A/N: Here's Part 2 of "Smile". The next chapter will probably be up either much faster or slower than this one, depending on what I end up doing with it...Also, I went ahead and made a forum, just for the heck of it, in case you're interested.

Smile
Delia's Part
"Even If Now You Can't See It…"

I couldn't get ahold of him. No matter how many times I called, the line was always busy. I needed to talk to him, ask him why he was doing this, beg him to stop…but it seemed like he'd predicted my actions and was blocking my calls. The fact that Ash had stubbornly refused to come home worried me all the more.

If they were just after Pikachu, it wouldn't be so bad. After all, that was the usual, right? But now they were after Ash, my little boy himself…and in his state, I knew he was having trouble fending them off. He'd said otherwise, but I could see in his eyes he was scared. Oh, why won't he just listen to his mother and come home!?

The fact that my worry was starting to get to me became obvious after Brock and Mimey had to stop me from watering a lamp and cooking a towel. After that, they both insisted that between the two of them, there was really no need for me to worry about chores and sent me off to relax.

At first I tried watching tv, but whenever anything related to Pokémon came up (which seemed like ninety-seven percent of the shows) it reminded me of Ash and I just started worrying about him again. After finally giving up on tv, I went to my room and tried reading a book, but I just couldn't concentrate. So I got out my sewing kit and tried making something, but I ended up sewing my hand to the cloth. With a sigh, I got out the scissors and began snipping away at the binding thread.

I was in the middle of doing that when I heard a knock on my door. I flushed at the thought of one of the kids seeing me in this predicament. I'd done enough thoughtless things already today.

"Who is it?" I called out, trying to sound as normal and pleasant as possible.

"It's Misty. Can I come in?"

"Oh dear…" I told myself, glancing at my hand again. Oh well. "Um…Of course you can, dear," I replied.

The door creaked open and Misty poked her head in, then shyly entered. I saw she had Togetic in her arms.

"Mrs. Ket…chum?" She trailed off when she noticed what I was doing.

I blushed and laughed. "Oh this? Don't worry, I just got a little careless with my sewing project. Happens all the time. It's almost off."

She blinked several times. "Um…Okay."

"Did you want to talk about something?" I asked.

"Huh? Oh…Y-…yeah……" She started to trail off again, and I noticed she was staring at me rescue my hand and turning kind of green.

"Misty? Are you alright?" I asked, concerned.

She blinked in surprise and quickly shook her head. "Um- Y-yeah, I'm fine. It's just…y-you're…Nevermind." She shook her head more firmly. "Actually, I just came up to check on you…Brock told me you almost tried making lasagna with a towel."

I laughed nervously. "Oh that? It was just a silly little mistake! It could've happened to anyone!!"

She wasn't buying it. "You're worried about Ash, aren't you?" she asked seriously.

I stopped laughing. Apparently I was easier to read than my son…I nodded with a sigh.

Misty smiled at that. "Yeah, I think we all are…but…you know, I think he'll be okay. I mean, he's been in worse situations before and got out fine, right?"

I raised my eyebrow at the mention of these "worse situations" but decided now probably wasn't the time to ask. Besides, I knew she was right. Ash always avoided the subject, but I'd actually been present for two of those situations, so I knew they happened…Of course, some amount of danger was expected on a Pokémon journey…but he wasn't on one now! He shouldn't have to worry about that!…I shouldn't have to worry about him……

I snipped away the last piece of thread and the cloth fluttered to the floor. I sighed in relief and checked my hand. Fortunately I'd mostly managed to sew around it, so it was okay…

I glanced at Misty again and tried to smile. "You're right, dear…There's no reason to worry…"

Misty smiled broadly and formed her hand into a fist. "That's right! We're all rooting for him, so there's no way he can let those Rockets get the best of him!"

"Toge!" Togetic cried, mimicking the motions of her trainer.

I smiled at their determination. Still, I couldn't shake my worry. Something just felt wrong……

Misty stayed to keep me company and we chatted for a while, but we were interrupted by a phone call.

I jumped straight to the phone and picked it up. "Hello? This is the Ketchum residence."

The picture snapped into focus, showing a young lady with long green hair and cool blue eyes. She looked at me with a faltering composure.

"Mrs….Mrs. Ketchum, I presume?"

"That would be me," I replied, "And you are…?" I had an idea who she was…Actually, I was pretty sure. I just didn't want this person calling me right now…That probably meant…

Misty, who had come around behind me, gasped in surprise. "Sabrina!? What are you-?"

"Misty!?" Sabrina seemed equally surprised. Meanwhile, I could feel a lump form in my throat.

Sabrina seemed to hesitate about something, then asked me, "Um, do you mind if I could speak to you in private…?"

I glanced at Misty. She was obviously worried, but… "Misty, dear, would you mind if…"

"Oh. No, not at all…" She quietly backed up, then, with one last look of concern, let herself out of the room. I looked back at Sabrina. "Well…?"

She stared downwards for a moment, but when she looked up, her eyes were focused on mine. She got straight to the point. "Something's happened to Ash."

I could feel myself freeze up in dread. Those were the exact words I never wanted to hear. She waited for me to recover. I had to hold onto the desk to steady myself.

"Is he…Is he okay?"

I watched her look off to the side, obviously reluctant to answer. My grip on the desk tightened anxiously. Finally, she sighed and faced me again.

"He's unconscious, but he should live…The problem is, they're not sure what's wrong with him so…they don't know when…if…he'll wake up…"

I tried to let that sink in…I was having trouble. Ash unconscious…Okay…When is he going to wake up…? They don't know…………?

I stuttered out the next question that came to mind. "What happened?"

She looked down. I could see her sadness openly now. She closed her eyes. "Team Rocket attacked…He was able to run from their main force, but…there was someone else waiting for him……No one knows exactly what happened……but they found her body a few miles out of town……Ash was found unconscious at the bottom of a lake, apparently the same place he'd been attacked…All Pikachu remembers is that the woman was psychic and attacked them both." She gritted her teeth. "One of my students was with him, but she's gone missing now…Espeon said she did see her briefly…and she told her that Ash…" I could see her shudder. She took a moment to regain her composure. "She said that he was the one who killed that woman……There's no evidence…but it does look like she died from a psychic attack……"

I felt faint. First she tells me that my child is comatose and may not wake up, then she tells me he might have killed someone!?

"M-Mrs. Ketchum? Are you all right?" Sabrina asked in alarm.

I reaffirmed my grip on the desk and used it to keep myself steady. After a moment, I replied, my voice cracking. "Of course not…How could I be…?"

She lowered her eyes. "I'm sorry…"

"Oh, it's, it's not your fault…"

She didn't reply to that.

It didn't take long for me to decide how to act on this news. "Sabrina, there's an airport in Saffron, right?"

"What? Oh, yes, of course…Um…How soon will you be-"

"The next flight." I blinked. "As soon as I tell everyone…I'm sure they'll come too."

She nodded. "Understood. We'll be waiting for you."

"Thank you."

Again she didn't reply to that. "Goodbye, Mrs. Ketchum."

"Goodbye."

The picture blinked out and the receiver started playing the dial tone. I carefully hung it up.

While I sat there staring at the blank screen in front of me, it all finally hit me at once.

Ash…

I laid my head down and weeped.


I explained what had happened to everyone before we left. It seemed like everyone had had some idea that something was wrong, just from the way I was acting, but I know they weren't expecting this…I know I hadn't been…

It was relatively quiet on the plane. At least, we were. Sabrina and her father picked us up at the airport and teleported us to the Pokémon Center, where we were allowed to see Ash three at a time. Misty, the professor, and I went in first. Nurse Joy accompanied us.

Walking into that bleach-white room felt so familiar and unnerving at the same time. The first thing I noticed was the sound of a machine, which also beeped steadily, though the beeps were painfully far apart. On the hospital bed, two heads poked up at the sound of our entry, one yellow and one lavender. Beyond them lay…

I ran to him, forgetting where I was for a moment. The only thing that mattered was my little boy…

"Ash!"

I called out his name, but stopped when I saw his face…In a word, he was…still. The life support system was hooked up, but there was no sign it was working besides its own readings. The color had faded from his already pale face, and I couldn't actually tell that he was breathing. Not once had I ever seen him sleep like this before…

As I felt tears forming in my eyes, I clasped my hands around his. I was startled at how cold he was. It was almost as if he were…But Sabrina had said…

I didn't take my eyes off him, even when Misty and Oak came to either side of me. I heard Misty weakly whisper his name. I watched his face and gripped his hand, waiting silently for some sort of movement. Even the slightest twitch would do…but he did nothing.

I heard Oak sigh in thought. "This is more serious than I expected…" he stated quietly.

We were all silent for a while. It didn't feel like there was anything that could be said

Eventually, Joy spoke up. "Professor?"

He turned to face her. "Hm? What is it Joy?"

"Well, you see, Sabrina told me you might be coming up to see Ash…and I was thinking that maybe you could help us figure out what's happened to him…?"

"Of course I'll help! As a matter of fact, if you hadn't asked, I would've volunteered!"

I glanced over my shoulder to see Joy smiling in relief. "Thank you very much, Professor. Maybe with your help, we can get to the bottom of this…"

"I'll give it my all." He turned and smiled at me, and though when he looked past me, his brow furrowed in concern. "For Ash's sake."

I nodded. "Please…"

We stayed by him a while longer, until Nurse Joy finally asked us to let the others have a chance to see him. I saw the three boys check our expressions as we came out. I knew it was my job to be optimistic, so I tried to give them a reassuring smile. I…don't think I was able to. No one said a word as they stood and entered his room.

Once they went in, the three of us sat down in the hall. Sabrina was still sitting there, but she said nothing, only checked us over with those strange blue eyes of here. Misty sobbed quietly to herself, while I held back my own tears. Samuel seemed lost in thought.

Through a choked sob, Misty was the first to speak. "It's different this time, isn't it?" The rest of us looked at the young girl inquisitively. "Every other time, he'd eventually get back on his feet, even if he wasn't quite steady…This time…It's not gonna happen, is it?"

"Misty…" Sabrina whispered.

"I think it's too early to say something like that, don't you?" Oak said, "We still don't know what's wrong with him. I'm sure he'll be just fine with the right treatment."

I nodded. "The professor's right," I told her, "It's too early to give up hope."

We're going to need all the hope we can get…

She didn't reply and no one pushed the issue any further, so it remained quiet in the hall until Brock, Gary, Tracey and Nurse Joy reemerged. I think, despite what Samuel said, we all knew she was right in a way. This time around…This time was drastically different from any other time that had come before it.

The boys were just as quiet coming out as they had been going in. Gary had a familiar look of confused anger. Tracey seemed deeply disconcerted, and Brock seemed, at best, stunned, though to anyone who didn't know him better, he would appear not to be wearing any expression at all.

I noticed Joy had also brought Pikachu and Espeon out into the hall. They didn't seem to be faring much better than anyone else, despite having had more time to deal with it…and with Ash normally being their main source of support, I worried for them. They readily came to me when I beckoned to them, and I think we all ended up trying to comfort each other.

"Professor?" Nurse Joy asked, "Would you like to take a look at what we've gathered so far?"

"Oh…Certainly. Right now?"

"If it's alright with you."

"Of course!"

He stood up and was about to enter the room with Nurse Joy when Tracey suddenly spoke up.

"W-wait!" At his sudden exclamation, everyone looked at him and his cheeks reddened at the sudden attention. It didn't stop him though. "P-Professor, are you going to try to figure out what's wrong with Ash?"

"That's my intention," he replied.

I could tell it was hard for him to stand out like this, Tracey is a bit shy compared to the other children, but he didn't give up. "Let me help too!" he declared, "I'm your aide right? I…I may just be a Pokémon watcher, but I want to help too! I promise I won't get in the way and-!"

Professor Oak chuckled softly and put his hand on the anxious watcher's shoulder. "Alright already. I trust you. Nurse Joy, don't you agree we could use the extra brain?"

She blinked. "Oh, um, of course it couldn't hurt. Now, Professor, Tracey. If you would please?" The three of them went back in the room and closed the door behind them.

After a moment, Gary started heading for the lobby. "I'm gonna take a walk," he muttered, "Don't follow me. I'll be back by curfew."

After watching him go, there was another time where no one spoke for a while. It was Sabrina who finally broke the silence.

"Would you like to come by my house?" she asked, "It will be a while before they'll be ready to tell us anything new. I can make you dinner, and…" Here she couldn't maintain her relatively cheerful demeanor. "…you can…pick up his things…" she finished softly.

I drew in a shuddered breath.

That's right……No one will be using them…

"Um, that…sounds like a good idea," I said, again trying my best to smile, for the childrens' sake.

She returned my pained smile and nodded. Soon, we were all standing in front of what must have been her house. It was quite large. I could only begin to imagine how Ash must have felt, trying to navigate such a place…

"You don't know the half of it," Sabrina muttered under her breath. When she saw my surprised look, she laughed nervously and tried to wave it off. "Oh sorry, just talking to myself! Anyway, would you like dinner first, or…"

"Oh, Sabrina? How about if I cook dinner?" Brock asked, "You've already troubled yourself enough for us and for Ash."

"What!? But, you're a guest! I couldn't possibly let you-"

"Oh, no…It would be my pleasure, believe me," he insisted.

"Brock is a really good cook…" I murmured. Honestly, I could care less about food at the moment. I wondered about Ash's room. Had he kept it tidy? Would there be any hints about what happened to him…?

"Um…Could we worry about this later?" Misty asked, "I'd like to go see his room…"

Misty…

"Um, sure. That's alright with me," Sabrina said.

No one objected, so she let us in the house and led us through the pretty confusing layout to what must have been where he had been staying.

Inside, I was surprised to see it was remarkably well-kept. Almost unlived-in in fact…Then I remembered that he'd told us that he'd had to move to another room, since his last one had been attacked……I couldn't help but sigh when I saw that he hadn't finished making his bed. That boy…

I felt my heart twinge, just from thinking about him that. All these things that he's done and hasn't done…From now on they'd have to be in the past tense…

Delia! Snap out of it! He isn't dead! There's still hope. You said so yourself…

Sabrina brought out his backpack from somewhere, which she handed to me. "He didn't bring much. Just enough to fill that, I think," she said.

"That sounds about right," I agreed.

I started packing up his clothes while the kids and Pokémon checked the rest of the room for any stray belongings. It was again eerily quiet, and that was starting to get to me, so I started speaking to break the tension.

"Oh, I'd better make sure I get everything! I'm sure he'll want a clean change of clothes when he wakes up!"

It took a moment, but Brock replied, "Yeah, wouldn't want him running around the Pokémon Center in just his hospital gown! Well…maybe Misty would," he added with a grin.

"What!!"

I didn't need to look at her to know she was bright red right now. I did anyway. She was redder than her hair.

"Now, now Brock. That was uncalled for," I chided.

He put his hand behind his head. "Yeah, okay. I'm sorry."

We all laughed some afterwards. It wasn't normal laughter. You could hear the tension…But still, it seemed good in a way. In another, it felt awful…since he couldn't laugh with us……Not that I'd heard him laugh in such a long time anyway………

It quieted down pretty quickly. Maybe we were all thinking the same thing…

"You know…" Sabrina began, "I saw him laugh, while he was here…"

I think, after hearing that, everyone short of those who had been there froze to listen to her.

"It was at one of the comedy performances. I know it probably wasn't the same as how I'd imagine he used to laugh, but…I do think he was enjoying himself."

At that news, I felt like crying, both out of joy and sorrow. "You saw him laughing…Ash…"

"It's strange. It's hard to believe now, isn't it…?" Brock wondered aloud.

Sabrina blinked at us for a moment, then forced a short laugh herself. "Oh my…You're sounding like my parents did five years ago…"

"What?" I didn't know what she was talking about, and it seemed like a strange statement to me.

"Uh, nothing. Nevermind," she said hastily. She's as bad at covering things up as Ash…I let it slide.

"Anyway," she continued, "when I saw that, you know, I thought to myself, 'Hey, look, he's getting better.' It made me really glad. I didn't notice right away, but he'd been hurting really bad before…When I found out, I just wanted to help him, the same way he helped me…But after he started getting attacked…and now…It…It all feels like a waste, doesn't it? I mean, in the end, he's worse off than he was before. Was it foolish to think I could make a difference? I'm not even anyone special in his life. Just a gym leader and a teacher…"

I smiled at her honesty…It was good to see Ash could still make such good friends… "Sabrina? I don't think it was a waste. If Ash trusted you and was happy while he was with you, I think that's good enough. It's obvious you two became good friends."

I was able to see a hint of a blush before she turned away. "You're too kind," she said quickly, "I was just trying to return his favor……"

"I'm sure he appreciated that."

Again, she didn't reply.

We went back to our packing, but it wasn't long before Brock found something unusual. "Hm? What's this…?"

"What's what?" Misty asked, going over to see what he found.

"Some sort of drawing…"

"…What the…?"

That's when I determined that it was strange enough to get up and look for myself. Sabrina had the same idea. Looking over Brock's shoulder, I could see that they were staring at a simple crayon drawing of a young girl. It was crude, but still pretty well done. Actually, I'd seen drawings like it before…

"Ash?! What…When did he-?"

"Huh?" Both Brock and Misty turned to me in confusion.

I hastily tried to explain myself. "Um, it's a little better done, but it looks sort of like some of his old school assignments…I'd recognize them anywhere."

"You're saying Ash drew this?" Brock tried to clarify.

"Yes."

"I didn't know he drew anything," Misty commented.

"He doesn't…"

"…So why start again now?" Brock asked.

"I don't know…"

"May I see it?" Sabrina interjected.

"Huh? Oh, uh, sure…" Brock handed it over to her. She took it with both hands and stared at it for a while, then closed her eyes. Finally, she opened them, still looking like she was trying to focus on something else.

"It's an imprint," she stated.

"A what?"

"Something…he probably didn't want to forget…Knowing Ash, it was probably subconsciously, but through a medium, in this case crayons and paper, he psychically imprinted an image of this girl and the feelings he associates with her onto this sheet of paper. It's…not a common practice. Only those with unusually strong feelings of attachment to something that can no longer be accessed would do such a thing…"

"…So she's someone he can't see anymore?" Brock reasoned.

"Most likely," Sabrina replied.

She handed the paper back to Brock so we could all see it. Looking at it again, it was obvious Ash had taken great care to preserve it…

"She kind of looks like Misty, doesn't she…?" Brock asked hesitantly.

"Eh? Really?" Misty asked. Her face was turning red again.

"Well, she's a red-head…Her eyes look the same…"

"That doesn't mean she's me."

"She does look a little young…" I pointed out.

"It's a crayon drawing," Brock replied.

"Exactly! How do you know she looks like me then?"

"Er, well…"

"Besides, she has to be someone he can't see anymore right? He could've called me up anytime he wanted to and I'd be there."

"That is true," Brock said carefully, "but, you guys just broke up, didn't you…? Maybe that's why…"

Misty didn't have an answer for that one.

"Es, espeon?"

Everyone seemed surprised to hear one of the Pokémon speak up. All I could really tell about the question was that it was directed at Sabrina.

"Hm? Well…It's obvious that he cared deeply about her…but…I don't think it was romantic at all……No…It was more…um…Let me think…How would you describe that…?"

She was obviously having trouble finding the right word. I tried to help. "Was it a friendship?"

"Mm…Well kind of…in a way…It seemed like something more though."

"Maybe she was some sort of relative?" Brock suggested.

"That's impossible," I argued. I of all people should've been able to recognize her if that were true.

Sabrina ignored me. "A relative…? Huh…Yes! That's it. His feelings were like…that of a parent to a child."

What came next was inevitable.

"That's his daughter!!?"
"Ash had a child?!"

"…And she looks like Misty," Brock added.

If Misty had seemed red before, she was glowing now. "Th-That's…"

After no one said anything, Brock spoke up again. "So…This all means she's…from…his dreams, isn't she?"

"…No other explanation would make sense," Sabrina agreed.

I found myself staring at that crude drawing again, but in a new light…I was looking at the image of my granddaughter…Except that my son hadn't had a child yet…Yes, yet. Gotta keep thinking positively…

"…I wonder. If he misses this girl that much, why'd he break up with Misty?" Brock asked.

"Who knows!" Misty interrupted, "We know he hasn't been thinking straight, so there could be any reason!"

Someone's getting upset. Time for a topic change!

"Say! How about we finish grabbing his things and worry about this later? I'm looking forward to a home cooked meal, Brock! Or Sabrina…Whoever wants to cook."

While they each started insisting that it be them, I winked at Misty and went back to grabbing Ash's last remaining clothes. He really didn't have enough of those. I'd have to remember to make sure he packed more on his next trip…Not that I'm going to let him out of my sight anymore……but…well, maybe I'd just have to go with him on his next trip. Maybe we could take a little, or a long, vacation…Yeah, he would like that…That would be good for him…and us…once he wakes up……Professor Oak will figure out how to do that. He's incredibly smart…

"What are these?" Misty asked suddenly, breaking me out of my reverie.

"Found something else weird?" Brock asked.

"Yeah…" She turned and held up two weird sticks of metal. I probably should've known what they were, but…

Sabrina gasped. "The tuning forks!" She ran over and grabbed them from Misty. I guess in a way they did sort of look like forks, though one of them was horribly twisted. She was staring at that one.

"Um, why did Ash have tuning forks…?" Brock inquired.

"What? Er…I was using them to demonstrate sympathetic resonance…I let him keep them to…try it himself…"

"You explained what to him?" Misty said doubtfully.

"It's when you play one note and then another note of a different octave plays in response," Sabrina replied, though she didn't take her eyes off of the twisted fork, "I thought it was pretty relevant to the way he could pick up on others' pain."

"……That does sound like a good analogy…" Brock acknowledged.

"So why is one of them bent up?" I asked.

She seemed reluctant to answer, but did anyway. "Well…it seems like he chose to stop the resonance by…making it so they could no longer play the same note…"

"…In other words, by destroying the part of him that feels that pain," Misty said solemnly.

By losing his sympathy…? Or worse, his emotions…? No, Sabrina said he was laughing……

"It's not clear if he actually thought that far or not," Sabrina reminded us, "And even if he did make that his goal, he's got a long way to go, being as emotionally driven as he is."

I sighed in relief. "You're right. He's always thinking with his heart first."

Sabrina nodded. I felt so much better at that. But not everyone did.

"If that's the case, then…what would happen to him if he succeeded…?" Misty asked quietly.

I stared at her in shocked silence. I think everyone else did too…She'd just voiced a possibility that no one wanted to seriously consider…

"Do you think that's even possible?" Brock said, "I mean, even with everything he's gone through, he is still Ash…He's always put his concern for others before himself. I mean, you could even say that's been amplified now."

"Pi, pikachu, pikapika…" Pikachu muttered.
'That and he's need to be conscious for it to even apply…'

"Wh- Pikachu!" I gasped.

He glared at the floor. "Pii, piikachu."
'Well, it's true.'

But no one wants to think about that…


Brock ended up making dinner. I don't remember how they finally decided on that, but I was glad they were able to figure it out.

Sabrina's parents came home in time to join us. They were both very kind and supportive. It really felt like they understood our feelings…Though I guess if they're psychic too, that would help wouldn't it?

As for dinner…it was absolutely terrible. When asked what it was or what he had put in it, Brock sheepishly admitted that he couldn't remember. After some debate, we decided to simply order out, though I worried. I'd never known Brock to make anything less than superb…Certainly, he was more worried than he was letting on…


When we returned to the Pokémon Center, Gary was already back and sitting in one of the bedrooms. He nodded to acknowledge our presence, but seemed to be preoccupied with reading a magazine.

"Any word on Ash?" I asked gently. Chansey had been maintaining the front desk, so we weren't able to ask for ourselves.

"……I haven't heard anything. Gramps and them are still back there."

"Oh…"

"…I'm sure if they figure out anything, we'll be the first ones to hear about it," he stated.

"…You're right…"

"Esspeon…" Espeon sighed.

I knelt down to stroke her head. I couldn't understand her, but she sounded positively dejected. "Don't worry. I'm sure they'll figure out a way to help him. We just have to be patient."

She looked at me with watery eyes. "Spe…"

Don't worry…Ash…Ash will be fine……


The next morning, I saw that Professor Oak and Tracey seemed to have crawled into their respective beds still in their clothes and fallen straight asleep.

Gary was still asleep too, so I quietly got out of bed, took a shower and got dressed and then left the room. I knew from my last stay in a Pokémon Center, a situation not entirely unlike this one, I reminded myself sadly, where to go to get breakfast, and I could certainly use some…but there was something else I wanted to attend to first.

Much to my dismay, the front desk was still being watched by Chansey, with Nurse Joy nowhere in sight. I wondered if she was probably sleeping like Professor Oak and Tracey were…

My next thought was to just go and check on Ash myself, but I knew if I didn't eat now, I would regret it later, so I headed to the cafeteria. I ordered some coffee and an omelet. It wasn't long before I was joined by Espeon and Brock, later followed by Gary. Conversation was light, but when I mentioned that I was planning to check on Ash, they all wanted to come with me, thought it took Gary longer to admit it.


There were two Growlithes outside his door, but they seemed to recognize us and let us through. I was glad they were there, but I had a feeling that if Team Rocket really wanted Ash, they wouldn't b enough to stop them…Well, at least there was one good thing about his condition. Team Rocket would find him completely useless right now…It still wasn't enough to make me feel any better about the situation…especially after walking inside…

Something about the atmosphere just felt different. Maybe it was because it was my second time entering that room. Maybe because we didn't have an escort…

The room just seemed very white. Even the life support, which was really more of a black, seemed faded…That's what it was. There was no color. Everything just seemed to be varying shades of gray…including him…

As one, we slowly approached his bedside. Espeon jumped lightly onto the table. I could only stare at his sleeping face. He looked the same as he did yesterday…still, quiet, unchanging…I gently took his hand once again. Still so cold…I saw his Everstone, which now looked more like a plain, clear gem than anything, pulse once, faintly. The life support also signalled his heartbeat, before they both returned to stasis.

"I wonder if he's getting better…" Brock spoke quietly.

"Spe…"

I squeezed his hand, which remained limp in mine. "I hope so…"

Gary walked over to the table and glanced over the notes on it. "Doesn't look like they changed his treatment."

No change?

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"Well, maybe he doesn't need a new treatment?" Brock guessed, "Or…maybe they couldn't figure anything out…"

"Worst case scenario, they just can't do anything for him," Gary spat bitterly.

I felt my heart skip a beat. "W-What?"

"I sure hope that's not the case," he muttered, "but I trust my graddad on things like this. If there's something to figure out, he'll figure it out."

I looked at Ash.

I trust Professor Oak too, but…

He couldn't hear us. It pained me to think about that. I knew he wasn't truly sleeping, but if he was, it wouldn't have been so hard to wake him. Despite how much he loved to sleep in, he was actually a fairly light sleeper. I'm sure he benefitted from that on the road…

While I held his icy hand in mine, I found myself tracing over his self-inflicted scars between his fingers. I could still remember the horror I'd felt, hearing about it from Misty, finding the blood stains, and the worst, redressing his wounds. Ash himself had entered into a false state of euphoria that lasted for days. I could remember the way his eyes seemed to be glazed over, that unnatural, loose smile that he wore…I knew that he'd thought he was happy, but we knew better…That wasn't real happiness…Just as now…I knew he hadn't reached true peace…


Brock and Gray eventually excused themselves. There was some shuffling of visitors, as Misty and Pikachu soon showed up. Pikachu stayed, but the others came and left intermittently. Chansey showed up once to change his IV. When Espeon asked her a question, she'd seemed reluctant to answer and hurried out of the room.

It was late afternoon when he showed up. I had started to doubt I would see him that day at all.

The door opened and I heard someone take a few steps into the room. I heard a famliar, but considerably worn sigh. Eventually, he spoke.

"Delia…?"

I pried my eyes away from my son to look over my shoulder. "…Professor?"

He looked weary, almost haggardly. His age was showing much more than it usually did. It almost seemed like he'd picked up some extra wrinkles overnight. He didn't even attempt to smile.

"Delia, can you bring the Pokémon with you out to the hall? It's important…"

"Um…sure," I said. I stood up slowly and gently scooped the two of them up into my arms. "What's going on?"

He stared at the floor for a moment before sighing again. "Joy's going to announce…his diagnosis."

I felt myself and the two Pokémon stiffen.

His diagnosis? They figured it out? They're going to tell us…

"I-Is he-?"

"Come on." He turned and left without waiting for me to finish.

As a horrible feeling welled up within me, I swallowed and hurried after him. As I closed the door behind me, my gaze lingered on the still, pale face of my child.

Please be okay, Ash…You can get through this. I know you can…

The Pokémon and I were the first ones brought to the waiting room. Professor Oak immediately took a seat on one of the benches and kept his head down such that I couldn't see his face. Nurse Joy was standing by a wall. She glanced at me when I came in, then immediately diverted her attention to the floor. As I recognized the look in her eyes as that of pity, that horrible feeling twisted violently in my stomach. Indeed, the room even seemed colder than before.

I sat down hard on another bench and continued holding Pikachu and Espeon close to me. After a short while, Brock and Misty arrived. After taking in their surroundings, Misty sat down and Brock leaned up against a wall. Shortly after, Sabrina appeared and also chose to stand. It look much longer, but finally Gary and Tracey showed up. I noticed that Tracey looked terribly upset…

Joy stepped forward, clearing her throat. "Um…Is everyone here now?"

Tracey looked around the room. "Yeah, that looks like everyone." Even his voice sounded off…"

"Alright…" She trailed off, and I held my breath as she stared at the floor. Finally, she closed her eyes, inhaled deeply, and began. "We think we've figured out what happened to Ash." I clenched my fists so tightly it almost started to hurt. Joy looked around at us anxiously before continuing. "As Professor Oak observed, the state he is in now is very similar to something called 'hibernation', where certain Pokémon will, in effect, 'sleep' though the winter months as a survival tactic. In hibernation, all vital signs drop to the absolute lowest necessary to survive, kind of like a stasis……This is something Ash is displaying quite definitely."

"W-wait," Gary interrupted, "So he's just 'hibernating?' That means he's fine, right?"

I saw that Joy, Professor Oak, and Tracey each looked more uncomfortable at that comment. I looked to Nurse Joy for her answer.

"Well…normally…" she replied hesitantly.

"What does that mean?" Gary demanded.

"I'm getting there," she sighed, "You see, there are a few, um, complications…For one, normally, hibernation is preceded by storing all the food they'd need to last that long in the body as fat. Ash didn't do that. As such, as long as he remains unconscious, he's going to have to remain on life support, at the least for nutrition. It's likely if he hadn't been found in time, he would have eventually died of starvation……"

I looked at the floor. I was beginning to feel quite ill…

"Er…So when's he gonna wake up?" Gary asked.

The room fell silent to the buzzing of the air conditioner. It felt like an eternity before she spoke again.

"This is something that Ash brought upon himself of his own will…When he'll wake up…if he'll wake up…is entirely up to him."

…I didn't need to keep listening. I couldn't even. But I knew. I knew exactly what that meant…what Ash had likely decided.

I must have stood up and left the room, because the next thing I knew, he was in front of me, still the same as the last time I'd seen him…So…utterly…lifeless…

I sat beside him. Held his hand. Stroked his hair. Touched his face. Watched as he lay motionless. My throat tightened and he grew blurry. My tears fell freely as I began to sob. It's true, I'd told him that it's okay to cry and not to be ashamed of tears…but I'd never had reason to cry in front of him before.

I whispered his name over and over again, my voice sometimes tripping over itself. Finally, I ignored the boundaries set by the many tubes and wires attached to him. Nurse Joy had just said that he didn't really need them anyway. One arm slipped under his head, and the other crossed over his chest. I gently pulled him close to me. I couldn't speak any longer. While I held him as close as I could, I simply cried, louder and longer than ever before.

If he could hear me…If I waited long enough…If I wished with all my heart……If only……

If only…