Vondrakenhof here. I'm announcing my triumphant return to Pokémon fanfiction! Okay, so it's not a big deal to you guys but it kind of is to me. Mainly because this is a big undertaking. You can't write a short story about Ash going back to travel around Kanto taking on the gyms again. It's got to be a big story. A really big one. I've got it all planned out and I really hope I can do it justice. The first three chapters are written already so Chapter 2 will be released next Friday and Chapter 3 will be the following Friday.

So, a few things you need to know. First of all this is set just after the end of the Unova league. Ash decided to come home straight away instead of whatever happened after that, I haven't watched it. Now I didn't particularly like the Best Wishes series because (A) they made Ash even stupider and (B) he's supposed to get better as he goes on not worse. However I did like two things, the Pokémon he caught and making Jesse and James more competent. Which is why I'm setting this after Unova, it let's me play with Oshawott and Krookodile among others.

Second Ash is sixteen. I'll put my reasoning for that in the author's note at the bottom. Age up everyone else as you think appropriate.

Okay so that's everything except for asking for reviews. Please do, I can't tell what I'm doing right and what I'm doing wrong unless I get some honest criticism and that means I can't improve. Enjoy!

Back Around Again.

Pallet Town. It was a sleepy little settlement in the southwest of the Kanto region. There were a handful of shops and services around for the small populace. The houses had been built spread out, all over the open plains. Professor Oak's lab stood upon the far hill, windmill turning slowly. It never seemed to change, no matter how long he was away for. Ash Ketchum stared down the pathway to his hometown, taking a moment to revel in the feeling of coming home after the months spent in Unova.

"Ready Pikachu?" he asked his companion, who rode on his shoulder. The yellow mouse Pokémon yelled an affirmative before leaping from his perch and racing down the track. The young trainer laughed and tore after his friend. Ash loved travelling, and this, the feeling of coming home, was as much a part of travelling as discovering new places. He would always love this moment.

Ash kept pace with Pikachu, the electric-type not wanting to get too far ahead, until they reached a familiar house. Pikachu put on a burst of speed, glad to be home. He dashed through the open gateway in the white picket fence before jumping for the doorbell. A beaming Ash caught up before the tone ended so Pikachu retook his position on the right shoulder. The door swung inward and the young man found himself staring into eyes that were much like his own.

"Ash…" breathed his mother.

"Hey Mom," he replied, smiling widely.

Delia Ketchum grabbed her son in a crushing bear-hug. Every time he went away it was obvious that Delia feared something bad would happen to him. And each time he came back her relief was palpable. "Welcome home."

As he returned the hug Ash noticed that something was different. He wondered about it for a moment before it hit him. He was looking over the top of his mother's head. He had finally grown taller than his mother during his time in Unova. He didn't know how he felt about that. There was the simple joy a boy gets when he realises how much taller he'd gotten. There was a cold fear that he would be an adult soon, and have real responsibilities. And there was the desire to be the man Delia Ketchum deserved to have for a son. "Thanks Mom."

"Pika!" greeted Pikachu, feeling slightly left out of the warm family reunion. Delia released her son and took the Pokémon into her arms.

"And how could I forget you Pikachu?" she asked, holding him close. "Thank you for taking care of my baby."

"Hardly a baby anymore Mom," retorted Ash, but he was still smiling.

"You'll always be my baby," she answered before looking curiously at her son. Ash was a little unnerved by the intensity of her stare when she spoke again. "What is that on your face?"

"There's something on my face?" asked Ash. He ran his hands over it a couple of times, wondering what it could be. He didn't feel anything. "Did I get it?"

"What is this?" she asked again reached for him. When she grasped him by the hairs on his chin he realised she was talking about his beard. What little there was of it at any rate. "Why has my son been running around with this fluff on his face?"

"It's my beard Mom," replied Ash nervously, he didn't like where this was going. "I like it."

Delia narrowed her eyes at the offending tuft of facial hair. "No. This is unacceptable. You march yourself upstairs mister and shave that fluff off right now!"

"But Mom," Ash protested in a small voice. "It makes me feel all manly."


Ash hastened to obey, ignoring the traitorous snickers of his starting Pokémon.

Ash grumbled to himself over the loss of his beard. Truthfully he hadn't even noticed its growth while on his journey. However now it was gone he wanted it back. He'd been called kid and boy and twerp so much over his journey that sometimes he resented it. If he had a beard no one would call him a kid again.

Well, he thought with a snort, Iris would. She calls everyone under the sun a kid. His musings were interrupted by the front door opening. He was sure he heard Professor Oak greeting his mother. Ash headed down the stairs where he spotted the Professor, Gary and Tracey. Gary took one look at Ash's face and burst out laughing.

"What happened to you?" asked his former rival. "Did you get attacked by a Scyther?"

Ash flushed. Shaving had not gone well. Nearly a dozen pieces of paper were stuck to his face, held on by his blood. "It was my first time using a razor," he mumbled.

He was saved from another of Gary's undoubtedly witty comments by the elder Oak. "I'm sure you'd like to tell Ash what happened the first time you tried to shave Gary," he said with a small smirk. "He couldn't touch his face for a week."

Ash smiled at the abashed look on his friend's face before Tracey stepped in the way to grasp his hand. "Good to see you again Ash," said the watcher with a wide grin. "Congratulations on the Unova league."

"Yes well done my boy," added Professor Oak.

Ash shrugged. "I should have done better," he said. He frowned. He'd been stupid and hadn't played to his strengths. He'd just made everything a head on confrontation even if he'd been at a disadvantage. What had he been thinking when he fought Cameron's Lucario? Quick Attack and Iron Tail were never going to do much damage to it. He should have blasted it with electric attacks right from the get-go. "We'll just have to train harder next time, right Pikachu?" The Pokémon agreed with a lazy "Kaaa" from his place on the couch. "Though not tonight," Ash added with a chuckle.

"Dinner's on!" called Delia from the kitchen, where she and her Mr. Mime were setting the table.

"Alright!" cried Ash. Pikachu leapt up from his seat. Both were eager for the home-cooked wonders of Mrs Ketchum.

"So Ash," Professor Oak began. The dinner had been wonderful and only Ash was still eating. He paused his chewing to show he was listening. "Do you have any idea where you're going to go next?"

Delia sighed. She had hoped that this conversation wouldn't happen tonight. She didn't like the idea of only having her baby home for a short time before he went rushing off towards another adventure. But he was never meant to stay in one place for any length of time. He was too much like his father.

Ash swallowed his mouthful of food carefully. True, usually his manners escaped him but it was often only when he was eager. And Professor Oak's question didn't provoke the same eagerness it had in the past. "Honestly Professor, I don't know," he answered. "I'd like to spend some time at home figuring that out."

"That would be wonderful," said Delia with a shining smile. She stood up to hug her son again. "You take all the time you need," she said.

"Mom," groused Ash as Gary failed to hide his snickers. Even Tracey bore a cheeky grin.

"Well, I'm headed to Hoenn," announced the young researcher. "Professor Birch offered me the chance to join him on some fieldwork. He's supposed to be one of the best."

Ash nodded. "Yeah he was always out in the wilderness when I was there," he said. He looked at Gary. "Hey, if you're ever in Petalburg drop by the gym. The leader Norman and his family are friends of mine."

"May and Max right?" asked Gary. Ash nodded. "Sure, no problem man."

The conversation was interrupted by the shrill sound of a video phone. Delia quickly stood and walked out to the hall to get it. The four men were left in an awkward silence.

"So tell me Ash," said Tracey, trying to fill the silence. "What was your favourite thing about Unova?"

"It had to be the battle clubs," answered Ash. "Every town had a state of the art facility for battling. It was pretty awesome." Tracey looked like he was going to ask another question but he was interrupted by Ash's mother calling him to the phone.

Ash walked to the hall, wondering who wanted to talk to him. As his mother handed him the phone he saw the familiar orange locks tied in a side pony tail to keep it out of blue-green eyes.

"Misty!" exclaimed Ash. He tried to ignore the sudden feeling of his insides clenching when he saw his old travelling companion.

"Hey Ash," she replied. "I'm sorry I didn't get to come to your home-coming, all the newbie trainers go mad after the leagues go on and I've been swarmed by kids with Rattata and Pidgey and Caterpie." She shuddered.

Ash smiled. He always thought it was endearing that a girl who owned a Gyarados, one of the scariest Pokémon he knew, still got freaked out by tiny bug-types. "It's alright, I understand. It's not like you could leave your sisters to it, they'd probably put their badges in a bucket outside the door."

"That does sound like something they'd do," said Misty. "But it's so boring. I haven't had a proper challenge in months."

"I guess I'll have to pay you a visit," teased Ash.

"You better," replied Misty. Her tone dropped a bit and her smile shrunk when she continued. "How long before you're traipsing off to some other far away region?"

"I don't know," answered Ash honestly. "I promise I'll visit before that happens."

"I'll hold you to that." Misty's smile was back now. Ash wondered if the heating was getting too high. "Hard luck in Unova," she said with a sympathetic look.

Ash nodded. Misty he knew he wasn't happy with his performance. "It was my fault, I let myself get too caught up in the moment and didn't think things through." He sighed and ignored her comment about never thinking things through. "Last year I knocked out two Legendary Pokémon in the semi-finals. This year I didn't even make it that far."

"Well you better learn from this Ketchum! Or I'll bring the mallet around," she threatened, but she was smiling at him. Ash felt something swell inside his chest. There was a crash from behind Misty, somewhere in the gym. "Crap, I've gotta go. Bye Ash."

"Bye Mist," he said before he replaced the phone. Ash sighed; it would have been nice if Misty had been at dinner. He noticed a mail icon flashing on the screen. Opening it he realised it was from Brock.


Hope you're well. I know you're probably beating yourself up over not getting further but you just have to try harder. I know you can do it and one day I'll be able to tell all the girls I helped train a Champion. Your Unovan Pokémon look amazing, you'll have to let me see them next time we meet up. I'm sorry I couldn't come to Pallet Town but I'm just starting my second year at college. It's tougher than I thought it would be, and I still have I don't know how many years left.

I'll see you as soon as possible.


Ash frowned. They were each going their own way now, the original trio. He couldn't help feel that they were growing further apart. He didn't like that, not one bit.

It had been three weeks since Ash had come home. Every day since then he'd gone up to the Oak ranch to see his Pokémon. At first it had only been to spend time with them and play around but after a week or so they'd gotten back into training.

"Okay guys, you know the drill," he called as he planted homemade targets in the ground. "Group up by type and try to outdo each other." There was a mad scramble to obey. Ash had come up with this idea after the first couple of days. Trying to train more than thirty Pokémon at once was an exercise in futility. Now each of the little groups trained each other while Ash picked one group to focus on for the day. "Fighting types are with me."

Heracross, Infernape, Pignite and Scraggy followed Ash out to an open patch of the field. Pikachu leapt off his shoulder to watch the training.

"Okay," Ash began. "Out of four of you Infernape is the probably the best fighter when it comes to fighting type moves. So we're going to see what we can learn from him." Pignite and Heracross accepted this with a nod. Scraggy on the other hand turned to scowl at Infernape. When the fire type noticed the smaller Pokémon he crouched down to stare. Scraggy immediately head-butted him. Infernape barely noticed but Scraggy's head caught on fire. It ran around panicking before Totodile noticed. Laughing, the big jaw Pokémon doused Scraggy with a water gun before returning to training.

"So Scraggy, are you done?" asked Ash in a firm tone. Scraggy seemed to mumbled an assent. "Good now we can get started. Infernape?" The fire type positioned itself across from his master. "What I can tell you all is you have to be quick and relentless. Come at me Infernape."

Infernape looked confused for a moment before launching into an attack on Ash. The trainer danced out of the way, slapping at punches that came too close. It was after jumping a low sweep that Ash was caught by a fist in the stomach sending him tumbling to the ground.

"Well done," he gasped as he got up. "Heracross, show me what you've got." The bug type shook its head. "Heracross if you hesitate in battle you're going to get hurt." The single horn Pokémon still refused. Ash sighed then threw a punch at Heracross. The bug type's eyes widened. It grabbed Ash's hand and swung the trainer over its shoulder. Ash landed on his back.

"Nice one Heracross," he said with a smile.

"Ah, there you are Ash. I hope I'm not interrupting anything?" Ash looked up to find Professor Oak staring down at him with an amused smile.

"Oh, no Professor," said Ash, getting up. "Just a little training." He looked back at his Pokémon. "You guys keep going I'll be back in a minute." Walking over to the Professor he asked: "What can I do for you?"

"Well I was wondering Ash," Oak began. "Have you given any more thought to the question I asked the night you came home?"

Ash paused for a moment. He had given thought. A lot of thought in fact. "Professor, what do my Pokémon do while I'm away?" he asked.

Professor Oak was a bit thrown by the sudden change of topic. "Well, Bulbasaur helps me around the ranch, it's always settling disputes between the Pokémon. Muk smothers anyone who comes in here. Sceptile, Infernape and Buizel all train most days. As for the rest, they live out their lives much the same as if they were in the wild. Just with regular feedings." Oak chuckled.

Ash nodded. "Every time I go off on a new adventure I leave my friends here to do nothing. Pikachu's the only one who gets constant training." He looked out at his Pokémon, the flying types swooping through the air, the water types blasting away at targets, the grass types practicing their leaf techniques. Snorlax and the leader of the Tauros herd were battling, Quilava and Torkoal were comparing flamethrowers and Torterra was demonstrating its earthquake attack to the other ground types. "That was a mistake," said Ash. "I've been neglecting them. It's time I started rotating them all into the team."

Professor Oak nodded. He thought it was a good idea. "And where will you do this?"

"Here," said Ash turning back to look at the Professor. "I'd like to compete in the Indigo Conference again."

AN: So, what did you think? The next two chapters are more exciting but obviously it's important to set the story up.

Right, I told you I'd share my reasoning for Ash's age. If you don't care that's fine but somebody might. There are a number of assumptions here but I think the logic is sound.

Age 10-Ash leaves Pallet with Pikachu. According to the novelizations (at least according to what bulbapedia tells me is in the novelizations) this is in April, possibly April 1st.

Age 11- Again according to the above source Ash's birthday is May 22nd (if he did in fact leave on April 1st).
-Ash returns to Viridian City one year after he arrived in episode 2. He says this in the English dub, I'm not sure about the original Japanese.
-Ash returns to Pallet Town and is told the League is in three months.

Age 12- Ash competes in the Indigo League in July/August.
-Ash travels around the Orange Islands for a couple of months.
-Ash travels to Johto and reaches Big City by April 1st (it's the anniversary of when Ash and Pikachu met).

Age 13- Ash competes in the Johto League. Assuming the Leagues are around the same time (not the exact same time as then Charles Goodshow couldn't attend them all) it's July/August again.
-Ash travels to Hoenn.

Age 14- Ash competes in the Hoenn League.
-Ash takes on the Battle Frontier. This is his second time around Kanto so it takes a lot less time and having a Poénav keeps them from getting lost too much.
-Ash travels to Sinnoh.

Age 15- Ash competes in the Sinnoh League.
-Ash returns home and spends the winter there.
-Ash travels to Unova in early spring as Spring form Deerling are everywhere.

Age 16- Ash competes in the Unova League. It's definitely summer as there are green Deerling around.
-Ash returns home and our story begins.