Here I am, finally with a fic to one of my most treasured and the longest running obession I have ever had (1997-now, holy crap, that's such a long time!);POKEMON! This one is centred on Ash and Paul, my second Pokemon OTP, a close second to Palletshipping, heh.

Even when I was a kid and Gary would come on being a total ass to Ash, I would giggle and constantly tell them to hurry the hell up and just travel together, alone. It was obvious Gary only acted the way he did to get Ash's attention *Gary was here, Ash is a loser!*. Ahh, I love them dearly.

NOTE: I wrote this a while back when I was still trawling through Battle Dimension, and I imagined Ash beat Paul in the League and after Dawn, Brock and Ash split up, and Ash was heading back to Pallet for a homey visit. In this fic he decided to stop by Reggie for a visit in hopes of seeing Paul, and yada yada. Since the actual conclusion to the Dimond/Pearl saga ceased to exist when I wrote this the beautiful romantic scene between Ash and Paul by the sunset after the league dosen't exist, so Paul still holds his sour blocked off attitude towards Ash.

DISCLAIMER: Yeah, I invented Pokemon in 1997. Cause a little toddler could really initially think up 150 individually themed monsters, along with their trainers, moves and plot and then promote it into the real world. Weeeeell, there are those rare lil' kids that have their paintings solds for thousands of dollars... (little brats.)

'Hey!' Reggie greeted upon opening his door to a very familiar face, the surprise and cheer in his voice credible. 'Ash! What a surprise! How's it going?'

When the door had been opened Ash's first impulse had been to run upon seeing the familiar bundle of purple hair before realizing it was the older and much kinder version of Paul, and not his actual intimidating rival. An audiable sigh of relief was heard, and Reggie cocked his head, still grinning.

'Hi Reggie,' Ash answered with a smile, reaching up to support Pikachu as the yellow mouse teetered precociously towards Reggie, squeaking happily. 'I'm doing fine, thanks! Still breeding?'

Reggie smiled at Ash. 'Could I be doing anything else? But yes, it's going great, especially this time of year. All the pokemon are starting to search for mates, and that means work is double for me. What brings you here?'

'I was in town, on my way back to Pallet. Gonna have a breather before I head onwards, you know?'

Reggie nodded sagely, sounding a bit too much like Professor Oak as he said, 'A breather is sometimes always the best. Oh, that's right! Have you see Paul around yet? He's been hanging around Veilstone. I only saw him last week…' He lifted a hand to scratch Pikachu behind the ear, smiling softly at the soft chirruping that erupted from Pikachu.

Ash's eyes brows rose at the information, listening to it echoing throughout his head before coming to a blunt and slightly startling conclusion. 'Wait… Paul's actually here? Well, I guess I did come to say Hi, but I never really expected him to be here! ' He exhaled roughly, causing his shoulders to slump and dislodging Pikachu from Reggie's petting fingers. 'Pi, Pika Pika!' Pikachu scolded, sounding miffed. Ash barely noticed. He couldn't decide if he wanted to be excited or dreading upon that news. He missed Paul, and wanted to see him again, but didn't really feel like fighting Paul just for a polite 'hello' just now.

Ash grimaced, looking sideways at Reggie, quick to reprimand himself for his rudeness. 'Sorry, I didn't mean…' He hadn't meant it to come out like that, but Reggie took no offence to it, as usual. He loved his brother, but that didn't mean he had to stand him all the time.

'No problem. I never get tired of seeing people's reaction to my brother. I can tell a lot about a person by that.' At Ash's cocked head and amused expression Reggie grinned. 'I'm serious.'

Ash shuffled nervously, processing their conversation, while Reggie waited patiently, smiling softly, both at Ash and his trainer. He had always been fond of the black haired trainer, and could only hope- and prod- for his brother and Ash to become closer. And, from the general vibes he had been collecting from both his brother and Ash over the last few months, he wouldn't need too. Although, at times like this it seemed the both of them could use a bit of prodding.

'So Paul is here?'

Ash attempted to keep the slightly hopeful note out of his tone, but by the understanding smile Reggie sent him he could tell his efforts were lost on the far older and more experienced breeder. Reggie had always seemed to know way too much for his own good anyway.

'Sure, but…' Reggie tailed off before inclining his head with a roll of his eyes before smiling while shaking his head. Ash blinked at the complex reaction before laughing knowingly. 'Paul's just being Paul, right?' he said.

Reggie laughed too, pausing in his fond petting of Pikachu to pat Ash on the shoulder. 'I really couldn't have put it better myself, you know. But yeah, he's fine. Just wandering around a bit, training harder and harder. I'm starting to worry he might have lost some inspiration cause he's never stayed near home this long, but what can I do? I know he'll find his way soon enough. He always does.'

'Sure,' Ash retorted, grinning at Pikachu and glancing at the sky, suddenly worried when he noticed the darkness that had descended upon the town. 'Listen Reggie, it was nice seeing you, but I've really gotta get going now.'

'Where are you off to?' Reggie questioned, abandoning Pikachu's ears despite the annoyed demands that followed. When he didn't resume, Pikachu huffed and crawled down Ash's t-shirt and jacket, snuggling into his front to hide from the night chill.

'Well,' Ash started, glancing at the sky again while hugging Pikachu snuggly against his chest, electing a few content purrs, 'I just need to find somewhere to stay the night before I head off tomorrow. But a lot of hotels are booked out and the Pokemon centre is still full from all the trainers from the tournament…'

'I see. Well, would you like to join me for dinner now? I've just gotten fresh ingredients. You see, I only just got back from the markets,' he gestured behind him, vaguely in the direction of his kitchen.

Ash smiled, 'Wow, thanks Reggie, but I really need to find a place for the night…'

Reggie shook his head good naturedly, grinning hard and fighting the urge to chuckle at the boy. 'Ash, a room was included with the dinner, just for the night, or another, if you need.'

'Really?' Ash asked incredulously. 'Thanks, but I wouldn't want to intrude…'

Especially if Paul's hanging around. Suddenly he wasn't feeling so sure about running into Reggie's purple haired twin. The nervous yet excited pulling in his gut that had shoved him here in search of Paul had now abandoned him, and he suddenly had no idea what to do.

'No, don't worry about it! I insist. Let me make you a nice dinner. You look like you could use a little pick-me-up, and I am one mean chef.' Grinning smugly, Reggie grabbed Ash's arm and started steering him forcefully inside. Allowing himself to get herded to shelter, food and a warm bed, Ash succumbed easily, but was unable to stop himself from mischievously stating, 'I bet Brock could out cook you any day, not even to mention my mother!'

Reggie let go of his arm and smirked as Pikachu's head popped out of Ash's jacket at a laughable angle. 'We'll see.'

Reggie's house was just as cozy and neat as Ash remembered it when he had last visited, and he gratefully sunk into the armchair near the fire as soon as he had entered. Pikachu jumped out and greeted the excited Growlith that had been lazing around the fire until they arrived, and Reggie disappeared into the kitchen as the Growlith and Pikachu touched noses, Pikachu albeit nervously, anticipating it when the Growlith jumped on him and started licking enthusiastically.

Reggie appeared at the door and unable to stop smiling, watched them for a few moments as the Growlith then proceeded to clamber onto Ash's lab and beg for attention. 'Aw, Amber was always a people person,' he said, referring to the Growlith taking up most of Ash's lap, leaving Pikachu to huff from his trainer's shoulder. 'She belongs to one of the locals.'

'She's beautiful,' Ash said, rubbing Amber's ears eagerly, grinning as she jumped up to lick his face.

'Do you wanna help?' Reggie offered, turning back into the kitchen. 'I know I used to love cooking with my family before sitting down for a nice meal.'

He heard Ash enter the room and Pikachu hopped on the table with a cheerful 'Chu!', followed by rustling as Ash examined the packets he had received from the pantry. 'Sure,' the younger trainer grinned. 'Why not? I remember making cookies with my mom years ago when I dropped the flour bag in the kitchen.' Ash let out a giggle as Reggie turned to him, looking bemused. 'You dropped the flour? What a mess.'

Ash shrugged, dropping some tomatoes next to Reggie and reaching out to ruffle Pikachu's fur. 'That was after I lifted the electronic egg beater out of the mix while it was still going.'

'Maybe it was a mistake to ask you in my kitchen,' Reggie said, pretending to talk to himself. 'This might be the last time I will be able to cook before it's destroyed.'

Ash pulled a face as Reggie laughed and continued collecting packets and spices from the pantry.

Much to Ash's excitement and ridiculous happiness, Reggie and him made Spaghetti Bolognese. The last time he remembered having Spaghetti Bolognese was after he had won the Orange Islands Cup and had returned home triumphant. That night his mom had invited everyone over with a feast of the spaghetti dish and it still remained one of Ash's most loved moments. Misty, Brock and Tracy had attended and were followed closely by Professor Oak dragging a moody Gary and half of the town. Everyone had been laughing and joking, and even Gary had offered a word of congratulations, and that was all that mattered to Ash, even if they bowled Tracy and his chair over in a small fight (by their proportions) about how Ash won the Orange cup.

Making Spaghetti with Reggie was just as good as that. True to his unfairly clumsy nature Ash split the sauce (much to the delight of the drooling Growlith waiting at their feet) while mixing it with the mashed tomatoes and spices Reggie had showed him, and because they were busy cleaning it up and shooing the playfully happy Growlith away the pasta on the stove had been overcooked, causing Pikachu to call wildly from his 'referee' point next to it. Even so when they finally sat down with bits of herbs sticking to them and smelling of tomatoes and spices the Spaghetti smelled almost as good as his mom's.

They had been eating up time as they ate their dinner, talking about the small things in life and often laughing. Ash found himself completely at home and relaxed, sorry he had not made any effort to see Reggie more between his travels around Sinnoh.

Reggie was like a comforting mix of Brock and his mother. Kind, helpful, motherly and sweet were words he would use to describe all of them. And especially after Brock had left to follow his own career Ash had suddenly felt alone and empty, sad that he had lost one of his longest friends but happy he had followed his own path for the best. Company right now was a blessing.

Ash was lazily picking spaghetti piece after spaghetti piece from the unfinished mound on his plate and feeding it to the Growlith underneath the table, grinning when she got too overexcited and chomped mindlessly at the tiny morsels, nipping his fingers in the process when the front door suddenly slammed. Reggie glanced up while Ash gave the sound no more than a uninterested indication of the head until a voice he knew very well echoed throughout the house.

'It's me. I'm back.'

Just as blunt and deep as the hundred times Ash had heard it before. But it was slightly different now. There was none of the coldness or open hostility it often held when Paul addressed Ash. It was… normal. Neutral. Strangely pleasant.

Ash froze, his head snapping in the direction of the hall that lead to the front door while Reggie glanced up in surprise before going back to orderly scraping the last of his dinner off his plate. The Growlith whined while nosing Ash's hand, and when Ash did nothing, she started to lick and nuzzle at Ash's fingers, cleaning the drops of sauce on his hand. Ash considered bolting.

'That smells good. What did you-'

Too late. Paul stopped dead in the doorway of the dining room, his wide gaze travelling almost frantically from his brother to Ash, who stared back, his eyes wide and mouth open. Paul blinked in shock before his small wounded moment ended and his content expression snapped off like a Shelder, immediately displaying his normal sharp glare, seething with anger.

'What's HE doing here?' He spat accusingly at Reggie, sparing Ash a quick, condensed glare before openly growling at his brother. Reggie ignored the demanding finger pointed in his direction as he calmly placed his fork down and turned to smile evenly at Paul. 'He needed a place to stay, what could I do? Now sit down. It's delicious; me and Ash made it together.'

'Uh…Hi, Paul? How's it… how's it hanging?' Ash smiled weakly, giving a half hearted wave that waned under Paul's ferocious look that seemed to leak with hatred, all aimed at Ash. Ash flinched under the heavy aura emanating from Paul, while Pikachu frowned and moved closer to Ash, whispering 'Pika pika pika CHU,' in his ear. Ash responded with a nod as Paul turned back to Reggie, blowing out in relief in response. 'You don't have to tell me twice, Pikachu. I know.'

'Come on, Paul. You look famished. I'm sure you'd like some?' Reggie was kindly prompting, standing to head to the kitchen.

'No thanks, I'm not hungry,' Paul answered coldly. 'I'm going to bed.'

With one last angry glace Ash's way Paul turned and stomped up the stairs, seemingly attempting to make sure the whole house was aware of his current sour mood. Reggie frowned as his brother abused the stairs and followed the stomping as it hit the second floor and stopped somewhere above their heads. 'Whoa…' Reggie lamented to himself aloud. 'I've never seen him that angry before…'

Ash stood slowly, his posture uncomfortable. 'Maybe I should leave…' he said uncertainly.

Reggie turned sharply back to Ash, his eyes flashing. 'And go where? Sit down, now.'

Ash complied, grinning slightly at his own willingness to obey Reggie's strict mother-like nature, which again brought Brock and his mother to mind. Reggie shook his head, immersed in his own thoughts for a moment before smiling at Ash and Pikachu. 'Would you like some ice-cream?'

A rather large thump sounded above them at that moment, causing Pikachu to jump and grab Ash's arm in fright. Reggie sighed in irritation as they all looked at the ceiling, Ash gently rubbing Pikachu's head. 'Great, now he's sulking…'

'Sulking?' Ash questioned, letting out a 'ppffft' of muffled laughter as the words 'Paul' and 'Sulking' collided in his head.

Reggie sighed again, not noticing Ash's covered laughter. 'Please excuse me Ash, but I must go talk with him. I'm terribly sorry about this. There is ice-cream in the freezer. Please don't wait on me.' Without so much more as a backwards glance Reggie reached the stairs in the hall and began swiftly climbing them, disappearing from sight a minute later.

Pikachu watched Reggie leave for a moment before glancing at Ash with a delighted 'Pikpi!' as he jumped off the dining table and headed for the freezer in the kitchen. Pikachu skidded to a stop when Ash didn't follow him, and he turned to see Ash still standing there, head cocked and eyes trained on the stairs in the hall. Pikachu sighed and rolling his eyes, grudgingly heading back.

Ash strained his ears, but he could not hear any of the raised voices he expected. Even so, the silence seemed even more forbidding. He jumped as Pikachu leapt onto the table and nosed his hand, making worried noises. Ash glanced down at Pikachu's anxious gaze and smiled reassuringly, taking a few steps forward. 'I'm just going to see what's taking Reggie so long,' he said, using that excuse for his own curious nature, both about the reason for Paul's unadulterated hatred of him and Paul himself. How that trainer thought was one of the things Ash had been continuously struggling to comprehend.

Pikachu dashed forward onto his shoulder, shaking his head. 'Pika pi pi chu pi!' He said, pointing towards the kitchen and shaking his head at the stairs.

'Shush, Pikachu,' Ash quietly hushed, drawing closer to the stairs, head cocked. He could still hear nothing. 'I just need to see what Reggie's doing…' he lied blatantly to himself, going for the stairs fully now. Pikachu abandoned his shoulder and started trying to pull his pants leg back, which Ash ignored as he ascended the stairs quietly, leaving Pikachu to follow, chittering nervously.

Ash paused at the top, unable to go any further due to his own conscious and fear of getting caught. His gaze followed the sound of voices coming from his right, and he leant against the wall, straining to hear the conversation. He could hear muffed sounds but were unable to make them out as voices until Paul's enraged tone sounded from the room and he heard the creak of a door opening slightly. He tensed, ready to run, but when nothing ensured he leant forward eagerly, finally able to make out legimate voices.

'That doesn't matter! I still just CAN'T believe you let him in your house! Especially when I'm here—'

'Now, listen here! I had no clue you were coming, and Ash is a delight to have over. I can't believe you're being completely disgusting to him like this just because of some old grudge—'

'Shut up,' Paul hissed. 'You don't know anything.' Ash crept around the corner slightly in order to hear, his own fear propelling him forward and yet keeping him back. The sharpened edge in Paul's words sounded dangerous, and Ash found it hard to remember it was him they were talking about.

'Have you ever actually talked to him, Paul? Without immediately trying to bite his head off? Who cares if he raises his Pokemon differently from yours?'

'It's not about that!' Paul snarled back, his voice low and enraged.

'Then what is it about? Have you even considered—'

Ash withdrew hastily, suddenly unable to bear hearing the brothers fight like this about his spot in this house. He charged down the steps while trying to limit the sound of his feet hitting the boards as much as he could, deeply gulping air. He felt guilty and awful, like he had intruded on something he had no right to at all. Both of the brothers sounded so different from what Ash was used to, and the way they had furiously clashed over him was disturbing. What was Paul talking about?

He quickly dashed for the chair and flopped down into it, exhaling deeply. Pikachu jumped onto his lap and rubbed against his stomach, snorting out a few reprimanding "Pika-pika-chu's while comforting Ash. Ash started to relax at Pikachu's gentle touch and he began to mull over all he had heard while stroking Pikachu's ears.

Reggie returned a few minutes later, looking quite unfussed, which set Ash's nerves on edge a bit, while marveling Reggie's ability to carry on so calmly. But then, Ash couldn't help but notice how Reggie seemed reluctant to catch his eye despite his cheerful demeanor. 'I see you're done,' he said warmly, starting to gather their plates up. 'I'll get the ice-cream. Chocolate or Vanilla?'

Ash yelped when his foot unexpectedly hit the next stair and the tray in his hands teetered dangerously to the side. Pikachu let out a cry of surprise and dashed away from the tray's range as Ash hopped on one foot before gently bringing the other down on the next rise. 'Whew…' Ash muttered as he adjusted his grip on the tray, which featured the Spaghetti Bolognese, a small cup of milk and some white goop that had originally been ice-cream. Ash had made the ice-cream first to go on the tray, idiotically not considering that it would melt while he did the rest.

Taking a deep breath, Ash continued on his way up the stairs with Pikachu dashing ahead of him. He stopped outside Paul's door and remained there for a minute, going over things in his mind in a last-minute panic.

Pikachu shook his head in amusement at Ash and nudged Ash's leg towards the door, nodding encouragingly. Ash grinned at Pikachu. 'You're right, buddy. Best get it over with, huh?' At Pikachu smug nod, Ash glanced down at the yellow mouse waiting at his feet, struck by a sudden thought.

'Maybe you should go downstairs and wait with Reggie. I'm not sure Paul would appreciate it with both you and me bullying him. And if I want to make a connection, I don't need any distractions for Paul,' he whispered, careful not to let Paul hear him.

Pikachu puffed out his cheeks angrily at Ash's apologetic smile before turning and slowly trotting to the stairs. At the top he stopped and pointed insistently at Paul's door, giving Ash a reprimanding glare as he did so. Ash smiled again as Pikachu disappeared before letting it slide off his face.

Looking at the dinner tray in his hands one more time to remind himself what he was doing, he took a deep breath and knocked on the door firmly with his elbow, nearly losing the milk in the process. It was a long shoot to come up here and offer dinner to Paul. Ash didn't even really expect him to open the door.

Because of this Ash danced backwards in surprise as the door shot open to reveal an irate Paul, his eyes small slits and mouth pushed together angrily.

'God, Reggie-' Paul's eyes widened considerably when he realized who it was before they immediately narrowed. 'Get lost,' he growled simply, stepping back and grabbing the door.

'Wait!' Ash hastily shoved his foot in the rapidly closing gap, causing him to stumble with his precocious load. Paul continued struggling with the door most viciously (without caring for Ash's gasps and whimpers of 'ow!') before he noticed the food tray as Ash accidently swished it past his nose in his efforts to keep the door open as well as his balance.

Paul's steel grip on the door loosened, his gaze locked hungrily on the food, taking a step forward. Ash mirrored him and took a step back, grinning. 'Yeah, I thought you might be hungry,' he said, watching for Paul's reaction and dodging back in delight when Paul reached for it.

'Uh uh!' he playfully probed. 'You get this if you let me in and we talk.' Paul stepped back into the shelter of his room and glared openly from his doorway, holding Ash's gaze steadily for the first time. Ash found himself quite unnerved by it as Paul suddenly studied him.

'You better take the deal,' He said again, scrabbling for his last chance here to finally just talk to Paul and find out what his problem was. Seeing he had Paul's full annoyed attention, he grinned. 'And I wouldn't go downstairs either. Reggie's waiting to give you another speech. Says he can't believe you're treating a guest this way. That you wouldn't be getting dinner anyway if it was up to him.'

Noticing Paul's exasperated grimace he waved the tray temptingly closer, expecting a full victory. Instead Paul's hands shot out unexpectedly and grabbed the tray, swiftly yanking it out of his hands. He immediately retreated into his room, leaving Ash frozen outside the door with his mouth open. It took him a few moments to realize Paul had left the door open and was staring at him expectantly from his crossed-legged position on a simple bed. 'You coming in or what?' Paul aggressively growled, reaching for the bowl. 'If you aren't, get lost.'

'I…uh…' Finding himself suddenly lost for words Ash gave up on speaking and entered the room hesitantly, looking around. It was typically simple, although a few items and posters here and there caught Ash's attention. Practically the weathered and ripped looking 'The Adventures of Red' poster that was close to falling off on the opposite wall.

Hiding a grin, He sat beside Paul slowly, his movements uncomfortable and jerky. Paul paid no heed to Ash, attacking his food silently. After a few quiet moments with no movement from either side Ash sulkingly offered a slightly bitter 'You're welcome,' to Paul.

Paul paused in eating before glaring. Being ignored by him for the majority of the night, Ash flinched as the sudden full burn that was Paul turned on him.

'What do you want me to say?' Paul demanded sullenly more as a statement than a question. 'Were you expecting something like a 'Oh, I'm sorry for being such a cow, and know we'll trade Pokemon tips and friendship bracelets? Huh?' He sarcastically remarked, his voice coated in venom. 'Is that what you want ?'

Ash retreated, looking hurt. Paul's glare remained, his hard eyes unable to look away from Ash's wounded but firm gaze. Catching himself, Paul narrowed his eyes and went back to his Spaghetti.

'So why do u hate me?' Ash asked Paul simply, anger simmering slightly underneath his tone.

Paul scoffed in answer, refusing to look at Ash. 'As if you'd wanna know,' he muttered. Ash tilted his head in confusement.

'But I'm asking you,' Ash said. 'I want to know.'

Paul turned slowly to look at the younger boy, studying him closely, in which Ash felt like he was passing under a high-tech security laser. He froze, holding Paul's heavy gaze. Paul blinked, then seemed to relax slightly, because he smirked suddenly and remarked; 'Geez, and you wonder why I call you dumb sometimes…'

'You call me dumb…? Hey!' Ash growled, narrowing his eyes.

'Not to your face, idiot.'

Ash frowned. 'That's not very nice,' he mumbled, finding nothing else to say. His ignored thoughts of abandoning Paul as a friend were starting to emerge, but even so Ash found himself unwilling to give up. Paul was only human, after all. There HAD to be a reason for him to be such a sourpuss…

'Since when have I ever been nice?' Paul snorted, causing Ash to stare at Paul.

'Yeah, but there's a big difference between saying something to someone's face then saying another behind their back,' Ash pointed out, leaning back on the bed and frowning again.

'No, there isn't,' Paul corrected haughtily. Ash glared as Paul continued, glaring at the ceiling. 'There isn't, because not matter what you say to them or not, that's still what you feel about them. And even then, what you say doesn't matter at all because that might not be how you really feel about them at all.'

Ash opened mouth to say something, but then closed it again, considering Paul's words.

'And besides,' Paul continued, at loss himself as to why he kept blabbering like an idiot, 'There's a lot of stuff I don't say to your face, loser.'

That defiantly piqued Ash's interest. 'Like what?' Paul gave Ash a sharp sideways glare and snorted again. 'You really think I'm going to tell you? You're really dumber than I thought.'

'Hey!' Ash snarled, clenching his fist. When Paul gave no response and continued glaring at everything in the room but Ash, Ash sighed. 'Paul, what do you really think of me?' He asked softly, deflating. 'I need to know.'

Paul gave no indication he heard, turning his heated glare onto the empty bowl in his lap before he placed it and the tray to the side gently, his eyes finally training on Ash. There was silence for a moment, surprisingly gentle, like the calm before a storm.

'You really want to know?' His voice was soft and normal. Not harsh, or mocking, or cold. Just even. Ash found it melodic, somewhere in the back of his entrapped mind.

Ash nodded. 'Of course…' Ash's face suddenly grew determined, and his eyes hardened and brightened, a face Paul was accustomed to seeing in the heat of battle right. The pure familiarity almost made him smile.

'Of course! I'm really sick of us being like this. I really do just want to be your friend, Paul.'

Paul chuckled darkly, moving closer. Ash kept his look curiously, shifting uncomfortably as Paul suddenly grew nearer. 'Say goodbye to friendship-,' Paul whispered, suddenly closing the gap and leaning over Ash dominantly, drinking in Ash's surprise and the sudden fear he was showing, '-Cause it ain't gonna happen.'

Paul grabbed Ash's face and leant closer, guiding Ash's own face towards his. Ash followed Paul numbly, his mind shutting down briefly. Their lips touched softly, with no movement from either of them for a few moments. Ash's mouth opened partway in shock and Paul seized that chance, encouraging him to tilt his head slightly so he could to nibble on Ash's lip and slick his tongue along the younger boy's lips.

Ash gave no response at all as Paul tenderly caressed his face and continued, ignoring Ash's immobility and lack of response as long as he could.

Sooner or later he had too let go though.

Sighing deeply, Paul ended it and drew away from Ash, not at all surprised to find his head spinning. It had been as nice as he had ever wondered it could be, but he wasn't willing to take the chance that Ash didn't think so. He had, after all, not moved once since Paul had started the kiss. He didn't know what he had expected; Ash to kiss him back, or Ash to smash him in the face and start yelling… but Ash's inactiveness was worse than a brawl. It was… like Ash couldn't stand him. Like Ash was too speechless with disgust to say anything.

Paul tried to pretend it didn't hurt.

That it didn't hurt at all.

'There,' he growled harshly, his head turned from Ash. 'Get lost.'

Ash jumped, coming back to reality, his eyes wide. 'Paul…' he started uncertainly. 'I—'

'Get out!' Paul snarled. 'Now!

Ash stared, then slowly rose and silently exited the room, glancing Paul's way to see Paul glaring daggers at the opposite wall, his face covered with a thin film of red.

Only after Ash shut the door and Paul heard a faint click did his shoulders slump. He turned his downcast eyes to his lap, numbly watching his hands tremble.

'See you later, loser,' he whispered, his voice so quiet he couldn't hear it over his own thumping heart.

Paul slowly opened the door, careful not to creak it, and slowly surveyed the area. It was dark, and Reggie's bedroom door was closed. Paul nodded once, and crept forward a few steps, holding the empty tray of plates in his hand. At the top of the stairs he peeked down, pleased to see the lights downstairs were off. That meant he had free passage.

He quickly walked down the stairs and went to swerve into the kitchen, but stopped suddenly when he caught sight of Ash lying on the couch in the dim light. Momentarily frozen, Paul shook his head and continued on to the kitchen, dumping the plates into the sink once he got there.

He intended to head straight back up the stairs and into bed, but somehow his legs ended up taking him into the living room, where he found himself standing over Ash, watching him quietly.

His trusty rat was curled up n his side, and the Growlith his brother was watching was stretched on the ground next to them, whining softly in her sleep. The sheets were tangled around Ash, barely covering anything, and allowing for a nice view of his slimly toned stomach. Paul watched, enticed, as it rose and fell slightly with his gentle breathing, and his gaze travelled up his thinly covered chest to his ached neck, unspoiled and slender.

In truth, Paul found the sight extremely endearing. Not to mention enticing.

Paul abruptly cut off his view of Ash when he angrily shook himself and jerked around, squeezing his eyes shut and rubbing at his face, sighing and growling softly to himself at the same time.

It wasn't worth the time to tease himself like this. It wasn't worth it hoping. It wasn't worth liking for no reason. He was going to destroy himself from the inside if he kept up like this; it was getting ridiculous. But there was nothing he could do.

Even so, he looked over his shoulder one last time, his eyes soft, before closing them and walking silently out the room, sighing heavily

Things like this were just meant to hurt.

The next time Paul woke up, it was the crack of dawn. He rose quietly and packed his things, finishing before the sun had risen a quarter of an inch. He couldn't stay here any longer. This was it.

Heaving the bag over his shoulder he glided down the stairs and ran lightly to the door. Running was necessary. If he didn't, he might have seen Ash again and his body would have froze again. He couldn't even afford one last glance. Why bother? The raven-haired trainer would pop up continuously unwanted in his dreams, mocking him.

He scowled, pushing the door open and inhaling the crisp morning air.

Despite the lovely day, he was in the worst mood. Three guesses why.

He wanted to get out of there, and be alone with his thoughts. He needed to get out of there, or his annoying eyes might start tearing up. Or he might turn around and wait for Ash, so they could travel opposites as rivals again. That was much more favorable than running constantly.

'Hey, Paul! Wait!'

Paul stopped dead as an extremely cheerful and familiar voice called out to him. Glancing over his shoulder, he scowled furiously when he saw Ash, clear as day, running towards him. He turned away and continued, determined to chase him away with his cold attitude. Inside, he was screaming.

How the hell had Ash even gotten dressed that quickly, let alone woken up?

He heard Ash come up behind him, and sensed the boy fall into step beside him, but still refused Ash the honor of his attention. That didn't mean he wasn't listening, though.

'Which town are you heading to now?'

Paul gave a brief shrug, shocked when the answer suddenly slipped out. '…Hearthome.'

'Really?' Ash said, soundly genuinely excited. 'I was on my way home to Pallet, and that city is on the way.'

The unparalleled enthusiasm in Ash's voice had reached Paul's breaking point in the centre of his black hurting mood and the hurt and frustration inside him snapped.

'Why?' He spat, whirling on Ash. 'What do you want? Why do you care where I'm going? Why do you care about me? Huh?'

Ash stopped then, and looked at Paul, his expression going from happy to surprised to a small, comforting smile. On his shoulder, Pikachu watched Paul, leaning against Ash's head. Paul, as messed as he was, found himself even more so under the rat's heavy calculating gaze.

'Well…,' Ash began rather shyly, 'I was wondering if I could travel with you…' In one swift movement, he reached out and slipped his hand into Paul's.

Paul's mouth opened, and he stared down dumbly at their entwined hands.

'Because I want to go with you.'

Paul looked at Ash, then at his hands again, face carefully slipping into a neutral mask. 'Why?' he shortly asked, his eyes locked on their hands, to which Ash gave a comforting squeeze.

'Because... I'd like to travel with you,' he said, sounding sure but hesitant at the same time. 'I wasn't sure at first, but I talked to Reggie, and I had some time to think…'

Ash smiled and shifted in front of Paul's gaze, forcing the lavender-headed boy to lock eyes with him.

'And I'd like to get to know you… better than I do now.' He indicated to their hands shyly again.

Paul blinked stupidly, feeling extremely exposed. He felt like he had fallen into a dream, that this couldn't possibly be true—than one thing stuck him.

'Wait, you told Reggie?' he asked sharply, unable to keep the edge of embarrassment out of his voice. 'How much?'

Ash shrugged, grinning slightly while glancing sideways at Paul. 'Everything.'

Paul growled, raising his eyes to the sky. Ash squeezed his hand again, and Paul jumped at the contact, his gaze shooting down to their hands, shifting his fingers slightly. Feeling Ash's warm hard around his. It was… wonderful.

He slowly met Ash's eyes and they both just stared for a few moments. Paul wasn't sure if it was some kind of test on his part or his last chance, but as he slowly allowed himself to smirk. Ash mirrored him, except with one of his signature smiles. Even Pikachu relaxed.

Understanding passed between them then, and Paul turned away only so he could smirking giddily at the ground without Ash seeing.

'You can travel with me only if you don't slow me down,' he said nonchalantly, giving a last ditch attempt at passing his attitude off as careless. He could tell Ash wasn't fooled, but for the first time, he could deal with that. Ash had always been the one to see straight through his usually impenetrable blockades, and he saw no reason for that to stop now.

With that he released Ash's hand and headed off down the road, transferring his sweaty hands into his pockets so he could wipe them discreetly while still holding his image. When he reached the road and turned back to see Ash still standing in the same spot, looking expectant, he was unable to stop himself from smiling ruefully, his eyes falling half-mast and hair gently flowing around his content face in the breeze.

'Well, aren't you coming, loser?' he said. 'Hurry up or I'll leave you behind.'

Ash blinked. Slowly, a grin formed, and he was suddenly running out the gate to Paul, unable to stop smiling. Paul rolled his eyes and shook his head before starting off again with Ash by his side, suddenly feeling as if nothing else in the world mattered anymore.

Ash shifted closer and shifted his hand into Paul's again, intentionally brushing against him.

Well, maybe it didn't.

Back at the house Reggie leant out the window, positively beaming at the beautiful day and watching his brother and Ash depart down the road towards the start of something new.

OH, I LOVE REGGIE! He's the sweetest! I really couldn't resist the short fluffy family moments with him in the beginning. Him, Ash and Paul... the perfect family!

This has the potential for a few continuing oneshots in the future, so don't be surprised if t a few pop up. Hope you enjoyed it! :)