Disclaimer - If it sounds trademarked then I probably don't own it. In fact, let's just assume I don't own anything.

Author - Warlordess

Notes - This is just a short drabble written for a Tumblr meme prompt. It was supposed to be roughly three hundred words but, well, me being the sappy overachiever that I am, I ended up quadrupling that. Minimum. As in, yeah, it's long enough to be a stand-alone one-shot, even if it's a lot shorter than my normal stuff.

Anyway, the prompt was supposed to be a "late night conversation" but since it didn't necessarily specify that the two characters in the given ship had to be the ones taking part, I loopholed my way into making Ash talk to himself and then to Pikachu. Please enjoy and remember that the production of new fics is based on review quantity. I'm not kidding around.

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Title - "The Reason"

Summary - He's one night away from his next great adventure and he can't sleep until he works out what to do with his past. Hints of Pokeshipping. 1500 word drabble.

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"What should I do with it…?" Ash asked himself wistfully, staring at the pastel-colored cloth folded neatly on his perfectly made bed.

His mom had washed the handkerchief after he'd returned home from wishing Brock and… Misty well on the outskirts of Cerulean City, along with the rest of his everyday attire. No, wait, it's not like the handkerchief was part of his everyday attire! He hadn't even owned the thing long enough! It had only been about thirty-six hours since…

"Pi… Pikapi?" the electric mouse lounging on the pillow to his right inquired of him, blinking one eye open and yawning after.

"You're asking what I'm talking about?" the raven-haired trainer asked, "Well, it's Misty's…"

He paused. It was weird saying her name all of a sudden, as if speaking it just drew more attention to her absence.

"It's the handkerchief that Brock's bento was wrapped in. You remember, right, Pikachu? From before they went back home the other night?" he reworded instead.

Weird. Brock's name rolled off his tongue a lot easier. There was no lump or dryness he felt it was necessary to battle, no uneasiness. The name just came to mind, expelled from between his lips like nothing. Unlike… hers, which seemed to cling to his throat like chunky peanut butter.

The thought derailed as he laughed sharply under his breath in hopes that Misty would never know he'd internally compared her to such a thing.

Pikachu rose onto all fours and stretched where he stood before hopping lightly once and then strutting forward to more closely inspect what it was his trainer was talking about. Then he saw the moderately familiar cloth, small and mostly pink with geometric yellow shapes on it, and leaned forward for a whiff.

"... Pikachupi!" the electric mouse exclaimed, standing on his hind legs only from excitement at the familiar scent wafting into his nose.

"Uuuh, yeah, I guess?" Ash replied, confused. He'd never really noticed that his Pokemon had a specific name for any of his friends before. He wondered briefly if Misty was the only one or if he just really hadn't been paying any attention to those kinds of things until now.

"Pikachaaa kachu, Pikapi!"

Not able to fluently speak any amount of Pokemon language (he'd just gotten a bit better at guessing after three or so years of practice), Ash stared with a quirked brow at his first Pokemon partner, hoping for some clarification on what the electric mouse was trying to tell him.

Pikachu shrugged, sighing with an exasperated grin, then dodged around the new backpack Mrs. Ketchum had bought her son for his trip to Hoenn, grabbed the folded handkerchief in both of his tiny paws, and shoved it into the opening on top.

"You're saying I should take it with me?" Ash asked, a weird flushed tingling spreading from the back of his neck. He had no idea why but it just seemed… weird to take something like that with him to another region. And it wasn't like Misty was going to know he had it with him so he didn't need to keep up appearances just for the sake of her happiness or whatever.

Um, not that he was worried about that kind of thing.

"But what's the point of that? I've never needed a handkerchief before, right? Why would I need it now? I mean, I get that she wrapped up Brock's lunch for me in there, but I'm not gonna make a habit of that kinda thing anyway. Besides, Brock's gone too so he can't cook for me anymore…"

It wasn't until he said it out loud that Ash realized he was probably going to have to find a solution to his missing three squares a day… but he'd come back to that a bit later.

In response, Pikachu lunged at his backpack again, toppling it over and scurrying into the unzipped space himself, pulling out apparently everything he could get his grubby little paws on.

"Hey, what are ya doing, buddy?!" the raven-haired trainer yelped, grabbing his Pokemon around the middle and yanking him away from his belongings, though the damage was done, most everything sprawled once more across his mattress.

Pikachu squirmed until Ash relented and released him, jumping back onto the bed as well and grabbing some of the smaller things he'd forcibly removed from the bag, hobbling over to the handkerchief, kicking it open with one hind foot, and dumping a couple of empty Pokeballs, his toothbrush, and a familiar silverware set inside.

"Oooh, I get it… Well, I mean, but if I do that, then what's the point of having a backpack at all, right Pikachu? Why would I need to wrap anything up in the handkerchief?"

Pikachu withdrew from his self-guided task, sighing and shrugging again.

"I guess you were just showing me what you remembered from the last time you saw this, huh?" And, for the first time since he'd opened the bento Brock had given him, Ash picked up the soft small square of cloth into his hands and gestured towards the electric mouse.

Pikachu poked his head to the side with a questionable Pika?, evidently his way of saying I don't know. But Ash's eyes were on the oddly intimate piece of cloth once more, lips pursed and eyes glazed just so. It would have probably gone unnoticed by any passersby.

He couldn't help thinking to himself about what he had just said aloud.

"Why would I need to wrap anything up in the handkerchief?"

Acknowledging this first one begged the following question automatically.

Why did he need an excuse to keep one of his best friend's mementos on him? He had no problem holding onto Brock's, after all! And sure, a token silverware set did seem more practical than some girly handkerchief but…

A semi-familiar face came to mind, a redheaded girl with a grim expression as she tried to beg of him to be safe, to take care, to think of her, to tell her that what they had together was special…

Well, okay, so Misty hadn't exactly asked for all of that out loud but even Ash could read between the lines once in awhile (with some help)!

"Ash, are you in bed yet? Remember, your ferry leaves early tomorrow morning!" his mom called from the bottom of the staircase beyond his bedroom.

"I know, mom, thanks!" the raven-haired trainer replied, softly clearing his throat after as he haphazardly dropped the handkerchief and shoved everything Pikachu had removed from his backpack back into it.

Finally, the blasted hanky was the only thing left on the bed at all without a proper place to call home.

He should leave it. He had no real need for it.

He should take it. To… honor his bond with an old friend.

He should leave it. It wasn't like she was ever going to find out.

He should take it. It wasn't like he needed a reason one way or another.

The internal struggle lasted another minute or so, sweat beading at the teenager's forehead, his neck bursting into an anxious fire.

At last he made a decision, stuffing it away in his bag as well, Pikachu turning away with a faint grin before retreating back to his pillow and curling up into a ball, ready for bed.

One final clear of his throat and he stripped down to his boxers, placed the backpack on the ground beside his nightside table, and hopped under the covers as well, leaning over and twisting the power knob with a click! to turn the light off.

His feverish flush seemed less offensive in the dark, thank goodness, and he stretched his limbs out and waited for sleep to claim him, the same sleep that would hopefully end the uneasiness associated with his friend's name, the same sleep that would reassure him that he'd made the right call even if it had been unbelievably hard to choose at the time.

The same sleep that had stifled - though not completely stoppered - the blockage in his chest the first night he'd come home, world suddenly vastly different and dark and wide and lonely without his friends beside him.

The same sleep that had been his friend just as much as the other two all of three nights ago before it became the blank space he could run away to when he was uncomfortable confronting something he didn't understand quite yet.

That melancholy face from before spread out before his closed eyes, through his mind, invisible even as it took over every inch of space of the four walls around him and, though he wished to blink it away, he suddenly felt like it was the last thing he owed it.

"Ours wasn't coincidence!"

"I don't think it was coincidence that I met y-o-u out of a-l-l p-e-o-p-l-e!"

"Will I… see you again…?"

"You will! I swear it!"

And he suddenly had his reason after all. He'd been so inconceivably desperate to reassure Misty in what felt like her darkest, most doubtful moments that what they had was unique, was valued, was… fated.

The handkerchief she'd given him was a physical manifestation of his promises to her, of his faith in every single word he himself had said.

Of course he'd carry it - and her - with him, right?

All the easier to keep his word.

(Not that he needed a reason.)

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Notes - So that's it. Like I said at the start of the fic, as well as with most/all other posts lately, any updates or new contributions are dependent on reviews. Readers may think it's selfish but we all write for different reasons and unless you're a seasoned veteran who's watched the decline over the past few years - the swap in ratio of writer versus reader contribution to the production of written works - then you don't understand where I'm coming from. All this being said, I'm done begging. Now I'm just stating the facts of the matter.

All this being said and potentially souring the mood, I hope everyone enjoyed the read and has a good day/night.