*waves timidly* Hi, everybody. Remember me? :3

Yes, 'tis I, the Spook, five years older and possibly wiser but still bearing much love for our beloved little Pokémon Master-to-be and all things that go bump in the night. :) I come to you this marvelous Halloween season with another long (and spoooooky) installment of the "Stars Fell on Pallet Town" 'verse. Surprised? Ha! I am, too. I honestly never thought I'd be doing this again, but this story's been kicking around my head (and my hard-drive) for more than a few years, and with the encouragement and inspiration of some incredible friends and a never-ending desire to manipulate every aspect of young Ash Ketchum's life, you guys get a dose of me another time around. I'm honored and excited (and terrified) to be back here. :)

So technically, yes, this story is a sequel to "Blue Heaven," but it can easily stand alone, too. It would be beneficial to have read the three previous episodes of the trilogy, but if you haven't, you don't have to let that stop you here. I can run down all you need to know in one brief sentence—ya ready? Spoilage! Jay is Ash's father, Riley is the adorable new addition to the Ketchum family, and oh yes, Ash and Misty here be an established couple. So clearly, Pokéshipping abounds—or does it? Mwah! :P

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokémon. I also don't own the fantastic cult-classic The Blair Witch Project. Neither does Ash, Misty, or Brock, for that matter. Be forewarned, this story does contain spoilers for The Blair Witch Project, so if you've never seen it…well, what are you waiting for? The movie's been out for 11 years! Get on it! ;P

And many thanks to my patient, wonderful friend Danielle for beta-ing this for me! She may not know much about Pokémon, but the girl can sure spot the typos that elude my eyes multiple times. I am tremendously grateful, my dear!

Enjoy, everyone! :D


by Spruceton Spook

Chapter 1

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Ash Ketchum!"

It was a dark and stormy night in Pallet Town.

Okay…so it wasn't stormy. In fact, it was clear as clear could be. It was dark, though—endlessly dark, the kind of swathing night the quiet, rural Kanto valley was more than used to.

But it could have been broad daylight outside. There may have been lustrous rays of light streaming in through the curtains, birds chirping merrily outside, warmth radiating from the sun-drenched windows.

Or…there could have been a blizzard raging, snow and wind beating against the house ruthlessly, rattling the shingles. Maybe even a tornado, which would have been an outrageous sight, as those were all but nonexistent in that part of the land.

It didn't really matter. No attention was being paid to the outside world whatsoever. In the shadowy, dense stillness of the living room, four pairs of eyes were focused intently on the TV screen, unblinkingly wide in anticipation, suspense, and an impending sense of dread.

The spectators absorbed the dizzy event taking place before them speechlessly, completely engrossed. The three youngest, two of which's eyes were probably too immature for such an unsettling story, were taking up as little room as possible on the spacious couch, one leaning on the other like toppled dominos. Sounds of hysteria, screaming, and general chaos filled the room, doing nothing to pacify beating hearts and restless breathing and whitening knuckles.

It was only when Misty's fingernails succeeded in digging into Ash's skin through his flannel pants that he broke out of his trance. His hand flew to hers immediately, grasped it tightly, and eased her claws away from his leg without a word of complaint. Accepting the mutual gesture of security, the couple's hands remained clasped as attentions were directed back to the television. The culmination of the movie's story was underway, and the kids were both eager and apprehensive as the ending approached.

"Oh, no… No, no, no, don't go down there!" Brock suddenly shouted, slapping his hand partially over his eyes. The character in the movie was fearfully barreling down the staircase of a dilapidated house, heading straight for the basement. "It's so obvious the thing is in the basement!"

"Oh, my gossssh," Misty whimpered, burrowing her face into Ash's side. She was not too enthusiastic to see if Brock's frantic exclamation held truth. Quite the contrary, Ash, despite his racing blood, was very much fascinated in finding out what the character's fate had in store for her.

No one was more delighted by the effect the movie was producing than the man sitting across the way from the squashed, edgy kids. Jay stole a quick glance at them before turning back to the TV with a satisfied grin. He had seen the movie a few times, and was loving their reactions more than indulging in the film again himself. They weren't quite fraidy-cats, but he'd never seen the three of them huddled so close together. It was an amusing sight amidst all the terror.

In less than a minute, the movie abruptly ended, the screen rendered to static, then black. A lull took over the room until the credits started rolling.

"That's it?" Ash asked. Misty finally lifted her head from the warmth of his body, gawking at the screen as if in a daze.

"I'd say that's it," Brock wagered with a loud exhale.

Jay smirked at the befuddled kids. "That's it," he confirmed perkily. He reached over for the remote and shut the TV off, dousing any remaining light in the room. That didn't last long, however, as Misty hastily leapt up, startling Ash a bit, to switch on the lamp. Ash propped himself up and away from where he'd been leaning almost unconsciously on Brock.

"So," Jay chuckled, watching them readjust and make a bit of distance between themselves, "what did you think?"

"Freaky!" Ash answered his father elatedly.

"Yeah, that was pretty scary," Brock agreed, stretching the kinks out of his arms.

"…I didn't like it," came Misty's shaky ruling.

"What?" exclaimed Ash. "What do you mean, you didn't like it?"

"Too scary for you?" Jay teased.

Misty hugged her knees. "W-well, no—I mean, yeah, it—it was scary, but… I don't know, it just…hit too close to home."

"Huh? Hit too close to home?" Ash repeated confusedly. If Misty hadn't remained so disturbed by the eeriness of the film, she would have sighed at his ignorance.

"Well, yeah! I mean, hello. That movie didn't remind you of us at all?"

Ash shrugged, apparently not on the same wavelength as his girlfriend. "I guess it did a little…"

"A little?" Misty echoed incredulously. "Ash, it was about three kids—two guys and a girl—lost hopelessly in the woods, who couldn't read a map to save their lives, fought like crazy, ran out of food—"

"And get taunted, hunted down, and killed by a witch," Brock finished. He shook his head amusingly. "Yeah, Misty, it sucks that that always happens to us."

Ash, giddy as could be now that his nerves were loosening, burst into giggles. Misty narrowed her eyes at the older teen, not too appreciative that her viewpoint—as valid as she believed it was—came off as a huge joke.

"Very funny, Brock. It just freaked me out, that's all," she retorted defensively.

"I'm just messing with you," Brock grinned. "It did kind of remind me of us, you're right."

"Oh, c'mon, those kids were nothing like us!" Ash protested. "They were filming a dumb movie. They weren't on a journey. They didn't even have a single pokémon."

"Is that all that matters to you?" Misty didn't know why she was surprised—it was the obsessed Pokémon Master wannabe she was talking to, after all. "It makes no difference whatsoever!"

"You're right," Brock concurred. "Just take away the camera equipment and replace it with pokémon, and it could have been us."

"Hmm, I guess in a way, then, it isn't the greatest movie to show traveling pokémon trainers…especially on the night before they're due to set out," Jay chimed in with a mischievous wink.

Misty groaned dramatically as soon as she was reminded of that particular tidbit. It was true that the three of them were heading out once again for the Johto region the next day to continue Ash's journey. It was a fairly brief visit; they had only been in Pallet for the last two weeks for Ash to celebrate his thirteenth birthday with his family. At first Ash wasn't too keen on taking the short detour; he'd been on a badge-earning roll lately and didn't want to risk his streak. But Delia had been persistent, claiming that she had to say goodbye to her little boy and hello to her teenager, and a simple phone call would not do for this milestone. Ash had rolled his eyes at that logic, but he couldn't say no to her. Besides, it gave him a chance to spend more time with the latest addition to his life, his newborn brother, Riley. He didn't regret it.

But now here they were, on the eve of their departure, and naturally Jay had chosen this night to show them the cult-classic The Blair Witch Project. Misty had thought nothing of it at the time; she wasn't the biggest fan of horror movies, but it was Halloween time, and she didn't want to feel left out when the two boys eagerly agreed to the movie. Having no prior interest in it, she wasn't especially privy to the plot of the film…but boy, did she wish she had been now.

Jay was right—not the movie to put you in the best frame-of-mind right before you were set to camp out the following days in unbounded woods.

And yet somehow…why did she get the sinking suspicion that it had been deliberate? Misty was starting to catch on to Jay's notorious craftiness; Ash had certainly warned her about it enough. Her boyfriend's father was downright sneaky at times.

Heaven help me if Ash grows up with that trait!

"What's the matter, Misty? Scared the Blair Witch is going to get us?"

Okay, so even if Ash didn't inherit that particular feature, he had plenty of annoying ones now to make up for it.

"Oh, please, like you won't be scared?" she challenged right back.

"'Course not," Ash arched his shoulders confidently. "There's no such thing as the Blair Witch."

Misty slumped. "I don't mean the Blair Witch, Ash! I know that's fake!"

"So you're afraid of other witches?"

"We've never had a problem with witches before," Brock cut in with dead-pan seriousness, his dry humor hiding the satire behind the statement. "It would be a pretty insane coincidence if it happened to us now."

"I'm not talking about witches, period!" Misty growled with a laugh, chucking a pillow in Brock's direction. With quick reflexes, he swatted it away before it struck him in the face. "I'm talking about the fact that the forest has freaked me out before, and now it's really going to. There are tons of spooky things in the woods. What if this movie is supposed to open our eyes?"

"Open our eyes to what? Misty, what are you trying to do, put the kibosh on us leaving for my journey tomorrow?" Ash crossed his arms distrustfully. "Have you been plotting with Mom?" His eyes suddenly flared open and he jumped to face his dad. "Have you been plotting with Mom?"

Jay's jaw dropped and he threw his arms out wide in innocence. "Plotting what?" he chuckled. "I thought you guys would enjoy watching a spooky Halloween movie! That's all!"

Sure you did! Misty wanted to accuse him playfully, glad that Ash seemed to be catching on to her suspicions in a way, as well.

As if he'd heard her thoughts, Jay then turned to Misty and gave her an easy, placating smile. "Misty, you got nothing to worry about. You've spent years travelling safely in the woods, and trust me, you'll get to the next town safely, too. No big, bad whatever is out there to get you guys. The scariest thing in the woods with you is my son."

Jay's banter did reassure Misty. "Oh, I know," she giggled.

"And I'm not plotting anything with your mother, you little punk," Jay snorted at Ash. "You know she didn't even want me showing this movie to you guys."

"She might've changed her mind if it meant scaring me into staying home," Ash pointed out. It was no secret that Delia had been trying relentlessly to convince the kids to stick around longer, and it would be just like his desperate mother and frivolously-devious father to think up such a plan.

"I hear a bunch of chatting away down here. Is that terrible movie finally over?"

Speaking of whom, all heads turned as Delia made her first appearance in over an hour. Not a fan of the film by any means, she had retreated upstairs to take care of Riley and relax for the evening. Settled in comfortably for the night in her pajamas and robe, Delia affably shook her head at her family from the staircase.

"See what I mean?" Jay proved. He smiled up at his wife. "Yes, honey, that terrible movie is finally over. You can come out of hiding now."

"I wasn't hiding," Delia scowled good-humoredly as she made her way down the stairs. "I just didn't want to hear any of that awful film you just showed my children."

Jay sagged in his chair at Delia's unalterably strong opinion. "Oh, lay off it, Del, it's not that bad."

"Not that bad!" Delia widened her eyes in disbelief, though she had a facetious air about her. "The language in that movie is shameful! I can't believe you showed my little boy something with that much swearing in it. And I can't believe I let you!"

"Aww, Mom, give 'im a break. It's okay!" Ash chirped. "I know all those words already! Hear 'em plenty of times, too."

"Oh, is that so?" his mother laughed, arching her brow. "From whom?"

"Misty, duh," Ash rolled his eyes in jest. Misty socked him in the arm for his pointless attempt at wit.

"Yes, that Misty has quite a filthy mouth on her," Delia kidded in return. "But you never curse, do you, honey?"

"Absolutely not!" he replied, pretending to be taken aback. His mother gave him a shrewd, skeptical glance as Ash flashed his teeth in an angelic beam.

"They handled the movie fine," Jay sighed. "And I knew they would. They're old enough for this kind of stuff now."

Delia crossed her arms. "If you say so. But just don't start making it a habit of showing my son rated 'R' movies."

"It's Halloween. A lot of scary movies, unfortunately, are rated 'R,'" Jay said.

"That's no excuse! Where does it go from there? Rated 'R' romance movies for Valentine's Day? Those you will not be showing Ash."

"Why? What's in rated 'R' romance movies?" Ash asked with feigned naivety. Misty had to stifle her laughs.

"None of your concern, mister," Delia replied, poking her amused son's nose.

"Actually, you might be quite happy now that I showed them The Blair Witch Project," Jay said appealingly, standing up and extending his limbs. "Looks like a few members of the group are a little afraid about leaving tomorrow."

As expected, Delia's face brightened and she looked hopefully at Ash, to which her son frantically shook his head. "Not me!" he proclaimed. "I'm not afraid of witches! Misty is."

"Ugh, when will I learn to not open my mouth?" Misty dumped her head into her palm.

"Aww, it's okay if you're frightened, Misty dear," Delia soothed, resting her head lovingly on the girl's silky hair. "You can stay here with me all warm and cozy and safe in the house as looonng as you want."

"Okay!" Misty replied happily, melting with embellishment into Delia's embrace as she knew Ash was watching. Sure enough, she heard him huff at the affectionate display.

"Fine, stay here if that's what you want to do," Ash said haughtily. "But I'm heading back out tomorrow, with or without your witch-phobic self."

He was fibbing, of course; Misty knew darn well that he wouldn't dare leave without her. On the other hand, she (and probably everyone else in the room) knew that he'd barely be at the end of his front walk before she'd dash out there to join him. It was a losing battle, she acknowledged. While the kids loved their pit-stops at Pallet Town, the decision to come and go was always ultimately up to Ash, and if his eagerness in the last couple of days was any indication, nothing was going to prevent them from heading out in the early morning for Olivine City.

Not even if Misty was the least bit afraid after seeing what could happen to helpless campers…because, well, he ragged on her about her bug phobia, and that was real. Like he was going to put his dream on hold to protect her from another fear, this one completely irrational!

Delia looked a bit sad when Ash made that crack, and he was afraid he once again set off her lamenting on his going away. Instead, she gave an accepting nod as she reached out to stroke his face. "Well, if that's what you're planning, you'd better get off to bed then. It's pretty late, and I know you: you'll want to leave as early as possible tomorrow."

"Only because I want to get as close to the next town as I can before dark," Ash reminded her calmly. He knew she was aware that he didn't want out quickly because being home was undesirable. It was an impractical notion, but all the same, he always liked to reiterate for her sake.

"And if we can get to the next town before dark? That would be perfect," Misty said with a jittery laugh.

"Oh, sure, Misty, not a problem," Brock consented sarcastically. "As long as you don't mind carrying my pack, I'm all for it. Though I hope you know it won't make a difference, anyway…if the witch doesn't want us to reach the town, we're not going to."


"Ah, quit worrying, you guys," Jay yawned, stepping by the kids and giving Ash a gentle pat on the head in a goodnight gesture. "You know what night's gonna be the worst if you're gonna have trouble sleeping from this? Tonight. And where are you? Safe in the house.

"Well," he added tentatively, cringing, "at least I'd assume you're safe in here. I mean, you never know if this'll be the night Mommy finally decides to go on a sleepwalking rampage."

Jay agilely sprang out of the way as Delia reached out to slap his arm. She barely missed him. "I'd go after you first," she warned.

"Don't I know it," Jay guffawed, heading for the stairs. "Goodnight, kids. Hopefully I'll see you in the morning!"

Misty laughed at his silliness, but Jay was right: she was going to have a rough night. She normally did after scary movies. But, she had to recall, so did Ash. They'd seen enough together for her to be certain of that, and some of those movies couldn't even hold a candle to this one as far as the horror factor was concerned. The kid was hyper now, and undoubtedly enjoyed the movie (probably also had something to do with Jay going above Delia in letting him see it), but she knew him well enough to know that eventually, inevitably, he'd succumb to his masked fears.

Unbeknownst to her, a little while later found Ash not the least bit worried about his sleeping capabilities. Though wound up, he could already feel fatigue coming on. He was looking forward to getting back to business the next day. He'd had a great break: got a delicious birthday dinner and cake, played with little Riley till he tuckered the baby out, visited all his pokémon at Professor Oak's. The vacation was prized, but he knew he was at his prime right now. It would only be a matter of time before he'd earn all eight badges necessary to compete in the Johto League. The desire for that set all his ambitious gears into motion. Home was fantastic, but his livelihood was calling.


Well, at the moment, that wasn't the only thing calling.

As he reached the landing of the second floor, he immediately heard Misty's voice wafting from the sitting room down the hall. A smile creeping to his face, he lightly padded his way over. The door was slightly ajar, and he nudged it open. He could barely see into the abyss of her room, but he didn't need to.

"Yeah, Misty?" he whispered. The meager light from the hallway cast a skinny beam across her bed, which she, to his surprise, was not in. Instead, she was seated Indian-style at the end of it, burying her bare, chilled toes into a fold in the comforter.

She smiled when their eyes met. "Goodnight."

"Oh, goodnight," he returned pleasantly. He motioned past her with a buoyant nod of his head. "Uh, you gonna get in the covers or what?"

Misty gave an aloof half-shrug and began to shuffle off her bed. "Um…yeah…in a minute."

Ash could hear the veiled apprehension in her voice as he took her extending hands. They felt like ice, and once again he was going to suggest she get under the blankets, but he supposed he needed to address the not-so-subtle hint of assurance she was pining for.

"What's the matter?" he asked, still keeping his voice low, as the closed door to his parents' room was but feet away. He'd catch hell if he woke Riley up and interrupted the baby's fairly consistent sleeping schedule.

A little embarrassed, Misty stole a glance at his chest. "I don't know…still a little freaked out about that movie, I guess."

"Really?" Ash asked in surprise, though his tone was not meant to mock. "I didn't think it was that scary, Misty. You didn't even see the witch!"

Misty tilted her head thoughtfully. Movies certainly affected the two of them differently, and like any boy his age, it was sight and action that appealed to Ash. The Blair Witch Project was focused on what was not seen, the obscurity of an invisible, deadly menace that was meant to arouse one's fear. It made more sense to her now why Ash wasn't as frightened as she was; things might have been different if the screen had been graced by a hideous witch's face at one point or another.

"I know," she replied. "It still scared me, though. All the sounds and getting lost and stuff. I watched it and just kept seeing us the whole time. It was creepy. When we get back out into the woods, I don't know if I'll be able to get it off my mind."

"So, what does that mean?" Ash smirked jovially. "You're afraid to camp out now?"

She cringed slightly. "Well…"

"'Cause if that's the case," he blinked assertively, "you don't think I'd protect you if there was a witch out there?"

Although utterly sweet, Misty had to snicker at that. "Oh, you would, huh? And how would you do that? Especially since the witch likes to confuse her victims."

"She wouldn't confuse me."

"Right!" she beamed zanily. "All she'd need to do is imitate the call of a rare pokémon and you'd be running out of there so fast and leaving me behind for her!"

Ash looked wounded by her gibe. "Aww, c'mon, Misty, no I wouldn't." He then paused and thought about it. "But…even if I did, Brock would be there to protect you just in case."

"I think that's what I would rely on in the first place," she narrowed her eyes derisively.

Ash scratched the back of his head. "Well, you don't have to worry about it tonight, Misty. Come on now, let's get to sleep." He produced a huge yawn, granting Misty a whiff of the minty aroma of his toothpaste. "I want to get up around seven tomorrow."

Misty couldn't escape the contagiousness of the yawn. "If I can even sleep…" she managed. She then gave Ash a kittenish smile. "I kinda wish you could be around to protect me tonight."

His eyes widening at her mischievous desire, Ash hurriedly put a finger to his lips to shush her. "Misty," he giggled nervously. "Quiet!"

She laughed as softly as she could, delighted with his reaction. "No one heard me. Chill out."

"My mom has the ears of a zubat. I will not chill out."

"Your mom is probably dead asleep."

"Well…yeah, you're probably right," Ash dismissed it, rubbing at his watery eyes. "I'm getting there myself. You aren't?"

Yawning again, Misty had no excuse to deny it. "No, I guess I am. My one night where I know I'll actually be safe. Might as well take advantage of it."

"You'll be safe tomorrow night, too," Ash sighed. "The only thing you should really be concerned with is how cold it might be."

The mere thought of trekking dozens of miles in the nippy late-October air sent a shiver through Misty's bones. She was never one to deal well with the colder weather. If she couldn't keep warm in the Ketchums' cozy house, she didn't even want to imagine how uncomfortable sleeping outdoors was going to be.

Seeing the predictable dismay in her eyes, Ash excitedly leaned into her ear. "But…don't worry about that, either," he whispered roguishly. "I'll protect you from that, too."

The look of tickled shock on her face could not have been a better reward for Ash. He happily realized that he was starting to get as good with romantic talk as she oftentimes seemed to be. Paying close attention to the passionate things people said around him and on TV, and trying to pick up a thing or two from Brock (although he was more often a guide for what shouldn't be said to girls), Ash was beginning to build on a lexicon that had been all too foreign to him. He even, guiltily, had a few not-so-innocent phrases stored away in his mind that would have his mother coming after him if she happened to hear them.

"Oh my gosh, who has to shush now?" Misty squealed, a blush sweeping across the bridge of her nose. Her body seemed to warm simply with his words alone.

Ash felt her hands clamp his gleefully, and his pleasure swelled all the more. Figuring that was enough to effectively wash her mind of her petty witch worries, he gave her a quick peck on the cheek.

"Night, Misty."

Practically glowing, Misty scrambled backwards onto her bed, her gleaming eyes never leaving his. "Night, Ash."

Ash stood at her door and watched as she slipped under her covers, delicately and masterfully moving Togepi to the side without awakening him. When she was finally all settled in, her face the only part of her visible under the mountain of blankets drawn to her chin, comfortable as could be, Ash couldn't help but leer.

He had to do it.

"And Misty? All those stories about the Pallet Town witch that I never told you about? Really…don't let them get to you. They're all just made-up stories. At least I think they are. I dunno. What's the chance of her coming after you tonight if she was real, anyway? I mean, it's not like she smells fear or anything like that, for all I know."

Silence. Then: "I hate you."

Ash's stomach leapt with affection as he gently closed her door. "Love you, too."

Misty couldn't remember the last time she had so elatedly embraced the solace of a bright, sunny morning.

At the same time, she couldn't remember if she was ever this nervous about heading out into the untamed wilderness of Kanto's forests. Naturally, the day she had embarked on her journey had been an anxious one (though she wouldn't admit that to anyone, especially her sisters), but the only things she had feared were the elements, insects, and summoning the great maturity needed to be on her own for the first time. How in the world could she be older and now fearful of something as ridiculous as being hunted by a fictional supernatural being?

Suffice to say, it would be a long time until she watched a scary movie again. Especially one that paralleled her current life way too much for her liking. Clearly, she was wrong in thinking that she would kick this fear to the curb after the first night. If she had gotten three solid hours of sleep, she would be shocked.

Apparently, Misty was the only one who experienced a restless night after watching that disturbing film. Ash and Brock were eagerly packing away, and neither looked particularly drained. Having packed the night before, Misty was now sitting at the base of the stairs, nursing a cup of tea and rubbing the moisture from her throbbing eyes. She craved sleep, but what she really wanted was to expel this childish and embarrassing feeling of apprehension.

Stupid movie…

Delia was in and out of the living room sporadically. While not voicing it incessantly, Misty could tell she was unhappy that her son was up and leaving once again. Misty felt bad for her. If anyone believed having Riley would succeed in keeping her mind off her absent eldest, they were sorely mistaken. Delia abhorred saying goodbye to Ash, and it was blatantly evident that morning.

Maybe it was because Ash was getting older that she realized just how much of his childhood she was missing out on.

With an aggressive yank, Ash zipped his backpack closed and leaned back on his haunches. "I think that does it," he said, slightly out of breath. While Delia had gathered his stuff together, getting it in his backpack had been a chore, considering his extra clothes were bulky for the looming colder weather. Brock was still struggling with his.

His mother approached him, bundling her pink bathrobe around herself tentatively. For a second, Ash was certain she was going to go through the dreaded routine of making sure he packed specific items, but the reluctant smile on her face quickly reminded him what he was still up against.

"Are you really gonna leave me again?" she whispered, her tired, beseeching eyes working their way into his conflicted heart.

"Aww, Mom," Ash groaned, rising to his feet. "Don't do this to me. Please? You know I have to get back out there."

"I know, I know," Delia quickly yielded, pushing her long, mussed hair out of her face. "I just…wish you would stick around longer, that's all…"

"You wanted me to come home for my birthday, and I did," Ash tried to explain as tenderly as possible. He didn't get it. Through his many farewells, she was pretty good about letting him leave for the most part. For some reason, this time around she seemed much more unrelenting. In the past few days, whenever he had mentioned his impending departure, she'd gotten visibly glum. "If—if I don't leave now, I'm gonna fall behind…"

"I understand, honey," Delia sighed, her gaze lowering bashfully to the ground. "It's just that…"

As she trailed off with noticeable purpose, Ash quirked a brow. "It's just that, what…?" he drawled, a bit of suspicion blending in with his exasperation.

The feeling was validated when she picked her head up, this time adorning a rascally smile. "It's just that…I was kind of hoping that you…maybe…would have thought about staying home for…Halloween…?"

Ash's whole body slumped. So that's what this was all about. He realized in hindsight that he should have seen that coming—his mother had a thing about holidays and always strived to do them up for her boy's sake. Which was something Ash appreciated, of course…just not when the Mineral Badge was calling out to him.

"Mom, no," he shook his head.

"Oh, why not?" Delia jumped right in, advancing toward him with a hopeful, enticing gleam in her chestnut eyes. "You haven't been home for a Halloween in so long! Don't you think it would be fun?"

"Mooomm," Ash moaned on the verge of a whine. "Halloween's in a week!"

"I know! That's not too far away—"

"I was just going to say it is too far away!" he countered, a little louder than he intended. "I can't wait that long to get back on my journey!"

Disappointment promptly washed over Delia's formerly optimistic face, and at once, Ash felt awful. He hated having this argument with her, but she needed to comprehend that it had nothing to do with her, or even Halloween. As a pokémon trainer, sacrifices such as these were part of the game; sometimes, holidays became causalities of the arduous lifestyle. That's just the way it was.

"I—I'm sorry," Ash quickly said, apologizing for both his forceful replies and for letting her down.

The apology was wordlessly accepted and a smile returned to her lips. "You can go trick-or-treating," Delia sang temptingly, her teeth sparkling with the incentive.

Ash's eyes widened. Trick-or-treating. The tantalizing lure of candy. A free pass for acceptable mischief and shenanigans. Hanging out on the dusky streets of Pallet Town till late hours, playfully spooked and stomachs gorged with sweets.

It was that…or his sixth Johto League badge. In all honesty, the idea did sidetrack him for a moment, but no…no, he couldn't afford any more delay.

"Mom, listen—"

"Oh, Ash, you'd love to do trick-or-treating again!" she interrupted him, clapping her hands excitedly. "You'd have so much fun. And with Misty and Brock, too! You three've never gone trick-or-treating together before, have you? It'd be wonderful. I'll even make your costume for you, just like old times! I'll make them for all you kids!"

Misty and Brock smiled politely at her enthusiasm, but Ash's grimace remained.


"I'd make whatever you want!" It was obvious she wasn't going to let him get a refusal in. "What do you want to be, sweetie? Anything you'd like! Just name it!"

"I want to be a pokémon trainer on his way to Olivine City, that's what I want to be." Ash crossed his arms grumpily.

His mother gave him a pained smile. "Come on now, Ash…I'm being serious."

"So am I. Fine. How 'bout an ax murderer?"

The suggestion made Delia falter for a second. "Oh, well…okay..."

"Complete with a real ax," he elaborated, secretly loving her slightly disturbed reaction. He decided to add a bit more spice to the mix. "And I want Misty to be my victim."

"What?" Misty gasped, startled at being dragged into the minor dispute. She swiftly gathered herself as she registered Ash's idea. "No way! Ma, tell him no. That's horrible!"

"I don't mind him dressing the part, but Ash, no ax, dear. That's way too dangerous," Delia cringed. "Besides, I don't know if we even have an ax."

"Whatever," Ash threw the concept away with his hand. "I changed my mind, anyway. I want to be a gigolo."

If the ax murderer proposal had taken Delia by surprise, this totally bowled her over. "A-a what?" she sputtered.

An aghast laugh burst from Misty's flushed face. "Ash! How do you even know what a gigolo is?"

"I have ways," Ash smirked haughtily. Brock's eyes drifted to the ceiling as he whistled innocently behind him. "So, yes, Mom, I want to be a gigolo, and I want Misty to be my—"

"ASH!" Misty nearly leapt off the stairs to her feet. A mortified smile spread her still rosy cheeks. "Zip it!"

Proud and amused with his witty stunt, Ash smiled brashly at his beleaguered mother. This was getting fun.

"Ash," Delia said cautiously, again sweeping her untamed hair from her face. He could tell she was reluctant to say what was on her tongue. "I…I don't want you to be that, honey. It's not…appropriate."

Giggling inwardly, Ash responded with an indifferent shrug. "Okay. I guess I'm gonna head off to Olivine City then."

"Oh, Ash," Delia pouted, now looking sincerely dejected, "why are you making this so difficult?"

"Me?" Ash cried with a disbelieving grin as he gestured to himself. "I'm the one making things difficult? Mom, you're the one who's trying to make me feel guilty about pursuing my dream. I'm not being difficult!"

"Who's being difficult? What?"

Suddenly, Jay entered the fray from the top of the stairs. He'd been getting ready in his bedroom and was just about finished when the contention broke out. He'd heard the rise and fall of voices through his closed door in the last few minutes, but could tell there was nothing harsh about the dialogue.

For Ash, Jay's appearance was the stroke of luck he needed. He practically bounced with relief at the sight of his father—just the person to stand up for him in this case!

"Are you being difficult to your mother? Huh?" Jay demanded of his son lightheartedly. Misty jumped up from her seat on the base of the steps to let Jay through.

Ash huffed. "Yeah, right! Mom's trying to bug me into staying home. She thinks Halloween is more important than my Mineral Badge. Tell her to cut it out—tell her how important it is for me to get back out there!"

"I'm supposed to tell you how important it is for Ash to get back out there," Jay informed his wife, shoving his hands casually into his jean pockets.

Delia rolled her eyes. "Jay, give me a break! He acts like I'm trying to make him stay home for good. All I wanted to know is if he wanted to stay to go trick-or-treating."

Jay perked visibly at that. "Ohh. Trick-or-treating, huh?"

"Yes, I thought it would be really nice if they got dressed up and enjoyed the holiday for once, like kids should."

"Who says I haven't been enjoying Halloween all these years?" Ash made a face.

"Ash, considering the fact that we forgot it was Halloween last year, I wouldn't go ahead and make that argument," Brock said.

Ash was two seconds away from having Pikachu thundershock his friend. True, last Halloween found the kids spending more time than intended hiking through the woods to the next town, so much that they had lost track of the days. Ash was so busy preparing himself for the next battle that it hadn't bothered him that much.

For a moment, Jay was quiet. Ash observed as he apparently contemplated all sides of the situation, but he knew Jay would declare what was obviously more crucial.

"You know," Jay finally said, "it would be nice to have a stash of candy in the house to raid again."

"Are you kidding me?" Ash exclaimed, glaring at his chuckling father. "You're telling me that you want me to put off earning badges for the Johto League just so you can steal my candy?"

"No, that's not what I'm saying," Jay replied somewhat sternly. "I'm saying I want you to put off earning badges for the Johto League so I have three stashes of candy to steal from. I'm not forgetting Misty and Brock now. We're talking about the mother-load here!"

While his two friends laughed, Ash just crossed his arms and scowled at Jay, who was trying desperately to keep a straight face.

"Take Riley trick-or-treating," Ash put forward. "You can keep all his candy. And me, Misty, and Brock can be on our way to Olivine City."

"I have full intentions of taking the pipsqueak out on the town," Jay shrugged truthfully. "But let's face it—a six-month-old isn't going to last too long out there. What will we get out of it, one, maybe two blocks? Plus, you think I'm in shape for that? Your old man'll probably crap out before Ri-Ri does. Therefore, I'm gonna need three resilient, young kids to help fill my quota."

Ash threw an almost fraught look at his mother, who was covering her mouth in an attempt to not laugh at her husband's humorous approach. And then there were Misty and Brock, inconveniently speechless during this exchange, looking just as amused and clearly not raring to jump to his defense.

Okay, so they were biting at Delia's bait. He couldn't blame them, he supposed. There was always a part of him that looked for just the faintest excuse to stay at home, and this was undoubtedly tempting. But determined to be serious and focused in his quest, giving in to something as juvenile as Halloween was completely unacceptable in any respectable pokémon trainer's eyes.

"I don't know, Ash," Misty unexpectedly piped up. She wrung her hands around her empty tea cup sheepishly. "Maybe…we could think about staying…"

"Yeah," Brock added diffidently, a startled Ash spinning to face him. "I mean, it is only a week…"

Just great! Ash thought as his jaw dropped to the ground. Respectable trainers, all right. His friends were nothing but suckers easily bribed by candy, his dad was a traitorous freeloader, and his mom…well, his mom loved him and missed him. And she wasn't technically a "respectable trainer." Didn't completely render her excused from being the ringleader in all this, but still.

"Guys, I can't believe it! I thought you wanted to get back to travelling." Wait…didn't they?

"Well…" Misty said, keeping her response guardedly open-ended.

Ash narrowed his eyes as she was clearly dancing around a more sensitive subject. "Oh, Misty, admit it," he scoffed laughingly. "You don't want to stay here to trick-or-treat. You just wanna stay because you're afraid you're gonna get eaten by a witch if you leave the house."

"Ash. No, I'm not," Misty hotly denied, red in the face. She looked about ready to chuck her teacup at Ash's bratty face.

Before Ash had a chance to further antagonize, Jay gasped in amused shock. "Are you kidding?" he ragged Misty. "Are you really still creeped out from that movie?"

"No," Misty replied firmly, her pride pouring through the word. "Don't listen to Ash. He's full of it."

"Well, I know that," Jay said flippantly. "But seriously, are you?"

Misty stewed for a moment before shrugging honestly. "Maybe a little. But that's not why I wouldn't mind staying here, Ashton," she grated in Ash's direction. He shuddered visibly at the name. "I happen to think that going trick-or-treating sounds like a lot of fun."

Delia practically squealed with delight, piercing Ash's ears. "Oh, you see, Ash? Your friends want to stay! Don't you now?"

Ash vacillated, agape. The barrage of pressure, strong and subtle, was enfolding him in a stifling blur. He honestly didn't know what to do or say. Hassled, his gaze shot to Pikachu, perched atop the couch and observing the volley of human interaction before him. As soon as their eyes met, Pikachu's ears twitched at attention. While the pokémon may not have understood all the words being passed between the family, he had no trouble reading the strain in Ash's expression. Right away, Pikachu looked concerned.

It was silly to seek advice from his pokémon, Ash knew. After all, Pikachu would do anything Ash wanted to do. Truthfully, it was more like the mouse didn't have much of a choice. Only then did Ash realize he was looking for the answer to his dilemma within himself, studying one of the most influential elements of his quest for insight. Pikachu was conditioned and rested, ready for battle. In that alone, Ash felt he couldn't deny that Olivine City was the logical choice.

But then how in the world was he going to deny those flickering, hopeful, pleading eyes of his mom?

Olivine City could wait. He didn't want it to, but it could. Like he could go into battle there with a clear, guiltless conscience at this point, anyway.

"Okay, fine. We'll stay," Ash finally answered, a touch of reluctance in his voice, "but only under one condition."

"Oh, here we go," Brock grunted. Ash's brow quirked indignantly at his friend's assumption that his stipulation was an outrageous one, but all that mattered was that his mother already looked rabid to comply. It was almost enough for him to naughtily name a prerequisite a bit more excessive just for kicks, but he knew he wouldn't be able to suppress his shame in taking advantage of his mother like that for too long.

So, he made it simple and succinct: "We're leaving November first."

"Fine," Delia accepted with a smile.

Wow, easy. "I mean, don't start talkin' about Thanksgiving and thinking I'm going to stick around because that's so close—we aren't."

Uh-oh… Obviously not having thought of that, Delia was wavering for a second. She quickly shook her head of it, though, and gave him a nod. "Okay."

But her hesitance was enough to make clear to Ash that there was a fat chance he'd be able to avoid home for the holidays; well, he'd cross that bridge when he got to it. Not that he didn't want to be home for those occasions himself, but he wasn't about to take the three-month vacation Delia would wholeheartedly advocate.

"Yeah, yeah, okay. Sure, you can leave the day after Halloween, but let me make it clear that it's only under one condition from me, all right?" Jay spoke up with facetious austerity. "I get dibs on anything in your candy stash that has peanut butter or coconut in it."

"Coconut, sure," Ash grinned. "But I'm gonna fight ya for the peanut butter."

"And you'll lose, but okay," Jay shrugged dismissively.

"So…does this mean you're really staying?" Delia exclaimed almost breathlessly.

Seeing the joy in her face at granting her what she clearly wanted very, very much filled Ash with a swelling feeling of gratification.

Giving Delia a lopsided smile, he sighed with forged apathy, "Yeah, I guess so."

Like a coiled spring released, Delia pounced over to envelope him in a hug.

"But only for Halloween, I mean it!" Ash yelped, his voice muzzled by a face-full of terrycloth. "Ugh, Ma! Lemme go!"

He didn't want to be let go; he just wanted her to loosen the vise-like grip he was snared in. Truth be told, the entire conversation probably could have been foregone if Delia had simply embraced him like this from the very start. No need to make her aware of how easily the softy in him could be won over, though. Besides, in hindsight, he would have never passed up freaking her out with his prospective Halloween getups.

He actually had no idea what he wanted to be for Halloween…if he decided to go trick-or-treating at all.

When Delia finally liberated him, and he was able to catch his breath and right his back into a more comfortable posture, he right away glanced at Misty. His sly little girlfriend, looking just as thankful as she looked bushed. Did she have the energy to travel today? he wondered sympathetically. A moot point now…but her evident relief definitely helped take some weight off his shoulders (and some off hers, he'd have to tease her later). And Brock—well, Brock was the most easygoing, acquiescent guy Ash had ever met, and if Ash wanted to stay another month rather than a week? Yeah, Brock would do that, too.

One more week in Pallet Town. One more week of good meals, fresh laundry, his own downy pillow, and no nerve-wracking map deciphering. It wasn't hard being lazy…or being coddled, for that matter. Though the teenager and voyaging Pokémon Trainer in him desired some parental severance, there was always a (secretly large) part of him that adored being doted upon, of which his parents were generous.

Well, maybe sometimes a little too generous.

Most unwelcomingly, the preoccupied Ash was suddenly apprehended in a fierce stronghold that swept his slender body off the ground. Before he even processed who his captor was, a sound, slobbering kiss was planted unceremoniously on his cheek.

"Ugh, DAD!"

Jay chuckled. "Thanks for making your mom happy, bud," he commended, and let his aghast, embarrassed son slither gracelessly back down. Ash quickly stumbled a few feet away, scowling.

"Don't mention it," he mumbled indignantly, to which Jay grinned.

Don't mention it, indeed.

That Mineral Badge seemed all the more appealing now…

"Geez," Ash groaned, even now recalling Jay's overdone kiss from earlier. "My dad is worse than my mom sometimes."

Misty held a hand over her mouth to muffle a giggle. "Aww, that was cute, Ash!" she bubbled. "He's just happy you're staying home."

"No, he's happy that Ash is staying home and that he just got Riley out of the house," Brock snickered. "Those two need some time for themselves," he acknowledged, referring to Jay and Delia.

"Yeah, yeah," Ash begrudgingly agreed. "I knew they had some underhanded reasons for wanting me to stay home!"

"Stop it," Misty scolded lightly. "Mom just wants us to get some fresh air—Riley, too. It's too beautiful a day to be inside."

"Ain't that the truth," Brock concurred.

And a beautiful day it indeed was. Zipped up in their fall coats, packed up with a travel-bag of drinks and money and with Riley and pokémon in tow, they leisurely made their way down the road en route to Pallet Town's popular apple orchard and pumpkin patch. Ash and Misty's hands were linked and stuffed inside Misty's jacket pocket, the warmth of Ash's hand not quite enough to keep the slight chill of the brisk fall air from numbing her fingers. Brock had been relegated to pushing Riley's stroller, a role he had accepted without any objection, while Togepi sat bundled with the infant, quietly keeping Riley occupied by allowing the baby to fiddle with his fuzzy spikes. It didn't take long after they had left the house to realize just what a great idea Delia had to fill an otherwise uneventful afternoon.

They walked on silently for quite some time, the soft crunch of the gravel and dead leaves beneath their feet, before Ash randomly spoke his mind.

"You know, I actually think it's gonna be pretty cool to be home again for Halloween," he said wistfully, glancing up at the blue sky.

"Wow, you changed your tune quickly," Misty remarked.

Ash shrugged. "I guess. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't want to be home for Halloween."

"Sure sounded that way!" Misty begged to differ with a laugh. "You really couldn't have given your mom more of a hard time, you know."

"I suppose I did. It's just that if I gave in to every time she begged me to stay, or every time that I wanted to stay home on my own, I'd never leave," Ash admitted seriously. "Once I'm out there, that's one thing, but… It's just gotten harder and harder to come home and then leave again, especially now with Riley."

"That's perfectly understandable," Brock said. "And I can't blame your mom for trying to get you to stay, either." He winked.

Ash smiled. "Well, she's getting her way this time. I'll stay home for Halloween, but after that, it's back on the road for us. I can't afford to miss any more time. The Johto League is going to be here before we know it, and I'll kick myself if I miss it by just a few weeks and have to wait again for next year."

Misty threw her weight against Ash to playfully off-balance him. "Stop worrying about it!" she chirped perkily. "Let's just have fun this week! I think it really is going to be great, Ash!"

"You bet it will!" Brock agreed, his face lighting up with an almost impish look of delight. "I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to go trick-or-treating!"

"Yeah, me neither!" Misty exalted, making a short leap into the air to illustrate her anticipation. "I haven't been trick-or-treating in years! It'll be so much fun!"

Flushing slightly, Ash slumped his shoulders. "Are you guys serious? You really wanna go trick-or-treating?"

Misty shot him a confounded look. "What are you talking about? You don't want to go trick-or-treating?" Seeing Ash's indifferent expression in response, Misty gasped. "I can't believe you! Why in the world would you not want to go trick-or-treating?"

"I dunno," Ash's voice dragged. "Aren't we a little too old for that?"

"Too old?" Misty echoed incredulously. A tease of a smile still adorned her face, as she seemed certain her boyfriend was just being silly. "Ash, what's up with you? Brock is seventeen, and he's going!" She gestured toward Brock, who was nodding pointedly. "Since when did you get 'too old' for it, Mr. Pokémon Master?"

Ash realized that with Misty's logic, he didn't have much of an argument. Still, he couldn't help but feel awkward about the whole idea. He hadn't gone trick-or-treating since the year before he began his journey. Regardless of what other people thought, it was that period of his life before his quest that he considered his childhood, the prelude before he had indisputably, in his eyes, "grown up." It was a powerful notion that he couldn't simply discount. Wasn't trick-or-treating an activity for little kids? Really little kids? Even back then, his trick-or-treating involved more fooling around than it did ringing neighbors' doorbells. As much as the incentive of free candy was appealing, Ash couldn't help but view trick-or-treating as a step backward, a reversion to a life he was almost proud to have left behind.

"Well, I don't think I'm too old for it, but maybe others will!" he disputed. "What are people going to think when we come to the door with a bunch of little kids? We're going to stand out—it's gonna be so obvious!"

Misty rolled her eyes. "Trust me, Ash, considering the fact that you look like you're ten, I don't think you are going to have much of a problem," she quipped. She had to bite back a giggle as Ash withdrew his head, a faint hint of a blush dancing across his nose at the ever-frequent reminder of how young he looked.

"Brock, on the other hand," she continued, reaching over to graze Brock's rough cheek with the back of her hand. "You might have to get rid of that five o'clock shadow before we head out."

Brock laughed, and reached up to roam the developing stubble on his chin. "Guess you're right there, Misty. Or I could just wear a mask!"

"Or go as a hobo!" Misty chuckled, her white teeth gleaming in the sunlight. "How are people to know it's real?"

As his two friends laughed, Ash discreetly turned his head to the side and reached up to explore his own chin. Smooth…just as it always was. Not that he had expected anything to change at that precise moment, but it sure would have helped to boost his resolve. And self-assurance. While he knew she was just poking harmless fun at something that was indeed evident, Ash didn't always appreciate the fact that his height and appearance suggested an age much younger than he actually was.

"Well, it sure will be nice to be the one to dress up for once," Brock sighed appreciatively. "The last few Halloweens at home involved dressing up my siblings and making sure they all stayed together when we went trick-or-treating. Wasn't much fun. I can't even remember the last time I actually got my own piece of candy on Halloween."

"Well, you'll be filling up your bag this year!" Misty proclaimed.

"You know, Pallet Town isn't exactly the trick-or-treating capital of the world, Misty," Ash reminded her, thinking of how separated the homes were in his quaint, rural community. He was certain she was unknowingly visualizing a Pallet Town Halloween to be exactly like a busy Cerulean City one. "There're not that many big neighborhoods to hit. We'll be walking around a lot, that's for sure."

Shrugging, the contented smile never left Misty's face. "That's okay—it'll be fun, if anything! Come on, Ash, stop convincing yourself that you don't want to go trick-or-treating and let's just do this! You know we're going to have a good time."

Ash prepared to reply, but his words were suspended by a smile. How could he debate with such enthusiasm? Misty's excitement was simply radiant, searing from her bright eyes, colossal smile, and exuberant tone. That alone was winning him over, persuading him to give in to the fact that deep down he did want to go trick-or-treating. He still wasn't sure why he was trying to convince himself otherwise, but Misty was right. If he was going to be home for Halloween, with his best friends on top of that, he should make the most of it.

"All right," he finally relented, giving the hand he was clutching within her pocket a tight squeeze. "We're going trick-or-treating."

"Yes!" Misty pumped a fist into the air. "Lots and lots of candy, here we come!"

It didn't take long before the lively scene of a thriving pumpkin patch emerged in the near distance. Unlike the makeshift reproductions in the neighboring urban cities, Pallet's well-known farm was completely genuine. Pumpkins remained secured to their vines in the sweeping, tangled field, while the adjoining apple orchard presented a picturesque accompaniment. Its authenticity and charm made it a prime attraction this time of year, clearly proven by the grounds teeming with locals and visitors alike feverish to obtain the most prized of the crop.

Taking in his vibrant surroundings, Ash had to own up that this was exactly where he wanted to be at the moment. Yes, it was near pandemonium, the normally-serene country farm flooded with frazzled parents and hyperactive children, but the scene was carefree, buoyant—and not to mention alluring, as the mere sight of the copious stock of colorful pumpkins set his childlike itch to explore in full motion.

This was better than Olivine City.

His reverie was cracked as Brock suddenly bolted toward a nearby batch of pumpkins, leaving a startled Misty with no choice but to take the wheel of Riley's stroller. With befuddled faces, they watched as the older boy leapt spiritedly into the jungle of twisting vines and crouched behind a rather sizeable pumpkin. A large, giddy grin splayed across his face.

"Guys! Are you here to greet the Great Pumpkin?" he asked with purposely overdone joy. Instantly, his antics drew a smile from Ash.

"Tonight the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch! He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world!" Brock recited, his arms raised high in the air.

"Brock," Misty giggled, shaking her head at his silliness.

"What?" Brock shrugged. He patted the hefty pumpkin in front of him. "Don't you believe in the Great Pumpkin, Misty? Don't you think this pumpkin patch is sincere enough?" Brock straightened his jacket collar, leaned on the pumpkin, and fixed her a little smirk. "Perhaps I could, ah, get a few lovely ladies to join me as we anticipate his long-awaited arrival?"

The girl's eyes promptly narrowed. "Brock, you have a better chance of seeing a mythical, flying gourd than you do getting a bunch of girls to hang out with you in a pumpkin patch for the night."

Ash burst out laughing as Brock's face promptly deflated. Quite pleased with her below-the-belt comment (and wow, was she good at those, she thought guiltily to herself), Misty tried very hard not to succumb to her own amusement.

"By the way," she added, motioning to his side with a nod of her head. "You're about two inches away from kneeling in mud."

"Ah!" Brock yelped, springing to his feet and furiously checking to make sure he hadn't dirtied his jeans.

"Well, I guess this pumpkin patch does look pretty sincere," Misty remarked as Brock rejoined them, this time cautiously watching his step. She shielded her eyes from the bright sun as she scanned the hullabaloo. "If it wasn't, there wouldn't be a hundred billion people here."

"Yeah, this place is crazy," Ash declared in an overstressed tone. "There're always a ton of people here. The owners must be rich."

"How rich can you get selling pumpkins?" Misty wrinkled her nose.

"They sell other stuff during the year! Where do you think my mom gets her plants? Plus they have events here sometimes, too. They used to have a haunted house, but some kid busted his head open in it and parents went crazy. Got shut down."

Misty tsk-tsked. "You always have to ruin it for everyone else, don't you, Ash?"

Ash shot her a sidelong glare. "It wasn't me, thank you very much. I miss that haunted house."

She let her tongue slip through her lips. "C'mon, we'd better hurry and pick something out before all the good pumpkins are gone," she suggested.

"How 'bout that one?" Ash pointed to the pumpkin that Brock had recited his ode upon.

While no doubt an aesthetic choice, Misty's mind was already contaminated with Brock's intended fantasy surrounding that particular pumpkin, unspoken as it was. With a discomfited smile, she quickly shoved Ash into the bustle.

"Um, let's see what else they got first, okay?"

Fortunately, the naïve, simple-minded boy needed no further reason.


Ah, yes, you recall now how my chapters were always ridiculously long? :) Take it as a sign of what's to come. Originally I wanted this to be on the short side, but that isn't going to happen. Even though this is a Halloween story, you will probably be reading it well into the New Year. It's quite a few chapters and I've set a tentative schedule to update every couple weeks. The story hasn't been completed at this point, but the fact that you've just read Chapter 1 means I'm officially committed: this story will be finished. Well, you know, barring any unspeakable circumstances...

Now, I know there has been some recent speculation that Ash's birthday falls in April, but I decided to stick with the personal canon I established back in "SFOPT" with October being the month of Jay and Delia's anniversary and Ash's birthday. Besides, it gave a good reason for Ash to be home, as we know it takes a whole lot to get the kid back in Pallet. Roll with me, will you? :)

Stay tuned for Halloween shenanigans and hijinks in Chapter 2 in about two weeks from now. Enjoy the fun while you can…if you've read my stuff before, you know the happy isn't going to last too long. :)

In the meantime, feedback is greatly appreciated! I'd love to hear your thoughts! And anyone who can guess what song the title of this fic is derived from gets a cyber cookie! :D If you need a hint, look to the titles of the previous installments of the 'verse…it's all the same idea.

Thank you so much for reading!