It had been a long time since Ash had last actually held it in his hands.
The first thing he packed and the last thing to be taken out of his bag, it was something Ash had never wanted to use but had always carried, just in case.
He'd nearly lost Pikachu today, after losing a battle to a Raichu, who'd used Hyper Beam on Pikachu at close range, pinning the much smaller Electric mouse down before firing.
Its Trainer hadn't done anything to stop it, in fact, he'd actively encouraged it in it's sadistic battling style and Ash hadn't been able to stop it, Pikachu hadn't let him.
It wasn't an easy choice to make, to offer Pikachu the use of what was in his hand or not, but it was one that Ash would have to make before Pikachu went from the Emergency Room, into a ward. He didn't want to offer it, and not for any monetary reasons, if Pikachu chose to use it, everything would change, including Pikachu's attitude and actions.
Ash had yet to see a single Raichu who wasn't sadistic and he wasn't sure he'd be able to cope if Pikachu went from being his brother to a Raichu like Lt. Surge's or the guy he'd battled yesterday's.
The green gem surrounding the yellow thunderbolt sparkled in the warm sunlight coming through the window, but Ash had never felt colder.
It was the same Thunderstone that Nurse Joy had given him after their first match with Lt. Surge, the last time Pikachu had nearly died in the Emergency Room after a battle, the last time Ash had given Pikachu the choice to evolve. Brock would know where it came from, Dawn wouldn't, she hadn't been travelling with him back then.
He felt that if Pikachu was going to evolve, it had to be his choice, not Ash's, but Ash wasn't sure whether he'd be comfortable if Pikachu did choose to evolve.
He didn't want to lose Pikachu and if evolving meant the electric mouse could beat other Raichus in battle without nearly killing himself, it was a good thing, but Ash would understand, even be happy, if Pikachu refused. His Pokemon was just as stubborn as he was, and Pikachu had always been proud of how strong he was, even without evolving.
Ash just didn't know what to do.
Ash was half afraid, if it seemed like he was insisting that Pikachu use the Thunderstone, Pikachu would evolve just to make Ash happy and that wasn't what Ash wanted. He had to explain why he was making the offer, without pushing it on Pikachu…
It had to be Pikachu's choice to make…
"Mr Ketchum?" Nurse Joy came through the door and smiled at Ash's speed in getting to his feet, "You can see Pikachu now."
Author Note - A one shot that popped into my head after seeing the Episode Pics from "Pikachu! Raichu! The Road to Evolution!" On Serebii(dot)net.