So, Silver is a character of the day in Pokemon Chronicles, who had a very interesting reaction when Ritchie brought up Ash. As that particular episode spent a lot of time drawing comparisons between Silver and Ritchie, Ritchie and Ash, and how all three of them are basically the same person, I've been wanting to complete the triangle for some time now, and have Ash and Silver interact.

Anything else implied here is simply conjecture on my part.

But as far as conjecture goes, you will agree that it's rather difficult to write a fic like this and not go there. So, please forgive my indulgences, and I hope I've left it vague enough that it can be ignored by those who are poised with their bazookas at the ready.

Enjoy!

Chapter 5: GOLDEN SMILE & SILVER TEARS

It was confirmed very quickly that in addition to lacking the ability to speak words, Ash also couldn't write them, read or identify them out of context. Numbers also eluded him, as well as being able to figure out the date, though the latter didn't surprise anybody.

When shown pictures of his family and the Oaks, he seemed to recognize them, but not Iris, Cilan or any of his pokemon. With some questioning, it appeared that Ash's memories were fairly solid up until his ninth birthday, but everything after that was shaky at best. He couldn't remember leaving on his Pokemon Journey, and even a picture of Misty didn't seem to spark any recognition, but for some reason, he did react to a picture of Max, and, oddly, was able to pick out Agatha from a picture of the Elite Four. I didn't think being forgotten was so bad by comparison, because when they showed him a picture of me, he started crying.

I hadn't thought it possible that anything could distract me from his physical ailments, but that was the world we lived in now. The only speck of light available was that physically, he was improving, after a fashion. If not for the involuntary shaking, ranging from almost imperceptible to glaringly violent, Ash would likely be back to "normal" very shortly, healing much faster than the average patient. That was Ash in a nutshell, abnormally normal, and still worlds away from the plane the rest of us operated in.

But, when the doctors decided they were finally done with finding bad news, we managed to rouse Gary from his stupor enough to drag him into Ash's room for a proper reunion. Whether Ash remembered all of us or not, we'd been craving his presence for too long to pass it up. I hung back near the doorway, ready to bolt in case the sight of me caused any trouble.

"Good morning!" Bianca shouted cheerily as we entered, though it was afternoon, and she knew full well that nothing about the morning had been good. She walked straight up to Ash's bed and waved wildly, favoring the direct approach. "I missed you," she added when Ash stared at her blankly.

Ash pulled away, shyly, though it might have had something to do with his current inability to use his right shoulder for anything as strenuous as waving. When Bianca realized this, she immediately switched to her left, causing Ash to laugh and be won over, though it seemed moving the left side of his body wasn't any easier for him. It didn't look like he was in much pain, but there was little to no control, and there was less 'waving' than there was 'spasm-ing'. "I'm glad you're back."

He returned her smile, but still seemed depressed about something, which was his right; he had a lot of topics to choose from. Cilan, however, proved insightful enough to figure it out. "This is weird, huh? We know you, but you don't know us."

Ash nodded, looking away with unease. I wanted to rub cheeks with him, let him know that it was fine, that we were just happy he was still alive. Let him know that he wasn't alone. But I was afraid that I would scare him again, so I stayed hidden.

Cilan pretended to be untroubled. "Well, if we all introduce ourselves, then we won't be strangers anymore, right?" Ash seemed to like that idea, and gratefully smiled in return. Cilan proceeded to give his name and a long, embellished version of his many achievements, and Bianca enthusiastically told Ash more than he probably wanted to know about her. All the excitement seemed to be tiring him out, so Iris wisely kept her introduction short. Gary hung back, which didn't surprise anybody, even though Ash kept trying to get his attention, and Brock was quiet. If Cilan hadn't made introductions for him, he might not have called attention to himself at all.

"This is Brock, you guys used to travel together," Cilan said, constantly searching for recognition in Ash's eyes. I think if he could find some, he'd finally lose the haunted look in his own. "Brock's a cook, too, like me. When you're better, we'll have a cook-off, and you can judge who's better." Ash looked eager, his love for food had survived.

"Yeah, you look like you're sick of this hospital slop."

All things considered, the atmosphere was positive. Ash was a bit shy with his human friends, which wasn't surprising, as Sam and Ritchie were the only two people I'd ever seen Ash bond quickly to. On the surface, Ash was amicable and trusting, but it took time before he opened up completely to people. Pokemon, however, Ash would trust them implicitly. He'd never consciously admit to it, but it wasn't hard to see if enough time was spent with him, and it wasn't that hard to pick up a few hints as to why Ash was wired that way.

But I knew the things that Ash whispered in the dark, lonely nights, and the things he didn't dare give a voice to. I knew his secrets and his quirks, his fears and his vulnerabilities, and I knew that for a boy so eager to trust everyone he met, it could still be daunting to place a heart in the care of someone else.

While Ash was friendly to all, they had to earn their place in his heart over time, and no one was shocked to find that this would likely be the case now. But he seemed to genuinely like all of them, and he was enamored with the Pokemon, again, not surprising in the least.

But we should have been on our guard, as things were going a little too well. Within a few hours, Ash had forgotten everyone for the second time.

"This certainly leaves a bad taste..." Cilan said nervously, looking from Ash to the therapist, who was standing up marvelously to the news that her patient had trouble remembering all they'd done earlier that morning. "If Ash can't remember new things, how's he supposed to recover?"

"Exactly, it's not fair to take his old memories and his new ones," Bianca declared. "They should just pick one or the other!" Everyone sighed.

"Now I know why your dad didn't want you to go traveling," Iris muttered. Regardless of what was fair, in addition to losing a great portion of his memory, Ash also had a great deal of trouble retaining new information. But the therapist was quick to assure us that progress was not impossible; Ash was just going to have to work a little harder. Iris was quick to latch onto that hope, and did her best to pull everyone else along with her. "Like the people in the dragon village used to say, 'A cracked bowl can still hold water.'"

But Ash didn't share Iris' optimism. With every forgotten skill or memory realized, he withdrew more, and asking a question was like pulling teeth. As much as his short term memory was impaired, he was growing aware of his own deficiencies, and how much he had lost was starting to sink in.

"You can't get discouraged," his mother lectured him, gently. "It's hard now, but you can beat this. It's only impossible if you give up." Ash just stared at the ceiling, and his thoughts were probably the same as mine: Delia was wrong, this was as impossible as it got.

Then again, Delia had stood up to an Entei, played therapist to a desperate five-year-old with an army of reality-bending pokemon at her command and flown straight into the apocalypse to look for her son. If anyone could do the impossible, it was her, and everyone said Ash was just like his crazy mother.

Around us, there was talk of surgery, though I was never sure to what end. More and more, I was being left out of such discussions, which may have been by my own subconscious choice. Certainly, I was withdrawing from the group, preferring to curl under a table by the door and watch Ash in secrecy than sit in a room with them and pretend things weren't completely hopeless. Deep in my heart, I had stopped believing things could ever get better.

And so, I watched Ash watch the scenery pass by, wincing if he twitched and ready to run for a nurse if it turned into a seizure. But most of the time, Ash just sat there, lost in whatever thoughts he still had available to him.

Until he showed up. "Sir, if you can't keep you voice down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave!" Out in the hall, a tall, gray-ish-silver haired man was making quite the commotion.

"Come on, Prockty, you need more excitement in your life!"

"I just performed two back to back surgeries, I do not need more excitement!" Doctor Proctor muttered to himself. "Sir-"

"Name's Silver."

"Silver, sir," the doctor grit his teeth. "Visiting hours are over. And you have to keep you voice down, there are patients trying to recover!"

"Alright, alright," the man called Silver conceded with a sigh, the Chikorita on his shoulder following suit. Even so, he brushed past the doctor into Ash's room, and I scuttled further under the table. "But you'll let me in, right? After I came all this way?" He looked around briefly. "Hey, where's Delia?" He addressed the question to the room at large, though only Cilan was nearby to answer.

"She left with Professor Oak to get something to eat." And that simple act had taken hours of persuasion. We'd been trying to get Delia out of the hospital and into the fresh air for days.

Silver just shrugged when he heard. "That woman," he said with more fondness than irritation, "Always running off somewhere." Turning back to Ash, Silver waved heartily. "How's it going, there, half-pint?" Cilan, though interested, stepped into the hall to give the man his privacy.

Since the man walked into the room, Ash's eyes were singularly focused on him and him alone. It was the first time since the accident that I'd seen him with his eyes so wide and interested. While Ash didn't make any sounds or movements, this man had his complete attention, and I wasn't quite sure if it was warranted or not; I'd never met the guy, and there weren't many of Ash's friends that I didn't know.

Even if there were, apparently Ash had forgotten them all, anyway. "Met a friend of yours awhile back. Ritchie... That guy coulda been your long lost twin or something. I hear news from him now and again, he's a good kid." Silver parked himself in a chair by the bed, and the Chikorita jumped off his shoulder and started inspecting Ash. To my contradicting relief and dismay, Ash seemed interested in the Chikorita, proving that it really was me and me alone that he had a problem with.

Silver leaned back a little, continuing to chat. "Made a bit of a name for yourself, not bad for a kid your age. Keep seeing you in tourney matches on the TV." I was reminded briefly of Max, though this stranger seemed to have a bit more respect for Ash's accomplishments. "Nice job in Sinnoh, it's not easy when a guy comes at you with a legendary. Makes me miss my youth, though..." The man's demeanor seemed casual and relaxed, but I could see that he was really watching Ash like a poised Fearow, as were we all. Ash simply pet the Chikorita with halting movements.

"All these strong trainers, new ones every year... I keep thinking I'd like to get back into tournaments," Silver carried on, "Maybe I'd face you in the arena? The timing's never right, though. Yeah, the tournaments are every year, but nature can change in an instant. Still, with people like you around, I start thinking that the right match could be just as rare and valuable as chasing a legendary." He grinned at Ash, who still kept his blank face, devoid of any clue he was following the conversation.

It sobered Silver up rather quickly. "You're just like your mother. Every time I catch a glimpse of a tv, one of you is always on, you pair of crazies. But I never thought... well, after that thing in Greenfield, I should have known better than to think that life would wait around while I wasted time." Ash turned his head slightly, as Chikorita sighed and stretched, looking up at it's trainer with slight sympathy. "Kept thinking I'd like to meet up with you, battle that famous Pikachu you're training, but I always went chasing after something else. Took something like this to get me to track you down." Chikorita noticed me under the table, and having enough of being pampered, hopped off the bed and trotted over to me.

Ash visibly became uncomfortable as Chikorita slipped into shadow. Silver raised an eyebrow. "Something wrong?" He followed Ash's gaze, peering into the darkness where I was hiding.

"He doesn't like me," I muttered to the Chikorita for an explanation. "I make him anxious."

Chikorita nodded, calling back to it's trainer, who relaxed, but raised an eyebrow "The Great Ash Ketchum, scared of a Pokemon," he drawled. "Never would'a thought." He leaned forward towards Ash, adopting a kind tone that I would not have thought possible of the rough and brusque man. "It's not going to hurt you, you know."

Ash turned and looked at him, and my heart stopped because Ash didn't just turn, he nodded. "...sca...ry..." He spoke. He reacted to a sentence, and spoke. He was back!

"PIKAPI!" My gleeful shrieking sent Ash into a shock, and I dove out into the hall while that Silver man put an arm around Ash to bring him back. Even strangers got to touch him, while I couldn't even look at him, and the injustice of that kept me from running too far away.

But, I was too excited by the new turn of events to dwell on that for long. We had hope again.

"Easy there, half-pint," Silver reassured, and Ash calmed down enough that I dared to peek around the door. His attention was focused on Silver, now, who had beckoned his Chikorita over since it seemed to help distract Ash from the 'monster' that might be outside the door. "What are you so scared of? To hear everyone else talk, you're too reckless to be scared of anything, let alone your best friend." Silver's eyes were calculating, at odds with his flippant voice. "You're Ash Ketchum, the kid who started his journey with some authority-resistant Pikachu Sammy Oak found chewing on his power cables, and then used it to take on a rock gym. You're the only trainer in decades to have the badge from Cinnabar Gym, and one of the few to have defeated Sabrina or Surge. Your mom told me you made it all the way to Viridian City in only a day, without a town map and that crabby Pikachu in tow." The man winked at me, smoothing over any offenses.

"...mnnn..." Ash distractedly replied, looking over in my general direction, but thankfully, he couldn't see me.

"Ever hear of the GS Ball?"

Ash looked up, and so did I. We had dragged that stupid thing over two continents, only to never hear from it again. With our luck, it was probably a worthless piece of junk collecting dust at Kurt's house. Silver laughed to himself. "It's a mysterious pokeball, painted gold and silver, but no one knows what's inside. Scientists have been trying to figure it out for years, but because no one can open it, I think most of them have given up. It's frustrating, and since they can't understand it, they decide that it's worthless." Yeah, that was a pretty accurate summary. But I would agree with the scientists, there; Pokeballs were meant to be used, and if no one could figure out how to use one, then by definition, it was worthless.

But Silver had a different opinion. "You're that GS Ball, kid. You always have been. But you'll open up when the time is right for you, not for anyone else." The strange man was speaking very earnestly, now. "No matter what anyone else thinks, there's something special inside you, and when you're ready, you'll show the world."

Maybe it was just the emotional roller-coaster I'd been on all week, but my eyes were tearing up at the metaphor. I hadn't thought about it that way, but it was true, had always been true, and maybe it still could be. It could have been stupid to put so much faith in a stranger's words, but Silver had nailed Ash completely, and I thought that someone who could grasp his essence so easily must know what he was talking about. Somewhere over the course of the conversation, Ash's gaze became completely riveted on Silver, hopefully taking in every word.

As for Silver, he was rising to his feet, ready to head out again. "I have to be going, for now, but I'll stop by and visit you again, 'k, kid? I'll bring Ritchie, too." Ash's eyes continued to follow all his movements, and Silver leaned over to ruffle the boy's hair, stopping the familiar gesture abruptly when faced with Ash's bald and bandaged head. He patted Ash's shoulder instead. "Take it easy. Even Pokemon have to rest at the Pokemon Center now and again." He waved as he left the room, but was stopped slightly when Ash waved back.

"...baahh...'bye...," Ash said, continuing to attempt communication, and a few feet behind me, Cilan was striking gleeful poses and going off on how he was a conversation sommelier and "It's Speaking Tiiiime!" For once, Iris didn't grumble.

Silver smiled appreciatively. "That's the spirit." He waved again, Ash mimicking him until they were out of each others' sight. The man stopped at he passed me, a change coming over his face, and he reached down to pat my head. "Don't give up on him, okay?" he charged, scratching me behind the ears. "Whatever things might look like, he definitely hasn't given up on you." What had he based that on? I didn't know how he could say that so confidently, but this man had known how to bring Ash back to us, and so, I felt I should try to trust him.

"Pikaa." As if I had to promise. Whatever happened, I wasn't going anywhere. Silver smiled again, a tiny trace of sadness in his eyes.

"I know it's hard, but don't give up." With that last bit of advice, he left us behind, and I realized I still didn't know who he was. "Say hi to Sammy Oak for me!" We heard his voice echoing even after he had passed out through the doors, as well as the fleet of orderlies who were no doubt trying to usher him out.

Professor Oak and Delia were shocked when Cilan relayed the greeting. "Silver was here?"

Ash's mother stamped her foot with as much humor as frustration. "That man!" she declared, dashing off in the direction Cilan had pointed. "Always running off somewhere!"

I laughed to myself, my spirits lighter than they had been in a long time. For all of the things weighing us down, I couldn't deny the truth of the strange man's words; Like the GS Ball, Ash was the one mystery no one could ever crack, the greatest undiscovered and unsung treasure of the world, and worth every second of waiting.