The sun peeped lazily over the horizon, brushing the treetops of the faraway land and casting a shimmering glow across the coo

A/N: This is a post Pokemon 2000 era fic, because I haven't kept up with Pokemon really since about that time, but I used to be a huge fan and lately I've felt nostalgic for how much I used to love it, so I decided to write this fic.

Assuming that the show happens in some what real time as opposed to forever keeping them the same age, I've bumped up the main cast's ages.

Ash is fifteen, Misty is sixteen, Tracey is seventeen and Brock is nineteen.

This fic will have AshxMisty and some mild BrockxOther (you'll see as the fic progresses!).

Hope you enjoy! Please leave me some reviews so I know that people are okay with a sort of past-era fic.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon or any of its characters or concepts.

Five Days of Midnight

Some Enchanted Evening

The sun peeped lazily over the horizon, brushing the treetops of the faraway land and casting a shimmering glow across the cool water that sat still and flat and clear as glass until the ship cut across it like the blade of a carving knife. From that point of disturbance the light sprang from the sea and illuminated upon the three trainers who leaned against the sturdy steel railing, resting heavily, their bodies weighed down with fatigue, eyes squinted against the bright sunrise.

Ash Ketchum gripped the railing tightly, his gloves protecting his hands from the stinging cold of early morning metal. Every muscle, every bone in his body ached in an unfamiliar and profound way, each one demanding his utmost care and attention…all at the same time. It was enough to make him want to fall to his knees in exhaustion, the product of the last few days. "And the world shall turn to Ash…" Saving the world, being the fabled "Chosen One" apparently did not supply his body with any sort of supernatural protection and now it was only the outline of his home, Pallet Town, out in the distance and slightly obscured by the low-hanging fog, kept him on his feet.

It had been a long time since Ash had returned home, and five years since he had left in the first place, and maybe he fought as much with Misty as he did before, maybe he dreamed just as strongly, and maybe he still wasn't the brightest bulb in the box, but Ash realized for the first time how he had grown up from the child he had been who had left Pallet Town so many years ago with a reluctant Pikachu in tow. The evils he had seen, the forces he had faced, had sped up the end of his childhood and though a dime still wouldn't be put on his maturity, he now walked as though he had carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. And he had, before, and he didn't much like the feeling. He felt awkward accepting the praise and thanks of others for doing what was, in his mind, the only choice, and he felt less like a hero and more like a normal guy who had an unlucky streak and kept finding himself in situations that he had to correct.

And now, after his ordeal with Lawerence III and the legendary birds and Lugia, after seeing his mother and hearing her plead with him to be careful, be safe, to keep himself from danger, Ash felt himself longing and craving for home with a sort of insatiable hunger that led him to ask Misty and Tracey if they would mind, really, if they took a detour back to Kanto for some rest and relaxation, at least for a couple of days.

They were unopposed, which Ash had suspected would be the case. Glancing over, he saw that his friends were just as exhausted as he seemed to be, Misty with that ever present messy side ponytail, stray wisps of fire red hair falling across her forehead and down her face, eyes cast down on the sea and actually paying no mind to the cheerful chirps of Togepi, poking out of her backpack, and Tracey with his head burrowed in his arms, showing only a head of black hair. And Pikachu, no longer reluctant but now his most loyal companion, was curled up at Ash's feet and was frankly asleep, his tail curled up around him, content as a cat and lulled to sleep by the soothing swaying of the boat.

"Some rest will be good," he said out loud, and Misty's sleepy gaze flickered over to him.

"Hmm? Yeah," she agreed. "Although I never thought I'd see the day that you'd admit it," she couldn't help but throw in, as always, arguing with him with almost every breath she took.

He opened his mouth for his usual sharp retort, because he was Ash and she was Misty and that was how they were—she snapped at him or he snapped at her and the other always rose to the bait. But a wave of sleepiness washed over him, and all he was able to do was yawn hugely, which caused the irritated look on Misty's face to fade and to be replaced by a look of mild amusement.

"Tracey," she said, turning her attention from Ash and instead laying a hand on the other boy's shoulder, giving him a firm shake. "Tracey, we're almost there!"

Tracey gave a indiscernible grunt in response, batting Misty's hand away in irritation. She scowled slightly and went back to shaking him insistently. "Come on, Tracey, get up!"

"Yeah, come on, Tracey, you've been waiting for this!" Ash encouraged. He couldn't believe that he—he!—was trying to soothe Misty's easily tripped temper by getting Tracey up as soon as possible—a tired Misty was a cranky Misty and by the glare she was giving their friend Ash didn't doubt that he was about to be on the receiving end of a scream fest—but he had an overwhelming desire for peace and quiet, at least for the time being. He was sure that this was simply a phase that would pass after a couple of days of rest at home, and he was equally as sure that soon he would be back on the receiving end of Misty's anger.

Even the opportunity to visit Professor Oak's lab in Pallet Town couldn't perk up Tracey, and he sullenly and tiredly rested his head on his arms while Misty gave him an annoyed frown for the remainder of the boat ride, one that deepened with each passing moment in which he didn't acknowledge her.

The loudspeaker blared to life. "Now entering Pallet Town Harbour. All those bound for Pallet Town, please get ready to depart the ship."

Ash's heart leapt into his throat at those words, and he felt a renewed energy course through his body. Home. He was almost home, home to his own town and his own house with his own bed and big, delicious breakfast cooked by his own mother…his mother. He missed her, even if he would never admit it to anyone but himself. Even admitting it to himself made him feel a twinge of embarrassment—he was fifteen, and should be completely self-sufficient by this point! But he couldn't help but run over to the sleeping Pikachu, laughing joyously as he fell to his knees to shake him awake.

"Pikachu! Hey, Pikachu! It's time to wake up, buddy. We're…we're home!"

Pikachu sleepily opened one eye, his ear perking at the word 'home'. "Pi?" he questioned, and Ash nodded.

"Just look!" Ash pointed out towards the now visible shoreline of Pallet Town, and that view alone was enough to make the little Pokemon spring to his feet, with an excited chatter.

Pikachu jumped smoothly up onto Ash's shoulder as Ash made his way, still running, towards the stairway that would take him to the first floor and allow him to depart. He whizzed right by a stunned Misty and Tracey, amazed at his change in demeanor, and didn't wait for them to follow, instead trusting that they would find their way.

"Sorry—sorry, 'scuse me, sorry…" he mumbled as he pushed through crowds of complaining people, all jostling and moving like one large organism to the exit. He slipped through and he was outside, his feet pounding on the aluminum ramp that led to the dock.

And there, just past the dock, was his mother. Delia Ketchum wore a smile from ear to ear, tears welling in her eyes, hands clasped in front of her. Ash ducked his head, suddenly a bit shy, and stuffed his hands in his pockets before walking over to his mom.

He smiled. "Hi, Mom. It's good to be home."

And then he was engulfed.

"Mom! Mom, I can't breathe!" he protested, and truthfully, the embrace was a bit too tight on his airpipe, but he didn't completely mind. Pikachu, on the other hand, had ended up crushed between Ash and his mother, and by all accounts was not very happy about that situation at all.

His mother pulled back just a bit, wiping her eyes briefly with one hand while keeping the other arm firmly around her son. "Oh, I'm sorry! I know I'm being silly. But it's just so good to have you home, sweetheart." Again, her arms tightened and both Pikachu and Ash gasped for air. "I've missed you so much!"

"Mrs. Ketchum!" Ash was, despite his happiness at being home and seeing his mother, secretly glad when he heard Misty's voice. And his mom's grip loosened on him so that she could exclaim over Misty and Tracey, and then she took Ash's arm, leading them towards the road.

"Oh, you three look famished," she fretted, and Ash's stomach gave an angry growl in response. Pikachu jumped a bit in surprise, and Ash laughed, relieved to have the weight of the world off of his shoulders and that his biggest worry was what his mom was cooking for lunch.

"Yeah, you could say that," he replied, resting a hand on his very empty stomach.

Misty rolled her eyes. "All you ever think about is your stomach," she complained, hands on her hips.

"I do not! I think about Pokemon," Ash said defensively, sticking his tongue out at her. Childish, even he knew at this point, but it was how he communicated with Misty. Their arguments, far from really making either of them angry at this point as it once had five years ago, now felt as familiar and comforting as…well, he thought…as familiar and comforting as home.

"Oh, that's so much better. Food and Pokemon. You're a genius," Misty sarcastically answered, and Ash primped.

"Glad to see you're finally admitting it."

"Oh, please! Could your ego get any bigger?" Misty threw her hands up in exasperation, but there was no real malice behind the move. It was how Ash knew that she saw their fights the same way that he did—they argued, but she never had that angry flash in her eyes or the tightness in her limbs that she used to that told him how angry he made her.

Just then, Misty's stomach gave a growl. "Ha!" Ash crowed in triumph. "You're hungry, too!"

Misty wrinkled her nose and similarly stuck out her tongue at him, and Ash grinned, pulling his trusted Pokemon League cap down further on his messy dark hair to shield out the bright sunlight. While Tracey had completely ignored the exchange that had taken place, too busy finally starting to realize that he was in the same town at Professor Oak and too used to their antics to really care one way or another as to who won this particular battle, Ash's mom chuckled, shaking her head ruefully.

"What?" Ash asked, blinking in confusion.

"Oh, nothing," she sighed, smiling and looking from him to Misty. "My little baby is growing up, that's all." She rested a hand fondly on his shoulder for a moment, and Ash wrinkled his brow in confusion.

"Um, yeah. I guess I am?" he replied, unsure as to why his mother was bringing it up now, and she smiled warmly, that secretive smile that all mothers seemed to have that said that they knew something their child didn't. Ash shrugged, too concerned with getting home and getting lunch to worry about it now.

"Oh!" Mrs. Ketchum exclaimed suddenly, clapping her hands together. "I almost forgot to tell you! I have a surprise for you back at the house."

"A surprise?" Ash asked eagerly, all kinds of delicious possibilities running through his mind. "Did Mr. Mime make potato soup?"

"No, no, better than that," his mother brushed of his guess, and Ash frowned, confused.

"Better than Mr. Mime's potato soup?" In Ash's mind, that didn't leave too many possibilities.

They rounded the last turn to Ash's house, and Ash's heart swelled at the sight. Mr. Mime was sweeping the front porch, and it noticed them approaching and jumped about in excitement. "Mime, Mime, Mime!" it cried happily, and Ash laughed.

"Hi, Mr. Mime!" he yelled back.

"Hello!" a familiar voice called out, coming out of the house and waving happily at them.

"Brock!" Misty squealed in excitement, pushing through Ash and Tracey and Mrs. Ketchum to go greet their old friend, laughing happily.

"Brock!" Ash echoed, a broad grin spreading across his face. "So that's the surprise! Brock's cooking for us! That's awesome!"

"Well, I thought you'd be excited enough to see your friend without considering your stomach," his mother lectured sternly.

"Pika!" Pikachu chirped in eager agreement, leaping from Ash's shoulder to scamper after Misty down the rest of the dirt path and up the wooden stairs to the porch of Ash's house. Infected with their excitement, Ash and Tracey hurried the rest of the way as well, leaving Mrs. Ketchum to follow serenely in the wake of their newfound energy.

"Brock! It's so good to see you!" Misty gushed, throwing her arms around their friend. "What are you doing here? I thought you were still at Professor Ivy's lab!"

"Toge, toge!" Misty's baby Pokemon decided to poke his head out of Misty's backpack, awakened by the sudden rush of excitement.

"I was, but she asked me to bring a package to Professor Oak, and I heard you guys were going to be in town, so I stayed with your mom for a little while, Ash. I've missed you guys," Brock laughed, putting his arms around Misty as well.

Ash felt a twinge of something in the pit of his stomach as he watched Brock wrap Misty in a warm embrace. It must be hunger, he decided, and the lack of food was responsible for his insides twisting in such an unpleasant manner.

Tracey nudged him lightly, watching Misty and Brock hug. "Are they…were there…you know," Tracey said, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. Ash scowled, while Misty and Brock, having overheard the question, looked shocked.

"No!" Ash, Misty, and Brock all exclaimed at the same time. Misty and Brock looked put-off by the question, and even a little queasy at the misinterpretation, and Ash just looked annoyed.

Tracey held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay! I was just asking!"

The feeling in his stomach seemed to ease when Brock turned to Ash now, holding out his hand, and the two clasped hands familiarly. "How've you been, Ash? Besides being busy saving the world?" Brock teased.

Ash smiled sheepishly, resting a hand on the back of his head in embarrassment. "Well. You know. It happens," he said awkwardly.

"You guys must be starving," Brock said, addressing the whole group now. "I've made some stew, it's just about done."

Ash brightened. "All right! I was hoping you'd say that you cooked!" And he raced into the house, Pikachu on his heels, tossing his backpack sloppily into the foyer and losing his hat and jacket at some point while passing through the living room.

Misty rolled her eyes at Brock and Tracey before heading into the Ketchum house as well. "Are you hungry, Togepi?" she asked the baby Pokemon poking out of her backpack, smiling warmly while glancing back over her shoulder, and Togepi chirped happily in response.

Brock's cooking was just as great as Ash had remembered, and it was a relief to discover that their time apart hadn't changed anything—Brock was still Brock, and the conversation between the three was as natural and fluid as it has always been, while Tracey got to know the dynamics of the group he had entered just a few months ago. Ash liked Tracey, of course, and thought of him as a great friend, but he wasn't Brock and he definitely wasn't Misty. Brock and Misty had been with him since the beginning, Brock and Misty knew everything he had gone through, had watched him grow over the years. Brock and Misty were his closest friends—well, closest human friends—and since Brock had left, it had been Ash and Misty, with Tracey just hovering on the outside of a bond that he couldn't ever completely understand, just by virtue of having not been there.

"This is so great," Ash mumbled with his mouth full of Brock's delicious stew.

"Don't talk with your mouth full," Misty and Mrs. Ketchum said at the same time, and Ash made a face at them.

"Okay, Mom," he said sarcastically, glancing Misty's way. She made a face back at him, and Brock laughed.

"You guys are never going to change," he said fondly, clapping a hand on Ash's shoulder. "Are you sick of them yet?" he asked, addressing Tracey now.

"Of them bickering like an old married couple? Yeah, but you kind of get used to it in time. Do they ever stop?" Tracey inquired.

"Nope," Brock answered solemnly. "Been like that since day one."

"Hey!" Misty and Ash exclaimed at the same time, united in their offense. Ash glanced down at his bowl, feeling the heat of an embarrassed flush rushing up to his face. He really didn't think that he and Misty argued like an old married couple; they argued like…well…like Ash and Misty! It was just how they were, and everyone always insisted in seeing something more in it, when really…well…it was just him and Misty.

"What?" Brock protested. "It's true!"

Ash quickly tossed his spoon down with a clatter, eager to get up and change the topic, eager to move on from a topic that didn't feel quite comfortable anymore. "How about swinging by Professor Oak's lab, Pikachu?" he asked, looking down to where Pikachu was sharing his Pokechow with Togepi.

"Pikachu," he said in agreement, springing to his feet.

Tracey choked on his soup. "Professor Oak? Now? Right now?" he squeaked, and Ash smirked, feeling as though he was getting his revenge for Tracey's teasing.

"Yeah, c'mon, Tracey. You've been waiting long enough, don't you think?" Ash grinned, grabbing his cap and jacket from where he had lazily tossed them before.

Misty stood, lifting Togepi up into his arms. "Come on, we'll all go," she said soothingly to Tracey. "It'll be fine. He's just Professor Oak."

Tracey looked scandalized. "Just Professor Oak? Just Professor Oak??"

"Yeah," Ash answered, honestly looking bewildered. "It's just Professor Oak."

But this assurance didn't stop Tracey from practicing what he would say, how he would stand, what gestures he would make, all the way from Ash's house to Professor Oak's lab. Ash led the way, Misty and Brock and Tracey following in his wake, Pikachu riding comfortably on his hat. It was funny to think that the first time Ash and Pikachu had been together in Professor Oak's lab, he could never imagine such a comfortable scenario taking place, so determined had his now best friend been to dislike him.

The laboratory was set up as Ash remembered, with far more contraptions than he could ever imagine having use for. "Professer Oak?" he called out, his voice echoing in the empty dome. "Professor Oak?" He paused, but hearing no answer, frowned. "Huh. That's weird. Mom said that he was going to be in the lab today."

"Yes?" a voice echoed. "Who's there? I'm up here!" And Ash looked up, high into the rafters, and there was Professor Oak, on the third floor balcony of the large dome, carefully examining a Pidgey in a cage, jotting notes down on his notepad.

"Professor!" Ash called back. "It's me! Ash!"

"Ah, yes, Ash, your mother mentioned you might be stopping by. Hold on just one moment, I'll be right down."

Tracey, unlike his normal bold self, melted to the back of the group when Professor Oak made his appearance a few moments later, the ranting and rambling he had forced upon Ash and Misty for the last couple of months forgotten, as well as the phone conversations with Professor Oak. Apparently face-to-face, in person contact was a completely different matter, because Tracey was simply staring with his mouth open, his cheeks a flushed red.

"Hi, Professor Oak," Misty greeted, obviously nowhere near as starstruck at Tracey. She glanced up at the balcony where Oak had previously been. "What were you doing with that Pidgey up there?"

"Huh? Oh, I was examining it. The Pokemon around here have been showing unusual behavior lately," Oak explained.

"Unusual? Unusual how?" Misty asked, confused. She instinctively tightened her grip a little bit on Togepi in her arms, and it trilled in excitement.

"They've seemed unusually agitated. And aggressive."

Ash blinked, looking down at Pikachu at his feet. "Pikachu, have you been feeling unusually agitated? Or aggressive?"

"Pika?" Pikachu blinked back at him, tilting his head to the side, similarly confused.

"Professor Ivy was saying the same thing before I left…" Brock mused. "She said that she had a Sandshrew nearly slash her hand."

Professor Oak nodded gravely. "Yes. I had a message from her. It's quite unusual."

Some of Tracey's shock seemed to have worn off with this interesting news, and he finally joined the conversation. "Maybe it's related to what just happened out in the Orange Islands?" he suggested. "The Pokemon were acting strangely at the time, maybe it'll just take some time for things to get back to normal." Then, eyes gleaming, he seized Professor Oak's hand and shook it frantically. "And can I just say, sir, that it's just an honor to finally meet you in person, after following your work for…well, practically my whole life!" he gushed.

"Er, yes…yes, of course," Professor Oak answered uncertainly, reclaiming his hand and shaking it out. Once he seemed past Tracey's odd behavior, he stopped to consider what he had said. "I suppose it is a possibility that the Pokemon are reacting to the earth's shifting once more. Even though it is shifting back to normal, the way it is supposed to be, it's still a shift nonetheless and is likely to disturb some Pokemon." He glanced up, to where the Pidgey was fluttering in the cage. "Still. It's all very strange. I plan on keeping a close eye on the situation."

"Well, the last thing we need is more trouble…" Misty fretted a bit, cuddling Togepi closer.

"Don't worry about it, Misty," Ash assured her in a carefree tone. "Everything's fine! And we'll have a few days to relax right here in Pallet Town!"

Misty hesitated. "Actually…"

"Actually…?" Ash echoed, suspiciously.

"I thought maybe we could make a stop in Cerulean to see my sisters," Misty suggested. She got a bit of a sour look on her face. "And make sure that they're actually battling trainers instead of just handing out badges to anyone who stops to ask for one."

"Misty…" Ash whined. "You're the one who's always complaining that we never take a break! And it'll take forever to get to Cerulean!"

"Well, after we stop for a rest we're heading back out of Kanto, and who knows when we'll be back?" Misty demanded defensively. "You got to see your family, now I want to see mine!"

"You just want to see them so that you can boss your sisters around!" Ash accused. Maybe he was being unfair, but he was tired and had just had to save the world and all he wanted was a few days at home and it looked as though he wasn't going to get that, and well, in his opinion, that wasn't any more fair.

Tracey looked pained. "I really don't want to head out to Cerulean," he said. "I'd really love to be able to stay and study with you in your lab for awhile, Professor."

"Actually, I haven't been back to Pewter for a really long time," Brock interjected. "I could use with a stop, and then we could go on to Cerulean from there."

"Brock!" Ash protested. "Don't take her side!"

To his immense surprise, Misty didn't respond by yelling at him or smacking him across the head, like she so often did. Instead, she smiled, and Ash eyed her suspiciously. "Come on, Ash. It'll just be a detour. Brock and I will get to visit home, and Tracey can study with Professor Oak. Then we can come back to Pallet." She smiled at Brock now, as well. "The three of us. It'll be like old times."

Despite himself, the idea of getting to go back to 'old times', for a time however brief, appealed to Ash. He had missed Brock, and missed things the way were when he, Brock, and Misty were all together. It had felt like a simpler time.

"Pikapi, Pikachu," Pikachu exclaimed, tugging on Ash's pant leg, obviously in agreement with Misty and Brock.

Ash sighed heavily, giving in to the pressure, but not without a pout. "Fine," he said dramatically. "Can we at least wait until tomorrow?"

"Sure we can," Brock said easily, shooting Misty a look that told her that she'd better not argue under any terms.

"Good," Ash said, and pointed at Misty. "And until then, I'm going to sleep and eat, and eat and sleep, and I don't want you to say anything about it!"

"Fine," she replied loftily. "And tomorrow we head off for Pewter and Cerulean."

"Yeah," Ash said with another sigh. "Tomorrow, Pewter and Cerulean."

This chapter, obviously, was just a set-up for what's going to happen! I hope I interested at least some of you into reading more. Please leave me some reviews, I love getting comments!

My Christmas break is coming up soon, so I hope to get a good amount of this fic done in that time.

Again, hope you enjoyed, please leave reviews!