choked on his hamburger, causing Misty to smile and
try not to laugh. "Hey, I said I'd talk about that later," he
replied nervously, pounding his chest to make sure he didn't

"It is later," persisted Miranda with a knowing smile as she
picked up her father's handleless cup and took a sip of her tea.

Frank sighed heavily and nodded. "Look, I really have no excuse,"
he replied, staring down at his food and linking his fingers in
front of him before glancing up at Miranda apologetically, "As I
said, things just got weird between us. Too routine, I suppose. I
dunno, I just had this image in my mind of turning into one of
those boring middle-aged men with almost no hair, and my pants
pulled up to my neck. And I don't even want to think about what
our kids would turn out like! Especially with all those ghosts she
has. Also, Laurna's just too... Too..."

"Nice?" offered Miranda, her tone serious but compassionate.

Her uncle nodded, glancing up at her before speaking. "Yeah, I
just didn't want to change her," he explained, "Here was this
wonderful woman who was everything I could ever want, and then
there was me, her complete opposite. Where as she has that shy,
mysterious quality to her, I'm Mr. Extrovert. Where she's
successful, well-liked and smart, I always react without thinking,
I wasn't able to hold down a real job until I joined the
Pokeforce, and half the people in Lavender thought I was crazy!
Where Laurna's all sweet and innocent, I'm... Um, uh..."

"A pervert?" offered Misty with a grin, causing Frank to laugh.
"That's it!" he admitted, his usual mirth returning immediately,
"I guess I just couldn't stand the thought of 'corrupting' her,
you know?"

"Wow," chuckled Miranda sympathetically as she reached across the
table and gave her Uncle's hands a reassuring squeeze, "As much as
you try to deny it, you are a gentleman."

"What?!" exclaimed Frank, sitting up straight and looking around
nervously, causing his companions to laugh, "Who told you...?!"


Beneath the picnic table, Nezumi leapt off the bench seat and
grinned up at Bow as she stared expectantly up at her trainer.
"Yo, pyro-puppy!" he called holding out a French fry, "Ya hungry?"

Bow glanced at the rattata and gave him an alarmed look. "Y-yes,"
she stammered, taking a step back, "But..."

"What?" asked Nezumi, taking a bite from the other fry, "They're

Bow glanced up at Frank in time to see him reach under the table
with several small bits of what used to be a French fry in his
hand. "There!" the growlithe explained, happily wagging her fuzzy
tail, "That's the way to serve food."

"What? All cut up into reeeeeeally tiny pieces?" commented Nezumi
quizzically, taking a bite of the second potato stick and chewing
loudly, "Man, you're one spoiled growlithe!"

"Gee," replied Bow, chewing her food with the utmost of dignity
and grace, "Next you'll be saying I shouldn't ask for help and
just jump onto the couch on my own! What? Were you raised in


"So," asked Frank as the three finished their food, "Do you think
they'll be at the restaurant's opening tonight?"

"I wouldn't doubt it," responded Miranda with a shrug, "I doubt
that that James guy lied about that. Kathy did have her pokemon
try to kill him after all."

"I guess Rockets just play for keeps," commented Frank, glancing
down as his watch chimed. "Hm, looks like Jen's going to be
alright," he chuckled, switching back from the pager setting to

"Is it a threat or a love letter?" teased Miranda, grinning slyly
as her uncle looked distressed for a moment.

"With her? Both!" he laughed, dropping his hands on the table
before getting to his feet, and glancing at his lunch companions,
"Anyway, I'd best get down there and see how she is, otherwise
I'll never hear the end of it... Bow! Let's go, girl!"

"Have fun," his niece chuckled as Bow ran out from under the table
and ran around his feet excitedly, "Oh, and thanks for the help."

"Twern't nothin' ma'am," Frank replied with a wide grin in his
best cowboy accent before glancing at Misty, "Nice meeting you,
eh. It's good to see Miri happy."

"Just doing my job," Misty laughed, unable to keep a straight face
as she tried to make it seem like a huge chore.

"Oh, and before I forget," said Frank, turning back to them with a
wide grin as Bow ran around him barking at him to hurry up, "I'll
be at the restaurant tonight."

"Really?" replied Miranda with sudden amused suspicion.

"Yup!" agreed Frank with a nod as he stood a little taller, "Jenny
and myself received invites seein' as we're this city's most
prominent officers."

"Meaning you begged, cajoled, and promised to be good until she
agreed to take you as her date," corrected his niece, smiling as
she saw in his eyes that she was right.

Frank laughed a bit and glanced down at the growlithe. "Come on!"
he teased before waving good-bye and heading off again, "Get your
fur on! Okay, see you there!"

"So," chuckled Miranda, reaching under the table and picking up
Nezumi as she watched her almost Uncle tease Bow by pretending to
get ready to run, "Think we should dress up for this thing? 'Ces
Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue' sounds pretty classy to me.
'Course, I may be assuming that just because the owner seems to be
a bit of a snoot."

Misty looked thoughtful for a moment, glancing over her shoulder
as Miranda laughed when Bow kicked in her 'agility' technique and
ran off so fast she missed it, leaving Frank to laugh and call out
"Fooled you!"

"I suppose," she said a bit sullenly, "But I'm afraid everything
nice in my closet once belonged to one of my sisters or other. But
I suppose I could undo some of the stitching in one a bit to
account for your height-"

"That's not what I meant, dear," assured Miranda, reaching over
and taking Misty's hand in her own, "I meant that perhaps we
should go and pick out something new for us to wear. You've had
enough 'hand-me-downs'. It's time you had something new."

Misty met Miranda's suddenly serious gaze with a look of both
amazed disbelief and admiration. "I- I don't want to drive you
into debt or anything," she stammered, feeling too polite to
simply accept the offer, "I mean, you're already paying my way
wherever we go as is..."

Miranda shrugged. "It's nothing," she assured with a dismissive
wave of her free hand, "Besides, it's been a few months since I
really made my card smoke."

Misty laughed a little as Miranda stood up and extracted herself
for the picnic table. "Oh, and for the record," added the courier,
"I don't think you're 'free loading' or anything. Every day you
give me something money can't buy."


"Your love..."


The sign above the door of the little coffee/seamstress shop on
Clearwater Lane read simply, "Irene's Textile and Coffee Shop".
But the little signs in the window proclaiming, "Pants hemmed
before you can blink!" and "Wedding dresses while you wait!"
didn't tell the whole story.

The proprietor was a friendly looking woman who looked to be in
her late thirties, but her friendly blue eyes, which hid behind
bifocals spoke of a wisdom at least twice that. She wore a
comfortable looking dress whose colour matched her eyes almost
perfectly, with a kind of sleeveless vest over it made of a
courser material. The vest seemed to be something of the
seamstress's version of a tool belt, having dozens of small
pockets that overflowed with buttons and thread, while pins and
needles of various sizes and shapes poked out of it at odd angles.

With a friendly smile and a few kind words, the woman, whose name
actually turned out to be Irene, brought Misty and Miranda to of
the free tables and brought them a pot of Earl Gray tea before
they'd barely had time to open their mouths.

"I'm just a little busy right now," Irene explained in a motherly
tone before scurrying off into the back room so quickly that
neither saw her even move.

"She must hate to be bored, I guess," commented Miranda, glancing
around at the little shop's collection of what appeared to be
homemade art and craft projects.

"My mother was like that," agreed Misty, noting the plushy seel
that rested atop a shelf lined with mostly books on sewing and
several dozen cans of imported coffee grounds, "But she just liked
to travel. She wasn't really all that creative."

"Just couldn't sit still?" inquired Miranda semi-rhetorically,
deciding it would was probably better to use the teacups they'd
been brought rather than spend an hour digging into the bottom of
her backpack for her own and reached for the teapot.

Misty nodded, glancing at the thin beaded curtain that separated
the back room from the main area as the powerful motor of an
industrial sewing machine filled their ears with its rapid
thudding sound. "Just like me, I guess," she agreed once the noise
had ceased, replaced by a few muffled words as Irene spoke a few
unkind words to the machine through a mouth full of needles.

"Well, I'm quite glad you got that trait," commented Miranda as
Irene stepped out of the back room followed by a somewhat
bewildered looking young woman clutching a flat rectangular box
protectively, "It'd have to take a desk job if you hated

Misty nodded, not quite hearing as Irene printed the customer off
an invoice and handed it to her, causing the woman to stammer in
appreciative disbelief. "But-! But-!" she finally managed to say,
"The place over on the other side of town said my wedding dress
would cost me two thousand, five hundred credits, and you're only
charging me two hundred and ten!"

"Well, if it wasn't for her need to travel, I'd probably still be
living at home," continued Misty a little sadly as Irene chuckled
heartily and accepted the woman's card. "But at least some good
came of it," she added rather hastily, smiling up at Miranda's
suddenly sullen expression, "I wouldn't have met you otherwise."

"Actually," corrected Miranda, thinking back, as Irene hurried
over to their table, "We'd have met sooner. Although I'm not sure
we'd be sitting here right now."

Misty's comment was cut short by the proprietor's sudden
appearance. "So! What'll it be, ladies?" she inquired cheerily,
"Just hear for a bite to eat, or do you need something hemmed? I
noticed your jeans need mending, miss."

Miranda gave a bit of a startled look, surprised that the woman
had noticed the holes that were forever forming at the knees of
her jeans. "Um, actually we were looking into getting something to
wear over to that new restaurant tonight."

Irene quickly stifled a negative comment but her disapproval was
subtly evident. "I see," she said, thoughtfully rubbing her chin
for a moment, "Well, I have a book over by the counter if you'd
like to take a look. Just remember, that you can change the
colours, and fabric to your liking. As well as mixing and matching
if you don't find exactly what you're looking for."

"I take it you don't like that place too much," commented Misty as
the woman lead them over to the counter and took out a huge tome.
Its outer cover was made from ancient leather carved with arcane
looking runes and had long ago started fraying at the edges. As it
hit the counter, the book that would have Merlin's grimiore look
like a paperback sent a cloud of dust into the air.

A moment later, and Irene had unlocked the impressive looking
latch with a huge black skeleton key before prying open the volume
to reveal hundreds of thousands of pages. Many had been taken from
pattern books and fashion magazines, most of which had gone out of
print years before Misty or Miranda had been born. Others though
were high quality black and white photographs of people in various
outfits. The fact that most of the people portrayed bore a
resemblance to Irene made them infer that she's used her family to
model her creations.

Irene shrugged as she flipped past a few hundred pages and turned
the tome to face them. "Well, let's just say that I don't think
Chef Troy is totally on the level," said the woman confidentially,
"And I don't trust any restaurant that won't let me see their

"Are you a food critic in your spare time?" inquired Miranda with
a smile, meaning it in jest as Misty flipped through the tome's
pages in amazement.

"Goodness, no!" laughed Irene, reaching under the counter and
pulling out a plastic bottle full of water and taking a sip, "But
I've done my time in my fair share of restaurants, and if they
don't meet my standards, I won't eat there."

"Hey, you aren't..." began Misty, glancing up at the woman with an
amazed looked, causing Irene's grin to broaden as she nodded.

"Yes, that was me," she agreed with a chuckle.

"Am I missing something?" inquired Miranda, glancing at the dress
Misty was indicating.

"Irene had the most famous restaurant in Neon Town closed down for
health violations several years ago," explained Misty with a touch
of awe.

"That was a long time ago, miss, but never underestimate the power
of a mom," added Irene, shaking her head in amusement, "So, is
this the one you'd like?"

Misty glanced over at Miranda questioningly. "Can you afford it?"
she asked quietly, trying to keep her voice down, but Miranda
could see the excitement in her eyes.

"Easily," the woman agreed, unable to keep from smiling as Misty
gripped the counter, nearly unable to contain herself at the
prospect, "Oh, and I guess I'll take this one. In the dark blue if
you have it."

Irene nodded as she sipped her bottled water. "Not a problem," she
assured, motioning for them to follow, "Any ideas about material?
I have everything from burlap to mareep wool!"

"Burlap?!" they both exclaimed at once.

"Just kidding!" laughed Irene as they entered her inner sanctum,
"Now one of you just stand on the stool so I can get your


It seemed to take no time at all for the industrious woman to
acquire their dress sizes, have them both agree on fabric, and
user them out of the comforting clutter of her sewing room.

"This won't take long," assured Irene, insisting that they sit on
the comfortable looking sofa at the far end of the room and
putting their tea on the low table before them before hurrying off

Before they could even get comfortable, however, the woman hurried
out of the back again with a large platter and set it down on the
table before them. "Don't let Chef Troy fool you with his so
called 'International Cuisine'," warned Irene a touch smugly as
her guests stared down in awe at the variety of pastries, cookies,
and various healthier delicacies she'd put before them, "This is
real international food."

Miranda nodded, picking up a square of something that seemed to be
layers of a sweet dark substance separated by baked dough. "This
is Icelandic, isn't it?" she inquired, taking a bite and
immediately feeling her arteries harden as she tasted more sugar
than she usually had in a year.

Irene nodded. "I hope you like it," she said expectantly, her tone
suddenly filled with worry.

"I'm sure we will," assured Misty, trying to contain her joy at
the unaccustomed hospitality, "But I don't think we can eat it

"Hey," chuckled Irene, making her way back to her personal domain,
"No one leaves my shop hungry. But if you need too, I don't mind
the smaller pokemon helping you out if you have any. Just make
sure they don't make a mess."

"Thanks!" called Miranda as the woman disappeared before she could
react, and pulled out two poke balls.

"Time to spoil them, I guess," she said with a wary sigh as Misty
tried one of the half circle shaped doughy things near the center
and made approving noises at the apple/cinnamon flavor, "Umi!
Nezumi! Lunch break!"

The two pokemon materialized on the floor, but only Umi was
visible, rearing up like the serpent she was to look at Miranda
questioningly for a moment before eying the food. As her strangely
glowing eyes shifted from purple to bright gold, Nezumi climbed up
her neck and leaned forward as he sat atop the dratini's head.

"Nez, ra?" he inquired, glancing up at his trainer as she sat back
with a handful of different things on a small plate.

"Fang Fa- Err, I mean Wraith, doesn't eat, dear," the woman
reminded, "Well, 'food' anyway... Besides, he's scared enough
people for one week."

"Tatta," replied Nezumi with a shrug, before diving off Umi's head
and grabbing pieces of three different kinds of cheese, one in
each front paw, and one in his mouth.

"His nickname for Wraith is as colourful as his for yours, I take
it?" laughed Misty as Nezumi made a compete pig of himself while
Umi daintily sampled a piece of one of the offensive smelling, but
pleasingly sliced kielbasa.

"'Fang Face'," agreed Miranda, quickly chewing and swallowing a
piece of something she was certain wasn't in the plant or animal
kingdoms when it was alive, but still tasted wonderful, "Umi's
'Draco Babe'."

"I hate to think what he calls my pokemon."

Nezumi glanced up and chuckled as he snatched away the cracker Umi
was reaching for, grinning and tossing it back at her when she
glared at him with fiercely swirling red eyes.

"'The Overgrown Magikarp', 'Shady' and 'Fish-Face'."

"Fish-Face?!" exclaimed Misty angrily, leaning down and glaring at
the rattata.

"Nez!?" he replied, spitting out a mouthful of gouda as he stood
on his hind legs and gave her a look of 'What's you're point?'.

"Gee, I can't wait 'till you get to know the other three,"
grumbled Misty, leaning back and glowering at Nezumi in mock anger
as Miranda laughed.

"He knows you too well," she chuckled, taking a sip of the cooling
tea, "He'd be running for his pokeball if he thought you were
really mad at him."

"Am I really that easy to read?" the trainer inquired, reaching
out and scratching Nezumi on the head and making him smile
contentedly as Umi gave him a jealous look.

"Animals are always more in sync with emotions than we are,"
explained Irene, appearing beside the table as if by magic, "Now,
if I could just borrow you both for a half a second, I have to get
you to try these on so I can make the final adjustments."

"Already?!" inquired Miranda, astounded as she glanced at her
watch, "Wow..."

Irene shrugged and headed back into her workshop. "Ah! It's easy,"
she replied, her voice suddenly muffled by the curtain, "I used to
just make myself new clothes before going to work in the morning
if I couldn't find anything that I felt like wearing that day. Now
come on, this won't take long."

True to her word, the dress fitting was over almost before it
began. One moment Miranda was standing atop the stool, feeling a
little awkward and surprised at herself for even suggesting the
idea in the first place, and the next she was sliding back into
her normal clothes while Irene slid pins through the fabric of
Misty's brightly coloured dress faster than she could follow, but
still getting the fit just right.

"All done!" the woman announced, helping Misty get out of the
garment without getting stabbed a dozen times, "Just give me a few

Miranda blinked, shaking her head in amazement at the speed and
efficiency at which the woman worked. "Makes me feel out of breath
just watching her," she whispered to Misty as they left the room,
causing the girl to chuckle.

"But she does a good job, apparently," agreed Misty, smiling as
they found the two pokemon in a semi-conscious state lying on the

Nezumi was lying on his back, holding his bloated stomach, glanced
up at the humans as they entered. He smiled and tried to squeak
out a reply, but belched loudly instead, waking Umi from her

"Had enough?" inquired Miranda, giving Umi's eye ridges a gentle
scratch before sitting down trying to find something the two
hadn't devoured completely, "Gee, you'd think I never feed you

"Um, I know I don't want to know this," said Misty, sitting down
and looking questioningly at the nearly empty platter, "But
earlier you said 'Wraith doesn't eat. Food anyway.' Um, do I even
want to know what he does eat?"

Miranda chuckled, leaning in close to Misty so that her lips
nearly touched her lover's hear. "Dreams," she whispered quietly,
her voice sounding mysterious, "Especially bad ones..." She then
leaned back, letting her voice trail off as Misty turned to face

"Is that why you have him?" she asked, her tone sounding

The woman shrugged. "Not really," she explained, "But it's one of
the reasons I kept him. After he stopped being a royal pain in the
butt, I found that he could take care of a little problem that I
was having. Chronic nightmares."

"I used to have those," sympathized Misty, taking her lover's hand
and giving is a squeeze, "I suppose we have something else in
common then."

Miranda nodded slowly. "Were they about your parents?" she asked

"Yes and no," her lover replied, leaning against Miranda and
closing her eyes as she held her, "Mostly it was just me. All
alone in a leaky boat during a storm, calling out to them. They
never heard me, and I never found them, but the dreams stopped
once I'd left home."

"I'm surprised you still love the water so much," Miranda
commented quietly, feeling saddened that there was yet another
down point in Misty's life she wasn't there to help fix.

"Oh, it wasn't the water I was afraid of," she corrected, "It
wasn't even the storm really. It was just the feeling of isolation
and being trapped. Knowing that I couldn't just go out and search
for them made me feel so helpless. And I hate that feeling. Not
being in control of my own destiny, not being able to make my own
choices without being told what do to three people who can't even
make proper decisions in their own selfish lives."

"I can't imagine what that's like," confessed Miranda, holding
Misty closer, "But whatever you decide to do in the future, I'll
support you."

"I know, Miri," whispered Misty, looking up at Miranda and smiling
happily, "That's one reason I love you."

Misty kissed her gently and couldn't help but chuckle as she slid
back into a normal sitting position. "It's okay," she called,
blushing as she spoke, "You can come in now!"

Irene moved the blue and white beaded curtain aside and entered
the room wielding two long dresses at arms length. "Okay, I think
I have these the way you wanted them," the woman explained without
missing a beat, pretending to have heard nothing as she held
Miranda's dress a little higher to keep it from dragging, "But
I'll want you to try them on before you go. I won't even charge
you extra for the alterations."

"Wow, thanks," they both replied at once.

"Yes, now just go in the back and try them on," the woman
explained as a man in a suit entered, displaying a terrible rip in
his jacket.

The two obeyed, and were soon helping in each other into the
nearly completed garments, surrounded on all sides by racks of
clothing, bolts of fabric, and an enormous sewing machine that
both appeared to rely on vacuum tubes and steam power to operate
and looked about a hundred years older than its owner.

"You know," commented Miranda, covering up her sudden feeling of
nervousness with a chuckle, "I haven't dressed this femininely
since before I caught Wraith."

"Oh? How long ago was that?" inquired Misty, zipping up the back
of Miranda's rather simple dark purple, long sleeved dress.

Miranda exhaled loudly, pushing her bangs out of her eyes for a
moment as she thought about it. "Oh, going on three years ago now-
No, wait! Four I think."

"You're such a bad mother!" Misty teased, shaking out the hem of
the dress so that it'd stop clinging to Miranda's legs before
untying Miranda's hair to give the full effect, "Can't even recall
your children's birthdays!"

Miranda looked over her shoulder and gave her a questioning look
around the smile she tried to hide. "Nezumi is in March, and Umi's
in June. Same as me," she replied, her dark locks falling to one
side and obscuring her face slightly, "Wraith, though, doesn't
recall when he was... 'Created' so we just have his 'un-birthday
on Halloween."

"I take it all back then," assured Misty mirthfully before
becoming somewhat serious in her tone, "Now turn around so I can
see you."

Miranda nodded, the strange self-conscious feeling returning as
she let her arms fall at her sides and spun around, sending the
hem of her dress in a bit of a spiral.

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Misty, clapping her hands together joyfully
as the thing shoulder straps of her own sleeveless garment slid
down her shoulders a bit, "Except that you look like you just
swallowed a poliwag."

Miranda looked away and shook her head slowly. "Sorry, I was just
thinking about what my Uncle's going to say when he sees me," she
explained, a bit lost in her own thoughts for a moment before
snickering and replying, "'Miranda! I never knew you were a girl
under there!' Or some such nonsense."

Misty smirked, folding her arms across her chest and stepping
close before tilting her head to one side and giving Miranda a
slight kiss on the cheek. "Well, tell him he has to become 'real'
family before he can make fun of you," she said sternly as her
lover met her gaze and smiled, "Or I'll see how HE likes wearing a

"The Tower hath no wraith like Misty scorned," the woman laughed
as Irene pushed the curtain aside.

"Everybody decent?" she inquired politely before hanging the
jacket on a ceiling beam and practically ran over to Misty where
she promptly tugged at the dress in various spots, sliding more
pins through the fabric until it fit just right.

"Hm, sorry it doesn't quite fit in the front," the woman muttered,
before scurrying over to Miranda with a mouth full of pins, "Now
as for you..."

Miranda held her arms out to her sides, feeling a little
embarrassed as the seamstress poked, prodded, and tugged at the
comfortable fitting, but not 'right feeling' dress like a para-
zoologist with a new species of pokemon.

"Well now," the woman muttered, walking around and around Miranda
with a discerning look that slowly became a smile, "I've certainly
done it this time, now haven't I? Feel okay, deary?"

The courier nodded, glancing at her denim jeans and t-shirt with a
hint of longing. "Just fine," she assured her, but Irene stood up
behind her and nodded knowingly.

"I thought you were the 'tomboy' here, miss," she commented,
leaning to one side and catching Misty's eye.

"Not completely," the trainer laughed, glancing down at her own
dress whose colour matched her eyes, "I guess my sisters ARE good
for something after all then... Creepy."

Irene chuckled, adjusting Miranda's hair a bit and stepping back.
"Yes, almost perfect. Hm, these ARE the undergarments you plan on
wearing with this dress, right? Okay good," said the seamstress,
working so swiftly it was hard to keep track of her, "So tell me,
if you don't mind me asking. Is this your first time out

Miranda smiled, finding the flushing of Misty's cheeks endearing.
"Well, it'll be the first time we've really gone anywhere nice, or
done anything this special," she explained, finding Irene easy to
talk to.

"Well," the seamstress warned them both sternly, her voice
lowering to a whisper as she glanced over her shoulder, "Just
don't let that hack Troy try any of those scummy chef tricks on

"Oh, like what?" inquired Misty as Miranda slipped back out of the

Irene met Misty's gaze and looked a bit nervous as she spoke. "I
really shouldn't say anything with one of 'Ces Batards De L'autre
Cote De La Rue's' waiters out front," she explained as the two
leaned in closer to hear, "But I've seen it all. Watering down
drinks, serving crappy cuts of meat and telling customers it's
fillet minyon, and serving overpriced wine are just the tip of the
iceberg! Not that I'm not saying he's going to do any of these
things, but I've heard some bad things about him in the culinary
community. He gives his whole family a bad name, that one."

"Thanks for the warning," Miranda replied, stepping between Irene
and Misty to recover her normal clothing.

"Oh, and be a dear and help your friend out of her dress would
you?" asked Irene, "I have to attend to my other customer. I won't
be a moment!"

Before they could respond, Irene had disappeared again. Vanishing
like a ghost before her friendly voice filtered through the
curtain as she laughed at whatever joke the waiter told her.

"Think he knows anything?" asked Miranda in a hushed tone as she
carefully pulled the dress down off Misty's shoulders to where it
collected near the floor and her friend could step out of it.

"If he does, I doubt that he'd tell us anything," Misty replied,
not totally convinced, "He's either hired help, or he's a Rocket.
Presumably one that Kathy isn't trying to kill."

Miranda chuckled at the thought as she picked up Misty's dress and
hung it on a hanger next to her own. "Well, while I know I may be
running the risk of forming a clich'," she said thoughtfully,
looking to see if either Irene or the waiter were going to come in
at any moment, "but I could send Wraith to check the place out
after hours. Although for all we know, this Troy guy's involvement
with Kathy is just on a professional level. Villains need to eat

"Possibly," Misty agreed, "But what about the umbreon?"

Miranda nodded. "That's why I'm sending Nezumi too," she
explained, "They're both stealthy in their own ways, and together
they can handle quite a bit if things go wrong. Now we just have
to hope that they all have a big red 'R' above the ovens or on the
cooking utensils all have 'Property of Team Rocket' engraved on

"You don't sound totally convinced," commented Misty, shuffling
back into her normal clothes.

Miranda shrugged, pulling the curtain aside in time to see Irene
returning with the ripped jacket. "Not completely, but maybe if
we're all there in the same place, something will happen."

"With Frank and Officer Jenny there?" commented Misty under her
breath, "Not likely..."

Chapter XIII

"I still can't believe the price," said Misty for the ninth time
as the glass doors slid open, giving them access to the Cerulean
City Gym.

"Well, she said it'd be cheep," Miranda replied with a shrug,
putting the awkward cardboard box she held on the reception desk
and checking the time on her watch, "Well, we've got about an hour
to get ready... Mind if I make a phone call?"

"Sure," said Misty with a shrug and a hint of mirth as she headed
on towards the main area while Miranda reached for the phone, "My
sisters have to pay the bill, not me."

Behind her she heard Miranda's short laugh before the vid-phone
announced that it had obtained a connection and the woman turned
the volume down. "I'll be up stairs!" called Misty over her
shoulder, half noting that Miranda waved an affirmative as her
sisters came down the stairs.

As they often were, the three sisters were as done up as humanly
possible, but this time, their attire was far more formal. Their
dresses seemed more like ball gowns than simple formal wear, and
Miranda was certain that the way they clung tightly at the waist
as well as pushing up at the bosom was excruciatingly

"What's with the fancy get-up?" inquired Misty, her intuition
suddenly sounding an alarm.

"Oh, like I can't believe we so forgot to tell you, little
sister!" laughed Violet, giving her best "Oh, I'm so forgetful"
pose, "As Cerulean City's Gym Leaders, we received passes to the
opening of that new restaurant! Isn't it, like, such a cool
coincidence that we only got, like, three? But your friend there
went and won you both passes? Pretty neat, eh?"

Misty twitched a little, feeling her heart sink and suddenly using
every once of her willpower not to simply grab the three spoiled,
manipulative brats and toss them all head first into the pool. 'At
least then they'd be late,' she thought sullenly. "Oh, then I
guess we'll see you there then," she replied with the false cheer
they always ignored anyway, "have fun."

"Oh, but do you know what would be so, like, cool?" asked Lily in
a tone that had all the subtlety of an air strike, "If we, like,
all went together! Then we could all sit at one big table and talk
about old times and stuff!"

Misty felt her insides clench as a sudden anger threatened to
cause her to burst. "No..." she said quietly through gritted
teeth, somehow containing herself as she clenched her fists and
almost crumpled the box containing her new dress before raising
her voice to a yell, "You are NOT ruining MY perfect evening with
Miranda! Not now not EVER!"

"Oh, like chill out, Misty," commented Violet with a disapproving
shake of her head that somehow didn't cause her overly styled dark
hair to even so much as move.

"Yeah, like we were only making a suggestion," added Daisy as Lily
gave Miranda a friendly yet pretentious smile as she entered the
hall, a look of concern cross the courier's face.

"What's wrong?" Miranda inquired, giving the trio a glare before
fixing on Misty who stood shaking as she continued to fume.

"Well, like bye then," commented Violet dismissively as they
walked away, some how making the farewell seem like an accusation
as Miranda went over and put her arms around Misty.

"Anything I can do?" she inquired as Misty breathed through her
mouth, her teeth still clenched as her whole body shook.

Her lover shook her head, waiting a few moments after the main
doors slid closed again before relaxing and leaning against her
beloved. "It's okay," whispered Miranda, holding her close as
Misty let herself cry, "Whatever it is, I'm here for you. Do you
want me to call home and see if there's another courier in the
area who might like our passes-?"

"No!" exclaimed Misty, dropping her package and clinging to
Miranda almost desperately. "I'm NOT letting them ruin this!" she
sobbed, her face pressed against Miranda's shoulder, "Even if SHE
shows up and ruins everything, at least this will still be our
special night! And I'm not letting my sisters interferer with
that. Not now, not ever."

Miranda nodded, quickly piecing it all together. "Okay," she said
softly, gently running her fingers up and down Misty's back in
what she hoped was a soothing manner, "We have lots of time to get
ready, let's just go upstairs and sit-down for a while."

Misty smiled the slightest bit in spite of herself as Miranda's
fingers sought out the tense places and soothed them with a gentle
relentlessness. "Alright," she said quietly with a nod, trying to
keep her voice level, "Thank you. Oh, and one more thing, Miri."

"Yes?" the courier inquired as Misty took her hand, their fingers

"I love you," said Misty, accentuating her words by bringing their
joined hands to her lips and kissing Miranda's knuckles, leaving
her beloved with a warm feeling that refused to fade even after
they'd ventured out into the coming night nearly an hour later...
Chapter XIV

The Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue Restaurant Of
International Cuisine had a line up that stretched around the
block. It seemed as though more than half of Cerulean City had
shown up for the event, and more than half of those seemed to
simply want to wait in line with no hope of ever actually getting
in. For the most part, just seeing those with special advanced
reservations being quickly ushered in amongst a sea of reporters
and blinding flashbulbs seemed to be enough for them.

"Gee," commented Miranda, her arm linked through Misty's as they
stepped out of their taxi and onto the long red carpet, only to
immediately assaulted by the swarm of overly enthusiastic
reporters, "it was just a silly contest!"

"They just want the publicity, dear," assured Misty, feeling
better, and enjoying the sudden unexpected attention as reporters
on their left threw questions at them above the sound of the
chattering crowd lined up to the couple's right, "Besides, it's
kinda fun to be a bit of celebrity now and then."

"Ms. Lilcamp!" called a small thin man at the back whose arm was
just long enough to wedge a microphone between two other
reporters, "Is this the lucky lady you wrote your winning ballad

"You bet!" called Miranda over her shoulder as they walked past
him, blushing profusely as another reporter from one of the less
reputable newspapers found only in convenience stores used an
aikido throw to move a smaller man out of her way.

"Is it true that you're not on speaking terms with your famous
sisters?" she called out to Misty, practically waving her pen and
paper, "And that's why accompanying them this evening?!"

Misty glanced over at the woman, her sea green eyes narrowing with
fury as she glowered. "That's a family matter," she hissed without
breaking stride or loosing the wonderfully elegant feeling she
felt wearing something new and beautiful to an expensive
restaurant while a hundred some odd people oohed and awed, "Ask

Miranda laughed as the doorman let them in immediately. "Isn't she
the 'quiet one'?" she inquired as a second man hurried over to
take the jackets they'd worn about their shoulders against the
chill that blew in off the water.

"Of course!" giggled Misty, as the maitre'd looked up expectantly,
"They'll have her stammering for a few minutes before Violet bales
her out with some excuse. But I don't mind wasting a trash
reporter's time."

As the two entered the dining area of Ces Batards De L'autre Cote
De La Rue their ears were filled with a gentle cacophony of often
laughing voices and live piano music, supplied by a small
orchestra. Everywhere they looked, people in fancy dresses and
expensive suits sat at huge round tables while waiters and
waitresses attended to their needs, clad in the uniform they'd
seen at Irene's shop. Every table was set with crystal glasses,
and silverware that was actually silver, and plates, bowls and
coffee cups that were worth more than Miranda made in a year.

Above them were three immense chandeliers, set in a perfect
triangle and giving the room just enough light that small, slow
burning white candles had to be set at each table. Floor was done
over in a dark red carpet, guaranteed to hide stains, and the
walls had been decorated with three-dimensional wall hangings of
various pokemon in battle, although someone had painted the
effects of their 'special' attacks directly onto the wall in a way
that made it seem more real.

"Excuse me, ladies," the well-dressed maitre'd with a light German
accent said with a politeness that bordered on superhuman, "but
your table is ready, and your other guests have already arrived."

"Other guests?" asked Miranda, her tone flattening as her stormy
gray eyes narrowed behind her shimmering glasses.

"Ah, yes!" the man said even more apologetically, "It sees that
the seating arrangements are not quite what we had hoped for, so
we've had to put some of our patrons at group tables. Please
forgive us, but it was decided that since you were all family-"

"Family?!" exclaimed Misty in a harsh whisper, somehow managing to
keep her voice down along with her barely contained anger.

The maitre'd gave a sad smile, nodding apologetically. "Yes," he
explained, indicating Misty, "Your sisters, if I'm not mistaken?"

"Any chance of sitting with my Uncle?" inquired Miranda hopefully
as Misty gripped her hand a tightly, her knuckles turning white.

"The name?"

"Oh, he's with Pokeforce," she explained, "Name's Frank...?"

The man checked his reservation book and shook his head sadly.
"No, I am very sorry, miss," he explained, no longer willing to
make eye contact with the couple, "But that table is full.
Although I'm pleased to say that he's sitting with both our very
own Officer Jenny, the Festival Coordinator Todd Burke, his wife
Nancy, Professor Myria, and the other City Councilors."

Miranda glanced over at Misty. "We could just go," she offered,
but Misty shook her head.

"No," she said simply, brushing her bangs out of her eyes in an
unaccustomed gesture since they'd both chosen to wear their hair
down, "As I said, their not ruining this."

With her head held high, and her shoulders straight, Misty walked
past the overly apologetic man and strode into the room on
Miranda's arm as though no force on earth could stop her. With a
quick glance at the table Frank was sitting at, she caught the
gazes of her three sisters and put on her most sincere smile.

"So glad you could make it," she said civilly through gritted
teeth, only half noticing as Miranda pulled her chair out for her.

"Like, I wasn't sure if you'd show or not," commented Violet
casually, idly waving a bread stick she had no intention of

"Gee, I guess I loose the bet then," commented Lily, not even
flinching when both Misty and Miranda glared at her.

"Wouldn't have missed it for the world," replied Miranda briskly,
sitting in one of the high-backed, and mildly uncomfortable chairs
between Daisy and Misty as she tried to catch Frank's eye.

Across the room, and past several other crowded tables, a raised
platform had been set up with a long table. It had been specially
reserved for the City Councilors, which included two middle aged
men and women Miranda didn't recognize, as well as Professor Myria
and the Festival coordinator who had over seen the poetry contest
and his wife. Officer's Jenny and Frank had also been given
places, and Miranda found it odd that Misty's sister Violet hadn't
been asked to sit at the table, seeing as she was the City's Gym

It also didn't take much for her to infer that the unpleasantly
scowling woman beside the Festival Coordinator was his wife. The
small, disapproving woman seemed to be most upset by whatever joke
Frank was leaning across Jenny to tell her husband, who was
laughing almost to the point of hysteria.

Officer Jenny for her part, just shook her head at him, and
immediately regretted it. Her one eye that hadn't been bandaged up
snapped closed as she gritted her teeth and shuffled uncomfortably
in her seat, adjusting her right arm in its sling.

"So," came Violet's voice, interrupting Miranda's attempts to get
her almost-Uncle's attention, "Did you hear about what happened to

Miranda glanced over at the woman, who was balancing her chin on
her linked fingers and smiling conspiratorially. "Yes, we were
there," replied Miranda, suddenly regretting her lover's decision
to stay as she felt something touch her ankle and lift the hem of
her dress.

"Oh? That wasn't YOUR gastly that saved Officer Jenny, was it?"
inquired Lily, glancing over at her elder sibling and smiling at
her sudden pained expression. Miranda had slammed her feet
together on either side of Violet's ankle.

"Yes, it was Wraith and Officer Frank's growlithe Bow," confirmed
Misty, making a point of moving her chair a little closer to
Miranda's and holding her hand under the table, "And Wraith's a
haunter now. Remember?"

"Ghosts are ghosts," commented Violet with a shrug, shaking out
her foot to regain feeling as Daisy jumped a little. She'd put her
hand on Miranda's thigh and suddenly found the courier's nails
digging into her skin.

"And they can all be quite dangerous," Miranda replied like
nothing had happened, "But I've been meaning to ask you. Do any of
you know anything about a rumor involving the formation of a ninth
gym? Flint in Pewter mentioned it, but..."

"Oh, that!" laughed Violet, leaning back and provocatively tossing
her long dark hair over her shoulders as she ignored Misty's
sudden scowl, "I'm surprised you don't know already, it's in your
home town."

"It is?!" exclaimed Misty and Miranda at the same time, their
further questions being silenced as the background music came to a
suddenly halt and several people began applauding.

"Oh!" gasped Lily, excited covering her mouth with her hands like
a star struck otaku, "It's HIM!"

"Gary?!" whispered Miranda into Misty's ear, and nearly causing
the girl to spit out the water she'd been drinking.

Several people had leapt to their feet, making it necessary for
their table to do the same, if only to see if not applaud. But it
soon became clear who the new center of attention was. Entering
the room, in Chef's whites that were easily as expensive as any
Armani suit and being followed by an alakazam in a chef's hat and
wielding a tray of h'orderves was none other than Chef Troy.

With a sly, almost forced smile, the tall man waved politely to
the crowd before motioning for silence. "Welcome, my friends," he
proclaimed, his German accent slipping out from time to time, "To
my greatest endeavor since 'Coffee Armageddon'... 'Ces Batards De
L'autre Cote De La Rue!'"

There was more applause, and Miranda made quiet note of who
applauded the loudest as she clapped politely, ignoring her
Uncle's rather theatrical performance of it. She knew it was only
because Chef Troy was feeding him. It was the Festival Coordinator
and his wife, though; who seemed to be the most appreciative,
exchanging knowing glances with Troy as the alakazam brought the
tray to the head table.

"This restaurant of international cuisine," continued Chef Troy,
turning slowly so that everyone could catch a glimpse of the tight
smile he wore, and the few reporters who were allowed in could get
pictures of his gleaming, all too white teeth through his well-
groomed goatee, "Promises one thing to it's patrons. A dining
experience unlike any other offered on this continent, or in the
entire world!"

Once again he was interrupted by applause and a few happy shouts,
but the Chef seemed unperturbed, even as Frank grabbed a rather
large handful of something Miranda couldn't identify except to say
that it was on a cracker.

"Here at MY restaurant," Troy went on, his wary tone indicating
that he wasn't one for long speeches, but wanted people to know
who to thank at the end of the evening, "you will be able to not
just eat, but 'experience' taste sensations unlike any other you
have, or ever will have again! Unless of course you're a repeat

There was a chorus of gentle laughter, as Violet sighed heavily,
tossing her breadstick into Misty's glass of water before she
could take another sip. "Just get over it," she muttered, shaking
her head at Lily for swooning so badly, and ignoring Misty's dark
glare, "And for that matter, over yourself."

Miranda contemplated giving her a kick under the table the first
chance she got, but couldn't help agree with the sentiment. 'Oh
well,' she thought, retrieving the bread stick from her partner's
glass and pointedly tossing it back into Violet's, 'At least the
food is free.'

"But I have droned on long enough!" announced Chef Troy as his
alakazam teleported to his side with a loud -POP!- that caused a
few people to jump in their seats, "My staff will be along shortly
to take your orders so that you may also sample our food, not just
hear about it."

There was an appreciative murmur as their table joined the rest in
sitting down, and as Miranda picked up the blue velvet menu book,
bound by gold thread with the restaurant logo on the cover, she
felt a gentle tap upon her foot.

Looking up with a scowl, she saw Violet smile at her mischievously
as she brought the sopping wet breadstick to her lips, and
provocatively pushed it against them. For a moment her dark eyes
fluttered a bit, as if enjoying herself far too much, whilst
parting her lips ever so slightly to allow the breadstick

"Wrong gender," whispered Miranda with a chuckle, hiding behind
her menu and laughing as Violet bit the breadstick in half in

"Must you?" inquired Misty rhetorically, before going back to her
own and giving a startled look as she realized that not a single
item was to be found with a listed price.

"Just remember it's free, dear," said Miranda, leaning close with
a hand upon Misty's knee.

"Oh, before I forget," whispered Misty back, lifting her menu to
hide herself from her sisters, "Did you happen to notice that

Miranda nodded. "Same one?"

"I think so," her lover replied, glancing at the double swinging
doors that lead to the kitchen, "But I'm no expert. Too bad
Professor Myria or your friend Zack weren't there. I'm sure

But her train of thought was interrupted by a loud cough and the
two turned to see the waiter they'd seen at Irene's looming over
them in his tacky blue and gold suit. "Are you ready to order,

Misty and Miranda exchanged glances and quickly chose the first
thing that sounded good on their menus. "I'll have the soulaki
platter," replied Miranda.

"Oh, same for me, I guess," added Misty, too annoyed at her
sisters to have really paid attention to her menu and just then
noticing that the man simply nodded, and didn't seem to have to
write anything down as he turned his attention to her three
pretentious siblings.

"Oh, I'll just have the cannolli," replied Violet in a bored tone.

"Souffle," said Lily quickly, tearing her gaze away from his
stunning blue eyes.

"I'll have the teriyaki," finished Daisy.

"Spearow or tauros?"

"Oh, spearow I guess," she replied with a shy smile and a wave of
her hand.

"Very well then," said the waiter simply giving Miranda a slightly
disapproving look as her watch chimed Beethoven's fifth, "And to

"Tea, green if possible, Earl Gray if not. Orange pekoe and I
sue," the courier replied with a wry grin, pushing back her chair
awkwardly and getting to her feet before leaning down kiss Misty
on the cheek, "I'll just be a minute."

"Oh, I'll just have what she's having," said Misty, feeling her
heart sink a little as Miranda glided off, nearly tripping over
her gown as she made a sharp left and hurried off towards the pay
phones at the back of the restaurant.

"Mineral water for the three of us," added Violet, catching the
waiter's eye and giving him a mischievous look that made Lily
glare at her.

"You know," commented Misty as the man walked away, his shoes
making no sound across the carpeted floor, "'Evian' is just
'Naive' spelt backwards. Not bad for water brought to us by a guy
in his backyard wielding a garden hose and a few thousand clear-
plastic bottles, eh?"

Lily suppressed a chuckle as Violet glowered at their youngest
sister. "Ya know," she said in a condescending tone, meeting
Misty's gaze with a knowing look, "That Miranda's like, so totally
using you."

Misty leaned back, folding her arms across her chest as she gave
her sister a disbelieving look. "And just how do you figure that?"
she asked, not really caring whether her sibling answered, but
unwilling to simply ignore the slight.

"Well, you know," continued Violet as all three sisters leaned in
closer, "She's a courier. Like, you know how 'they' are."

"That's right," agreed Daisy.

"Yeah, like, she's probably got two or three lovers in every
town," added Lily; "She's just stringing you along little sister.
Just like that Ash guy you used to hang around with."

"THAT," warned Misty, keeping her voice low and containing her
anger as best she could, gripping the table so hard her knuckles
had turned white, "Will be quite enough!"

Misty's anger was abruptly halted as she spotted the dark blue of
Miranda's dress as she awkwardly hurried back to the table as if
on cue. "Forget something, dear?" inquired Misty, reserving the
edge in her tone solely for her trio of siblings.

"Y-yes," said Miranda breathlessly, kneeling beside Misty's chair
and taking her hand, her cloudy gray eyes fully of mischief.

"What's wrong?" her lover asked, well aware of the looks they were
getting from the three sisters, "What did you forget?"

Miranda's lips formed a wide smile as she leaned up towards her.
"I forgot," she said just loud enough for the others to hear, "To
tell you 'I love you.'"

Before Misty could stammer out a reply, she felt Miranda's lips
pressed against her own for a moment before the courier rushed off
again to take care of her mysterious phone call. And for a long
moment, Misty could only stare after her, her face flushing with
both embarrassment and endearment.

"Oh, like I'm so sure," she heard Violet reply to something Daisy
said, bringing Misty back to reality even as Lily waved her hand
in front of her face.

"Like, hello? Earth to Misty!" she called impatiently, causing her
sister to sigh heavily, shaking her head as the moment faded all
to quickly.

"What now?" she muttered, giving her sister an annoyed look that
was returned by one of astonishment.

"Like, you've been sitting there staring off into space for way
too long," said Lily, tossing her dark red hair over her shoulder.

"For sure," agreed Violet, shaking her head in dismayed
disapproval as she idly sipped her drink, "I think you're way too
taken with this girl, Misty. I think she's starting to make you

"What's that supposed to mean?!" growled Misty through gritted
teeth, clenching her fists and really wishing that there weren't
so many witnesses.

"Ooh, looks like our little sister's still got all those anger
management problems," chuckled Lily all too coolly.

"Well," spat Misty, unable to rein her venomous tone as she turned
her dark look to her second oldest sibling, "At least I don't
sleep with everything that'll hold still long enough!"

Daisy and Violet stifled a laugh as Lily began to stammer out a
reply, only to be interrupted by an expected polite inquiry.

"Problem?" inquired Miranda who had suddenly appeared, her arm
linked through her Uncle's.

"Not at all," assured Violet, smiling up at Frank, who had been
forced to wear his dress uniform, "Just discussing family
business. Care to join us Officer?"

"Just for minute," said Officer Frank with a shrug, taking the
empty seat beside Misty as his almost-niece sat down, "I just
wanted to get away from those old fogies for a few minutes and try
to find out who this strange woman is..."

Miranda turned her head, desperately trying to hide her smirk as
she glared at her Uncle. "I thought I warned you?" she said
through gritted teeth as Misty laughed.

"I didn't say anything," chuckled Frank, glancing over his
shoulder and waving at Jenny.

"So how is she?" inquired Misty with concern look in Jenny's
direction and frowning when the woman winced when she tried to
smile back at Frank.

"The doc's say she'll live. The naninte treatment managed to heal
the worst of it, but the rest is up to her, I'm afraid," explained
Frank, his eyes going wide for a moment as Lily slid her leg
around his possessively, "But I'm not leaving 'till she's all
healed up."

"Oh, so like now you're leaving us?" pouted Lily as Frank caught
his breath, trying to move closer to Misty and away from the
woman's rather blatant attempts at seduction as he felt a hand
upon his knee.

"Y-yes, actually," he stammered, turning to his niece and
pointedly ignored the delicate seeming hand that was moving slowly
up his leg and causing his voice to go up an octave, "I- I called
you're Aunt, Miri."

"You did!" she exclaimed happily, almost forgetting to stomp down
hard on Violet's foot as the woman tried to slide her toe up her
bare leg, "How'd it go? What'd she say?"

Frank smiled, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath as he
ignored Lily's sudden pout. "Well, it's like I said," he explained
in the tone he reserved for story telling, "She's a wonderful
woman. There's no way I could ever do better, and I certainly
don't deserve her." He paused for effect, long enough to reach
under the table and bend Lily's index finger far enough back for
her to get the point. "But Laurna wants me to head back to
Lavender first chance I get. So as soon as Jen's all healed up,
I'm puttin' in for a transfer. It's about time Lavender had a
decent cop in town."

"We don't even have a Jenny," agreed Miranda sympathetically,
although her tone was somewhat thankful, "But that'll give me
another reason to read home in October."

"Why wait?" inquired Frank, his tone becoming serious, "Your
mother misses you."

"Let's not start that again," muttered Miranda, shaking her head
and pushing her glasses back up her nose, "I hate it when Bob
tells me that on the phone every time I get a dispatch call, and I
don't need it from you too, Uncle."

"I know," said Frank with a shrug as the waiter returned with
their drinks, "But anyway, I'd better get back there before Myria
dumps water over Ms. Burke's head like she's been threatening to."

"She's the Festival Coordinator's wife, right?" inquired Misty,
turning in her seat in time to see Professor Myria grin broadly at
the annoyed looking elderly woman next to her, clutching the
pitcher of water in both small hands with a mischievous glint in
her emerald eyes.

Frank nodded. "The best expletive to describe her would be an
insult to Bow, so forget it," he commented, "She's been in a bit
of a snit since they got here, but she was happy to see Chef Troy,
let me tell ya."

"I kinda noticed," replied Miranda, recalling that the woman was
amongst the first to leap to her feet and applaud when he'd
entered, and the first to laugh at his lame joke.

"Yeah," continued Frank, oblivious to the displeased look the
waiter gave him, "She's rather excitable for someone her age. I
guess old Todd finally brought her around."

"She didn't like him at first?" asked Miranda, remembering how her
first impression of the Chef wasn't helped by the presence of the
man's umbreon.

Frank nodded, forgetting that he had a drink waiting for him at
his table. "Couldn't stand him!" he mused, "She was the strongest
voice on the Council against allowing him to set up shop here.
Especially after that fiasco with his second cousin thrice removed
in Neon town."

"Let me guess," interjected Misty dryly, "His name is Troy too?"

"Um, yeah," commented Frank, a little bewildered, "Why?"

"No reason," she assured, bowing her head in dismay.

"Anyway, I'd better get going. Stay out of trouble, Miri."

"As if!" called Miranda to her retreating uncle, unable to keep
from smiling as Misty looked up at the ceiling and mouthed the
words, "Why? Aren't Jenny's and Joy's enough?!"

"So," asked Miranda briskly, looking pointedly at Violet, "You
were saying about the new gym?"

Violet nodded, taking a sip of her extra pretentious drink before
speaking. "Well, like I said," she replied, licking her lips and
using her drink as an excuse, "I'm like, totally astonished that
you haven't heard. 'Cause like, it's in your home town, don't'cha

"Lavender?" said Miranda, her astonishment genuine as opposed to
Violet's more pretentious slant on it.

"Oh, you bet!" chuckled Lily, giving Officer Frank a final hungry
look as he sat back down at his own table, "Some pokemon professor
or other's like totally taking care of it."

"Professor Laurna?!" exclaimed Miranda, blushing as she looked
down at the table meekly and Misty gave her a gentle, teasing
nudge with her shoulder, giggling at the sudden out burst.

"You, you like know her?" inquired Daisy quietly, her fingers
entwining as single lock of hair as she smiled at Miranda.

The woman nodded. "She's my aunt," the courier explained, "She
came to Lavender with my mother and father, and apparently it was
as though she was meant to be there. There isn't a pokemon
professor on the planet who knows more about ghost types than her.
Apparently her gengar was an arbok once, but she won't tell me how
Viper died."

The three sisters gave Miranda looks that ranged from curious to
confused. "But like, Miranda," commented Violet, as always the
first to speak, "Aren't 'ghosts' just like, sentient balls of gas?
Sorta like grimers and muks?"

Miranda smiled, seizing the opportunity. "No," she said curtly,
leaning back in her chair with her eyes closed as she contemplated
the question, "No they are not. Ghosts, from gastlies to gengars
were all once living, breathing pokemon."

She waited a moment for her words to sink in, to have their
desired effect. "No one is completely certain why it happens," she
explained, opening one gray eye to see the look of morbid
fascination upon their faces, "but sometimes pokemon who die just
don't pass on. Something causes them to cling to this plane.
Unfortunately, though, they have no memories of their former
lives, so there's no real way to help them. But I suppose that's
what the Tower is for. It gives them a place to dwell."

"Uh-until someone captures them, you mean," Lily stammered, her
suddenly wide eyes betraying just how unnerved she felt.

Miranda shrugged. "Well, sometimes they don't stay for long," she
replied, taking Misty's suddenly cold hand and giving it a
reassuring squeeze, "Most ghosts are captured outside the Tower,
cause only a lunatic would actually go in there hunting one."

"Why- why is that?" gulped Daisy, looking even paler than usual.

Miranda glanced at Misty, who looked up at her with pleading eyes.
"It's just not safe," she finished, putting her arm around Misty
and giving her a reassuring hug as Daisy shivered all over.

"Anyone, like you know, go in to the Tower, and like, totally
never come out again?" inquired Violet with a hint of malice in
her voice, not caring about the effect the story was having on
Daisy, instead concentrating on the rather unpleasant expression
crossing her youngest sibling's face.

Miranda took a deep breath, not prying her gaze away from Misty.
"No," she lied, for her lover's benefit, pulling a number out of
the ether, "Not in oh, at least hundred years." "Look," she said,
glancing over at Violet, "If you really care, go to Lavender Town
for the Halloween celebrations and you'll hear all about the Tower
then. My Aunt Laurna does this simply amazing show with her
troupe. Some of the illusions they weave while she tells the story
are simply amazing!"

Violet muttered something about doing just that, but Miranda, who
leaned in closer to Misty, ignored her half-hearted tone. "Sorry,
about that," she said quietly, "I keep forgetting you don't like
ghosts very much."

Misty nodded, smiling weakly. "It's okay," she assured, "I'm
getting used to Wraith. I mean, intellectually I know he won't
hurt me, it's just..."

"I know," said Miranda with a smile and a gentle hug, "It's okay,
my step-father's lived in Lavender for nearly seven years, and
he's still terrified of them. Although my Mom's actually stared
down wild ones."

"Sounds like your mom's scarier than the ghosts!" chuckled Misty,
the colour returning to her cheeks even as Daisy got up from the
table and hurried to the restroom, looking more than a little

Miranda grinned, amused by the sentiment. "Only when she's angry,"
she assured, "This is a 'Mom' we're talking about here..."


The rest of the dinner went smoothly, with the only real
interruption being when Ms. Burke began yelling at Frank for
eating his abesynian platter with his left hand, to which the
Pokeforce Officer replied, "But I'm ambidextrous!" And then he
merely laughed at the dirty look their waiter gave him when he
said, "Oh, this is so unspicy I can put it in my eye!"

By eight o'clock, Misty and Miranda had finished eating, and both
were just a little anxious to go. With a glance at her empty
plate, wondering where it all could have gone, Miranda turned to
flag down their waiter.

"So," inquired Misty briskly, wiping her mouth with napkin that
cost more than everyone at the table combined made in a year and
catching Violet staring longingly at Miranda, "Are you three
heading home after this?"

"Like, no way!" exclaimed Lily before Violet could speak, and
receiving a kick under the table for it, "As if! Like, we're all
dressed up, we might as well go and do something!"

"Not a bad idea," agreed Miranda with a sly grin as the waiter
returned, "Have a nice time."

"Is that everything?" the man inquired, his tone a touch

"That'll do," Miranda assured him, "Unless there's some kind of
hidden charge that I'm unaware of...?"

"Oh no," assured the waiter with an insincere smile that seemed to
be more of a sneer, "Your meals are complimentary."

"Good," said Miranda curtly, getting to her feet at the same time
as Misty, sensing the her lover's sudden urgency to away from her
siblings, "Oh, and thank you."

The waiter nodded as he wrote out the bill that Violet, Lily and
Daisy would have to share, a smirk crossing his face as Misty and
Miranda almost ran across the room. By the time they'd reached
Frank, they were both laughing at the strangely guilty feeling
they both felt at walking away from a meal, that they both had to
admit was incredible, without paying.

"Heading out?" inquired Frank as they approached; his fingers
stained red from the sauce as he scooped up the last of his meal
with a strange, air-bubble infested injera flat bread.

Miranda nodded, smiling as she held Misty's hand. "Actually, I was
thinking of maybe going for Coffee at Irene's," she explained,
glancing at Misty, "If you're up for it?"

"Definitely!" her lover replied, nodding vigorously, "At least
then we can get away from my sisters without having to lock a door
behind us."

"Ah, siblings," chuckled Frank, looking thoughtful before
finishing off his meal and talking with his mouth full, "I'll bet
I have a million of 'em!"

"He's an orphan. Adopted shortly after birth," explained Miranda,
suddenly anxious to get out into the cool night air as the
stifling dry warmth of the dining room was only made worse by the
look of unbridled contempt Ms. Burke gave her.

"Then we have something in common," replied Misty with a sad
smile, "Did you know them? Your parents I mean?"

Frank yawned, shaking his head. "Nope," he said, tapping the table
in front of Jenny who had dozed off with her large bowl of soup
unfinished, "Never had the pleasure. Anyway, I have to get my
commanding officer home before people start talking. Again. Say,
need a ride?"

"They gave you another car?" inquired Miranda with a smirk that
made her Uncle give her a sarcastic grin that would do Nezumi

"It's Jen's," he confessed, helping a very worn out Officer Jenny
to her feet and saying goodbye to the people at his table, "So?
Shall we...?"

Chapter XV

Frank pulled Officer Jenny's squad car up in front of 'Irene's
Textile and Coffee Shop' less than ten minutes later, thankful
that Jenny was in no condition to complain about his driving.

"Here ya go," he said brightly, unlocking the back doors so his
niece and her partner could leave the car, "That'll be twelve
ninety five!"

"Oh, ha, ha," laughed Miranda sarcastically, making her Uncle
smile and thankful to be out of the cramped back seat, "Thanks,

Frank shrugged, his infectious grin never leaving his face. "No
problem, lady," he assured, "Just have a good time, that's all I

Miranda nodded, putting her arm around Misty as Frank rolled up
his window and drove away. "Thanks again!" called Misty, only half
believing that they were finally free of the stifling, life-
draining presence of her sisters, before glancing up at Miranda
with a happy smile. "So? Shall we...?"


There were two other couples in Irene's quiet little shop, which
barely took notice as they entered, and neither could blame them.
The establishment was in full 'coffee shop' mode, with the lights
dimmed so that small candles on the tables were necessary, soft,
unobtrusive music filling the air, and the smell of freshly ground
coffee kept everyone awake whether they liked it or not.

"Hello again," said Irene in a friendly, yet subdued tone, meeting
them almost magically at the door as they entered, "Table for

"Yes, please," laughed Miranda, the irony of the question
improving her mood.

"I hope the food wasn't too bad at Troy's," the woman commented
sullenly, leading them both to a pair of comfortable looking
chairs with a low table between them, "I can fix you something if
you'd like?"

"No, actually it was really good," assured Miranda, "It was just
the company and the service we could have done without."

"Well..." said Misty, bowing her head and looking up at Irene a
little guiltily through her bangs, "We didn't stay for desert, and
I always have room for ice-cream. If you have it...?"

"Of course!" the woman laughed in the "think nothing of it" tone
only a mother could muster, "All I have left, though, is
butterscotch ripple. Is that okay?"

"Oh, fine. Just great!" laughed Misty, sitting carefully down in
the chair that would allow her to see the entire room as Miranda
found her way awkwardly into the one opposite.

"Stupid dress," the woman muttered, much to Misty and Irene's

"Gee," teased Misty, crossing her legs as Miranda finally sat down
and smoothed out the frustrating garment, "You're even more of a
tomboy than I am!"

Miranda finally got comfortable with her hands on the arms of the
mauve coloured chair she sat in and smiled. "My mom's worse," she
confessed as Irene hurried off, "She's worn a dress twice in her
life. And both of those were wedding dresses."

Misty glanced out the window looking thoughtfully out at the dark
street for a moment. "Miranda?" she asked quietly without turning
to face her.


Misty took in a long slow breath, noticing the way their
reflections eyes met on the surface of the window. "When, when
things calm down in our lives," she began, finding it difficult to
find the right words, "When Kathy is behind bars, and I've gone up
against the League and maybe if you're willing to become a city
bound courier... Would you? I mean, I know that such a thing is
possible but..."

"Yes," repeated Miranda, leaning across the table and taking
Misty's hand in her own, causing her beloved to turn to face her,
"But not until we're both ready. Some things shouldn't be rushed."

For a long moment, the two simple sat, quietly staring into each
other's eyes until Misty realized she was shaking, and Miranda
felt as though her heart were about to burst. "But," she said,
bringing her lover's fingers to her lips, kissing them gently,
"You're wearing the dress."

Misty snickered, bowing her head as she blushed. "That's
negotiable," she promised, glancing over as Irene glided towards
them and put down a tray between them before moving on without
saying a word, "But thank you for the sentiment. It's good to know
you're serious... About us I mean."

"Absolutely," promised Miranda, shaking her head at the thought of
being anything but, "Fifty or sixty years from now I intend to be
sitting across from you, looking into your eyes and feeling the
same love I feel now. Only stronger."

Misty nodded, a smile that wouldn't leave set upon her face as she
sat unable to look away for several long moments as the quiet
sounds of the other patrons filled the void of silence that
neither of them seemed to notice. After a while, though, the
teapot stopped steaming, and their ice cream began to melt. The
candles burned lower, and the ticking of a clock somewhere in the
shop became apparent.

"Miri, I-" she began finally, at last finding the words to express
the feelings that were overwhelming her, only to be cut off by the
sound of the door being thrown violently open.

The noise startled nearly everyone in the restaurant, and Miranda
lost her glasses in an attempt to turn towards the source of the
sound that had so rudely interrupted their moment.

The doorway was now filled by a short, thin woman who looked to be
about Irene's actual age under the fourteen layers of makeup she
wore. The woman's wary pale blue eyes scanned the room with more
than a hint of annoyance as the breeze blew at the long, spindly
strands of her darkly dyed reddish hair.

"Irene!" she called out drunkenly, waving the wine glass she held
in her hand about, slopping her drink across the hardwood floor
and seeming not to care, "Irene, I can't take it any more!"

After leaning against the doorframe for a moment, the woman
staggered into the room like she owned the place, and tossed her
long, tacky looking Winter coat off her shoulders, onto the floor.
She then proceeded to walk over to the serving counter and hit the
little bell repeatedly, assuring the end of any special ambiance
in the room.

"Oh, hello, Rose," said Irene in a civil tone as she came out of
the back room knitting a long scarf that consisted of large
alternating, varying in sized squares of light brown, purplish-
red, orange beige, off white and a rather dull shade of yellow,
"What's wrong THIS time?"

The inebriated woman's unsteady gaze fixed on the concerned
looking woman's face with a look of complete contempt, which Irene
returned with a gentle smile. "What's wrong?" muttered Rose
drunkenly, turning to Irene's patrons with an awful laugh, "What's
wrong she says! Ha! What's wrong is that you're putting me out of
business! That's what's wrong!"

Irene sighed sympathetically. "It happened again, didn't it?" she
asked in her most kindly tone, but it was obvious that she was on
the verge of laughing.

"Yes! Yes it happened again!" exclaimed Rose in an accusing tone,
turning back to Irene and finishing her wine, "And this time there
wasn't just one of them! This time there were a dozen! A dozen
women standing outside my shop in wedding dresses, all laughing,
mocking and scorning me! Me! A world-class designer, while you!
You! Somebody's freakin' mom sits here in your little shop of
horrors churning out several thousand-credit dresses for a few
hundred! It's just not fair I tell you! It's not fair, Irene! It's
not fair at all!"

"I believe that'll be quite enough, Rose," Irene said in a warning
tone as she stepped forward, causing her uninvited guest to slowly
back away, "Unless you want me to call Officer Frank to boot you
out again!"

"Fine! I'll go," replied Rose, her words becoming more slurred as
Irene ushered her outside, "But just tell me. How do you do it
Irene? How do you do it? Just tell me!"

Irene smiled sweetly as she gave Rose a gentle shove. "It's quite
simple, really," she said in her most sympathetic and endearing
tone, "As you said. I'm a mom. I simply make my products with

With that, Irene slammed the door in her competitor's face before
turning towards her suddenly applauding patrons. "Thank you," she
said with a wide, embarrassed smile, bowing her head as she moved
back behind the counter where she'd left her knitting, "But I'm
sorry you all had to see that."

Everyone seemed to agree that it was fine, but something she said
had caught Miranda's attention. "Um, excuse me," she inquired as
Misty chuckled while trying to eat some of her ice-cream before it
melted, "But did you say 'Officer Frank'?"

"Why yes, dear," said Irene with a smile as her hands moved at an
incredible rate, churning out the long scarf as though it were
nothing, "Very nice boy. Comes in every morning, brings me a free
newspaper and has an Irish coffee. I just wish he'd finally patch
things up with that Laurna girl. It's all he talks about some
days. Why? Do you know him?"

Miranda smiled, amusement shining in her eyes as she retrieved her
glasses from the floor thankfully undamaged. "Actually, I'll be
his niece if he ever does patch things up with her."

"Oh, I see!" chuckled Irene, "Well, be sure to point him in the
right direction if you can. I hate to see good people so sad. Oh,
please excuse me, duty calls..."

Miranda turned back to Misty as Irene shuffled over to one of the
other tables, trailing her multi-coloured scarf behind her. "Small
world, I guess," she mused, finally pouring herself some tea
before it got too cold.

"Definitely," commented Misty watching as Irene said goodbye to
one of the other couples, still amazed at how well the woman
handled her offensively belligerent competitor, "But, there's
something I'm a little concerned about."

Miranda looked up, a worried look crossing her face as she felt
her heart sink a little. "Do tell," she encouraged, setting down
her tea, "I'm here to listen."

Misty nodded, looking a little embarrassed. "Well, it's about
earlier," she explained, "You know, when I found out that my
sisters were going to be at the restaurant, and when I saw that we
had to share a table... And once when you were on the phone, too.
I just kinda lost my temper, and I just wanted to apologize for

Her lover's face went from baring a look of concern, to relieved
amusement almost instantly. "You're apologizing for being
yourself, dear?" she inquired, smiling broadly and taking Misty's
hand, "Trust me, I went into this relationship with my eyes open.
And you know that I don't mind that side of you. Heck, if you were
completely shy and passive I very much doubt that you'd have even
sparked my interest."

Misty looked thoughtful for a second and inquired mirthfully, "Are
you saying that you only love me for my personality?"

"Um, well I think you're really cute too!" stammered Miranda in
mock fear as Misty laughed.

"That's better!" she replied, wagging her ice-cream laden spoon at
the courier in a non-seriously scolding manner, causing Miranda
laugh as well.

"But you know," said Misty finally, scooping out more ice-cream
and swallowing it down greedily before continuing, "Violet did say
something rather odd while you were away."

"Odd?" inquired Miranda, looking a little nervous.

"Yes," her lover continued in a half serious tone, leaning forward
meaningfully and catching Miranda's eye, "She said that you were
'using me'."

Miranda tried to contain a laugh, but failed. "Using you?" she
snickered, covering her mouth as she swallowed her mouthful of

"Misty nodded. "Pretty crazy, eh?"

The courier nodded slowly, the look in her eye an unmistakable
sign that she'd thought of something and would burst if she didn't
let it out. "Actually," she said conversationally, setting down
her tea cup and poking at her mostly liquefied ice-cream, "I am."

"Really?" relied Misty, leaning back in her chair and crossing her
arms, a slight smile crossing her face. Half-sensing what was to

Miranda nodded. "Yes," she confessed, watching as she twirled her
spoon around the goopy mess her bowl of ice cream had become, "I
am using you, my dear. I'm using you to have someone to talk to.
I'm using you to have a shoulder to cry on. I'm using you as a
source of inspiration. I'm using you to fulfill my purely selfish
need to 'be there for someone'. But above all else-" Miranda
glanced up at her beloved, her heart swelling as she saw the way
Misty's sea-green eyes sparkled in the candlelight- "I'm using you
so that I'll have someone to love. I hope you understand."

"Completely," whispered Misty, reaching out and taking Miranda's
hand, squeezing it meaningfully as she spoke, "I love you,
Chapter XVI

An hour slipped by without either of them noticing, and only the
sound of Irene locking the door as the last couple exited the shop
snapped them both back into reality.

"Oh, sorry!" exclaimed Miranda, struggling awkwardly to her feet,
"I wasn't keeping track of the time."

"That's okay," Irene assured them with a motherly smile, "Can I
offer you a ride home?"

"You- you really don't have to," stammered Miranda, amazed by the
offer even as Irene put on her Fall jacket and looked at them both
expectantly, obviously unwilling to take 'no' for an answer.

"Well I guess we can't really say no," replied Misty, getting to
her feet without a problem.

"That's right," assured Irene with an amused look as she threw on
the scarf she had long since finished knitting and quickly moved
about the room blowing out the candles.

"Oh yeah, how much do we owe you?" inquired Miranda.

"Don't worry about it," said Irene with a dismissive wave of her
hand as she came back, unlocked the door and shut out the few dim
lights, "You had to endure that pompous jerk, Troy's posturing for
an evening, not to mention his so called food. So it's on me. So,
where are you guys staying?"

"The Gym actually," explained Misty as they ventured into the
parking lot which was empty except for one of the small, box-like
electrically driven cars most people were forced to drive.

"Really?" commented Irene in amazement, pointing her key chain at
the vehicle and disengaging the alarm, "Are you related to the

Misty smiled, trying not to laugh. "I'm their sister."

Irene did a double take and laughed. "Sorry," she apologized,
opening her door, "But you're... Oh, sorry. Never mind."

"No, no," assured Misty with amusement as she and Miranda got into
the back seat, "Please, speak your mind."

Irene nodded as she adjusted the mirror. "I was just going to say,
you're far too polite. Not to mention, nice. I had your sisters in
my store once, but they took one look at the place and left.
There's no pleasing some people, I guess."

"Especially not them!" agreed Misty with a laugh, moving closer to
Miranda and taking her hand as the car sped almost silently out of
the parking lot.

On impulse, Misty put her head on her lover's shoulder, thinking
about the hard, narrow bed they'd have to share once they got
home. 'Oh well,' she thought ruefully, 'it may be little more than
an overgrown cot, but at least I'm the one sharing it with
Chapter XVII

The Gym was dark when they arrived, and as they entered the living
quarters it was obvious that Misty's sisters had yet to arrive.
Feeling strangely guilty, Miranda followed her lover down the dark
hallway. Their fingers linked as they hurried quietly past several
closed doors and darkened doorways, a strange aura of mischief
permeating the scene.

At the end of the hall, Misty turned and embraced Miranda. With a
giggle as they pressed their lips together, she turned her lover
around and stepped forward until Miranda's back pressed against
the nearest door.

As both their hands roamed freely, gliding across the rustling
fabric of their dresses and their lips pressed firmly, almost
desperately together, Miranda felt a mildly uncomfortable pressure
upon her back. Panting, she tilted her head up, only to find Misty
hungrily kissing along her neck, giggling as she sought out her
lover's lips.

"Hold on a sec," whispered, realizing what the pressure at her
back was caused by. It was the flat wooden carving of a five-
pointed staryu. The name "Misty" stenciled across it, marking the
room as hers. Miranda turned her head to one side, listening
carefully at the door and laughing as Misty stood on her toes to
playfully nibble Miranda's earlobe.

"Hey, no fair!" she chided in a silly tone, reaching down to take
two firm handfuls of Misty's bottom and chuckling quietly as her
lover gasped a little.

"Hm, what can be in my room," pondered Misty in a playful tone as
she reached up and idly coiled Miranda's long dark hair around
several of her fingers, "that's so much more interesting than
what's out here? Perhaps I should take a look-"


Misty paused, about to laugh at Miranda's reaction. The woman's
eyes looking huge behind her glasses as she gave her a look of
bemused concern. "No?" teased Misty, untwining her fingers and
sliding both hands up either side of Miranda's face, drawing her
closer, "Would you prefer to make love in the hall then? Perhaps
shock my sisters into leaving town?"

Miranda laughed nervously. "Um, I kinda have a surprise for you,"
she explained nervously, her heart beating so loudly, she was
certain it was audible, "Just hold on, one little second..."

"Time's up," Misty chuckled, stepping back and crossing her arms
half warily as Miranda turned and clutched the door handle with an
unsteady hand.

The courier gave a small giggle at the comment, hating the
necessity of halting their moment of spontaneous fun as she slowly
turned the door handle and pushed it open just enough to see in.

From within the darkened room, Miranda could hear a strange,
quiet, nearly rhythmic sound. Though the silvery beams of
moonlight that shined through the window gave her partial
visibility, all that Miranda could make out of the dark shape that
sat upon the bed were sharply pointed ears and a long tail.

"Hey!" whispered Miranda into the room, pushing the door open
slightly as Misty peered over her shoulder, her curiosity aroused
by both her lover's odd behavior as well as the quiet snoring
sound that emanated from her bedroom. "Yo! Wake up!" Miranda
hissed, stomping her foot loudly and waving her hand expressively,
"Come on! Go home!"

As Misty gripped Miranda's shoulders and tried to peer around her,
a sound like some animal being startled awake filled the room. The
annoyed snort was cut short by a frightened, high toned and
vaguely female sounding shout of "Abra!" before terminating with a
gentle -POP!-.

"Sp-sparkles?" stammered Misty, laughing as Miranda let out a long
sigh of relief.

"I hope she didn't leave a mess," the woman commented, standing up
straighter and turning to face Misty before taking her hands in
her own. "Okay," she explained a little melodramatically, "I
wanted to make this more of a surprise... But I think the mystery
may have been unveiled early..."

"Nope!" promised Misty with a laugh, her eyes finally adjusting to
the gloom of the hallway, "I'll close my eyes!"

"Alright then," said the courier with a smile, giving Misty a
gentle kiss, causing her sea green eyes, so full of love and
laughter to open once again, "Just give me a second."

Misty nodded as her lover stepped backwards and sideways into her
room. "Don't start without me!" she teased through the door as it
closed, soliciting a muffled laugh from Miranda, before pressing
her ear against the door in curiosity.

From within, she heard the quiet sound of pokeballs opening, and
the sounds of Wraith and Nezumi's happy greetings followed by
Miranda's loud "Shh!" A moment later, Misty heard muffled voices
as well as Wraith's quiet cackling as her small, narrow bedroom
window slid open. There were a few more muffled voices, and then
the door handle turned.

Misty leaped back, and both she and Miranda let out a short laugh
as their eyes met. Just behind her, Misty could see her room
illuminated by golden candlelight and hear the sound of the cool
night breeze filtering through the open window.

"I, I think we're ready," said Miranda a little nervously, taking
both of Misty's hands and leading her into the bedroom.

As Misty glanced around, she let out a short gasp of surprise as
she realized several mysteriously floating candles supplied the
candlelight that slowly orbited the interior of her room.

"Those are just Wraith's illusions," explained Miranda, looking
down to be careful where they stepped as she lead Misty further
into the room before motioning to the bed, "But this, however, is

Misty glanced in the direction that her lover had indicated and
had to do a double take. In the place where the small, hard cot
that passed for her bed since childhood had been, there was a now
a large, comfortable looking one. One large enough for at least
three or four people to lie shoulder to shoulder across it. In
that moment, it didn't matter that most of her belongings had had
to be moved to the other side of the room, carefully piled and
stacked against one wall. It didn't matter that Wraith was
hovering outside her window like some kind of darkly grinning
spectre, waving heartily as Nezumi sat in his other hand laughing
at her expression.

"Oh, Miri..." Misty breathed, throwing her arms around the woman
and resting her head against her shoulder with happy tears in her
eyes, "My dearest, sweet, beautiful Miranda. I love you..."

"That's all that I ask," assured Miranda, returning the embrace
and slowly running her hands up and down Misty's back

"But- but how-?" her beloved stammered, suddenly looking up at her
with eyes full of concern, "And how much did, did this cost-?"

"Shh," soothed Miranda, placing a finger upon Misty's lips and
trying to ignore the quietly muttered comments her rattata made
about her 'looking like a girl', "The cost is meaningless. And as
for how... Well, just promise me you won't be mad."

"How- how could I be?!" laughed Misty, stepping back and shaking
her head in disbelief at her wonderful new bed, complete with a
brand new warm-looking comforter, silken sheets and down filled
pillows so full and fluffy that they could stop a bullet, "I- I
almost wish we were staying here longer so I could use it more!"

Miranda laughed, ignoring the lewd comments both her watching
pokemon made. "Well, we have tonight," she promised, tilting her
head to one side thoughtfully, "And the festival runs until the
end of the week, so if Nezumi and Wraith don't turn up anything I
wouldn't mind staying a few more days. I can call Bob first thing
tomorrow and tell him I'm taking some time off."

"You're spoiling me again," sighed Misty, smiling in amusement as
she realized that she actually caught most of what Nezumi had
muttered, and blushing as she partially agreed with the rattata's

"I like to think of that as my second job," her lover replied
glancing out the window at her floating pokemon, smiling
reassuringly before nodding for them to leave, "Heck, it even pays

Misty laughed turning in time to see Wraith and Nezumi wave
goodbye before the haunter faded to invisibility and wove a simple
illusion around the rattata to make him vanish as well.

"They're off to check out 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue',
aren't they?"

Miranda nodded, noticing that the illusionary candles had already
began to fade. "Yeah, I know," she said warily, glancing out the
window at the still, quiet night, "It's a bit cliche, but I trust
their abilities. Nezumi is stealthy, and good at finding things.
And Wraith can make them both invisible, check any computer
records they might have, as well as being able to show us exactly
what they found with his illusions."

"You think they'll really find anything?" asked Misty, leaning
against Miranda, enjoying the feel her dress against her skin.

Miranda shrugged. "I'll admit it's a long shot," she agreed,
kissing Misty lightly, "but I'd rather be sure about this before I
ask my Uncle to raid place looking for her. Besides, I still think
that alakazam looked a bit familiar. It could have been the one

"No more," said Misty, interrupting her with a finger pressed
against Miranda's lips, a stern tone, and a serious look that
softened as the candles faded further, "Once again we have the gym
to ourselves, and this time we have a nice big, brand new bed to
break-in. Not to mention the fact that I'm so wound up I could
explode at any moment, and the fact that I can tell being hit on
all night by three lovely ladies did more for you than your
letting on."

Miranda blushed, looking embarrassed for a moment as she reached
up and took her glasses off, setting them carefully on the
nightstand. "Four, actually," she corrected in an amused tone,
causing Misty to give her a curious look. "But one was so
beautiful that it was painful to look upon her."

"Really?" inquired Misty, unable to keep a smile from forming,
"And which one would that be?"

"Oh, you!" Miranda exclaimed, grabbing hold of her lover and
throwing herself onto the bed as they both laughed.

"But you're right," she agreed after rolling onto her back and
letting Misty lie atop her, "This is no time for talk of vile
villainy, or all consuming vengeance, or even the bitter sting of
sibling rivalry. For how could I sit down to dinner with one who
caused my heart to ache so badly and not want to hold her? How
could I ignore someone so wonderful? How could I think of anything
else in the entire world other than how to make her take me home
and let her take advantage of me?"

Misty, whose eyes had sparkled with intensity right up until the
end, wound up laughing at the last comment. "Point taken," she
replied, kissing Miranda softly and running her fingers through
her lover's hair. "You know," she commented as Miranda lifted her
head up to allow her hair to be fanned out across the turned back
covers, "It's really not that bad."

"My hair?" inquired Miranda, looking up to where a bit of her
bangs still stubbornly tried to obscure her eyes.

Misty nodded, brushing the dark locks off her lover's forehead.
"It may be a bit unmanageable, and it seems to have a mind of its
own, but your hair is still beautiful in its own way," Misty
paused, leaning her elbow on the bed as she combed Miranda's dark
locks with her fingers, "It tangles a bit, but its soft and

"You sound envious," Miranda commented, searching her lover's
eyes. Noting to herself that Misty's hair didn't quite reach her
shoulders even with it worn undone as it was now. Yet her lover's
orangish locks, thinner and more manageable that her own, still
gave Misty a certain tomboyish look that stirred something inside

Misty shrugged, sliding off of her to stand in the silvery
moonlight that was now the cluttered room's only light source. "I
suppose in my need to be the opposite of my siblings, I neglected
my own femininity to a degree," she commented as Miranda sat up
and held out her arms.

"Hardly," the courier assured as Misty glided forward into her
embrace, "I'll bet no one in your family even thinks twice about
you in that dress. But if I went home in this get up, the whole
town would be like 'Oh my goodness! You mean Miranda's a girl!?'"

Misty laughed, returning the embrace and once more taking handfuls
of Miranda's hair, this time bunching it up, exposing her lover's
neck and shoulders before tilting the woman's head to one side. "I
know," she whispered quietly, trying not to let her musings break
the mood and kissing her way up Miranda's neck.

"And, and your hair," Miranda breathed, feeling her pulse race as
Misty gently nibbled her ear in just the right way, "don't- don't
worry about it."

"Think I should let it grow out?" Misty inquired in a whisper,
letting Miranda's midnight locks fall to one side as her hands
reached back to slowly unzip her lover's dress.

"I- I really can't make that decision for you, dearest," Miranda
sighed, letting her arms fall to her sides, smiling contentedly as
Misty's nimble fingers slowly undressed her, "Especially since the
way that you wear it makes that lovely neck of yours so

"No, no," teased Misty with a laugh, playfully pushing back
against Miranda's shoulders as the woman came forward to kiss her,
"I still need to repay you for the other night. This time, you're
not getting away without letting me please you."

Miranda smiled in the twilight, laughing as she obediently fell
backwards onto the bed, her arms splayed to either side, her dress
still half undone. "Please be gentle," she replied coyly, making
Misty laugh as she fell forward, laughing as she kissed every inch
of her lover's neck and chin before finding her lips.

"Somehow," mused Misty, her elbows on either side of Miranda,
supporting herself, "I can't see you like that."

"Oh? What do you mean?" Miranda inquired, her tone becoming a
little more serious.

Misty looked thoughtful for a moment, searching for the right
words as Miranda put her hands behind her head, looking up at her
lover in bemused adoration. "I, I suppose I just have trouble
seeing you as... As inexperienced," she said tactfully after a
time, "I just can't see you not knowing what to do. I just have
difficulty seeing you in that roll, 'tis all."

"As I've said," assured Miranda, reaching up to touch Misty's face
fondly, "I've had two more experienced 'instructors' in my time.
But they both failed to teach me the one thing I've only just
learned with you."

"And that would be?" said Misty softly, her voice sounding so
vulnerable that Miranda tensed, feeling the need to wrap her arms
around the girl and tell her that all was well.

"You... You taught me what it's like to love someone, and be loved
in return," she managed, finding it hard to speak as her heart
leapt in her chest, "No one else has ever given me that gift. But
really, I don't want to think about them. Only you. You're the
only one that matters to me."

"Three times lucky, then?" asked Misty rhetorically, her moment of
insecurity vanishing as she laid her head down upon Miranda's
chest, smiling as her lover's fingers brushed her hair back.

"Luck isn't a strong enough word."

Misty smiled, suppressing a small, happy laugh, only to have the
moment stolen by a suddenly loud -thump!- from somewhere
downstairs. "They're home," she said idly, closing her eyes and
trying to block out the noise her sisters made as they argued
about who forgot to set the alarm.

"I know," sighed Miranda wearily, staring at the ceiling as her
fingers wove their way idly through her lover's hair and listening
to the loud stomping sound as three people came up the stairs to
the living area outside.

"Any chance they'll just go to bed?" inquired Miranda, wincing at
the sound of a slamming door and realizing that Lily had had far
too much to drink as she argued with Violet about something their
waiter had said.

"I hope so," commented Misty sitting up and reluctantly leaving
the safety of Miranda's arms, "This is one of the reasons I left-"
They both gave a sudden shiver as something glass hit a floor
somewhere and shattered, followed by the sound Lily's laughter and
Daisy's pleas for her to just go to bed. "Sometimes it amazes me,"
continued Misty, swinging her legs over the edge of the bed as
Miranda sat up as well, "How everyone thinks they're so perfect.
That they never do anything wrong, and never act 'unladylike,'
when really my sisters are totally different people when they're

"Most people are different when they're not in public," Miranda
replied, her arms sliding around Misty's waist, her chin upon her
lover's shoulder as they both stared out the seemingly distant

"I know," she sighed, covering Miranda's arms with her own and
giving in to the warm, contented feeling her lover's touch often
brought, "I just wish people in this town didn't idolize them so
much. As you said, Miri, they're not all that 'sensational'."

"Is that a hint of envy I hear creeping into your voice, love?"
teased Miranda, her tone bringing a smile to Misty's lips.

"Perhaps a little," she confessed, leaning her head back against
Miranda's shoulder, "I'm part of this family too, but most people
don't even know that there is a fourth sister. Which is my own
fault I suppose, but it would be nice to be recognized once in a

"You were certainly recognized outside the restaurant tonight,"
Miranda commented as their fingers intertwined and Misty moved her
head forward again to listen to the sudden quiet from outside her
small bedroom.

"Yes, that was kinda fun," she admitted with a smile, watching the
light under the door suddenly go out, "But being recognized by
some tabloid reporter hardly counts. Infact I think your Uncle put
her up to it."

Miranda gave a false shocked look, and stammered as Misty laughed.
"Come on, admit it," the girl teased, poking Miranda playfully in
the ribs, "You try to make my happy so much sometimes it's almost
like a conspiracy!"

Miranda shook her head in dismay, chuckling at the thought. "You
certainly didn't complain about 'this' conspiracy," she commented,
bouncing lightly on the new bed, which refused to make a sound in

"Well..." said Misty with a touch of worry in her tone, "I would
prefer it if you didn't spend every last credit in your account on
me. You needn't try to buy my love."

"It's no big deal," Miranda replied with a shrug, "Although I hope
that such a thing isn't possible."

"Buying my love? Never. I'm not any of my sisters."

"And they're not you."

"Good thing too!" laughed Misty, not caring if she kept her
siblings up, "'Cause then I'd have some real competition!"

Miranda grinned before giving Misty a puzzled look as the girl got
to her feet and searched around in the darkness for a few moments
before finding where their pack backs had been moved. "Here we
go," she muttered mostly to herself as she quickly unpacked a few
old clothes in her search.

"Candle?" her lover inquired as Misty stood up and lit a match,
lighting the simple white candlestick she'd found before searching
her now cluttered dresser for a place to put it.

"Yes," Misty said simply, sliding over a small picture of her
parents before carefully setting the candle down and searching for
something better to put it on.

Miranda gave a quiet chuckle, leaning back on her hands, and
crossing her legs as she watched Misty move uncertainly about the
room. She supposed it wasn't the best idea in the whole world to
ask Zack to use Sparkles to teleport in a new bed for Misty.
Especially considering the newly formed clutter the arrangement
had caused, but it seemed likely that privacy had been an
unaffordable luxury with her sisters about. And judging by the
slight smile she saw upon Misty's lips as she moved about in the
flickering candlelight, finally finding a candleholder in the top
drawer, Miranda didn't think that it was worth bringing up.

Finally, once she'd made certain that the candle wasn't going to
burn down the whole gym, Misty stepped into a relatively clear
spot in the middle of the room, and held her hands out to Miranda.
A somewhat shy smile crossing her lips as her eyes reflected her
lover's curious gaze.

"I wanted to see you," she explained as Miranda got to her feet
and stepped forward into Misty's embrace.

"Now who's plotting?" chuckled the courier as they held each
other, their lips moving closer as they spoke.

"I just wanted to end this evening right," Misty explained,
tilting her head slightly, brushing her lips over Miranda's
teasingly before pulling back.

"How so?" the courier inquired coyly, standing a little straighter
and trying to suppress a smile.

"By making love with you," Misty replied, feeling sudden warmth in
her cheeks, but not caring if Miranda saw her blush.

"You know," warned Miranda with mock hesitation as she leaned
back, glancing at the all too thin walls, "They WILL hear us."

"Let them," Misty's determined tone broaching no argument. "I want
them to know just how much we love each other."

"I see," said Miranda thoughtfully as Misty took a step back, her
fingers running down the sleeves of Miranda's dress until she
found her lover's hands.

"Let them hear it!" continued Misty, an unmistakably mischievous
grin forming as she spoke before throwing her head back and
shouting out for all to hear, "Oh! Oh my dearest, Miri! Yes! Oh
goodness yes!"

"Don't!" hissed Miranda, trying not to laugh as her hand sought to
cover Misty's mouth.

"Oh! Oh yes! Right there!" shouted Misty in a passionate tone,
suppressing her laughter as she stepped away, her eyes full of
amusement as they both circumnavigated the floor bound clutter
with Misty always staying out of Miranda's reach, "Yes, my love!
That's it! Ooh, you're sooo much better than Gary!"

"Careful!" exclaimed Miranda lunging as Misty fell backwards into
an old chair where a handful old stuffed animals that had once
belonged to her siblings sat in a pile.

"No worries," replied Misty breathlessly as Miranda all but fell
upon her, with arms that embraced her protectively.

Miranda sighed, shaking her head in mock dismay. "Okay, I
concede," she said with amusement, "Just two small problems."

Misty gave a concerned look, running her fingers down the side of
Miranda's face affectionately as she asked in a concerned whisper,
"What is, my love?"

"Well," commented Miranda, thinking her thoughts through before
speaking them, "What if 'they' come back-?"

"Don't be silly," interrupted Misty with a teasing chuckle,
placing a finger over Miranda's lips to silence her, "Your boys
know better than to annoy both of us at once. And besides, if
they're bringing us bad news, I'd rather wait until morning to
hear it. This evening's going fairly well, all things considered,
and I don't want anything else spoiling it."

Miranda nodded slowly, glancing to one side and looking pensive as
she formulated just the right words to use. "Okay," she replied as
Misty gave her an amused look, "just one more thing. There's
something I've been meaning to ask since earlier this evening, and
it's kinda embarrassing but..."

"Just say it, my dearest Miri," Misty assured, taking a moment to
dislodge a plushy starmie that had been threatening her with life-
long lower back problems, before tossing it across the room.

As her eyes met her Misty's, Miranda blushed. "I- I have NO idea
how to get out of this thing," she admitted helplessly as she
tugged at the front of her dress, and causing Misty to burst out
laughing once more.

"Oh you!" the girl teased, reaching around to slide Miranda's arms
free of the garment, "And here I thought I was a tomboy."

Miranda smiled, quietly chuckling as she struggled to her feet
before sliding carefully out of the garment, pushing it down her
body in an unhurried fashion. "Oh, it's not that," she replied,
her voice sounding thoughtfully seductive in the near darkness,
"It's just that I haven't had much practice with these things.
See? I need your help yet again."

Misty leaned back in her seat, idly thrumming her fingernails
against the arms of her chair as she looked up at her now half
naked lover. Miranda had managed to slide the dress down to her
waist, but had stopped just above her hips, and now stood with her
hands held out towards Misty. A look of mock helplessness crossing
her face as her lover finally gave in, reaching out her hands in

Miranda's fingers slid across Misty's before taking a firm hold of
her lover's wrists and bringing her slightly shorter lover to her
feet. "Now, where about's are you stuck again?" Misty inquired,
her arms going about Miranda's waist as she teasingly kissed her

"Oh, right about here. Just let me show you," Miranda replied, her
fingers moving up Misty's back before unfastening her dress at the
back and slowly bringing the short, well concealed zipper down.

Misty watched intently as Miranda's hands moved to her shoulders,
taking gentle hold of them before sliding the straps of the
Misty's sleeveless dress off her shoulders and slowly pulling the
dress down.

"Careful, dear," Misty warned as it bunched up and Miranda a bit
in the front had to wait for Misty to adjust it on her own.

"See," said Miranda with a wary sigh, her forearms placed lazily
upon her lover's shoulders as Misty somehow slipped free of the
shoulder straps, "You're much better at this than I am."

"Well then I still have things to teach you then, now don't I?"
Misty commented in reply, her hands moving to rest upon Miranda's
hips as the woman stepped carefully backwards, away from the
cluttered chair.

"And perhaps I you," her lover agreed as they reached a clear spot
on the floor, both of them swaying gently as if to quiet music
that only they could hear.

"Perhaps," agreed Misty slyly, pausing in her movements as her
hands moved to bring Miranda's dress down further.

"Taking advantage of me again?" Miranda teased.

"Hey, if you can't undress yourself, then I'll just have to do it
for you," chided Misty in a silly tone, laughing as Miranda made
an exaggerated show of finally stepping out of her dress and
stretching her limbs.

"Ah, that's better!" she whispered loudly, leaning back and
running her fingers through her hair several times to let it fall
more freely, "Freedom at last-! Ow-!"

Miranda grimaced as her fingers caught several of her more
perseverant tangles before simply giving up and turning her
attention back to Misty who smiled approvingly as Miranda went
about undressing her as well.

Misty's dress was a bit more complicated than Miranda's, but the
courier found that it slid off easily as she simply held her
hand's flat against Misty's hips and moved them downwards. The
thin, silky feeling material was a poor substitute for the soft
feel of Misty's skin beneath her fingers, but Miranda could still
feel the firmness of her leg muscles through the fabric and
caressed the gentle rises lovingly as she descended.

Her lover made a small quiet exclamation as she stood in her
undergarments, the beautifully crafted gown, a silvery-gray mass
pooled at her feet. "Something wrong?" whispered Miranda half
teasingly as her hands slid up and down the backs of Misty's legs,
never growing tired of the feel of her taught muscles.

Misty shook her head, whispering a soft negative reply as her
fingers entwined through Miranda's hair, effectively trapping her
as the feel of Misty's nails across her scalp sent chills through

"Is there something you'd like then?" she inquired, her voice so
soft that the sounds of crickets outside and the distant sound of
the gym's enormous fish tank switching on its heater nearly
drowned out the sound.

Misty's reply was a gentle, embarrassed laugh. "Just a place to
sit down first of all," she said, gasping and curling her fingers
as Miranda kissed her just above the knee before following the
gesture up with a second kiss slightly higher, "Cause you know I
can't stand when you do that..."

Miranda chuckled. "I know," she said simply, her hands running up
the backs of Misty's legs, squeezing them in gentle appraisal as
the tip of her tongue ran up her inner thigh before coming back
down the other.

"Oh you..." Misty breathed, leaning forwards as her fingers pulled
gently at Miranda's hair, urging her on.

Miranda paused only to chuckle teasingly, actually enjoying the
gentle tug of Misty's fingers pulling unconsciously at her hair as
her lover leaned forward for support and bent her quaking knees.
Then, taking advantage of the new position, Miranda began to
stand, teasingly running the tip of her tongue up across one of
Misty's breasts.

Her lover gasped at the unexpected sensation, for a moment cursing
the fabric that separated her from Miranda's touch. "Please," she
whispered, feeling Miranda's hands slowly caressing ever higher,
yet suddenly wishing for little more than the feel of the
courier's hands upon her breasts, the wonderful sensation of her
nipples being squeezed between Miranda's nimble fingers as their
lips touched once again.

"Don't be so shy," came Miranda's breathy whisper, as she
teasingly kissing the exposed skin just above Misty's bra, "Just
tell me what you want..."

Misty blushed, hating the feeling of embarrassment that flooded
her at the thought of simply blurting out her desires. "You- you
know what I like, Miri," she stammered, her breathing unsteady as
Miranda kissed her way higher.

"But I don't want to miss anything, my love." Misty let her head
fall back as Miranda's kisses became gentle nibbles along her

"It- it's embarrassing," she confessed, moving her head to once
side and gasping as Miranda's teeth moved playfully across her

"I understand," assured Miranda, her quietly whispered voice full
of love, as Misty suddenly realized she was in danger of tearing
the woman's hair out, "It's alright. You don't have to do anything
you don't want to."

"I know," Misty sighed, letting go of her hair and leaning against
Miranda as they both stood and just held each other, "And that
goes for you too."

Miranda suppressed a bit of a laugh. "I can't imagine you asking
me to do something I wouldn't want to do," she replied, holding
Misty ever closer, "But then, I can't imagine there being
something I wouldn't do for you."

"I..." stammered Misty, her voice suddenly sounding sad as she
clung more tightly to her lover, "Sometimes I can't believe
there's someone in the world who loves me this much."

Miranda hugged her back, feeling suddenly guilty as she felt
Misty's tears upon her shoulder. "Misty, I-" she began, only to be
interrupted by her lover's quiet, musical laughter.

"No, Miri," she said sincerely, shaking her head and moving to
face Miranda, "I'm not sad. I'm happy. More happy then I've ever
been at home in a long time."

Miranda searched Misty's sea green eyes for a moment, trying to
understand the small number of tears that filled them as they
moved to sit down upon the thinly carpeted floor, surrounded by
nearly two decades of hand-me-down's that Zack and Sparkles had
hastily rearranged to make room for the new bed.

"Misty," she said carefully, sifting through her words carefully
before speaking them, "This may seem selfish, but I hope you can
return that favor."

"I will," Misty promised, her eyes gleaming with a sudden
intensity, "I know you go back home once a year on Halloween, and
I want this year to be no different. But when we go there, I want
to take away all the bad memories that that place holds for you.
Just like you're doing for me here. I want that place to be a home
for you again, dearest. Because I don't know if this place will
ever be a home to me again, even with your intervention."

Miranda smiled sadly. "Anywhere is home when I'm with you, Misty,"
her sincere words were followed up my a slow, lingering kiss
before the two resumed holding each other until the cool breeze
from the open window began to get the better of them.

"I should close that," Misty commented, glancing at the billowing
curtains in annoyance.

"That's probably a good idea," Miranda replied, not yet
relinquishing her lover as she glanced over at the new bed that
they hadn't so much as slept in yet. "You know," she added
thoughtfully, "It seems odd that after all the trouble I went
through to get you that bed, that we're sitting here on the

Misty snickered, trying not to laugh but not succeeding. "You're
right," she giggled, reluctantly pulling away from Miranda and
finding her feet again, "I'll meet you there."

Miranda nodded, watching Misty's suddenly blurred silhouette as
she headed for the open window. "You're beautiful, you know,"
Miranda commented from the floor.

Misty paused, standing before the window and feeling suddenly warm
despite the cool breeze her body was in full contact with. "It's
funny," she replied, resting her hands on the windowsill and
looking down at the empty street below, "So few people in my life
have ever said that to me. And for a while there, I was beginning
to question their honesty. But since you've started saying that,
I've begun believing it's true again. I suppose that's something
else I owe you."

"You'd be beautiful even without me, dearest," Miranda commented,
her chin resting on her hands as she sat cross-legged, seeing only
a dark blur at this distance.

"No, silly," Misty laughed, inhaling the scent of the water off
the lake, "What I mean to say is, is that since I've met you,
you've been giving me back my self-esteem. I know I tease you, and
say you're making me conceited, but do I appreciate it."

"Just remember that what I say is true," Miranda added in a
serious tone as she got up and shuffled backwards towards the bed,
"I don't give away my compliments easily. Just ask my mom some
time. Before I met you, I seemed to have a bad habit of not giving
the ones I loved the encouragement they deserved. So I suppose in
that way we're even."

Misty yanked down hard on the window, and quickly covered her
mouth to drown out her sudden exclamation as the window slammed
noisily shut. "Ooops!" came her muffled voice as she turned to
around and listened carefully for a moment, half expecting some
kind of banging on the wall when the noise woke up at least one of
her sisters. To Misty's surprise, however, no such sound came, and
she was able to return her attention to Miranda.

"You know," she said thoughtfully, making her way carefully
towards the bed, "It's odd, but this is the first time that I
haven't felt like a stranger here in longer than I care to

"That's because you're your own person now," Miranda replied,
having at last found the bed, "You're here because 'you' want to
be, not because you have to be. And you're not taking anymore crap
from your siblings."

"Will I be able to return the favor, dearest?" came Misty's quiet
tone as she glided through the darkness, a familiar shadow in an
unfamiliar place.

"What do you mean?"

Misty was upon Miranda before she realized it, the courier's depth
perception not being as accurate as it usually was, but the hands
suddenly grasping her own were welcome ones.

"Every year you visit Lavender," her lover explained, crouching
down and moving closer until Miranda could feel Misty's breath
upon her lips, "And every year you hide behind your job, and you
say 'oh, it's just because Wraith likes it here.' It hurts you to
spend time there, and it hurts you to spend time with your mom.
Doesn't it?"

Miranda nodded slowly, looking past Misty, lost in her own
thoughts. "Well, it used to hurt me to be here," she continued,
"But now it doesn't. Now I don't care what my sisters have done to
our parent's dreams. Now I don't care what they think of me,
because I have you. You've giving me the strength to move on. Now
I want I want to do that for you, Miri."

Their eyes met, and Miranda felt herself smile. "I must admit, my
dear. You've set a good example for me."

Misty nodded and sat next to Miranda, her arm going about her
lover's shoulders protectively. "Well, I just hope that your mom
can get used to seeing you happy for once when we get there," she
said in an amused tone, "Assuming she approves of me."

"And if she doesn't, I'll be too happy to care," Miranda promised,
giving her beloved a small kiss to seal it, "But you're right.
Lavender holds a lot of bad memories, but a lot of good ones as
well. Just like I'm sure this place holds a few fond moments for

"Well, maybe one or two," admitted Misty thoughtfully before
giving Miranda a knowing look, "But one in particular comes to

"And which one would that be?"

"The one we're having right now."

Miranda smiled, biting her lip as she saw the mischief brewing in
her lover's eyes and quickly suppressed the urged to rush things.
"Searching for perfect moments, are we?" she inquired coyly,
suddenly very aware of Misty's nearly naked body pressed against
her own and how easy it would be to ignore her own inhibitions.
But Miranda sensed Misty's intentions, noting the slight
disappointment in her lover's tone.

"Something like that," Misty replied with a dismissive wave her
hand, "unless you'd rather just talk about our mutually depressing
pasts until Nezumi and Wraith get back..."

"I'd rather look ahead-" Miranda began, suddenly gasping in
surprise as she felt her bra come undone.

"I'd rather live for the moment."

Miranda sighed contentedly, her eyes sliding closed, her body
feeling as though it were melting pleasantly as Misty leaned
forward, kissing her until they had both fallen back onto the soft

"A perfect one?" Miranda teased, laughing a little and arching her
back as Misty kissed her way hungrily down the courier's neck,
occasionally giving her a playful nibble.

"I'm sure we'll find one of those before too long," Misty promise,
as she rolled off Miranda so that they could realign themselves
properly upon the bed that seemed enormous in her small, cramped

"So, how will we know when we find it?" whispered Miranda,
propping her head up upon the new pillows, watching as Misty
crawled up the length her body with eyes that gleamed with an
almost predatory hunger before bringing up her knees and sitting
upon them where Miranda's legs had obligingly parted.

"I'll show you," Misty purred as she teased Miranda with gentle
kisses before pushing aside her lover's bra with her nose and
laying a second gentle kiss on the exposed skin she found.

Miranda smiled, stretching out her limbs and letting the
contentment spread through her. "I love you," she whispered
quietly and inwardly made note of the fact that her lover's
shyness was abating at a steady pace.

For a single selfish second, Miranda questioned herself whether or
not that was a good thing. But as Miranda felt Misty's light touch
upon her breasts as her lover's tongue gently caressed her nipples
to full hardness, she knew that it was.

'Silly me,' Miranda chided herself, her finger's going through
Misty's hair gently holding her head in place as Miranda's legs
moved to hold her as well, 'I'd forgotten the thrill of an
aggressive lover...'

Misty laughed lightly as Miranda gave in to her touch, squirming
slowly beneath her, catching her breath at every kiss, and biting
her lip to keep from calling out every time Misty's teeth
teasingly nibbled at her skin. But even if Miranda had given no
outward sign as to her condition, her body would have told the
whole story.

As Misty continued the slow path of her tongue across Miranda's
breasts, her hand slid its way farther down, causing the courier's
fingers in her hair to clench for a half a second before letting

"S-sorry!" Miranda stammered, her voice going up an octave and
making Misty laugh as she tried to suckle her lover's breast.

"I'm tougher than that, dear," assured Misty, testing Miranda's
level of excitement by casually brushing the backs of her fingers
across Miranda's womanhood through the comfortable fitting panties
that her lover still wore, and smiling at the warmth she found.

"Almost there," she teased as Miranda shivered at the sensation,
and finding a strange feeling of satisfaction spreading through
her as she realized that Miranda was blushing.

"Something wrong, Miri?" Misty teased, bringing her hand back
before sliding across Miranda's cheek and holding it there as she
leaned down to kiss her.

"It's nothing, my love," assured Miranda with an amused smile, her
stormy gray eyes gleaming with some small, withheld secret.

"Am I embarrassing you?" Misty inquired, smiling and arching her
back as the tips of Miranda's fingers traced parallel lines down
either side of her spine.

"No, not at all," her lover lied so blatantly that they both had
to laugh, "But it's okay. I need to be reminded how to blush now
and then."

"That's true," agreed Misty, giving Miranda a long slow kiss
before shuffling backwards, maintaining eye contact the whole way,
"But I can think of better ways to give you that flushed

Miranda didn't respond. Instead, she looked on expectantly as
Misty crawled backwards on her hands and knees a short distance
before smiling mischievously and dropping her head down.

For a moment a moment a part of Miranda's mind thought it amusing
that her lover's bottom still remained in the air, an almost
blatantly teasing gesture, before having the thought completely

'Oh both curse and bless you, my love!' she laughed inwardly,
feeling Misty's fingers move along her legs as gentle kisses
caressed her inner thighs. 'She wants me to loose control,'
Miranda mused, arching her back and gripping the blankets beneath
her with both hands, 'Then let her try!'

Miranda's legs bent at the knees at Misty's coaxing, soon resting
upon her shoulders as her tongue traced a path up one inner thigh
and then the other; both times stopping just before reaching
Miranda's womanhood.

All the while, her now free hands reached out blindly until they
found Miranda's. Almost instantly their fingers entwined, and
Misty found herself having to match the suddenly firm grip
Miranda's fingers gave. 'Sensitive spot, I guess,' she chuckled to
herself as her tongue made a sharp turn, moving upwards just
before touching Miranda's undergarments.

"Oh-! You-!" came Miranda's halting tone as she seemed to be torn
between quietly panting and trying not scream.

"Hey," replied Misty in an innocently teasing tone, "You like my
legs so much, I thought I'd return the favor."

Miranda let out a bit of a laugh, throwing her head back and
moaning quietly at the thought, only half noticing as Misty's
fingers slipped away, her hands cupping the courier's breasts.

"No fair-" Miranda giggled, feeling her resolve failing as her
hands covered Misty's showing her lover just how to fondle the
firm softness of her own bosom.

Although she needed no instruction, Misty sighed contentedly,
enjoying the feeling of Miranda's strong fingers atop her own,
guiding her movements. For a moment, she merely waited, sliding
into a more comfortable position and barely noticing as her legs
dangled off the end of the bed.

Without need for prompting, Miranda pushed at Misty's fingers,
coaxing her lover to squeeze her gently before pushing Misty's
fingers together to squeeze her nipples.

"Right there?" her lover inquired, smiling coyly as Miranda opened
her eyes and smiled.

"You're much to gentle," Miranda assured her, pushing Misty's
fingers closer together, only to find her lover noncompliant, a
mischievous smile crossing the water-trainer's face.

"Is there something you want?" teased Misty, her heart pounding so
loudly in her chest that she could hear her pulse racing in her

Miranda gave her an amused, yet flustered look before letting out
a slow chuckle and dropping her head back against the pillow.
"Well?" came Misty's insistent inquiry, causing Miranda to almost
taste the irony in the air, "Is there something you'd like, my

"Yes!" the woman exclaimed in a harsh whisper, sitting up so
quickly, with such an intense look of need upon her face that
Misty could only laugh, "Squeeze them harder-" as she spoke,
Miranda pushed her lover's fingers closer together, "And while
you're at it, I don't care if you have to tear my underwear off,
just please stop teasing me!"

Misty laughed, more than willingly dropping her head back down as
her fingers tightened about Miranda's captured nipples, causing
her lover to let out sudden sound that seemed to cross a grunt
with a gasp, the courier's body shuddering for a moment before

It wasn't long before Misty realized why. Even in the dim, silvery
moonlight that her eyes had barely become accustomed to, Misty's
could easily make out the not so subtle changes in Miranda's
expression. Experimentally, she drew her tongue across Miranda's
labia, still protected by the thin, comfortable cotton panties she

'Thought so,' she mused, both feeling and tasting the dampness
upon her tongue before teasingly poking at Miranda through the
garment, causing the courier to squirm a bit, her fingers suddenly
coiling through Misty's hair.

She felt a familiar shiver run through her in response to
Miranda's gesture, a wondrous feeling of suddenly being very much
in control. Of knowing that every gasp, every moan that issued
from her lover's lips was her doing. That the hardening of
Miranda's nipples, the flushed expression upon her face and the
growing moisture inside her was both because of, and for Misty. It
was an invitation of sorts, and a declaration of Miranda's desire
to do the same for her.

'This is just for me,' Misty mused hungrily, yanking down
Miranda's undergarment so quickly that her lover expected an
immediate follow up, but Misty chuckled to herself, smiling at
Miranda's soft, almost pained exclamation as her tongue touched
her softly in comparison to the abrupt disrobing.

"You, you, you..." Miranda murmured happily as she let go of Misty
to reach out and grip the edges of the mattress.

"Hmm?" her lover inquired coyly, not pausing from the slow trail
she was tracing with her tongue, exploring every curve, every
angle, every dip she encountered.

Miranda let out a small laugh, and Misty felt the tension in her
body relax somewhat. "That's- that's not fair," the courier
panted, leaning up on her elbows and smiling down at her lover who
seemed more than content to take her time.

"Something wrong dear?" Misty inquired, pausing only to brush her
sweaty bangs out of her eyes before repeatedly running her tongue
along the length of Miranda's womanhood, each time stopping just
before hitting her clit.

The courier shook her head in dismay, falling back laughing as her
body let out an inadvertent shiver that had nothing to do with
being cold. A moment later, Miranda's thoughts all became fleeting
as all her concentration became taken up by the sensations that
suddenly flooded her, and the peculiar ache she felt whenever
Misty's tongue came closer to her clit, only to withdraw.

'Th- there-!' she wanted to scream, feeling the ache almost
becoming a burning feeling as Misty's tongue arched around it, as
she experimented with new ways to just barely avoid the area. But
every time Miranda opened her mouth to try to speak, all she heard
was her own gasps turning into something incomprehensible,
something spoken so loudly, that she was certain her lover's
siblings would awaken at the sound of.

'Not again!' Miranda laughed to herself, for a moment recalling
Violet walking in on her. 'How long had she been outside that thin
door?' the woman mused for a moment, getting a odd thrill from the
thought, even though the sensation was now lost, mixed in with
everything else.

Miranda soon became dimly aware of a change. The feeling, the
constant lapping and teasing of her womanhood had changed somehow.
With effort, she calmed herself down enough to open her eyes.

Both of Misty's hands were now upon her breasts, as her lover's
tongue had finally slid so far between her labia so that Misty's
lips were now pressed against them, suckling gently.

Miranda bent her legs at the knees, shuffling downwards in a
futile attempt to have more of Misty's tongue inside her. Already,
her lover was making several gentle motions that would tease
Miranda to the brink had she not already been there, and for a
moment Miranda wished for something more. Something to fill her,
to take care of her aching need so that she could hold Misty
tight, kissing her, desperately in the vain hope of expressing the
depth of her love, nearly trying to become one with her lover as
the orgasm crashed through her.

For a moment, the need sparked a memory of a previous lover. Had
Miranda been more in control of her thoughts, she would have
laughed and chastised herself for not recalling the woman's name,
but in her present state, it didn't matter. All she could recall
was the woman's soft dark blue hair falling about her, cutting
them both off from reality. Her lips pressing against Miranda's,
laughing at the expression upon her face as somewhere, something,
someone else was-

"Miranda!" came Misty's voice, her whispered tone sounding out of
breath, but full of mischief. The sound of it was more than enough
to break Miranda's concentration, to end her reverie, although
Miranda was quite certain that Misty could have whispered
"lamppost" and it would have gotten her attention.

"Yes?" she replied, feeling a little guilty, but as she watched,
Miranda's mind lost the thought, her eyes going wide in

Misty gave her lover a wide smile before glancing down at
Miranda's womanhood almost appraisingly. She then glanced up to
catch the courier's expression. Miranda's eyes were wide,
unblinking orbs of beautiful gray and Misty made a special note
not to blink as she leaned down, moving in closer.

Even though her nearsightedness often made things a bit blurry
around the edges, even at this distance, Miranda's vision felt
strangely clear. As though her mind were filling in all the
blanks. Even her hearing became more acute in that second, that
seemed to last almost forever. She could faintly hear the sound of
the giant fish tank's air filter bubbling, the quiet sounds of
night creatures going about their business outside the window and
even the quiet noise of one of Misty's sisters stirring in her

But one sound soon blotted out all others. As Miranda then
realized, sight and sound weren't the only senses seemingly
heightened by the experience, her sense of touch was as well.

With a quiet giggle, Misty drew the full length of her soft tongue
across Miranda's clit, barely touching it. But even with so slight
a contact, Miranda could feel every bump across its surface, every
slight flex, and every curve of Misty's tongue as it dragged its
way across her deeply needful clit.

For the longest of moments, Miranda felt herself want to both
laugh and cry, but the joyous feeling was overcome by the sudden
rushing sound in her ears as the full force of the pent-up orgasm
hit her. The overwhelming feeling of euphoria then blinded Miranda
to the world around her, deafening her to the sound of her own
voice for a split second that seemed to last forever.

When at last some semblance of sanity began to seep in around the
edges, Miranda found herself sitting up, her legs bent and held as
far apart as possible. Her fingers were full of Misty's hair, and
her lungs burned for air, making Miranda wonder how long she'd
screaming out her ecstasy.

But Misty hadn't stopped. Her tongue still lapped hungrily at
Miranda's womanhood, dragging her mind back into the sweet
oblivion of ecstasy. 'Fine then!' Miranda laughed, barely noticing
the odd sounds she made as her body convulsed around her,
selfishly not caring that her knees held Misty tightly in place,
or that her suddenly loud exclamations were probably giving her
lover's siblings quite an earful.

'Oh, let them listen!' Miranda shouted in her mind, only vaguely
aware of the almost laughing grunts she seemed to be making in her
attempt to speak, only dimly conscious of Misty's lips surrounding
her clit as it was suckled and licked at the same time, 'Serves
them right! Lets Violet hear what she can never have-!'

Misty pulled back for a moment to catch her breath, caught up in
the swirl of energy that seemed to have gripped Miranda in
response to her relentless attention.

'Wow,' Misty thought inwardly with an appreciative smile,
experimentally sliding a finger between Miranda's labia and
feeling the sudden clenching of her internal muscles, 'I never
knew Miri could get this way-'

But her musing was cut short as Miranda yanked herself away.
Without wasted movement, the courier somehow got her legs under
herself and leaned down to kiss Misty.

For a confused moment, Misty wasn't certain what her lover was
trying to do, but didn't struggle as Miranda's hands slid under
her arms and tried to pull her up. "Oh, I see," she replied,
struggling against the sudden numbness in her legs as Miranda
smothered her with impatient kisses that made her laugh and fall

The relentless onslaught of affection failed to cease, however, as
Misty fell back laughing. "You okay?" she teased, suddenly finding
her head balanced precariously over the bottom end of the bed with
Miranda suddenly looking a bit confused, stuck in mid-kiss.

Her lover's response was a wide smile, a hungry, almost predatory
gleam in her eye as she took careful hold of Misty's calves and
slid her back from the brink across the bed to a more comfortable

"If, if you want me to stop," Miranda panted as she leaned over
Misty, her long dark hair falling about her in a way that gave the
courier an almost feral appearance, "P-please... Say it now."

"No," Misty replied with a loving smile, a feeling of serene trust
filling her as she looked on in amused anticipation, "I want to
see what you're capable of."

Miranda withdrew her hands for a moment, her fingers clenching as
she closed her eyes and smiled. "I see," she sighed all to calmly,
before slowly opening her eyes and lunging forward.

Once again, Misty found herself laughing, finding it a strange
reaction, but Misty supposed it was just all the laughter she'd
lost as a child coming back to her. With one quick motion, Miranda
rolled her over onto her stomach, and slid her fingers along her
lover's hips, hoisting Misty onto her knees before pulling down
her undergarments.

"Oh-!" Misty exclaimed, not quite expecting the sudden feeling of
Miranda's mouth upon her womanhood, suckling hungrily against her.

For her part, Misty was surprised the warm sensation she'd been
ignoring in herself but now could not. 'I must have been too
distracted to notice...' she mused, arching her back as Miranda's
hands slid up her thighs and gave her bottom an appraising
squeeze, 'Oh well!'

After a moment, though, Miranda's lips pulled away. "G-goodness,"
she panted, her hot breath sending chills down Misty's spin as it
touched her sensitive skin, "This is too much..."

"In a good way, I hope?" Misty inquired, lowering her head and
glancing upside down at Miranda, her voice sounding a touch more
pleading than she'd intended.

"Definitely," assured Miranda with hungry sound as she moved her
tongue more skillfully now that she was more in control of

"Hm, good," her lover sighed, relaxing and closing her eyes as the
gentle feeling spread through her, only half missing the frantic
suckling Miranda had exhibited earlier. 'So long as it feels good,
and so long as its just you, Miri,' she thought wistfully, 'I
don't care what you do to me right now...'

For a time, Misty simply stood still, finding the unaccustomedly
vulnerable position curiously enjoyable as Miranda's slow kisses
moved down her legs and her fingers caressed her. But as she
gripped the edge of the bed, shuddering as pleasant sensation
passed fleetingly through her, a thought struggled to the surface.

'What if they walk in?' it said in Misty's voice, but it only made
her smile. 'So be it!' Misty told herself, chuckling at the
thought of being walked in on in such a precarious position. On
her knees, with Miranda behind her, and with her lover's wetness
still upon her lips. 'Oh ,let them see! Let them know! Let the
whole freaking world know!' Misty shouted defiantly at the
thought, finding herself somehow intrigued by the possibility,
'Let everyone in the whole entire universe know that I love
Miranda Lydia Lilcamp!'

As she thought the words, Misty's body gave in again. The orgasm
wasn't mind blowing, but it was enough to make her cry out, and as
Misty came down, the thoughts she'd had stayed in her mind,
coalescing into an image that set her upon the path to another...

In her mind, Misty imagined herself and Miranda. Still upon her
new bed, still with Miranda behind her, still with wonderful
feeling of not knowing what her lover might do next. Only now, the
bed was not in Misty's now even more cramped and crowded little
bedroom. Instead, the large, comfortable, wonderful surprise gift
that that Miranda had bestowed upon her was set upon the raised
wooden platform that passed for a stage at the fairgrounds. The
same stage that Miranda had once stood upon, reciting a poem to
the crowd, professing her undying love and affection for the woman
she'd love all her life to the exclusion of all others.

Above them, the warm sun shined down its approval from the
brilliantly blue sky, as before them, a by far innumerable crowd
of onlookers stared up at them with rapt fascination. Some stood
quietly smiling, while others held up lit lighters, and still
others broke down in tears at the sight of the beautiful, perfect
love, but all the spectators looked on with the deepest, most
sincere approval possible.

Misty closed her eyes for a moment, her body shivering as her
embarrassment caused a wide smile to cross her lips. "Yes," she
told them, "Watch. Listen. Learn. See how far this so-called
worthless extra sister has come!"

Misty's thoughts were interrupted for a moment, though, as Miranda
shuffled onto her back and pulled her body closer. "It's easier
this way," the courier muttered rather quickly with a slight
nervous laugh.

"It's okay," Misty assured her, clinging to her fantasy and the
feelings both it and her lover invoked.

The crowd of onlookers took a half step back as Misty rose to
stand upon her knees, straddling her lover who continued about her
task with the greatest of eagerness. For a time Misty tried to
relax, letting the feelings come in slow waves that spread up
through her body before subsiding and coming again as all around
her she felt the imagined cool breeze off the lake, the intense
warmth of the sun upon her back, and the gazes of a legion of
fans, all deeply moved by what they were witnessing.

Soon, however, Misty noticed a peculiar tension. A feeling of odd
confinement that seemed unwelcome in her current situation. She
opened her eyes and gave the imagined crowd a mysterious grin as
she glanced down and perceived the problem. Her bra was still on.

"Silly me," she muttered as her mind wove yet another aspect to
her fantasy.

With a sultry glance at the spectators, Misty moved her hand
towards the front clasp that held the garment together. 'They all
want to see,' she mused, sending a strange chill down her spine
and almost feeling the effect upon her own ego, 'these people
aren't going to laugh. They aren't going to ridicule. They aren't
going to shrug and walk away so they can move on to some fake
looking half-baked bimbo! No. They're going to stay. They'll see
something they can never have, yet all desperately long for
something that will haunt their memories for their entire lives!'

With almost painful slowness, both Misty's hands moved to undo the
small clasp. The gentle 'click' was almost audible as the entire
crowd held its collective breath, and Misty glanced up at them,
smiling coyly at their stares of rapt fascination.

"Patience is half a virtue," she told them, slowly sliding the
garment apart, gradually revealing herself to them as their
curious expressions became enraptured by the mere thought of
seeing Misty completely naked.

As her nipples came into view, though, most of the onlookers let
out gasps of surprised delight as many others fell to their knees.
Still others stood quite still, except for the curious quaking of
their bodies until their faces contorted in expressions of intense
joy and they collapsed upon the ground, unconscious but still

Finally, though, as Misty slid the bra off her shoulders and
raised it above her head, those who could, rushed forward to the
edge of the stage, their eyes filled with both wonder and elated
tears as they held their hands out to her. So, with a wide grin,
and a bit of a laugh, Misty swung the garment once before tossing
it into the crowd. Once again, the spectators held their
collective breath as all eyes moved across the clear blue sky,
tracking the flailing white object until it descended among them.

The man who caught it let out an amazed cry of amazed ecstasy as
the soft material touched his fingers immediately falling to his
knees in reverence, crying as he laughed almost hysterically at
his good fortune. Those around him, though, were so awestruck,
that they fell in a wide circle around him, each of their bodies
shivering and convulsing as deeply satisfied moans passed their

From the stage, though, the scene began to loose cohesiveness. As
Misty arched her back and suddenly found Miranda's hands
thankfully clinging to her own, it was all that she could do to
not cry out.

It felt as though Misty were somehow drowning in her own passion
as her need for release became the single driving force in her
existence at that moment. Somewhere, distantly, Misty could hear
Miranda's voice, panting, possibly saying something, but it hardly
mattered. All that Misty could sense of the outside world were
Miranda's fingers through her own, clinging in near desperation as
her lover's tongue lapped urgently at her womanhood.

"I- I must-!" Misty tried to say, but her voice seemed somehow
harsh to her own ears as her mind forgot how to form the words,
and then forgot why they mattered.

As the overwhelming feeling struck her, Misty felt herself loose
control of her limbs. Somewhere in her mind, she was vaguely aware
of them moving of their own volition as somewhere else her own
voice repeated a word over and over again.

It seemed like forever before she recognized it. As the peculiar
floating, almost disembodied feeling slowly subsided, Misty found
herself muttering, "Miri, Miri, Miri..."

She was then equally surprised to find herself in her lover's
arms, the both of them still shaking, covered in sweat, but both
feeling extremely happy. "I-!" stammered Misty, quickly cutting
herself off before yelling in Miranda's ear. "Um, how...?" she
whimpered, happily exhausted.

"You said something about not being able to hold me close enough,"
came Miranda's quiet, contented sounding reply as her fingers ran
idly down Misty's back, "It's a feeling I know all too well."

Misty smiled, and let out an equally contented sigh as she
snuggled closer. "I'm sorry that I don't really remember that,"
she replied, blushing as she pondered what other words may have
escaped her lips.

"That's okay, dear," assured Miranda, her mind clinging to the
moment as much as possible, concentrating more upon the fulfilling
feeling she got every time she hugged her lover a little closer
than anything else.

"So I suppose you're going to be up all night now," pondered
Misty, sliding her body lower so she could see Miranda's face.

"It's okay," the courier replied with a shrug, her hand reaching
out to brush Misty's sweaty hair back, "I want to hold you for as
long as I can anyway."

"The rest of your life's a long time, dear."

Miranda leaned forward, answering Misty's suddenly wry smile with
a kiss. "Now you're just being silly," she chuckled, taking a
moment to both flip the pillow over.

"Only partially," Misty assured her with a yawn, watching as
Miranda lifted the dark tangled mess her hair had become before
laying her head back down, letting it fan out across the pillow,
"But seriously, it's not fair of me to simply fall asleep on you."

Miranda gave a mirthful chuckle as her arms went about her lover
once again. "Don't worry," she told Misty with a shrug, "It's only
my mind that wanders. My body, however, is quite content to remain
perfectly still. Besides, this is when my inspiration is at its
peak. 'Clear your mind, and let inspiration fill it,' or something
like that anyway..."

"All right then," Misty replied, stretching out her muscles one
last time before putting her head down upon Miranda's chest and
closing her eyes contentedly, "Just wake me up if Nezumi and
Wraith have anything interesting to say."

"Oh yeah, them..." pondered Miranda, glancing over at the fuzzy
image of the window at the other side of the room. Just beyond it,
she could make out the brilliantly glowing shape of the moon in
its gibbous phase. "I hope they're all right out there..."

Chapter XVIII

Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue was dark and eerily silent
as the two invisible figures glided across the now empty parking
lot and sailed up onto the roof. Once they were both well within
the shadows cast by several small chimneys and the rooftop portion
of the ventilation system, Wraith dropped the illusion of
invisibility on his companion as he faded into the visible
spectrums of light himself.

"Well that was fun," commented Nezumi sarcastically, hopping down
off the haunter's spectral, disembodied hand to the broken gravel
of the roof, his body weaving back and forth as he regained
equilibrium, "I hope I get frequent flier miles for it, though. I
think I prefer my feet on the ground. And so long as we're on the
subject, I'd especially prefer to actually be able to see my

Wraith chuckled, gliding along a few feet off the roof, surveying
the scene. "At least you 'have' feet," he chided in an amused tone
before floating up to the ventilation grate and poking at it with
his three fingered hand, "Say, how 'bout this way?"

Nezumi closed his eyes, giving his head a good shake to make
certain his brain was turned around the right way and glanced over
at the dark floating shape of his friend. "Oh, VERY funny, Fang
Face!" he replied in a warily annoyed tone, recalling the first
time they met, "But I think we've spent enough time in ventilation
tubes for one life time."

"Aww, come on," laughed Wraith, trying to look innocent, but not
really succeeding, "I'm on YOUR side now, remember?"

Nezumi smiled, somehow unable to muster anger towards his old
friend. "You're just lucky I'm not claustrophobic," he muttered,
scampering over to the metal grating and looking at the near total
darkness between the slats.

"Umi forgives me," the ghost added in his own defense as the
rattata began squeezing himself between the slats in what seemed
like an impossible feat of squirming.

"Yeah, well, ah-!" responded Nezumi, his voice echoing as he
shifted his weight in an attempt to get his stomach through the
thin opening, "Draco-babe's still kinda impressionable, and she's
just a wee bit too forgiving sometimes. Ow-! Oh man, I really need
to loose some weight!"

Wraith suppressed a laugh as the rattata fell forward and had to
grab one of the metal slats with the end of his curled tail to
avoid falling into the darkness below. "Need some help?" he
inquired with a wide grin as he phased easily though the metal
grating and caused his eyes to glow an eerie amber colour.

"Naw," commented Nezumi as though he were fine with the concept of
hanging upside down by his tail over a dark abyss, "I think I'll
just wait 'till I sprout wings and can fly my way down!"

The ghost tilted his body from side to side in a manner of shaking
his head before reaching out with on hand and snatching Nezumi up
by the tail. He then glanced down, causing the wave of strange,
spectral light to illuminate the surprisingly long drop to the
bottom. Wraith then let out a long, impressed sounding whistle and
held Nezumi closer to his face.

"Looks like a long drop," he commented mischievously, "Good thing
you had me here to save you!"

"Don't even think about it," the rattata chuckled as they
descended, passing by several offshoots that would soon be keeping
the second floor living area warm all Winter.

"Don't worry," the ghost assured him, his tone sounding less
maniacal, "I've never actually wanted really hurt anyone."

"No, not you. Never!" replied Nezumi offhandedly, waving a paw
dismissively for effect, "You just want to scare the living
daylights out of folks from time to time that's all."

"Well, you have to admit that fear a fairly strong emotion,"
explained Wraith as they reached the bottom and he let Nezumi down
with the utmost of care.

"So's amusement," added the rattata, sniffing around to figure out
their next move.

"Yeah," the haunter agreed thoughtfully, "And I do like making
people laugh, but every once in a while, you just have to give
someone a good scare! It's so... So yummy!"

"Yummy?" inquired Nezumi, stopping in his tracks and blinking

"Yes," mused Wraith, closing his eyes for a moment and causing the
lights to go out again, "the living have such tasty emotions! And
their nightmares aren't half bad either!"

Nezumi shook his head and sighed before finally catching the old
scent of frying meat that once wafted down the shaft from
somewhere farther ahead. "Ah! Now THAT'S yummy!" he explained,
glancing over his shoulder at the bewildered looking haunter.

"Sorry, guy," replied Wraith with a shrug, "I don't remember food.
Or much of anything from my breathing days."

"Gee," commented the rattata, a look of distant horror in his
eyes, "I can't imagine not being able to taste stuff. Food's

"Eh," replied Wraith with what passed for a shrug, "C'est La

Nezumi furrowed his brow, thinking hard for a moment before
suddenly grinning broadly. "Alright then, my fine, ectoplasmic
friend!" he announced, raising up on his hind-legs and folding his
forelegs across his chest, "I think it's about time that you got
an edge-you-vacation in fine queeze-een!"

Wraith stifled a laugh, knowing better than to let his voice echo
too much. "And just how do you propose to do that?" he inquired
with smirk, "Just 'cause I have a tongue, doesn't mean I can

"Ah!" replied Nezumi with a gleam in his eye, "But I can!"

Wraith gave the rattata a suspicious look, floating closer as one
eye grew and the other shrank to compensate. "You have a plan?"

Nezumi nodded. "Yup," he said in an amused whisper, glancing
around as if expecting someone to come along and find them
plotting, "You know that trick you can do? The one where you link
minds with the Boss Lady? And sometimes she can see what you see,
and you can see what she's seein'?"

Wraith rubbed his chin, looking thoughtfully as Nezumi spoke. "I
think I see what you're getting at," he replied, turning his gaze
back to the rattata and nodding, "Alright then. But you might want
to close your eyes first. Human minds are more complex than

"Eh, I can take it," assured Nezumi with a shrug before looking
Wraith straight in the eye, grinning broadly and saying, "Alright,
Fang Face. Hit me!"

Wraith cackled as he reached out his disembodied hand and pushed a
single finger through his friend's forehead without encountering
resistance. His consciousness then quickly slipped past Nezumi's
less than adequate mental shielding as though it wasn't even there
and almost immediately found the center of the pokemon's
consciousness. With a satisfied smile, the haunter accessed a
continuous stream of hazy memories he'd only glanced at in passing
when they'd first met.

In less than a heartbeat's time, the haunter had quickly scanned
through all of Nezumi's limited long-term memory and was amused by
the images of himself in his friend's mind. It even gave him a
strange warm feeling to know that they both thought of each other
as brothers now, and that Umi was indeed the little sister they
both sought to protect. Even though she'd be able to easily defeat
both of them at once in only a few years time.

When he touched the rattata's thoughts about Miranda, though, he
felt a sudden, strange sadness. Though Wraith himself had no
actual 'parents', having long since transcended the mortal plane
and having forgotten even what he was in life, the fact that
Nezumi secretly thought of Miranda as 'Mom' caused the ghost to
take pause. The rattata had never spoken of his real mother, and
her fate had been lost in the garbled jumble of memories Nezumi
had accumulated growing up with humans.

But amongst the faded memories, Wraith found an image that caused
a pang of guilt. He'd felt the emotion before in himself, but only
rarely, and in small measure, but the image of Nezumi's rattata
siblings being devoured by a hungry persian made the haunter feel
more genuinely guilty than he'd thought possible. Wraith then once
more recalled the first time he'd met Nezumi and Umi. When he'd
quickly scanned their minds to discover their worst fears. Umi's
had involved the cold, but that wasn't surprising. Dragons HATED
being cold more than anything else in the world. But Nezumi's fear
involved felines. Persians in particular. At first Wraith had
thought it was simply a common rattata trait, the logic standing
to all reason. But now as he quickly reviewed the images of a
younger Miranda risking her life against a feline that outweighed
her, and could have easily made the human its next meal, the
haunter knew what true guilt was.

For his part, Nezumi felt nothing more than a slight tingling as
the dark shape passed between his eyes and literally touched his
mind. Less than a second later, he felt a slight wave of
disorientation as a flood of memories zipped past, too quickly to
make sense of, followed by a wave of sudden nausea.

"Oh...!" he exclaimed uneasily, staggering backwards on his hind
legs as he developed a strange sort of double vision. For a
moment, Nezumi could see Wraith looking down at him almost sadly,
but at the same time, he could though the haunter's eyes a little
rattata staggering almost drunkenly from side to side before
falling over on his back.

"Oh, sorry," muttered Wraith, turning down the sense-link, "As I
said. Human's are more complicated than pokemon."

"No worries!" assured Nezumi, clutching his head against the
sudden ache behind his eyes, "Let's just get moving. We only have
a few hours ta kill, and I wanna see what they have in their
kitchen before we do any serious snooping."

"Alright then," Wraith replied, pretending to crack his knuckles
before floating past Nezumi, his the glow from his luminescent
eyes reflecting off a nearby ventilation grating, "Just let me
check to make sure the way is clear."

Nezumi nodded slowly, giving himself a second headache in the
process before following the ghost at a slow, careful pace until
he regained equilibrium and he got used to the peculiar echoing
effect in his ears.

"Hey!" whispered Wraith, his voice a dark hiss as the light from
his eyes went out, "Check this out! Um, close your eyes first."

The rattata complied, shutting his eyes as he approached the
grating. To Nezumi's surprise, his mind was filled with a sudden
storm of confusing images. Many of the shapes, were familiar, and
even the sensation of being suspended in midair was becoming
commonplace, but what Nezumi hadn't been ready for, was colour.

All his life, the rattata had seen the world with eyes that were
designed for nocturnal foraging. The world of colour was foreign
to him, as Nature had decreed that night creatures had no need for
such things. And now, Nezumi's mind swam with images that were
both familiar and yet completely alien to him.

Only the dull white of the walls in the small office held any
solace from the seemingly blinding dull green of the carpet, the
somehow nauseating brown of the desk, the somehow loud red colour
of the LED of the digital clock that sat upon it.

"A computer!" cackled Wraith in excitement, suddenly severing the
connection and phasing through the grating, leaving a light sheen
of ectoplasm upon the metal to mark his passing.

"Gah!" spat Nezumi, holding his head as he opened one eye and
stared gratefully out at the wide assortment of grays, blacks and
whites that his mind was used to, "That's enough of that!"

After a moment to make sure he could keep his last meal down,
Nezumi scampered up to the grating and peered curiously through
the slanted metal bars. "Eww!" he complained, getting a face full
of ectoplasm for his trouble, but still thankful to see that the
office was in shades he understood once more.

"Pssst! Hey, Fang Face! You gonna open the door, or what?" he
called, his voice a squeaking whisper, but the haunter had already
vanished into the large white box with the dark glass screen and
Nezumi knew he'd be a while.

"Oh, for the love of gouda!" the rattata muttered, taking several
steps back from the sealed exit, "I guess I'll just have to do it

Nezumi closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, partially to
prepare himself and partially in hopes of catching a scent or two
from the kitchen. "One, ten... Eighty-four-!" he exclaimed before
racing forward, kicking in a surge of adrenaline from a special
gland as he did so, allowing Nezumi to travel far faster than was
normal for the split second it took him to plough into the

There was a loud -pop!- as the loose screws came loose from the
plaster wall and the rattata came crashing through the thin metal
barrier, but the shriek Nezumi let out as he suddenly fell out of
the air at near terminal velocity was far more ear-splitting.

"Ahh!" he cried, tumbling end over end for what seemed like
forever before landing with a bounce upon the dark leather sofa
that rested against the opposite wall.

"Shh!" hissed Wraith, his disembodied voice echoing eerily from
the computer speakers, "You could wake the dead with that yell!"

"Look who's talking," the rattata muttered, brushing the ectoplasm
and dust out of his fur.

"You know what I mean," responded Wraith, suddenly making a
peculiar, happy sound before cackling quietly to himself.

"Oooh!" he whispered over the speakers, "This is pretty good!"

"What is?" Nezumi inquired, bounding off the couch and running
across the dark carpet to where he could climb up the leg of the

"I think it's a love letter," chuckled Wraith, followed by a faint
explosive sound as he emptied the computer's recycle bin.

"You can read it?" asked Nezumi, blinking loudly as he struggled
onto the desk and sat before the keyboard.

"Well, not 'exactly'," admitted the haunter as the monitor
flickered to life, "But the way the one's, zero's and two's line
up occasionally make pictures I can sorta understand."

"Wha-?" Nezumi replied, his head flopping to one side, adding to
his sudden slack jawed expression.

"Never mind," assured Wraith, suddenly appearing on the screen as
a two-dimensional haunter that took up most of the screen, "It's
how these things talk. It's not something you need to worry
yourself about."

"Good," commented Nezumi, giving his head a shake as he glanced
curiously up at the image of his friend, sniffing the air between
them, "Say, are you sure you weren't one of them 'pory-what's
it's' before you, you know... Kicked the bucket?"

"I don't think so," the ghost replied thoughtfully, his
disembodied hand rubbing his chin as he spoke, "Otherwise we
wouldn't have met."

"How's that?"

Wraith shrugged. "It's all technical," he muttered dismissively,
suddenly turning his attention to something inside the system
Nezumi couldn't see, "but to put it simply, those bleeders at
Sylph grabbed me 'cause they were too lazy to make a computer that
thought for itself. That was before they made those porygon

"I see," replied Nezumi slowly, trying to recall the fuzzy
memories as Wraith mucked about in the computer for several

"Okay, here we go," said Wraith finally before reaching his hand
towards the rattata, "This'll take a while, but I'm sure it'll
have something on it the Boss Lady'll want.

Nezumi watched in curious fascination as the haunter's hand
touched the inside of the glass screen before pushing forward and
slowly entering the real world once again, the dark hand passing
through the barrier, and seeming to go from two dimensional, to

"Show off," chuckled the rattata, watching as the hand opened one
of the desk's drawers and began rummaging through it.

"Hey, most of you skin bags are born with these things," chuckled
Wraith as Nezumi's curiosity got the better of him, and he leaned
over the edge in time to see the haunter's hand tossing several
small, black, flat things out, "I'm just testing my new limits.
Ah! Here we go!"

"What's that for?" inquired Nezumi, watching as the haunter's
three fingered hand lifted a flat, shiny round thing from the pile
of junk at the bottom of the drawer.

"Evidence!" cackled Wraith as somewhere beneath the desk a quiet
mechanical sound signaled the opening of a small empty tray.

"Eh, whatever," replied Nezumi with a shrug, rapidly becoming
bored and wondering where the kitchen was.

"Alright. Let's go," came his friends voice a moment later, this
time without the odd reverberation from the speakers.

"Do you get to eat now?" Nezumi inquired, ignoring the strange
sounds coming from the computer, paying more attention to keeping
himself still as Wraith picked him up again.

"So much that you'll have to evolve a larger stomach," assured
Wraith as he exited the computer with a strangely wet sound and
flew them both towards the door.

"Great!" exclaimed Nezumi excitedly, rubbing his forepaws together
and not paying attention as the ghost passed non-corporally
through the wooden door, and he himself went crashing into it
before landing on the carpet.

"Jerk," he muttered, exhaling all the air from his lungs before
preparing to crawl through the small opening that separated the
door from the floor.

"Sorry," came Wraith's muffled apology as he waited for Nezumi to
squirm out the other side, "I forgot."

"Yeah, well just don't- Hey, what's that smell?"

"I don't smell anything," replied Wraith with a chuckle, knowing
that Nezumi was perfectly well aware of his lack of a nose.

"Hm, this isn't good," the rattata muttered, his nose close to the
floor as he crawled about, barely remembering to yank his tail
through the small opening.

"So what is it?" inquired Wraith in a bored tone, glancing down
the short hallway towards what he suspected was the kitchen.

"I dunno," replied Nezumi pensively, glancing over his shoulder as
he followed the bored ghost down the hall, "But something nasty's
been sitting outside that room quite a bit lately."

"Well, it's not here now," replied Wraith, only half paying
attention as he pushed a door open and peered inside.

"Yeah, but, can't you like, 'feel' it, or somethin'?" Nezumi
persisted, suddenly feeling his skin crawl as he glanced over his
shoulder and noticed a few short dark hairs mixed in with his
coat, "Somethin' mighty creepy?"

"Naw, all I sense is stress," said the ghost hungrily, licking his
lips as he sailed into the kitchen and began absorbing the
residual traces of human emotion that still hung about the room.

Nezumi shook his head in dismay, his hunger temporarily forgotten
as he yanked a course black hair off his back and gave it a quick
sniff. "Ew!" he exclaimed, tossing it away in disgust, "reminds me
of somethin', but I'm not sure what. Hm. Now where has Fang Face
gotten himself off to?"

Within the kitchen, Wraith had to keep himself from laughing as he
floated along the pristine aisles, past workstations and gas-
powered ovens where busy humans had exerted so much energy in a
relatively short period of time. The emotional residue wasn't as
fresh as it would be coming straight from the source, but it
wasn't exactly stale either.

With a wide grin, the haunter let his fingers trail through the
invisible pockets of tension, anger and joy, cackling to himself
as he sampled everyone, discerning more than twenty distinct human
presences in the expansive kitchen.

"Tasty, tasty..." he murmured, not noticing as Nezumi scampered
along the dark aisles with a worried expression upon his face.

"There's that scent again," commented the rattata, scampering
under a counter and sniffing around until he found the passing
scent of one of his own kind mingled with the peculiar scent of
whatever guarded the door to the office.

"Yo, Fang Face!" he called quietly, "You noticed any sign of that
weird thing yet?"

"Huh?" called Wraith, lost in his own musings as he greedily
feasted upon every bit of emotional residue he could find left
over by the controlled chaos of the busy kitchen.

"Forget it," Nezumi muttered, trying to follow the rattata scent
but finding the nauseating scent of chemical floor cleaner
clogging his senses as soon as he emerged from underneath the
workstation, "Just help me find where they keep the food. I can't
think on an empty stomach anyway."

Wraith let out a loud belch, having cleansed the room of any trace
of human passage on the spiritual level. "It's over there," he
muttered, reaching out one of his hands to direct the rattata,
"Here, I'll get the door for you."

"Thanks," Nezumi replied, his stomach suddenly growling as the
followed the hand to a row of gigantic steel doors. With little
effort, Wraith's spectral hand yanked the lever attached to one of
them, and the door slid open with a quiet hiss, "Yikes-!"

Nezumi cursed and tried to shield his eyes from the blinding light
that switched on in the room beyond. As he stood blinking, the
rattata could feel the cooler air billowing out around him and the
distinct scents of several kinds of expensive cheeses traveling
with it, disguised by the dozen other scents that filled what was
only one of several walk-in coolers.

"Wow," chuckled Nezumi wryly as he stood up on his hind legs to
get a better look, "If I was a Disney character, I'd break into

"Good thing you're not," shuddered Wraith, floating in several
feet above Nezumi's head and giving the room a quick scan. "Oooh!"
he commented after a moment, "Someone's been doing something they
shouldn't in here!"

Nezumi tried not to worry about what the ghost was on about, and
instead set about clambering up one of the tall wooden shelves to
where the cheeses were located. "Mine," he chuckled to himself,
momentarily forgetting about the strange scent and the itchiness
he felt where the creature's stray hairs had touched him, "All

"Have fun," cackled Wraith, quickly absorbing the emotions of two
lover's who seemed to have made the warmest of the cool-rooms a
convenient place to steal kisses at work before going intangible
and passing through the wall to the next room.

"What the-?!" he exclaimed, blinking loudly as his spectral senses
picked up the emotions of great amusement and mild satisfaction.

Curiously, Wraith concentrated and caused the eerie glow to return
to his eyes. What he saw gave him a confused sensation of
amusement and sudden remorse. The room was similar to the previous
one, only far colder, with a special table set aside for meat
wrapping in the center, and hanging in a neat row from the ceiling
were several mismatched forms of creatures Wraith half recognized.

At first he dismissed them as the usual tauros, piloswine, and the
occasional mareep humans were known to have a taste for, but his
time haunting Miranda's pokedex told him otherwise. There weren't
many, and Wraith's quick analysis of the room's emotional residue
told him that this room served a special purpose. Something dark
and Machiavellian that made him smile, but it was the sight of one
deceased pokemon that made the humor of the situation pass rather

"I hope this isn't what I know it is..." Wraith muttered
nervously, biting the ends of his fingers as he reached his other
hand to touch what he was certain was one of Nezumi's distant

"Okay, that's it," the ghost muttered, turning away as the body
swung ominously back and forth, setting several others off as
well, "I think that disk should be ready, and his hard drive nice
and formatted!"

Wraith passed through the metal door as though it were nothing and
took a deep breath before chuckling at himself for imitating the
reaction he'd seen in his mortal friends. "Weird," he muttered,
glancing down at his hands, "I almost feel unnerved by that
experience. I must be hanging around the living a little too

"Then perhaps you should go back to living amongst the dead,"
hissed a voice that caused a peculiar chill to run through Wraith.

Unwilling to be intimidated, the haunter swiveled to face the
unfamiliar sound, quickly reviewing the exact wording of what was
said in pokespeak to hear the sound that would meet human ears.

"Ah! I see that you've discovered part of our little secret," the
feminine voice continued with a low, sinister chuckle that made
Wraith smile.

"Your intimidation is amateurish," chided the haunter, discerning
the dark shape of something quadrupedal, with long slender ears
and a short tail that twitched unpleasantly at the ghost's

"What?!" the umbreon hissed as an eerie yellow glow appearing upon
her forehead in the shape of a small ring, "How dare you! I am a
creature of darkness! And you! You are but a shadow of that true

"Oh, give it up!" laughed Wraith, refusing to take the evolved
eevee seriously even as he quickly searched his memory for
information on the twisted little vulpine before him, "You're like
one of those pretentious humans who paint their skin white, dye
their hair black and go around muttering 'Oh the angst! I'm so do
dead! Like, oh woe is me! I think I'll go and brood now!'"

The umbreon glowered, her eyes gleaming red in the darkness.
"Watch your tongue, spirit," she warned as peculiar green sparks
ignited between his teeth as she spoke, "Lest I awaken my master
and we discover what the culinary properties of haunter's are!"

"Hey, Fang Face, what's shaken'?" inquired Nezumi, waddling out of
the first cold room with a rather full stomach, "Whoa-! Who's the
Goth chick?"

The umbreon turned her attention to Nezumi the instant he
appeared, her nostrils flaring as she caught his scent. "Ah!" she
chuckled hungrily, "Another tasty rattata dares to venture into my
master's darkened kitchen!"

"Well," commented Nezumi with a wide grin, his whiskers twitching
as he oriented on the dark shape, "You ain't so bad lookin'
yourself, little lady!"

"Um, I think she means to eat you, Nezumi," interrupted Wraith

"Oh. Well that's no good."

"For you, perhaps," chuckled the umbreon at Nezumi's sudden
disappointment, taking a few quiet steps forward as her teeth
gleamed dangerously.

"Look, uh, we really should be going," said Wraith, dropping one
of his hands to grab Nezumi by the scruff of the neck.

"Oh, no!" chuckled the umbreon, "I can't allow myself to appear to
be a bad hostess. Won't you stay? Won't you stay, for dinner?!"

At that moment, Salmonella let loose with the attack she'd been
withholding. Sickly green flames burst forth from the end of her
short snout, filling the kitchen with an unnatural green light
whose shadows seemed alive with malevolence.

"Incoming!" shouted Nezumi as Wraith yanked the rattata and
himself out of the way, barely evading the attack.

"What was that?!" the haunter exclaimed as the flames died away
and the dark eevee chuckled at them.

"Bale Fire," she replied with a satisfied grin, "something new my
master cooked up for me. And you know, it's VERY effective against
ghosts. Which is unfair really, seeing as all your pathetic
techniques will barely breach my defenses."

"She's right," muttered Wraith as though through gritted teeth,
"There isn't much I can do that'll touch her."

"Ha! Then we'll just have to double team her!" replied Nezumi
confidently, his eyes gleaming as he grinned broadly at the
umbreon, "Alright, Fang Face! Hit her with everything you've got!"

Salmonella yawned and sat down on her haunches to scratch herself
behind the ear as Wraith held out his hands dramatically.
"Nightshade won't help you," she replied in a bored tone as a
field of eerie green light formed around her in a thin bubble and
dark purple lightning crackled across Wraith's stubby pointed

"Maybe not," chuckled Nezumi from his precarious position, a
sphere blue/white light forming just inside his mouth, "But a
little something the Boss Lady likes to call 'Hypothermia' just

As one, the two pokemon fired off their attacks. Wraith's
nightshade arching from his hands in a wide, wavering beam of dark
purple un-light, as the crackling blue/white beam of cold burst
forth from Nezumi in a thin cone.

The two peculiar attacks merged partway to their target, and
immediately altered one another, shifting through various colour
combinations as they seemed to struggle against one another.
Finally, though, they became one. A long thin beam of focused
indigo that snaked and arched its way to its target like a hungry
serpent before striking hard and fast against the umbreon's force

Salmonella let out a frightened shriek as the barrier collapsed
and the beam of frozen nightshade ploughed into her. The result
was an explosion of purple light that crackled with blue/white
lightning, and left the floor tiles both frozen and warped. The
result to Salmonella however, was a very angry, and very cold
umbreon sailing across the room and crashing into a pile of neatly
stacked pots and pans.

"Y-You'll pay for that!" she promised once the cacophony of
crashing metal subsided, "I'll swallow your souls!"

"Hey!" called Wraith from the door to the hallway as he flew at
breakneck speed from the room, "That's MY line!"

"Ah! swallow this!" laughed Nezumi, sending a poorly aimed ice
beam into wall several meters away from the umbreon before being
whisked out of the room.

"We'll need to get through that door again, eh," warned Wraith,
straining to keep Nezumi aloft as the rattata kept looking back
and firing ice-beams in the general direction of the kitchen.

"Huh? Oh, yeah! Sorry!" chuckled Nezumi, refusing to take the
pretentious little pokemon who claimed to eat rattatas seriously,
"Just drop me off here!"

"Gladly!" agreed Wraith, letting go of Nezumi before making a
second sharp turn and phasing back through the office door.

The rattata, meanwhile, found himself rolling down the carpeted
hall towards a distant set of stairs. When he at last came to a
halt at the foot of those stairs, feeling a bit bruised, but
relatively unharmed due to the carpeted floor, Nezumi found
himself looking up into a pair of gleaming red eyes.

"Oh no, not another one!" he grumbled, flipping over onto his feet
and running back towards the exit as a large black form swooped
down and up, barely missing him.

"Deb!" shouted Salmonella from the opposite end of the hall, "We
have an intruder!"

"Well, duh!" laughed the murkrow, gliding along near the ceiling
and waiting for the right moment to swoop down and devour the
rattata with her sharply curved beak.

"Ya got yerself a flair for graspin' the obvious, babe!" laughed
Nezumi, skidding to a halt at the office door and concentrating
for a moment, "But it ain't gonna help ya!"

"What the-?!" exclaimed both pokemon as Nezumi's body glowed with
a brilliant white light before expanding and changing shape until
he stood as a significantly larger raticate.

"Evolution won't help you, tasty one," hissed the umbreon as
Nezumi's incisors gleamed before he sank them into the door and
ripped it off its hinges.

"Running won't save you!" the dark-eevee continued as Nezumi
disappeared into the room and both pokemon gave chase once again,
"Nothing will save you-!"

As the two dark types reached the open doorway, the door came
flying out at them. Salmonella let out a high-pitched shriek and
flattened herself out; the murkrow wasn't as lucky, however. Deb
hit the door like a bug hitting a windshield and let out a sharp
squawk before dropping like a stone.

"Heh, I suppose I'll have to pay for that too, eh?" commented
Nezumi sarcastically, giving the angered umbreon a wide grin
before bounding towards the single window and bursting through the
glass to freedom.

"Something like that," spat the umbreon, suddenly noticing an
awful grinding noise coming from one corner of the room.

She sniffed the air and caught the unfamiliar tang of ozone, the
sharp smell of melting plastic and finally a peculiar scent of
fusing copper wire. Cautiously, Salmonella crept closer to the
increasingly louder grinding noise. As she peered curiously under
the desk, the smells got stronger and what the dark one saw made
her eyes widen with anxiety.

The large white box with several small green blinking lights did
not look happy. The lights had all started flashing red, and as
she watched it began to shake violently as white smoke rose lazily
up from all the seams. And finally, once the awful grinding sounds
halted, both the strange little trays slid open, each one dripping
with a noxious clear/green ooze that slowly sublimated from the
intense heat the metal box was giving off.

"Oh dear," Salmonella muttered, taking several steps back and
deciding to check on Deb, "The master is not going to like


Miranda awoke with the morning sun shining painfully in her eyes
and something cold poking her in the nose. Grumbling incoherently,
she opened one eye and saw Nezumi poking her with his nose.

"You're back," she whispered happily, reaching her hand out from
beneath the blankets to scratch him between the ears, "Find
anything useful, dear?"

The rattata gave her an unusually pensive look, and nodded.

"What's wrong?" inquired Miranda, her tone becoming instantly
serious as she momentarily tried to sit up before realizing that
she still had Misty sleeping on top of her.

Nezumi sighed heavily and held aloft the small teacup Miranda had
given him. 'It's bad, Miri,' he whispered in pokespeak, 'and I
need a drink.'

Miranda gave the little creature a look of concern, knowing that
Nezumi never dropped his sarcasm. His tone never became so
serious, even in a dangerous situation. "What time is it?" she
asked rhetorically, reaching unsuccessfully for her watch, which
she'd left on top of the dresser.

'I'll get it for ya,' offered Nezumi, giving Miranda a second jolt
of worry.

"This IS serious," she told herself, feeling a deep sense of dread
creep in around the corners of her wary mind as the rattata leaped
up onto the dresser and tossed her down the watch.

"Oh, Nezumi," Miranda muttered, shaking her head in dismay, "It's
much too early for this."

Nezumi shrugged and sat down on his haunches as Miranda spent
quite a bit of time reluctantly extricating herself from her lover
before sliding out of bed and stumbling groggily towards the door.

'Boss Lady!' Nezumi hissed warningly.

"Huh? Wha-? Oh yeah!" chuckled Miranda, tossing her hair out of
her eyes as she turned around and picked up the long t-shirt she
usually wore to bed, "I forgot I was naked..."


Miranda returned a short time later with a mug she'd found in the
kitchen filled nearly to the rim with sweet smelling Earl Gray. As
she shut the door quietly behind her, the woman spotted Nezumi
giving her a quizzical look from the cluttered dresser.

"I still say it's too early, she whispered, taking a sip of the
steaming liquid as she glanced down at the over turned clock on
the floor and noticed it was now barely half past seven.

Nezumi nodded, his expression still sullen as he held up his small
teacup hopefully. Miranda nodded in response and after carefully
navigating the cluttered floor, spooned a bit of her drink into
her rattata's cup.

"The sugar'll probably put you in a better mood," Miranda teased,
smiling maternally and scratching Nezumi between the ears, "Now
then. Where's Wraith?"

The little rattata motioned nonchalantly with his tail to where
Miranda's backpack lay open on the floor. "The 'dex?" his trainer
inquired, and Nezumi nodded in agreement, wincing at the tea's
temperature as he lapped it up.

Miranda sighed heavily as she sat cross-legged on the floor and
set her tea down. "I don't know why I just don't take this thing
in for repairs," she muttered to herself with a yawn, all the
while digging through her overcrowded backpack blindly.

After more than a minute, the courier's hand grasped something
small, plastic, and nearly icy cold to the touch. "Over doing it a
little this morning, aren't we, dear?" she inquired rhetorically
as she wrenched the small rectangular object free of a week's
worth of dirty laundry.

There was no response from the object, but the small, battered
looking device uncommonly known as an "Electronic Parazoological
Encyclopedia & Data Input/Output Device", and commonly known as a
"Pokedex" did seem somehow more abused and battered than the last
time she'd been bothered to use it.

For a moment Miranda smiled, recalling only a few short years ago
when she'd found Wraith, and how she'd tricked him out of a Sylph
Co mainframe and into her 'dex. It hadn't been pretty, but since
then, the device was like a second pokeball to the ghost, and the
poor thing showed the scars.

The outer casing (which was allegedly bullet proof, but Miranda
had yet to test the theory) had once been the subtle purplish
colour that all pokedexes given to Lav'Brats were, but after years
of ghostly inhabitation, the colour had drained to nearly white (a
fact that not even the world's premier spectral-zoologist could
explain), and along the center where it split in half like a book,
a series of unexplainable scorch marks had formed. The casing was
also beaten and battered, with scratches that looked like claw
marks, and dents that couldn't possibly be explained by any known
weapon or pokemon technique.

With a bit of physical exertion, Miranda was able to pry the
device open, instinctively flinching as bits of melted plastic
broke off and the pokedex made an unpleasant rattling noise from
inside as though something important had dislodged. And as the two
halves separated, with an unpleasant creaking noise not unlike the
wary groan of old bones being forced into action, the array of
internal problems became more evident.

On the right-hand side, the small "dvorak" keyboard was missing
two function keys, nine letters from the alphabet, and the 'Enter'
key. Several others were either stuck in the pressed position,
wouldn't move when one pushed down on them, or had their letters
or numbers rubbed off completely. Also, the odd bits of wires and
internal circuitry that stuck out from the long gash near the edge
weren't very encouraging.

The problems with the left-hand side weren't as visible, but were
just as bad. The small 128bit colour flat screen that took up most
of the area had one large crack across it, with several smaller
cracks radiating outwards, yet somehow the monitor still
functioned. (A fact that Miranda knew better than to question.)
Even when it was turned off, the screen occasionally flickered
with eerie florange and octarine lights now and then, and to make
matters worse, the internal speaker which Miranda was certain
she'd yanked out of the thing the first day she had it,
occasionally let out a low hissing sound.

But it wasn't the physical appearance of Miranda's pokedex that
made most repair shop employees run in fear, go mad, or start
writing bad HP Lovecraft fanfics. It wasn't even the fact that
sometimes when Miranda's pokedex was closed, its batteries yanked
out and buried, and Wraith at least a thousand miles away, safely
locked in his pokeball that the 'dex still occasionally leaked
ectoplasm around its charred edges. It was more the indeterminate,
and only barely discernable aura of "wrongness" that surrounded
the device.

Nearly anyone who came in contact with the practically cursed
artifact felt a feeling quite similar to the sensation one got
when in close proximity of the Lavender Tower. One could almost
feel the negative planar energy flowing in and out of the pokedex.
A feeling that seemed to increase as the night of All Hallow's Eve
approached, and even people who didn't believe in ghost types
still said that it "felt" haunted. The device's aura was so bad
infact, the one person stupid enough to steal it from Miranda was
still sitting in a VERY brightly lit room in the Gringy City
Asylum for the terminally insane.

But none of this bothered Miranda. Anymore. She'd long since tuned
out the occasional quiet screams from her backpack, the people who
fled at the sight of her, making warding signs any time she
actually needed to use the device, and the strange bone chilling
sensation she got while holding it. The courier knew the ghost
that haunted her pokedex, and where his loyalties were.

"Wraith?" Miranda inquired quietly, stifling a yawn as tapped the
small gray screen politely, "You awake dear?"

The response came a moment later in the sound of a quiet creaking,
like the sound of an ancient wooden door being slowly forced open
against the will of its rusting hinges, followed by the sound of
heavy booted feet stomping their way up a flight of rickety wooden
stairs. As the sounds faded, a quiet sinister chuckle filled the
air and Miranda had to smile. Her haunter was courteous enough to
project the effect only into his trainer's mind. There was no
sense waking up the rest of the gym after all.

"G-g-g-good eeeeevening," came the stammered hissing of the reason
Miranda had yanked out the pokedex's speaker so long ago. The
annoying, far too perky at seven thirty in the morning sounding
voice of some nameless lab assistant who probably received
royalties every time some kid pointed his 'dex at a wild pokemon.
The fact that it seemed to be desperately trying to do either a
Vincent Price or Peter Lori impression was its only real saving
grace, so Miranda had yet to chastise Wraith about it.

'Morning, you mean,' Miranda corrected, thinking the words as hard
as she could to ensure the ghost caught them.

'V-v-voice pattern authorization recognized,' the pokedex intoned,
causing Miranda to set the device down with a wary sigh as she
reached for her tea and decided to just sit back and enjoy the

'Miranda Lilcamp,' the voice stated with a bit of a snicker, not
unlike someone trying not to laugh halfway to the punch line as
the spoken words scrolled up from the bottom of the screen, 'Type:
5'2" to about 5'8"-! Oh-! I mean "Normal"...'

What followed would have caused tea to come out Miranda's nose had
she not been holding it shut to keep from laughing as she
convulsed with contained amusement. 'You really need to get out
more!' sent the courier in a laughing tone as she followed along
with the words written by Wraith to amuse her...

"Miranda Lilcamp

TYPE: 5'2" to about 5'8"-! Oh-! I mean 'Normal'
CLIMATE/TERRAIN: 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Under the stairs (Just
Lavender Town
ACTIVITY CYCLE: Any (But is cranky and irritable first thing
in the
NO. APPEARING: 1 (Unique)
ORGANIZATION: Solitary+Minions- Err, companions... Yes.
That's it!
DIET: Omnivore (But won't eat anything that barks,
or has a blowhole)
SIZE: M (Height: 5'5", Weight: None of your freakin'
MORALE: 17/20 (When defending loved ones. Aww...)
TREASURE TYPE: C (Credit card, funky wooden sword,
artifact level tea cups... Okay, maybe not,
they ARE an heirloom!)
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Good (Chaotic Good between the hours of
and 10am)
HIT DICE: 5+2 (30)
MOVEMENT: 30/90 (On bike. For short distances/down hills
faster. <shrug>)
ARMOR CLASS: 12/13 (In Winter)
DAMAGE: 2/1D6+3 (Mithril reinforced bokken)
SPECIAL QUALITIES: Bardic Poetry, Evasion
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Can summon up to 1-3 Pokemon
SPECIAL DEFENCES: Winter clothing provides +1 AC Bonus, Nezumi
and Umi
will fight to the death to save her. Wraith?
there, done that, bought the T-Shirt!:)P
SAVES: Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +2
WEAKNESSES: NONE! None I tell you! Oh, sorry...
Techniques, and her own cooking.
ABILITIES: Str: 12, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 15
SKILLS: Balance 2, Bluff 3, Climb 3, Diplomacy 3, Hide
Knowledge Geography 4, Knowledge History
Town) 3, Intimidation 2, Innuendo 3, Intuit
Direction 5, Listen 3, Move Silently 2, Sense
Motive 4, Performance 8, Ride: Bike 7, Ride:
Motor Vehicle 3, Spot 4, Swim 4, Wilderness
Lore 3
Languages: Common, Rodent, Draconic, Spectral
FEATS: Blind Fighting, Skill Focus (Performance),
Draw, Weapon Focus (Bokken)
ADVANCEMENT: 1D6+2 HP/Level (Courier)"
Miranda let out a wary, mournful sound as she rubbed her wary eyes
and shook her head. "Wraith, Wraith, Wraith..." she muttered
quietly not noticing as a dark, spectral figure flowed out of the
pokedex and hovered as a gaseous ball of dark purple and black
ethereal smoke.

"Haaaaaunt?" inquired Wraith as he solidified into something more
recognizable, his usual mirth somewhat subdued.

"To speak the name is to invoke the power?" inquired Miranda
rhetorically, peering over her hand and just under her glasses at
the grinning and nodding haunter.

"Tatta!" whispered Nezumi harshly from across the room atop the
dresser, causing Miranda to glance over her shoulder in time to
see Misty roll over in her sleep, her hand clutching the thick
blanket as an odd look crossed her face.

"Miri?" she inquired, her voice barely audible.

"There in a second," the courier promised, glancing back at the
haunter. "How about we do this in a couple of hours, okay, dear?"

Wraith and Nezumi exchanged pensive looks, and Miranda was certain
that the haunter "sent" something private to the rattata, but it
was still much too early to be bothered by something so trivial.

"Goodnight," Miranda muttered with a dismissive wave of her hand
before setting her tea down for either Nezumi to finish or to
evaporate and shuffled back out of her long shirt before getting
back into bed.


"Eh, let 'em sleep for now," commented Nezumi a few minutes later
as Wraith hovered closer to him, a concerned look crossing the
ghost's face, "Humans is sensitive about these sorts a things."

The haunter nodded in agreement, experimentally touching Miranda's
dreams with his mind before quickly withdrawing. 'Curses,' he
thought, knowing better, 'All pleasant. Oh well, there'll be a
yummy, tasty nightmare or two for me to feast upon before this is

"So," he whispered briskly, turning his attention back to Nezumi,
"How's the tea?"

The rattata grinned at his friend and tapped his forehead with his
paw. "Link up, good buddy," offered Nezumi with a bit more of his
usual levity, "and find out...!"


It was nearly noon by the time Miranda opened her eyes again and
glanced at her watch. 'Odd,' she thought, listening carefully, but
hearing nothing other than the sound of Misty's breathing, 'The
terrible trio must have overslept.'

"Must've been all the noise," Miranda chuckled, suddenly realizing
that she was alone.

For a second, a sense of selfish panic shot through her, only to
be dismissed by the sound of the door opening. "Hey, you're up,"
Misty commented with a smile as she entered the room in a
bathrobe, still brushing the water from her hair.

"Actually I'm surprised I got to sleep in this morning," commented
Miranda sitting up as Misty sat down on the bed next to her.

"That's because my sisters left fairly early," Misty explained,
"They left a note saying they'd be back before dark, but I'm not
terribly concerned."

Miranda nodded and reached for the cold tea she'd given up on
earlier, wincing soon afterwards as she realized how strong it had
gotten after a few hours. 'Hm, I still have to ask those two what
they found last night,' she told herself inwardly, but her
attention was mainly focused on Misty as she finished brushing out
her hair.

"You know," she said uncertainly, "I've been thinking of leaving
it down from now on."

"Not a bad idea," replied Miranda with an encouraging smile as she
studied Misty's expression.

"I just think that I've proven my point to the world," Misty
continued after a moment's thought, "I'm not like 'them' and I
think that's as obvious as its ever going to be. Besides, I think
I outgrew that hairstyle a few years ago."

"'Never grow up any more that you absolutely have to,'" quoted
Miranda, finally giving up on the tea.

"Something your dad used to say?"

Miranda shook her head. "Aunt Laurna," she corrected with a
thoughtful look, "I think that's why all the kids like her. She
always used to say that she only became an adult because then no
one could tell her what to do. It's odd how her and my mom are so
different. Oh well."

Misty set down the hairbrush and glanced out the window, for a
moment trying to recall her own parents, only to interrupted by a
sudden odd popping sound and a series of sparks arching into the

"Wha-?!" she began, leaping to her feet and spotting Miranda's
half open pokedex on the floor amongst the clutter. The device
made a whining gurgling sound for a moment, before the dark
spectral shape of Wraith began to emerge.

"Where's Nezumi?" inquired Miranda with an amused grin as Misty
shrank away from the widely yawning ghost.

"Tatta!" the second pokemon called from the top drawer of the
dresser, sticking his head out at the sound of his name.

Miranda sat up properly and slid her hand around Misty's waist,
smiling contentedly as her lover leaned back against her. "Okay,"
she told the two would be spies as Misty handed her her glasses,
"Let's have it."

Wraith nodded and immediately threw up an illusion of the
restaurant's enormous kitchen from his point of view upon first
entering, and panning the image around before heading towards the
cheese room.

"So, besides you guys raiding the fridge did you actually find out
anything useful?" chuckled Miranda, watching a greatly exaggerated
version of Nezumi devour an entire wheel of cheese in one gulp.

Wraith nodded, and both his eyes spun around to the other side of
his body as one of his hands shot out and snatched something from
Miranda's backpack. "Haunt," he replied, tossing Misty the silver
compact disk he'd had Chef Troy's computer make before melting

"Cute," Misty commented, holding the disk carefully as she turned
her attention back to the illusion, "I'll pop it into Violet's
computer and see if there's anything actually useful on it

Wraith nodded insistently for a moment before shifting the image
to show how he'd phased through the wall. What they saw on the
other side made both humans cringe.

"Is, is that what I think it is?" inquired Misty, her tone
sounding queasy as the image panned the room and focused on the

"That's not all," replied Miranda, her tone so serious that for a
moment she actually reminded herself of her mother, "Wraith, pan
back a bit. There."

Miranda leaned forward a little and squinted as the slightly
blurred image from Wraith's memory showed one of the shelves that
lined the walls. Upon one shelf in particular were several brown
wrapped packages with stenciled words that would have meant
nothing to the haunter, but Miranda could read them quite clearly.

'Growlithe, raticate, psyduck...' Miranda assimilated most of the
fairly lengthy list of names and nodded carefully, until the
thought that was brewing in her mind was interrupted by Misty's
sudden lurch forward.

"I think I'm gonna be sick!" came her muffled exclamation as she
covered her mouth and ran from the room.

Miranda glanced at the row of sinister packages one last time and
nodded. "That's enough," she told Wraith before grabbing her
nightshirt and sliding it on before leaving the room.

Wraith nodded again and the illusion faded.

'Think she'll be okay?' inquired Nezumi from the partially open
dresser drawer.

Wraith shrugged. 'You're mortal, you tell me,' he replied glumly,
feeling strangely bad for upsetting his human's lover.

Nezumi sighed warily and shook his head. 'Well, I know how I'd
feel if I just took a bite of one of my friends, but she's a tough
one. I wouldn't worry too much.'

'Think we'll be getting a second shot at that umbreon?' pondered
Wraith aloud.

'I hope so,' chuckled Nezumi, a peculiar gleam shining in his


Misty sat down on the marble steps leading up to the tub as
Miranda gave the toilet a final flush and sat down beside her.
"You okay now?" she whispered sympathetically, putting her arm
around Misty who was once again covering her mouth and breathing
in long slow breaths.

After a moment, Misty glanced up at Miranda and nodded, her eyes
showing more anger than tears. "If- If I recall Cerulean City's
policy on this, it's illegal to serve psyducks without the person
ordering's knowledge..." she said slowly, wondering if Frank was
available to check up on the law.

"Still," Miranda replied, rubbing Misty's back and trying to give
her some small hope, "Just because they had it in the kitchen,
doesn't mean you actually ate it."

Misty met her lover's gaze with a sudden look of despair. "That's
why you're not freaking out, isn't it?" she said as more of a
statement than a question, causing Miranda's heart to suddenly
sink and her stomach to contract, "What was left of the raticate
we saw. You don't think you actually..."

Miranda turned away, letting Misty's words trail off for the
moment. "Let's check the disk," she said simply, "Let's not make
this any worse than it absolutely has to be."

Misty nodded, leaning against Miranda for support. "You don't
suppose," she pondered quietly, "That this is just a coincidence?
I mean; we didn't actually see Kathy at the restaurant last night.
Maybe that was just some kind of special delicates room. I'm sure
that they had lots of other tasty things stored away elsewhere. I
mean, we did make a rather large delivery and all-"

Her lover turned back to her with a suddenly intense look of
concern. "You don't suppose," inquired Miranda darkly, "That we
delivered that stuff do you?"

"Nothing would surprise me at this point," sighed Misty glumly as
she got to her feet and held her hand out to Miranda, "Now come
one, let's check the disk. If we don't find anything about Kathy
on it, we'll just head back and question James some more."

Miranda nodded defeatedly, gladly taking Misty's hand and letting
herself be pulled to her feet. "There is one thing I'm thankful
for, though."

"Oh? What's that?" asked Misty, guiding her lover by the hand.

"That you don't think I'm crazy," answered Miranda with a weak

Misty paused and turned towards the courier with a look of mild
amusement. "I can handle crazy," she replied, giving Miranda a
gentle kiss before leading her down the hall, "Now come on, we
have to find out what's up with 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La


Miranda just didn't feel like cheering with the rest of the crowd
as down near the water's edge, Misty's staryu Shadow trounced
another pokemon in nearly no time at all.

"It almost seems somehow unfair," Miranda muttered to the rattata
on her shoulder as they both sat glumly in the bleachers, watching
as Misty took on every challenger she could find in an attempt to
work off a little anger, "She's had that staryu for what? More
than a decade? Shadow's probably the toughest staryu in the planet
by now. Oh well..."

The afternoon had not gone well. The disk Wraith had obtained had
indeed contained useful information, but Miranda knew that it
would. The ghost had a way with computers, and although he was
completely illiterate, he seemed able to read the machine code
side of text files.

Most of the disk was taken up by recipes, most of them calling for
more mundane ingredients, but having extra footnotes about special
substitutions. Infact, Chef Troy had a rather expansive library on
the topic of what pokemon tasted near enough to others to be
substituted without the average person noticing. He also had files
on what could be legally served in what cities, and what pokemon
in general were edible for human consumption, irregardless of
legality or morality.

The files that most interested her, though, had been excerpts from
a series of correspondences from several mysterious benefactors.
At least one who seemed to know exactly what pokemon they both
had. One who seemed to think it would be hysterically funny if
Misty and Miranda both ate meals consisting of as many of their
favorite pokemon as possible.

Chef Troy had added a few notes to this correspondence, detailing
several possible meal choices he could make with the given
pokemon, and the list of ingredients he'd need.

The only bright side to it was that none of Chef Troy's contacts
seemed able to acquire a dratini for him. Miranda had almost cried
when she read the Chef's apology to the benefactor in question,
thankful that at least she'd been spared that. She was also
thankful that both staryu's and starmie's were effectively
inedible to humans, so Misty had at least been saved that

The fact that she'd eaten a bit of a psyduck did distress her
though. As much as Misty complained about Kappa, she did care for
the nearly useless creature in her own way.

Another of Chef Troy's correspondents sent him a rather odd list
at his request. It detailed the names of those people on Cerulean
City's city council, as well as the pokemon they owned. It didn't
take long to find the list of possible Recipes and the letter
asking for the additional supplies Chef Troy would require for his
plan to work.

"Hey, kid!" called Frank, interrupting Miranda's dark reverie as
down by the water Misty jumped up, cheering as Shadow scored a
victory against another staryu, "You wanted to see me?"

Miranda glanced over and smiled weakly as her almost uncle sat
down beside her waited patiently for her reply. "I... It's just-"
she began, only to suddenly have Bow come out of nowhere and place
her paws upon Miranda's knees, a pitifully helpless expression
crossing the growlithe's face as she stared up at her.

"Come on," Miranda told her, patting her thigh as Bow let out a
little whine and shuffled on her hind legs, still looking up at
the woman imploringly.

"She's just being lazy," Frank chuckled, reaching over and pulling
Bow up the rest of the way into Miranda's lap.

"I noticed!" commented Miranda, leaning back as Bow stood on her
hind legs again and leaned against the woman in an attempt to say
'hi' to Nezumi. "Ow!" Miranda exclaimed, moving one of Bow's feet
out of a bad spot, "Those AREN'T stepping stones ya know!"

Frank laughed and gave Bow an affectionate pat on the head as she
crawled back into his lap after the look Nezumi gave her. "So tell
me, Miri, what's the problem?"

Miranda took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she turned
all the information they'd found in her mind. "Okay," she said
finally as several people in front of her insisted on doing the
wave, "I have some information about
'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue'."

"Hey now, Miri, don't swear!" chuckled Frank, waving his finger
warningly at his niece, "What would your mother say?"

Miranda tried not to smile, but found her Uncle's usual good humor
infectious. "You know what I mean," she chided teasingly, "But
seriously, I have reason to believe that Chef Troy is up to
something distinctly illegal."

"Fishing for magikarp out of season?"

"Blackmail, actually."

Frank searched his niece's eyes for a long moment and nodded. "I
see," he said simply, his cop instincts telling him that there was
much more, "Go on."

"Last night, at the restaurant, he had the City Councilors show
up. Not just because it was the opening and he wanted to make a
good impression, but also to feed them something special," Miranda
explained, her glasses shimmering dramatically as she spoke,
"Something he could use as leverage against them to make the
Council change the laws in Cerulean City. To bring this place
another step closer to being another Viridian!"

Frank tensed at the mention of Viridian City. It wasn't the sort
of place most Pokeforce officers liked to think about too much,
and certainly not with any pride. It was a well-known fact that
that the Rocket's owned Viridian City out right. Not just
metaphorically, but literally. It was said that what Pokeforce
officers there were there, were either crooked, or wished they
weren't. It was only the Pokeforce Security Company's strict rules
about only upholding whatever laws a City put forth that kept the
company in check.

Every city on the continent had the right to self-rule. Each city
and town had a minimum of three councilors who met at least once a
week to discuss any problems that had arisen. The City Councils
didn't just run their respective cities and towns in name, they
ran themselves ran them in fact. The Council members were
traditionally those people who had acquired jobs that were
essential to the city's well being. It wasn't uncommon for larger
cities, like Cerulean itself, to have the head of the garbage
collection agency sitting its council, or the head of the
teacher's union, or even the owner of the local power plant that
kept everyone from freezing in the dark.

The Council generally made decisions that helped the city's
people. Especially considering that the title of Councilor Member
didn't come with any extra perks like actually salary. All the
money the City took in, had to by what was known as a 'Universal
Law' had to be put back into the city. It was a thankless job
monetarily, but it usually kept the citizens happy, and Council

In Viridian, however, one wrong move by Pokeforce could mean the
end of their contract. And without the handful of actual honest
cops in a town run by gangsters, it meant that a lot of innocent
people would suffer.

Miranda caught the look in her Uncle's eyes and smiled
reassuringly. "Okay," she conceded, "perhaps I'm being a touch
melodramatic, but in Viridian, they have no laws regarding what
can and cannot be served in restaurants. That's what Chef Troy's
trying to do here."

Frank rubbed his stubbly chin thoughtfully for a moment. "By
giving us all a free meal?" he pondered, "Sounds more like bribery
than blackmail."

Miranda gave her Uncle an exasperated look and forced herself to
keep her voice down. "No!" she whispered harshly, "by feeding them
they're favorite pokemon! He thinks he can get them to change the
laws governing restaurants in exchange for not telling the public
what they all had for dinner last night."

Frank's eyes widened for a moment as his niece glanced up at him
in earnest. "M- Miri," the cop stammered, "I- I was there with J-
Jenny... You don't suppose...?"

Miranda glanced down at Bow, who seemed more interested in a
battle between Shadow and a persian than anything else. The woman
nodded her head slowly, her whole body shaking. "I think so," she
whispered in a quiet, carefully controlled tone.

"But, but I'm not even on the council!" croaked Frank, staring
down at his growlithe with a deep sense of stomach turning dread,
his hands held out in front of him defeatedly, "I- I can't have-!"

Bow's head turned and she smiled up at him lovingly, her tail
swishing slowly, giving the man a concerned yip as his expression
became pained. "I know," said Miranda sullenly, "But when Kathy's
involved, expect the worst. I'm sorry, Uncle, but they got us

Frank's fingers clenched into fists as he closed his eyes and took
several deep breaths. "Okay," he said carefully, setting his hands
down, "Please tell me a few things. One, that that sociopath and
her minions are still at the restaurant, two that you have actual
evidence of Chef Troy's crimes, and thirdly..." Frank took a deep
breath, calming his tone and steeling himself to ask the big
question, "That you gathered all this information legally."

Miranda's paled. "Um... No," she said quietly, her gray eyes
dropping in time to see Bow scratching playfully at Frank's hand,
a sign that she was feeling ignored. "I, I actually had Nezumi and
Wraith go in there last night to look for Kathy. I wanted to be
sure she was there before I just ran in demanding her head on a

Frank's voice was calm and businesslike. "Did they find her

Miranda shook her head as the crowd around her gave a gasp of
surprise that turned into a cheer. Misty had recalled Shadow and
let loose with Leviathan. "No," the courier replied, "But Wraith
somehow managed to copy most of the relevant information off
Troy's hard drive. He doesn't mention Kathy either."

Her uncle made a thoughtful sound as she looked up to see him
scratching Bow behind the ears thoughtfully. "Do you... Do you
suppose that James guy lied to us?" Miranda inquired sadly.

Frank's gray eyes narrowed slightly as the area was lit up but a
sudden burst of flame and the sound of a screaming shellder. "No,"
he said simply, turning to Miranda with an expression that told
her he was in full cop mode, "I do believe that the 'not so good'
professor Forester was at the dinner last night. It's Todd Burke
and his wife Nancy who weren't there."

His niece's eyes widened for a moment as a few more things clicked
into place. "She told us herself, didn't she?" asked Frank
rhetorically, the look in his eyes showing just how much he loved
piecing together mysteries, "she said 'It's amazing how much you
can accomplish if you're willing to sacrifice a few dozen

"All in the name of science," Miranda added bitterly.

Frank nodded, answering her next question before it could be
asked. "And as for the real Mr. Burke," he paused for both
dramatic effect, and to pull a small rectangular device from his
belt, "Dead. He and his wife were found a few hours after the
dinner at 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue'. Nat down in
forensics says they'd been deceased for at least two days by the
time she got to them."

"So you think they just took their places?" inquired Miranda, her
tone equally rhetorical, "Kathy taking the place of Nancy and
Victor masquerading as Todd?"

Frank nodded. "Remember the poetry contest, Miri?" Frank added,
causing his niece to suddenly shudder with a sudden dark thought,
"That machoke was theirs wasn't it?"

"Tashiro," spat Miranda bitterly, shaking her head slowly as she
clenched and unclenched her fists, "I don't believe this..."

"Believe what?"

Miranda glanced up at her uncle with a look that mingled both
betrayal and anger. "That contest was rigged, Uncle. There was no
way I could have lost. I could have walked on stage and read from
the freaking Neon Town phone directory and I would have won!" she
exclaimed angrily, not caring that several people were turning to
stare at her, "I poured my freaking heart out into a poem that
expressed my love for that woman down there on the field there and
read it aloud to hundreds of complete strangers to show just how
good I am! And it doesn't matter! Because that fragging contest
was rigged! I didn't win because of my talent, I won so that
murdering psychopath could feed me raticate!"

Miranda had risen from her seat, her hands flailing angrily as she
ranted, but now as she sat back down hard upon the long wooden
bench, shaking all over, she hid her face in her hands and choked
back a sob.

"Hey, Miranda," whispered Frank, his hand upon her shoulder as she
leaned closer, "It's alright, kid. You do got talent; I know that,
your lover knows that. All the people who heard you know that.
Heck, even Kathy and Vic can't deny that! You'd've won that
contest hands down even if it weren't fixed. You know that as well
as I do, Miri. You got your Father's talent. Only way better."

Miranda nodded slowly, letting her Uncle hold her for a few
moments as the tears that brimmed in her eyes refused to fall.
"Thank you," she whispered quietly, feeling Nezumi scramble down
into her lap to stare up at he with concern. "I, I just can't
stand the feeling of being conspired against. Not like this,"
Miranda continued, running her fingertips in a line down Nezumi's
back, more to find solace than to show affection but the small
creature dimly understood, "Especially not when I'm tricked into
using my talent to hurt someone I love."

"I hadn't thought of that," Frank replied, glancing down at the
field in time to see Misty walking up the flight of steps between
the benches. Her stance was confident, but her expression was
concerned as the victorious trainer pushed her now soaking wet
from the lake water splashing hair back over her ears with both
hands before sitting down on the opposite side of Miranda.

"Thought of what?" she inquired, immediately putting an arm around
Miranda who needed no further motivation to lean in her direction.

"Ya don't wanna know," answered Frank sincerely, shaking his head
in dismay, hoping that the incident didn't cause his niece to stop

"It's bad," Miranda replied, her head upon Misty's shoulder as she
wiped away the stubborn tears, "But Uncle Frank's going to help
us. Right?"

Frank glanced at the couple, their eyes looking up at him with
such hope and desperation that his heart swelled in his chest.
'It's good to be a cop,' he sighed inwardly. "No," he said
seriously, shaking his head and trying to keep from smiling as he
clutched his badge and removed it from his uniform, "Not legally."

"Uncle Frank!" they both exclaimed in alarm, about to shout out a
thousand words of betrayal before he raised a hand to silence

"As I said," he assured them dramatically, placing his badge and
service revolver on the now empty bench before him, "Not

Miranda clenched her teeth as she watched her Uncle's tight smile
for a moment, trying to decide whether she should hug or kill him.
"Thanks, Uncle," replied Misty, noticing her lover's sudden
indecisiveness and smiling in sudden amusement, "We don't know
what to expect, so any help you could give us would be great."

Frank nodded once and picked up his revolver and badge once more.
"Well," he said, giving Bow a gentle nudge before getting to his
feet and pinning the badge back on, "what do you say you two
ladies enjoy the rest of the day at the fair? I think it'd be best
if we don't go busting in when there's innocent people around I'm
thinking just after they close might be the best time to go and
have a nice long chat with 'Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La

Miranda smiled and nodded appreciatively. "Where shall we meet you
then?" she inquired carefully, glancing around to make sure that
any curious listeners had long since moved on.

"The East Gate I suppose," said Frank with a shrug, "It's as good
a place as any. Just after closing, I guess."

"Alright," his niece replied, waving nonchalantly as he jogged
down the wooden stairs, "See you at 1am!"

"So," inquired Misty a few moments later, her wary expression
pensive, "Wanna get something 'real' to eat?"

Miranda nodded, taking her lover's hand and giving it a squeeze.
"Absolutely," she responded, dragging herself to her feet, "I
think I'd like to have a bit of fun before we trek off into the
night to thwart evil."

"That's a little melodramatic, don't you think?" teased Misty with
a laugh, standing and gladly accepting her lover's arm around her

"Would you expect anything less from me?"

"No way. It's one of the reasons I love you," Misty replied,
giving Miranda a quick kiss before leading them down to ground

Chapter XIX

Misty's old beat-up alarm clock went off at exactly midnight, and
a few minutes after Miranda had reached over and shut it off, they
were both dressed and had quietly snuck out of the gym without
waking anyone. The two then hopped on their bikes and coasted most
of the way through a series of winding side streets, carefully
avoiding the main road until they reached their destination.

As they rode through the small section of town dominated mostly by
small family owned shops, Miranda heard a quietly squeaked warning
in her ear. "What is it?" she asked, squeezing her handbrakes and
taking her feet off the pedals as she skidded to a stop.

The rattata on her shoulder scurried down her arm to stand upon
the bike's handlebars before sniffing the air again. "Nez," he
confirmed with a nod, glancing meaningfully at Misty as she
skidded to a stop beside Miranda.

"Something wrong?" she inquired, straining her ears to hear what
concerned the little rodent so much, but all that she could make
out was the gentle hum of the street lamps and quiet gurgling of
the river only a block or so away.

"We're being watched," Miranda replied, leaning back and peering
into the darkened storefronts as she slowly drew her bokken, "Any
idea where, Nezumi?"

The rattata closed his eyes and stood on his hindquarters, his
whiskers twitching slightly as he moved his head slowly from side
to side. "Ra," he replied sadly glancing around with equal

"It could be nothing," Misty offered, zipping her coat up a little
higher as a sudden cold wind blew past them, heralding the
entrance of a dark figure from a nearby alleyway.

"Nothing?" inquired Ash in a bitter tone as he stepped out into
the street, "That's where you're wrong, 'old friend'."

"No," replied Miranda thoughtfully, "I think Misty's right. It was

"What?!" the trainer exclaimed angrily, "Pikachu! Thu-! What-?

There was a quiet snickering as Ash ran back into the alley and
came back a moment later with a struggling pikachu in his arms.
"Misty!" the trainer called out formally, setting the pokemon down
but keeping a firm hold of the creature's shoulders, "I- I
challenge you!"

Misty sighed, hiding her face in her hand as she shook her head in
dismay. "We really don't have time for this," she muttered,
glancing at him from between two fingers, "Why don't you just go
home? I'm sure there's a hundred or so other people you've ticked
off in the last couple of years who'd love a rematch."

"I don't care!" Ash exclaimed, stomping his foot and causing his
pikachu to jump a little as he stared up at Misty apprehensively,
"I've spent the last month and a half studying up on gyaradoses
and I'm not about to let all that time go to waste!"

"You want to have a battle? Here?" Misty exclaimed in disbelief,
looking around nervously and wondering how many people Ash's
ranting had woken up already, "Between Charizard and Leviathan?
Are you insane?!"

"No," Ash replied simply, a cunning smile crossing his thin lips,
"I intent to use Pikachu. A little lightning ought'a put you and
that dragon of yours in your place."

"Whatever," Misty muttered, unzipping her coat again and pulling
out a pokeball, "let's just get this over with..."

"And don't you dare interfere, cheater!" Ash warned, pointing
angrily at Miranda.

"Misty can fight her own battles," the courier assured him,
sheathing her sword and chuckling as Leviathan materialized beside
his trainer, "And don't worry, Nezumi's saving the cryokinetics
for later."

Ash glowered at her for a moment, barely noticing the loud; heavy
breathing that caused a cloud of visible hot air to slowly rise
all around him. Not to mention the quiet whimper that Pikachu let
out as he tugged desperately at his trainer's pant leg.

"What is it now?!" he demanded at last as Miranda glanced to her
right smiling, "Can't you see I'm-! Oh man!"

Leviathan's long scaly body slowly uncoiled as he arched himself
higher into the air before looming dangerously close to Ash,
leering hungrily down at the large yellow furred rodent at his
feet. The trainer looked into the gyarados's huge dark eyes and
gulped as Leviathan hungrily drooled saliva that puddled at
Pikachu's feet as the monstrous, amphibious serpent looked up to
meet the impudent human's gaze.

"You still wanna battle?" Misty teased, she reaching out to run
her fingers affectionately across Leviathan's glistening blue
scales, causing the creature to turn his enormous head around to
face her, "My little friend here hasn't eaten in a few hours and
he's VERY hungry. Isn't that right, you little sweetheart?"

Ash's eyes widened in disbelief as he stood stammering, watching
as Misty affectionately scratched the gyarados's eye ridges until
Leviathan closed his eyes contentedly and made a happy growling
sound somewhere deep in his throat.

"We- We're not afraid of some overgrown magikarp! Are we, Pikachu?
Pikachu?!" Ash's attempt at melodrama was brought to an abrupt
halt as he glanced down at his feet and found himself alone.

"Come back here!" he shouted, running back a short distance to
grab his pokemon who seemed to be in the process of sneaking away
by the scruff of the neck, "Now thunderbolt that thing already!"

Leviathan's monstrous head swung around immediately, his suddenly
glowing red eyes staring right into the smaller creature's soul as
Ash held the hapless pikachu forward with both hands.

"Pika!" the electrokinetic rodent exclaimed in abject horror,
scrambling to turn himself around in Ash's arms before tearing the
lining of the trainer's coat to ribbons with his small claws in an
attempt to escape.

"Your pikachu obviously doesn't want to battle," Miranda
commented, not finding the situation as funny as her rattata
seemed to, but making no motion to keep Nezumi from the sudden
laughter he'd broken into, "Don't you know it's cruel to force
someone you care about to do something they don't want to."

"Shut up!" shouted Ash accusingly, showing all too well that his
maturity level still didn't match his age, "What do you know? You
only do this fun! You don't take pokemon battles seriously! So
stay out of this, amateur!"

Miranda sighed warily, almost feeling sorry for Ash as his
desperate tone echoed in her ears, but refusing to baited by such
a childish taunt. 'Well, at least she's holding it together,' the
courier thought, glancing over at Misty who was now clenching her
fists as she glared at her former traveling companion.

'Goodness she's beautiful when she's angry,' Miranda mused,
blushing a bit as she felt her body react on a primal level. 'Oh
my...' the courier thought inwardly, glancing down at herself as a
peculiar tingle spread though her at about the same time Misty
gritted her teeth and prepared to initiate an attack, 'What an odd
thing to feel at a time like this...'

As Ash practically tossed poor Pikachu towards monstrous gyarados,
Misty's words rang out into the night. "Leviathan! Tail-whip!"

"What?!" laughed Ash as loudly and tauntingly as he could, even as
the enormous serpent uncoiled his tong sinewy body and his finned
tail lashed out in a wide arc, "You taught that fish of yours
'tail-whip'? Are you nuts? That's not even a real attack! It just-
! Oh my-! Pikachuuuu!!!"

Had Miranda not been straddling her bike, she would have taken a
step back. As she and Nezumi looked on in a mixture of awe and
amusement, Leviathan snapped just the very end of his tail at
Pikachu, filling the air with a quick sonic blast that rattled
windows, popped everyone's eardrums and sent the smaller pokemon
sailing into the air.

"No! That's not fair-!" exclaimed Ash, hopping over the serpent's
tail as he ran after his airborne pikachu who slowly rotated as he
swiftly fell to earth at a sharp angle, screaming the entire way.

A short moment later, a frightened ball of yellow fur collided
with and completely shattered the window of a deli, sending shards
of sharp glass everywhere and the sound of a wailing alarm from
within that joined with Pikachu's loud, angry exclamations to form
an earsplitting cacophony.

"I'll get you for this!" shouted Ash as he ran the block and a
half to where his pokemon had made a crash landing before leaping
through the shattered window and madly tossing aside strings of
linked sausages, wheals of cheese and blocks of dried meat out
into the street in an attempt to rescue his friend.

A moment later, however, a blindingly bright light illuminated the
area from behind the suddenly startled trainer. "Alright, buddy,"
called out a bored sounding voice with a hint of a Scottish
accent, "I think that'll be quite enough, don't you?"

Ash turned to face the speaker, but immediately regretted it as
the pokeforce officer's flashlight blinded him. "Off- Officer, I-"
he stammered, only to feel the sharp sting of metal across his
wrist before being easily thrown to the floor.

"Save it for Jenny," muttered Officer Geoff in an annoyed tone,
his mind still obsessing on his dismissal from his job as a Sylph
Co security guard after the incident that gave Miranda Lilcamp her
gastly, but he hated owing Officer Frank more than anything. Even
more than taking the cop's night patrol for him.

'Oh well,' thought Geoff, looking on the bright side for once as
Ash struggled and complained, 'At least I caught myself a


Frank looked up as Bow let out a low whine. Down the street,
approaching slowly from where Sea Breeze Way became Route 4, he
could make out two figures on bicycles. As they approached, one
waved silently.

"You ready?" the cop inquired, glancing down at the growlithe
whose tail was going a mile a minute.

'Bring it on!' she yipped in pokespeak, causing Frank to chuckle
lightly as he adjusted the folds of his long dark brown trench
coat, the twin revolvers he wore making him a little self-
conscious in regards to their concealablity.

Frank gave a short wave as his almost-niece and her lover skidded
to a halt not far from where Frank was leaning against the back of
the city's welcoming sign. "Have any trouble getting here?" he
inquired with a mischievous smile as Miranda walked her bike
towards him.

"Nothing we couldn't handle," the courier assured him with a
chuckle as Nezumi hopped off the bike and scurried over to Bow,
"Or Leviathan to be more precise."

Misty grinned broadly as she waved a pokeball at Frank in
amusement. "It was both childish, and deeply satisfying," the
trainer replied with a bit of a chuckle as Frank pushed himself
away from the sign and stepped over Bow, moving closer to keep his
voice low.

"So?" he inquired with a glance to the North, half trying to make
out the distant image of Ces Batards De L'autre Cote De La Rue
Restaurant Of International Cuisine, "You ladies ready?"

The two nodded. "As we'll ever be," assured Miranda, "Any idea,
though, as to where we should stash our bikes?"

Frank nodded reassuringly. "Yeah, we'll just put them with the
car," he told them with a wave of his hand before heading back
along Route 4.

"They gave you a new car then?" inquired Misty with an amused
glance at Bow, who had somehow caused Nezumi to gulp loudly and
look strangely pale, "Your growlithe must be happy."

The pokeforce officer chuckled to himself for a moment. "Actually,
miss," he admitted, glancing over his shoulder in time to see
Miranda's sudden twitch to his response, "It's Jen's. But she
won't mind. Assuming she never finds out that I borrowed it..."


As Nezumi leapt off the handlebars of Miranda's bike, Bow looked
up at him and yipped a quick greeting. "Hey! Pyro-puppy!" the
rattata exclaimed, bounding over to the canine with a renewed
energy, "Waz'happen-iiing?"

Bow sat down on her haunches, giving the human's half a glance as
they discussed things. "Feeling better, I see," she replied with
smile, her tone a little concerned.

"Ah well," said Nezumi with a nonchalant shrug, "I finally had a
chance to yank all those freakin' spooky-eevee hairs outta my fur,
so I'm doin' good. And I'll be doing even better once we kick some
dark chef butt and put Boss Lady there in a better mood."

Bow nodded. "Yeah," she whispered, leaning in conspiratorially as
Frank stepped carefully over her, "He's been all weird the last
while. Won't eat a thing! Which means of course, 'I' don't get to
eat either! So you see the problem?"

"Yeah," laughed Nezumi, "You're spoilt rotten!"

"Spoilt?" replied Bow, tossing her long, lacy fur out of her eyes,
"Me? I am NOT spoilt. I'm simply pampered. And let me tell you,
little mouse, I'm worth it!"

Nezumi's jaw dropped as the growlithe invoked a simple technique
(that humans claimed involved the release of pheromones and most
referred to simply as 'Charm') that caused everything else around
him to fuzz out slightly. The only image that the little rattata's
vision could clearly focus on was Bow, her bright red and gleaming
white fur seeming glow with an inner light that caused the already
more than adorable growlithe seem even more irresistibly cute.

"Gah..." commented Nezumi loosing his thought for a moment, his
brain going into a default setting as the humans started walking
away, "Say, did you know that we rattatas is always 'in season'?"

Bow chuckled as she turned to follow Frank, to then ends of the
earth if necessary. "That, my dear," she replied with a
mischievous grin as she swished her tail to bat Nezumi playfully
across the face, "Is quite true. Your kind produces thousands of
offspring every year. However, that's only because we predators
simply can't resist the taste of your sweet yummy flesh."

Nezumi went pale for a moment as Bow laughed. "Don't worry," she
called back teasingly, "I'm NOT a meowth!"

"Thankfully," the rattata muttered, shaking his head clear and
scurrying after the group, "But hey! Did you know that our
offspring would be able to see in no less than two hundred and
fifty six different shades of gray?!"

"Give it up, Nezzy!" Bow laughed, suddenly wondering if they'd be
able to raid the pantry once they'd arrested the criminal chef.
'Silly human,' the growlithe muttered with mock severity as she
caught up with Frank, 'It's waaaay past dinner time...!'


Chef Troy took off his hat, letting his long, dirty blond hair
fall about his shoulders as he wiped the sweat from his brow with
a towel that one of his commise instantly handed to him. "What a
day," he muttered cynically; accepting the water bottle another
handed to him as his kitchen staff hurriedly cleaned up and made
the place ready for the morning rush, "Oh well. At least our
'guests' have moved on."

One of the commises glanced up from where she was wiping a
countertop down and shuddered visibly. "With all due respect,
sir," the woman commented, keeping her gaze respectfully lowered,
even as Troy crouched down to pick up Salmonella who seemed to be
in an affectionate mood, "Ms. Forester scares me. Her lover is
cute, though."

Troy smirked evilly. "Very true," he agreed, the hair on the back
of his neck suddenly standing on end.

Instinctively, even before hearing Salmonella's warning hiss, the
dark Chef turned on his heel in time to see the strange distortion
effect as an oddly proportioned figure teleported directly in
front of him.

'My, Mistress sends her regards, Chef Troy.' The words were
planted directly into the man's mind by the female alakazam
without a thought as to whether he consented to the mental

"Talia," replied Troy through gritted teeth as he petted the
umbreon in his arms compulsively, "so nice to see you again. Did
you forget something, my dear? Or are you just here to reimburse
me for the loss of my computer system. Not to mention ALL my
secret recipes!"

The alakazam chuckled, both in reality and in Troy's mind. 'Fear
not, Chef,' the psychic type assured him, thoughtfully combing the
long white whiskers that sprouted from her short snout as she
glanced at the gawking commises, 'Rockets take care of their own.
Or so I'm told. And I'm sure that my Mistress can give "Uncle
Auggie" a call on your behalf.'

Troy cringed at the lack of respect that the pokemon showed for
Augustus Giovanni. The man had made the leadership of both
Viridian City and Team Rocket his life's work. He'd even
personally funded Chef Troy's latest endeavor, and no doubt many
of Professor Katherine Forester's as well.

"So tell me, Tal," the Chef said conversationally, hoping to goad
the overgrown psionic vole into causing trouble, "How's Tashiro
doing? That little brain aneurysm all cleared up yet?"

Talia gritted her teeth, her voice in Troy's mind sounding darker
as she spoke. 'The reptile shall survive,' she hissed in
annoyance, 'But the damage to his brain was substantial. He shall
have a few problems for a time, but once he advances to his adult
phase, Tashiro shall be whole once more!'

"Give him my best regards, then," Troy replied with a shrug,
turning to go back to his duties.

'Wait, human!' Talia commanded contemptuously, causing a peculiar
reverberation in the air that caused several people to scream and
at least one to drop the stack of plates he'd be carrying, 'I am
NOT here simply to socialize.'

"Then make it quick," growled Troy, turning back around and
intending to take no guff from a mere pokemon.

'My Mistress wishes to expand this current endeavor,' Talia
answered, ignoring the list of alakazam recipes that suddenly
filled Chef Troy's mind, 'She wishes you to get in touch with your
many cousins and-'

But Talia's words were cut short as across the room the door to
the loading dock slid up into the ceiling and three very annoyed
looking people stepped boldly into the room.

"Chef Troy?" called the plain-clothed pokeforce officer in loud,
authoritative tone as commises scrambled out of his way, "The
name's Officer Frank, and I'm callin' you out!"

"Excuse me," muttered Troy with a smile, stepping around the
alakazam and out into the far aisle, "Yes... Officer, is it? I can
only presume that you have a reason for bursting into MY kitchen
with your little 'posse'? Or is it that all the donut shops in
Cerulean City have finally closed for the evening?"

"Actually," replied Frank with a sudden grin, finding the comment
more amusing than insulting, "I'm here to arrest you."

"Oh really? On what charges?" inquired Troy in an innocently
condescending tone, as Salmonella glared evilly at the growlithe
at Frank's feet.

"Serving non-food pokemon in your restaurant!" accused Misty,
stepping forward and clenching her fist threateningly.

The dark Chef gave her an amused, patronizing smile, "Then I can
only presume that you have evidence to support this claim. Is that
right, Officer?"

"Well, um, no... Nothing legal," Frank replied, shuffling his feet
and looking embarrassed for a moment before meeting Troy's steely
gaze, "But you know how Officer Jenny is... She'd ticket you for
jaywalking in your living room! Of course, I MIGHT go easy on ya
if you told me where Katherine Forester's gotten herself off to. I
got a score to settle for an old friend you see. And so does his
daughter as a matter of fact."

Miranda stepped to one side and grinned threateningly at the chef,
who simply ignored her out of hand even as she reached for the
wooden sword attached to her belt. "It's just too bad really,"
said Troy casually as he turned to walk away, "You just missed
her by about an hour or so, and besides, revenge is a dish best
served cold. Now then, if you're done, kindly leave. I'm a busy
man, and I don't have time for such childish games."

Chef Troy stopped, a wide, amused grin crossing his face as all
noise in the kitchen stopped dead as the sound of the safeties
coming off two pistols that echoed throughout the room.

"Hold it right there, sir," said Frank grimly, "I don't wanna
cause a scene here, but there's some black marks on your record
that I think you should be answerin' for. And harboring a wanted
criminal is the least of 'em."

"Now detective," chuckled Chef Troy, stealthy snatching a large
gleaming and sliding it up his sleeve as he set Salmonella down on
the counter before raising his hands and turning back around,
"surly you know what the penalty for drawing a gun is? Let alone

"Nine. Each," answered Frank indignantly as he leveled both
revolvers on Chef Troy, "That's the number of reports I have to
fill out. Fourteen each just for pointin' em at ya, and thirty one
apiece if I have ta explain why yer arms are floppin on the ground
as opposed to still bein' attached to your shoulders. So what'cha
say I paint you a little picture. You see, the less you cooperate,
the angrier you make me. And the angrier I get, the more reports I
have to fill out. And you know what? Filling out reports makes me
VERY angry. So you can see where this is going, can't'cha? A real
vicious cycle, eh?"

"Then perhaps, detective," replied the dark Chef as he lowered his
arms and in one smooth motion, retrieved the aerodynamic kitchen
knife from up his sleeve before tossing it in Frank's direction,
"I should teach you a lesson in anger management!"

Frank's eyes widened as he instinctively threw himself to the
floor, his trigger fingers already moving back and forth, sending
a hail of high velocity steel-jacketed lead into the air as the
knife sailed in an unerring line towards the spot where he'd been

"Look out!" shouted Miranda over the noise, immediately reaching
out with her hand, catching the knife a mere inch from where it
would have plowed into Misty's forehead.

"Whoa..." her lover replied, going pale and shaking even as a
mildly hysterical grin crossed her face, "Thanks, Miri!"

"It gets worse!" Miranda warned, motioning to the sudden odd sound
of bullets ricocheting off something distinctly unnatural.

They both glanced over and saw Talia, standing before Chef Troy
with an amused grin as she casually held her four-fingered hand
out before her, causing a barrier of curious red light that
stopped the bullets in their tracks.

"Kazam," she chided, shaking her head in mild amusement, as the
loud explosive sound of Frank's pistols gave way to an ominous

"Oh, oh..." muttered Frank, a second before a pair of spoons
materialized in the alakazam's hands and the cop went sailing into
the air in response to a raised hand.

"I- I'm alright!" assured Frank as he suddenly found himself being
grabbed by the right wrist and right ankle by an unseen force
before being spun in place in response to the swirling motion
Talia made with one of her spoons, "I'm just a little airsick-!

For an uncertain moment, Miranda watched as her almost-uncle spun
in the air before being released, landing on a long counter, only
to slide the entire way down, knocking off a variety of metal
bowls and stacked plates before crashing off the end with an
equally loud clatter. This was followed by a panicked yelp from
Bow who then proceeded to run in the direction her human had been
thrown in.

"I- I'm fine!" called Frank, "It's just my spleen! Don't worry
about me!"

"Alright, that's it!" growled Miranda though gritted teeth,
tossing the knife aside as she produced a pokeball from seemingly
nowhere, "Nezumi! Wraith! Umi! Triple attack 'Omega Beam'!"

In the time it took for the pokeball in her hand to activate, and
for Umi to materialize from within the device, Wraith had stirred
from his hiding place in Miranda's pokedex and chose a rather
disturbing method of coming on the scene. He phased his way out of
Miranda's backpack, through the courier, and seemingly out of her
chest, causing her to shiver slightly as Nezumi also ran from
hiding to stand beside the materializing dratini.

As one, the trio let out a confirming exclamation before executing
the technique. It began with Wraith smiling balefully and
radiating an eerie dark purple light as he floated back to hover
just over the heads of his companions. Meanwhile, Nezumi glowed
with a blinding white radiance, shifting into raticate mode as an
odd crackling sound emanated from just in front of his incisors
followed by a shifting blue/white light that seemed to draw in all
warmth in the area. For her part, Umi reared up like a snake
preparing to bite, snarling at the alakazam menacingly as orange
flames licked across her sharp pointy bared teeth.

Then, as one, the three pokemon released their fury. Nezumi puffed
out his cheeks and exhaled fiercely, his claws all but digging
into the linoleum tiled floor as the beam of pure, focused cold
shot forth as Wraith's three fingered hands dropped down, hovering
on either side of the beam as dark purple light flowed from his
open palms, merging with the ice beam near its point of origin.
And finally, Umi lunged forward, spitting out a small ball of
burning flame that somehow became trapped in the strange energy
beam's gravity, before spinning and spiraling down its length.

Talia's now dark, featureless eyes widened in panic as the ice-
beam hit her psychic barrier like an elemental battering ram. The
shimmering red haze shuddered, as icy tendrils of frost crept
across its surface, radiating out from the point of impact. A
heartbeat later, and Wraith's dark-chi hit, causing the barrier to
buckle, crack and finally shatter.

With a frightened yelp, the alakazam instinctively raised her arms
and turned away, just as Umi's small ball of flame met the dual
attack at its pinnacle and the three crashed into Talia, causing a
small explosive reaction and a wave of seemingly reverse light to
fill the room as she flew backwards end over end into a group of
scrambling commises.

"Give it up, Troy!" exclaimed Frank, looking extremely disheveled
as he clambered back up from under a pile of pots and pans, "Your
out classed, out numbered, and out gunned!"

The dark chef glared at the cop with a sudden fury. "In MY
kitchen!" he shouted angrily as he reached under the counter and
grabbed something that made an awful clicking noise, "You WILL
refer to ME as CHEF!!!"

Frank's eyes widened, and he immediately dropped down behind the
metal counter once more as Chef Troy pulled a tommy-gun out and
began firing madly in the officer's direction.

"What next?!" exclaimed Misty, noticing that the commise who
hadn't immediately fled the scene were now taking up large knives
and frying pans before rushing to their leader's aid.

"As I said, it only gets worse!" answered Miranda, stepping around
Misty as she drew her bokken in time to parry the cleaver of a
stealthy commise who thought he could backstab her lover.

"Wow," commented Misty, glancing over her shoulder in time to see
Miranda's knee connect with the commise's groin and the man go
down groaning, "I'm really going to owe you, aren't I?"

"Then in return we could use some more firepower!"

"Well then, Miri, dear," Misty replied with a wide grin as she
pulled out two minimized poke balls and prepared to lob them with
all her might, "I hope you'll settle for a little water power!
Shadow! Umberlee! Save Uncle Frank!"

Chef Troy ducked momentarily as several rounds from Frank's
revolver whizzed past him and impacted with the far wall before
leaping up once again and spraying the area, inadvertently
wounding several of his own minions. In his excitement, however,
he failed to notice as a pokeball enlarged itself from storage
mode in time to bounce off his head.

"Ow-! Shizen-!" he exclaimed, staggering backwards as his tommy-
gun continued to fire blindly before a very large, very determined
ten-pointed starfish landed on him, pinning the dark Chef to the

"Sal-! Salmonella!" the man shouted as his tommy-gun clattered to
the floor and he struggled with the enormous starmie, "Get this
thing off of me!"

"Guys!" ordered Miranda as she made a flinging motion with her
bokken to dislodge the meat cleaver, "Split up and incapacitate
anyone who's not running away! We're NOT here to cause permanent

"Even if they ARE," muttered Misty a touch bitterly as she watched
the cleaver spin over once before sailing in an unerring line
across the kitchen before stabbing into a cupboard door. "Wow!"
she laughed, "Aerodynamic!"

"Whatever works!" commented Frank as he and Bow leapt out of
hiding and dove over the counter to help Umberlee as Troy finally
tossed her off on his own.

"Salmonella!" the chef called out, not noticing as behind him,
Shadow began to swivel in the air, the ends of his five arms
sending out a fine mist, "Where are you!?"

"Probably hiding!" chuckled Frank, aiming both pistols at Troy and
motioning for the man to rise, failing to clue into the staryu's
intent, "Bow, give chase. That little pokemon's probably more
trouble than her master."

"You have no idea," Troy replied with a toothy grin as Bow yipped
and ran off as behind the dark Chef, Shadow's spinning turned him
into a blur before each of his five arms let loose with
simultaneous blasts of water that spun into a spiraling jet of
water before crashing into the dark chef's back.

With a surprised curse, Chef Troy ploughed into Frank, causing the
officer to drop his revolvers as the two men collapsed in heap and
Umberlee reached out with her mind.

'Sleeeeeep!' came the distant sound of the starmie's voice in both
men's minds.

"Overzealous, glory-hogging, overgrown starfish!" grunted Frank,
biting his tongue as hard as he could to stay awake, but finding
to his disappointment that Chef Troy had gone unconscious.

From not far away, the act of sending Chef Troy into a deep
slumber caused Salmonella to let out a loud angry cry of anguish.
This was followed by the remaining commises to let loose a series
of curses as they realized that their dark leader had fallen.

"I think we made them mad!" commented Misty over the sound of
shouting voices and running feet as her and Miranda pivoted in
place, their backs pressed against each other.

"What makes you say that?" Miranda chuckled through gritted teeth,
finding herself enjoying the adrenaline surge as swung her bokken
in several quick, hard strokes, knocking several kitchen knives
out of the air and causing the wooden blade to sustain several
deep gashes.

Misty laughed as she quickly stooped to grab a fallen cast-iron
frying pan and using it to parry an angry commise's fist before
panting her foot firmly against his stomach and pushing him away.

"Gee!" she commented, glancing over her shoulder as the woman Troy
had been speaking to earlier chopped downward with the knife she
held in both hands, "What's that thing made of?!"

Miranda grunted as she caught the blow, and grinned darkly at her
opponent as the metal blade hit something half way through her
bokken with a loud -clank!-. "My mother's invention, actually,"
she explained in a tone both casual and hurried, "Courier swords
are reinforced with mithril. Don't tell Uncle Frank!"

The courier took advantage of her opponent's surprise and grabbed
a plastic squeeze bottle off a nearby counter before squirting the
red liquid it contained in her face. The woman instantly let do of
the knife, and fled the kitchen screaming as she held her face in
both hands.

"Ooops!" commented Miranda, glancing at the label as she shook the
kitchen knife free of her weapon, "'Karl's Insanity Hot-Sauce.
Caution: Avoid contact with exposed skin'. Sorry, ma'am!"

Misty could help laughing, even as she fought for her life against
a sudden barrage of thrown food items tossed out by a commise
standing near one of the now open cold storage room doors as
desperately throwing food out of the freezer in her direction.

With gritted teeth and a grin both panicked and amused, she swung
the frying pan about defensively, parrying a small swarm of frozen
brussel-sprouts before the man heaved out a huge block of mint-
chocolate chip ice-cream with both hands.

"Miranda!" she exclaimed, uncertain of what to do as the frozen
block of her favorite dessert suddenly came sailing towards her
head at a dangerous speed.

Without looking back, Miranda tossed her bokken into the air,
before reaching back linking both arms through Misty's before
catching the bokken rather awkwardly in both hands and tossing
herself and Misty bodily into on of the aisles.

There was a loud -thump!- as the huge block of ice-cream hit the
corner of a metal counter and broke in half, each chunk flying in
a different direction as the two slid across the linoleum.

"You okay, love?" inquired Miranda as she wasted no time in
getting to her feet.

"I've had worse," assured Misty, standing with her back to Miranda
once more, and giving a sudden start as half a block of ice-cream
fell into her hands as an other commise came running down the
aisle towards her.

"For Chef Troy!" the commise exclaimed, fanatically swinging his
kitchen knife over his head madly as he ran.

"Don't you know?" laughed Misty, holding up the block of ice-cream
as the blade came down and sank a mere inch into the frozen
surface, "Every city in history that was named Troy fell!"

"Hey," laughed Miranda as Misty raised the block and clobbered her
opponent into unconsciousness with it, "I guess it is true. A
Ginsu CAN'T cut through frozen ice-cream."

"And I finally got at that ice-cream we transporting," laughed
Misty mischievously as they both turned to face one another and
she took a large bite of it. "Wan' 'ome?" she inquired with a
mouthful of ice-cream and a silly grin before tossing the block
away and catching another commise in the stomach with it.

"Then we shall see which is sweeter," commented Miranda, her left
arm going about her beloved's waist finding herself unable to keep
a straight face, "Mint chocolate chip, or your kisses!"

Miranda found herself laughing as Misty's now gooey fingers took
twin handfuls of her hair, a heartbeat before their lips


Elsewhere in the kitchen, Wraith hovered amongst the ensuing
chaos, chuckling to himself as the waves of varying emotions
filled the ethereal plane, slowly satiating his hunger. As he
lazily floated through the melee, he laughed as thrown kitchen
knives passed harmlessly through him and the ghost returned the
attacks with half-hearted blasts of 'nightshade', which he fired
off with a casual flick of a single finger.

'Oh! So sorry!' he sent to one unfortunate commise as the man fell
to the ground convulsing as the dark light enveloped him, causing
the unfortunately fellow to take on a sudden gaunt cast, 'I keep
forgetting, you human's are "weak" against ghost attacks!'

"And ghosts are weak against darkness!" hissed a sinister voice,
before a baseball sized orb of un-light ploughed into, and
straight through the haunter, taking a good-sized portion of his
ephemera with it.

Wraith let out a shriek of panic as he swiveled around and spotted
Salmonella standing atop an unconscious commise who'd slumped over
a workstation. "You!" he whispered, barely able to speak after the
power of the dark-eevee's shadow bolt.

Salmonella smiled malevolently, her tiny, razor-like teeth
gleaming as the circle of amber coloured fur upon her forehead
glowed brightly. "Yes," she replied in a sinisterly amused tone,
"I thought I smelt the delightful tang of ectoplasm in the air.
But tell me, spirit-" as the umbreon spoke, crackling black
lightning erupted within the confines of the circle as she
prepared a second helping of 'shadow-bolt' "-where's that
delicious little rattata friend of yours?"

"Right here, soul-sucker!" a voice called out, causing Salmonella
to glance across the rift between countertops to see Nezumi, once
more in rattata mode, standing dramatically on his haunches,
glowing with a silvery light.

"Ah, how quaint," the umbreon remarked mockingly, a ball of
shimmering darkness melding out from within the glowing circle,
"You run to your friend's rescue so easily. Ah, how predictable
and easily manipulated the 'good' ones are! They all die so

Nezumi let out a laughing exclamation of surprise as he
sidestepped the shadow-bolt, which landed in the sink full of
dirty dishes behind him and exploded, sending shards of glass out
towards the dark-eevee.

"Curses!" she hissed, her sickly green barrier reinitializing in
time to halt the shards in their tracks.

"Say, uh, shadow-babe," chuckled Nezumi, watching as Salmonella
lowered her barrier and the shards of glass fell to the floor,
"You ah, you look like ya got a little rattata in you. Is that

"WHAT?!" hissed Salmonella, her eyes glowing red with anger as
Nezumi tried to keep from shivering in her presence, "I'll have
you know, vermin, that I was a pure strain eevee before I chose to
embrace the darkness of my soul!"

Nezumi suppressed the urge to roll his eyes; instead he
concentrated on what he believed to be his greatest asset. His
sarcasm. "Well then," he replied as adrenaline filled his system,
"Would ya like some?"

"WHA-?!" Salmonella exclaimed, deeply offended by the crude remark
and unable to react as Nezumi lunged forward, leaping over the
chasm that separated them so quickly, that all the pokemon saw was
a purple blur. A tenth of a second later, the blur ploughed into
the umbreon, sending her sailing over the opposite edge of the

"Curse you!" she exclaimed just before landing head first in a
garbage can as several commises ran past her, fleeing for their
lives as loud angry roar filled the air, causing visible waves of
sound to rattle the wastebasket until it fell over and the
struggling umbreon came spilling out with the rest of the garbage.

"What was that?" she exclaimed angrily, giving her head a shake to
dislodge the scraps of decomposing meat and rotting vegetables
from her fur.

"The righteous wrath of the just, that shall punish the wicked!"
answered Bow with a snarling growl as she stood at the far end of
the aisle, a large piece of white cloth still hanging from her
jaws where she'd given a commise something to remember her by.

"You've GOT to be kidding me," relied Salmonella, giving the
growlithe her best "get real" look.

"Actually," assured Umi from the opposite end of the aisle in a
calm, amused tone, "She's quite serious. Your master tried to hurt
Frank. Not the most intelligent of moves."

Salmonella glanced fearfully in the young dragon's direction and
grimaced. "Fine then," she said with dark determination as a
strange greenish frothing substance began to form with her mouth,
"Then I'll just have to add dratini to tonight's menu, seeing as
we already have growlithe!"

"Bring it on!" Umi hissed angrily, anticipating the sudden blast
of bale-fire, and responding with a jet of high-pressure water as
Bow felt no compunction against unleashing a jet of flame from


Misty turned in the direction of Salmonella's sudden frightened
scream as Miranda kneecapped the last of the commises with her
bokken and the room was lit by a burst of green/red light before a
cloud of steam rose from one of the aisles.

"Looks like the girls work well together," she commented, wiping
mint chocolate-chip ice-cream off her mouth as Frank got to his
feet a short distance away, soaked through to the skin by Shadow
and Umberlee's enthusiastic attempt to help apprehend Chef Troy,
panting as he hefted the handcuffed, and unconscious chef up onto
the counter.

"Eh, Bow's a cop too," Frank replied as the two star-shaped
pokemon hovered eerily behind him, watching with interest, "she
understands the concept of back up."

"Unlike SOME officers, I hear," commented the amused voice of
Irene as she entered the kitchen through the loading dock.

"Irene!" Misty and Miranda exclaimed in delighted surprise as
Miranda bopped the commise on the forehead with the hilt of her
sword, knocking the man unconscious.

The woman smiled at them maternally as she stepped forward, hardly
seeming to notice as she hopped over an unconscious body. "Sorry I
missed all the fun, girls," she replied in a motherly tone,
holding up the carefully wrapped package she carried, "But I did
bring cookies if anyone's interested."

"Thanks, mom!" Miranda laughed as Misty accepted the box and
wasted little time opening it.

"And as for, you!" the woman scolded, walking towards Frank, "What
trouble have you gotten these two into now?"

"Uh, I- Ah..." Frank stammered as Bow ran out of nowhere, her
lacily furred tail wagging frantically as she lunged at Irene,
barking happily, "We were just um... Doing a health inspection?"

Irene laughed as she knelt down to pet Bow and accept her canine
greeting. "Well," the woman replied, glancing at the unconscious
form of Chef Troy with some satisfaction, "So long as you can find
some kind of evidence to support your claim, I suppose you could
always say you had probable cause."

Irene gave Bow a final pat on the head and stood up, immediately
marching towards one of the sealed cool-rooms. "So, how did you
know we were here?" Miranda inquired politely, a cold chill that
had nothing to do with temperature running through her as Irene
yanked open the metal door.

"Hey," the woman replied with a knowing smile, "I'm a mom! Do you
really have to ask?"

"Well, um... Yeah," offered Misty a little sheepishly, finally
having a chance to wipe her hands clean on a towel.

Irene paused, an amused smile crossing her lips. "Actually, it was
Frank," she explained, "He called me and told me to meet you all
here. Sorry I was late."

The seamstress then proceeded to pull the door open all the way
and gave the room a thoughtful look. "Ah yes," the seamstress
pondered thoughtfully, "This IS bad."

Miranda's arm went about Misty's shoulders as she turned away.
"You found the one with the... The pokemon we had in it?"

Irene shook her head in dismay. "No," she sighed heavily, stepping
into the room and returning with a tray full of slightly green-
tinged eggs, "These haven't been stored at a proper temperature
and are likely to go bad. Anyone for an omelet?"

"The cookies are more than enough," Miranda laughed, feeling a
little relieved as she lead Misty over to where Frank was picking
up one of the large, strangely shaped eggs.

"So, uh, what are these anyway?" he asked, shuffling uncomfortably
in his damp clothes.

"Oh," said Irene thoughtfully, giving the clutch a closer
examination, "Oh dear. These are bulbasaur eggs. If they aren't
prepared properly they're quite toxic!"

"Ah!" exclaimed Frank, tossing the egg to Miranda in mock fear.

The courier caught it carefully in the palm of her free hand,
laughing at her almost-uncle's antics and not noticing as the
large, elliptical orb quivered in her hand.

"Um, Miranda..." warned Misty, suddenly frantically tugging at the
courier's sleeve, "I think this one's alive."

"Wha-?!" she exclaimed as the group glanced down at the now
shaking egg and Miranda moved quickly to hold it in both hands as
it threatened to drop onto the floor.

"They're replies," whispered Irene as the egg cracked, "It
probably reacted to your body-heat, deary."

Miranda could only nod slowly as a small portion of the shell
shattered, and a strange, questioning sound was emitted from
within the green-tinged egg. "This reminds me if Umi..." the
courier whispered so quietly, that had the group not become
perfectly still, awed by the small miracle that Miranda held in
her hands they wouldn't have heard the gentle tone to her voice.

The baby bulbasaur within the egg made a final frustrated cry
before pushing all four of its legs outwards, bursting its way out
whether the egg wanted it to or not. A moment later, the small,
bluish reptile lay exhaustedly panting, cradled in Miranda's

"It's so cute," commented Misty, reaching out to pet the tiny
thing's head with her finger, making note of the strange dark
brown seed that seemed stuck to the bulbasaur's back.

"Adorable," agreed Irene, glancing up at Miranda with a maternal
smile, "The question is, though, will you keep it? If you want,
I'll raise it. My children have all left home and now I have so
much time on my hands... Oh, what is a mother to do?"

Miranda shrugged, feeling a sudden surge of guilt as she spotted
her three pokemon staring up at her expectantly. "I think," the
courier said carefully, "that I should ask them before taking on
another little responsibility. It's only fair that they decide..."


As Umi and Nezumi looked on, and Wraith glanced hungrily at the
sleeping Chef Troy, noting that the man was having a particularly
tasty nightmare, Miranda crouched down and held the exhausted
little bulbasaur out towards them.

"Hm, tough call," mutter Nezumi thoughtfully, still compulsively
scratching himself where he'd actually had to touch the umbreon,
"What'cha think, Fang-Face?"

"Oh?" the haunter inquired innocently, hoping that no one noticed
his suddenly missing hand, "About what?"

"Well," the rattata explained, giving the little reptile/plant
hybrid a curious sniff and immediately determining that it was
female, "If we let Sprouts here join us, then Draco-Babe won't be
the baby in the party anymore, now will she?"

"I!" exclaimed Umi indignantly, immediately withdrawing her
curious gaze from the bulbasaur and fixing Nezumi with an angry
look, "Am NOT a baby! I'll have you know that I've survived
fourteen horrible Winters, and I'm just THIS close to evolving!"

Wraith and Nezumi laughed heartily. "Oh yeah right!" commented
Nezumi as the bulbasaur opened one small eye and seemed to smile
at him, "You evolve! Yeah, okay, let's see it, Draco-babe! Evolve!
I dares ya!"

Umi glowered at the rodent, her eyes shifting colour to a deep
orange of determination. "Alright then, smart-guy!" she growled
through gritted teeth, "I'll show you! You just watch!"

All eyes fell upon the little dragon-serpent at that moment. The
tension in the air was palatable as Umi squeezed her luminescent
eyes shut and held her breath as she concentrated with all her

"Mmmmrrrggg!" came her muffled reply, as her whole body began to
shake violently with the exertion, "Errrrg!"

Nezumi quickly covered his mouth with both front paws as the
dratini paused, took several deep breaths and tried again,
focusing all her will as her skin began to turn an several
unpleasant colours.

"I- I can do this-!" she panted at last as Nezumi fell over on his
back laughing as Umi finally gave up and Wraith popped something
into his mouth before looking around innocently, "I... I just need
to take a break."

"Oh, give it up, babe!" Nezumi laughed, flipping back over before
walking up to the dragon and giving her a reassuring pat on the
head as she collapsed at his feet, "You can't win 'em all. Maybe
next year."

"Think so?" Umi inquired hopefully, her eyes shifting to light
blue as she smiled meekly up at the rattata.

"Definitely," assured Nezumi, taking a moment to glance at Wraith,
"That right, Fang-Face?"

Wraith, who'd been surreptitiously chewing whatever was in his
mouth, gave the rattata a startled look and quickly gave the
thumbs up sign as he smiled nervously at Miranda.

"Okay then, now that that's settled," chuckled Nezumi as he
glanced back at the bulbasaur who seemed to be drooling a bit,
"What about Sprouts, here?"

Umi gave the small creature, which barely took up half the space
of one of Miranda's hands, let alone two, a discerning look.
"She's like me," the dragon commented with a glance up at Miranda,
"She's an orphan. At least I got to know my parents. She never
will, though. So she's going to need a friend."

"Great!" grinned Nezumi mischievously as he rubbed his forepaws
together, "Then she'll need someone to show her that life isn't as
serious and boring as SOME poke's seem to think it should be..."

The rattata chuckled at Umi's glare as he glanced up at Wraith.
"And you're vote, oh 'le connaisseur de cauchemars'?"

Wraith swooped down almost threateningly, like a dark shadow bent
on mischief and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. As the haunter
examined the curious little creature, one of his eyes grew as the
other shrank until the single eye took up most of his face. "Hmm,"
he pondered as the bulbasaur looked at him with an amused, toothy
grin, "Very interesting..."

"So then," interrupted Umi impatiently, the end of her tail
swishing back and forth as he eyes shifted to golden, "Your
decision, oh ethereal one?"

Wraith's single huge eye looked up at the dratini, and immediately
dislodged from his head, floating upwards a few inches before
exploding with a loud -pop!- leaving the haunter with his two
normal sized eyes once again. "Yeah sure," he commented with a
noncommittal shrug, "Can't hurt."

Umi glanced at Bow, who'd been silent throughout most of the
proceedings and smiled. "Any comments, friend?" she asked as the
growlithe stepped forward to sniff at the peculiar pokemon.

"She smells like a salad," Bow commented, making the others,
including Frank, laugh...


Umi glanced up at Miranda and nodded as Nezumi grinned toothily
and chuckled. "Alright then, that's that," the courier commented,
standing back up and holding the bulbasaur closer to her heart,
"Look's like I'm keepin' her. I'll just have to think of a decent

"Rattata," commented Nezumi with a smirk, that immediately caused
Wraith to laugh so hard his eyes fell out, Umi to swat him hard
across the face, and Miranda to turn five shades of red.

"I will NOT name her THAT!" Miranda exclaimed exasperatedly as she
stared down at Nezumi in disbelief.

The rattata recovered from Umi's slap a moment later, still
chuckling and finally and motioned towards Bow. "You have an
idea?" the blushing courier inquired of the growlithe, a certain
desperation to her tone.

Bow nodded and barked out a quick reply, causing all eyes to turn
towards Frank.

"Ivy," he said with a shrug, "Bow thinks it's a good name for it."

"Her," corrected Miranda with half a glare, "But yeah, that'll do.
Thanks, Bow."

The growlithe wagged her tail happily at Miranda before going to
sit possessively upon Frank's feet as Irene gave a happy sigh.
"Well, now that that's settled," Irene commented in a slightly
more serious tone as she handed Frank the tray of eggs, "I'll just
take a quick peek in those other storerooms. Oh, and check to make
sure none of those other eggs are viable, okay?"

"Yes 'Mom'," chuckled Frank, crouching down to show the assembled
pokemon the tray, "Anything look lively guys?"

The four moved closer and sniffed at the clutch as Irene began
systematically looking into each of the storerooms and Misty
turned away, thankful for Miranda's arms around her.

"Nothing," called Frank as Irene came out of one room shaking her

"Poor chansey..." the woman muttered before looking up and smiling
grimly. "Okay, dear, just set it down somewhere and find a phone.
I think you'll find what you're looking for in these two rooms."

Irene indicated them with her hand before walking back to Miranda.
"She going to be alright?" the seamstress inquired with concern as
Misty gave a bit of a shudder and finally stood up straight.

"I'll be fine," she assured Irene with a determined look before
glaring at the still unconscious form of Chef Troy, her two
pokemon still hovering near his body, waiting for the man to wake
up again so they could take him down again, "I'm just glad it
wasn't one of them. Eating a psyduck was bad enough!"

Irene nodded grimly. "Well, you two had best get your pokemon
together and get going," she told them both, "Frank's calling in
for backup... Finally. So I think you've done all you can, and I
don't want you two getting into trouble."

"What about you?" asked Miranda with concern.

"Oh, I'm staying," chuckled Irene mischievously, "Someone has to
take the blame for this, and I don't want Frank loosing his job.
I'll just say that I tricked him into coming here because I
'suspected' something funny was going on, and oh look! Something

Misty and Miranda laughed as Ivy made a sudden unhappy sound.
Miranda glanced down, half forgetting that she still held the
small creature in her hand. "I think she's hungry," the courier
commented, a sudden helpless look crossing her face.

"Oh, just feed her some of this for now," offered Irene, suddenly
taking a small Ziploc bag from her coat pocket and handing it to

"You carry pokemon food in your pocket?" she inquired,
bewilderedly accepting the small package along with the cookies.

"Hey," Irene laughed, "I'm a mom. I have to be ready for ANY

"I'd kinda forgotten that particular phenomenon," Misty commented

"That's why I'm here, deary," assured Irene as Miranda gave the
pokemon food a bit of a concern look, "Something wrong?"

Miranda shook her head. "Sorry," she explained, "I just don't
usually trust the fake stuff after that tainted food scare we had
a few years ago. I prefer to feed my pokemon the things they'd eat
in the wild. Or as close as possible to it anyway."

"But you spoil them so often with human food that I don't think it
matters," Misty teased; her eyes full of joy as Ivy greedily
accepted the small soft lumps of food she offered.

"Point taken," chuckled Miranda, unable and unwilling to argue the

"Okay, they're on their way," called Frank as he re-entered the
room, "In about five minutes this place should be crawling with
Pokeforce personnel."

"We'd better go," said Miranda, a sudden nervousness creeping down
her spine.

"Thanks for everything!" Misty called over to Frank with a wave
before thanking Irene as well.

"Just go!" the older woman instructed, shooing them towards the
loading dock door door even as Misty and Miranda hastily recalled
their pokemon, all except for Nezumi, who insisted on riding with
Ivy in Miranda's coat pocket, "You two can't afford to get in
trouble! Now go home! I'll drop by the gym later with a few things
for Ivy, now get!"

The two laughed as they were ushered out the loading dock door,
and soon found themselves running full tilt across the parking lot
as the sound of police sirens filled the air.

"So, Miri!" laughed Misty as they hopped over a small fence and
cut through someone's back yard, "What do you wanna do tomorrow

'Same thing we do every night!' laughed Nezumi in pokespeak as Ivy
stuck her head out beside him and gave a sudden gasp of wonder,
'Try and take over the world...!'

Chapter XX

The day was sunny and cloudless as Summer once more fought back
against the onset of Autumn, but the cool breezes off the lake as
well as the shade from the ancient maple trees that filled the
park kept Misty and Miranda from baking in the sun as they enjoyed
their lunch on the last day of the Cerulean City End Of Summer

"There he is," Miranda commented chewing her french-fry quickly
before waving her arm in a wide arc as Officer Frank came up dirt
path, dodging small children on his way to meet them.

Misty glanced over her shoulder and smiled as Nezumi glanced up
from the small bowl which contained the remainder of Irene's
pokechow that he was sharing with Ivy and squeaked a loud greeting
to the growlithe that followed on Frank's heels.

At the sound of her name, Bow let out a loud bark and Nezumi
grinned broadly, once again causing Miranda to sigh warily,
shaking her head at the two pokemon who seemed to enjoy teasing
each other far too much.

"Hey, guys!" called Frank as walked over to the picnic table and
gave the strange slumbering creature on the bench beside Misty a
curious look, "Um, this yours?"

Misty glanced down at the dozing Kappa; the psyduck had had a hard
morning. Umi had been trying to teach him to swim again, and he'd
almost managed to master floating.

"I'm afraid so," his trainer muttered with a half a smile,
scratching the defective water creature on the tummy as Frank
rounded the table and sat beside his almost-niece, "He's not much
to look at, but he kinda grows on ya after a while."

'Yeah, like a fungus!' Nezumi to surreptitiously to Ivy in
pokespeak, causing Miranda bounce a fry off his head.

"So, I take it you two'll be heading out soon," commented Frank,
grinning mischievously as he grabbed Miranda's drink and took a
sip without asking.

"Not until you do," he niece replied with a knowing smile and a
hint of severity.

"What?" inquired Frank helplessly, "You don't trust me?"

"Have you even CALLED Aunt Laurna yet?"

The Pokeforce Officer nodded. "Yeah," he admitted in a strangely
shy tone, glancing down and pretending to be fascinated as Bow
begged desperately to be helped up into his lap, "That's how I
know you two are headed for Saffron."

"After a not so short trip to Neon Town, though," Miranda agreed
with a sigh, stretching out her legs and half wondering how long
the snow would hold off that Winter, "I got stuck doing some mail
delivery not too long ago, so now I've been asked to deliver a
bundle up that way. But, we'll be in Lavender in time for
Halloween. I expect to see you there, you know."

Frank avoided his niece's all too knowing look by turning to
Misty. "Well, the reason I mentioned that," he segued with a
complete disregard for tact, causing Miranda to give him a bit of
a dirty look, "Is that I hear that Saffron's Gym Leader's got a
haunter. So maybe she could teach Miranda a thing or two about
them, make Wraith a little more manageable."

"I seem to vaguely recall that..." said Misty thoughtfully as
Miranda slid her index finger under her uncle's unshaven chin and
turned his head towards her.

"If," she said imperiously, "I want advice on haunters I'll just
ask the world's premier authority on spectral-parazoology. Say
like... Oh, I don't know... Maybe... AUNT LAURNA!"

"Ah, Miri," mused Frank, finally helping Bow up onto his lap,
"Sometimes you remind me so much of your mother."

Miranda gave him a sour look and tried not to laugh as Misty and
Nezumi chuckled at her. "Don't try and change the subject, you!"

"Yes, Viv'," he said, his toothy grin still present, his gray eyes
still laughing merrily.

"Oh you!" Miranda exclaimed in an exasperated tone, finally giving
up and dropping the subject, "Alright fine. So, how did Chef
Troy's trial go?"

Frank coughed into his hand, catching Misty's slight grimace out
of the corner of his eye. "Oh, it went well," he said with a
nonchalant shrug, "Joy broke down into tears when she found out
she ate curried chansey, but that didn't exactly hurt our case.
Jen's a bit ticked, but Irene made her a few new outfits and sent
over a huge box of baked stuff, so it's all good."

"Never underestimate the power of Mom," Miranda commented

"I guess we'll be seeing yours in a month or so then?" Misty
commented with a slight edge to her tone, causing Miranda's heart
to feel heavy in her chest.

"Yeah," she agreed without much enthusiasm, "And you'll get to
meet Bob face to face, which means a decent meal for once."

"Hey, Vivian can cook," defended Frank before hastily adding, "I

"Better than me," Miranda sighed, suddenly thinking about the
fortnight's worth of instant ramen in her backpack.

"Don't worry," assured Misty, her smile a bit sad as she thought
of her own parents, "I'm sure that between us we can survive 'till
then. I did spend a few years traveling with an uncertified chef
you know."

Miranda smiled. "I know we won't starve," she said, her tone
becoming amused as she glanced down at Nezumi, "If we did we'd
never hear the end of it!"

"Uuuuummmmiiii!" replied the rattata, suddenly standing on his
haunches and doing his best gastly impression as though to
threaten to haunt his trainer from beyond the grave if he starved
to death.

"Point taken," Misty commented, handing Nezumi one of the french-
fries she really didn't feel like eating.

"Okay then," replied Frank, checking his watch, "I'm back on duty
in five minutes, and I still have to make transfer arrangements,
so I'd better go."

"So you DID call, Aunt Laurna then?" inferred Miranda as the
officer set Bow on the ground before getting up himself.

"Bye, Miri! See you later!" he laughed, refusing to answer the
question as he suddenly made a break for it, running across the
near by clearing where several people were playing soccer,
followed by a suddenly very confused Bow.

"You'd better be there!" his niece called after him, both anger
and amusement in her tone as Misty chuckled.

"He's worse than Nezumi," commented Misty as Miranda gave up,
shaking her head in dismay.

"Naw, Nezumi's worse," the courier replied resting her chin in her
hand as she slowly swung at fry in front of Nezumi's snout to get
his attention, "and as you said. Good thing he's so darn cute, or
I'd kick his butt!"

The rattata leapt up and snatched the french-fry in both fore
paws. 'I like him!' he commented in pokespeak with a wide grin as
he bit the fry in half.

"You would!" Miranda chuckled defeatedly before reaching her hand
across the table to take Misty's. "You okay?" she asked kindly.

"Fine," Misty said with a nod that said it was only half true,
"But, would you mind if we stopped by my parent's grave before we

"Not at all," Miranda replied, giving her beloved's hand a
reassuring squeeze.

Misty looked up, her sea green eyes full of love and sadness.
"Miri," she said quietly with a smile that made her lover's heart
melt, "I love you..."
Nikolai Mirovich (
June 9, 2001


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