Author's note: A fleeting idea so here's a fleeting story. Please leave me your reviews. With love, R
Author disclaimer: this story is inspired by the song Always by Gavin James
Ash Ketchum ran up his garden path and flew through the front door of his house in Pallet Town with his loyal companion perched on his shoulder. He looked around the pristine front room and stuck his head round the door to look in the kitchen. Then he saw an unmistakable straw hat through the window. He dropped his bag to the floor and made his way to the back garden.
"Hi, mom," he called. "I'm back!" He stopped dead. "Oh, hi, Mimey."
Mimey, Delia Ketchum's Mr Mime, stopped his sweeping and looked up briefly to repeat his name back in greeting to the young trainer. Ash scanned the rows of flowers, plants and herbs and finally spotted his gentle-natured mother on her hands and knees in a flower bed. He went over to her.
"Hi, mom!" he tried again.
Delia looked up and her face brightened.
"Ash, dear!" she beamed, jumping to her feet, embracing her son quickly then petting Pikachu's head fondly. "My, you've grown so much! You look well, Pikachu. It's been far too long since you were last home!"
Ash now stood at six feet two and he'd just returned from the Battle Frontier. He'd recently turned 19 years old and he decided it was high time to really perfect what he'd learned over the years, so he turned to the one person who had really challenged him on every level: Brandon, the Pyramid King. He was really feeling the benefit, but the echo of Brandon's trademark NO! was starting to show up in Ash's dreams.
"Yeah, sorry about that," Ash grimaced, as Pikachu hopped off his shoulder and headed for a sunny patch of grass. "Look, let me just throw my bag in my room and I'll be right down."
"Of course, Ash," Delia replied sweetly, watching Ash spin round and head through the kitchen to the stairs.
Ash leapt up the stairs two at a time and threw open his bedroom door, that feeling of being ten years old returning. Once again, Ash stopped dead in his tracks.
"Mooooom!" he yelled down the stairs, staring at his room, mouth agape.
"What is it, Ash?" Delia called up the stairs.
"C-can you come here, please?" Ash stammered, eyes widened at the sight of his room.
He heard Delia take the stairs slowly one at a time and after what felt like an eternity, she finally reached his room, where Ash was still staring at the sight before him.
"What's wrong, Ash?" Delia asked somewhat urgently.
"What is this?" Ash stressed, pointing at his bed.
Delia frowned. "Your bed, Ash," she replied, as if he was very simple.
"No," he shook his head, striding across his room and pointing directly at what had caught his attention. "This!"
"Are you talking about the fresh bed sheets?" Delia sighed, wondering why Ash was being so over the top.
"Well, yeah!" Ash said in exasperation. "What are these?"
"Ash, why are you being so tiresome?" Delia looked at him sceptically.
"You don't own any water pokémon!" Ash replied, staring at the Staryu duvet cover and the folded over Psyduck printed fleece bed throw at the foot of the bed.
"Misty visits me when you're away," Delia replied, causing the frown at Ash's brow to clear instantly.
"She does?" Ash asked, sitting on the end of his bed. "And she stays in here?"
"Where else would she stay, Ash?" Delia demanded. "You're not here very much and she kindly visits every two weeks. She comes over to Pallet to visit Professor Oak and Tracey. Sometimes Tracey comes with her to Cerulean City to help out from time to time. She's had some new pokémon at the gym, so Samuel and Tracey like to observe them," she finished, subconsciously forgetting to use Professor Oak's title.
"Oh," Ash said faintly. He looked up at his mother. "I'll just unpack. I'll see you downstairs in a few!"
Delia made to open her mouth then shook her head and turned to leave the room. "I'll make you some food."
"Great, thanks!" Ash called after her, running his fingers over the soft Psyduck pattern on the bed throw.
That night, Ash tossed and turned in bed. He flopped onto his front, burying his face into the pillow. Freesias… bracing sea air… strawberry scented body lotion… Ash's eyes shot open and he sat up. He lifted the pillow to his nose and inhaled. Despite that Misty was always jumping into water at whatever chance she got, she always smelled like freesias. Ash once caught her spraying herself and her clothes with perfume before she threw a pillow in his face, telling him to get lost while they were in Maiden's Peak. He'd sniggered to himself because he knew that deep down, she just wanted to be seen as any other girl. He'd never forgotten that when she'd joined him at the festival in a pretty pink kimono with her hair loose around her face in soft curls. He felt like he understood why Brock acted like such an idiot all the time, but that moment passed quickly back then. She always had the distinct smell of the water around her which was to be expected of a water pokémon trainer. Then there was the body lotion. Very early on in their journey together before they met Brock at the Pewter City Gym, Misty complained endlessly about her skin feeling dry, so she'd dragged him from store to store, shoving various scented lotions and potions up his nose to get his opinion. Her argument was that he was the only person around so he would do. He obliged her, if only to avoid that mallet which seemed to appear out of nowhere – to this day, he had no idea where she kept it. Eventually, he got fed up and agreed that strawberry was the best and without argument, she purchased a pot of strawberry scented lotion and it stuck. From then on, he noticed that every time she got out of the water and dried off, she slathered it on herself. At night, the scent of strawberries was so prominent that he knew Misty was around when he caught wind of it.
Then he paused, catching sight of a folded piece of paper where his pillow was once sat. He reached forward and opened it, instantly recognising the handwriting that was scribbled over it in a familiar hand. His eyes first took in the little drawing at the bottom of the page. It was a Pikachu with a familiar hat sat on top of the little electric pokémon's head. He looked across his room at the numerous hats hanging up at the back of his door. He located the hat he wore on his first journey through Kanto with Misty and glanced down at the drawing. It was a perfect likeness of what his hat looked like before it got worn away. He smiled at the illustration. Then he raised his eyes to the top of the page.
It's kind of weird being in Ash's room. I guess being here makes me feel closer to him. It's been a while. A long while. Sure, the gym passes the time but it's nothing like travelling with him. Everyday was an adventure. Exciting. Thrilling. I miss that. I didn't expect to become good friends with Delia, a name Ash's mom insisted I call her. It was a little weird at first, but Delia asked me to use Ash's room because he's so rarely here. She really misses him and I'm glad I'm not the only one. She said that if I were to fill the hole in her life while he was gone, then why keep such formalities with each other? It's kind of like we're family now. Being here makes me feel better when the gym is just so overwhelming. Tracey's great but he's not Ash. He's not my best friend. But I guess he's here.
Ash's eyes flicked over the page to see furious scribblings next to the drawing of the Pikachu and he knew how she felt because he felt it too.
One day, Delia said something to me that I haven't been able to forget: 'if you can't get someone off your mind, maybe they're supposed to be there. Remember: the mind can recognise what the heart is trying to deny.' He's in my head, always.
Ash leaned against the wall. He knew he was a little… sporadic, maybe, but he knew he sucked at keeping in touch when he was training and travelling. He got so caught up in pokémon battles and getting stronger and stronger that he forgot everything else, even the people who mattered most. He frowned, recalling a conversation he had with Delia over dinner. Misty visited her every two weeks… he did a quick calculation in his head and realised that Misty was due to visit Pallet Town tomorrow. He sucked in a lungful of air and banged his head back against the wall. Pikachu stirred from the foot of his bed and looked up.
"Pikapi?" the little mouse pokémon asked sleepily.
"Sorry, did I wake you buddy?" Ash apologised.
Pikachu hopped onto Ash's lap and looked questioningly at him. Ash shrugged helplessly, gesturing to the paper clasped in his fingers.
"I missed out, Pikachu," he whispered. When Pikachu frowned up at him, Ash continued. "I promised mom that I would visit more years ago and I kept that promise by stopping by between each journey, but it's not enough for her. Then there's Misty." Ash pressed his lips together. "I didn't exactly stay in touch often." He fluttered the page gently in front of him. "They both endeavour to keep in touch with each other because I didn't." He petted Pikachu gently on the head. "They deserved better, really, they do."
Pikachu stared up at his master silently until Ash placed his pillow back down and slid down under the covers. Pikachu proceeded to lie down by Ash's head, looking at him fondly.
"Pikachupi," Pikachu murmured in Ash's ear.
Ash's eyes flew open to look at the electric mouse and he smiled affectionately.
"Yeah, I miss her, too, buddy," he breathed, drifting off to sleep.
Ash spluttered awake, his eyes shooting open as he sat up abruptly in bed. He pulled his duvet cover up to wipe his face which was now dripping water. He heard laughter to his right, and he turned to see a familiar sight of his favourite redhead standing there with her Staryu at her side.
"Misty!" he exclaimed in shock.
"Hey, stranger," she replied with a snort.
"You're here early," Ash mumbled, running his fingers through his bed hair.
"No rest for the wicked," she smiled. "It's been a while."
Ash rubbed his eyes and sat up, then he really saw her. She was just as he remembered her, save for the obvious fact that she was older. She was slenderer, yet stronger, taller, yet he knew she'd only come to his shoulder if he stood beside her, appearing almost more confident in herself, yet more beautiful, if that was possible. She was clad in a yellow jumpsuit with her trademark shorts and a sleeveless hoody. He recognised it as her usual gym leader attire. He could tell that she'd since updated it as it seemed smarter somehow and better for a swimmer to move around in, what with leaping in and out of the water.
"What?" Misty frowned.
"N-nothing," Ash shook his head. "Sorry, I'm just not really fully awake."
"Nice to see some things never change," Misty smiled. "Your mom's making breakfast downstairs. She sent me upstairs to come get you."
"And throw water over me?" he grumbled.
"No, silly," she said softly. "That was Staryu."
"I'll be right down," Ash told her. "It's been a while."
He looked up at her, seeing her back facing him. She paused at the door at his last statement and she turned her face slightly so he could just see the side of her cheek.
"It sure has," she murmured, vacating his room.
"Thanks for visiting my mom," Ash said to Misty as the evening rolled in.
She looked up at him from her position crouched next to her Goldeen swimming gracefully in the lake at the back of the Ketchum residence. She frowned and stood up.
"You don't need to thank me for that," she stated, crossing her arms across her chest.
"Actually, I do," he said, walking over to her and pulling her over to a dry spot of grass.
"Why?" she asked curiously.
"Because I don't do it enough," he admitted.
"That's true," Misty replied flatly. "You know, we- she misses you, Ash."
"I miss you both, too," he confessed.
"Why did you leave it so long then?" she challenged him.
"I just can't help it," he shrugged helplessly. "When I get into a pokémon battle or we're training… I just forget the world is going by."
"For six months?" Misty raised an eyebrow. "No, wait, I guess that's believable."
"It's a flaw of mine," he nodded. "I'll work on it." He smiled at her tentatively.
A few moments of silence passed between them as they sat listening to the wild pokémon communicating with each other, the breeze rustling the trees and the ripples of the lake. Misty looked at Ash out of the corner of her eye.
"You know, it feels like no time has passed at all, really," she said.
"What do you mean?"
"Every time I see you, it's like no time has passed," she elaborated. "It's kind of like being in a dream when you're gone."
"A bad one?" Ash asked, leaning towards her.
"I guess a bad one is if you don't come back," she smiled sadly.
Ash hesitated and sighed. Then he shuffled himself over to her side and wrapped his arm round her shoulders. She looked at him in surprise and looked down at her lap.
"I'll always come back," he promised.
"You always promise that," she murmured, "but no one knows when."
"I guess I never do either," he confessed. He nudged her. "I can endeavour to keep my time away shorter."
"You're not good with promises, Ash," Misty told him. "Even your mother knows that, but she loves you anyway."
Ash bit his lip, slowly unwinding his arm from around Misty's shoulders. She looked at him side-on and inhaled. She got up from the ground and ran her hands down the back of her legs to get off any lingering grass from her skin. Ash looked up at her and watched as she turned back to the lake.
Ash stared up at the ceiling from his sleeping bag on the floor of his bedroom. He heard Misty's gentle snoring filling the silence of the night and he smiled to himself. It was just like he remembered it when they travelled together. She would always vehemently deny that she snored, but he just smirked because he knew she did. He turned over onto his side and pulled out the piece of paper he'd found under his pillow, written in Misty's hand. He ran his fingers over the drawing of the Pikachu in his hat and he smiled. His eyes ran over the words and he sighed.
"What's wrong, Ash?" Misty's voice broke into his reverie.
Ash jumped, having not noticed the silence of the room. He looked over to see Misty sat up on her elbows staring at him.
"It's just something you said earlier," he told her. He sat up. "I don't know how to love very well."
"Where is this coming from?" Misty asked, swinging her legs out of bed to sit upright.
Ash got up from the floor and came over to take a seat next to her. He took out the piece of paper, Misty's cerulean blue eyes dropped to it, and widened. She lifted her eyes to Ash's chocolate brown orbs, and he gave her a faint smile. He pointed to some written words.
He's in my head, always
Misty released a lungful of air and leaned back on the palms of her hands. Ash looked back at her with his eyebrows raised.
"Since when did you grow up?" Misty smirked.
"You know, it's amazing to learn from Brandon," Ash laughed, "but honestly, every time I did something dumb…"
"So, being a stubborn child," Misty interrupted.
Ash narrowed his eyes at her.
"He has this painful habit of bellowing no down my ear," Ash continued.
"So, every time you were being dense, he'd give you life advice?" Misty asked sarcastically.
"Don't be obtuse!" Ash flicked her gently on the end of her nose.
"Come on," Misty pushed him, "where is this coming from?"
"All you guys have always been there for me," Ash murmured. "I'm not sure that I've been there for you… or mom."
"So, what are you gonna do about it?" Misty asked, leaning forward to look into his face.
Ash glanced back at her then leaned over her, pushing her back against the mattress. He looked down at her, pushing her bangs back from her eyes.
"Endeavour to be there, like I once promised," he said with a smile.
"I'll take you up on that, Mr Pokémon Master," she smirked, grabbing him from behind the neck and pulling him down so that his lips met hers.