Chapter 9: ここだけの話, 不安ひとつふたつみっつ... (Keep this between us; I have one or two or three worries...)
"And then Team Rocket showed up?" Misty was incredulous. "I'm surprised MewTwo didn't obliterate them on the spot! You remember what those guys did to him and his friends!"
"Yeah, but Jessie and James were on our side that time," Brock pointed out, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "And I don't know about MewTwo, but I have a hard time associating those three with the real Team Rocket organization, they're a bit too... independent." A kind word choice; I would have gone with 'incompetent'.
Misty laughed prettily. "True, true. Although, some of the news I've been hearing from Unova is worrying me a little..." I left Brock and Misty to their phone call, not really wanting to go over the events of last night, though everyone around me was of the opposite opinion. May was seated at another phone booth, calling her brother and gloating about how she saw the legendary pokemon, "the real one, not a mirage," and Iris and Cilan were trying to describe it all to a skeptical Dawn and Bianca. The former was a little more inclined to believe it, having first hand experience with Ash's apparent homing device for all rare pokemon and bizarre occurrences, but still thought they were making half of it up. So did Ash, when Gary tried to talk about it with him that morning, though some of the tale did seem to resonate with him.
For me, I didn't know how they could be so happy, or talk so cavalierly about it. They hadn't put as much emotional investment into MewTwo's visit as I had, not even Gary, but even so, it was a hope that had been thoroughly shattered, and now that I had said it, I couldn't stop thinking about how Ash would never be normal again. As long as I never voiced that thought, I could delude myself, but having acknowledged it, there was no going back.
It had been such a whirlwind of emotions, this whole ordeal, ups and downs interchanging quickly and suddenly, and I was ready to stop. I was slipping into some sort of lethargic state, lacking the energy to care about Ash's successes and breakthroughs, and knowing that to care a little would pull me back into the cyclone of overloaded feelings again.
I couldn't go through this with him.
Hadn't I said I would brave anything to be by his side? Hadn't I said that we would always be together, no matter what? That I would love him, no matter what happened? I still loved him, and I still wanted to be with him, but I was not physically or emotionally capable of standing by his side through this ordeal. I couldn't stand up to this trial.
Could Ash do it, if our positions were reversed? I honestly didn't know, but I did know that he'd been put in these situations before. I'd lost my memory and my mind more times than I cared to count, and somehow, he'd found the inner strength to stay by me and pull me back. But the durations were shorter, and that was the killer. Could Ash sustain his unwavering devotion for week upon endless week, month after month, year after year with no end in sight?
I didn't know, but his track record suggested that he would have held up better than I was doing. If nothing else, Charizard, Gary and I had trained him to handle betrayal extremely well.
Ash was off in another section of the hospital, doing some physical therapy exercises. He was standing now, and with a lot of assistance, able to walk short distances. There was some worry that once he found his feet, Ash would immediately attempt to start running around like he always had, but we were all relieved and dismayed to find that wasn't the case. Though Ash pushed himself hard enough during therapy sessions, he didn't seem to have any desire to rush himself for anything else. His energy was a fraction of what it once was, and he no longer cared to run off at breakneck speed towards things of interest, literally or figuratively. I hoped it was temporary, but this accident seemed to have taken yet another piece of my friend away.
Ironic, as I'd been the one always telling him to relax, calm down, take things slowly. Now that he was content to do so, it felt so wrong, and I hoped that his inclination towards action would return as he grew more capable of acting on it.
My trainer being absent, I walked into his room and hopped up on his bed. It still carried his scent. On his bedside table were drawings and doodles, shaky sketches that attempted to reveal Ash's inner thoughts. I felt embarrassed for my trainer to look at them; he was no Poke-casso, but he could draw a Dewgong and have it look like a Dewgong. Now, his hands weren't steady enough to show his real talent.
Even so, it wasn't hard to interpret the subjects of his drawings. Iris was a mess of hair, Brock was the one with no eyes, Gary's head was a mess of spikes and, to the boy's chagrin, always sticking his tongue out. The Pokemon, whenever their physical forms were illegible, were always recognizable by their types, and Ash often found it easier to draw vines or flames than Snivy and Tepig.
He never drew me.
I heard the sounds of Ash and his mother returning to the room, Dawn bouncing happily on their heels, and I reluctantly jumped off the side of the bed to hide behind the potted plant. "You're doing really well today, Ash!"
"Nnnn..." He really was, able to walk from his wheelchair to the bed on his own, but it was getting harder to view simply walking as an accomplishment.
"You're going to be able to go home soon, isn't that fantastic!"
"Nnnn..." Ash looked exhausted, and almost collapsed back into the bed. He looked a bit cross when Delia and Dawn adjusted it into a sitting position, but didn't do much more than mumble about it. "Nnnn..."
"You're supposed to be using your words, Ash."
"...Ok..." He might have said "okay", but his tone said otherwise. I had a bad feeling about this day.
"Professor Juniper said she would come by after lunch today," Delia said gently, rubbing Ash's shoulder. "Would you like to see her?"
"Ok," Ash sighed, glumly reaching for his pen and papers. I couldn't see what he was scribbling down, but I could see that he was getting frustrated with the results, even after only a few seconds. His right arm had started shaking, and he eventually set his pen down with enough force to suggest that he wanted to throw it.
"Are you hurting, Ash? Do you want us to call the-"
"Ok!" Ash snapped back, more than a little irritated, and both of the women backed off.
"All right, Ash," they said, trying not to be hurt. It wasn't an easy thing to hide, day after day. "We'll just let you rest for now." Ash mumbled something non-committal and leaned his head back. After Dawn and Delia had left, I dared to peek around the potted plant and look at his face.
After seeing his, I hid mine. I didn't often see Ash cry, and it made me uncomfortable, particularly since I couldn't comfort him.
While we sat in our own private hells, a small rapping was heard on the door. Ash's eyes snapped open and he hastily wiped away his tears as the petite doctor stepped into the room. A shrink, because Ash needed yet another therapist to fix everything I'd done to him. "Good morning, Ash."
"Goodmorn'g..." Ash parroted automatically, having spent hours drilling that response with his speech therapist. He finished rubbing at his face as the doctor sat down.
"And how are you feeling, today?"
"Ok." I was starting to hate that word.
The doctor just smiled kindly. "How are you really feeling?" Ash started in surprise, but it didn't take a shrink to see that he was far from "Ok." He looked at his hands for a few moments, trying to come up with the proper words.
"...hard..." he finally said. "...hard..." The doctor nodded and jotted something down on her notepad.
"It's all right to feel that way," she informed him, and Ash lifted his head again. "I imagine you have a lot of hard days." Ash nodded, and she gave him an encouraging smile. "Don't feel that you have to hide what you're really feeling."
"...n-not..." Ash was struggling to say something, but there was nothing to do but wait patiently until the words came to him, assuming they ever did. "...mom... no..." He shut his mouth and wouldn't say anymore, but the doctor was insightful enough to take a guess at his meaning.
"Do you try and hide things from your mom?" Ash nodded, looking a little embarrassed. Well, that was nothing new. If Delia knew half of the things we got up to on this journey, she'd never let him leave home again. Though after something like this, it almost didn't matter; whether or not we told her about the time we all were nearly wiped out of existence, it would take some effort to convince her to let Ash back on the road after this.
Assuming that was even a possibility. "Are you worried she might be angry?" Ash shook his head quickly, "Or that she'd be sad?" He thought about that one for a few seconds, before nodding slowly. "You don't want your mom to worry about you?"
"...cry..." Ash cried, Delia cried, everybody cried these days. I didn't know what he was referring to, but it didn't seem to matter.
"I'm sure your mother wants to know when you're not feeling 'okay'," the doctor said in a kind voice, and Ash smiled a little.
"Right, that's a mother's job." With Ash in a much better mood than he was prior, the doctor got down to business. "Ash, do you remember what I asked you to do on my last visit?" He'd forgotten, unsurprisingly. "That's fine. I wanted you to think about Pikachu."
I saw Ash freeze, and I did the same, not moving a muscle. It was a touchy subject, but I found myself curious, all the same. I probably shouldn't have been spying on my trainer's private therapy sessions, but if Ash said anything about what he thought of me, I wanted to know about it.
The doctor pushed some photos across the bed towards Ash. "There are a few different Pikachu, here," she explained. Ash refused to touch any of the photos. "Which one is your Pikachu?"
Ash just frowned, then shook his head. "... nnn...no..." Of course, he didn't really remember much about being a pokemon trainer. The doctor tried again. "Do you recognize any of these Pikachu?"
That, he could do. Ash pointed to he one on the far left, presumably, me. The doctor took that picture away, and I saw a lot of tension leave Ash's shoulders. "How do you feel about these other Pikachu?" Ash just shrugged. "Do they bother you?" He stuttered for a minute, but finally replied, "no". "Are you scared of them?" Ash hesitated, but after a long pause, he said "no" again. The doctor took those two pictures back and replaced them with mine. The problem was with me, and me alone.
"Do you remember anything about Pikachu?" Ash looked somewhat pained, but drew zigzags in the air and mimed explosions. "Attacks?" A nod. "Pokemon Battles?" Ash paused for a minute, then shook his head, but he cupped his hands as if holding a sphere. "A pokeball?" More nodding, then a shake of the head. "Not a pokeball?"
"...uh...m-more... rruu...um... yeah..." Ash was growing exasperated, unable to communicate whatever memory he had conjured up, and began making that strained cry again.
"It's okay, Ash, don't worry about it," the doctor said soothingly, waiting until Ash calmed down. "Tell me something else. Is this pokemon your friend?"
The question I had wanted to ask most of all. Surely, whatever else he had forgotten, if he could remember me at all, he must remember some of our friendship. But Ash just looked back at the doctor with such a lost face, so empty and innocent that I felt my heart breaking. Silent tears began to run down his face, and I wasn't far behind. A little prodding confirmed my worst fear: "...d-dunno..."
"How do you feel, Ash?" The doctor steered the conversation along, "Do you like Pikachu?" Ash was still and silent, refusing to answer. The doctor jotted something down before going through some more questions, none of which Ash was able to come up with an answer for. "Is Pikachu funny? Is it kind? Do you remember where you met?" He couldn't even answer whether or not I was his Pokemon, how long he had known me, or anything we had done together. The only positive reaction Ash gave was when he was asked "Is Pikachu powerful?" to which Ash emphatically nodded his head.
"Does Pikachu scare you, Ash?" We moved on to the part I was most concerned about. Yes, I scared him, no hesitation in that answer. "What part of him is scary?" Apparently, there were several things, but the only thing I could interpret was "...s-sho-ck...s-s-s...s-storm..." "Are you scared of thunderstorms?" Surprisingly, Ash's response was 'no', but he continued to insist that electricity frightened him, so we were forced to accept that oxymoron.
"If I told you that Pikachu loves you very much, would that make it any less scary?" No. "If Pikachu couldn't use electricity, would that make it less scary?" Oh, if that was all it would take, they could amputate my electric sacks with a rusty spoon, but the answer was still 'no'. In fact, Ash began making biting and scratching gestures, then went into trying to describe something far too elaborate to communicate with his current abilities.
I tried not to be hurt or offended, because it wasn't Ash's fault that he'd been hit on the head and electrocuted out of his mind, but it was hard not to give into anger. After all the promises we'd made, all the things we'd gone through together, this was all that was left?
"Ash, why do you think Pikachu scares you?" Hadn't we already established that? I could power a small building with my electricity, and I had a bad habit of turning it on my trainer. Who wouldn't be frightened by that? But Ash took the question seriously, humming and stammering for several minutes before grabbing a pen and paper.
He scratched out a single dot in the center of a blank page. "...me..." he said in explanation, looking at the doctor earnestly. "...hurt... hurt..." He growled a little, shutting his eyes as if by clenching his teeth and concentrating he could just force the right words out. "...h-h... huuuhh... hurrr-hurtpaindarkstopsavemenothing...nothing..." He opened his eyes again and pointed to his paper again. "...me... nothing..." I couldn't understand what he meant, but the doctor just wrote more notes down and adjusted her glasses.
"Is this how Pikachu makes you feel?" Ash struggled with that.
"...r'member..." he mumbled, jabbing his drawing. "...'mber..."
"A memory? Of Pikachu?"
With an earnest nod, Ash picked up steam again. "...hurtpaindarkstopsavemenothing..." he repeated, repetitiously poking at the dot in the center. "...handsoftpulllostnothing... runpinkblue fightstop blastpainscared nothing!" On the positive side, Ash was offering more spontaneous words in the past half hour than he had the entire week, but the downside was that I had no idea what he was talking about. "...saveyoumissyouloveyougoodbye nothing!"
He was getting far too worked up, and the doctor put a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. "It's okay Ash, we can talk about something else for a minute," but Ash jerked away, putting his hands over his ears and screwing his eyes shut.
"H-h-h...Ha-ha-happ'bir'd'yt'you,'ppyb'dyt'you," he took off, speeding through that song that he'd been forced to sing ad nauseum as part of his therapy. "'ppyBir'day d'rGaryHappy Birthday toyouyou, toyou, doyouspearowdoyouknow whoIamI'mAsh fromthetownof PalletI'mgonnacapture and defeat you all brightballnoshocklisten loveyou comeandgetme, Nothing!" With that, Ash was finished, and after a few deep breaths, he looked up at the doctors face, searching for comprehension.
He didn't find any, but he seemed pleased with himself, nonetheless. As for myself, I was floored, but it wasn't by the sheer volume of words Ash had managed to spew out in under five minutes.
It was because I had every word of that speech memorized.
"Nothing," Ash continued saying, staring at the single dot on his piece of paper, "Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing..."
"Is this what you remember when you think of Pikachu?" Ash nodded, not taking his eyes off his paper. He reached out and touched the little dot in the center while the doctor wrote some more things down. "Ash, how do you feel about discussing this with Pikachu?"
"No!" I was a little surprised that she'd waste her breath asking.
"Wouldn't you like to not be scared anymore?" Ash didn't say anything, but I could see him thinking about it. "You've been drawing, haven't you? Maybe you could draw some pictures of Pikachu?"
"No,no!" Ash was quick to protest, but the doctor insisted on it.
"It might help you remember what happened," she reasoned, which was enough of an enticement to get Ash to consider the idea. "Maybe you'll discover some good memories, too?"
"No," Ash muttered, but promised to give it a try over the next few days. He flopped back against the bed as the doctor went to speak with Ash's mother, who had been standing just outside the open door. I waited until both of them were gone before sneaking out of the room, not wanting to run into Delia after that conversation. I knew she was always present for Ash's therapy sessions, and if she'd heard that, I was worried she'd want to talk to me about it.
I managed to get to the waiting room unseen, where May discovered me moping in a corner. She picked me up in her soft, tiny, little arms.
"Don't be sad, Pikachu," she said with as much cheeriness as she could pump into her voice. It may have even been genuine; May has a kind of naivety that even Ash can't match sometimes. "You had amnesia once too, remember?" It's all very fuzzy, but yes, I did remember joining Team Rocket and trying to shock Ash into oblivion. "You forgot everything about Ash, but it all turned out okay."
Except, the two instances were nothing alike. I had a bump on the head, got disoriented for a few hours, and had a migraine the rest of the day. Ash had real amnesia, and there wasn't some magic switch that was going to send everything rushing back. Things were never going to be the way they were.
Over the next few days, Ash kept to his promise of trying to draw pictures of me, though I suspect that his mother had to remind him of that promise. Most of his efforts were abandoned and discarded before they could take proper form, but he finally finished a legible drawing he could discuss with the doctor. I never got to see what it was, since he kept it under his pillow most of the time.
After such an explosion of vocabulary, we had hoped that Ash would start speaking in complete sentences, but he instantly reverted back to single words. His speech therapist was optimistic, however, and took the episode as a good sign. Even his physical energy seemed to have returned, and Ash was getting up and walking a few steps of his own accord, without having to be told to by a physician.
But, as with all good things, they invariably come to an end. Something had been stewing for a while now, and it was only a matter of time before it boiled over.
"Stupid," Ash said for the hundredth time that day, repeating it like a mantra. "Stupid, stupid..."
"Ash, you shouldn't say that!" his mother chided. "It's not very nice!" How ironic; one minute we were begging him to talk, and the next, we were telling him to stop. "Tell us what the problem is!"
Ash crossed his arms and turned his head away. "Stupid," he growled, swatting Delia's hand away when she tried to touch him.
"All right, Ash," she sighed, crossing her own arms. What a pair they made. "Just what do you think is so stupid?"
Her son just rolled his eyes and carried on as before. "Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid."
Delia had enough. "I don't like that word, Ash. Choose a better one." And with that, everything broke.
Fire in his eyes, Ash turned back to glare at his mother. "Handicapped!"
No one was quite sure how to respond to that, least of all, Delia. "Ash," she said hesitantly, "Please don't think-" Ash purposefully pushed a vase of flowers off his bedside table, and Delia jumped out of her seat when it smashed on the floor. "Ash!"
"Wrong!" he hissed, "Wrong! S-shut up!"
Side-stepping the broken pottery, Delia sat on the bed and gripped Ash's shoulders. "I'm right here, Ash, I'm listening. Calm down and tell me what's wrong." Ash pushed her violently.
"No! Job! Hate, hatehatehatehate, die!" he was screaming, and the nurses and Audino quickly mobilized. "Go! Go, go, go, go, go!" Everyone was ushered out of the room save Delia, Audino and Dr. Proctor, and that psychology doctor was called in.
About ten minutes after her arrival, the door opened, and she walked out to where we were all waiting. Everyone's faces were pale, demeanor shaken. Though Ash had a temper, he'd never been so violent before, and this side of him scared us.
"Pikachu," the doctor said seriously, "Ash would like to talk to you."
My thoughts raced at a hundred miles an hour, and I followed her into the room. What could Ash have to say to me? Did he remember something else? Was he mad? Was he going to tell me to leave? I suddenly realized that Ash had never been mad at me before, ever. Only when possessed by that ancient king had he ever expressed anger towards me, and while that hurt, I'd known all along it wasn't him. I realized that the idea of Ash yelling at me was terrifying, and I almost stopped and turned around.
But Ash wanted to talk to me, and it had been so long...
I slunk in timidly after the doctor, looking up towards Ash. He was on his feet, glowering while Audino cleaned up the broken vase. "Stupid, stupid, broken..."
"Ash." He turned at the sound of his name, and when he saw me, all his anger faded into fear. "Pikachu's here. What did you want to ask him?"
Ash fumbled for words. "Uh, um... not...stupid!" he finally shouted, stomping his feet. He wouldn't make eye contact with me. "Can't, no! Not... not...underwear, underground... no, no, no! Stupid!"
"Ash, you are not stupid!" Delia admonished, but Ash screamed and threw a pillow across the room.
"No! No, not..." he gulped, and Delia caught him before he could kick the bed with his bare feet, "not under...under-s-stand...can't, can't..."
"Yes, you can," the doctor said firmly. "You're not stupid, and Pikachu will understand, if you calm down and try to tell him." Ash made a pathetic whine, but looked back over at me.
I hated that haunted look in his eyes. "Pikapi?"
"What?" The reply was brisk, sharp, challenging. I wasn't sure what to say next.
Ash rubbed his temples. "Ok, not okay, no, no..." he groaned and shut his eyes, mouthing something that I couldn't quite make out. I waited while he struggled, hoping that if I was patient, he would find his voice.
At length, he did. "... ha, ha, haaaa, haaaaowareyouAshI'mfine..." Ash's eyes were still screwed shut, gaze towards the floor. I could see his mind churning, could watch his mind sorting through the practiced, memorized conversations for the words he needed. What I couldn't see was if he was going to find them. "...whhhh... whhh... whoareyouImAshfrompallet townandthis ismybuddy Pikachu. Why? Why?" He opened his eyes, properly making eye contact and looking like he expected an answer. "Why?"
Why, what? What sort of answer was he looking for in his self-introduction? "It's who you are," I finally said, wondering if he even understood me. "Pallet Town is where you're from. And I'm... I'm you're friend."
"Why?" I felt like I was dealing with a freshly-hatched Pichu.
"Because I am." Did I need a reason? "Because I love you..." Not that I showed it all that well.
Ash frowned. "Wrong. No, no..."
I felt stung. Wrong? Didn't he believe me? The doctor spoke up for me. "Why do you say that, Ash?"
"No," Ash groaned, looking me over with wary eyes. "Why?" What was he asking for? "Scared, why? Stupid, why? Why, why, why?"
"It can't answer until you ask the question properly," Ash's doctor implored. "Slow down, try again."
"Why?" Ash barked, but the adults weren't willing to accept that.
"Why...why scared..." Ash took a deep breath, trying to calm down. "Why, why I...no, no, her, it...you..." it was like he was thinking aloud, saying all the words in his head until he heard ones that sounded like the ones he needed. "...is...save... are, was... wrong, no..." he sighed again, then lifted his head, seeming more confident. "Why...you... why are you... scared... scared, why are you scared?"
A sentence. Ash had just spoken in a complete, coherent sentence. It was the biggest breakthrough we'd seen, and yet, it wasn't enough to shake my deepest fears, my growing pessimism.
I also wasn't sure how to answer. "I... I guess I'm scared I'm going to lose you forever." Ash didn't respond, and I didn't know if he'd understood my words or not. "Pikapi?"
"Hurt, why?" He was quickly reminded, "Full sentences," and I would have laughed at his eye roll if the situation wasn't so serious. "Why..." Ash faltered for a moment, clear blanks surfacing in his mind. "...remember... hate... pidgey... ferns..." His frustration was building again, and Delia was quick to intervene.
"Take your time," she soothed, "It's okay." Ash nodded, absently, mind lost in some word labyrinth.
"...thh... thhhhuuuhhh..." I thought I had an idea what he meant.
"Pika-Chuuuu...?" I didn't let loose an electric attack, just let my cheeks spark a little, but it was enough for Ash to get the concept, and I saw that my guess had been right. However, it had been a bad move on my part, because he was now close to hysterics."
"WHY? WHY?" he kept screaming as he backed away from me, clinging to his mother desperately. "WHY, WHY, WHY?"
"I'm sorry," was all I could think of to say, hoping that I wasn't about to get kicked out. "I'm sorry, I don't know what's wrong, but I'm sorry!" Ash was still terrified, but his screaming had come down to some miserable humming. "I never meant to hurt you!"
"Wrong." The tone of voice felt accusatory, whether or not it was intended that way. I stared into Ash's eyes, hurt and confused, before I finally admitted to him something I'd already admitted to myself a long time ago.
"Yeah," I whispered. "Wrong." Even so, "I love you." Had I ever told him that, or had I always assumed that he knew? "And I'm sorry, for all the times I might have hurt you. Can you forgive me?"
Ash's stare was hard and cold. "...hu...hurrrr... Hurtpaindarkstopsavemenothing, why?" he demanded. I didn't answer right away, and Ash snapped. "Stupid! Hurtpaindarkstopsavemenothing, why? Why are, why are you..." he trailed off, out of words, through with words. It was written on Ash's face that he had reached his limit, and nothing else was getting through tonight. "Stupid, why?" He shut his mouth and waited for my answer, as if I could have possibly said anything worthwhile.
Even if I knew what he was asking, I didn't think I had the answers he was looking for. "I don't want..." I don't want to hurt you, I don't want you to hate me, I don't want you to leave me... "I don't want you to be scared anymore. So, whatever you want me to do, I'll do it. Whatever... whatever you need, I'll do it."
"You," Ash sighed, sinking to the floor. He looked exhausted. "You, you, you... wrong." Delia knelt down on the floor beside her son, and Ash leaned into her, shutting his eyes to me. "Go. Go, go."
"But..." I took a few steps forward and touched his leg, deciding to press my luck. He winced and jerked it away from me.
"Please," he whimpered, "Go... pleasethankyou, go..." And I did go, because we were clearly done for the night.
We were done, period.