This takes place after Ash returns from Unova, assuming he has the pokemon he has since the end of Best Wishes.
This fic has nothing to do with Sukima Switch's Ice Cream Syndrome, aside from it being a constant inspiration to my Coma feels.
RE-re-revised on 7/2017
Paul rang the doorbell and stood back, waiting for someone to open the door. He had just finished the Battle Frontier and beat Brandon, the Pyramid King, which earned him the chance to become a frontier brain as well. He had gladly accepted the offer and was on his way home but his brother had told him to make use of being in the area and to visit sights that one could only see in Kanto. Anyone else would have thought to shop in Celadon City or visit Mount Moon, but the first place Paul thought of to go to was the little town of Pallet. His mind told him it was to see the world renowned pokemon professor Samuel Oak but a little voice reminded him there was something else to see there as well.
The voice that called out did not sound like Professor Oak, and it wasn't. A young man with light brown spikey hair had greeted him, surprised to see the trainer but not dismayed. He was wearing a white lab coat, which showed he was of some importance, but he couldn't have been much older than Paul.
"Oh hello there. Can I help you?"
"Hello, I'm a pokemon trainer from the Sinnoh region and I was in the area. I wanted to check out Professor Oak's laboratory and field, if it's not too much of a hassle."
The boy nodded and then moved to the side to let Paul in. The Veilstone trainer waited expectedly but the brunet seemed to be in thought while examining him.
"You know… you look kind of familiar…"
"I'm quite sure we have not met before. Though I have visited Kanto a few years ago, it's unlikely you would have seen my face."
The lab coat boy hummed in thought but continued to stare. Another voice called to him and both boys turned to see another young male walking around with a stack of papers. As if remembering something, the lab coat boy hurried over to assist the new comer.
"Gary, where did you go? You had me carry all the forms by myself you jerk."
"Sorry Tracey, there was someone at the door. He said he was a trainer from Sinnoh that wanted to look at Gramp's stuff. I figured it wouldn't hurt. It's always good to share what the old man's been up to."
The boy named "Tracey" looked over to the door where Paul was still standing. He formed an "o" with his mouth before dumping the rest of the papers in lab coat boy's (Gary?) arms. The brunet struggled with the papers but managed to hold them upright before setting them onto a desk.
"Oh hello there, I'm Tracey and I'm Professor Oak's assistant. Gary told me that you wanted to take a look around? I wouldn't mind showing you some things."
"Thank you. I am very grateful".
With that, Tracey led Paul to the back. The older boy explained some machines and equipment on their way through the lab and all Paul did was nod. He wasn't entirely enthralled with the information (compared to his tour guide who seemed really into it) but it wasn't boring and it was kind of cool seeing how the famous Professor Oak worked.
"And this is the field where the Professor does all his observations. The pokemon that reside here are mostly wild but there are some trainers that leave their pokemon here in our care. It's a lot of work having to feed and take care of all of them, but it's so rewarding being able to work this close to the Professor and observing the pokemon at the same time."
Paul nodded, once again, when his eye caught sight of some pokemon native to his region. It wasn't extremely odd that there would be Sinnoh pokemon here, but in the vast majority of Kanto pokemon, it was a breath of familiarity. But what intrigued Paul more were the exact pokemon he had spotted. The giant grass turtle with the tree growing on its shell was something he was very well acquainted with. There was also a tiny grey dragon roaming around but what caught his eye the most was the orange fire monkey that sat in the shades next to a giant green lizard (which he could identify was from Hoenn). The fire monkey met his eyes and he could see an expression of surprise on the pokemon, even from his distance. Paul didn't say anything though.
"Professor! There's a visitor here to take a look at your work! You don't mind if I showed him around, right?"
Tracey guided the trainer to an old man that Paul had seen on television many times. He took the old man's hand when it was extended to him.
"Oh! I remember you young man! You're Paul, right? From Veilstone City! You battled Ash in the Lily of the Valley Conference!"
Paul bowed modestly as the elder Oak continued to praise him and his assistant nodded in agreement. He wondered lightly how well Ash was acquainted with the Professor, but it wasn't hard to imagine since his pokemon had been taken custody here. A curious part of him also wondered if Ash spoke of him to his acquaintances, but Paul figured he shouldn't think so highly of himself.
"I should tell him you're here, I'm sure he would love to see you again."
The Veilstone trainer really wanted to comply but he shook his head and pretended it didn't matter if Ash was here or not.
Tracey had spoken something to the Professor and left to the laboratory. Professor Oak carried on in Tracey's place of the tour around the fields and Paul continued to observe quietly, taking in the surroundings and varieties of pokemon. Oak halted in his guide when he noticed something coming up to them.
"Oh, Infernape, you're looking well today."
Paul turned to see the fire monkey approaching the two. Infernape hadn't said anything and just focused on him, as if not believing he was actually there. Paul decided not to speak either, since he wasn't certain what he wanted to say to the pokemon. He just bowed his head in regard and Infernape seemed to relax a bit. The monkey stepped a little closer to the trainer and held out a fist. Unsure of what the pokemon wanted, Paul did the same. Infernape bumped knuckles with him and smiled cheekily. He blinked at the pokemon's sudden display of camaraderie but decided he was alright with it. A small smile curved the edge of his lip but he didn't allow it to stay for too long.
"You two know each other?"
"…Yeah." Was all Paul said.
Oak seemed to remember something but he didn't voice his speculation. Paul didn't care too much if the senior Oak figured it out.
The tour went on, Paul as quiet as ever, and Infernape tagging along. When they neared the ponds, a Buizel popped out of the water and gaped at Paul standing not too far from the edge. The river otter chatted with Infernape and Paul could only imagine what they were saying. The Buizel gazed at him for a while longer before disappearing under water.
"Hey Professor! I found him!"
Tracey had appeared again, dragging a reluctant Ash by one hand while lab coat boy Gary was pushing the trainer forward. Paul was confident he didn't care about Ash being present but his heart told him otherwise with the weird way it jumped. Tracey let go of Ash but Gary continued to push until Ash was stumbling in front of him.
"Guys, what's the deal? I almost lost an arm because of you Tracey!"
"Calm down Ashy-boy. We just wanted to make sure you said 'hi' before he left."
And then Ash finally turned to meet Paul. His warm brown eyes met with his calculating greys and Paul felt his throat was suddenly way too dry. Ash didn't say anything for a few seconds but Paul was able to see the split second when he finally registered what was going on. The smile that came onto the Pallet boy's face was wider than any that he had seen before and then Paul suddenly had an arm full of Ash.
"Paul! I can't believe you're here!"
All he could do was gape like a Magikarp because he had not expected such a reunion with Ash. Apparently neither did the rest of the group, who all had raised eyebrows. The three researchers just gave questioning glances to the other but none of them had said anything. Gary had whispered something in Tracey's ear, which amused the older boy because he laughed lightly.
Ash still hadn't let go of his ex-rival, but he pulled away when he felt how the other had not reacted to his hug. Seeming to realize what he had just done, Ash chuckled nervously and looked away.
"Sorry, that was really just a big surprise to me. I didn't expect to see you here."
Paul murmured in agreement, the warmth of the other's hand radiated on his arm. Ash still had not met his gaze, somehow finding the grass a lot more interesting. Paul had never seen this side of the boy, it was interesting actually.
"I was in the area. I finally beat Brandon."
Ash's head shot up with that fiery spark in his eye whenever pokemon battles were mentioned.
"Congratulations! I knew you could do it!"
"I was given the opportunity to be a Frontier Brain as well."
"Oh yeah, what did you say? Did you take the offer?"
Paul muttered a low "yes" and Ash had thrown his arms around him again after screaming a "That's awesome!" in his ear. This time, Paul was able to react, putting an awkward hand against the other boy's back.
"Does that mean you'll be sticking around Kanto for a while?"
"I'm not sure. I'm heading home soon, to check with my brother. But I'll be here for a few more days before I go."
Ash only bobbed his head in excitement. He still had his hands on the boy's arm and he seemed content with it there that Paul didn't bother pointing it out. Heck, he still had his hand curved against the Pallet trainer's back, resting almost on the boy's waist. Their pose seemed too intimate for two rival turn friends but it didn't seem so wrong.
"Hey, I'll show you around! And you can see all my pokemon!"
Paul agreed and allowed Ash to drag him around by the arm. The two boys had forgotten the researchers who were present for the entire scene. Oak had just laughed and shook his head, then walked away muttering something about "young love". Tracey and Gary gave the other a knowing glance and smirked when they realized they had the same thought in mind. They trailed after the first two boys, making sure not to be seen.
Infernape and Buizel were already aware of Paul's presence in the Oak laboratories. Ash had made sure to show off all his past pokemon. Paul was impressed by the wide variety of his teams but he never voiced his opinions. While introducing his Johto team, Bayleaf had come out of nowhere, nearly knocking the boy over with her affection. Paul had not uttered a word but the pokemon glared at him regardless and held her trainer protectively with her vines.
"Bayleaf, let go! I'm not going anywhere, really!"
Ash was released from the grass type's grips eventually (when she noticed he was turning blue) and they made their way to a nice shady spot. Paul had recognized it as where he had first spotted his old pokemon with the Sceptile earlier. Looking above him, he saw the Hoenn pokemon lounging above them. Torterra had stomped their way too and sat down next to Ash. The Pallet trainer just patted the continent pokemon's head before leaning against the tree and slid to his butt. He patted the spot next to him and Paul followed.
"It's funny that you're here now. I was actually thinking about you."
"Oh really?" Paul turned to see Ash had his sight on the grass again.
"Yeah. I mean. I came back from Unova not too long ago and I was in my room sorting all the souvenirs. I got things for everyone… Including you. …I wasn't sure if I would ever see you again though."
Paul was surprised Ash had even thought to get him anything. Sure they ended their rivalry on a good note, but it didn't mean they were friends or anything. Or maybe they were, with the way Ash had greeted him. Paul didn't mind though.
"What did you get me?"
"Hm? Oh, it's in my room. I'll show it to you later."
Paul was pretty sure Ash meant his gift and not his bedroom, but the Veilstone trainer didn't know why he felt he had to differentiate that in his head.
"…I was hoping to run into you sometime on my journey through the Battle Frontier."
Ash tore his eyes away from the grass and looked at Paul but the ex-rival was too busy staring up at the sky. He spotted Staraptor hovering around not too far from them.
"Heh, did you miss me or something?"
Paul knew Ash was joking with him, but he couldn't help the noise that came from his nose and the smile that grazed his lip. His view remained on the sky and he didn't move when he heard Ash shuffling next to him.
"…I kind of missed you Paul."
Ash was sitting with his knees up, his arms looped under his thighs. He rested his chin on his knees and Paul thought he looked almost timid in that posture. Ash's eyes met with his for a moment, not realizing the Sinnoh trainer had been observing him, but then it reset back to looking at the fields. Paul felt a vein of annoyance and he reached a hand and shoved the boy over.
"H-hey! What was that for?!"
"You're acting weird. Stop it."
The Pallet trainer scrambled back to sit up, this time, in a more casual pose. He scratched the back of his head and tried to laugh.
"Sorry. I don't know why… I feel a little funny seeing you again."
Paul only raised an eyebrow, hoping Ash would go into detail. The other boy hadn't and they sat there for a while in silence.
A leaf fell from the tree and landed on Ash's lap. The boy picked it up and twirled it in his fingers. Another leaf fell, landing on Paul's head. Ash plucked it from the other's hair. Unaware of the leaf, Paul gave him a questioning look and Ash only shrugged with a grin. He waved the leaf in his hand, as if it were the culprit (which it was) and dropped it back down. Both boys flinched when they heard giggling from above them.
Looking up, Ash could see his Sceptile, Leavanny and Snivy sitting casually on the tree branches. Sceptile lay nonchalantly on his side while Snivy rested against his tail and Leavanny sat on a separate branch, leaning against the trunk. They three seemed to be laughing about something but the Pallet trainer had no idea what.
"Guys, what's so funny?"
Sceptile only raised an eyebrow and smirked with the twig in his mouth. Snivy extended her vines out, grabbing a leaf in each vine and pressed them together. Leavanny just giggled at the grass snake's display.
Ash was confused but shrugged it off. Paul had gotten the implication but he wasn't sure what to think. He turned to look back at the fields and wild pokemon.
"Hey… do you want to get some ice cream later? I know this really good place not too far from here. I go there all the time when I want good ice cream. They've been open since I was a kid so I know it's good stuff."
Ash wasn't sure what else to add. He supposed they could go now, like, right at the moment, but Paul wasn't moving. He was going to ask but Paul had spoken up.
He was interrupted by the mass of leaves that fell from above them, covering them in a bunch of green. Torterra, who had been napping quietly, had woken up when Sceptile, Leavanny and Snivy jumped on his shell to make a getaway. He wasn't too angry, just curious as to where they were heading off to in such a hurry. He turned to his trainer, who was buried in a bunch of nice cut leaves along with that rival guy from Sinnoh.
"What the heck was their problem? They're usually not one for pranks. That's usually Oshawatt's and Totodile's job."
Paul shook the leaves off his head and brushed them away so he could sit up. Upon closer inspection, he could tell the leaves had been hacked but the shape was definitely refined. He held a bunch in his palm. They were all heart shapes. Paul crushed them in a fist, unamused.
Ash noticed it as well and only laughed, blaming his pokemon for being weirdos. He couldn't hide the flush of his cheeks though.
"So uh, how about that ice cream?"
They helped the other up, patting away the leaves and making sure they were neat before heading back to the lab to the exit.
Two researchers who had been tucked behind Torterra finally stood from their hiding position. Tracey held his sketchbook up at the new sketch he had finished. It was of two boys looking at two different directions but leaning so very close together.
"They look good together."
"Haha, never thought Ashy-boy would finally bring someone to that ice cream shop."
"What do you mean?" Tracey asked as Gary went over to pick up a few of the strewn leaves.
"Nothing, I always teased him about it because the ice cream sizes there were always meant for two people. I mean, he would always end up finishing it all by himself anyway, but, he always had this lonely look in his eye when he sat there with that giant bowl."
"Why didn't you help him?"
Gary made a noise with his teeth. "As if he would let me. Besides, I went there with a girl every time, just to bug him about it."
Tracey laughed. "You're not a very good friend."
"Hey, we were kids." There was a pause. "…You want to get some ice cream?"
The assistant only looked up with an incredulous expression. "Are you asking so we can spy on them or…?"
Gary just shrugged and looked away. Tracey could tell the younger Oak was trying to act cool but he had his hands in his pockets and the watcher knew that was one of his nervous ticks. The watcher just snorted lightly and patted him on the back.
"Yeah, sure, let's go."
I was this close to making them kiss because I never get to do that in my fics, but I chickened out.
I also liked the idea of Gary picking on Ash because they always looked cuter as rivals/childhood friends. Also the Tracey/Gary ship was for my own entertainment. I was never much for Palletshipping anyway.