The first time Ash met a wild Pokémon was when he was six years old.
Mom had told him not to go out in the long grass, where there might be wild Pokémon, and Ash thought that was kind of boring – because, well, Pokémon were cool – but Mom did seem to know what was best most of the time.
And she seemed to know when Ash did something he wasn't supposed to, too, so he stayed out of the long grass. Instead he played in a little woody thicket, which was around the back of Mr. Garrison's house, and which didn't have any long grass in it so it was okay to play there.
He'd been thinking about showing Gary, but Gary was being a meanie-head lately and Ash wanted to keep the thicket a secret for just a bit longer. That way when he told Gary about it Gary might actually say thank-you, instead of saying that Ash was a stupid.
Ash didn't like being called a stupid.
He did quite like climbing, though, and even though there were only a couple of dozen trees in the thicket some of them were really big and gnarled and twisty so they were perfect for climbing. And Ash was a long way up in the air, feeling for his next hand-hold, when instead of finding a branch he found something soft and warm and yielding.
"Whoa!" he yelped, flinching back, and his arm flailed for a moment before he managed to get his grip.
The thing he'd touched made a squeaky sound, then moved, and Ash's mouth dropped open slightly as it turned out to be bright pink – with big, blue eyes, and a long, whip tail, and slowly turning upside down as it floated in mid-air.
"Are you a Pokémon?" he asked.
The probably-a-Pokémon giggled, both paws going to its mouth.
"Hey, it wasn't that funny," Ash complained.
It really was! Ash's new friend(?) replied. You asked if I'm a Pokémon! I'm a Pokémon! What else would I be?
"I dunno," Ash admitted. "But if I guess then sometimes I get it wrong."
He reached up to where the Pokémon had been resting, and used the now-unoccupied handhold to haul himself up into a crook in the tree.
"What kind of Pokémon are you?" he asked. "Umm… are you a Flying type?"
I'm a Psychic type! The Pokémon told him. I'm Mew! Who are you?
"I'm Ash Ketchum!" Ash introduced himself. "And one day I'm going to be a Pokémon master!"
Ooh, Mew said, sounding deeply impressed. What's a Pokémon master?
"...um," Ash began. "I… haven't thought that far yet. I guess it means having lots of strong Pokémon and being friends with them!"
That sounds like great fun! Mew declared.
"Oh, um, how come you can talk, actually?" Ash asked, suddenly remembering something. "I thought Pokémon couldn't."
That's silly, silly, Mew insisted. I'm psychic, but just because not all Pokémon are psychic doesn't mean they don't talk. You just don't listen right!
"Hey!" Ash complained. "I'm listening to you!"
Mew giggled again. Really?
This time, Ash actually noticed. The words weren't being said by Mew's mouth, they were sort of just… being heard.
So Mew could talk while giggling.
"Wow, that's cool!" he said. "But if I want to make friends with other Pokémon, um… I think I need to think about that a bit more."
Well, that can wait, Mew said. Because I just came up with a great idea!
The Pokémon booped his nose.
Bet you can't catch me! Mew said, floating out of reach, and Ash laughed before trying to follow.
Ash headed upstairs, sat on his bed, and sighed.
Part of the sigh was because of how nice his lunch had been. Mom was always good at making anything taste nice, even a really simple lunch, and Ash had particularly enjoyed today's meal.
But a lot more of the sigh was because of his room, which was kind of a mess, and Mom had said he'd have to tidy it up today.
And really, it was a lot to ask a seven year old, to tidy their room. Moms didn't always understand that if he started tidying his room early on then he'd end up with a tidy room, and then he'd get it messy again within an hour or two, and then Mom would be mad he hadn't tidied his room even when he actually had.
But if he waited, then he'd know any fun he was having was just giving him more tidying to do.
It kind of sucked.
Ash sighed again, then opened his wardrobe.
There was a night sky on the other side of it.
Ash closed his wardrobe.
Then he peered around the back, just in case, but the wall didn't seem to have moved and anyway it was just after lunch, not night-time.
Ash opened his wardrobe again, and looked at the night sky.
There was a sort of gold ring around the edge, and Ash looked closely before reaching a hand through.
It sort of tingled for a moment, but it didn't seem to be a painting. And Ash should have started feeling his clothes by now.
He leaned further forward, then slipped and fell right through into his wardrobe, which was a lot bigger than it had been. He fell several feet, just starting to yelp in surprise, and landed with a thump on something big and warm.
"Mrfle?" it asked, as Ash rolled off onto the sand.
"Oh, oops!" said a young voice that sounded very amused.
"Hey, who's that?" Ash asked, picking himself up and brushing some sand off his clothes. "And, uh, sorry I landed on you."
"You didn't land on Hoopa, silly!" the voice said, and a Pokémon zipped in to hover in front of Ash – sort of short, vaguely humanoid, and with a golden ring dangling from one horn. "Hoopa brought you here, and Hoopa brought Solgaleo here, but Hoopa mixed up how high your portal was! But it was funny!"
"Oh, so you're Hoopa?" Ash asked. "And this is Solgaleo?"
He turned to get a proper look. Solgaleo was a lot bigger than Hoopa, even lying down, and rumbled something at Ash before giving him a dignified nod.
"Hoopa is not!" the smaller Pokémon pouted.
"You mean you're not called Hoopa?" Ash checked, now a bit confused.
"No, Hoopa is Hoopa, but Hoopa is not clumsy!" Hoopa said.
"Oh, right, Solgaleo said it to you," Ash realized. "Wait, does that mean you could translate what he says for me?"
Hoopa touched their fingers together. "Hoopa means, Hoopa could, but Pokémon like him always say the same things anyway. 'Hoopa, who is this?' 'Hoopa, don't you have anything better to do?' 'Hoopa, just why?'"
Solgaleo snorted, but it didn't try and refute the statement.
"So why are we here, anyway?" Ash asked.
"Hoopa is bored," Hoopa declared. "Hoopa is not allowed to leave here. Hoopa's portals can go, but Hoopa can't go through them."
The Pokémon slumped, and Ash winced.
He… had to admit, he kind of sympathized. He couldn't wait for when he could have a Pokémon of his own and go on a Pokémon journey, but while being ten years old seemed like an unfathomably large distance away it was at least something that would arrive eventually.
For Hoopa to be just stuck here, unable to leave…
Solgaleo rumbled something, and Ash glanced sideways.
He was pretty sure that the big Pokémon felt sympathetic as well.
"It's kind of rude to not ask us," Ash said. "But I guess it'd be okay to play with you for a bit?"
"Great!" Hoopa announced brightly, all their previous worries gone. "Then Hoopa thinks we should start with a race! First to the top of that cliff wins!"
Hoopa floated off, and Ash looked at the cliff.
"I… don't really think I can climb that," he admitted, looking at Solgaleo. "Can you give me a lift?"
Solgaleo regarded him for a long moment, then crouched down so Ash could get on.
"Thanks!" Ash said. "I'll do my best to hold on, um, whoaaa-!"
The big Pokémon's paws dug into the sand, and threw it up in wild rooster-tails as they set off – charging towards the cliff at amazing speed.
When Ash eventually got back to his room – after Hoopa made him a portal, and Solgaleo lifted him up to reach it – it felt like he'd been gone for hours.
But his room looked just the same as it had before, so it seemed he'd only been gone for a few minutes. Even the clock looked the same.
"Ash, Dinner is ready soon!" his mom called up the stairs. "Did you finish tidying your room yet?"
...or maybe it had been a bit longer than that after all. And his clock was broken anyway.
Delia Ketchum hummed to herself as she scrubbed out a pot.
It had been a good day so far. Ash had had a great time at school, learning all about some bit of history that Delia couldn't remember from her schooldays but which seemed to fascinate him, and then he'd gone upstairs – and whatever he'd been doing from then until dinner hadn't made much mess in his room, so that was good too.
And it wasn't that much longer until bedtime – it was already dark, after all. But there might be time to watch some television together before then.
Delia looked around, smiling. "What is it, Ash?"
"That Bird-type's back again," Ash said. "Is it okay if I have some mochi?"
"Flying-type, dear," Delia corrected gently. "And that should be all right. Is it the same one?"
"I think it is," Ash replied, frowning slightly. "I think if it was a different one each them then a lot of Pokémon would know about it, and then there wouldn't just be one. Right?"
Delia chuckled. "Look at you, being a Pokémon professor!"
She got a box of dango out of the fridge. "Here you go, dear. And don't forget to let me know if your friend evolves, because then they might want more."
Really, Delia thought Ash probably ate at least half of it anyway.
There weren't many kinds of Flying-type Pokémon in the area and the only ones who tended to come close enough to town to interact with humans were a flock of Pidgey, the parents of which had occasionally been fed by herself and her friends when she was a young girl. But it wasn't like he was overdoing it if he was.
And he wasn't in any danger from a Pidgey, though perhaps if it evolved she might get a little more worried.
"So Mom asked me to let her know if you evolved," Ash said, holding out a skewer.
The big yellow-and-black Flying-type leaned in the window, and delicately removed a dango ball from the skewer.
"Does that mean you might get even bigger?" he asked. "Because I think you'd be too big to fit your beak through the window if you did!"
Zapdos looked extremely worried by the mere prospect.
The sun shone through the trees, and wind rustled the leaves, and Suicune stood perfectly still as she watched.
She was not sure what she should do under these conditions.
When Lord Ho-Oh had told her to check up on a human child, Suicune had understood. He wasn't the only Legendary Pokémon who kept an eye on how the human world was doing, and the Three Beasts of Johto criss-crossed the land at great speed maintaining the balance between the Human World and the World of Pokémon, and to look at how a particular human was doing was nothing unusual if they might affect that balance.
She'd arrived ten minutes ago, and discovered more or less immediately that the child was only seven years old. Which was considerably stranger.
Then he'd met what was probably the Kanto Mew in a hole underneath a tree, a Pokémon that even Suicune hadn't been able to track down in more than a decade, and she'd been about to jump in to help Mew out until the little Psychic-type had giggled and told the boy that now it was his turn to hide and their turn to hunt him down.
And she'd just become completely confused by the whole thing.
Aha! Mew announced, floating over a pile of leaves. I think I've found an Ash Ketchum!
"No you haven't," the pile of leaves replied. "Nobody here but a Seedot."
Are you suuure? Mew said.
"Seedot," the pile announced. "Seedot."
Suicune wasn't sure who could possibly think that was convincing, but Mew giggled before rummaging under the leaves. Found you!
"Aww," Ash grumbled. "You're much quicker at that than me."
That's because I've got more experience, of course! Mew said. But what about if both of us seek next time? I can give you tips!
"Uh…" Ash said, confused. "How would that work? Who would we be looking for?"
Mew pointed. Miss Suicune, of course!
Yes, Mew was pointing at her.
And now Ash was looking at her.
Not long before his eighth birthday, Ash was trying to use a sail.
They'd had their first lesson with how to do it just the previous day, him and Gary and the other local kids, and it all seemed to make a lot of sense then. But now, on a day when it should have been easier because there was more wind, Ash was trying for himself and it seemed a lot harder to use a boat in this kind of weather.
Or maybe he was just forgetting something.
The sail creaked a bit, and Ash ducked down just before the boom at the bottom swung over and knocked him on the head again. Then he stood up to pull on a rope, but he quickly worked out he'd pulled on the wrong rope when it resisted for a moment before abruptly going loose just as he put his weight on it.
Ash yelped, and fell in the sea with a splash.
Then a smooth object lifted him right back out of the sea, into his boat, and Ash turned to see something that was half-flipper half-wing and as white as a cloud vanishing back into the water.
"Thanks!" Ash called, to the departing shape.
A moment later, it was replaced by a blue-and-white head.
Be careful, little one, the owner of the head said, speaking with its mind like Mew and Hoopa did. The sea is a dangerous place, and I will not always be here.
"Right," Ash said, nodding. "Sorry about that."
I think you should start on a calm day first, the swimming Pokémon added. Then you will be ready for the stormy ones.
It turned, then slipped beneath the water with barely a ripple.
Ash wasn't sure if that meant the Pokémon had left or not, but he decided he'd better take their advice anyway.
So this bit me!
The basic concept behind this was turning Ash's luck with Legendaries up… a bit… past 11.