Stars Fell On Pallet Town
by Spruceton Spook
The Telephone Call
"All right! Finally!" Ash exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air as the sight of the New Bark Town Pokémon Center came into view. The action almost knocked Pikachu off of his shoulders, who had been resting there comfortably for a good part of the afternoon. The Pokémon quickly regained his balance, clinging roughly to Ash's shirt.
"It's about time we're here," Misty said, sighing weakly. "I can hardly feel my feet anymore." She held a sleepy, yet incredibly cranky Togepi in her arms.
"I hear ya," Brock replied with a smile, stuffing the map that had been their guide for the past week into his back pocket. It was a relief to have the blasted thing out of his hands, adding to the natural high he had immediately obtained when they entered the city. The memory of the beautiful Nurse Joy they had met not too long ago instantaneously cascaded back into his mind, and he held his head high and pleasingly as they sauntered up the Center's front walk.
In an act of pure exhaustion, Ash crashed into the Center's front glass doors, nearly stumbling in in the process. Misty and Brock laughed lightly at this, but Misty rapidly grabbed Ash's shirt, reminding him that breaking the doors wouldn't do well for them when it came to requesting a place to stay.
Ash smiled faintly. "Please, Misty. When Nurse Joy sees the mess that we are, she'll practically insist we stay."
Misty giggled. Ash did have a point. They had been traveling through the woods for what seemed like forever, and the unavailability of beds, showers, and essential items had taken its toll on them considerably. Misty hated their long excursions between towns, but nothing beat the feeling of reaching a town after one of them.
The small clock in the waiting room tolled seven as Nurse Joy directed the three weary travelers and their fatigued Pokémon to one of the guest rooms. Even though it was a little early in the evening, Ash, Misty, and Brock's eyelids drooped, yearning to close after being awake since before the crack of dawn. Ash fought the tiredness as much as he could, however, for there was still one more thing he had on his agenda before his day was over.
"First thing's first," Ash announced, throwing his bag to the floor with a loud thud. "Gotta find a phone and call my mom. Brock, do you…Brock?"
Ash's eyes darted around him in the room, trying to find his friend who had suddenly vanished.
Misty sighed heavily and rubbed her temples. "'Scuse me a second," she said, and exited the room. In an instant she returned, both her hands clamped onto fistfuls of Brock's vest as she shoved him forcefully in the room.
"I'm too tired to be monitoring you now, Brock," Misty said, her voice retaining a bit of warning. She huffed in annoyance as Brock smiled innocently at her. "Leave that poor woman alone, for God's sake."
Brock lamented sadly and looked at the floor. "She remembered me, though! Do you know how good that makes my chance?"
"What, for her to describe you more easily to the authorities?" Misty retorted, plopping down onto the bed. She held Togepi over her head and cooed soothingly to the Pokémon.
Brock was just about to reply when Ash groaned impatiently. "Come on, let's go call Mom now. I thought you guys wanted to wish her a happy birthday, too?"
Misty hopped up from her sprawled position. "Ooh, yeah, that's right. Let's go!"
Ash walked promptly to the pay phones in the lobby, a small, nervous smile spreading across his face. "I just hope Mom's not upset that I'm a day late," he told his friends. "Don't want her to think I forgot or anything."
Brock shrugged. "We were still in the forest. She'll understand."
Ash knew that was true, and that he was foolish to even worry about such an inconsequential thing. All he could think of the day before was his mom, most likely spending her thirty-first birthday home alone. He hoped that Professor Oak or at least Tracey paid her a visit, filling the position Ash wished he had. But he was far from home now, with no intention of going there, either, and a phone call was his only way of speaking to and seeing her.
Pikachu hopped onto the shelf beside the phone as Ash began to dial the number. Misty and Brock stood behind him, Brock occasionally peeking over his shoulder to see what Nurse Joy was up to. Scratching his head, Ash waited as the phone rang again and again, getting a little fidgety.
Please answer, Mom, Ash thought, but his thoughts were abruptly interrupted when the shaky voice of his mother answered.
"Hello?" Delia said so apathetically and dryly that Ash startled. His eyes widened frightfully.
"Mom?" Ash asked, concern spreading through his voice. The presence of grief was so evident in her voice that Ash's heart started to race. The black screen before him with the words 'voice only' didn't help calm his nerves much, either.
A short sigh came from the other end. "Oh, Ash! Hi, sweetie. How are you?" she asked, her choked-up and upset voice lightening a little.
"Fine, Mom," Ash said quickly. "Wh--what's wrong?"
"Hmm? Nothing," Delia answered, muffling the words. "Nothing. Uh, where are you?"
At that instant, a small but clearly unmistakable sob escaped from her throat, floating to the ear of her son. The cheery disposition she normally displayed, especially during the rare calls from Ash, was nowhere to be found.
Ash sat in silence for a moment, throwing a worried glance up at Misty and Brock, who looked down confusingly at him. Misty's eyes narrowed in uneasiness, giving Ash a highly recognizable 'what's the matter?' look. Ash didn't assist her much, as his head turned back to the screen.
"Mom, what's the matter? Are you okay?"
"Ash, I'm fine," she answered, forcing a small chuckle.
"Are you sure?" Ash replied. "You don't sound all right."
Misty looked at Brock, who shrugged in confusion. They had moved to either side of Ash now, looking down at his distraught face. They wished that the picture phone would go on so that they could at least know what was happening. But the dark, black screen remained, Ash's eyes glued to it religiously.
"Ash, it's nothing," insisted Delia, her garbled words stinging Ash's ears. She sounded almost like someone with unclear sinuses, suffering from the pressure and the uncomfortable lingering of a stuffy nose. "I'm fine, trust me."
Ash's face scrunched up. "Well…can you put the picture phone on? I wanna see ya, Ma."
It would comfort him so much more if he could see her. If she would just let him see her, then everything would be fine. Hopefully. Secretly, deep down, he wanted to see if she was crying. It was quite apparent now that she was definitely not her habitual self, and that worried him. Her dysfunctional array of speech was enough to make him lose his senses in any minute.
"No…no, Ash, that's all right," she answered, causing Ash's stomach to flip-flop. "So tell me, what's up?"
Ash was utterly astonished, and his jaw practically dropped to the floor. "Mom?! C'mon, put yourself on the picture phone. Please?"
Misty and Brock looked at each other again. Misty mouthed a 'what's going on?' to him, but Brock had no clue. He scratched his head in frustration and confusion, wondering himself just what the hell was going on. None of Ash's routine phone calls ever went this way.
Delia sighed again, this time in affliction. "No, Ash…I—I just woke up. You don't want to see me right now. I'm a mess." At this, she uttered a small laugh—or her attempt at one, at least.
Ash was somewhat appalled. "Mom! It's me! I don't care what you look like. I just wanna see you!"
He didn't even know why she was sleeping, anyway. It was only seven to begin with, and on a regular basis Ash never saw his mom turn in until way after ten. A small thought occurred to him that she might be sick, which could be possible, but that would only be confirmed with her image.
After a long pause, which to Ash seemed like an eternity, the screen finally came to life. His image, in turn, was transferred to her, which calmed her nerves instantly, while, on the contrary, Ash's heart took a leap as his mom's greatly troubled eyes met his own.
Ash couldn't believe how she looked. Her brown eyes were flushed red, as well as her cheeks, which Ash winced at the sight of, looking all sore as they did. Her eyes were glistening with the promise of new tears, which Ash had ultimately feared. Her face sagged unhappily, but a small half smile came to it when she saw Ash. Only her son didn't return the expression, instead frowning frighteningly at her appearance.
"Oh man, what's wrong?!" Ash shouted. "You are crying!"
Misty and Brock looked at the screen as soon as it turned on, shocked as well. Brock squatted down beside Ash, and stared deeply into the eyes of Ash's mom. He had never seen her so upset, and neither had Misty for that matter. It was new to them, and distressed them all the more.
Delia forced another smile, looking down at the floor. "I'm not crying, honey. I told you, I just woke up! My eyes aren't quite adjusted to the light yet."
Ash's heart sank. He sighed and shook his head, looking his mother straight in the eye. "Mom, I'm not an idiot," he said simply. "I know you're crying."
"I'm not crying!" she suddenly shouted, making Ash flinch. She glared at him, but immediately her face softened, knowing that upsetting Ash right now was not the best thing to do. She took a deep breath. "Okay…okay. I was watching a movie, all right? It was sad," she laughed a little, "but I'll admit, I cried at it, okay? It was sad!"
She forced another smile to her lips, which was so apparent to Ash that he would bet all his Pokémon on it. And the way she was stumbling over and rushing through her sentences overlooked something else, something she was hiding.
Feeling defeated, Ash shrugged. "Whatever you say," he replied unemotionally. He looked down at the floor, waiting for his mom to say something. Misty and Brock looked away, as well, feeling a little uncomfortable themselves. If Ash were to ask them, they would immediately have agreed with him that Delia was crying…or had been pretty hard recently.
Ash returned his gaze back to his mom. He knew that he was irritating her now, so he decided to cut to the chase. "Um…I—Happy Birthday."
She looked up at him and smiled, this time sincerely. "Thank you. Guess you were away yesterday, huh?"
"In the woods," Ash replied, still not smiling. He hadn't since he heard his mom answer the phone. "How…was your birthday? Okay?"
Delia nodded gently. "Fine."
Brock suddenly popped his head in front of Ash's, and gave Delia a toothy smile. "Hiya, Mrs. Ketchum," he said. "Happy Birthday!"
"Happy Birthday from me, too!" Misty added, erasing Delia's view of Ash completely now.
Delia giggled. "Thanks, you guys. Everything's all right?"
They nodded, and each said good-bye, knowing that Ash probably wanted to go back on again. Surprisingly to them, Ash told his mom that he needed to go. What he didn't tell her was how uncomfortable the call was still making him, and the sooner he got off, the better.
Delia looked a little downcast again, but she smiled slightly. "Okay. Sleep well. I love ya."
"Love ya, too," Ash replied, returning the smile weakly. He hung the phone up on the cradle, and stared into space for a good minute. It was Misty who broke him out of his trance, smacking him softly on his shoulder.
"That was weird," she said, folding her arms in front of her.
"Yeah, your mom didn't look too good," Brock added sadly. "What do you think's wrong with her?"
Ash shook his head apathetically, his mind carrying a million thoughts at once. "I don't know," he finally uttered. "But it's scaring me."
Misty nodded. "She was definitely crying," she said seriously. "I mean, that was so obvious."
"Mmhmm," agreed Brock. "What would be bothering her so much, though?"
Misty and Brock looked at Ash, who simply could not answer the question. After a short pause, he looked up at them, worry flooding his eyes.
"I have to go see her," he announced, his voice shaking. "We have to head for Pallet Town tomorrow. I mean, I have to see what's happening. She's hiding something, I just know it."
His friends had absolutely no objection to it, especially after seeing the pain in Ash's face. They nodded gently, and Misty gave him a soft smile.
"Don't worry," she soothed. "I'm sure everything's just fine."
Ash glanced at the floor. "I hope so."
That night, while Misty and Brock dreamed happily away, Ash lay awake in bed, his mind spinning. His mom was lying about the whole thing, but why? Yeah, of course there may have been the slight possibility that she had been watching a sad movie, but what excuse was that to treat him so distantly on the phone?
Clenching his eyes shut, Ash knew he had to get some sleep. If they were going to start for Pallet tomorrow, which was a good couple miles away, he had to rest. Hopefully, he would be home tomorrow.
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
Like it? Hate it? Tell me what you think! Taking a stab at drama now, and the whole mystery of Ash's family. Oh yes, and I promised you romance, too, didn't I? They'll be plenty of that, don't worry! I consider myself a "parentshipper", one who wants to see a reunion between Ash's mom and dad. I don't know if there's an official name for it or even if a type of shippiness like that exists, so I made one up. Please review! Part 2 coming soon.