Hey Y'all! Well this is just another one-shot that I wrote. Don't worry if you're a regular reader of my popular AAML fic "A New Journey", because I promise the time taken to write this will not affect the update scheduled for chapter 45 this upcoming Sunday. I'm actually done with that chapter, and just felt inspired to write something like this tonight, so I started clacking away on my keyboard and, voila! It's a departure from most of my writing, which is usually AAML-based, but this actually hits a little closer to home for me, and I felt a real connection to Ash as I wrote it, so please avoid hating on it due to its lack of Pokeshipping...though hating on it for other reasons is fine, haha. Alrighty then, read and REVIEW PLEASE!

It was all the same sky.

No matter where he went, it was always the same sky. The same sun, the same moon, the same blue radiance during the day, and the same twinkling stars at night.

All his life, he'd been on the run. Region to region, country to country. He left friends behind, he made new ones. He left family behind, but he'd visit every so often so they wouldn't worry.

His entire life had been comprised of brief acquaintances and abrupt, often painful, departures, and as he rested his head and back against the solid rock of the park bench, looking up at the dark night sky, trees partially blocking his view as their foliage waved back and forth in time to the beat of the wind, he realized that so much had changed from when he'd started.

He was back. Back to the place where it all started, but it didn't feel the same. He'd accomplished what he'd set out to do, hadn't he? In the movies, the hero comes back to their quaint, rather small hometown after a great adventure, and they feel some sense of accomplishment as they encounter echoes of their past life.

But this wasn't a movie, and there was no sense accomplishment as he trod the old dirt paths of his childhood. He wandered past his old school, stood in front of his old home, waiting for something to overtake him like in the movies.

Maybe it would just be a small, knowing grin that only he understood. Maybe it would be an aspiring trainer suddenly rushing up to his side and asking for his autograph. Maybe it would be the sight of his mom coming out the door and inviting him in for supper.

He didn't know. All he knew was that whatever sense of serenity and completion those heroes felt at the end of a grand adventure in books and movies was not coming to him as he strode through Pallet Town, taking in the sights and sounds; the smells and tastes; the memories and regrets.

He'd spent all day searching for that feeling, shrugging off the random passerby who recognized his face from magazines or television. Today he wasn't concerned about them. He wasn't concerned about Pokémon, and even Pikachu took a backseat to what his goal was today.

Today he'd looked for closure.

He was still young, he knew, but certainly there was something to be said for all of his past accomplishments, wasn't there? He had a lot ahead of him, but a lot laid in the past, and he just felt as if that part of his past needed to be resolved…somehow.

That's where the movies came in. He didn't understand the closure he himself was searching for, but the closest thing he could compare it to was the end of a movie, when the hardened and experienced hero looks back at the place of his past and realizes how far he's come.

So why didn't it happen? It didn't hit him at the old playground where he and Gary used to pretend to be Pokémon. It didn't happen at the ice cream store where he'd once used stolen money from his mom's purse to buy and eat a gallon of rocky road. It didn't happen when he stood in front of his mom's old flower shop, the scent of petunias and daisies filling the air of the small town square as they had done since before he'd been born.

It just wasn't happening.

Was it because he was too young? Maybe someone in their late teens just isn't able to feel as if they've accomplished everything with so much left in store.

But why couldn't life just give him this? He'd worked so hard for so long, trying his best to reach his goal. Certainly someone, somewhere, owed him just a small, even miniscule, moment of peace where he could take a deep breath of his home air and smile. Smile, knowing that he'd made it.

What was holding him back?

He looked at the sky again, the leaves rustling over the sound of music blaring through the earbuds of his iPod.

The sky had always been there. The moon saw him through his first night as a trainer as the Spearow attacked without relent. It was also there as he won the Champion title and held the cup high above his head in pride. The sun had also been there the entire time, beating down upon his brow as he worked and trained and struggled to make himself and his team the best they could be. It had watched him grow from a naïve boy, to a man.

All that had happened. All the friends to come and go. All the places and all the adventures.

He'd begun to believe that he was immune to personal relationships. After having his heart broken so many times as he watched friend after friend, companion after companion, wave and walk away into the sunset, he'd finally felt his heart harden to the entire ordeal. No longer did he see friends as necessary. He had his Pokémon-his family-and that was all he needed.

Not that he acted bitter, or refused to travel with new partners. In fact, coming to this realization made it easier for him to take on new traveling friends as he travailed through various lands and mysterious regions. It just meant that he no longer felt…real. He was forcing the relationships, he was acting to make everything seem normal, but at the end of the day he could take or leave whoever was with him. It no longer mattered.

His heart was hardened.

Was this why he couldn't feel accomplished? Was it possible that he was beginning to regret the wasted time of the past? Did he really want those from his past back, in the here and now of the present? After so much time secretly considering himself as the rare person who didn't need human companionship in order to cope with life, was his constant refusal beginning to finally catch up with him?

He now had time to think. He hadn't had so much time in a long time. Everything recently had been so hectic. It seemed that a whirlwind just shot him through the door separating himself from his dreams that had so long remained locked before his presence. He was famous, he was powerful, and he was respected…but not accomplished.

He thought back to his past. To all those who'd truly meant something to him before he quit trying, and to his surprise, he felt a pang of sadness pull at his heart. He truly hadn't felt that in quite some time, and he grabbed his chest.

Misty, Brock, May, Max, Dawn…they all had been such a big part of his past, and now they were all off, living their own lives without him.

He'd never wanted a single one of them to leave, but here he was. Alone. Alone in Pallet Town, where it had all started. He'd begun his journey by himself, with only a rebellious Pikachu by his side, and now he ended it, albeit with a much more cooperative Pikachu.

He fought the tears which suddenly blurred his vision.

He missed them.

Misty held the position of his best friend, and as such she had never let him down. She was always there encouraging him to do his best, and though he'd be hard-pressed to admit it, the thought of how she once made him feel still caused a blush to cross his cheeks. She had never allowed him to do anything less than his best, and he'd always viewed her as two parts friend, and one part rival.

Brock had been the most mature person he ever traveled with. He was always looking out for Ash, and he had become like a big brother to the Champion over the years as he fed and protected the young man as he grew into the trainer that he was today.

May was like a little sister to him, in reality. After spending so much time being criticized and coached by Misty and Brock, he finally found a pupil of his own in May, and as she developed as a coordinator and person, he couldn't help the swell of pride he felt knowing that he'd been a part of that growth.

If May was the little sister, Max was the little brother. Despite his know-it-all attitude, Ash knew he looked up to him for all the experience he had under his belt, and he never felt like more of a role model than when Max was travelling alongside he, Brock, and May.

Dawn was almost like May, in that he felt an almost sibling relation to the young coordinator, but he actually felt a closer personal connection to the blue-haired trainer. She reminded him so much of himself when he first began his journey; she knew what she wanted, and she was sure she would get it no matter how difficult the path…and though her pride initially tripped her up, she eventually matured enough to learn that training was always the superior option to bragging.

They'd been there then, and he missed them now. He didn't have anyone here with him. Accomplishments were meaningless without friends to revel in them with.

He'd left all of these wonderful people behind, and with a grunt, he suddenly shot up. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he raced home. Knowing his mom was already asleep, he quietly slipped into the kitchen and turned on the videophone.

He pressed the buttons and watched the small telephone symbol shake back and forth as it waited for someone to pick up.

"Hello?" whispered a tired-looking Misty, rubbing her eyes. "Ash? Is that you?"

Nodding, he instinctively smiled. "Hey Mist…how've you been?"

Outside, the night sky covered the small town of Pallet in a blanket of darkness, with only the twinkling of stars and the luminescence of the moon to pierce the void. In a few hours, the sun would come up, and a new day would begin.