Disclaimer - I don't own anything! Just your average klepto, stealing characters and forcing them to bend to my every whim!

Author - Warlordess

Dedication - Happy happy, joy joy, happy birthday to my dear friend (and rl kindred spirit), cultofwinters/Mike! You're a great guy and you deserve the world! Unfortunately, I'm pretty strapped for cash so I can't give it to you, but I can hopefully give you a little piece by offering this fic to the Gods in your name! Also, I make you suffer dearly at the hands of one, Ash Ketchum! Aaah, well, you'll see what I mean when you start reading… =3

Anyway, like I said, you're really important to me, you have a kind and courteous soul and I hope it remains strong through any trying times. Hoorah, you made it to 24 years old! That's a wonderful accomplishment despite the struggles presented to you by our effed up world, and I hope to help carry you through whatever things wicked this way will come! Love you, man!


Title - "The More They Stay the Same"

Summary - It was always important to take stock of how much they'd grown. Without that, there would be no definition of their limitations. After all, as wise men once said: The more things change…


Things had c-h-a-n-g-e-d.

"Challenger Michael's Mr. Mime is unable to battle! The round goes to Kanto Champion, Ash Ketchum!" an enthusiastic voice blared over the speaker system, cheers erupting from the spectators who'd been watching the current match.

Ash recalled Charizard to his Pokeball in a flash of red light, holding the capturing device up to his forehead and whispering his thanks for the Pokemon's hard work. Then he placed the ball back on his magnetic belt and turned to the ever-present electric mouse on his shoulder.

"Pikachu, this is the last one. You think you got what it takes to help us beat 'em?" he asked, already knowing the answer he was going to receive, and sure enough his longest-time partner pumped his little fist high and nodded, leaping away from his trainer and scurrying down the safety zone, out onto the battlefield.

"Champion Ketchum has chosen Pikachu to be his final combatant! Now he waits with assuredly bated breath for Michael to pick his own; a competitor that will make or break his victory in their last one-on-one challenger battle!"

Ash viewed the teenage boy across the stadium from him looking somewhat pensive, probably internally debating his options, before withdrawing a new Pokeball from his waist and launching it forward, a blast of white light illuminating the silhouette of a hulking, rigid mass. It wasn't until the Pokeball had returned to its trainers hand that the light faded and a Chesnaught was revealed, raising their arms and howling triumphantly at their opportunity to prove themselves.

"Oh, Michael chooses to battle using Chesnaught, the famed grass-type starter from the distant Kalos region! What's more, electric is notoriously weak to grass-type Pokemon! Perhaps Champion Ketchum has made a mistake in relying on his Pikachu despite their years of camaraderie?"

Ash felt an inkling of irritation bubble up within him at the sportscaster's quip but bit it back and mentally shoved it down into the recesses of his consciousness. The whole point of a sport commentator was to rile up the crowd. The man was just doing his job. Besides…

… Nobody could be sure about a mistake being made until the match was over.

His stroke of confidence and smirk were both suddenly cut short when he felt a vibration in his cargo pants pocket. He shuffled awkwardly at the tingling discomfort and shoved a hand down to press the hold button on his cell-phone, silencing whoever was messaging him for now. He had other, more pressing matters at the time to be honest and couldn't afford to be distracted.

"Battle start!"

"Pikachu, double-team!" the raven-haired champion shouted for starters, and his Pokemon partner began running circles immediately around his opponent, so fast that it seemed like there were a dozen or so brothers on the field with him.

"Chesnaught, counter with pin missile; stop him in his tracks!" Michael commanded, and the beastly grass-type spread both arms open and growled, its cape sweeping wide and adrift behind him as light poured from his mouth, sharpening into multitudes of miniscule projectiles that hurtled at the ground, leaving ravaged upheaval in their wake. He rotated 360 degrees until there was nowhere for Pikachu to hide and the electric mouse was forced to retreat and await further orders from his trainer.

Ash pursed his lips, trying to remember what he'd learned from watching his friend Clemont's Chespin evolve. The two had made a grand team and the grass-type had been hardy and strong, but they had otherwise been lacking in…

"Drain him of that excess energy with your leech seed, then follow up with your take down!"

"Pikachu, agility! Get outta there while you can!"

The electric mouse rebounded from his retreat, dashing to and fro and bouncing around the staggering landscape. Meanwhile Chesnaught's leech seed sewed itself uselessly into the ground and their take down missed completely, seeing as Pikachu had already maneuvered around them. The giant grass-type staggered, trying to keep themselves upright but just ended up tripping over their own feet and landing face-first in the dirt.

"Now's your chance! Use your thunder wave to paralyze them and then slam to keep them down!" Ash commanded vigorously. Yes, that's right, Chesnaught were not known for their speed, this was a perfect opportunity to strike a formidable blow before they moved in for the finish.

"Piiika!" his Pokemon responded aggressively, tiny fangs gnashing and claws dragging into the ground as he u-turned again at top speed, "Pika pika pika pika pikapikapika–"

"–Dodge with your vine whip, Chesnaught; don't let Pikachu hit you with his thunder wave!"

Despite their struggle to stand, and withstand after their last attack turned out to be such a blunder, the grass-type Pokemon refocused instantaneously, shaking off their aches and woes and bracing themselves against the ground, muscular form poised, before pushing off and hopping a few feet into the air, after which a thick tangle of living ivy burst from under their cape, unweaving into four separate vines, one overtaking the point of each of their four limbs, allowing them to keep skipping and somersaulting out of the line of fire.

Pikachu's thunder wave collided ominously with the earth, grass no longer green but definitely sizzling in its wake, and the bolt staticized and sprung along the ground a foot or so distance in between, power dispersing little by little until the whole thing had finally managed to dissolve in the end.

"Pikachu, tuck and roll to avoid the recoil from your slam!" Ash shouted to his Pokemon, and the electric mouse did as told, curling into himself and hitting the ground, managing to keep from too much impact, though he did eventually grow weary and unwind, laying sprawled in an artificial patch of rocky terrain somewhere in the distance.

The current champion sighed in relief but took a moment to reevaluate his strategy here. It was rare for a grass-type Pokemon to be that flexible, and even rarer for a notably sluggish grass-type (as far as generalized stat values went) to do so, but Michael was admittedly a commendable trainer and had learned to turn weaknesses into strengths, or at the very least, into shocking reveals and unsuspected advantages…

Ash had just enough time to think a round of applause in honor of his latest challenger when his leg vibrated again. Er, or else the phone that was sitting deep in his pocket anyway.

So instead of internally congratulating his opponent, he cursed to himself under his breath, aggravation taking a firm hold on him as he rummaged in his clothes in order to turn off the phone for good but–

"I guess you never thought that my first Pokemon and I would try to work around our weak spots, huh?" Michael's voice came through crystal clear on the speaker attached to the podium on his safety zone, and Ash found himself proudly shaking his head in response.

"Nah, that's not it. In fact, I'm really pumped now because I can absolutely see how ya made it this far!" he replied confidently. "But you're not the only one who's had years with their number one partner to evaluate and rectify disadvantages!" And then, after releasing the talk button on the podium, he wrenched forward and shouted into the open air, "Pikachu, agility again, then turn it into wild charge!"

The electric mouse nodded in affirmation of this order, taking off once more toward his opponent, only this time he was going so fast the streaks of electricity began to form around him, giving off the impression of thunderous cannonfire. The element glued itself tightly, protectively, around the electric-type's body, shielding him from detriment upon impact with his target.

"That won't work! Chesnaught, dodge it!" Michael responded to the champion's renewed vigor, and his Pokemon immediately followed command, all limbs still encased in living vines that helped to propel them out of the way, as if they were an extra layer of muscle to add to the grass-type's endurance. "Fight back with seed bomb!"

Chesnaught, in the process of twisting out of the line of fire - or electricity, as it would seem - released their onslaught of seed bombs a split second too late, as Pikachu was hurdling so fast towards them that the two Pokemon were practically on top of each other.

Nevertheless, wild charge smashed into the grass-type just as the seed bombs exploded against Pikachu's front, and both of them were blown back towards their respective trainers at this point, Chesnaught rolling along the ground, their vines unwinding from their arms and legs and retreating from underneath their cape while the electric mouse - much smaller than his adversary - flew threw the air and slammed into the ground hard, careening even further back as the terrain tore into his body, leaving him battered and twitching.

Chesnaught staggered precariously to their feet first, also looking the worse for wear, electric currents crackling to and fro and this way and that along the length of their entire form, burns and blood evident from the collision of the two techniques. The grass-type growled lowly in the back of their throat, now tired and wounded and looking to finish things before they went much further.

Pikachu, sensing the end was near from where he lay, murmured his own name and wrenched his neck around to stare evenly at his opponent. Then he looked up at Ash, who was perched over the front rail of his safety zone in order to double-check that he was alright. The electric-type, feeling grateful and loved, rolled over onto his stomach and attempted to rise back onto his hind legs, but only managed instead to make it onto all four. Anything more than that left him feeling nauseous and unstable but he glanced once more in his trainer's direction with a reassuring mousy grin before turning back and glaring threateningly at his opponent.

Chesnaught mirrored the expression and message, bracing themselves, stretching into their full height, and clenching their clawed fists tightly closed, bulky shoulders and arms giving the impression of a sturdy wall that would not be moved.

Well, they would just have to see about that. The battle wasn't over yet!

"Use your triple threat, Chesnaught! Vine whip to contain, Needle Arm to wind him, and then body slam to finish him off!" Michael shouted confidently from his own perch across the arena, but Ash was prepared for when the live tangles of ivy appeared this time, and he knew exactly how to counter.

"Pikachu, quick attack!"

The electric mouse haunched over more tightly, his smaller-by-comparison, wiry muscles wound so strict that his pounce was instantaneous, and he tackled the vines to the ground as soon as they were close enough and thrashed against them.

The grass-type giant, quite shocked by this dilemma, began to immediately retract their extremities but it wasn't quick enough, as Pikachu had already dug his claws into them, imbedded, implanted, and along for the ride his adversary and their trainer had no idea he had planned to take.

Still, whether Pikachu came or Chesnaught went, the plan was in motion and potentially super-effective, so the grass-type prepared to use their needle arm as previously told. The bulky limb looked stony and steely, the ginormous jagged thorns protruding up and down it beginning to glow gold as they hardened up in time for impact with an opposing force a la Pikachu… except that he and Ash had other ideas.

"Aaaaand jump!" the raven-haired champion commanded, and just soon enough to avoid a rather painful collision. The tiny electric mouse released his grip from the vines as they tucked back underneath Chesnaught's cape once more, climbing furiously and instantaneously up the grass-type's torso, until he reached the top of his head, gripping for dear life a second time in less than two minutes.

"Thunderbolt, Pikachu!"

The sacs on either one of his cheeks sparked ominously, elemental power gathering from the condensation of water vapor in the air and gathering and clinging to its current master.

"Get him off you, Chesnaught!" Michael stated, panicking, though he was already pretty sure there was nothing that could be done, especially after he noticed his starter Pokemon begin to dive towards the ground, already in process of completing the body slam he'd been commanded to use to end the match.

"Piiikaaaaachuuuuuu!" the electric mouse screeched, voice carrying over the waves of people and into the briefly darkening sky. Thunderous elemental forces soared collectively downward, striking both Pokemon in mid-fall, the grass-type freezing and then twitching garishly on the spot, unable to even come into full contact with the earth below him before being taken out.

Pikachu loosened his grip on his opponent but didn't let go altogether quite yet, just in case. And good thing too, seeing as Chesnaught's endurance was greater than even he or Ash had planned for and, instead of falling after all, the grass-type stumbled and caught themselves, unsteady on their knees.

"Try your giga impact!" Michael cried out desperately, but Ash and Pikachu had that covered too.

"Double iron tail before he has the chance!" the raven-haired champion called out, and Pikachu finally released his grip, backflipping into the air and using the few brief seconds of freedom to stiffen and steel his rear extremity, which was glinting under the bright sunlight as the electric mouse redirected his angular trajectory and slammed the hulking grass-type Pokemon in the side of the head.

As if that wasn't enough, the electric mouse used the momentum of that first strike to rebound, rolling in the opposite direction and immediately smashing into his opponent again before falling, spiraling loosely, away and back to the ground, where he knelt shakily on all fours and drew haggard breath into his lungs.

Chesnaught fell sideways onto the grass without even an attempt to keep themselves perched upright, eyes closed and mouth gaping open in a faint.

And then… and then the battle was finally, irrefutably over.

Well, at least this one was, because almost ten minutes later when the commentator had finished wrapping up the results and the standing ovations had diminished, the crowds vanishing from the stands little by little and filtering into the queues beyond, Ash enveloped his partner into a tight hug, promising to take him to the Pokemon Center right away to get his wounds treated, at the same time finally taking a chance to look at the notifications on his cell-phone.

The most recent one of which was a text message with only six words in it: I am going to kill you.

Oh. Well, then.


Things had most definitely c-h-a-n-g-e-d.

Kanto Champion Ash Ketchum had never had much use for a cell-phone while he was traveling, and had in fact only recently been forced to purchase and maintain one as of six months or so ago. Forced why? We'll get to that in a bit.

The raven-haired trainer was currently sitting at the desk in his office at Indigo Plateau, finishing up some very important paperwork that he certainly couldn't put off any longer, nope, not even in order to straighten out things with that person. You know, the one who'd sent him such a threatening message all of two or so hours ago.

And honestly, he should probably be reporting such threats to the league because who knew if a serious attempt on his life would be made and these things were taken quite seriously by his coworkers and security team…

But no, he definitely had no time for such tasks and inevitably more paperwork because, if his mathematical deductions were correct, and they really weren't deductions as they were tested and proven time measurements, then he only had roughly another half-an-hour before he was cornered and skinned by his predator.

He jumped a foot in the air as his office door was slammed (somewhat restrainedly) open and an irate redhead stood there with a fire in her eyes, poised to kill at any moment.

Did he suggest a half-an-hour? Bull.

"Ash Ketchum, you miserable piece of shi–" Misty whispered dangerously, and the word whispered was stressed due to…

… Oh, probably that six-month-old baby girl sleeping in her arms.

Yeah, and now it was somewhat obvious why he was forced to carry a cell-phone, right? Of course, fat lot of good it did, since he seemed to have so much trouble actually utilizing the darned thing.

"–it. I cannot believe you did this to me. I told you weeks ago that your mom invited us over for lunch today and you just had to go and miss it for a challenger battle?!" she continued, voice almost silky with vehemence at his latest blunder as the man she'd stupidly chosen to marry all of two years ago.

"L - look, Myst, I can't help that, you know? Lunches come and lunches go but league protocol lasts as long as I retain my position here at Indigo Plateau, you know?" he tried his best to reason with her, also speaking as low as possible as he cautiously reached his full height - a whopping three inches shorter than her, by the way, though it seemed like a far more drastic difference when she was so furious at him.

"You make your own goddamn schedule, Ash!" she hissed back, towering over him menacingly despite her obviously dominant maternal instinct, for baby Ariel had yet to stir where she lay curled up in the redheaded woman's comforting and warm embrace.

"I - I mean, yeah, most of the time, but–"

"–No, not 'most of the time', dummy, all of the time! I would know because I'm a member of the Elite Four too, in case you've forgotten!"

"Yeah, well, it's been awhile since you were last here," he muttered somewhat ruefully, retreating to his original defense in response to her anger, which was stubborn and snide petulance, of course, in case anyone had forgotten.

"Because I was giving birth to and subsequently raising our daughter!" she shriek-whispered back at him, eyes so wide her browline had vanished underneath the downy fringe of her hairstyle, absolutely livid that he would try to make such accusations.

"I just meant that maybe things had changed," he told her, enunciating practically every other word in hopes that doing so would somehow further get his point across, "you know, since you've been gone so long?"


"… No?"

"No, Ash Ketchum. Shut up. You messed up, now own up. Or else she won't be your daughter much longer!" the new mother murmured darkly, inching the infant slightly closer to her father as if determined to prove what he'd be missing out on, though it wasn't as if her threats were a serious matter.

This kind of thing happened to them all the time… even if she had to admit to this particular instance being a new low, whether they were talking about Ash Ketchum or not. But if anything was going to make him understand, it was probably going to be something pertaining to his first child, right?

"You wouldn't!" he gasped dramatically, before breathlessly continuing, "… Would you?"

"Test me, Mr. Pokemon Master! Just because you naively mashed a ring on my finger and stuttered out a proposal doesn't mean you never have to put any effort into this relationship again, capeesh?!" she reminded him, brow now twitching in dying fury. "And just in case, I know you scheduled this match, I know protocol hasn't changed at the league, and I know that you've been ignoring my calls and texts for the past few days! But, sure, please feel free to try and deny it!" she finished skeptically, her unused hand on her waist before she loosened up and marched forward.

"W - well," he responded, sweating bullets and backing away from his wife and child once more, "I was busy!"

Misty snorted, looking just about ready to breathe fire at him for his continued excuses, but then she sighed in exasperation and acceptance, looked away from him, mumbled something incoherent under her breath.

"Whatever, it's over now anyway. What's done is done and I can't force you to learn your lesson. So get your stupid butt over here already so I can properly wish you a happy anniversary," she told him rather scornfully next, so much so that he wasn't quite sure he could trust her but he very gingerly made his way in her direction, sidestepping close enough to be within distance of physical contact.

"Here, you dummy," she went on, biting back any worse insult she could think up and instead leaning in, pecking him chastely on the cheek. "You would have gotten more if you'd slept at home last night, but no, you just had to be busy, tied up in Indigo League's red tape… You're just lucky I have the patience and capacity to put up with your nonsense after all these years!"

"That's… You're joking, right?" he begged of her but she glared again and he leapt apart from her just in case, "Oh, yeah, no, you totally have a limitless supply of compassion and understanding towards my career goals and I don't know what I'd ever do without you!" he then rephrased, fawning over her so intensely that the only thing that was missing was him bowing at her feet.

"Nice save," she stated with an indignant sniffle, turning her nose up at him for a moment before bothering to glance back at him a second time, "Anyway, happy anniversary, Ash. What's left of it anyway."

"Aaah, y - yeah, you too, Myst…"

So yes, things had most indubitably changed. Eleven years after he'd left home in search of glory, Ash Ketchum was finally one of the top-ranked trainers in the world. Not only that, but he'd also come around at some point and figured out his hormones, experimenting with the rare, unocassional significant other until somehow stumbling and bumbling back into Misty's life in a more full-time magnitude than he had over previous years. Eventually their dating turned exclusive, which turned into an engagement, which turned into a house in the Pallet suburbs while they both advanced their Master goals at Indigo Plateau, which turned into marriage, which turned into the birth of their first child…

… Oh yeah, and that all-of-two-years-ago bit from before had apparently been stretched the long haul and morphed into three. So there was that thing.

He and Misty had been married for three years.

"Anyway, you're gonna be done soon, right?" the redhead groaned, taking a leisurely seat and paying special attention to the child still wrapped up in her arms.

"Ah, yeah, probably just another few minutes. You can head home if you want to and I'll meet you there. Charizard could probably fly me back in a few hours and the league tram will stop running soon, won't it?" he inquired, diving once more behind his desk and getting back to the dreaded paperwork he'd been sorting through before his wife had interrupted him.

"I guess that's fine…" Misty sighed, "Where's Pikachu? I can take him with me if you want."

"Oh, um," and there was a brief pause as Ash's cheeks flushed crimson in fear of her renewed anger at what he was going to say next, "actually, the last match left him… pretty tuckered out. He's probably gonna be at the PokeCenter most of the day."

"Wha - what?!" the redhead yelped, flinching immediately after in concern that she would wake Ariel up, but the girl remained still and content in her grasp, "Ash, this was our anniversary, okay? We only get one a year and our daughter's actually quiet for the first time in days a - and this is such a rare opportunity for us to be together! Alone! To-ge-ther!" she finished, wondering just how much more she had to push to make her point. "And now you're telling me you're going to be stuck here who knows how long while poor Pikachu recovers from some stupid battle that you didn't have to take on until tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, o - or any other time ever.

"I swear, Ash," she concluded rather morbidly, "You must honestly want a divorce."

"Ssshh!" he responded in a furious panic, "I know you're kidding - well, mostly kidding - but my mom can smell the use of that word, okay? So how about we ex-nay the highly improbable ivorciday, if you catch my drift?"

"Why should I care, huh, Mr. Pokemon Master? Your mom loves me way more than you anyway and she knows that if we ever really did head that far south that it'd be your doing. Ariel and I would be just fine in the end!"

The two of them stared each other down from their respective seats, and any third party that might have chosen to walk in at that moment would find it impossible to pinpoint the apparent adults who were supposed to be occupying the room at the time, they were both acting so childish… But hey, that's who they were. And there was no point fixing what wasn't broken.

Plus it was only about to get better.

"You should care, just so you know, Myst, 'cause I actually do have a plan here," he told her with a smirk and a wink.

"Ooh? Do tell."

"Well, I should start off by saying that I only moved up this battle challenge to today because it's also the last one that's scheduled for the next week and a half," he pointed out, propping up an index finger and continuing on before she could interrupt to berate him once more. "And I know, I know, that's still not good, not great, not good enough for you, but I told you there was a plan…"

He paused for such a long dramatic effect here that Misty was hard-pressed not to launch herself across the office and shake him as hard as she could until all his withheld answers just fell out of him. But, you know, there was the whole thing about her currently carrying a nursing infant in her arms so…

"It's all so elementary, my dear Misty. I battled - and won, I haven't told you yet - against my only foreseeable challenger and now I have almost two weeks off of work for us to do anything we want!"

"Wha - well," the redhead stuttered, struggling to contain the sliver of pride beginning to blossom within her at this news. That was, until she remembered some other issues she could voice to pick apart Mr. Pokemon Master's master plan, "what about your paperwork?"

"Didn't I say it would only take me a few more minutes to finish?"


"He's gonna be discharged by the end of the day and Uncle Brock is picking him up and taking him to Pewter until I'm scheduled to come back to work. Pikachu already knows this and is greatly looking forward to his own little vacation."

"B - but… Ariel!"

"Granny Delia, uh, I mean… my mom, don't tell her I called her that, please, even if it was in private and for Ariel's benefit…" A brief pause, a clearing of the throat. "Anyway, yeah, my mom agreed last week to take care of her, at least for a day or two, so us lovebirds can christian any… un-christianed part of the house. Or so she said. Don't really know what that means."

"… She means sex, Ash," Misty deadpanned though she very nearly broke her stride at her husband's expression of abject horror.

"She knows we've had sex?!" he wailed abysmally.

"We have a daughter!" the redhead then reminded him once more, gesturing as exaggeratedly as possible at aforementioned child without shuffling her around too much.

"Oh, right! Anyway…"

"So wait, you've been planning all of this for a good week or so?"

"Well, in pieces to be honest, but yeah, for the most part."

"And you couldn't just tell me?"

"Well, there had to be some element of surprise, you know?" he begged of her with wide, innocent eyes. "Besides, all the important players knew their parts and were okay with them."

"Ash! I am your wife! I'm the most important player there is! At all! Forever!"

The two of them were back to their super!adult way of handling things; the infamous, unending staring contest. Suddenly Ash blinked, breaking his own stride, sighed, and rubbed tenderly at his tired eyes. Then he got up from behind his desk and went to sit instead next to his definitely adoring wife, the most important player in his world. Though just because she made a valid point didn't mean he was going to tell her that.

"You mad?" he asked softly, nudging her affectionately in the shoulder.

This time, she sighed, leaning into him and staring down at her own lap, rocking Ariel softly up and down in her arms to keep her snoozing soundly.

"No, not really. I mean, yeah, it woulda been nice to not stress out over the past couple days, nice to not look a fool in front of your mom too… I kept apologizing for you not showing up to our anniversary lunch, you know? I guess it's good that at least she wasn't getting worked up too, especially since you weren't answering your phone."

"Yeah," Ash sighed fondly, "My mom, the worrywart. And I woulda picked up but, between the battle and my excitement… I was pretty sure I woulda caved and told you everything right away if we ended up talking before this."

Then he leaned in to her too but, rather than saying anything emotionally wrought or romantic, all he offered her was, "It's a shame I missed lunch. I bet she pulled out all the stops too!"

Well, really, what had she been expecting?

"Don't worry; I made you a Snubble bag. It's waiting for you at home."

"It is?" he asked excitedly, then double-backed in awe at the underlying truth of this newly revealed information, "You got me leftovers… even before you know what was going on? D'aawe, Myst, you do love me!"

She snorted, removing her head from his shoulder and shaking him off of her just as quickly before standing up and planning to make her retreat.

"Yeah, I do, now don't you make me regret that decision."

"I won't; I'll be home in a couple of hours, I promise!" he reaffirmed for the sake of her concern and agitation.

"Good, that should give me just enough time to get Ariel home and pack her an overnight bag. She'll be at Granny Delia's before you get back probably so give her a kiss goodbye now while you have the chance, okay?" she told him, perching the infant as far away from her own chest as she could, still taking care to support the head and spine as she did so.

Ash bent forward and gave a soft peck on his daughter's forehead, just above her eyes and below the small tuft of already-wild black hair that was starting to grow in. In response, the girl cooed, snorted a mucus bubble, and curled back into the warmth of Misty's bosom and beating heart.

"Nice," the raven-haired champion chuckled, grabbing one of the wipes he now always kept on hand from on top of his desk and softly scrubbing the mess off his first child's face.

"Yeah, well, she's definitely your daughter."

"Are you trying to tell me that not all kids do this gross stuff? That you didn't do this gross stuff when you were a baby, Myst? Come on! Who are you trying to fool?" he replied with a quirked eyebrow, still managing to look at her somehow fondly despite it.

Misty didn't answer, just veered away from him and began walking back towards the door leading out to the league headquarters beyond.

"Hey, I was thinking," he interrupted her exit, tossing the wipe in his trash bin and rubbing anxiously at the back of his neck, "maybe this time," and he faltered again only to smirk a little too confidently a moment later, "we could try for a boy."

"Alright, Mr. Pokemon Master, I'm just putting this out there 'cause it's you we're talkin' about," the redhead replied skeptically, turning on her heel to face him one last time before she was definitely and finally on her way.

"Uuh, yeah?"

"You do realize that we have no control over our child's prospective gender, right? No switching of positions, no sacrificial Mareeps or sun dances or witchcraft is going to make a difference."

"I - I was just kidding, Myst! Of course I knew that, I was messing with you It was supposed to be innuendo!"

She stared evenly down the bridge of her nose at him as though daring him to lie to her before she smiled softly, pleased with his apparently honest response.

"Okay, good, just making sure. Now I'll see you back home in a few hours. Oh, and Ash? Don't get your hopes up about that baby boy. The X chromosome runs strong in my family, in case you never noticed," she taunted and winked, giggling as she made her exit, her husband left in the dust behind her.

Oh yes, how things had so drastically c-h-a-n-g-e-d.

"The wha…?"

Or not.


Notes - And so there that is! I cranked this fic out in a few hours when I should have been sleeping but I quite liked the idea, not to mention I got to write out my first Pokemon battle in years! (Okay, that's a lie, I've written a couple of battles for those one-word-prompt fics my reader base sent in over the past month or so but since they're not posted yet…)

All faves, shares, reviews would be much, much appreciated. Please convince me I'm not wasting my time by continuing to write fan-fiction.