"Mmm," Ash began groggily, stretching out across the right half of the bed. "...You awake?"

It was quiet. The Taillows had started chirping what felt like mere minutes ago, and as each of those minutes passed the sun on the horizon shone through the small exposed cracks in the window shutters more and more brightly.

The simple sheets draping the bed in Ash Ketchum's room were tangled in a strained mess, stretched across the bodies of two teenage boys. Gary Oak's bare arms were beginning to tickle from goosebumps in their sudden exposure to air, as they wrapped around Ash's skinny abdomen, more easily now than before.

"...Yeah," Gary responded, croaking out his first word of the day.

Sinking back into his former position, Ash tightened his grip on Gary's arm and faced the wall his bed was put against. They continued to lay in a sleepy stupor for another few moments. Time was beginning to compress back into a minuteless haze, before Gary's throat gave away a small laugh.

"What?" Ash asked, his eyes closed. He had been toying with the idea of letting himself drift off into slumber again.

"Was just thinking about your voice, it sounds so funny now," Gary chuckled, his face sinking further into Ash's back. "Remember right after we both first came back to Pallet Town for the holidays, after we left on our little adventures? Puberty got you, really bad. I made so much fun of your voice; it cracked all the time. All the time."

Another laugh. "And now it's deeper than mine." Gary's words reverberated through the other boy's spine, leaving a tickling sensation he felt on the threads of his thin white undershirt. Ash's face was lain sideways, the tip of his nose inches away from the wall next to him. His black hair was messier than it usually seemed; his hat that normally covered it had been placed carefully on top of an end table on the other side of his bed, next to a digital clock. Despite the relatively brief life span it'd had since his last hat, the bill was beginning to tear in spots that Pikachu had constantly latched onto with his little yellow paws. Without the little rodent by his side, Ash felt naked, as though he had forgotten his hat or his wallet in the last Pokemon Center he'd stayed at during another long stretch of journeying with his comrades.

"Where's Pikachu?" the brown-haired boy asked, recognizing the stiffening of Ash's torso with the thought of a missing best friend.

"He's in the other room. He still gets along great with Mom, like he's the long lost Snubble she'd always wanted around but never got. He likes sleeping with her on her bed when we're here," Ash said, shrugging. "...When we're home." Gary nodded.

Though the early-morning air was beginning to get warmer, Ash felt a shiver run across his torso from his chest, and pulled Gary's arms closer around himself. The blankets were not meant to cover more than one person, and for the time being his brown-haired childhood friend had pulled them mostly around himself; understandably, as he was clothed in less than Ash was.

Gary's fingers began to fidget against Ash's stomach. He blinked, his eyelashes brushing against the other's back.

"Ash," Gary said quietly, beginning to tug.

Ash made a soft noise that stayed dormant in his throat, before he slowly turned around in his bed. He looked at Gary's half-open eyelids for a second, observing him, before pushing into him with the front of his body and wrapping his leg around a thigh. Their pelvises rubbed. Ash's face was pressed against Gary's cheek, and for a while they remained that way, comfortably.

"Gary."

"..."

"...Gary."

"...mm?"

Ash's voice was warm against Gary's ear, though in a tone he did not usually take. "...I don't think..."

"..."

"..."

"...don't think what?"

Ash sighed, closing his eyes. "...I don't know what we're doing anymore. You, and me."

Gary shifted.

"What are you talking about all of a sudden? Why does that matter?"

"Well it was one thing when we were thirteen and we told our parents that we were..." Ash waved a hand, subconsciously shooing something away. "...you know, training together or something. Or looking through each other's Pokedexes. Doing other stuff. But now, now that I get what...how this whole thing is supposed to work...or, I guess, how everybody else thinks it's supposed to work..."

"...You're talking about Misty." Gary inferred quietly.

The slow ticking of an analog clock on one of the walls kept them aware of the first hour of the day that gained on them steadily. They both thought about what it felt like, experiencing it for their first time a few years ago, and wondered what possessed them to ever do it.

"It's just...I don't know, what are we supposed to...?"

"To do?" Gary shrugged a little. "Well, once again...does it matter?"

A lone Chimecho rang across the grassy field that lay stretched out next to the Ketchums' house, burned golden in the midsummer's long daylight hours. Ash reached over and adjusted the screen on the window a little.

"You'd better get back on the floor, dude. Mr. Mime will be in here soon, he's like a damn alarm clock."

"Could say the same about you," Gary muttered, pulling himself out from under the covers and moving slowly onto the sleeping bag lain in the center of the room, next to the bed.

For a moment afterward they lay in silence, the early morning noises drifting in through the window, their ears perked as they listened to each other shuffle among their sheets.

Ash stretched out again, this time his limbs extending across the entirety of his bed. Before drifting back into a brief sleep, he thought about how the world really operated, wondering how much out there was hidden from the rest; how probably the only thing that everyone had in common, from the lowliest Pokemon trainer to the greatest, was a secret. Thinking about it all made him feel slightly uneasy, and oddly lonely.

But sometimes it was nice to have a little time to himself. A little time to himself, with Gary.