"But Mom," eight-year old Ash Ketchum whined, "why do I have to play with some stupid girl?"
"Because Molly is the daughter of a dear friend of mine, and I say so, that's why."
"Okay," Ash grumbled as his mother rang the doorbell of the Oak laboratory.
"Spencer!" Delia exclaimed happily as her old friend answered the door. As she hugged him warmly, Ash rolled his eyes.
"Hello, Ash. It's good to see you."
"Hello, Professor Hale. Did you bring any Pokémon with you?"
"Ash is Pokémon-mad," Delia explained.
"Sorry, hate to disappoint you."
"Aw, man," Ash grumbled as he followed his mother inside. He had been hoping that Professor Hale had brought one of the legendary Pokémon with him.
A pretty young woman and a small blonde-haired girl were sitting in the living room with Professor Oak.
"Elizabeth! How nice to see you again. And this must be Molly." Delia held her arms out to the little girl, who toddled over to her. "She's adorable!"
"She just learned to walk last month," Spencer said proudly.
"Hi, Mrs. Hale." Ash turned his attention to Professor Oak. "Professor?"
"Which one, Ash?" Professor Oak said, eyes twinkling with amusement.
"You," Ash continued. "Can I go play with Eevee?"
"Ash, you're going to stay right here and play with Molly," Delia ordered.
"Oh, all right," Ash grumbled. He took out the empty Poké ball that he often played with.
"Ba!" said Molly as she held out her arms in Ash's direction.
"Molly likes balls," said Elizabeth.
"But Mom, it's my Poké ball!"
Delia gave him a warning glance. "Ash, let Molly play with the ball. And be gentle. Remember that she's still a baby."
Ash reluctantly rolled the ball in Molly's direction. The little girl laughed and clapped her hands, then rolled the ball back in Ash's direction. The two ended up having an enjoyable game of catch.
As Elizabeth and Samuel talked, Spencer and Delia wandered outside to the backyard.
"Molly is so adorable," Delia said as the two watched the flock of Butterfree fly overhead.
"Yes. Thank goodness she took after her mother in that department."
"Delia, does Ash know the truth about his father?"
"No," Delia said firmly. "We've decided not to tell him until he's an adult."
"But don't you think he deserves to know? Won't it be harder on him later when he does find out?"
"It'll be harder on Samuel now if we tell Ash. Even if we told Ash not to tell anyone, you know how kids are. Somehow it'll eventually slip out, then Samuel's career will be over."
"It must be hard on you to keep a secret like that."
"Of course it is," Delia said sadly, "but that's the way it has to be. I'll do whatever it takes to protect my son and his father."
The sound of giggling and footsteps racing down the hall ended their conversation. Ash was giving Molly a piggyback ride and the little girl was laughing hysterically.
"Look, Mom! I'm a Rapidash and I'm giving Molly a ride!"
"Ash! Put Molly down this instant!"
Spencer laid a hand on her arm. "Don't worry about it, Delia. Molly and I often play the piggyback game." He scooped up his daughter, got down on his hands and knees, and placed her on his back.
"I'm Entei!" he roared playfully.
Ash jumped on his back, nearly knocking him to the ground. "Give me a ride, too, Entei!"
Delia started laughing at the sight of Spencer galloping around the yard on all fours with the two children on his back.
"What's so funny, Delia?" Samuel and Elizabeth had come outside to see where the children had gone.
"That!" Spencer was now wrestling with Ash and Molly on the lawn. Both children were laughing so hard that they had the hiccups. Soon everyone was laughing along with the children.
When Spencer had finished playing with the kids, Elizabeth suggested that they should take a picture to remember all of the fun they had that day. As she set the timer, Spencer picked up Molly and brushed the blades of grass off of her dress. Delia quickly tried to smooth out Ash's unruly hair as Samuel took his place next to her. Elizabeth ran and stood next to her husband just as the flash went off.
"There! Now we'll have something to remind us of the good times we shared," Spencer said as he smiled at his family.
"So will we," Delia said as she smiled at hers.