Disclaimer: Blah blah blah, don't own the Pokémon franchise stuff, "Jingle Bells," or "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Notes: Merry (belated?) Christmas! I got the idea for this while studying for finals, unfortunately XD. Beware of shonen-ai, sap, OOC-ness, and cliché and/or flat-out bad word usage. This turned out dumber than I hoped, but I hope you enjoy anyway!
Ash sucked in his breath as the doors to the Celadon Department Store slid open with awhoosh, and a blast of warm air hit his face as he stepped inside the small mall. His body, numb and tense after his trek through the biting weather outside - even with his thick, new jacket on, tingled as it adjusted to the toasty air inside.
Finally here…and not a moment too soon!
He was greeted by the sight of a store completely transformed for the holidays. Cheerful music – some holiday song Ash had heard probably hundreds of times before – piped over the intercom, and the walls were streamed with tinsel and multicolored, twinkling lights. Placed at the entrance, exit, and every possible corner were large fir trees covered with various ornaments and lights, with empty present boxes sitting underneath. To complete the effect, the main lights of the store were dimmed just enough to draw attention to said Christmas lights, and the smell of freshly-baked cookies wafted through the air (though Ash couldn't see any potential source of the smell). In addition – and the reason for Ash's visit here in the first place – the store was packed with seasonal merchandise: gourmet chocolates and other candies, fancy clothes, toys, and other assorted gifts.
Ash strolled and looked around the shelves, racks, and display cases as he tried to decide on what to purchase for his friends, who were currently – he hoped – fast asleep at the city's pokémon center.
It was three days before Christmas, and he was the only person among his human companions who had not bought presents yet. At least, that's what he had gathered from the way Brock and Dawn talked over the days they had spent making their way back to Pallet Town.
How did they even manage to look at things they could buy as presents? Ash wondered. He and his friends rarely separated, and even when they did it was only to do things like bathe. And, except to get food and toiletries, they never went shopping, much to Dawn's chagrin.
Maybe they went out shopping while I was sleeping, he thought ruefully.
"Attention, late-night shoppers!" a cheerful, feminine voice chirped over the intercom, cutting into an instrumental rendition of "Stanley, the Green-Nosed Stantler." The scattered, bleary-eyed shoppers around Ash wearily lifted their heads from the items they were inspecting.
"The time is 12:15!" the voice continued, "less than an hour to finish up shopping for tonight, but we'll be opening our doors again at 6 am, sharp!"
Many of the shoppers Ash managed to look at immediately returned to inspecting their potential purchases as the announcer repeated herself, but some of them gazed thoughtfully at nothing in particular. Ash realized, with some surprise, and a little dismay, that some of them would be returning just a few hours from now.
He sighed and resumed looking for presents himself. He was soon distracted, however, when he heard a familiar voice asking a sales clerk for assistance.
"Excuse me, do you guys have, er, lava lamps?"
Ash gasped as his heart skipped a beat.
Ash frantically looked at the area where he thought he heard the brunette's voice. Sure enough, at the closest sales counter stood a store employee and Gary, festively-decorated coffee cup in hand, and a long, black coat covering his usual outfit.
Without thinking, Ash tore off from the rows of clothes racks he stood between towards his old rival, calling out his name and nearly knocking the brunette – and his tea – down in a tight embrace. Gary chuckled in embarrassment as the store clerk, struggling to hold in her own laughter, sheepishly walked to the nearby counter, leaving the boys to themselves.
"Nice to see you too, Ash," the now-blushing but smiling Gary said. He gently pulled himself out of the hug and self-consciously extended his free hand towards Ash, who, noticing the stares and giggles of several other shoppers, blushed himself and awkwardly shook his friend's hand.
"What-what are you doing here?" Ash asked, prolonging the handshake. "I thought you were working in Sinnoh…?"
"Yeah, I still am," Gary replied, "but I'm in town with a few others this week on a special assignment." His eyes flickered in excitement as he continued to shake Ash's hand. "Some fossils of a pokémon thought to have lived only in Sinnoh have been discovered here, and we've been digging them up and analyzing everything we find. Just yesterday we found not only some more fossils, but something that seems like an entirely new pokémon!"
"Wow! That sounds great!" Ash perked up as he jerked in his own excitement. He and Gary quickly became embarrassed again when they realized, after Ash's movement, that they were still holding hands, though not shaking them anymore.
"Um, y-yeah, it is" Gary agreed, blushing again, as the two quickly separated. "S-so, uh…" He cleared his throat and regained his composure. "Looking for anything in particular?"
Ash sighed and shrugged, smiling wearily. "Whatever I think Dawn and Brock would like. And my pokémon, come to think of it…" he added as he realized he had a lot more shopping to do.
Gary gazed sympathetically at his overwhelmed friend. "I heard the fifth floor has a lot of gifts for pokémon. Treats, toys, those sorts of things."
"That might work…" Ash replied as he musingly pressed his fingers to his chin. "Yeah…I think I'll go up there!"
"Great! I'll come with you!" Gary replied, enthusiastically and a little too loudly for his taste, as people turned to look at him and giggled again. This time however, instead of blushing, the brunette glared at a few of the onlookers, who meekly resumed their shopping when their eyes met with his.
"Let's head for the elevator, Ash," Gary said, turning back to his friend.
"Right!" Ash chirped with a smile, as they headed in the direction of the "Elevator" sign.
To their surprise, they managed to get an elevator car all to themselves, and Christmas carols softly played inside as it began crawling its way up to the fifth floor. The elevator itself was decorated like a giant present box, the walls covered in red and green wrapping and tinsel twisted around the handbars.
Leaning against the bars, neither Ash nor Gary spoke up, but glanced over to each other, grinning and chuckling at their situation. Silence lingered awkwardly in the air for a few minutes before Ash broke it.
"So, Gary, you coming home for Christmas?"
The smile on the brunette's face slowly faded as he sighed. "Can't. Too busy with work…"
He slowly sipped his tea. "We've all been too busy to even go shopping. That's why I'm here now – it's the only time I can really buy gifts." Gary chuckled somewhat bitterly.
Ash's smile fell. "Oh…" He looked over to his friend, and he noticed the lines under Gary's eyes, and the brunette's unsteady grip on his coffee cup.
The elevator arrived on the fifth floor with a thud and a ding!, jolting its occupants back into their present situation. The doors opened to reveal an almost identical floor as the first one, except with more shelves and display cases replacing the clothes racks.
"So, you wanted some presents for your pokémon," Gary reiterated as they exited the elevator and he looked around for the appropriate gift section.
"Yeah, I'll get those out of the way, then find something for Brock and Dawn," Ash replied, struggling to keep up with the brunette as the latter darted around. Something shiny caught his eye, however, and he turned towards a cardboard shelf marked "CLEARANCE" and filled with Pikachu ornaments.
Ash smiled and laughed. "These are pretty cute!" he exclaimed, grabbing the one that had drawn his attention – a round, reflective red one, with a Pikachu dressed as Santa at the top. In his enthusiasm, he accidentally pressed a small button next to the Pikachu, setting off a loud rendition of "Jingle Bells," sung by a chorus of Pikachus.
Ash laughed even harder, as Gary sweatdropped and looked around nervously to make sure they weren't being watched. Upon discovering that the floor was empty as far as he could see, he relaxed and chuckled himself – at Ash.
He's really something…
Gary's smile faded as he swallowed and wistfully looked at the floor.
Maybe…I should tell him…
The same, feminine voice from before broke into the music playing over the loudspeakers. The cheer in her voice sounded markedly more forced.
"Attention! Only twenty more minutes to finish up tonight's shopping!"
Ash and Gary gasped.
"Twenty more minutes?!" Ash cried, dropping the ornament.
"Where did the other twenty-five go?!" Gary asked no one in particular, in complete bafflement.
"But remember, we'll be opening again at six!" the announcer finished uselessly. The rest of her announcement went unheard by the boys as they frantically looked for the Pokémon Gift section.
Locating the section – on the other side of the floor, just barely within Gary's eyeshot, the brunette grabbed hold of Ash's shoulder and turned him towards the appropriate section.
"There, see?" Gary asked, pointing in the right direction.
Upon noticing the section's giant, glittering sign, Ash nodded. "Uh-huh." He realized what he had to do. Those gifts wouldn't be buying themselves, and it didn't seem as if Gary would be following him around the store.
Ash turned his head towards Gary. "Are you getting gifts for your pokémon too?"
Gary shook his head and removed his hand from Ash's shoulder. "Nope. We got something special cooked up back at the office. I just came here for gifts for my coworkers."
"Oh." Ash looked despondently at the floor, sorry to part with his friend.
Sensing his anguish, Gary tilted his head downward as well, meeting Ash's eyes. "Hey…" He led Ash's gaze to its normal level and smiled. "It was nice seeing you here."
Ash smiled. "Yeah, it was." He looked down again for a second. "We really keep in touch."
Gary nodded. "Yeah, we should."
They stood there for a moment, looking in each other's eyes, before Ash turned towards the pokémon gift section and briskly strode off. "See you around!" he called, turning his head back for an instant and waving.
Gary waved back. "See ya…" His hand lingered in the air for a moment before he balled it up, quickly bringing it to his side in newfound determination.
Christmas Day went by smoothly enough. Ash managed to find gifts for all his pokémon as well as his friends – a Piplup bathrobe for Dawn, and a Nurse Joy-edition day planner for Brock. Ash and his friends reached Pallet Town without any problems, and Ash himself received some great gifts from his friends – a deluxe badge display case from Brock, and a brand-new Pokétch from Dawn. Professor Oak and Tracy joined everyone at Ash's house, and they all stuffed themselves while reminiscing over good times. Gary came up in their conversation once or twice, but it wasn't until Ash went to bed that he really thought about the brunette again, wondering if he managed to find a lava lamp, and hoping he had a good Christmas too.
The next morning, Ash, having lethargically changed and washed up, stumbled downstairs to eat some breakfast, but upon arriving in the kitchen was greeted by an ever-enthusiastic Mr. Mime.
"Mime-Mime!" the clownish pokémon chirped, handing Ash a box wrapped in sparkling purple paper and tied with white ribbon before heading to the living room to continue cleaning.
"A late Christmas present…?" Ash wondered out-loud, setting the box and himself down at the dining table. Gently tearing apart the wrapping, Ash found a plain, cardboard box, but upon opening that he found something he had completely forgotten about – the singing Pikachu ornament. Picking it up, he noticed a small piece of paper at the bottom of the box. Intrigued, he gently set aside the ornament and read the note:
Merry Christmas, Ashy.
I'm sorry. About everything.
"I didn't know you were up!"
Ash jumped and turned around. Entranced by the brunette's gift, Ash hadn't noticed his mother walking into the kitchen.
Delia smiled and gestured to the present. "Gary came by a couple of hours ago and brought this."
"Whaaa…?" Ash replied, his mouth gaping. He looked down at the present again, deep in thought. "He said he had work…"
Delia walked to the counter and began preparing breakfast for her son. "Well, he told me that he had asked for some time off today. You should stop by Professor Oak's lab and see him – he said he wanted to talk to you about something."
Ash picked his head up as his eyes widened. Suddenly, he leapt out of his chair, knocking it over, and hurried to the door.
"Ash!" Delia cried as she hurried after him. "What about breakfast?!"
Opening the door, Ash momentarily turned his head back to reply. "I'll eat later, Mom!"
I have more important things to do…
He stepped out, shutting the door behind him, and ran towards the old Oak laboratory, eager to see his long-forgiven friend again.
Whew! That took forever to write! XD Hope you liked it, and please review!