The Pleasure Principle

Part 1

Saerin sat down at the Cerulean Pokécenter's waiting area with a heavy sigh.  A well deserved break, he thought, in more than one respect.  Treating pokémon was no easy thing, and stealing them at the same time was even harder.  He smiled to himself as he tried to imagine Giovanni's reaction when he saw today's rare catch.

Saerin had a rather memorable face beneath his startlingly blond hair.  His long, narrow eyes might have made him look Oriental, but for the facts that they were spaced too far apart over a long, hooked nose and they were green.  A pair of glasses with long oval lenses to match his eyes perched above freckled cheeks.

"Saerin?" Nurse Joy called.  "Have you seen the patient that was in bed 4F?"

He jumped guiltily and stood up to hide it.  "Uh--no.  I was in the supply room for most of today."

"Oh."  The concern showed in the nurse's face.  "I don't know what happened to it."  She glanced down at her clipboard.  "This says there was a Clefable there.  I do hope we find it soon, it was almost healed anyway and its trainer will be coming to pick it up."  She looked up at Saerin, who had sat back down.  "Oh, you can go home early today.  We're not very busy, and Quethiril is helping out.  She's such an angel."

"Quethiril?" Saerin repeated the unfamiliar name.

"Oh yes, she's a remarkable girl.  She has this way with pokémon, wild and tame.  They just adore her.  Usually she spends her time in the forest with her research, but when she has time to come help out it's just wonderful.  In a few more years she'll probably make a better nurse than me."

Saerin digested this information, trying to work out some way to twist it to Team Rocket's advantage.  Giovanni had not been pleased last time he reported in and in the weeks since he had been doing everything to improve his standing without breaking his cover.  Maybe if he talked to her...  "Uh, do you think she'd mind if I, uh, met her?" he asked awkwardly.

"I don't know..."  Nurse Joy's brow furrowed.  "She's rather serious and doesn't like to be bothered.  Maybe if you helped out in some way, you know, working alongside her...  Although she's always able to do it all herself," Joy added quickly.  "She's very competent."

Saerin nodded.  "Maybe I'll be able to learn some--"

A trainer walked in with an armful of pokéballs and the nurse walked over to the counter to help him.  She shot a look of apology at Saerin before turning away.

Oh well, he thought, that just meant he'd have to find this Quethiril by himself.  He was sure he knew all the usual people at the Pokécenter.  For some reason he always recognized most of the people where he worked even though he was trying to avoid them all the time.  He walked down the long hallway, glancing in each room as he went.

He heard her voice before he even opened the door.

"Just hold still...  No, don't worry about that, we'll take care of it.  ...  I'm sure your trainer will be back today.  ...  Stop that!  You'll loosen the bandage."

He realized she was talking -- no, replying -- to the pokémon!

"Alright, you can stop hiding behind the door," she suddenly called out.

Saerin jumped again.  Why was it that he always got caught?  He just wasn't made out for being a sneaky villain, no matter how much he tried.  Sighing, he walked into the room.  The scene seemed strangely commonplace.  A young, silver-haired girl knelt by a bed in which lay an injured Sandshrew.  By her side was an Oddish, standing quietly -- her own pokémon, Saerin assumed.

"Hi," he began shyly.  He really wasn't very good at any of this, he decided.  "I, uh, that is, Nurse Joy told me that you, uh, were rather, um, good at healing and I was hoping I might meet you and learn a thing or two."  The last bit came out in a rush, which seemed to cure his constant pausing.

"You don't learn much by hiding behind a door," the girl replied.  "If Oddish hadn't told me that someone was at the door, who knows how long you might have been standing there and just watching!"

"Well, I--" he blushed.  As he continued to fumble for words, he considered this new twist.  The girl had an Oddish that could communicate with humans that lucidly?  That would certainly be an asset to Team Rocket.  "Did you say," he began to ask, dropping his stumbling sentence-in-progress, "that your Oddish can talk?"

She looked surprised and turned to the pokémon in question.  "Did I?" she asked it.

"Oddish..."  It shook its head.

"I didn't think so either."  The girl turned back to Saerin.  "I don't think I know you, but you've apparently been around here at the Pokécenter for a while at least.  So . . . I'm Quethiril."  She extended her hand.  "I'm a pokémon language researcher, and this Oddish here has been a constant friend since I met it in the forest so over time I've learned to understand it quite well."

"I'm Saerin," the boy replied, taking her hand.  "I've only been around for a few months, I guess, so, uh, it makes sense that you might not know me.  I mean, since you're so busy researching and stuff, right?"

"Right."  She looked at him kindly.  "You don't work well with people, do you?  The pokémon seem to like you, though."  She turned back to the Sandshrew.  "Well, you're done.  Just stop fidgeting with your tail and don't try to curl into a ball anytime soon."

In its small squeaks it said something to her.  Saerin watched, fascinated, as the seemingly unintelligible sounds actually translated into something in Quethiril's mind.  Gradually, a look of confusion crossed her face and stayed there.  She finally stood up and turned to her friend, shaking her head.

"Oddish oddish oddish.  Oddish...?"  Finishing his translation, the little sprout danced about, its leafy top waving about like fronds of seaweed.

"Ah, I see."  She told Saerin, "Sandshrew's a new patient, so he can't really say whether he likes you or not, but he told me that the others think you're very nice.  The only time he saw you was for a few moments today when you came in for something over there."  She gestured toward a corner of the recovery room.

It dawned on Saerin that with someone like Quethiril around his crimes were not nearly as clean as they might have been.  No matter how well he could hide things from other workers, he couldn't hide from the pokémon that shared a room with his victims!  Something would have to be done.

"Well, uh, it was nice meeting you," Saerin stammered.  "I should probably, um, let you get back to your work."  Stupid! he told himself.  He should be offering to help instead, he could do the work just as well, after all.

She nodded, brushing a strand of hair out of her face and looking preoccupied.  "Mm, you deserve the day off," she murmured.

Saerin left quickly after that to avoid any more stumbling through conversations.  He really wished he was better at dealing with people.  But he was going to have to deal with more soon because did he ever have a lot to report to Giovanni!