The Researcher's Apprentice
By Spiral Breeze
"Sammy, I don't know what to do, it's been three days! He wont eat... he sleeps all day, I'm at my wits end with him, he doesn't even want to spend time with Pikachu." Mrs. Ketchum explained worriedly, as her tea cup rattled in it's saucer. She set the cup down unable to steady her hands.
"Delia, this is serious... but you know why he's doing this right?"
"Your grandson." She said with a hint of disdain.
"Yes, my grandson." Professor Oak placed his cup of tea on the coffee table. "Delia, I'm supportive of Gary and Ash's relationship, they're adults, and I think the both of us have known for a long time, that the boys rivalry had deeper roots."
"It's not natural."
"I know it's hard to come to terms with your only son being in love with a man, but, I assure you it's perfectly natural. They're in love with each other because of who they are, not because of what parts go where." Samuel sighed. "I see it happen with Pokémon all the time, yes, I realize they can't mate in the usual sense, but if it makes a Tauros happier to be with another Tauros as opposed to a Miltank, than who am I to say no?" He placed a reassuring hand on her knee, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Tell me, what are you really afraid of?"
"I- nothing... it's just..."
"Delia, I've known you a very long time, I think I know what's bothering you."
"He's my only baby."
"This is about grandchildren isn't?"
Mrs. Ketchum nodded, and pulled out a handkerchief to dry the tears that had formed in her eyes.
"I always imagined him married to Misty, she's such a nice girl, they were serious for years, I could just picture their children, a beautiful little girl with auburn hair, a fiery little boy with Ash's thirst for adventure." She dabbed at her eyes again. "I thought he was ready to propose to her... instead, he said good bye and set out to finally win his Mastership, it was just so very typical of my Ash."
"Hmm. I would be lying if I didn't admit to wanting the same for Gary. But I also needed to admit to myself that the fact of the matter was, Gary didn't want those things for himself. I was very surprised when he said he wanted to follow in my footsteps, but I soon realized it was because everyone else had come to a point in their lives where they were pairing off, and he didn't seem interested, so he threw himself head first into his studies."
"Don't you want to see him have children?" His female companion asked curiously.
"Yes... I enjoyed being a father, and a grandfather... if I live-"
"Don't say that Sam."
"I'm an old man."
"You're seventy, that's hardly old."
Professor Oak blushed.
"In any case... yes, it would be nice to hear the lab filled with the pitter patter of tiny feet again."
"Yes... I still have all of Ash's old baby things. I was saving them for Misty." She sighed, and leaned her head against his shoulder. "But... that's not the only thing I'm afraid of Sam."
"You don't want Ash to be hurt again."
She buried her face in his chest as he wrapped the woman he had loved for so long in his arms, smoothing her dark brown hair down her back, whispering calming words in her ear. He didn't want Ash hurt again either. He loved the boy, as if he were his own flesh and blood. He had been more like a father to Ash than a mentor, and it broke his heart to know that they had attacked the Pokémon Master for essentially no reason at all.
"Delia, if you want to see Ash happy again, rescind the restraining order."
She straightened and wiped at her eyes with her handkerchief.
"I'll call them now." The brunette stated as she stood. She went into the kitchen to make the phone call to League headquarters. A few minutes later, she returned, a smile on her face. "They caught the men who hurt Ash, they sent an undercover officer to 'Vermillion Blue' and it turns out that they were bragging about it to anyone who would listen. The League official said they would keep the matter out of the papers, and handle their sentencing privately."
"That's fantastic news Delia!" Samuel stood from his seat on the couch and hugged her happily.
"He also said that the owner is being made to pay damages and they'll forward the money to Ash's League bank account." She sighed. "Five million dollars."
"Five- That's a lot."
"It's not enough to take back what they did to my son."
"No... no amount could do that."
"I'm going to start preparing Ash's party now, come, help me." She took his hand and led him to the kitchen where she turned around and kissed him. "Ash deserves a huge celebration for achieving his dream. I should have been here to welcome him home."
"No... then the boys would never have gotten over their rivalry."
Mrs. Ketchum still seemed apprehensive about her son's relationship, but she smiled nonetheless when she considered his happiness.
"Sammy, call Gary and tell him to come over right away, Ash needs some cheering up, I want him back to his old self before tonight." She stepped out of his arms and opened the refrigerator. "This is the first time in Ash's life that the fridge has been so full."
Professor Oak chuckled and kissed his beloved on the cheek.
"You get cooking, and I'll tell Gary the good news. I'm sure Pikachu will be happy too, although I must say all that running about with the other Pokémon has done him some good... he had picked up too many of Ash's bad habits."
The older Researcher pulled out his cellphone and called his grandson. He didn't even finish his sentence before the doorbell was ringing and Gary was running up the stairs, leaving his bicycle and groceries strewn across the front lawn. A completely disheveled looking Pikachu hopped out of the front basket, a bit shaken but otherwise uninjured.
"Ash!" Gary called excitedly as he swung open the Master's bedroom door.
"Hmm..." Ash managed to roll over and open his eyes. "Mom?"
The young Researcher made his way to Ash's bed side and kissed him softly on the mouth.
"Does your mama kiss you like that Ashy-boy?" He asked, tussling his ebony hair.
Ash chuckled and Gary helped him to sit up, kissing him again when he was upright.
"My mom was so angry about us." He said quietly.
"I know... but it's alright now. Gramps talked to her, she took away the restraining order."
"She issued a restraining order against you?" Ash shook his head in partial disbelief, that was so like his mother.
"Well... yeah when you were in the hospital, they told me I wasn't allowed within 500 feet of you, of course that's really hard to follow when you live in a place like Pallet Town." He kissed him again, this time lingering longer as he cradled Ash's face in his hands, when they pulled back they were both out of breath. "You don't know how badly I've wanted to do that."
"Pikapi!" Pikachu's voice was suddenly heard from the hallway and he quickly scampered into Ash's room and up his shoulder, where he gave him a playful lick on the cheek.
"Hey buddy! I'm happy to see you too!"
"Pikachu's been with me and Gramps for the past few days."
"I told him to leave me alone... I'm sorry buddy."
"Pi kaaa." The electric mouse let out a tiny bit of static from his cheeks, sending a small jolt down his trainer's arm.
"Yeah, I deserve it."
"Pi." Was Pikachu's only reply before he gave Ash an affectionate nip on the ear.
"So... how ya feeling?" Gary asked awkwardly as he touched a finger to Ash's bandaged torso.
"Ok... I go to the doctor next week for another x-ray, it still hurts like hell, but... the medication helps a lot."
"That's good to hear."
"Yeah." A moment of silence fell between the former rivals. "Pikachu, I hear mom cooking downstairs, could you go help her please?"
His partner looked at him in a strange sort of way, but the electric mouse understood and scampered into the hallway and down the stairs leaving the boys alone.
"I told my mom about us a few days ago." Ash hung his head before he spoke again. "I told her that I love you."
"I told Gramps the same thing."
Ash raised his head.
"About us being together?"
"Nope, that I love you too."
"Well... we love each other."
"So, now what?"
"Who cares Ashy-boy, s'long as you're ok, and I get to do this..." He kissed him on the cheek with a load "mwahh" sound. "I think we'll be just fine."
"Is it safe to call you my boyfriend?"
"Only if I still get to call you my apprentice."
"Huh? Gary!" He tried kicking him, but thought better of it, lest he hurt himself in the process.
"I'm just kidding, boyfriend is perfect." He placed a hand on Ash's knee, and leaned in for another kiss, this one on the lips. "Don't hurt yourself ok?" He said seriously. "Come on, let's get you outta bed, and dressed. You need some fresh air, you look like a Garbodor."
Gary took great care and attention in helping Ash get ready to go out. When Ash was finally dressed (not that Gary wanted him to be), they took Pikachu and walked up Route One and back down to the shore line. Ash seemed to do alright on his walk, he had to stop a few times and sit, but they always had great conversations while they were waiting for him to feel better. By the time they reached the house again, the sun was setting behind the mountains, and a few Zubat were already out and about. However, what they also noticed were all the bicycles parked out on the lawn, and the music coming from inside. This only meant one thing, a party.
"Did you know about this?" Ash asked.
"No, I had no idea, you Pikachu?"
"Piii." The yellow mouse shook his head no.
"Huh. Well... my mom always makes ton's of food for these things, so let's go inside and eat!"
"Pika pi kaaa!"
"Ash!" It was Misty's voice that rang through the evening air, Tracey was right next to her. They jogged to meet them and Misty carefully hugged him. "Sorry we started without you, your mom didn't know how long you'd be gone."
"Wait, what is this?"
"It's your party to celebrate you becoming a Pokémon Master." Tracey explained.
"Wow, mom must have really lightened up."
"Pika!" Pikachu exclaimed happily as he climbed into Misty's arms. "Pika, pi! Pi pikachu..."
"Thank you Pikachu! We're having a girl." Misty said softly as she smoothed the fabric of her dress so they could all see her pregnancy. "The dress hid it, sorry."
"Wait... you're... you and Tracey?"
Tracey, had the decency to back away and blush profusely.
"Congratulations Mrs. Sketchit." Gary pipped in, chuckling at his former apprentice's embarrassment. "So this is what you were getting up to when you were supposed to be cleaning my lab?"
By this time his face was Cheri Berry red, and he walked back toward the house. Misty rolled her eyes and continued to pet and coddle Pikachu.
"We were gonna tell everyone a couple of months ago... we were just waiting for the right time..." She explained as Ash continued to stare at her stomach. "What's the matter Master Ketchum?"
"I guess... I'm just surprised that's all."
"Well, how do you think I feel? You and Gary huh?" She winked teasingly.
It was Ash's turn to blush this time, and Gary simply remained as cool as ever.
"Are we that obvious?" The Researcher inquired.
"You've been obvious for 13 years."
"What?" Ash asked in confusion.
"Oh Ash, I knew you had the hots for Gary way back when we were kids. Like I said, obvious." She turned around and began to walk. "Come on, everyone is waiting for you, Brock, May, Dawn and Cilan."
Ash began to have mixed feelings about seeing so many friends again all gathered in one place. For one thing, he wasn't sure if they all knew the story about how and why he was attacked. The other problem was how would they react toward his and Gary's new relationship? It was easy for people to say congratulations to Misty and Tracey, men and women were supposed to get married and have babies, it was expected. His boyfriend must have sensed his anxiety because he took his hand and gave it a gentle and reassuring squeeze.
"Ash!" He heard his name being called from several different people as soon as he stepped over the threshold. Gary remained by his side the whole time as people offered him congratulations for achieving his childhood goal.
"Hey, hey! Ash!" Brock almost slapped him on the shoulder before Gary stopped him.
"Careful, broken ribs." He explained when the Breeder gave him a suspicious look.
"Wait that was you Ash? I heard it was a Gym Leader who got attacked in Vermillion."
"It was you?" Cilan asked worriedly as he came into view. "Are you ok? I only heard whisperings from the League, you know how they are... I didn't think... you're ok?"
"I'm fine guys... just a broken nose... and a few ribs." Ash explained, he suddenly realized everyone was trying to listen in on the conversation.
"Oh Ash! My dad said he thought it might have been you!" May pushed passed Brock and Cilan, followed closely by Dawn. "I mean I thought it was Alder, cause you know how he can't shut his mouth... but, are you- Oh look at your nose!" Her hands flew to her face and Ash couldn't help but think that she was laying it on a little thick.
"Oh Ash!" Dawn exclaimed dramatically as she threw her arms around the Pokémon Master.
"Owww! Get off!" Ash cried in his attempt to defend himself from the onslaught of sudden unwanted affection and the total klutz that was Dawn.
"Hey watch it, can't you see he's injured!" Gary shouted trying to pull the girls away from his boyfriend.
That declaration did the trick and both May and Dawn finally backed away.
"I'm sorry Ash, I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Me neither." Dawn chimed in. "Its just we're so happy to see that you're ok."
"It's... fine." He managed to mutter through the discomfort in his ribs. He clutched his side in pain.
"Ash are you ok?" Gary asked with concern.
"No... my pills... kitchen."
The young researcher wrapped his arm around Ash's shoulders and led him to the kitchen. His mother was at the table eating with Professor Oak and talking to Misty and Tracey. They all looked up in alarm when Ash came through the doorway. Mrs. Ketchum got to her feet and quickly got his medication.
"Sit him down there Gary... Tracey get him a glass of milk." They did as they were told and soon Ash had taken his medicine.
"You'll need to eat something honey, remember what the doctor said."
Ash was too busy being in agony to pay any attention. Gary remained behind him, trying to comfort him as much as he could.
"I'll fix him a plate." Misty volunteered as she stood from her chair, she suddenly stopped when she noticed May and Dawn walk into the kitchen.
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Dawn questioned innocently.
"Yeah we feel really bad about what we-"
"You did that to him?" The fire was in Misty's eyes and it was a million times worse now that she was pregnant.
"Misty... honey, calm down." Tracey pleaded with his wife as he placed a hand on her arm. His touch seemed to do the trick, because the red head quickly threw up her nose and began to pile Ash's plate high with food.
Both May and Dawn continued to stand, never taking their eyes off of Ash. They did seem concerned but Gary was beginning to get irritated, and he remembered that saying about too many Jynx in the kitchen.
"Here ya go Ash. Your mom made all your favorites." Misty said sweetly as she placed the plate in front of him on the table.
She took Tracey's hand and motioned for him to exit the kitchen with her. Professor Oak and Mrs. Ketchum got the hint as well and left for the living room for the rest of the party goers.
"Alright Ash... come on you heard what your mom said."
Ash didn't want to seem weak in front of May and Dawn, but his attempt to bring his arm to the table didn't exactly work. Gary of course caught on, and took the seat next to him. He speared a bit of meat and potato with the fork and Ash opened up diligently, carefully chewing his meal, while the Researcher waited for him with the next bite.
"I'm sure you don't want to be doing that Gary, I'll take over." The brunette said as she tried to take the fork from him.
"May... can you let me... eat in peace?" Ash was still in a significant amount of pain.
"But... you're letting Gary feed you." Dawn stated with a bit of revulsion.
"Because he's my boyfriend, and we're very much in love, and you're the reason why I'm in so much pain to begin with, so why the hell would I want you to help me now!" The Pokémon Master managed to bellow out in one single breath.
"Boy... friend?" May looked about ready to burst into tears. "I thought... after Misty..." She ran out of the kitchen's back door before finishing her sentence, as she sobbed into her hands.
"I don't believe you." Dawn crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Prove it."
Gary rolled his eyes but grabbed a piece of bread and held it between his teeth offering it to Ash. It was a trick he used to do with Eevee before she evolved into Umbreon. Ash smiled and when they both took a bite of the bread, their lips met in a very passionate kiss. With their eyes closed, they didn't see Dawn storm out of the house, but they did hear her high pitched screech as it faded away from the house.
"What the hell?" Inquired Misty as she came back into the kitchen, followed by Cilan, Brock and Tracey. "We heard-"
They all stopped when they witnessed the public display of affection at the kitchen table. Misty covered her mouth with her hand and laughed. Brock did a double take and walked back out into the living room, while Tracey tried to pull his wife back as well. It was Cilan who took it upon himself to tap the couple on the shoulders and brake them apart.
"Dr. Oak... stop kissing your apprentice and GET A ROOM!"