(Edit- having trouble posting the rest of the fic, I assume due to character limits. (For some reason, it's not letting me post more than two sentences in the reply. ;--; Working on it, though.)
Once in a Blue Moon
Urf. Well, this one-shot took me a long, long time. I started, scrapped, and deleted it about five times, finally finished typing out all 12,000(!) words, read over and fixed it up three times, and finally worked up the courage to post it here. xD All in all, I'm pretty proud of it... The beinning's kind of rocky, but... *rambleramble*
I know it's not the most popular pairing, and it's an awfully long read... so an early thankyou to anyone who reads through it, and maybe tosses me a comment or somethin'. <3 Any feedback is super-appreciated.
Ships: Krazyshipping, slight one-sided Lagomorphshipping
Warnings: Yaoi/slash, critical levels of fluff
Meowth had it all figured out.
This wasn't particularly surprising- at least not to Meowth himself. He was, after all, the self-proclaimed Brains of Team Rocket, and if the other two had just listened to him and maybe tuned down their egos a little bit they'd have made it big a long time ago.
But no- they were all for covered holes and electronic claws and trying to battle much-stronger pokemon with their own weak team- and never mind if the exact same plan had failed spectacularly yesterday. Jessie and James' ill-executed brawn negated Meowth's master scheming, and in his opinion it was entirely their fault he was squatting in the mud, chewing the top off his last can of Pokechow, completely soaked to the bone and the sort of freezing cold no campfire will ever dispel.
He let them know it, too. "It was da perfect opportunity ta catch Pikachu," he insisted, around a mouthful of aluminum can. He paused to rip the pop-top the rest of the way off, then spit it carelessly on the ground. (The poor chow had been witness to the similar massacres of all its siblings months ago, and had found that the only way to save itself was to cower in the corner of Team Rocket's balloon, underneath the pile of Jessie's costume outfits. It had only postponed the inevitable, of course; eventually Meowth had found it, an acceptible amount of time after its expiration date. In a last-ditch effort of self-preservation, it let its full odor of wet chow and rot out into the air. Of course, Meowth did not have a nose.) "We coulda had it! If youse two knucklebrains..."
"Are you done yet?" Jessie asked, droningly, thumbing through the inky remains of a waterlogged Glamour Villain magazine. Normally, Meowth's comments would provoke bitter bickering and occassionally violence, but the two human members of the Team were just as wet, cold, and muddy as Meowth, and they didn't have a meal in front of them. They lacked the energy to rise to the bait. The tall, thin redhead peeled two soaking pages apart and tried to open the magazine to the next spread, accidentally ripping one page in half. That destroyed the cover article- a well-executed story about a new line of beautiful, durable make-up that wouldn't chip, smear or bleed while you were stealing valuable pokemon, collecting powerful Legendaries, committing arson or buidling Doomsday devices. With a defeated grit of her teeth, Jessie dropped the whole mess into the mud.
Not particularly annoyed by the expected interruption, Meowth drank his chow like water, only particularly putrid water that tasted more like swamp mud something died in. Two years ago- heck, two days ago- when he was more-or-less well-fed, he would have spit it back out, but this time he didn't even choke. When he'd finally gulped down the last swallow, he turned green, collapsed onto his back and groaned to himself. "I deserve better'n dis."
This wasn't the first time he'd mentioned that fact that night. The first few times, James had argued the point; now he just ignored the talking cat, investing his energy in re-organizing his bottle-cap collection by color instead of by brandname.
And then the fire was finally killed off. It wasn't much of a surprise. They'd tried to sheild it from the relentless rain by building a leaf-and-stick lean-to over the flame, but too much was eventually just too much, and the whole thing sputtered to embers, then gave up completely. A coil of white smoke lazily drifted upward, before the intruding rain ruined even that and left nothing but soggy ashes.
For a minute, all three defeated villians stared at what had once been their only source of warmth, then Jessie snarled, "I'm going to bed."
She and James- that is, James, with Jessie's supervision- had flipped the Meowth balloon's basket on its head for some semblence of shelter while they slept, but mud was mud, even when protected from the rain. Jessie was distinctly unhappy as she crawled under the wicker with a thin, damp blanket, her whiplash of hair in soggy lanks down her back. James, with an audible sigh, slid his bottlecaps back into their carrying case, grabbed a blanket of his own, and followed her. She snapped out a swear as he accidentally trod on her fingers, then shoved him to the other side of the tiny little lean-to when she realized the mud from his boot had gotten all over her arm.
Meowth followed close behind into the already-cramped space, stepping on Jessie's face as he struggled into the shelter, wiping his wet tail over James' ear, and bringing with him the distinctive odor of dank fur.
About twenty-five seconds later, he was physically hurled back out into the rain.
"Not. Tonight. Meowth," Jessie screamed after him, finally passing her boiling point.
James, normally the sympathetic one, shook his head and let the edge of the basket hit the mud, effectively locking his feline companion out in the storm.
"Lousy humans," Meowth muttered, flexing his claws. In the distance, thunder growled, and Meowth shivered, wiping cold mud from his paws. It wasn’t fair- HE did all the work for the Team and THEY were the ones who got shelter (substandard though it was) while he was cast out in the rain?
He considered curling up and trying to sleep out here, but the idea didn't appeal. He considered somehow lifting the edge of the basket back up and barging back where his sopping companions were already snoring, showing off with Fury Swipes, but there were, after all, two of them and only one of Meowth- and they were both a good bit bigger than he was. And then he considered running away.
And kept considering it.
After all, he was the tactician here. He could make it on his own. Scratch that, he'd probably do BETTER on his own- without those bumbling idiots stepping on the back of his very metaphorical shoes, he'd have nabbed Pikachu AGES ago. Not to mention that without Jessie and James claiming it was THEIR idea, or that they played any part in the scheme other than getting in the way, all the credit would go to Meowth. He'd be the Boss’s lapcat again, living in luxury, three-square-meals a day, attention and recognition- none of this camping in the mud. And, after he got over himself, Pikachu wouldn't even mind being part of Team Rocket- once he saw how great it was. Giovanni would be a much better master than that twerp, Ash. They'd be a great team- Pikachu, ready to defend the Boss; Meowth, lending moral support and offering battle plans; and Giovanni, doing whatever it was the Boss did whenever he wasn't telling Jessie and James that they were big, pathetic, failing losers.
"I'll show dem," Meowth decided with a dark look over his shoulder at the over-turned basket, where through the whicker he could hear that James had, for the third night in a row, started mumbling in his sleep about radioactive Ariados. "Dey ain't nothin' without Me-owth."
As chance had it, only a few hundred yards from where a very-grumpy Meowth was venturing off into the night, Ash, Dawn and Brock were getting ready for a night's rest. Brock had already scrubbed out the pan he had used to cook their dinner in, and neatly put the leftovers away in rain-proof tupperware. Ash had pitched their tents, cheerful as always despite the gloomy weather.
Only Dawn was put out by the unrelenting rain- this wasn't, after all, how she'd predicted her pokemon journey going. She'd eaten dinner inside her tent, toweling off her soaking hair, and watching the mist accumulate from the relative warmth of her sleeping bag.
Piplup's good spirits at the storm cheered her up a little, though; the little penguin splashed at Buneary, trilled cheerfully, and tried to catch raindrops on his tongue. Ash's Buizel was enjoying the weather, too, soaking in a puddle the way Pikachu liked to soak up the sun.
"Alright, guys," Brock said, after packing all his dishes and leftovers away in his bag. "I'm hitting the sack. We're leaving early tomorrow, don't forget."
Ash nodded and yawned. "I'm gonna turn in, too. You ready, Buizel?" He pulled the water-weasel's pokeball out of a pocket and held it out; the little pokemon good-naturedly nodded and allowed himself to be recalled. Pikachu ran inside Ash's tent before his trainer could get there and rigorously shook out his sopping fur, taking care not to get Ash's sleeping bag wet.
In the tent to Ash's, Buneary was carefully grooming out her fluff. Dawn called Piplup back into his pokeball- to the penguin's slight disappointment, but there would be other rainy evenings- and put that pokeball with Aipom's in her backpack. There was a third, empty capsule in there, as well.
"You wanna be in your's, tonight, sweetie?" she asked Buneary, who blinked at her trainer, then vigorously shook her head. It was a bit chilly out, yes, but the bunny pokemon much preferred to be able to stretch out her paws while napping.
She watched Dawn take off her shoes and put them by her pack, wiggle all the way into her sleeping bag, and lay back against her pillow, flicking off the flashlight that had been her only source of light in the little tent. In the pitch-black the little normal-type hurried up to curl next to the girl. Her trainer dutifully scratched the bunny behind her ears, then closed her eyes."Goodnight, guys," Ash called from the tent to their left.
"Night," Brock answered, from the tent to their right.
"Goodnight," Dawn replied.
And then Buneary closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep. She always had a bit of trouble falling asleep on the best evenings, but cold nights like these she didn't much care for at all- even in Dawn’s tent she couldn’t get quite warm enough to be comfortable, and after a few minutes of lying still and studying the insides of her eyelids, and she was beginning to regret not spending the night in her pokeball. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes tightly and tried to entertain herself with idle thoughts.
In the bushes around her, something rustled. Her black eyes flew open.
For a few minutes, she listened, stock-still and breathing as quiet as possible, until she was sure she had been imagining things. Everything was absolutely still, save for Dawn's slow, even breathing, Ash snoring next door and Brock mumbling in his sleep. If she listened very hard, she could make out the cute whistling sounds Pikachu made in his slumber- but nothing traipsing around outside their camp.
She closed her eyes and forced herself to relax. She was starting to get warmer and very, very sleepy and so it wasn't very hard.
"Buni," she growled, annoyed and certain, now, she'd heard it. She wiggled out from under Dawn's comforting hand as quickly as she could without waking her dreaming trainer up.
It was still raining steadily outside when she opened the tent flap and poked her head out. Because of this, she really wanted to just go ahead and see that it was nothing more than a passing school of Cherubi, then go back to curl up and get some sleep. Her fur was already uncomfortably damp and she didn't think she'd be able to sleep soaked all the way through.
But she couldn't see anything, in the pitch-black night and mist and rain. And she could hear the noise, a little louder, now, now- definitely two feet (or, probably, paws; it didn't sound heavy enough to be human) trudging around in the brush.And then, somewhere not very far away, a fork of lightening illuminated the world, and reflected off two blue eyes and something that looked just like a golden coin.
All three vanished when the light flicked off. A second later, the accompanying thunder crashed.
By then, Buneary was already running to the next tent to the left. Her eyes were starting to adjust, at least a little, to the gloom, and when she thrust her head through the flap, she could make out Ash, stretched out like a black wurmple in his sleeping bag, with a little fuzzy lump that had to be Pikachu curled up by his head. Buneary squeezed frigid rainwater out of the fluff on the ends of her ears, then tip-toed around Ash's snoring form, towards where Pikachu lay, ears twitching in his sleep.
"Buni," she hissed, shaking Pikachu's shoulder. The electric-type stirred, round eyes opening slowly. "Buni, buneary!"
Pikachu was tired, and not particularly amused. "Pika?" he asked, willing to give Buneary the benefit of the doubt- he always was- but already curling up to go back to sleep.
With a combination of breathless syllables and frantic paw-gestures, Buneary told Pikachu what she had seen. The little rodent frowned and climbed to his paws when she finished her story, round brown eyes narrowed in concern. Not that he was particularly concerned for the group's safety; it was more that the last thing he figured Ash needed was to be woken up by his bumbling arch-nemesises trying to make their fortune at someone else's expense.
The two of them crept out of the tent and into the cold mud. The rain had let up a little, but it still soaked through Pikachu's short fur in seconds and drenched Buneary's woolen fuzz. Pikachu's ears strained forward, but he still couldn't hear anything until Buneary whispered and pointed to where the sound was coming from. And then...
"Pikachu!" the little rodent cried as he sprung forward, sparks flying from the high-charge scarlet pouches on his cheeks. Meowth, standing half-in and half-out of the bushes around the camp, soaked to the bone with his whiskers drooping under heavy, fat drops of water and his ears folded back, froze as the electric light illuminated him and turned the raindrops into quickly-falling vermillion sparkles in the air between him and his little yellow opponent.
The scratch-cat was shocked to be caught snooping around and knew he had merely seconds to think of a good excuse that would allow him to get away scott-free. That didn't concern him any. He had a mind like a steel trap and, under the pure, elemental force of his intellect, Pikachu's electrical shocks had all the power of a single-volt battery cell. If he played his cards right, Meowth mused, he might even be able to convince Pikachu not only to refrain from shocking him to a crisp and sending him blasting off to the ocean, but to follow him- err, somewhere, where Meowth would pull some sort of amazing trickery, capturing both Pikachu and the annoying tagalong Buneary in some sort of impressive-looking, electricity-proof cage (Meowth's imagination gave it low-powered rockets so he didn't have to lug it around all the way back to the Boss in Kanto, a latch that responded only to his pawprint and a savvy blue paint job), securing his promotion back to Giovanni's favorite pokemon and getting rid of that nasty Persian once and for all....
"Pika!" Pikachu snapped in warning, reminding Meowth once more of the issue at hand. The little mouse's fur was standing on end and tiny lines of lightning were tracing patterns over his back. In mere seconds, the painful-looking attack would shoot the cat pokemon from here to the banks of Johto. It was time for another brilliant preformance.
"Whaa?" Meowth drawled, pulling back in immaculately feigned- if several seconds late- surprise. "Pikachu? Dis is your camp, den?"
The effect of the act was instantaneous. Pikachu had the flaw in character of wanting to believe the best in everyone- even his worst enemy- and so after a second of suspicious glaring, he stopped charging up for his Thunderbolt attack. The camp went black again, and Meowth's eyes took a bit of time to adjust- but when they did, he saw Pikachu's irritated expression and Buneary's raw suspicion.
"Pi, pika? Pika, pikachu?" the mouse snapped, one ear flicking back, the ragged tone to his normally friendly squeak making it obvious that Meowth had seconds to explain exactly what he was doing in their camp before they went back to the status quo- that is, Pikachu making short work of his enemy and then staggering back to his tent to finish up his night’s rest.
"Eheheh," Meowth tittered, nervously, and held his paws up in surrender while the gears in his brain whirled away for an answer. "Well, as fer dat..."
"Buneary," the little rabbit behind Pikachu muttered darkly- at least, as darkly as she was capable of muttering. "Buni, buneary."
"I was NOT snoopin'!" Meowth blurted, "I was... er, lookin' fer somet'ing!"
Pikachu cast a quick glance over his shoulder at Buneary, then blinked suspiciously at Meowth. The scratch-cat was acting funny. He was shifting his weight side-to-side, uncomfortable in the rain. He looked tired, and he wasn't wearing the huge, mischevious smile he usually bore when he was lying through his teeth- as he was probably doing now, Pikachu was forced to admit. The electric rodent wasn't sure why the villain's behavior was all that important, but he couldn't help but wonder what he was doing out here all by himself, anyway.
"Ah. What is it I'm lookin' for?" Meowth frowned and rubbed his paws together. "Dat is, it's a... it's my..."
"My lucky Amulet Coin!" Meowth blurted, all at once.
Pikachu and Buneary looked at each other, awkwardly, and nodded. Pikachu's lightning-bolt tail held straight out behind him, he sent a half-charged thundershock in Meowth's direction, hitting him straight-on at point blank range. "Pika, pikachu!"
Meowth cried out, flailing as the attack hit, then sagged down to the ground, contemplating what burning fur must smell like to humans and pokemon with noses. "You don't believe I have a lucky Amulet Coin 'cause you know I can't afford dat sorta thing," he moaned, chastised.
"Pi," Pikachu confirmed, nodding briskly, his eyes narrowed to dark slits in his face. Behind him, Buneary crossed her stubby arms. "Pikachu, pika pi."
"An' you wanna know what I'm really doin' out here hangin' out around yer camp?"
There was something heart-rendingly pathetic about Meowth lying there, without his compatriots- where were they, anyway?- and burned to the ground, that distantly bothered Pikachu- but the electric rodent was too irritated with his sleep being ruined to worry too much about it, or about Meowth. "Pi," he confirmed, waiting for Meowth to answer the question at hand.
"Well," Meowth mused, his genius brain whirling away to come up with an answer, any answer, any answer at all, and he said the first thing that came to his mind: "da truth of da matter is, it's a blue moon tonight." And, with one paw, he gestured up at the cloud-encrusted, moon-less sky.
"Pi, pika!" Pikachu growled, and sparks flew from his cheeks again.
"No, really! Pikachu! Wait!" Meowth sat upright, waved his arms and pointed up at the clouds. Cold, heavy drops of rain fell into Pikachu's face as he followed the trajectory of Meowth's paw- and there, in the clouds, a tiny stripe of white light that could well have been the moon shown through the black haze. "Da blue moon is up t'ere, it's just covered by da rain clouds. When da blue moon comes out, us nocturnal pokemon haveta... err, congregate. It's... err, it’s in our blood."
And then he started to tell his story.
Meowth started kind of shakey, but he felt himself starting to get into it; in his mind's eye, Meowth and Murkrow, Persian and Parasect, Dustox and Duskull, Sneasel and Skuntank were dropping from the trees, swimming up the rivers, slinking from the bushes to greet each other, eyes gleaming in the shadows. A Persian and a Houndoom faced each other, ears back and tails slashing side to side; Meowths on one side of the battlefield leered at Houndour on the other. "Sometimes da stronger pokemon battle, fer dominance in their territories, or just 'cause t'ey don't like each ot'er. And..." an Absol and two Murkrow were pulling pink fish out of a nearby river, their keen eyes picking the moving shapes out of the black depths of the water, "t'ere's always plenty t'eat, and big bonfires that everyone sits around, talkin' and laughin'." Meowth could picture it in his mind- a huge fire warming his frigid toes, a friendly Weavile telling him stories about life in the open wild- a life Meowth had never had- and all the food he could stomach! Good food, too; food that had never been canned, never been freeze-dried, food so fresh they hadn’t even had a chance to print an expiration date on it yet. "And at da very end..." In Meowth's daydream, two Noctowl and a gang of Hoothoot perched on a treebranch and started singing, their natural chirp unnaturally melodic to the scratch-cat's inner ears- "dere's dancin' until dawn."
The feline pokemon let his mental images slip away, smiling ear-to-ear with a far-away look in his eyes. "It's da best time in my life."
It really was. Meowth's ears quivered with excitement; he couldn't wait to get to the meeting place in the center of the woods, and see the night-time pokemon again, and have his midnight party with others like him...
Except there were no pokemon like Meowth.
And he'd made the whole thing up, anyway.
That kind of put a damper on his enthusiasm, but he tried very hard not to let it show on his face.
Pikachu, however, had listened to the whole story with glowing eyes. The idea of that sort of party sounded fantastic to him- even better than a restful night's sleep! His earlier exhaustion forgotten, and the nasty weather now tucked away at the back of his mind, his imagination played through all sorts of possiblities- exciting bonfire ghost stories, flying through the night sky on a Honchkrow's back, dancing until daybreak with a host of new friends. He shook rainwater off the tips of his ears and grinned up at Meowth. "Pika, pikachu!"
"Err, well, of course you'd wanna come. But, err..."
For the first time in several minutes, Buneary spoke up. Meowth had been so preoccupied with Pikachu and his Thunderbolt he'd almost forgotten she was still there. "Buni, buneary!" she demanded, ears back against her skull.
"How do you know I'm tellin' da truth? Well, you know 'cause if I was lying..."
And here, Meowth paused, and chewed on one claw. He wasn't sure HOW to convince them he was telling the truth. After all, he was lying.
Pikachu frowned. As much fun as the blue moon sounded, Buneary had a point. And if that was the reason behind Meowth meandering around in the rain, alone, then why did he lie about losing an Amulet Coin? "Pika, pikachu pi pi chu?"
Meowth frowned and stepped back. "I said DAT because... because da blue moon is fer nocturnal pokemon only." And, with that, he turned on his heel and started to walk away. "Youse two are daytime pokemon. Yer not even s'posed ta know about it." And now he had an opportunity to get away. A little voice in the back of his head was telling him to wait, that he could lure Pikachu back with him- but that Thundershock had hurt, and he realized he had absolutely no idea what he would do if he DID get Pikachu away from the camp. He'd have another chance at nabbing the electric pokemon, some time when his physical being was not at risk. All he had to do right now was walk. And not stop. And just keep walking.
"Pika," Pikachu called after him and, on reflex, Meowth stopped mid-step. Then winced. "Pika, pikachu! Pika pika pi!"
"I don't care if you wanna see da party," Meowth said, his arms crossed. "Youse two ain't invited."
Pikachu kept walking forward, slowly, until he was just behind Meowth. Behind him, Buneary followed, her ears waterlogged and drooping. "Pika," he said, darkly, glaring at Meowth's back. "Pika pi!"
"Oh," Meowth said, deflating. "You won't believe me unless ya see da blue moon fer yourself."
"An' if I don't take ya t'see it..."
Pikachu sparked threateningly.
Meowth drew in a deep breath, then let it out. If there was any perfect time for a brilliant idea, it was now."Den what are we waitin' for? Let's go."
They walked for an hour or so in the night. The rain strengthened until it pounded the forest around them, then subsided into a background haze. Buneary's powerful ears picked up every nighttime sound, and, fearful of what may have been lurking around them, she stayed very close behind Pikachu. In the first few minutes they ran across a small stream, and Meowth had said something to the effect that they could follow it to get to the clearing where the nighttime Pokemon were holding their party. Pikachu was starting to think they were lost.
"Buni, buneary," Buneary cried, suddenly, stopping in her tracks. Both the other two turned to look at her.
"Good idea," Meowth exhaled, tumbling backwards to sit with his stubby legs crossed. "Let's rest."
Pikachu didn't like the idea of letting all the fun start without him, but he was starting to get tired, too. Heistantly, he sat down, as well; Buneary immediately sat beside him, leaning against his side. Pikachu blinked, inching a little away, his paws against the blushing bunny’s shoulder.
Meowth looked at the two of them and frowned. He wasn’t sure why he frowned, but he did; something- a half-formed thought, perhaps, or a vague irritation- was itching at the back of his mind. He didn’t even realize that his quick glance at the other two had prolonged for long enough to qualify as a stare until Pikachu’s head tilted in the cat-pokemon’s direction, and then he looked away as soon as he realized the yellow mouse had seen his expression.
The electric-type frowned. Just because Meowth didn't want them there, didn't mean he had to make it so obvious! Pikachu inched a little bit in the other direction, now- away from Meowth, and closer to Buneary.
For his part, Meowth wasn't certain why, but he was suddenly kind of irritated with Buneary. He didn't know why she had even tagged along. She didn't seem to believe him, she didn't seem excited about the prospect of the party either way, and she had her grungy little paws all over Meo- Team Rocket's future prize!
Meowth figured, if it were just he and Pikachu, they'd have already made it to the party. With the little bunny slowing them down, they'd probably already missed half of it!
Except, of course- Oh, yeah. It's not real.
But Buneary didn't know that. For all she knew, she was ruining the whole thing for both of them, and she didn't seem to care any. And if it was already over by the time they got there, who would Pikachu blame? Not Buneary- he didn't even seem the least bit upset at her as he moved her paw off his and trotted over to the side of the stream. He'd blame Meowth- he'd say the Scratch-cat had gotten them lost in the woods while all the excitement was going down!
Which wasn't fair at all, Meowth mused. He and Pikachu got along, when no one else was around. Buneary was ruining it, just like Jessie and James and the twerps always ruined it. All on his own, the little yellow rat wasn't such a bad pokemon- he was actually a pretty good friend, if Meowth could consider him a friend. Meowth liked to consider him a friend, sometimes- even if they had their differences, and even if there were a lot of differences, and even if they settled them with physical confrontation as often as anything. They still had their good times...
"Pika!" Suddenly excited, Pikachu interrupted Meowth’s idle thought-train and waved for the cat pokemon to come over to where he was standing, at the very edge of the stream. Meowth pushed himself to his feet; Buneary, still crouched in the grass, watched with her head tilted to the side.
“What’s da matter?” Meowth asked, pausing beside the electric mouse’s side and watching the flooded stream idly snake past them.
Energetically, Pikachu pointed at the stream, then at a short, twisted-looking palm tree a few hundred yards away, yammering out "Pikas!" and "Pikachus!" in short, rushed sentences. Then he ran over to the tree, chewed off one palm frond- thick, fully broad enough for several small pokemon to sit on, and buoyant- and dropped it in the stream. It floated, slowly, with the current.
"I don't t'ink dat's such a good idea," Meowth said, holding his paws out like he was warding the thoughts away. "I don't like da water all dat much. I t'ink I'd rather just walk on da side here..."
"Pikapi!" Grinning almost ear-to-ear (a particularly disconcerting expression on the little rodent's round face), Pikachu grabbed Meowth by the paw and dragged him to the side of the stream. He stepped backward onto the floating palm frond, which dipped under his weight but stayed afloat, and tugged the reluctant Meowth after him. Insistently. The feline hesitated, stammering excuses, but with one particularly enthusiastic yank Pikachu managed to haul the hesitant normal-type on board. Meowth was a little taller than Pikachu, standing on two feet, but weighed about the same; once again, the leaf-turned-boat dipped up and down, but didn't sink. It kept drifting slowly downstream.
Not one to be left behind, Buneary jumped onto the boat after them, and the three of them started to sail.
Meowth was uneasy at first. Uneasy, of course, in the same line of thinking by which a Ursaring mother might be 'miffed' to find her cub in a bear-trap. Uneasy in the white-knuckled, jaw clenched, tail lashing back and forth, whimpering out loud sort of way. The rain was a misty afterthought, now, but it was very dark out here and even with his feline night-sight, the stream was a strip of omnimous black against the dark-gray of their surroundings. Even though the ride was slow and gentle, every now and then Pikachu would shift or Buneary would twist in place and the leaf would buckle, letting water wash over it and soak Meowth's already-sodden toes. But they didn't sink.
Pikachu used his flat tail to paddle, which Meowth had to admit was kind of clever. When the stream bent a hair-pin turn around a knobbly tree, they might have run aground, but Meowth cried out a warning (his vision, of course, being much better than the mouse's this late at night) and the little rodent paddled feircely until they'd made the curve. And they didn't sink.
Eventually, Meowth stopped whimpering. His tail stilled, his grip on the side of the leaf weakened, his teeth stopped grinding together. Even though he was still decidedly damp and the remaining drizzle lingered, it was a warm night, and a gentle breeze blew through his fur and tickled his whiskers. "Dis was actually a pretty good idea, Pikachu," he said, grinning over his shoulder at the little mouse.
"Pika, pi chu pi!" Pikachu beamed, then, smiling broadly, asked, "Pikachu pika pi?"
"Oh, yeah, dis'll get us dere in no time!" Meowth replied, patting Pikachu on the back. And it was true, he figured. They'd be there way before the party was over! Except, of course... drat. "Unless, dey might have moved where dey was gonna have da bonfire. Last blue moon dey was talkin' about it."
A flash of... doubt, appeared in Pikachu's eyes, but then it was blocked out by the little rodent's enduring optimism, and he smiled hopefully. Meowth wished he was still that cheery all the time. It was one of the things he admired most about his opponent.
There was a lot, he figured, he admired about Pikachu. Those sort of traits came out a lot when they were alone- when the humans weren't around mucking everything up, Pikachu turned out to be brave, and clever, and generous, and all-in-all, not such a bad guy. He'd make a great teammate- the two of them made a great team!- and Meowth figured if Jesse and James hadn't always been around to mess him up, he and Pikachu could've been friends a long time ago and Pikachu probably would have already left those annoying twerps and joined up with his cat pal in the greatest criminal organization in the world.
Meowth looked over at Pikachu, slowly paddling with his tail and watching the ebony surface of the water roll beneath their boat, and frowned a little. Alright, so maybe Pikachu wouldn't have joined Team Rocket. Even without those twerps around he had too good a heart for it. They probably would have gone freelance, gone off together to... Meowth didn't know what they would have done, away from Team Rocket AND Pikachu's annoying human friends. He didn't know what pokemon did when there were no humans or dominant pokemon to tell them what to do. But they would've been together, and that was what made the idea... strangely appealing. The little mouse smiled suddenly at some inner thought and Meowth blushed without quite knowing why and jerked his gaze over to the stream in front of them.
Buneary didn't have much in the way of night-sight, but something suddenly told her all was not well. She didn't much like sailing (a fact which she didn't know until about two minutes after jumping on board Pikachu's make-shift boat) and she'd been sitting quietly, her paws clamped over her abdomen, trying to ignore the sick feeling in her gut AND her crush's conversation with The Enemy. But now she shifted forward, keeping one round, suspicious eye on Meowth.
But he didn't do anything, except to say, "I t'ink dere are rocks in da water ahead, Pikachu." They rose out starkly white in the black ribbon that was their waterway.
They were moving, he noticed, at quite a clip. He hadn't thought they were going this fast earlier, and he felt that spine-chilling 'unease' fire up again in the back of his mind. Buneary noticed it, too, apparently. "Buni buneary!"
"Yeah, we are." Meowth dragged the tips of his claws through the water and watched the spray rise up. "You must be paddlin' awfully fast."
"Pika," Pikachu corrected him; he wasn't paddling at all! He waved his tail, quite clearly out of the water, to emphasize his point, and grinned cheerfully. It was great to have the river do some of the work for a change!
Meowth's reaction was less-than-cheerful and stretched even his loose definition of 'unease'. "You mean da current is pullin' us along dis fast?" he screeched.
Meowth leaned over the front edge of the palm frond and peered into the distance. The white splotch was getting bigger, fast, and a definite shape was beginning to form. "Dat's not a rock!" the cat cried, waving his paw hysterically. "Dat's a rapid!"
Everything else happened fast enough to blur. Buneary cried out for everyone to grab hold of the edge of their poor-man's boat, and they must have because no one fell out when they were suddenly being thrown side-to-side, spun in place, chucked clear through the air and, on one memorable and quite unpleasant occassion, dragged underwater in what was, now, clearly more than a stream and no less than a white-water river. After it was over, Buneary and Pikachu agreed that Meowth spent most of the event screaming, although the feline pokemon had no recollection.
And then, they were just sailing. Quickly, but smoothly. Meowth opened his eyes, glanced over- Pikachu was still there- and unclenched his paws from around the edge of the leaf. It took quite an effort.
His whole body sore, Meowth forced himself to stand up straight. Bonus- he'd just re-defined the phrase 'soaked through to the skin' and he didn't even notice the rain.
"Buneary buni rii," the bunny observed, pointing at the trees rushing past them, faster with every one they passed. It didn't seem like a good sign to her.
Meowth tried to see what was ahead of them, but his vision was playing tricks on him. It looked like the river ended in just a dozen or so feet, just cut off like someone snipped it in half with a pair of scissors. He could see the landscape stretching out in the distance, but the river wasn't part of it. And they were hurtling towards the cut-off. Actually, it was like the whole landscape just... ended, and then started again somewhere else, like a cliff or a...
"WATERFALL!" he screamed, eyes bulging. Meowth lunged for Pikachu, Pikachu lunged for Meowth, Buneary lunged for both of them, and screaming and clinging to whatever they had reached, they plunged over the edge.
The leaf plummeted, Buneary lost her grip, and Meowth and Pikachu dropped, holding tightly to each other, their only contact with anything but air, as the night rushed past them. Meowth's life flashed before his eyes, and he was kind of disappointed. Well, the part with Meowsie was kind of an embarrassment; he gave up everything he had for her and was turned down at her doorstep. He started out with a coushy job in Team Rocket, then was kicked down to Grunt for no better reason than the Persian interloper and that one unfortunate happenstance that Giovanni only ever referred to as "The Maple Syrup Incident". Skitty had rejected him, Snubbull had stalked him, and even Jessie and James had kicked him out of camp.
But a long time ago, he had helped defeat a Pigeot and a Rhydon and survived almost alone in a very hostile environment- with a little help, maybe. He remembered a night where he wasn't watching the stars dance overhead all by himself, where he almost felt like he was more than a dead weight, where he almost had a friend. He clung a little tighter to his warm, fuzzy companion as the water filled his vision, and squeezed his eyes shut.
It felt like a very long time before he hit, but it could have been a little longer.
He felt himself continue to fall, speed slowing as he sank far, far below the river's surface, but already his conciousness was starting to fade away.