Title: Reckless

Author: Stormy1x2

Pairing: Ash x Gary

Note: End of Galactic Battle and before Sinnoh League Victors. Part of the RaiS Arc.


Gary? It's me, Brock.

He summoned his pokemon without thinking twice. "Arcanine! I need you!" The flaming dog pokemon materialized and landed in a low crouch, anticipating his master need. Gary placed a hand on Arcanine's shoulder and vaulted onto his back. He pointed north, leaning forward to show Arcanine the way. "Let's go, Arky!"

Ash wanted me to call you.

Arcanine tore through the foilage at an amazing speed, skimming over the forest floor and making Gary's eyes blur. He clutched tightly at Arky's mane as he leaped over a fallen log, and then moved in a series of jumps up a cliffside. He breached the top with a snarl, and lunged forward again, plunging back into the brush and trees.

He wouldn't want you to worry, Gary.

Gary couldn't think. Wouldn't think. He just had to keep moving – had to get to Day-Break Town. He pressed his forehead against Arcanine's fur. "Faster, Arky. Please."

Arcanine heard his plea and howled in response. His legs churned like pistons, powerful muscles charged with energy and fire. Light glowed around them as Arcanine tapped into levels of power usually reserved for intense battling, surging forward, a streak of light in the gloom of the forest. A burst of flame shot from its mouth, blasting away the leaves in its path, leaving him free to race through without stopping.

There was a river ahead, but Gary was familiar with the local terrain. He'd been studying in the region for over four weeks already, and had done soil samples up and down both sides of the only river in the area. A quick glance as they approached revealed the stones he was looking for on the right side. There were three of them, at various intervals in the water. No one on foot would ever see them as a bridge, being too big and the space between them too far, but Arcanine could spring across them easily. He nudged Arky with his left leg as he leaned to the right; Arcanine immediately changed direction and leaped forward towards the first rock.

His paws had barely touched the stone before he was airborne again. Gary didn't blink as Arcanine made the jump to the second with ease, and then to the last one. Gary leaned in as Arcanine hit the third rock – Arky gathered his strength and spring-boarded off it with all the power he could muster, and landed well beyond the riverbank edge. "Attaboy," Gary murmured. "Attaboy."

Ash was in a battle with Team Rocket earlier. They injured him, but we didn't realize it right away – Ash said he felt fine. But he collapsed an hour ago. The doctors are still checking on him.

Forest gave way to dirt roads and with a clear path before him, Arcanine flew. "Day-Break Town Pokemon Center, Arky," Gary told him. It was the closest Center to the hospital where Brock had called from, and he could get directions from there. He and Arky had made the trip to the Center numerous times during his research to use Nurse Joy's satellite uplink to transmit data to Professor Rowan. Sinnoh was wired for Wi-Fi but signal strengths varied from place to place and sometimes the video data he sent was just too large to send before a connection timed out. Gary had moaned about the lack of efficiency in having to travel to a Center to do his job, but in retrospect, it seemed to a good thing – Arky had the way memorized and could move at top speed without needing to wait for Gary's directions.

Within half an hour of receiving the call on his laptop, Gary reached the Day-Break Town Pokemon Center. Recalling Arcanine with a brief but heartfelt thank you, he strode into the Center.

Nurse Joy looked up at his approach. "Gary!" She said with a welcoming smile. Then her smile faded. "I heard about what happened to Ash."

Gary blinked. "What? How?"

"Officer Jenny stopped by on her patrol. She was at the hospital when they all rushed in. She was concerned and asked Brock what happened." Nurse Joy had become familiar with all four of them during their stay in the area. "He and Dawn didn't want to leave Ash alone in the hospital."

"I figured they would."

Nurse Joy nodded. "Also, Brock told me you would be joining them. I had a feeling you'd come here first, and so I asked Jenny to wait for you. She'll give you a ride to the hospital."

Gary looked over and saw a motorcycle parked outside he hadn't noticed on his way in. A moment later, Jenny walked out of the back room, adjusting her gloves. She saw him and gave him a smile as warm as Jenny's had been. "Hello Gary!"

Gary had met Jenny several times during his stay. "I hear you're giving me a ride to the hospital?"

"I'm ready to go if you are." Jenny led the way outside.

Seating himself in the sidecar, Gary put the helmet on, and looked up at Officer Jenny. "Do you know how Ash is?"

She shook her head as she started the bike. "He was still being examined when I left for the Pokemon Center."

Gary nodded and then huddled down in his seat, staring straight ahead.

Ash said he wanted me to be the one to tell you if anything happened to him. Are you coming to Day-Break Town?

"Try and stop me," Gary muttered under his breath.

Jenny shot him a quick look through the visor of her helmet. "Did you say something?" she asked, voice raised to be heard over the whistle of the wind and the roar of the engine.

Gary shook his head.

We're in the waiting room on the third floor. I'll leave a message there if we're moved anywhere else.

The glowing Red Cross that marked the hospital was easily visible in the dimming light of the sun. It was getting darker out and the night wind was just beginning to blow when Jenny stopped the bike in the loading bay of the Emergency entrance. "You go on," she urged him. "I've got a report to file, but I'll be back later. Tell Ash I'm sending good thoughts his way, okay?"

Gary nodded, leaping easily out of the side car. Setting the helmet on the seat, he stepped back and watched as Jenny sped off. Then he turned and made his way through the automatic doors. A helpful Chancey pointed him in the direction of the elevators.

He exited onto the third floor. An information desk was directly in front of the elevators with a cheerful-looking nurse sitting behind it. Gary ignored her in favor of the sign which pointed to the left and said 'waiting room'. He knew he was headed the right way when he heard a very familiar female voice telling a pokemon – a Buneary, from the anxious-sounding, 'Bun-bun's' he could also hear, 'not to worry.'

"Dawn?" Gary stepped into the waiting room, looking around automatically. Dawn straightened up from where she had been talking to her pokemon, and turned to face him. He bit back a comment when he saw how pale and tired she was. Her hair, normally perfectly sleek and contained under her hat and within her ponytails, was frizzy and stringy, strands clinging to her neck and face.

"Gary," she said with obvious relief. "I'm so glad you made it." She walked over to him and put her arms around him, hugging him gently. He brought his own up in response. "Brock's with him right now. Pikachu too. We couldn't all go in, not like this." She gestured to the flock of pokemon perched about the room. She gave him a rueful grin. "They all refuse to go into their pokeballs until they know if Ash is all right."

Gary took in the sight and it warmed his heart considerably, though the room had a bit of a chill to it. Grottle lay on the floor, with Pochirisu curled up between his paws, gnawing absently on a poffin. On his back, Happini was murmuring to itself, cuddling the white rock it had been given the day it hatched.

On the right, sitting by himself, Monferno was curled up on a seat, staring at the floor. Gary could practically feel the waves of worry and fear radiating off him. Nearby, StarRaptor was perched on the back of another chair, keeping a watchful eye on the room, and particularly on Monferno.

Buizel and Croagunk were on opposite sides of the door, standing motionlessly like silent guardians. Buizel's arms were crossed, his eyes closed. Croagunk's arms were relaxed in front of him – but his eyes were sharp, watching Gary's every movement the instant he stepped inside the room.

Taking up the entire left side was Mamoswine, seemingly asleep. But as Gary's gaze flicked over it, the giant pokemon opened one eye expectantly. When it became obvious that Gary had no news to share, it closed it again. Sudowoodo leaned against it, uninterested in copying anyone at the moment. Cindaquill perched on its head, curled into a small ball.

Piplup and Buneary stood on either side of a visibly distraught Gible. Apparently Dawn had been reassuring it and not Buneary as he thought. Even as he moved closer, Buneary was still murmuring soothing 'Bun-bun's' to Gible, stroking a paw over its back. Piplup was crooning to the tearful Gible on its other side. That was definitely an odd site – Piplup usually had no patience for Gible, having been the recipient of a few too many Draco-Meteors during practice sessions.

Dawn saw him take in the sight. "Gible is Ash's newest pokemon," she explained quietly. "He just caught it the other day. And it turns out, he's younger than we thought. Gible's so strong and gave Ash such a tough time in capturing it, we thought it had to be much older. Actually, he's quite young. Seeing Ash collapse upset him, as well as the others."

"What happened, Dawn?"

Dawn shrugged one shoulder helplessly. "We fought Team Rocket that day. Ash got caught between the jaws of their robot. He had Pikachu zap the robot with full power even though he and Gible were trapped. It worked and Ash and Gible were freed. Then, with almost no break, Ash drove headfirst into a match with Barry."

Gary frowned, unsurprised. Ash was known for acting first and thinking later. "What happened after his match?"

"Ash looked tired, a bit pale," Dawn admitted. "He claimed he was tired and went to bed early, but I don't think he slept too well. He was up early too. But he said he was fine."

"Of course he did."

"He was doing training that day, so I didn't see him much. I was working with Pochirisu and Buneary by the river. It wasn't until we were getting dinner ready tonight. Ash wasn't hungry. I think Pikachu knew something was up, because he didn't leave Ash's side to get his own dinner. He insisted on his bowl being next to Ash's." Dawn clenched her fist. "That should have been a hint."

Gary patted her shoulder. "You know as well as I do, Ash doesn't admit to feeling less than one hundred percent at any time."

"Too true." Dawn looked rueful. "Anyhow, Ash got up to help clear the table when he went… well, white. He wrapped an arm around himself and then started to fall. Brock was closest and caught him before he hit the ground." She looked scared at the memory. "He was gasping, like he couldn't breathe."

"Fractured or broken ribs," Gary breathed, racing through his medical studies in his mind. "Possible punctured lung, pneumothorax." Other possibilities began to gather as well. "Could also be a damaged spleen, or appendicitis. Sheer pain would cause breathlessness."

Dawn was looking more and more scared. "There could be something wrong with his lungs? Appendicitis?"

"I'm just guessing," Gary said quickly. He looked around the room again and saw the trio's pokemon all staring at him with wide eyes. "Really guys. Don't worry. You know how tough Ash is." Piplup and Buneary cheered at this, as did StarRaptor, Happini, Grottle and Sudowoodo. Monferno didn't even look up. Gary watched him thoughtfully for a moment.

"Monferno hasn't moved since we got here," Dawn murmured.

Gary nodded and brought out two of his pokeballs. "Arky, 'Bre,' c'mon out," he said quietly, depressing the center switches. Red light coalesced into two familiar forms. Arcanine's flaming coat gave up an intense heat that warmed but didn't burn, and the chill of the room began to dissipate. He lay down on the floor, and most of the pokemon edged a little closer.

Umbreon padded silently over to Monferno. She was an empathic pokemon, quick to sense the moods of those around her, and Gary knew she would be good company for Monferno, who was naturally taking the seriousness of the situation very hard.

Having been abandoned once by a cruel and idiotic trainer, Ash had given Monferno – as Chimcharr – a new start, and a loving home. Monferno was likely worrying about losing Ash and being left alone once again. Umbreon had taken to Monferno quickly in past meetings, ever since Ash and Gary had started their relationship, and she wouldn't allow him to wallow in self-pity. Even as he thought this, Umbreon reached Monferno and nipped his flank sharply.

Monferno screeched and leaped out of the chair, whirling around with fists flaming. Umbreon barked rapidly at him, and Monferno shouted back. After a minute, 'Bren crooned something soothingly at Monferno. Tears appeared in Monferno's eyes, and he dropped his fists. Umbreon moved next to him, nudging him back to the chair, but this time, she hopped up next to him and laid her head in his lap. Monferno lightly touched her ear, and then gave a weak smile, first to her, and then to the rest of the room. Piplup chirped happily at the change, and Buneary waved.

"Bui." Gary blinked as Buizel joined the two, sitting on the other side of Monferno. The two, fighters, normally stoic and strong, sat side by side, Buizel giving Monferno a friendly punch in the shoulder before closing his eyes and folding his arms.

"Oh, that's so beautiful," Dawn whispered. "Umbreon is such a sweetheart. And Buizel is such a softie."

Gary smiled. He would have added a comment of his own, but then footsteps could be heard coming down the hall, and both he and Dawn turned to face the doorway expectantly. Brock appeared first, followed almost immediately by a tall, elderly gentlemen wearing a white lab coat and was obviously the doctor. "Brock?"

"Gary! You made it!" Brock greeted him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Ash is going to be fine." He gestured to the doctor who stood by, waiting patiently. "I'll let Doctor Groves explain though."

Gary nodded and both he and Dawn faced the doctor.

Doctor Groves glanced down at his clipboard. "Well, this is highly unusual. Normally I can only release patient information to family, but Ash's file has only the three of you listed under official contact information. Where is Ash's mother?"

Gary decided to field that one. "Ash and I are together," he said, rather bluntly. It wasn't like he had anything to hide, after all. "His mother decided I should be put on his contact information with Brock and Dawn who have been his constant traveling companions for the last year. We can contact her after we know Ash's condition."

The doctor frowned, but obviously couldn't find anything in his papers to contradict what Gary was saying. "Very well." He flipped to another page. "Ash had some ribs that were originally bruised but two fractured later on. Possibly from over-use."

Brock nodded. "We all thought he had the normal aches and pains from handling Team Rocket we usually do."

The doctor raised an eyebrow. "The bruising didn't give you guys a hint?"

Bruising? Gary shot Brock and Dawn a look. Brock shrugged, looking vaguely embarrassed and apologetic. "We didn't check. We've fought Team Rocket so many times, we stopped taking it so seriously. As long as everyone's Pokemon was recovered and we were all more or less upright, we don't worry too much about it anymore."

"I suggest you start taking it seriously," the doctor warned them.

"I'll make sure they do," Gary growled. Dawn flushed red.

"Well, Ash is going to have to rest for a few days. We've wrapped his ribs to help the break mend. He can leave tomorrow as long as he plans on staying put somewhere for a few days."

Dawn nodded. "We can make sure of that. I have a contest coming up in Day-Break-Town and we can stay there afterwards for a while."

"And I've received first aid training," Brock added. "If you tell me what we need to do, I'll make sure we follow it."

"That goes triple for me," Gary finished up. He looked at the doctor expectantly. "Can we go see him now?"

"Certainly. He should be waking up shortly anyway." The doctor closed his clipboard. "The nurse will be in soon to make a last-minute check, and then visiting hours will be over. You can pick him up after 8:00 tomorrow morning."

Gary slipped past the doctor, leaving Brock and Dawn to get the details. He turned into the corridor leading to the wing Ash was in and then paused. He'd forgotten to get the room number. Then he chuckled. "No problem." He whistled, low but strong and then called softly. "Hey, Pikachu?"

A moment, and then three doors ahead, a small, yellow head peeked out. "Pika?"

Gary waved.

"Pi-pi-ka!" Pikachu scurried towards him, meeting him halfway. Gary held his arm out and Pikachu leaped up, giving him a quick nuzzle. "Pika, pi-pika!"

Gary pat the furry head. "I'm glad to see you too."

"Pikapi." Pikachu pointed at the door, and then hopped down, leading the way. Gary followed him into the room.

It was small but clean, and Ash was asleep on the bed under the window. It was cracked open slightly, letting a cool breeze throughout the room. Pikachu bounded up on the bed. Gary saw a chair next to the bed. Ash's clothes were piled neatly on it, but his beloved hat had fallen to the floor. He set the clothing on the floor, but picked up the hat and with a smile, draped it over Pikachu's ears. The mouse pokemon squeaked happily and adjusted it over his ears.

Gary smirked and then turned his attention back to Ash. The blanket was pulled down, revealing the bandages wrapped around his abdomen. Gary frowned at the livid black and blue bruising radiating out from the wrappings. "How on earth did no one notice this?" he huffed, reaching out to gently trace one bruise leading up Ash's sternum. Pikachu watched him carefully.

The gentle touch made Ash shiver and then a small moan escaped him. He shifted slightly, and then winced, obviously feeling the pain as he came closer to waking. Gary leaned forward, watching. "Ash?"

"….hmmmmm…?" Slowly, Ash's eyes blinked, opening wider the second time. "Gary..issat you?"

"Who else would it be?" Gary poked him gently in the shoulder. "You back with me yet?"

"I…yeah. Huh?" Ash blinked again and awareness came fully into his eyes. "Gary!" He grinned and immediately tried to sit up. Gary winced as Ash's ribs made their injured presence known. Ash squawked in pain and flopped back down, one arm crossing his torso. "Oww!"

Gary snorted and flicked his finger against Ash's forehead. "Idiot," he said affectionately. "How could you forget that?"

"….talent?"

"Sure." Gary folded his arms. "Seriously though."

Ash stared at him. "What?"

"You're covered in bruises, Ash!" Gary snapped. His worry over Ash erupted into frustration, growing stronger as he eyed the bandages again. "You had bruised ribs that turned into fractured ones 'cause you didn't notice?"

"Actually.." Ash looked sheepish. He made as if to raise one arm behind his head and then winced again. Gary rolled his eyes. "It's happened so many times before, I really didn't notice." He gave Gary an apologetic look. "I'm sorry I worried you. You didn't have to come here."

Gary flicked him again. "Yes, I did." He glared at Ash, biting back the urge to snap. "Do you have any idea what went through my head when Brock told me you were in the hospital? I'm just glad Arcanine knew the way to the Pokemon Center – I couldn't stop running through that call in my head, over and over again."

Ash ducked his head even lower. "I'm really sorry, Gary."

"I know." Gary sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "You know, Brock and Dawn are going to have a few things to say to you about this, you know."

Ash suddenly looked afraid. "Err.."

"Oh, you can so BET we're going to have words, mister!" Dawn marched into the room, crackling like Pochirisu's most electrifying discharge attack. Brock was right behind her, wearing a rather imposing frown. Gary hid a smirk and coughed into his fist. "How DARE you not tell us how badly you were hurt?"

Ash looked like he was contemplating jumping out the window. As if reading his thoughts, Pikachu neatly nipped over him to the ledge and perched there, staring down at his trainer warningly. "Pikaaaa…"

"You tell him, Pikachu," Dawn continued, waving her fists wildly. "Ash Ketchum, you scared us half to death! Not only that, you scared your Pokemon half to death as well!"

"I—"

"I have half a mind to call your mother," Brock fumed, right on Dawn's verbal heels. He was waggling his finger in Ash's direction, frowning intensely.

Gary sharply turned his head to the side to smother his laughter at the horrified look on Ash's face. The rest of the pokemon were filing in and Gary choked back yet another laugh – each and every one of them was frowning at Ash. Monferno was flat-out glaring.

Mamoswine couldn't quite fit through the door, so he settled for standing sideways and giving Ash a decidedly evil one-eyed glare for worrying his trainer.

Ash held up his hands in surrender. "I give," he said, chuckling weakly. Gary saw him fight back a grimace of pain. There were dark circles under his eyes as well.

Gary shot a look at Brock who nodded. Dawn was still ranting at Ash, Piplup punctuating her shrill reprimands with sharp, 'Lups!' "Dawn?"

"What?" She whirled around, hands on her hips.

Gary held up his own hands, mimicking Ash's surrender. "I think he gets it for now."

Dawn fumed, but then softened. She had obviously noted Ash's condition for herself. "Okay," she said, finally. "But Ash?" She turned to give him one last look. "You're not going to get away with this ever again. You're going to tell us if you need medical attention. Right?"

"Absolutely." Ash coughed, and this time, he couldn't hold back the wince.

A nurse suddenly pushed back Mamoswine. "What are all these pokemon doing in here? This is a hospital, not a pokemon center!" She glared at all of them, and then pointed at the door. "Out please. Ash needs to rest, and visiting hours are up anyway."

Gary recalled Arcanine and Umbreon as Dawn and Brock gathered the remaining pokemon in a hurry and scurried away under the nurse's baleful look. She then turned the look on him, even as she checked Ash's bandages, and he folded his arms. "I still have five minutes," he said coolly. "And then I'll be out of your hair."

The nurse nodded sharply, adjusting Ash's blankets. "Five minutes," she agreed, and then swept out of the room like a ship under full sail.

Ash was smiling, even as his eyes closed. "Sorry Gar," he said sleepily. "Really. I didn't mean to scare you or anyone else."

"Go to sleep," Gary ordered gently, leaning forward and rubbing Ash's shoulder. Ash brought a hand up to cover his, and Gary bent down to place a swift but gentle kiss on the young man's forehead. "I'll be back in the morning." He stood up, and turned to leave.

"Love ya," came the soft call.

Gary grinned. "You too," he said, throwing the boy a quick look. Ash fell asleep smiling, and Gary left his room the same way. Tomorrow they'd break Ash out. Tonight, he decided with a smirk, they'd come up with a plan of action to prevent something like this from happening again.


~end~


So I still suck at endings. Ah well. I started rewatching Diamond and Pearl the other day and just had the urge to work on the RaiS Arc again. :) Hope you liked!