Years after starting his journey, Ash, Indigo League champion, is training to inherit Team Rocket. Misty, Cerulean gym leader, is secretly part of an organization trying to bring Team Rocket to justice. AshxMisty, GiovannixDelia, JamesxJessie

Loyalty

Chapter 01: Nostalgia

The sun shone brightly in the afternoon skies projecting nothing but peace and harmony to the little town of Pallet. It had been ten years since the start of his journey, ten years almost constantly on the road with only a few small breaks in between. Ten years of adventure, ten years of optimism, ten years of training to become the champion. While he journeyed on, Ash wondered when the day would come for him to claim the ultimate victory of the Indigo League; when, not if, as he shared his father's confident determination and certainty of victory one way or another.

When the day finally arrived, it felt as if it was too soon. His journey was over. Despite earning the title of champion and being offered to take the position as such, Ash refused. The victory meant something else, it meant he had another place to take, another role to play, and he didn't feel ready, even if he fought with determination every step of the way.

"What's wrong?" Ash remembered his father had asked as they made their way down the dim hallways of the underground hide out. "You look nervous, you never get like this during battles and you've already won."

Ash looked up from his current fascination with the floor and examined his father's face, not hiding a single trace of his unsure expression. "What now?" He asked with the outmost uncertainty, feeling as if his every step echoed heavily, carrying him towards an unknown point of no return. "I trained, I battled, I won, and that's what you told me I had to do. I defeated Lance and..." he paused, drowning in his own uncertainty.

"And me," Giovanni admitted without the bitterness that would come if the defeat had been at the hands of anyone else. "So now you don't know what comes next? You've proven you're strong and determined enough, but this is only the start of your training. There's still much to learn. From this point on you'll be with me as I run Team Rocket. When you're ready I'll hand over certain operations to you and supervise your progress. You still have a long way to go."

Far from being disappointed, Ash was relieved. He wouldn't know what to do if the future of Team Rocket was simply handed to him, not that his father would be so careless. The champion took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he absentmindedly petted the Pikachu on his shoulders. This was the destiny that lay before him ever since his birth, could he face it? Did he want to? Those questions had oddly enough never surfaced in his mind before. All he had to do was climb up, all he had to think was that he had to do this. Did he have a choice? What would that choice be?

Ash focused on the present as he made his way down the rustic roads of Pallet Town, his orange car leaving tire marks on the dirt path as it went. The brightly colored vehicle stopped in front of the Oak research laboratory where the young man exited it and walked past the parted gates of the front entrance beyond the brick fence. A soft pleasant breeze blew as he made his way up the steps and entered the residence as if it were his own. "Gary, are you here?"

"No, I'm off on a journey to catch one of each pokemon in existence!" Came a sarcastic reply from the backyard, the sound of which led Ash to his long time rival and friend. "So, what brings you here?" Gary inquired without even turning around to look at Ash as he exited from the back door, instead focused on his activity of admiring his grandfather's land.

"Nothing much," Ash reached into the pocket of his jeans pulling out a fat white envelope. "Just the mail." He grinned as if it were nothing. He knew all too well what was in that envelope. Pikachu, his ever present loyal companion, jumped off his shoulders and went to play with the other pokemon in the Oak land.

Gary accepted the envelope with curiosity that shouldn't have been; he knew what was in it. Maybe the source of his perplexity was not the mail, but the mailman. He opened the white envelope casually and whistled at the wad of cash it contained running his finger over the edge and watching the valuable material bounce off the surface of his thumb held together with a rubber band. "Did you get demoted to the rank of delivery boy?" Gary teased.

"I haven't made dad angry yet," Ash joked back, "I just offered to deliver the payment since I wanted to come to Pallet anyway. It's been a while." Looking away from Gary, Ash contemplated the land before them. "It's been a long time since we used to run around here calling each other names... or rather since you used to chase me around here calling me names."

"Getting nostalgic, are you?" Gary chuckled, "I guess this means your father's working you to the bone and you needed release." Pausing for a moment, Gary adopted a serious and somewhat dark expression, "the goods are in the back."

Ash's expression tried to remain serious, but a smile ultimately stretched across his face and he burst out in a fit of laughter. The action earned him a fake punch on the arm from Gary. "Right, right... I'll make sure the goods are delivered to the boss."

The goods in question were the fruits of Gary's Team Rocket sponsored research. Gary had known about Ash's situation for some time, having found out about five years ago. It led to enmity and bitterness just when the two had apparently gotten over their rivalry to become true friends. However, they worked out their differences and ended up making a deal. Gary's research would be sponsored by Team Rocket and he would share the results in exchange. Part of the deal was that Gary refused to formulate anything that would be ultimately harmful for pokemon or humans, no poison, no chemicals riddled with side effects. Additionally his research would be free of cruelty, no live experimentation, or at least not on pokemon. As for plants, Gary had killed and mutated a large number of flowers, bushes and even small trees all for the sake of science. Ash didn't understand how he could link that to pokemon, but somehow he could.

Gary stepped forward and sat down on the grass behind the house. He pulled out a cigarette box from his lab coat and lit one. "I'm a big hypocrite," he stated as the smoke danced in the breeze in front of him. "I know that the researchers in Team Rocket are going to confirm my findings with live experimentation, yet I choose to ignore it."

Ash sat down beside him and remained silent for a long moment, "I... I just do what I'm supposed to... I wonder if I'll ever form a will of my own. It's strange, this is what I've been raised to do, this is the goal I pursued for so long thinking it was my own."

"We're both empty shells, huh?" Gary laughed bitterly. He closed his eyes and exhaled, "In the past, I never would have thought-"

The sharp sound of Ash's cellphone cut him off as Ash jumped a little at the noise. "Sorry, I need to take it."

"So jumpy..." Gary commented before fading into silence and focusing on his cigarette and the landscape before him.

"What?" Ash sounded angry, which made Gary snap into attention and stare at him, as if trying to read the other side of the conversation in his eyes. "Just like that, in broad daylight? You think you can tell me that and not expect me to go? Of course I'm going!" Ash's finger went down on the cell phone's button so harshly that he almost broke the thin high tech device in half in his hand.

"What happened?" Gary demanded more so than asked. Ash had bolted to his feet in a split second.

"Pikachu!" Ash called at the top of his lungs in an impatient and commanding voice he never used for his pokemon under normal circumstances. There was obviously something wrong and the yellow electric pokemon wasted no time in rushing back to his trainer. Ash started on his way back through the Oak residence and towards the front door, simultaneously giving Gary his explanation. "They have mom," the statement was filled with anger and frustration.

Ash nearly ran into the elder Oak, who was returning from the local convenience store. "The police?" Gary inquired with urgency as he followed Ash down the stairs, both young men rushing past Samuel, apparently not noticing him in their haste.

"No, some anti-Rocket group called the Azure Alliance. Dad warned me about them," Ash climbed into his car and caused the engine to roar to life. Without any further exchange of words he drove off in a rush.

Gary spat out his cigarette as he coughed in the dust left behind by Ash's car, which now clung to his previously clean white lab coat. He saw from the corner of his eyes that his grandfather had made his way down the steps, abandoning the bag of groceries next to the door. "This is bad," he stepped on the cigarette on the ground and turned completely to look at his grandfather. Ash was already out of sight, the orange dot that was his fancy sports car fading away in the distance. Gary knew his grandfather expected an explanation, which was best given inside, if at all.

The two Oaks headed up the stairs, with the elder in bitter worried silence and the younger filled with a frustrating uncertainty. Gary picked up the grocery bag as he went through the door, rummaging through it for a bottle of pain killers. Finding the item, he strode to the kitchen depositing the bag and the rest of its contents on the counter and pouring him self a glass of water. He knew Samuel was expectantly waiting for an answer, "you can just ask."

"There's a limit to what you can tell me," the elderly professor stated as a matter of fact. "There's also a limit to what they tell you."

"But you choose to ignore my little venture in favor of not jailing your own grandson," Gary snapped and paused to swallow the medicine that would hopefully relieve his headache. "The Azure Alliance, those anti-rocket vigilantes... they have Delia."

A look of worried horror overcame Samuel's face, before he forced his expression to become stern. "She made her choice years ago when she married into the mafia. She knew this could have happened; it was only a matter of time, especially with how Team Rocket has been moving in the recent years. She... deserves..." he paused unable to finish his intended harsh statement fueled by frustration. Instead he confessed, "she deserves nothing of the sort. I guess I've been a hypocrite giving you the silent treatment. I know that what you're doing isn't out of evil, but it's not right, still... you're my only grandson, my only family left alive. Delia was like family to me too and the whole town missed her when she closed the cafe and disappeared from our lives, with only a few of us knowing why... It's all because of him, because he called her to return."

"Return?" Gary questioned, "it's not like she was disconnected from Team Rocket to begin with. It was more of a long vacation than anything else. What's all that 'was' stuff anyway? I know you still care about Delia, as a father I'd like to think." The theory was accompanied by a raise of an eyebrow and a suspicious, almost accusing undertone.

"Of course! How else?" Samuel snapped.

"She was like the mother I never had, or more like never met." Gary admitted, why was that medicine taking so long to ease the tension in his head? "I was jealous of Ash because of her, but I never told him that. Even if I was a rival to her son, she always treated me kindly." After a silent pause, Gary occupied himself in putting away the groceries still remaining in the bag. "Giovanni's going to be pissed off if anything happens to her."

To be Continued

Disclaimer, I don't own Pokemon. To those who read Don't Give Me Diamonds... This is a completely separate plot and it won't be as long as that one, but I do hope you'll enjoy it. There will be diamondshipping (GiovannixDelia) and rocketshipping (JessiexJames), but the main focus here will be pokeshipping (AshxMisty).

Next Chapter: Under the leadership of Misty Waterflower, the Azure Alliance embarks on a mission to kidnap the mysterious wife of the Rocket boss as a bargaining chip.

xoxox xox xoxox

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