Setting takes place right after episode 553 - Fighting Fear with Fear.
I do not own Pokémon, cause if I did, I would probably be loaded with cash.
A big thanks to my beta reader Civie for this chapter
"Dawn, wake up." Ash grumbled. "Can you hear me?"
Dawn shifted slightly in her slumber but made no signs of having actually heard him.
"DAWN!" Ash was now yelling now, and shaking the bluenette in question after having resorted to whispers and gentle pokes. This had some effect on the young coordinator as she slowly opened her eyes.
"Huhwha? Oh, hey Ash. Morning?" she mumbled, still half asleep, before collapsing on her bed again, much to the Kanto trainer's chagrin.
"Dawn, I want to get my next badge and Hearthome is just a few miles away!"
"Don't worry, don't worry, I'll be up soon"
"You saying that makes me more worried," Ash hissed, nearly pulling his hair out of frustration. "We've been here way too long, you've slept till noon, and I've already looked around the town twice and done everything that seemed interesting. We've already stocked up on food and supplies and…wow…I've never seen your hair that bad before" Ash confessed, his irritable tone morphing into genuine concern.
"WHAT!" Dawn screeched, immediately jumping up and procuring a mirror and comb seemingly from the air.
"That got your attention" Ash chuckled, tossing her hat onto her lap as he slinked out of striking range. Dawn gazed into her reflection only to find nothing horribly out of place. It wasn't long before Ash found himself at the end of her searing blue glare.
"That was cruel. You know how I feel about my hair," Dawn's eyes like daggers, sticking out her tongue and turning away from Ash to start readying herself for the day's journey. Ash gave her a sheepish shrug before scanning the room.
"Where's Brock? He said he was going to…oh."
Brock's Croagunk was walking towards them, dragging his unconscious master with him by the leg across the linoleum floor. Once close enough, Croagunk dropped his trainer's lifeless limb before Ash like a dog would a stick or spoils of a hunt.
"Tried to flirt with a nurse Joy?"
"Knocked him out before he went too far?" Ash asked; Croagunk nodded again, searching through Brock's vest, finding a vacant pokéball and returning himself.
"I do hope that he's all right," Nurse Joy remarked, her gaze trained on Brock's unconscious form on the floor as she approached.
"He'll be fine" Ash said reassuringly," he's used to this kind of thing. It happens alot"
"Well if you're sure…" the nurse's voice trailed off before beginning a new topic. "Your pokemon are ready for you," she beamed, presenting him the metal tray that held his pokeballs and Pikachu. The electric mouse leapt of the platform and took his place on Ash's shoulder as he retrieved the rest of his party.
Your Pikachu is adorable! I love electric Pokémon," Nurse Joy swooned, letting her hand tentatively hover just over the mouse's head. Pikachu recognized the gesture and leaned into her hand, nuzzling against her palm.
"Thanks. Pikachu's been my best friend since I started my journey to be a Pokémon trainer," Ash explained, scratching and ruffling the fur on his starter's head, earning a delighted squeal.
"Wild electric Pokémon are very common in this town, they tend to walk through here when it gets really dark. When I watch them pass by, their electricity makes them glow in the night. It's really a sight, you should see it," she explained. "This building is actually able to divert electrical attacks into the ground, making it one of the only Pokémon centers that were made that way due to the abundance of electric Pokémon."
"Ash, I'm done packing" Dawn grumbled as she slung her bag over her shoulder and stood up.
"We'd love to stay and see that…but we really should get going. I'm going to try and get my next badge in Hearthome City."
"And I'm going to compete in the Hearthome City coordinator contest" Dawn added with renewed gusto.
"Oh, that's alright. I do hope you have a safe journey and good luck. Hearthome should be about a day's walk from here, or so I'm told" Nurse Joy replied, waving farewell as she returned to her position at the counter, having a new client to take care of a few seconds later.
Once gone, Brock immediately rose up, stood, and dusted off his pants, acting as if nothing had happened.
"We ready to go?" Brock asked; Ash and Dawn nodded. The cheery chime as the doors whooshed open continued to echo in Ash's ears as he left the confines of the Pokémon center. They made their way towards the town's exit, an old couple greeted them and bid them farewell from afar. It was a nice enough town, not large enough to show up on any major map, but nice enough to pass by and take lodging for the night after coming through the forest nearby.
Ash's Gligar just recently evolved into a Gliscor, courtesy of his former rival, Gary, who just happened to be in the neighborhood and had a Razor Fang on hand. Ash had hoped he would've seen more of his old friend, but the young researcher apparently had somewhere to be and had continued on his way as they'd set down for the night.
The rest of the day remained uneventful, with no sightings of any new Pokémon or trainers. Not that Ash and the others wanted them to, but even Team Rocket had yet to appear in another futile attempt at taking their Pokémon. As the sun began to hang low in the sky Brock decided that it would be best to settle down for the night.
A lot of ground had been covered, but according to Brock's map they still had ways to go before they would make it to their destination. Irritable at their lack of progress, Ash vent his frustration through training his party while Brock whipped up a meal to placate the disgruntled trainer.
Despite her extended nap, Dawn was the first to doze off as soon as they had set up camp for the night. Ash grumbled but eventually succumbed to his fatigue and dozed off, leaving Brock the tranquility and solitude he desired before he too let slumber take him.
It would be hours into the night when Ash's eyes fluttered open as he shifted into a more comfortable position, doing his best to move without trying to wake up the curled bundle of sleeping fur that was Pikachu resting beside him. He waited and waited, but what little hold he'd had on sleep before had now left him. Impatience threatened to evolve into restlessness as he waited, and counting Mareep was getting him nowhere.
Eventually he found himself staring off into the sky, recognizing the constellations that decorated its expanse. They looked exactly like the ones that he and Ritchie had stared at, the thought bringing forth the question of where the other trainer was now. His head slowly turned, his gaze loomed over Brock's sleeping form and onto Dawn. Her things had been neatly packed away in her backpack and she had slept in her clothes like each of them always did before they reached a suitable city to sleep in.
She was more comfortable with them now, he no longer saw her use her tent like she used to at the start of her journey. She hadn't been the first companion that had traveled with them and he doubted that she would be the last. Thoughts of May and Misty began to surface, along with countless memories that he had formed with them. The adventures they'd gone on, the people they'd seen, the places they'd been. The Mirage Kingdom, the Bulbasaur haven, and even the inside of a volcano in Cinnabar were just some of the amazing places they'd been to if he had to name a few.
A blush had begun to paint itself along his cheeks as he recalled Cinnabar's hotsprings, heralding the strange sensations that began to take over him. He sharply looked away, cursing silently at no one in particular but at himself.
This was happening more frequently now, every time he stared at any girl that considered cute. Ash began to think back at how he had asked Brock, and his reaction had been interesting to say the least.
"Yeah, well that's how I've been feeling, ya know?"
"That's great. You've done a good job coming to tell me this. It may have taken you a while but you've finally started your journey to manhood. No offense, but personally, I was starting to wonder whether you played for the other…never mind, I'll teach you the way to get all the girls like I d-"
The conversation had been cut short as Croagunk escaped from his pokéball and proceeded to jab Brock in the side, dragging his limp master away with only a glance saying "sorry 'bout him, I'll keep him on a tighter leash next time." Ash silently hoped that he wouldn't start acting out like Brock whenever he saw a girl.
Was this feeling normal? He had traveled with girls before, for about four years in fact. Why was it that it was bothering him now?
His thoughts reverted back to Misty and May to find the weird sensations bubbling inside him again. He tried to focus on other subjects, knowing to stay clear from thinking about getting his next gym badge; otherwise he would never get to sleep. Ash's thoughts eventually came across Paul, probably already at Hearthome and getting the-.
"Okay, don't think about Paul… think about… about…" Ash's sentence never finished as fatigue began to settle in and slumber took residence.
Ash had been dreaming of obtaining his next badge when Pikachu's sudden screeches of pain reached his ears. Pikachu's deafening screams had woken everyone with a start. His paws clutched his head as beat his head into the ground as if attempting to be bury himself beneath the ground to escape whatever was assaulting him. Bolts of lightning erupted from Pikachu's body, electric tentacles slithering across the ground.
"Ash, what's wrong with Pikachu?" Brock yelled as he backed away from the minefield of writhing lightning.
"I don't know!" Ash replied, slowly trudging towards the center of destruction, "I'm going to try and calm Pikachu down!"
Dawn had been staring at the lightning; she hadn't been with them for very long, but she could tell the lighting that sprung from Pikachu was different. Very different.
"Ash, be careful, something's wrong with Pikachu's lightning." Dawn screamed with a noticeable undertone of fear in her voice.
"Don't worry, I've been shocked by Pikachu before," Ash said reassuringly, his arms shielding his eyes from the bright flashes.
Dawn had been tracing a bolt of lightning that snaked its way to a tree, her eyes widening as she saw the tree splinter, and burst into flames. Her gaze swiveled to the ground around Ash's feet, a molten glow radiating from what appeared to be glass within the trenches left behind by the tendrils of lightning.
"Ash! Stop! Come back, it's too dangerous, Pikachu's electricity…it's…different!"
The loud zaps and buzzes rung in Ash's ears, dampening all sound around him. The sound of Dawn's screams just barely grazed his eardrums amidst the drone of lightning. He hadn't heard what she had said, but recognized the utter fear in her voice.
Dawn darted towards Ash who had stopped his movements for a reason unknown to her. Suddenly, Dawn's backpack, Ash's backpack, and Brock's vest burst in flashes of light; their Pokémon freed from their spherical shelters. All of them began thrashing from pain, all trying to find ways to cope with it. Brock couldn't help but gawk as his Sudowoodo smashed its head against trees, instantly splintering them.
Brock woke from his daze, immediately thrusting his hand and grabbing Dawn's collar, but almost immediately losing his grip as she darted toward Ash. The flashes behind Ash came to his attention, turning to see the young coordinator running towards him; her voice now inaudible to his deafened ears. Her hands clamped onto his, desperately tugging him away from Pikachu.
Brock kept away from the lightning range; torn as to whether to go after Dawn and Ash or stop the Pokémon from hurting themselves. Forcing himself to a decision, he went with his instincts and found himself running towards them, only to stop dead in his tracks. Ash could see the reflection of what they feared in the pools that were their eyes; his neck relented and turned to the source of their awe.
It was like a pillar of lightning, stabbing through the clouds and into the very heavens themselves. The large surge descended down the column of light. With renewed vigor, Dawn managed to pull Ash away from Pikachu. Brock's body seemed to remember what it was to move again, dashing towards Dawn and Ash, throwing them over his imaginary safe line.
"Cover your ears!" Brock yelled before the blast connected with Pikachu. Ash and Dawn did as they were told, keeping their hands clamped over their ears even as the force of the explosion sent them tumbling across the earth. The smell of ozone filled the air as lightning tore up the ground, leaving no inch uprooted. Finely powdered rubble coated their frozen figures within the earthy cloud nothing seemed to utter a sound.
Ash and Dawn were paralyzed with fear, their stillness slowly turning to uncontrollable trembles that resonated throughout their bodies. Ash willed his body against the unfounded fear to move, gradually turning towards the center of the explosion.
"BROCK!" Ash screamed blindly into the mist; but nothing replied. Ash could feel a tug on his arm, Dawn whispering his name. "BROCK!" Ash screamed again.
The haze began to clear from where the voice came from. Ash couldn't help but stare silently in awe, his mouth slightly ajar, and his mind letting the thought sink in: Brock was okay.
Brock's figure parted the mist, his caring and relieved smile visible to both of them now. Dawn released Ash's arm from her death grip, both of them scrambling to get to their uninjured companion. A cold nightly breeze swept the rest of the opaque rubble residue from the air, showing them what was left of their camp sight.
The soil had been upturned everywhere, trees had been blown away, the lingering ones set aflame with leafless branches. Their personal belongings had been shredded, the scattered remains everywhere and slowly being blown away. Shadowed figures of their Pokémon sprawled across the clearing.
Ash's eyes widened until Brock's hand came down on his shoulder; a reassuring squeeze is all it took. "They've all fainted, but otherwise they don't seem to have any serious injuries so don't worry " Brock muttered before scanning the ground for their pokéballs. Ash and Dawn followed his example and searched for their own as well.
Ash found where Pikachu lay out cold; a deep crater, scorched black by the attack and layered with cracked molten glass. Ash lifted Pikachu gingerly into his arms, cradling him gently. They had gathered what was left of their belongings in their arms, which wasn't much. After returning all their Pokémon to their pokéballs they stood and stared at each other in silence.
"What was that all about?" Ash said aloud to no one in particular.
"I don't know, but maybe the nurse Joy in the town we just came from could examine our Pokemon, to see if they're alright" Brock said, and for once, he wasn't smiling at the idea of returning to the Pokémon center to see one of his favorite women.