"Family Portrait"

AN: Takes place sixteen years in the future. Misty is married to Ash and they have a daughter named Chloe. She's ten years old and has a fifteen-year-old brother named Ako. It's also based loosely on Pink's song, "Family Portrait." Whenever I hear that song, I think of the "relationship" between Ash and Misty.

~*~

Winter holidays

"Say cheese!" The photographer said, holding up a squeaky Pikachu toy.

"Cheese!" We all called out in unison.

The flash went off, causing stars to fill my eyes. We were shown the photograph he took, of my family and me, and it looked fantastic. Daddy even said so. He and Mommy were in the back, while Ako and I were in the front. Our Pokemon, Ako's Pikachu and Umbreon, as well as my Pichu and Hoot Hoot, sat in front of us with Daddy's first and second Pikachu. All of us smiling broadly, looking like the perfect family.

Because that's what we were.

Perfect.

~*~

Late one night the following spring…

"You can't just go out and discuss our financial situation with someone like Duplica!" Daddy yelled again. More yelling and hollering. Though they were in the kitchen their argument echoed through the house, huge as it was, as if I had left the intercom thing on. I didn't, cuz the last time I got in trouble, but they were so loud.

"Well she happens to be a very close friend," Mommy yelled back hotly.

"This is something you can't trust her with!"

"Oh yeah? Well at least she wasn't in Team Rocket for most of her life like some of your friends!"

"Not only are they your friends as well as mine," Daddy said back, almost too quietly for me to hear. "but Jessie and James have more than made up for their errors."

There was a sound of a coffee mug being placed none too gently on the kitchen counter.

I got out of bed and walked quickly to my partially opened bedroom door. Peeking out and down the hallway, I could see the top of the wide curving staircase, and beyond that where the hall extended, I could see Ako peeking out of his room as well. His dark brown hair fell over bright blue eyes, a mix of the best of Mommy and Daddy's features. His Umbreon sat by his side, visible only when the light reflected off its gold bands.

The sound of breaking glass startled me. I was about to go over to see Ako, but I froze. My reddish hair fell across my eyes, mahogany eyes, and I held my breath.

"Mist, I'm telling you to calm down now." Daddy's voice was calm, as if he were used to hearing this fighting. I sure wasn't. I hated it when they fought. If this was love, then I wanted none of it. This version of 'love' was tearing my family apart...even if no one outside our family could see it.

"When are you going to let Ako go on his journey?"

This was a new one. I looked down to Ako, who shrugged. His Umbreon went back into their room. I knew my big brother wanted to go on a journey more than anything, even more than getting a Ponyta…that's what I want…and that's huge!

Ako crept to the railing and motioned for me to come over. I did, and found that we could see Mommy and Daddy just barely, if we sat on the top stair and looked down. The back staircase, though as grand as the front one, went down into the kitchen. It was a really good thing for when I got hungry and it was late cuz my room is so close and stuff. But Mommy was standing near Daddy, and he was sitting on a stool by the center island thing. There was a broken coffee mug and I think it was his favorite.

"He can go when he acts like he can handle it."

"You aren't one to talk," Mom said defiantly. "You were the one to almost get taken out by a flock of Spearow on your first day. I think our son can handle things better than you, especially since the brains come from my gene pool."

"And a shallow pool that is."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Take it how it's said, Mist. You figure it out."

"ASH KETCHUM! YOU'D BETTER APOLOGIZE!"

"I won't!" Daddy said back, sounding angrier. "And while we're on the subject of children, how do I know that Chloe is even…"

CRASH!

Daddy's sentence was interrupted by a glass flying past him and hiting the wall behind him. It shattered into a billion shimmering pieces.

"Don't you even try to finish that."

"Well, you were with Gary that month I was gone for the League and…"

SLAP!!

I was stunned. Mommy had hit Daddy! Right across the face!

He raised a hand to his cheek and glared at her. "You can't expect me to just believe you. Not after that one time you almost ran off with him."

That seemed to hurt Mommy worse than when she hit him. Her eyes got watery and she stepped back. "You are…impossible." And she ran towards the back staircase!

Me and Ako got up fast, running back to our rooms. I just got the door closed when I heard Daddy yelling for Mommy.

"Misty?! Misty, I'm sorry…"

But the only thing answering him was the slam of the door in the room next to mine. I was confused because it was a guestroom, and we gots a lot of those, so why wouldn't she go to her own room? The one she shared with Daddy?

Then I heard her crying and I stumbled to my bed and got in it. I wanted to talk to my Pokemon but I couldn't disturb them from their sleep. Finally I just pulled the covers up and cried myself to sleep.

~*~

It was weeks or days before they started fighting again. I'd been real happy when they made up the day after that one fight, but now they were fighting again. This time we were at a park, and Daddy was letting me fake battle with his second Pikachu. Ako was my 'ponent and he had a rock pok'mon. Things weren't gonna go good for me since Pikachu's can't hurt rock pok'mon with their electric attacks.

"Pik'chu! Quick scratch attack!" I ordered, watching happily as the little mouse Pok'mon darted towards the hovering Geodude. Pikachu leapt up and down, scratching at the rock type.

"Geo, Tackle!" Ako countered.

From the bench near the practice field we were on, Daddy sat there watching us. His first Pikachu was really old and liked to sleep lots on Daddy's lap. I can't blame her since there's nothing more comforting than being with Daddy.

"Chaa!!" Pikachu cried out as she was tackled hard, landing on the packed dirt surface with a cloud of dust.

Geodude hovered over Pikachu, looking unharmed by the electric type's attack. I felt a bit uneasy. How could I beat that Pokemon with a Pikachu?

"Take it easy, Cee," Daddy called over, "It takes more than special attacks to bring down an opponent."

"But what?" I asked, frustrated. "I don't know what to do!"

"You Pokemon just might."

Even with the advice, I still lost. Pikachu was knocked out a few commands later and I recalled her into her Pokeball. "You did great," I said, really meaning it.

Ako and I shook hands, like all great Trainers, and I congratulated him. "Way to go, big brother!"

"You did just fine, Lil C," He said, ruffling my hair. I stuck my tongue out at him, but he kept on talking. "Keep up with the good work and you'll figure out how to beat any type, regardless of what you've got on your belt."

"Ash, we have to go," The new voice was Mommy's. I turned to see her standing behind Daddy, rubbing his shoulders. Her Togetic, the first of its kind, was perched birdlike on her shoulder. "We still have that ceremony to go to tonight."

Daddy's cer'mony was for one of the leaders in the Johto League. Something about a tin tower.

When we got home, Mommy shooed all of us upstairs to get dressed. I didn't want to because the dress she wanted me to wear was pink, with ruffles and lace. It was the grossest dress I had ever seen. I closed the door behind me and sat at my desk. After a quick thought, I got on the internet and talked with some of my friends.

An hour passed and someone knocked at my bedroom door. "Chloe, are you ready? We have to leave soon."

MOMMY!!! I reached behind the computer and turned it off, just as she opened the door and walked in. It was pretty obvious what I had been doing, with the monitor still on and my hand behind the computer. 'Sides I was still grubby from the park and in the same clothes.

"Chloe!" Mommy sounded shocked. "You aren't even a little bit ready!"

"No and I'm not gonna wear that fluffy dress either! I want a new one." I said, crossing my arms over my chest like I'd seen her do so many times. It worked for her, but not on her. Mommy got really red in the face really quickly.

"I'm giving you ten minutes to get clean and in that dress," She said harshly, "for if you are not, then your Pokemon will be all taken away from you."

"NO!" I gasped out, thinking of Pi, my Pichu, and Ropy my Hoot Hoot. But she only gave me a look before leaving and closing the door behind her.

Sullenly, I went to my bathroom and wiped my face clean. I dragged a brush through my thick and long hair, then gave up after the third knot and put it in a ponyta tail.

With a reluctant sigh, I left the bathroom and faced the ugly dress. It was hanging on a hanger in my closet and I walked in and stuck my tongue out at it. Then I saw my pokebelt, with the two pokeballs on them and got determined. I would wear this dress for my friends.

~*~

The ceremony was going great until Daddy told a joke to one of the Johto league board members. Mommy got red in the face real quick and I got worried. I knew what could happen and I hoped it wouldn't.

But it did happen. Mommy got up in front of all those people and yelled at Daddy.

"I AM JUST SO TIRED OF THIS!" she screamed, tears streaming down her face. "ASH KETCHUM, I HATE YOU!"

And then I couldn't take any more of it. All of the fighting, the secret looks, and pretending to be so perfect when things were far from it.

I slipped out of the ballroom and ran out of the Conference Hall.

~*~

Hours passed and the sun was setting as I yawned. My hidden place was high up in a tree in the park near my house. A pokeball was in each of my hands and I wondered if I should call out my friends. I knew they'd be worried. Mommy wouldn't be worried. At least, I don't think she would be.

My tummy growling was the one thing to get me down and heading for home. That and I didn't know of anywhere else to go to. Gramma's house was way too far away; all the way down in Pallet and from the Indigo Plateau…it's a far way from here.

Maybe if I had that Ponyta I could go.

I slipped into the house through the front door. The hallway was wide and it had lots of marble everywhere. I kicked off my shoes, which had mud on them cuz I thought a mud puddle was dry and it wasn't, and ran upstairs in my bare feet. I almost got to my room without anyone seeing me, but Ako walked out of the computer room and saw me.

"Where have you been?"

"I was gonna run away." I said, lifting my chin.

"Uh-huh, I thought so." Ako said, looking a bit smug. "Why'd ya come back?"

"I'm hungry," I said. "And I couldn't leave you behind."

He frowned, "They didn't notice."

"Notice what?"

"That you were gone." Ako shrugged. "I noticed, but I didn't know what to say."

There was a stretch of silence.

"Wanna go get something to eat?" Ako asked.

~*~

The next evening something odd happened. It was just about nine at night when I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. After getting a cup of water, I walked towards the living room cuz I needed to talk to Daddy and I knew he was there. I had to know if Mommy being mad at Daddy was because of me. I'd been really bratty lately.

I'd asked for a new computer and a Ponyta, then I didn't wanna wear that dress and I wanted a new one, and then I ran away even though none of them knew that I had. And that one thing that Daddy had said, something about Mommy and Unca Gary…and me. Mommy had slapped Daddy about it and then that was the end of that argument. . Just what happened there?

Daddy was in the living room, sitting at the computer. I was about to walk in when Mommy walked in from another side of the room.

"Ash, there's something we need to talk about."

"What?" Daddy asked, not looking up.

"I think we need to talk…about us."

"No, you think?" Daddy sounded very angry, but quiet all the same.

"You shouldn't have told that joke at the ceremony," She said, crossing her arms and staring at him. "It was completely unnecessary."

"Mist, it was a joke. Not real life."

"It was too close to home."

"Then maybe we need counseling."

"Don't you care about us?"

Daddy looked up then "What about us? I thought you hated me."

"Don't be such a child!"

"Me?! You're the one that embarrassed me in front of all those guests!" Daddy stood up then. "I'm the Grand Master, Misty. I'm the leader of all the leagues. How do you think it makes me look when my wife announces that she hates me?"

"That you're human and not a god."

"I never said I was," Daddy defended himself. "And I sure as hell never acted like one. Unlike Gary."

I shrank back, standing in the hall outside the living room. There it is again, Unca Gary…What has he done? If anything.

"Leave Gary out of this."

"Why? Still have feelings for him?"

"I…I never did."

"Then why can't you look me in the eye and say that."

I risked a peek in time to see Mommy look away. "I can't."

Daddy was quiet for a second. "Then you did…have an affair with him?"

Mommy didn't hesitate. "I did."

Daddy's jaw tightened. "I need some time alone." And he left, leaving the way Mommy came in.

She stood there, looking after him. "But it wasn't Chloe…It was Ako."

~*~

I followed Daddy as he walked down to the Hall of Fame. He'd told me once that it was inspired by the one on Pummelo Island. After he became Grand Master all those years ago, he'd made one for the Indigo League. It was empty, as it was after closing time, and Daddy unlocked the door and walked in. There was a beeping sound as the security alarms were disarmed.

The door started closing and I ran forward and slipped inside. It latched shut behind me and I knew it had locked.

Pikachu was sitting on Daddy's shoulders and I was jealous for a second. He had stopped under the large mural of a Ho-oh and was looking up at it.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?"

For a second, Daddy had startled me cuz I thought he was talking to Pikachu, but then I answered back. "It's okay."

He looked over at me and smiled. "Come here."

I did and when I got there and looked up, I realized how tall my Daddy was. "Are you mad at me?"

His eyes widened. "What? No! Of course not!"

"Cuz I thought you would be."

"I'm not," He said, crouching down by me. "What would make you think so?"

I blinked and frowned. "You and Mommy always fight."

Daddy sucked in a breath and then sighed it out. "It…doesn't mean anything. We have always fought."

"Mommy was crying though." I said, biting at my lip. "If…if it made her sad, then it does mean something."

"I've got a smart daughter," Daddy finally said, hugging me close.

"You won't leave…will you?"

Daddy pulled back and looked me in the eyes. "What would make you ask a thing like that?"

I frowned again. "You were talking to Mommy about Unca Gary and she slapped you."

"You saw that?" Daddy sounded shocked. From his shoulder, Pikachu gave a soft "Chaa."

"You're right, Pik," Daddy said, reaching back to rub under the Pokemon's ears. "As always."

"She didn't mean it."

"What?"

"Mommy," I paused, "She didn't mean what she said. When she said she hated you."

"Oh, Chloe," Daddy said softly. "I know, or at least, I think I know. It must be hard for you."

"Yeah," I sniffled, rubbing at my nose. "When you guys fight all the time, but we're supposta be perfect."

"We're not perfect, Chloe," Daddy said. "We've got a lot of good things going our way, but we're far from perfect."

He fell silent then and we just walked through the hall. Most of the large photos of the winning Trainers were familiar to me. I always loved coming in here. Each winning trainer not only had his or her photo taken with the winning team, but they also got their hand prints/hoof/wing/whatever, impressed in some metal. I loved putting my hand into the winning trainer's hand cast.

I always wanted to win.

Daddy paused by one and looked up. It was for Matthew Thayer, the first of Drake Thayer's sons. Drake was the Pummelo Island gym leader and leader of the Orange Crew. Daddy had beaten Drake when he'd been visiting the Orange Islands years and years ago.

"It's not easy for you two," Daddy finally said. "Is it?"

Mutely, I shook my head, remembering to say a soft, "No," when only Pikachu looked down at me.

He didn't say anything and I said, "I know that she hurts you, but remember I love you, too."

Daddy looked down at me and smiled. Then he looked back at Matt's photo. "It's like a family portrait, isn't it?"

I looked at Matt's photo. It did, kinda, the way he and all his Pokemon were posed around him. "Yeah."

He led me away then, and I took one last look at the photo before we rounded the bend and sighed wistfully.

Matt was a very lucky guy.

~*~

We got back to the house and Daddy tucked me in.

"I love you, Chloe," He said, kissing me on the forehead. "Don't ever forget that."

Something about the way he said it sent chills through me. "Daddy, don't leave."

Daddy froze, as he was on his way to the door when I said it. "What…what do you mean?"

"Can't you read me a story?"

He gave a little laugh, "No, Chloe, I'm sorry. You just go to sleep."

A lot must have been on his mind. He closed the door partially and I heard him walk down the hallway. Their room was past Ako's, down the end of the hall. A door opened and closed, and silence fell through the house. Mommy had gone to sleep after we got back and Ako had been sent to his room after dinner. He'd tried to start a food fight after I spilled a glass of milk. That had backfired on him badly, with Mommy yelling at him and me.

She had said I was too clumsy. I thought she was right.

I drifted of into a fitful sleep soon after, going in and out of any sort of sleep. A tugging woke me up and I blinked open my eyes to see Daddy's first Pikachu sitting beside me on my bed. She looked worried.

"Pikapi" was all she said and all I needed to know. Pikapi was what she called Daddy. I followed her, with me still dressed in my jeans and T-shirt, down the stairs. She led me towards the hallway that led to the big garage. The door to the garage was open and I could see Daddy standing next to his black car. "Daddy?"

Daddy's eyes grew wide in the dim light of the garage. "Chloe! What are you doing awake? It's almost two thirty in the morning."

"Pikachu woke me up," I pointed to the agitated Pokemon. "She's worried about you."

Then I noticed the duffel bag in the passenger's seat. "Where you going?"

Daddy sighed. "Away, Chloe. I need some time away."

"B..but you can't!" I panicked. "Ako needs you, Mommy needs you…I need you!!"

"Pika, Pikapi," Pikachu joined in, her cheeks sparking in warning.

"Pikachu…Chloe…" Daddy looked sad. "I know it's not right but…"

"Don't leave us here alone!" I begged. "Mommy will be nicer, I'll be nicer!"

He walked around the car to stand near us. "It's not that…"

"I'll be so much better," I promised. "I'll do everything right."

"Chloe." Daddy sighed again. "It's not just that."

"Daddy, please…don't leave."

Daddy leaned down and picked up both Pikachu and me. He held us tightly; "I won't leave. I promise."

~*~

It wasn't until a week later when Daddy finally got up the nerve to talk to Mommy. The funny thing was that Mommy had been doing the same thing. It was like a big play they'd all rehearsed for and now it was time to put on the performance.

They'd both been really busy. Mommy had been talking with her sisters in Cerulean and Daddy was talking with Brock and Drake. Yup, that Drake, from Pummelo. He'd asked their advice on what to do about Unca Gary. Brock had suggested a man named Jerry Springer, while Drake suggested that Daddy just talk to Unca Gary, without getting violent.

So Daddy did talk to Unca Gary. He'd called him over and they had a long talk in Daddy's study. Ako had Umbreon watching from the shadows and the dark Pokemon reported that things weren't as bad as we'd thought they might be. Daddy didn't hit Unca Gary, but they'd talked a lot.

Mommy didn't know that they'd talked though and she had a talk with Daddy in the front living room. Ako and me watched from the hallway.

They talked under the framed portrait of us all, and Mommy looked up at it.

"We look pretty happy in that photo, don't we?"

"We do," Daddy agreed.

"Can we work this out, Ash?" Mommy asked, looking at Daddy. "Can we be a family again?"

"You know I want to, Misty," Daddy said. "Not just for the children, but for us as well."

"You…you still love me?"

"Of course!"

"Even after…"

"Even after that," Daddy grasped Mommy by the shoulders. "It happened, Mist, and it's in the past. Let's live for now and the future."

"Oh, Ash!" Mommy sobbed and leaned her head on Daddy's chest. "I love you so much."

"I love you, too, Misty," Daddy held her close. "I love you, too."

~*~

Did things go happily ever after from there? Of course not, you should know that by now. Mom and Dad still fought occasionally, but that was their thing, just like Dad had tried telling me all those years ago.

I'm eighteen now and a Trainer on the way to winning the Johto League. I've already conquered Indigo and Orange, two on my way to battling Dad. He's still the Grand Master, still married to Mom, and still my Daddy. I'm just older now and more appreciative of how adults work things out.

Ako is going to be married in two years, to a girl he met in the Orange Archipelago, and he is so happy with her. I know that he keeps Mom and Dad's relationship in mind when he thinks of his impending marriage. I think of my parents' relationship whenever I have a guy in my life. But I know now that love doesn't destroy a family; it makes it stronger. Love can win over everything if you give it a chance.

I've got to go now. Thane is waiting for me and I told him I wouldn't be late for our second date. I think he could be the one, but don't tell Mom. She's frazzled as it is with Ako!!