Whispers. That's all he could hear. Although it seemed like hundreds of voices, he was sure it was only a few. The whispering was making his head spin as it all bunched together becoming an indecipherable hiss. Then, almost without realizing it, he was able to make out words.

"Will he be ok?" The phrase echoed through him as if his body was an empty cavern.

"I don't know. That attack was so powerful. It took almost everything he had."

He recognized the voices. Misty and Brock. He felt as though he was swimming. He was deep, under murky water, swimming through his clouded mind. He desperately tried to break the surface, to wake up. He willed himself to fight, to make his way to the surface.

They didn't notice when he first opened his eyes. He slowly looked around the room, allowing his vision to focus. He heard a small voice squeak, "Pikapi!" and felt a light weight press on his chest as Pikachu climbed on him.

"Hey, Pikachu," Ash mumbled, stroking the pokemon.

At the sound of his voice Misty and Brock looked at him, surprised.

"You're awake!" Misty said, relieved to see his golden brown eyes open and alert.

Ash slowly sat up, smiling slightly when Pikachu slid from his chest and landed softly in his lap. He glanced around, seeing that he was in his room. The crimson shades were pulled open, allowing the sunlight to stream through the window and illuminate the room. Ash never did like the coloring of his room, he was set on the color black, so crimson and cream did not seem to suit him well.

"What happened?" Ash asked, looking to Misty and Brock for answers.

"You've been unconscious for three days," Brock told him. "Gary is dead, and the rest of the Team Rocket members are in jail, awaiting trial, along with Erika, Surge, Koga, and Lorna."

Ash nodded in approval.

"Ash that attack was incredible!" Misty said.

"Yeah," Brock agreed. "It was fortunate that storm came up, it gave you a lot of extra power."

Ash raised his eyebrows. "That storm came up because it was part of my attack."

Misty and Brock frowned, unsure of what he meant.

Noting their puzzled expressions, Ash explained. "One of my attacks, hurricane, is similar to solar beam. It takes a while to form, but it gives you a lot of extra power."

"So that entire storm was created for one of your attacks?" Brock asked.

Ash nodded.

Brock and Misty said nothing as they both looked at him in awe.


Ash sat quietly eating his dinner in the mansion's dining room. It was late and everyone else had eaten hours ago. Ash sighed sadly. It had been six days since the battle with Gary and they had held Tracey's funeral earlier that day. Ash was still in his suit although his tie was untied hanging loosely around his neck. Ash looked remarkably different without his trench coat and with a hair cut. Although his hair had never been long, it was noticeably shorter.

Ash looked up when the door opened. Richie entered the room and gave Ash a small smile. With a suit on Ash looked very similar to Richie with the exception of his black hair.

"How are you doing?" Richie asked as he settled himself in the chair across from Ash. He knew Ash was taking Tracey's death very hard.

"Not bad," Ash responded before taking another forkful of his dinner.

Richie opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted when May walked into the room, her long brown hair pulled neatly into a bun. Although May had been saddened by the death of her brother, she hadn't blamed Ash. As she had said, the Gary she had grown up with was not the same Gary Ash had killed.

"I was hoping to find you two together," she said glancing between the two of them. "I'm sure you both have been wondering what's going to happen now that Ash is back. After all he was the Pokemon Master and now that he has returned..."

Ash looked at her in surprise. In reality the thought had never occurred to him that he could be the master again. Judging by the expression on Richie's face, the thought hadn't crossed his mind either.

May continued, oblivious to the pairs reaction. "I researched the problem and discovered that the winner of a pokemon battle between the two candidates is declared Master."

Ash nodded, but Richie paled. Only once had he beaten Ash, when they had competed at their first Indigo League Championships. And now Ash could probably beat him only using Pikachu. Pikachu was the most powerful pokemon Richie had ever seen.

"Well," Richie said, trying to find his voice. "We might as well battle now."

Ash lifted an eyebrow. "Richie, it's almost midnight."

"There's no time like the present," Richie said, shrugging.


"Let's just do it," Richie interrupted.

Ash continued to protest. "I don't want-"

"What's the matter?" Richie asked, cutting him off. "Afraid you've lost your touch?"

Ash raised his eyebrows at the comment, but made no retort. "Alright, let's battle."

They walked into the gym, which was lit up, the grass field ready for a battle. Ash noted that the gaping hole was still in the wall, allowing the cool night air to blow gently through the gym. Ash and Richie took their positions at opposite ends of the field. Pikachu stood ready at Ash's feet.

"Three pokemon each?" Richie asked.

Ash shrugged. "That's fine."

Richie looked at him suspiciously. "Do you even have three pokemon?"

"No," Ash told him bluntly.

Richie threw up his arms in exasperation. "I can't use three if you only have Pikachu!"

Ash looked puzzled. "Why not?" In his mind it was unfair to have Pikachu go up against only three of Richie's pokemon.

"I have complete faith in Pikachu and it's my choice," Ash said. "Are we going to battle or not?"

Richie sighed. "Fine." He reached for his pokeballs. He knew he had to choose carefully, against Pikachu no type really had the advantage.

The sound of the gym door opening drew Ash's attention from Richie. Misty, Brock, Sabrina, and Blaine entered the gym. They took in the scene.

"What's going on?" Brock asked May, who was standing on the sideline.

She turned to Brock. "The only way to decide which one of them will be Master is through a pokemon battle."

"This should be interesting," Blaine muttered to Sabrina , who nodded.

Ash watched as Misty's eyes narrowed as she discovered what was going on. She glared at him and their eyes locked with one another. An unspoken message passed between them: If Ash won Misty was going to leave.

The crack of a pokeball quickly brought Ash's attention back to the battle. Ash looked up to see a large purple head floating above him, two disembodied purple hands near it. "Haunter," the pokemon said, announcing it was ready.

Ash nodded. Richie had chosen a pokemon that had speed; he was thinking defensively, something Ash knew he could use to his advantage.

"Pikachu, thunder bolt," Ash commanded. Pikachu nodded and began the battle by launching a thunder bolt at Haunter, who disappeared.

"Confuse ray," Richie called.

Haunter reappeared and released a confuse ray at Pikachu.

"Use agility to dodge." Pikachu quickly leapt out of the way, narrowly missing the confuse ray.

"Lick attack," Richie commanded. The purple pokemon's long tongue shot towards Pikachu.

"Two can play the disappearing game," Ash muttered. Louder he said, "Pikachu, stealth."

The yellow pokemon disappeared from sight. Haunter stopped his attack ad looked around the gym in confusion, then he too disappeared.

*Well, now that's interesting,* Ash heard Pikachu think to him.

*What?* he asked.

*I can still see him,* Pikachu told him.

*That is very useful,* Ash thought. "Pikachu, thunder bomb," Ash said aloud.

Richie watched as a ball of electricity formed in midair, then was launched at nothing. As fast as Haunter was, he wasn't quick enough to dodge Pikachu's attack. He reappeared as he was hit then fell to the floor, fainted. Richie recalled him.

"Nice try," he said to the pokeball.

Unfortunately, Richie noted, Pikachu didn't even appear winded. After a moment of thought Richie pulled another pokeball from his belt. Ash watched as, with a red flash, a tall furry yellow pokemon appeared, white fur wrapping around his neck like a collar. The hypno stood on two legs, swinging the medallion he held back and forth like a pendulum.

"Hypno, confusion!" Richie cried.

"Don't look, Pikachu," Ash said. Pikachu covered his eyes with his paws and was unaffected by the attack. "Use thunder wave," Ash said when the attack had passed. The thunder wave hit it's target but wasn't enough to finish off the hypno.

"Poison gas," Richie commanded. Hypno nodded. A green gas began to form around the hypno, slowly making it's way towards Pikachu.

Ash appeared unfazed as he called out Pikachu's next attack. "Lightening Tornado, blow the gas away."

Richie watched intently, unsure what to expect. What appeared to be a small bolt of lightening formed at Pikachu's feet, spinning with the movements of the winds of a tornado. The lightening bolt continued to grow and began to spin faster, it's movement causing a harsh wind to form. The gas was blown away, but Pikachu didn't stop there. The tornado grew larger as Pikachu added more power.

Hypno began to back away as the tornado's path shifted and began to head towards him. Hypno was suddenly caught up in the winds, and no matter how he struggled he was pulled into the center of the unnatural tornado. He was electrocuted until the tornado stopped and Hypno was violently thrown to the ground.

Richie sighed, recalling his fainted pokemon.

Ash patiently waited as Richie carefully contemplated which would be his third and final pokemon. After a long silence, Richie picked a pokeball and maximized it. "You're my last chance," he muttered before throwing the pokeball. Everyone watched with bated breath as the light from the pokeball materialized into what looked like a small pink blob. It's small face appeared to be drawn on.

"Ditto," he said in a high pitched voice, announcing his presence.

Everyone stood in silence, wondering if Richie's decision had been wise.

"Ditto, transform," Richie said, commanding the little pokemon's only attack.

Ash watched as Ditto slowly morphed into an exact replica of Pikachu. Ash nodded in approval of Richie's choice. He was going to try to defeat Pikachu by pitting him against himself. "Thunder," Ash commanded.

One of the two yellow rodents that stood near the center of the field nodded, indicating which one was the real Pikachu. Energy began to crackle around Pikachu and he released a powerful thunder at the other pokemon.

"What out!" Richie cried, hoping Ditto could dodge the attack. Ditto leapt out of the way, narrowly missing being hit.

Relieved that Ditto was unhurt, Richie called, "Thunder wave."

Pikachu's clone powered up and shot a thunder wave at his opponent. Richie grinned when the attack hit Pikachu, but his expression changed when he saw the yellow pokemon absorbing the electricity into his body. Once again, silence washed over the gym. Richie racked his brain, trying to think of one of the special attacks that Ash had taught Pikachu.

Richie and Ash's eyes met. They stared at each other for a moment, time seemed to slow down. Ash's mouth broke into a grin and for a brief moment Richie saw the young boy he had befriended when he was eleven, cocky, but determined nonetheless.

Simultaneously both trainers called out, "Thunder Bomb!"

Both pokemon powered up, electricity crackling around each. Two identical balls of electricity were released at the same time. The balls collided in midair causing a bright explosion. Everyone shaded their eyes. After a few moments Ash and Richie cautiously looked to see the result of the attacks. Both pikachus stood in the center of the field. For what seemed like an eternity the two stood, staring at one another, as Ash and Richie had done, then one simply fell over, too drained to continue.

As the trainers and the spectators watched, the fallen Pikachu slowly transformed back into an amoeba-like pink blob. Richie sighed as disappointment filled his features. He recalled Ditto, saying, "I know you did your best."

Pikachu scampered over to Ash and skillfully climbed onto his shoulder. Ash affectionately ruffled his fur. "Great battle Pikachu," Ash congratulated. He walked across the field and extended his hand to Richie. "Nice battle. That was fun, I haven't had a real pokemon battle in a long time."

Richie nodded shaking his hand. "I'm glad you enjoyed it," he said, although he lacked enthusiasm.

"Congratulations, Ash," May said as she Brock, Sabrina, and Blaine joined them.

Silently noting the absence of Misty he said, "For what? It was only a pokemon battle."

Everyone sent him odd looks. Brock was the one to answer his strange question. "It was a pokemon battle to determine who became the Pokemon Master."

"Whoever said that?" Ash said, a small smile forming on his face.

Richie and May looked at him as though he was insane.

Ash's smile turned into a full grin at their expressions. "I tried to tell you in the dining room, I don't want to be the Master."

Richie's perplexed expression changed to one of surprise. "Why not?"

"I'm still in love with Misty and being the Pokemon Master is what ruined our relationship in the first place. I won't lose her again." After a slight pause he added, "Where is she anyway?"

"She left when you won," Brock told him.

Richie furrowed his eyebrows. "Why did you battle if you had no intention of taking the job?"

Ash grinned. "No one says Ash Ketchum has lost his touch!"


Ash stood outside of Misty's bedroom, his ear pressed to the door. He could hear drawers slamming and he assumed she was packing. He softly rapped on the door with his knuckles.

"Go away," was her muffled reply.

"Misty, I need to talk to you," Ash said.

"No," she answered.

Ash heaved a frustrated sigh. "So that's it?" he asked. "You'll just leave and go back to Cerulean? You'll just forget about me, about the past few weeks and go on with your life?"

"That's the plan," he heard her say.

Ash closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his forefingers. "I don't know why I love you, you are the most stubborn person I have ever met."

The drawers stopped banging and the room became silent. As Ash listened the door was unlocked with a click. Misty pulled the door open and leaned against the doorframe, her arms crossed. "Don't ask me to stay, Ash," she said, hurt filling her crystal blue eyes. She turned away from him and walked back into her room. She silently continued packing, violently shoving her clothes into her bag.

Ash followed her inside and took a seat on her bed. "I wasn't going to."

She stopped packing and looked at him in surprise. "You weren't?"

He shook his head. "I would never ask you to do something that would make you unhappy."

"Good," she said, tossing her hair over her shoulder and resuming her packing. "Because I can't do it again. I can't hang around here trying to hold our relationship together while you traipse around the world."

"No one is asking you too," he replied.

Misty threw her arms up in exasperation, whipping a pair of socks that she was holding through the air. "I don't understand you!" she cried. "You say you love me, but you aren't even trying to persuade me to stay!"

"Why would I ask you to hold our relationship together if I won't be traveling all over the world?"

Misty opened her mouth to retort, but upon releasing what Ash had said she closed it. A look of confusion washed over her.

"I'm not the Pokemon Master, Misty," he told her.

"But you beat Richie," she said.

"Yes and while you ran off to pack, I told Richie that I didn't want the job," he informed her.

Misty shook her head. "I don't understand.

"If being the Pokemon Master means I have to lose you again, I don't want the job," he told her. "I am completely and totally in love with you, Mist. I have been since the moment I met you."

She sat down next to him. No matter what her mind said, her heart knew he was telling the truth.

Ash continued. "You complete me. You are my soul and because of that you have more power than anyone could ever receive from the Crystal of Nine. You have the power to completely and utterly break me and you've done it before. But you make me feel alive, you are a part of me and no matter how many times you break me, or my heart, I will always love you. You own me, Misty."

Misty's eyes filled with tears at his words. She took his face in her small hands and their eyes locked. "I will never hurt you the way I did before. I love you too much to ever cause you that much pain again."

With that he kissed her. And as they kissed they were no longer the hardened people they had grown to be. They felt as if they were once again nineteen, too young, too naive to understand love. And yet back then, when they were innocent, they had understood. They may have known what true love was better than most adults because nothing had been allowed to interfere back then. Love was love, it was pure, simple and when they were younger nothing else mattered but the fact that each was made perfectly for the other. They had been and still were the perfect match, but, after all, soul mates always are.

A/N: Wow. This is it. The final chapter in a story that took me five months to write. I'm kind of sad, because I really enjoyed writing this and I loved receiving all of your reviews. I'm so glad this turned into something that you all liked. I'm really considering a sequel to this but it may be awhile, I might take a break before I get into another major story. Of, course you all now know from experience that most things that I say are usually the opposite of what happens. So I most likely won't take a break at all. Anyway, I want to dedicate this chapter to everyone who has stuck with me throughout this entire fic, I won't name names because I don't want to forget anyone but you all know who you are. Thank you all so much, your reviews mean so much to me, they're the reason I kept going.