Hi, guys. Just imagine whatever age you want them to be :) Mostly cute fluff.

"Here, this one's for you!" Ash grinned, and took a Pokeball-printed lumpy package out of his black winter coat and put it in his hand. It was held together with blue construction tape, the creases were done loosely, and the wrapping paper was obviously outdated with "I Choose You! Merry Christmas 2005" on it, but Gary happily received the parcel anyway.

"Thanks, Ashy…" Gary threw his arm around his friend and pulled him into an embrace. Ash blushed as he felt their chests press against each other.

"What, just Ashy?"


"Just Ashy?"

"Oh, fine. Ashy-girl."


"Just messin' with you, Ashy-boy."

They were still locked in each other's arms. Ash pulled away, a bit embarrassed at the group of girls near them seeming to be gossiping something. "We're just friends!!" Ash called after them. The girls were lost after a few seconds, walking into the huge mass of people in the shopping mall. Ash chuckled nervously and turned around, catching up with Gary who had walked ahead.

"What are you so worried about?" Gary asked once his hand was on Ash's shoulder.

"Gary, aren't you sort of… it's weird. How close we are."

"Ash, my boy, there is a term for that. And it is 'bromance.'"

"Mom thinks it's called 'gay'…"

"Why are you asking this now? You've always been so attached to Pokemon."

"Because, Gary, Brock told me that only a female Pokemon and a male Pokemon could mate. There's no such thing as a male and male breed. So I think it's weird."

For a second, Gary looked a little hurt. "So you don't like me hanging out with you?"

"N-no! I mean, I just don't ever want you to like me… that way."

"Ahh… so what brought this up? You like a girl?"

"No! Always jumping to conclusions…"

"It's Misty, isn't it?"

"No! She was pretty nice until she became a little…"

"… slutty?"

"That's mean, Gary! But yes."

"I can't help it, her pics are all over the Internet. Uhh… it's May?"

"No, she's taken."

"… whatsherface… the one with the blue hair. You know, all the girls you hang out with wear some really short skirts and shorts."




"Then who?!"

Ash stuck his tongue out at Gary to his right and said, "Mind your own beeswax!" Gary gazed off to his side and raised his eyebrows, thinking. Then his eyes widened.


"NO! You sicko!" Ash slapped him on the back and laughed. "Hey, look! It's a jewelry store. Can I see it?"

"Ash, that's such a girl thing."

"Shut up, there's guyish stuff in there, too!"

They took a detour from their straight path along the shopping strip and turned to "Chansey's Gem." Inside, there were several shelves of porcelain sculptures of different Pokemon and cutout jewels shaped like berries. Diamond-encrusted Pokeballs were featured in wooden curios, along with lengthy descriptions of each one's use. Giant pearls stood along the side, with engravings of the legends of Dragonite and Dragonair. Glass displays of old amber hung on the wall with price tags over a thousand dollars.

What really caught Ash's interest were the ancient gym badges.

"Look at these, look at these!" Ash scampered to the other side of the store, nearly knocking over half the clay pots on the way. "These are flippin' amazing! I mean, I'd think that they'd be pretty simple since this was waaaay back in the old days--"

"Oh yeah, those are the badges from the Deng region. Over two thousand years ago, the Deng people domesticated Pokemon mainly for farm use, but as time went on they used them for competition as we do now, and they carved these from the glass of—"

"Aaah, Gary, don't be a smartass!" Ash studied carefully at the fine details of the priceless carvings of the badges, the tediously drawn shapes of the waves of water, and he thought about the simple tear-dropped water badge he received from Misty years ago. He looked at the smoothed, sanded surface of the rock, and he thought about the crude-cut boulder badge he received from Brock when he started his Pokemon journey. The closest to the recent badge he got only a week ago was the lightning badge, with the same electric bolt but different color.

He was about to leave the open box of badges when he suddenly tripped on the leg of the table, shifting the table to the right and making the box topple over the surface.

The crystalline forms of art dropped onto the floor and cracked when the impact hit through where the badges touched. Ash, face down on the floor, turned bright red, dreading his consequences as the people around him gasped and murmured quietly. He felt Gary's hand tap his back, and when he looked up, a hand offered to help him up.

As quickly as the incident happened, a nearby saleswoman scurried to the stand. There was a smile on her face, but it seemed she tried to mask her frustration. "Yes, please help him up," she told Gary as she strided over.

"Gentlemen, we have a policy in this store that if you break it, you pay for the damages." She looked around her irritably, and immediately everyone tried to resume what they were doing.

"So, we don't have to buy these, right?" Gary tried to clarify.

"Yes. But you must pay for the person to fix these. It is very difficult to find such a person, so the costs are quite high." The lady adjusted the glasses on her face and began writing on her clipboard.

"How much is it?"

"Approximately 500 dollars."

Gary looked at Ash with surprise, and Ash returned it with an oh-my-God-I'm-so-freaking-sorry-look. And Gary responded with an it's-okay look.

"I'll pay for it."


"Young man, please calm down."

"Here, I'll sign this form."

"Wait, no he won't! Gary, really, I can—"


"Ash, it's okay, it's what friends do—"

"No, you don't understand!"

"… and here's my credit card."

"Thank you, sir."

"Okay, let's go, Ash."

Before Gary could begin walking out the door, Ash grabbed Gary's arm and dragged him out of the store. He pulled him across to an isolated hallway of the mall where the pay phone was.

"Gary, what was that for?!" Ash asked. Gary shook his head.

"Ash, I'm just helpin' you out!"

"No…" Ash held his palm to his face worriedly. "It's not that…!"

"Then what?"

"Gary, I know that you aren't in great financial shape…"

"You don't need to bring that up…"

"And you just paid 500 dollars for something that I did wrong…"

"It'll just set me back a week's salary!"

"That's a lot! That's groceries, a bit of your water supply—"

"I'm fine, Ash, please. I can think for myself."

"You're setting yourself back for me!" Ash looked into Gary's eyes for a quiet moment. "What do you think I'm supposed to take that as?"

"… Friendship?" Gary said meekly.

"Ngh… I told you… I don't want you to like me that way…" Ash looked off, embarrassed.

That hurt look that Gary had earlier returned to him. "Ash, how do you think I feel when you say that?"

Ash refused to meet Gary's eyes. He answered, "I'm just telling you how I feel."

"Don't you like me a little bit?"

"As a friend, yeah…"

"So you wouldn't feel anything if I did this?" Gary took Ash's hands and very sweetly kissed his forehead. Ash looked down and said nothing. "You're so red, Ash!"

"That doesn't mean anything!"

"Ash, if you really didn't like that, then you would have been disgusted. And beating me up or running away is fine." Gary held Ash's chin to face him, to look him in the eyes.

"okaysoilikeyoualittle…." Ash mumbled under his breath.

"What's that?"

"Gary…" Ash groaned, embarrassed, wanting to say no more. Ash hugged him. And he smiled.