Act ii Stage vi

Above the Trapdoors

Rudi was frantic.

He’d thought he would only leave Misty alone for a moment when he’d decided to lock her in his rooms, but the headMasters had detained him for a surprisingly long time; it’d been over three hours before he could escape. He’d opened his door with a string of apologies ready on his tongue, only to stop short when the ornate doorknob came off in his hand. A quick look inside had revealed his worst fear.

His suite was empty.

He had no idea where they’d taken that Phantom thing or he would have demanded that it tell him where Misty was immediately. What was worse, he couldn’t find Oak either, and none of the Masters here knew any more about what was going on than Rudi did. They wouldn’t be any help.

He’d thought he was helping her, keeping her safe. He’d thought locking her in would prevent her from trying to help that Elemental, or from accidentally hurting herself in the process. Hell, he’d thought capturing the damn thing would break her of whatever spell was leading her to believe she’d befriended it. Apparently he’d underestimated this ‘demon’. He would not make such a careless mistake again.

Half an hour’s furious searching had revealed that no, she was not in her dorm, nor was she with her Rock- Breeder friend in his, and that she had apparently disappeared from the Stadium entirely. Well, not entirely, but Rudi was clueless when it came to accessing that Elemental’s domain. Another half hour wasted in the room with the tapestry had only served to frustrate him to the point of hysterics.

He felt just like he had two nights before, when he’d headed up to Misty’s room to tell her that classes the next day were cancelled until the Ariados was caught, only to discover that she wasn’t there. The terror that gripped him now, however, far outweighed anything he’d felt at the thought of her lying poisoned and paralyzed in an empty hallway somewhere. He’d sympathized with the Elemental for a while, after three hours of listening to the headMasters’ plans for it, but now he felt a small thrill as he recalled their intentions.

If Misty wasn’t returned to him safe and sound he would administer some of the more painful experiments himself.

He was on his way to the headMasters’ office, ready to rescind his much-needed funds if he wasn’t taken to the Elemental’s cell immediately, when he slammed into someone rounding a corner so hard the impact sent him reeling. He was halfway through a hurried apology when he realized he’d run into Master Drake, and that the man was trying to speak to him.

“Mr. Trovita! Thank Lugia I found you! Come quickly, there’s a terrible mess; the Elemental’s escaped, Gary Oak’s in the infirmary pumped full of Tentacool toxin, and Misty Waterflower has been asking for you.”


Misty drummed her fingers on the side of her chair nervously and prayed to Mew that Master Drake would fill Rudi in on everything she’d told him before the pair arrived, because Misty didn’t think she could lie to him like she could the others. She hated to call for him at all, but everyone knew they were dating each other—practically everything Rudi did was known to at least the female half of the Stadium—and she thought it might look strange if she didn’t. The headMasters were there, as well as some of the more prominent Masters, the ones who taught the most advanced courses offered in the Stadium. Gary was unconscious in the infirmary down the hall, his flesh purplish and swollen where the Tentacool had stung him. Misty was glad he wouldn’t be able to denounce her story for at least a few days, thereby giving it a chance to sink into everyone’s heads, but she really hoped he woke up all right. This wasn’t the best time for another serious injury to be scratched onto Ash’s record.

She’d run into a harassed-looking Master Drake on her way up from the labyrinth below the Stadium, and had hurriedly fed him some incoherent story about breaking free of the Elemental’s control when Gary had broken her out of Rudi’s suite and tricked her into following him down to the Elemental’s cell, where the pair had been Attacked by a school of wild Tentacool. She hated lying to him; she had Master Drake for her class on Dragon-Types, one of the most challenging in the school, and he was by far her favorite Master. He’d even gotten out his Dragonite for her once after class when he learned how much she’d always wanted one. Dragonite were solitary Pokémon by nature and didn’t appreciate being around many people, which made them difficult to Train. They were also as nitpicky as some of the more annoying girls Misty knew. Drake had introduced the two of them and taught her everything he knew about her— his Dragonite was female, and the most gentle, serene creature Misty had ever seen. She would never forget those special sessions. She’d stopped setting time aside for them after Rudi arrived and she’d met Ash, an unconscious decision she regretted now.

Masters Koga and Giovanni were fidgety and anxious. They hadn’t taken well to the news that Ash’s cell was empty. Apparently Gary had assured them that he would never escape from such a prison, and they’d trusted him so much that when Gary had argued to move him they hadn’t seen the need. Misty gathered from the way they talked to each other that they thought Gary had released him accidentally in trying to move him against their orders. Misty wondered if that was why she’d run into Gary down there, and why he seemed to care for Ash’s safety so much. He had to have known what those handcuffs had done to him, if he’d put them on. But why would he want to do anything about it?

“If Trovita can’t be found, I suggest we forget him for now,” Koga burst suddenly, turning to his partner. Giovanni glared at him.

Mr. Trovita is the sole reason we’re able to renovate the Stadium in the first place,” he reminded him. “If we don’t concern him in every financial decision we make, he could very well leave us.”

Koga looked ready to explode. “And what difference does that make now?” he demanded. His thin face was splotched red with anger. “We can’t map the underground with that thing still loose down there—he’ll just get everyone lost and injured again! Maybe even killed this time!”

Will you shut up?” Giovanni hissed, shooting a glance at their audience. None of the Masters seemed surprised at their exchange, but Misty certainly was. They’d tried to map out those stone corridors? They knew they were there? They’d known Ash was down there?

Koga leaned in closer and spoke in a strained whisper; Misty had to struggle to hear him. “We’ve already spent well more than we planned just trying to locate that damned lake. It’ll cost tens of thousands more to drain it, without some freak half-breed there to organize the wild Pokémon into a Mew-cursed armada! And what if Trovita doesn’t agree to back us, now that he knows where his money’s going? What then?”

Mr. Trovita has already agreed to help us finance a newer, more modern Stadium,” Giovanni hissed back. “He’s obligated to fulfill the agreements on the papers he’s already signed, at least. And he’s—” He stopped and glanced at Misty, who pretended to be fascinated by a pattern on the ornately flowered wall, then whispered furiously, “He’s worried sick about Waterflower, and it’s obvious the Elemental’s got some sort of hold on her—or did, anyway. He’ll want to help get rid of it, now more than ever. It’s the perfect time to let him in on everything.”

Koga had just opened his mouth to respond when there was a knock on the door, and it opened to reveal Master Drake. “I found him,” he announced with a breathless smile, and was quickly swept aside as Rudi rushed past him. Misty stood quickly, startled by his appearance; he looked panicked.

“Mr. Trovita!” Giovanni had turned and was greeting him with a vast smile. “Miss Waterflower here has been asking us to find you for her. Seems she had a bit of a run in with some wild Tentacool...”

Rudi ignored him. He’d stopped short when his eyes fell on Misty, still dressed in the same ripped, damp clothes from her rescue mission earlier, and a look of relief flooded his face. He crossed the room in a handful of long strides and wrapped her up in a furious hug, which Misty had to force herself to return. His arms didn’t feel quite as right as they used to.

The headMasters looked slightly uncomfortable. They turned and smiled weakly at one another, feigning happiness for the pair across the long table from them, then glanced at Drake as the Master shut the door and took a seat amongst his peers. When he noticed the headMasters' expectant looks, however, he quickly cleared his throat and sat up a little straighter.

“Oh, um, I told him everything she told me on our way up. He said he’d been on his way already; he wanted to speak with you about something.”

“Excellent,” Giovanni beamed, “we can talk when we’ve wrapped things up here. Er—Mr. Trovita? I’m very sorry, but we have some rather urgent matters to discuss. If you could release Miss Waterflower for the time being...This isn’t really a discussion for a student’s ears.”

Rudi pulled away from Misty long enough to shoot the headMaster a stern look, which was returned with a glance at the impatient faculty. He sighed and rearranged his hold on Misty so that he could lead her from the room, though he didn’t release her for even the barest of moments. Misty felt a little suffocated.

“Come on,” he whispered in her ear, lightly kissing a spot just above it. “You can start without me,” he told the waiting assembly. “I’ll catch up in a bit.”

Koga took a step forward. “But Mr. Trovita,” he protested amiably, “really, we mustn’t waste any more time. The Elemental has been loose for hours now—”

“Then a few more minutes won’t hurt,” he replied firmly. “This will only take a moment.” Koga and Giovanni watched helplessly as the pair left the room.

Rudi hugged her again as soon as the door closed behind them. “Are you all right?” he asked softly, his voice packed with worry. He pulled back far enough to look her up and down, then drew her back in for another binding hug, leaving Misty breathless. “You look like you’ve been through hell and back. Are you sure none of the Tentacool got you? Maybe you should be checked up—”

“I already was,” Misty told him, meeting his concerned teal gaze. She smiled for him. “I’m fine, Rudi, really. I called out Gyarados and they left me alone. I guess Gary just didn’t have anything big enough on him to scare them off.”

Rudi’s face darkened at the mention of Gary’s name. He pulled her close again, resting his chin on her head so that she was forced to burry her face in his chest, and sighed heavily. Misty was swamped by the smell of seawater, coconuts, and fabric softener. “I’m so sorry,” he said softly. He kissed the top of her head before continuing. “I never should have left you alone like that, but I was trying to keep you in—I had no idea that maniac would come and break you out. Still, it’s no excuse, I know. Please, please forgive me. It was brash and stupid and, now that I think about it, maybe more than a little controlling. But I didn’t mean it that way, Misty. I swear I was trying to help you.”

Misty felt her throat burn as she remembered all the foul things she’d thought about him when he’d locked her in his rooms. She already knew why he’d done it, but she’d been so scared that it would ruin everything...Yet here he was apologizing, and everything was all right again after all, and Misty was guilty for hating him behind his back.

Then she remembered that she was supposed to be playing a part.

“I’m sorry too,” she told him, and rubbed her nose against his Spike Shell necklace. The smell of gold filled her senses, and she found herself wondering if the jewel in the center was actually ruby or just an imitation. Rudi shifted his grip around her.

“For what?”

“Following him down there,” Misty replied miserably. She tried to summon some guilty tears, but they refused to come. Of course, she thought bitterly. Never when she actually needed them...

Rudi paused. “You don’t have to apologize for that, Misty,” he told her gently, kissing the top of her head again. “It wasn’t your fault. You weren’t thinking properly.”

Misty barely bit back an angry retort and instead forced her voice to take on the same remorseful tone she’d infused in it before.

“Still, it was stupid of me, and I could have been killed. At least I’m not—not—” She didn’t know which word she was supposed to use. Bewitched? Bespelled? They all sounded so stupid in her head.

“I know,” Rudi answered for her. “At least that’s over. Would you like to stay in my room again tonight? I have to discuss what to do about this Phantom right now, but I don’t want to leave you alone again.”

That was the last thing Misty wanted. “Actually,” she sniffed, “I have a lot of homework, and my Pokémon need exercise. And I need to talk to my Masters about all the classes I missed...” Two entire days’ worth, she added silently, biting her lip. She didn’t know how she was going to catch up. “I already talked to Master Drake, but the rest of them aren’t in there, so...”

Rudi sighed. “I understand. At least let me call one of your friends for you, then, so you won’t be alone. Do you think he’d try to hurt you if you were with someone?”

He pulled back to meet her eyes. Misty was glad—the fabric softener was beginning to sting her nose—but she was also a little reluctant to part with his comfortable warmth. Finally, though, she found herself able to answer him with some semblance of truth.

“No, I don’t think he’ll try anything at all. I think Gary scared him. Maybe he’ll leave me alone from now on?”

Rudi’s brow creased. “I hope so,” he told her darkly. A moment later his eyes lightened and he smiled. “All right then. I’ll call—what was his name again? Brock? Or is he in class right now?”

Misty had to force her smile to remain in control. She couldn’t believe her luck. “No, he shouldn’t be. He should be in his dorm.”

“All right. Tell me his number.”

Rudi pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and typed it in. His conversation with Brock was short, and when he finished he flipped the phone shut with a muted clap and smiled at Misty.

“He’s on his way. Shouldn’t be more than a minute. Want me to wait out here with you?”

Misty smiled gratefully. “No thanks, I think I’m okay.” Her eyes grazed over his fancy shirt, which was smeared with a bit of grime from her own, and she winced. “Sorry. I think I may have ruined half your wardrobe by now.”

Rudi’s smile widened into one of amusement. “Don’t worry about it. I’m going to go now; they’re expecting me, and I really want this ‘Elemental’ issue solved.” He mentioned Ash with a bitter tinge to his voice, and Misty had to fight to keep her smile strong. She hated confirming his already negative opinion of Ash instead of correcting it.

“Come here,” he said suddenly, softly, and lifted her chin for a gentle kiss. As soon as he touched his lips to hers, however, he jerked them back again as static electricity from Misty crackled shortly between them. Misty jumped too, startled, and met his eyes apprehensively. She’d been shocking herself on nearly everything she touched since she’d emerged from the underground, and she could only guess that it had something to do with Ash. But had Rudi made the connection?

She was surprised to see him laughing. She smiled tentatively and tried to hide her confusion.

“October,” he said with a shake of his head. “I’ll have to remember to start bumping car doors and doorknobs with my hip again or my fingers will be completely numb before Christmas.” He leaned forward and kissed her again, just a quick one, before straightening once more to his full height. Misty’s smile fanned out into one of relief. Thank Mew.

“You’ll be all right?” he asked her, and she nodded. “Okay. Brock should be here any second now. I’ll be right in here, and I’ll come say goodnight before I go to bed. We should have this Elemental issue resolved before then.” He kissed her forehead, running a warm hand once more through her gritty hair, and moved around her to reenter the headMasters’ second office. Not a moment later Brock appeared around the corner, grinning and dressed once more in his own clothes. Misty rushed toward him, a huge grin plastered to her own face.

“I don’t believe this,” he said when she reached him. She glanced at the headMasters’ door to see that it was closed with Rudi safely behind it, so she grinned wider and shoved his shoulder with a laugh. He shoved her back playfully. “Can you believe this?” he asked her. “I can’t believe this. I’m telling you, Misty, this is unbelievable.”

Misty laughed, giddy with relief, and together the pair started off toward the northern wing. Brock continued to mutter proclamations of disbelief from her side.

“I mean, seriously, he seriously believed you? And just let you go? And called me to pick you up? This is unbelievable!”

“Shush!” Misty warned him, glancing at the Trainers and Masters near them in the hallway. She was struggling to suppress her own laughter though; it was clambering to get out so badly it bordered on hysterics.

“But it’s all okay again now, isn’t it?” Brock asked her quietly, smiling broadly. “Ash is all right and we’re out in the clear. Everything’s okay again! Mew, when you called me this morning I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but now I’m glad you did. This is probably the most exciting thing I’ve ever done!”

Misty, still grinning in relief, caught sight of a black band wrapped around a student’s arm and sobered immediately. She turned to Brock, who lost some of his elation at the look on her face.


“Max,” she said quietly, and his happy demeanor disappeared entirely. His eyes narrowed and swept across the students around them. None of them looked very happy. He looked back at Misty apologetically.

“Mew, I forgot. How could I forget? May’s in one of my classes. I wonder if she was there today...”

“Did they ever catch the Ariados?” Misty asked him. She’d been so occupied with Ash the last couple days that she’d nearly forgotten it was loose. Brock glanced at her, and the barest hint of a smile reappeared.

“Yeah, actually. Funny story about that. Apparently they found it curled up on its back in a room that had been searched and sealed off before, on their second sweep through the Stadium. It was in a dark corner, smoking.”

“Smoking?” Misty moved past him to press her floor’s button in the elevator. No one joined them, and Brock didn’t press his. He fixed her with a full smile as the doors closed.

“From an Electric Attack,” he old her smugly. “I didn’t put two and two together before. I guess Ash got to it before they could.”

“No,” Misty said before she could stop herself, “Ash was with me all night.” She winced at the way that sounded, and was surprised to find herself blushing as Brock’s gaze turned into one of suspicious curiosity.

“Oh?” he teased. The elevator slid to a stop on the sixth floor with a ding and he followed her off with a smug grin. He waited until the people waiting there had boarded and the doors had closed again before he continued. “All night? What did Rudi have to say about that?”

Misty rolled her eyes. She was still distractedly trying to banish her blush, which seemed to be one of the more stubborn varieties. Brock followed her all the way to her door. Misty had a horrified moment when she couldn’t find her keys, but it was only a moment; they were still clipped to her ‘Belt, right where she’d left them.

“Rudi didn’t say anything, Brock, because Rudi thinks he kidnapped me.” Brock’s eyes flashed and she immediately regretted her words. What was wrong with her today?

“Oh really? He thinks Ash kidnapped you? With handcuffs and everything? Even more interesting...”

Misty sighed. “Oh shut up, you know what I mean.” She clicked the bolt lock open and slipped inside, where she immediately collapsed face-first on her bed, arm dangling off the side comfortably. She smiled. “Mmm...I’ve never been so happy to see my own faded sheets again.”

“Faded from sweat and dust,” Brock added, sinking down beside her. “When was the last time you washed them?” Misty grunted a noncommittal response and he laughed. “Thought so. But come on, you have to tell me now. You spent all night in that place with Ash, and you’re telling me you didn’t do anything? What’s wrong with you? I mean, Ash is cute, isn’t he? In that rough, unkempt way you tomboys like? Like me?” He struck a pose.

Misty kicked him, but it did nothing to deter his smile. “Not everyone’s as lecherous as you, Brock,” she said flatly, and he smirked.

“Well goodness, I hope not. There’d be no sweet single females left for me to sweep off their feet if they were.” His comment reminded Misty of something, and she sat up to talk to him seriously—or as seriously as she could when he was in this kind of mood.

“Speaking of sweet single females, are we going to the Halloween dance this weekend? It’s crept up on me so fast I completely forgot about it, and we still need to figure out costumes.” She frowned when Brock’s cocky grin slipped from his face and was replaced by a nervous expression. “What?” she asked him. “Not planning to go this year? We can watch horror movies all night again if you don’t want to.”

“No, it’s not that. I just...” He was rubbing his palms together roughly, something he only did when he was really uneasy. Misty cocked an eyebrow.

“You just what?” She smiled slyly when his discomfort intensified. “Well?”

“Well, I just...sort of...made other plans for that night...” He met her eyes helplessly. “I’m sorry, Misty. I know we always go together, but you’ve been so distracted the last few weeks that I sort of, well, made plans with someone else. I thought you’d want to go with Rudi anyway.”

Misty felt a pang of guilt for ignoring Brock so much, but it was quickly swept aside by her curiosity. “Really? You mean some girl actually said yes when you asked her?”

Brock looked panicked. “I didn’t think she would! You know how I am—no one ever believes me! And I was just goofing off again, and I asked her, and she just accepted! I was so speechless that she smiled and left before I could do anything! Mew, Misty, what am I supposed to do? I barely know her!”

Misty managed to choke back her laughter only through immense effort. “Let me guess,” she gasped. “Was it Suzie? The blue-eyed girl with long hair?”

Brock looked aghast. “How did you know?” he asked cluelessly.

“Brock, she’s had a crush on you since you tried to kiss her back when you were thirteen. Don’t you remember? She was the first girl who ever slapped you, and you were emotionally scarred for weeks.” Tears sprang to Misty’s eyes at the memory. Brock continued to stare at her, completely lost.

“I tried to kiss her?” he asked vaguely.

“Of course you did! You’ve tried to kiss every girl in the building at least once by now, even me!”

Misty was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. The look on Brock’s face...She was so happy to be able to just hang out in her dorm with him again, talking about normal things like the dance instead of worrying that doing the wrong thing would get someone killed. The last few days had been so intense that she was grateful for even a few normal minutes with Brock, even if she knew everything would be stirred up again as soon as Gary regained consciousness.

Ash was safe again, she thought giddily. Rudi was confident of her innocence, and Brock had an actual date for the Halloween dance. It was hard to imagine that only scant hours ago she’d been riding through the dank, dark passages connected to the lake, terrified for her life and the life of the Electric Elemental clinging unconscious to her back.