Chapter 36 – Epilogue (For Real, This Time) – What We Know Now (Looking Back)

"So maybe not everything is back to the way it was before, but we're not the same people we were before. We've seen stuff that before didn't turn up in even our worst nightmares. We can't turn back, because to turn back is to forget. Instead we have to go forward and remember." Erika

[18:06PM] – 22nd September 2011 – Pewter City

"Do you reckon it's really over?" Misty asked Ash one day, eating out at a small shop that had opened in Pewter City, selling the most delicious noodles.

"What? The war..?" As Misty nodded, Ash continued. "No; because it's left scars on us all... Because no matter what we do, I can still teleport, Erika still flinches every time you mention Lavender, or the three birds, you still won't set a foot on Cinnabar and Lance has a fear of enclosed spaces."

Neither of them mentioned that while the fighting in Sinnoh had calmed down, the border to Johto still hadn't opened, and that sometime next week they were moving troops in to help. While Kanto had recovered, there were still piles of rubble littering the city, and Pallet was still a non-existent mess.

"Does he? What from?" Misty asked, referred to Lance's claustrophobia.

"Victory I think… I'm not really sure… May told me. I think it's a part of camping outdoors for so long… you feel trapped inside now."

"I love it outside. Spending time in the sun… I've missed the sun – and the stars! And seeing Togekiss again… it's been heaven on earth."

"Being with you," Ash admitted, as they were served their food. He frowned at the lilac haired waiter who positively jogged away from them.

The three who ran the shop were very odd, and kept shooting the couple strange glances, yet they found nothing odd about Raichu and Jolteon who were re-enacting a scene from the famous 'Lady and the Tramp'. Well, the pair would be, if it wasn't for the constant interruptions that they got from the silver Eevee nicknamed Shadow and the Pichu nicknamed Squall, which kept the parents on their toes. The baby Eevee didn't morph like his mother, although he had been known to use flamethrower.

The shop owners were still whispering and Ash thought he caught the cat talking, hissing; "Shut up! The twerps are looking at us strangely."

"Do they look familiar to you?" Ash frowned at the man, woman and cat.

Misty shrugged, "We've travelled all around Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh. People are bound to start looking a little bit the same."

Ash shrugged it off. "I think I would have lost it." He admitted, after a moment in silence, eating. "Without you there... I would quite happily have died and not really cared about anything. But you guys… Erika first… because she was so innocent back then… when I rescued her from Celadon… she made me realise that there were still people… fighting in the war… individuals and not just the black and white of rockets and League."

Misty nodded. "I'm just glad it's over. Aren't you?"

The aura guardian grinned. "Who isn't?" he asked rhetorically.

"And everything is back to normal." Misty sighed, although the odd waiter chose at that moment to try and subtly steal away their plates. The Cerulean leader frowned but made no comment.

"Here at least," Ash smiled. "For now."

They fell silent, both too aware of how fragile this life could be.

"I was thinking… well Lance was thinking. When we get Johto up and running we were going to split the Leagues. Lance was going to re-create the Kanto league and dump off Koga, Bruno, Karen and Will in Johto with a new champion. Agatha and Lorelei are going to retire eventually… Hell Agatha's already the recluse of Mount Moon."

Misty laughed. They did this all the time, looking to the future and planning what would happen after Johto. It gave them hope that they were both going to come back okay from it.

"Maybe you can rope Gary into it." Misty suggested. "Leaf can take over the Viridian gym full time… I hear she's already mostly running it herself after we kicked the rockets out of it. That would leave him with more time for research."

"He'll get a big head." Ash complained.

"Like you don't. I still don't know how you and Lance are going to decide who gets to be champion."

"I'm an aura guardian. We don't get big heads because otherwise your best friend and mentor chase after you with rocks and flaming swords."

Misty gave him a wary look. "I've never seen Lance do that before." She admitted. "I'm starting to think you've imagined it all."

Ash scoffed. "I wish. Oh I wish. That's just what he wants you to think."

Misty smiled at her boyfriend, content and happy, because finally, everything was just perfect.

And she hoped to the depths of her heart that it would remain that way.

A perfect moment, frozen in time…

Or… maybe it might be better to let time just take its course.

("Aaaaand. That's it!" May finished typing, eyes lighting up as she scrolled up the finished document. "A total recap of the war, Ash's pre-war version, all in one document."

Lance smiled at her and leant down to give her a kiss. "I bet it's brilliant."

"Depends," May shrugged. "Is Ash a good story teller?"

"He's fair." Lance grudgingly admitted. "Although it depends... Am I portrayed in a positive light?"

"Lance, you told your own sections." Ash sighed. "And you were present for the rest of the tale." over from where he and Misty were curled up on one end of the sofa, the other taken up by a Jolteon, Eevee, Pichu, Pikachu and Raichu in a muddled pile.

The champion opened his mouth to protest but realising it was true, shut up again.

"It was mostly Erika and Ash." May admitted. "It was their idea and they did all the general history and stuff."

"It was a good idea." Ash admitted. "Erika and I were just talking one day, trying not to forget anything, and we were arguing over how our conversation with Sabrina went, back when we stole into her gym. We finally actually managed to remember it as well, word for word, and Sabrina and Lance agree with us."

"The human memory is impressive." May smiled.

"If only it could remember the war and learn from its mistakes." Misty sighed, "We can hope, can't we?"

Ash chuckled. "Yes, we can hope. But for now, let's not worry about the future. Let's just think about the here and now - all right? How about that then…?"

The Cerulean leader smiled sleepily against the aura guardian's chest. "Sounds good." she mumbled. "Here and now. Me and you…"

"Forever..." Ash promised.

"Forever and always...")

December 2013: Wow. Just... wow. It's been a long journey, huh? Thank you to anyone who stuck with me and this story all the way, and to anyone who took a few minutes to drop a review (you know who you are). Your support is what kept this going and turned it into the epic length it has finally finished at. I hope you enjoyed the ride, and am just sorry it took this long to get it all out. I love the story and characters in this tale, and thank you for reading!

Over and out,

Eclipse :)