Ash was in shock.
He was stood on the cliff overlooking Vermillion City. He couldn't be near his friends, he couldn't think things through properly, he couldn't even think past the events of yesterday, so he'd just kept walking.
Pikachu looked up at his Trainer. Ash wasn't responding to anything, not even him, and Pikachu had been worried that Ash had been going to walk straight off the cliff. His Trainer had been like this ever since the shouting match that had followed the Pokemon battle with the Leader of Team Rocket. The evil man had fled and Pikachu's 'brother' had been left in shock.
Ash stared at the sunset that reflected off the ocean beyond Vermillion City, and bathed the whole town in a Vermillion glow.
Why hadn't he been told?
Did his mum not know?
Or had she been keeping it a secret from him?
It explained why his Pokemon Trainer Father could afford to send so much money on his birthdays, and why his mum hadn't gone back to work after having him…
How could he face his friends now?
He was the son of the Leader of Team Rocket.
His 'honourable' father who'd left to continue his journey just after his birth, was Jessie and James's boss, was the man who'd created Mewtwo, who was the reason for that poor red Gyarados at the Lake of Rage, whose cronies had tried to capture Lugia in the Seafoam Islands, who tried to break Mewtwo's will when it wouldn't work for him willingly using those machines…
Ash slumped to his knees, he couldn't face his friends, he just couldn't.
The evil man had found out when he'd looked into Ash's past, after the last incident that Ash had interferred in and it had come out in the aftermath of the chaos that the young Trainer and his friends had prevented just yesturday.
"I wouldn't expect any less from my son." The Leader of Team Rocket had growled after being defeated by Ash and his Pokemon.
Ash's anger had turned aburptly to confusion.
The man had explained, how he'd seduced Ash's mother, how he'd left to return to Pokemon Training and stealing after Ash's birth, and the more he'd explained, the further Ash had been thrown for a loop.
It was true.
It was all true.
The moment the Pokemon Center's doors had opened this morning, he and Pikachu had gone for a walk without telling anyone about it.
There hadn't been a sign of Jessie and James, and they would normally have used him being on his own to try to swipe Pikachu.
Pikachu climbed up onto his Trainer's legs and looked him in the eyes. Ash stared straight through him, making the electric mouse even more worried, Ash never ignored him.
Ash's thoughts and feelings were off in a world of thier own.
Brock watched his young friend.
He'd had Crobat locate the young Trainer after Ash had gone missing first thing this morning.
It had been a shock, Brock wouldn't lie. To hear one of his best friends was the son of one of the most evil men on the planet.
It had been a shock, yes, but it didn't change who Ash was.
A courageous, brave, kind young man who had friends on many continates, human and Pokemon alike, and who had saved the world many times over.
Brock had already decided that knowing who Ash's father was, wouldn't change the way he treated his friend.
May and Max had agreed on this while they'd been waiting for Brock's Crobat to return. May had phoned Misty this morning, explaining almost everything, though Brock had convinced the young Coordinator to wait until she saw Misty face to face to explain why Ash had vanished without telling anyone.
It wouldn't go any further except to Misty, unless Ash wanted it to.
There was a rustling from the bushes behind him, and Brock wheeled around quickly to face who ever it was.
A strawberry blonde Gym Leader emerged from the bushes and smiled slightly as she saw Brock. Brock nodded back as the Water Pokemon Trainer joined him at his vantage point.
"How's he taking it?" Misty asked, concern in her eyes as she looked at the much older ex-Gym Leader, then to her closest friend, who hadn't moved from where he was knelt, though Pikachu had jumped down, and was facing the bushes, sparking angrily. The Pokemon wouldn't let anyone or anything hurt his Trainer.
"Badly." Brock replied, his eyes wandering back to his friend. "He left the Centre without telling anyone, and he's not even responding to Pikachu." Brock looked at her, "He doesn't know you know."
"Ash is Ash, I don't care who his father is. None of us do."
"I'll speak to him." Misty walked out from their hiding place and found herself leapt on by a worried but excited Pokemon.
"I missed you too, Pikachu." Misty smiled softly, then she knelt down by her friend and Pikachu leapt out of her arms. She put a hand on Ash's shoulder.
He jumped a mile, then scrambled away from her.
He just stared at her, a haunted look in his eyes.
"Ash, it's me, Misty."
He looked away from her, eyes fixed on a point just a yard away from his feet. "Go away."
Misty stood up and walked over to her friend, "Ash, don't push me away."
"You don't understand." He whispered, shaking his head.
"Then explain it to me."
Ash got to his feet, and stood at the cliff's edge, facing away from her. "I can't."
The Trainer caught the hurt tone in her voice and looked back at her. He screwed his eyes shut and his shoudler's fell. "I found out who my Dad is…"
"And?" Misty asked, knowing it would help her friend if he said it. She took a step forward, but was wary, she didn't want Ash to walk backwards, even if he didn't mean to. It was a long way down.
"It's…" Ash whispered, "It's the Leader of Team Rocket."
When Misty didn't say anything Ash opened one eye, and then the other.
Misty was watching him with a sympathetic look in her eyes. "Oh, Ash."
Ash watched her like a wild Pokemon watches a Trainer.
"I know you weren't expecting him to be a nice person, after he up and left but…" Misty smiled sadly, "I don't care if your Father is a three headed space Pokemon, it doesn't change anything between us, does it?"
Ash bit his bottom lip.
"I mean it, Ash." Misty walked over to her friend and kissed him on the cheek.
He went bright red, close to the colour of the top half of a Pokeball, and Misty smiled at him as he gave her a weak smile back.
"The others are really worried about you, they phoned me to see if you'd headed up my way."
"I don't know if I can face them." Ash paled and he looked down at the floor again.
"What if I come with you?" Misty asked, Ash looked at her hopefully. "I bet nothing will have changed, but I'll come with you if it'll make you feel better." Ash nodded. "Shal we go then?" Ash nodded again, and Brock 'crashed through the underbrush.'
Misty knew he'd been there the whole time, but Ash wheeled around quickly, back to wild Pokemon about to flee mode.
"Ash?" Brock watched his friend, "Thank goodness, we've been worried sick."
"Sorry." Ash whispered.
"S'ok." Brock smiled reassuringly, "We were just worried, you weren't yourself last night."
"Really?" Misty asked, "Who was he?"
Ash smiled, "Good question." He looked at Brock who smiled back at him, "Who was I if I wasn't me?"
"I don't know but he wasn't Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town." Brock replied.
"Well," Ash said, thinking as Pikachu leapt into his arms and climbed up onto his shoulder, "I think I'm me now."
"Good." Brock smiled, "Because May and Max are going crazy with worry, they'll be glad to see their friend is back."
Ash's smile died slightly, "Then everythings…?"
"We don't care who your Dad is. He could be a three headed space Pokemon for all we… what?"
Ash had burst into laughter.
"What's so funny?"
"I'm going to check if there's a three headed space Pokemon in my pokedex, 'cause both you and Misty said that." Ash laughed.
"Fine, a three headed volcano Pokemon." Brock retorted with a smile as they headed back towards the Pokemon Centre.
Brock smiled as he watched his friend on their way back to the Pokemon Centre. Ash would be fine, his confidence had taken a knock but the Trainer was bouncing back, in typical Ash style, the Trainer would bounce back from this and be stronger then ever. Brock smiled to himself as the Pokemon Centre came into sight and May and Max greeted them, same old Ash, some things never changed.