We parted ways just before the Pokemon center. Ash made me promise to take care of Cade and to not beat up on his younger self too badly. I told him it would be good for his moral if I did.
He wasn't amused by that, so I promised to not be too big of an asshole.
Ash sighed patiently. "You'll never stop swearing like it was your native language, will you?"
"No more than you guys stopping from reading my thoughts."
"So not my problem if you can't control your mental voice volume."
I flipped him off and he rolled his eyes.
Then he got a serious expression and for a moment a hint of gold flared to life in his brown eyes. "Do things right, Gary. Be you, but don't be a jackass about it. I promise, you'll get to that point in your life when things really start to go in the right direction." He tilted his head to the side. "And when that day arrives, that's when you'll know."
He grinned that cheesy grin of his. "You'll be as ancient as me."
"Only better looking and without the grey in my hair."
"I do not have grey…" He trailed off with a sigh. "Always have to get the last word, huh?"
"It's in my DNA."
"That I almost believe." He walked away then, down the road, and did a little wave. "Later, Oak."
"Oh, no, you did not!"
That familiar mental chuckle of his was my answer.
"That's mine, Ketchum! I trademarked it!"
Other than another mental chuckle, there was a slight popping sound as he vanished and suddenly there were people walking around. I hadn't noticed any people walking around before. Had he kept us shielded from other people? Had the other people been there all this time but we'd just been invisible or something? Had the dragon of time done something?
I'd have to ask Ash. Later, of course.
For now, I had to get Cade checked out by Nurse Joy. And then, finally, I'd get something to eat.
A few weeks later…
"Swear to Arceus, I hate every single one of those damned beedrill!" Cade growled as he fell against me, panting and weak, despite being victorious in battle.
The beedrill in question (as in one) had limped back (in flight) to the nearest tree to faint away its loss.
Silently, I dug out an antidote and used it on Cade. "Sorry for the low stash, little brother. That should tide you over until we get to Saffron."
It'd been a couple of weeks since Mewtwo had fixed what he had wronged and I was taking full advantage of my renewal of life. I hadn't let Cade in on the fact that I remembered what had happened and that I could fully understand every word he uttered.
I caught him looking at me every now and then and by his body language I knew he remembered our time while I was dead. I knew he wasn't confused about what Mewtwo did, but he did look at me sadly from time to time. I wouldn't keep this charade up much longer.
After all, the longer I did, the more painful his bite would be. I had no illusions about it. Cade would bite the mess out of me for this. And then he would probably melt into a pile of sobbing goo.
He'd bite me for that thought, for sure.
Ash, fantastic guy that he is, told me I'd have three weeks of Cade not reading my thoughts. After that, the little shield he built around my thoughts would be gone. It would be up to me to keep my thoughts to myself. For shits and giggles, I planned to make a stop into Saffron. Build up on a little psychic training to try to keep my thoughts to myself.
And then I'd go to Cerulean. I wanted to see Misty, almost desperately, but I'd have to do it the hard way.
This much, the traveling, sucked the most about being alive again. Oh, I could probably have my car and driver and cheerleaders again, but…After this time without people around me, with it being just Cade and me, I kind of liked it like that.
Awkwardly enough, after being around grown Ash, I found that I'd liked him. I didn't want little Ash to grow up all bitter and bullied. I sort of wanted him to be that zen-like Ash. Confident and self aware.
Plus the world didn't need a Chosen One who might abuse power against those who bullied him.
Yeah, I know. This being said by the guy who flipped off said Chosen One on his return to life.
Crazy, ain't I?
It was later that night that I couldn't keep things hidden from Cade. It wasn't that Ash's shield failed. It was fully in place.
I just couldn't take Cade's bitching.
Nitpicking on the road, trash talking the competition (in battles), chatting up the ladies…it was unreal! I think some of his bitching came from remembering my death and being alive again and not knowing if I also remembered it. After all, I did tell him how much I'd miss talking with him.
We were at a campfire, made by yours truly (the hard way, with matches and campfire brickettes), watching the fire bank down slowly as we both drifted off to sleep. Well, I was drifting off to sleep while Cade was keeping watch. He was really watchful of me, especially at night. It reminded me of how I'd watch him sleep, back when I was dead.
Since it was such a nice night, with warm temperatures and rain not due for another couple of days, I'd decided to lay out in my sleeping bag. I didn't bother with a tent and ended up staring at the campfire to try to get to sleep. I was about to fall asleep when Cade offhandedly said something that I accidentally replied to.
"Nights like these really make me miss Ash."
"Mmhmm," I mumbled under my breath as I burrowed my head against my pillow. I was back among the living new enough to appreciate the hardness of the ground under my sleeping bag and the softness of a good pillow. It'd probably take a few weeks before I got over that and ended up nabbing a room at a pokemon center.
Being so focused on sleeping, I missed Cade's sharp look over at me.
"Even though his culinary skills regarding s'mores left much to be desired."
"Yeah," Sleep was muddling my mind and I replied automatically. "Kept getting that stuff stuck to his teeth, too."
"I KNEW IT!"
His voice, so close to me because he was nearly yelling in my damned ears, was a mix of triumph an danger. The volume of his voice had me instantly awake.
"What?!" I propped myself up on my elbows, face to muzzle with a pissed off umbreon.
"You know damned well what!" Cade's jaws snapped audibly. "You can understand me!"
"Uh…" A million quips came to mind. None resulted in anything less painful than requiring stitches except, maybe, one.
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry."
Cade's anger seemed to deflate almost instantly and he sidled up next to me, laying on the ground. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Because I…," I floundered, then realized what the other truth was. "I didn't know if it would hold, Cade, or if it would vanish."
"What is it, exactly."
"The two things I asked Mewtwo for," I replied. "I wanted to remember our time together, and I wanted to be able to understand you."
"You wanted to remember being dead?"
"It's like I said. I liked talking with you. I didn't want to forget what happened."
Cade was silent for so long that I figured he had fallen asleep. Then he spoke up. "I can't believe you did that."
"It seemed like a good idea at the time."
He got up, sat on his haunches, and stared at me. His ruby eyes glittered in the light of the dying campfire and he blinked a few times. Then he leaned forward and rested his chin on my shoulder briefly before sitting back up. "Thank you."
"That's it?" My turn to blink. "I don't get it. You're not gonna bite me?"
"Oh, I plan on doing that," Cade showed sharp teeth in a brief umbreon grin. "And you won't know when or how hard I'll bite. But I do thank you for your requests to Mewtwo. I don't know of any other human crazy enough to want to remember being dead, but you're special, boss."
"You say that like it's a bad thing."
Cade laughed. "You're an ass."
"Uh oh, that's bad then," I said it seriously. "Ash said I can't be an ass."
"Guess you'll need help on that," Cade sighed wearily. "Looks like I have my work cut out for me."
"Oh, you do, huh?"
"Yep," Cade huffed a sigh. "Ash told me to watch over you and make sure you stop being such a jackass."
My jaw gaped. "What!" Then I snorted and smirked. "That is a challenge I willingly accept. And I'll make him eat those words."
"Really?" Cade asked dryly.
Epilogue – Twenty years later…
There was a knock at the door and a young woman poked her head into my dressing room. "If you're ready, sir, you've got fifteen minutes before you're needed on stage."
Sir. As if I'd ever get used to that. It made me feel positively ancient.
"I'll be ready," I replied in a steady, easy going tone of voice.
The young woman nodded and retreated, closing the door softly behind her.
At my feet, Cade yawned hugely and stood up. He stretched and I watched him carefully. He was at a very advanced age, yet still seemed limber and lithe. His black fur was streaked in areas with silver. It was the only indication of his age.
His teeth were still sharp and his jaws had lost none of their muscle.
Standing up, I walked over to get my long sleeved white lab jacket that was hanging from a wall peg. I rubbed my left arm, bare in the short sleeved black shirt I was wearing, and rubbed at a series of old scars there. They ran along the top of my forearm, right where Cade had bitten me, repeatedly, in his revenge bite.
"You're not still whining over that, are you?" Cade asked with a laugh.
"I'm sorry, I don't believe I've whined yet today," I replied as I pulled the jacket on. Embroidered in blue lettering was "Professor Oak" which was something I had tried to be changed to at least have my first name in there as well.
After all, Professor Oak was my grandfather. He'd be there today to watch my lecture.
"Well, there's still time," my ever faithful umbreon replied. He stared up at me with a steady expression, and his voice changed from teasing to serious. "Today's the day. Worried?"
I didn't even hesitate and nodded. "Yeah, a bit."
"Ash said that Mewtwo kept his word," Cade said. "You and I still remember all of your ghostlyness and we're still talking to each other. I'm pretty sure that's a good sign."
"Yeah," I agreed, even as I ran a lint roller over my pants. "But I've never been one to fully trust others with my life."
Cade sighed. "I trust him."
There was a knock at the door and Ash's voice rang out. "C'mon, Oak, you done putting on your makeup yet?"
My eye twitched, then twitched a little more when Cade laughed. "Asswipe," I thought angrily at him.
"Now, now, that's no way to speak to your bestie."
"I know, Ketchum, that's how I speak to you." I glared at the door as I put the lint roller back on the table.
Stalking over to the door, I pulled it open, grinning slightly as I did. Beyond the door stood Ash Ketchum, Grand Master and Chosen One. He was dressed casually in black jeans, a dark blue shirt, and those ever present black hiking boots of his. Pikachu, the one and only, was perched on his right shoulder. The yellow mouse looked strong, though a little thinner in this later age of her life.
"She looks good," I nodded to the now purring Pikachu.
"And I can't even begin to thank you," Ash said as he gently ran a hand along Pikachu's side. "This wasn't even originally an option."
Being the Chosen One gave Ash a lot of weird perks. One of them was remembering the timeline whereby Pikachu had died of her age. Also known as the timeline where I died from a pissed off tauros' attack.
"I've already said you're welcome a million times, Ketchum. I guess old age has settled in your noggin." I sighed, a little sadly. "Shame, that."
Ash rolled his eyes. "Way to ruin the moment, Gary." He smiled anyway. "Told you that you invented some really helpful things."
"What I did for her and Cade…" and thousands of other pokemon "…wasn't one of those helpful things you knew of."
"It really wasn't," Ash said as he reached up to rub the mouse under her chin.
"But knowing that I was supposed to be inventing all this cool stuff, and knowing how sad you were about her, I had to do something." Even though Pikachu knew I was responsible for the invention that allowed her to live longer, I couldn't say the words "her death" right in front of her. It seemed tacky.
"I wasn't sad," Ash said in an attempt to salvage his manliness.
My look to him was wry.
"Okay, so maybe a little."
I arched an eyebrow.
"Okay, a lot," Ash sighed. "She means the world to me."
"I promise to not tell your wife you just said that."
Ash grinned. "She wouldn't mind. She knows what Pik means to me."
"Yeah, so anyway, Mister sappy ass Chosen One…"
"And Grand Master."
"I have a lecture to give and you have a chair to fill in my audience."
Cade snorted. "And his ego is not harmed in the least."
When I went to walk out of the dressing room, Ash grabbed my arm. Gently, but still a grab. "Gary, when the time comes, uh, you might feel a little off for a moment."
My eyes flicked from his hold on my arm to his dark brown eyes. "How off?"
He shrugged, let go of my arm, and looked a little uncomfortable. "A little dizzy, maybe a little faint."
My mind swept through a number of scenarios. "So even though Mewtwo is keeping his word, this is the point where shit originally hit the fan and I might feel something."
Ash nodded. "Yeah, more or less."
Cade rubbed against my freshly de-Cade furred pants legs. "Don't worry, boss. I'll bite you if it looks like you're about to faint like a little girl."
My glare his way was withering. "Gee, thanks."
"No problem." He strode out of the dressing room, making a left to go towards the stage.
"I guess this is it," I looked at Ash, feeling a little weird already. "I guess I feel like I should say some thanks of my own, Ash."
He looked surprised. "What? Why?"
I snorted softly. "Without you, I'd still be dead. By now, so would Cade, Pikachu, and a whole bunch of other pokemon. The inventions I created wouldn't exist. A lot of people have a lot of things in their lives that they wouldn't have had. They, and I, owe a lot of thanks to you."
His cheeks flushed, such an Ash reaction, though his natural Zenness that cloaked him like a second skin made his reply a calm one. "They have you to thank as well."
"You're still such a sap, Ash."
"And you're always going to be an egotistical diva, Gary."
"Yeah, you're probably right," I grinned. "C'mon, Chosen One. My fans await me."
We walked the hallway towards the stage. There were a number of people buzzing around in their behind the scenes hive of activity. Everyone gave us as wide a berth as the hallway allowed, but only because they were so busy. No one was afraid of us. I'd worked hard on not being an insufferable jackass.
"Professor Oak, over here, please!' A stage hand walked up to us with a mic earpiece in his hand. Being that this was a familiar thing to me, I stood still while he wired me up.
He stepped away and nodded. "I'll get that from you after your lecture. Good luck, sir!"
As he walked away, Ash let out a poorly restrained snicker.
"What?" I glared over at him.
He snorted. "Oh, you know, sir."
"Whatever," I rolled my eyes and led the way towards the stage.
"I'll never get used to that, Gary," Ash said as he caught up to me. Lucky guy. He didn't have to dress up as much as I did. I was kind of envious of his dark blue jeans and casual shirt.
Of course, he was wearing a pair of hiking boots. He practically lived in those damned things.
"Actually," Ash said (and I groaned a bit at his mind reading). "She won't let me wear them in bed."
"Shut up about what you two do in bed. I really don't need to be sick before I go on stage."
"No sense of humor."
"Oh, I have a sense of humor," I smirked. "It ran away when it heard you hinting about your bedroom activities."
Ash paused when we reached two sets of stairs. Both went up, though the left side went to the stage and the right side led to the audience.
Ash cocked his head to the side. "You have one other person who wants to see you before you go on stage."
I looked around the nearly empty hall. What there was that was in the area of the behind the scenes crew were not near us. "Stage hands don't count, Ash."
"Nah, she's waiting at the top of the stairs." His grin grew a little more, and landed a friendly punch on my upper right arm. "Catch ya after the show, Oak."
Knowing full well who he was talking about, I grinned as well and returned his punch. "I'll make sure to give you a discount on my autograph, Ketchum."
With that, I raced up the stairs, taking them two at a time. When I got to the top of the stairs, Cade was sitting at my wife's feet. I took in the sight of her as if it was the first time I was seeing her. Seeing as how today was the day that Mewtwo initially took away my life, it was even more important that I take in every facet of my wife, the love of my life.
She'd dressed up for today, wearing a snug little black dress that hugged her slender body. Her waist length hair was pulled up in a sloppy, yet artistic bun. I didn't really care about any of that. I knew how gorgeous she was.
Her eyes blazed at me, crinkled at the corners as she smiled at me. "About time you got here, babe. I thought you were going to be late or something."
As if I'd be late to my own funeral. The thought hit me hard and I grabbed her in a hug that swept her off her feet.
"Whoa, hey there, mister!" Her arms wrapped around my neck as I gently let her stand on her own two feet. "What's gotten into you?"
"Nothing, Misty," I shook my head, ignoring Cade's little laugh at my emotional reaction. "Just really glad to see you."
She landed a thorough kiss on my lips, regretfully pulling away too quickly for my tastes. "That's just a taste of what's in store for you later on."
"What about the kids?" Yes, we have two teenaged children, one boy and one girl.
"After the lecture they're going to be at the lab with Samuel," Her expression was completely smoldering. "We get to pick them up at noon tomorrow." She sighed. "So don't take too long with your lecture."
"Yes, ma'am," I stepped away from her with a sigh. "Maybe I can just postpone the lecture."
"I don't think so," Misty snorted. "There are two thousand people out there who've been waiting to see you."
"Two thousand? Is that it?" Checking on my speech, I pulled out the data pad it was stored on, a little electronic device I'd created ten years ago, then replaced it in my lab coat pocket. "I must be losing my touch."
"Nope, not yet," Misty said, then shoved me towards the wing of the stage. "Go get 'em, tiger."
With Cade by my side, I stepped out on stage. The lights, the crowds, having Cade by my side was all old hat to me. My first lecture had been intense, all full of butterflies in the stomach and being afraid of losing my place in my lecture. Of course, I had little to worry about. All of my lectures had been flawless.
This particular lecture was, according to Ash, the only lecture that had failed.
Throughout the entire lecture, I was on pins and needles, but I didn't lose my place. I'd given Ash a front row seat, just in case Mewtwo decided to suddenly go back on his word. I could see him sitting there, and it gave me peace of mind. He had let me know that I'd vanished about one hour and twenty minutes into the lecture.
And so, those first hour and eighteen minutes had seemed to drag on forever.
At one hour and nineteen minutes, I felt a sweat break out on my forehead. Just a little one. My stomach clenched in anticipation.
It was at one hour and twenty minutes exactly that I felt it. For a split second, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach and blurring at the edges of my sight.
:Gary, you okay?: It was Ash, reaching out to me telepathically, but I couldn't even form a response in my mind. Not even a snarky one.
For a second I couldn't breathe, couldn't move, even as I heard uneasy murmuring from the audience. From my earpice, I heard the stage manager's voice, asking me similarly to Ash.
Then I felt another sharp pain at my ankle, but this one was a real and very physical pain. I stared down to see Cade, hidden by the podium, with my ankle in his mouth.
He looked up at me with wide eyes blazing red with his fear and his lips puffing out with quick in and exhalations of air.
With a tight smile down at him, I nodded and he released my ankle. He slumped against my leg with a sigh.
"Sorry," I apologized to the crowd. "I just got the most incredible idea."
And that is it for Gary and Cade! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
As always, feel free to leave a review (be it good or bad) or drop me a PM.