Disclaimer: Pokemon and its characters are copyright of Satoshi Tajiri. Additional characters and story by me.
(A/N I apologise for taking a few liberties with Ash and Gary's history. Piecing it together mostly from Bulbapedia articles)
(Edit to add: I'm a Brit, the "Football" being referred to in this chapter is soccer for American readers ^^)
For Delia Ketchum that summer was one she would never forget; that dark haired man had swept her off her feet and stolen her heart, but he was a Pokemon Trainer and as Summer moved on so had he-chasing after dreams of becoming a Pokemon Master once more.
While Delia had understood his decision she was heartbroken when her lover had left. She kept in contact regularly; praying he would change his mind and come back to her until the day came that he suddenly stopped answering her calls. Delia never did find out what had become of her Summer love but shortly after losing contact she discovered that he had left something-or rather someone-to remember him by.
The idea of raising a child at all let alone on her own was a scary thought: abortion would never be an option she would entertain and with adoption she feared she was the the kind of person who when the baby was born wouldn't be able to part with the child she had carried all that time. Determinedly she decided to raise this baby herself no matter what anyone said, however for every successful pregnancy there are complicated ones; for this unfortunate Mother-to-be her time came a month premature and when her waters broke she was rushed to hospital. Pretty soon it became apparent that something was wrong; the doctors couldn't find a heartbeat and once born they hurried the baby away to the other side of the room. Delia watched them attempting to resuscitate with fear in her heart.
After a brief time they whisked the child out of the room leaving its distraught mother to be comforted by the midwives without so much as an explanation of what was going on. She knew there was a problem with her baby but nobody seemed to want to tell her what, no matter how much or how desperately she pleaded. Eventually a Doctor came to tell her the news that she'd been dreading to hear; her baby was still-born. Delia was heartbroken once again; it seemed she had not only lost her love, but now also the child he had given her.
Somebody out there had been listening to her prayers however as late afternoon a nurse wheeled an incubator into her room with a newborn inside it and a smile on her face.
"We were able to successfully resuscitate him," The nurse told her cheerfully "we've had him under observation but he's stabilised."
"Him? I have a boy?' She asked shakily. Delia was so overwhelmed to find that her baby was still alive that she didn't think to question why she'd been kept in the dark for so long.
"A beautiful baby boy," the nurse comfirmed, picking up the newborn carefully and handing him to her wrapped in a warm blanket. Delia cradled him in her arms and cried from relief.
She named her new son Ash due to his miraculous rise from the ashes-she had thought of Phoenix but Ash just seemed to suit him more-and when they had been released from hospital they moved to a quiet little town named Pallet Town for a fresh start. It was tough but with help from her parents they got by.
Ash grew to resemble his father more with each passing day; right down to his scruffy black hair-which refused to play by the rules of a hairbrush-and his bright brown eyes that lit up at the simplest things, and life seemed to be going well until he moved up to the local junior school. He always came home happy enough to start with, but after a while Delia started to notice Ash becoming quieter and more withdrawn. It started out with him complaining about feeling ill all the time and generally finding reasons not to go to school, but when Doctors could never find anything physically wrong with him Delia began to wonder if there was something psychological going on. She tried several times to find out why but when asked Ash would always go quiet again or talk about something else. She tried asking the teachers if there was a possibility he was being bullied, but they denied bullying ever happened at their school. Delia didn't believe that; bullying was part of childhood after all, she assumed the school was just trying to make itself look good. Either way questioning everybody was clearly not going to get to the bottom of the problem and the idea of having to resort to taking him to a child psychologist was something she wanted to avoid if she could help it.
Unable to get to the bottom of the problem Delia took Ash to see her old friend and mentor-Professor Samuel Oak. The Professor was a specialist in Pokemon research and Delia hoped getting Ash involved in Pokemon might be of benefit.
It was a pure stroke of luck that the professor's son and daughter-in-law had just moved in, bringing with them their own son-Gary. He was the same age as Ash; it was certainly worth a try introducing them.
Ash looked at Gary nervously. Nobody had wanted to hang around him since that boy at school had been hurt. It had been an accident-Ash didn't even know what he was supposed to have done wrong. All that had happened was that the boy had run into him during a game of football and the next thing he was screaming in pain and had to be rushed to hospital. Last Ash had heard he had suffered from very serious injuries and was still in a coma. Nobody could explain how he'd gotten those injuries, but the other kids automatically blamed Ash, calling him things like demon or witch and flatly refused to play with him for fear of getting hurt.
Gary likely didn't know what had happened but it didn't stop Ash from worrying that he might not like him. He remained quiet for the time being, but Gary obviously had other ideas; he was very confident for a six year old and wasted no time dragging Ash outside to show him all the Pokemon his grandfather looked after. He proved to be arrogant and had a high opinion of himself, but he was talking to Ash when no-one else would and since Ash preferred to listen more than talk they were getting on like a house on fire. For the first time in a long time Ash was actually having fun, but his worries returned when he heard Gary was to be starting at the same school in a couple of days. No doubt he was bound to find out then.
When the time came however Gary didn't seem to care much. Whether he thought the whole idea of Ash being able to do that was stupid or whether he was just too happy to have an admirer listening to his every word to care wasn't known, but Ash had never been happier which in turn made Delia estatic.
As the years passed Gary became more popular in school but he always made sure his new admirers were aware that if they wanted to befriend him, they had to accept his best friend too and while the other kids were still wary of Ash, this did seem to do the trick. Though at Gary's ninth birthday party, he had come to a decision.
"Next year I'm going to become a Pokemon trainer!" He announced in his usual cool tone. Ash was surprised; he knew Gary's grandfather was the local Pokemon Professor and been a trainer in his youth, but Gary had never expressed an interest in following in his footsteps-and the two of them had always shared everything.
Pokemon Training was an adventure; one that awaited all those willing to take up the challenge of capturing, training and fighting the creatures known as Pokemon that lived on the planet. The number of different types was immense, and while a trainer could chose their own goals, the two most advertised and subsequently toughest were to collect all the different species and to create the strongest Pokemon team the world had ever known.
It was controversial; the idea of 10 year olds skipping their remaining school years to go out catching and training these dangerous creatures on their own didn't sit well with everyone, but traditions often died hard.
Ash decided right then that he was going to be a Trainer too-the two of them could travel together and would be an unstoppable team! He mentioned his intention to Gary later when the other kids had gone home but didn't get quite the reaction he was expecting.
"I think we should each take our own journeys," Gary replied "We can't journey together if we're going to be rivals, and only one person can be the most powerful trainer in the world."
"But we could be a team!" Ash protested
"It doesn't work that way!' Gary responded "I'm going to become the world's strongest trainer and I gotta do that alone!" Ash fell silent. He knew Gary well enough to know that when his mind was made up there was nothing he could say to make him change it.
"I guess..." Ash replied, defeated. He said goodbye and started heading home, taking the usual shortcut across the small park and thought about this new turn of events on the way. Him and Gary had rarely been apart since they'd met-Ash was nervous that once Gary left, things would go back to how they were before. His thoughts then turned to why Gary might have made the decision to suddenly ditch him like this. Does he think I'm too weak to be any help? Or is he just sick of me hanging around? The more he thought about it, the more pissed off it was starting to make him, especially when a third possibility came to mind; the possibility that Gary believed what the other kids said about him after all and was just toying with him. Ash was so deep in thought as he passed through the broken section of the park fence that he didn't hear his name being called or see the football flying towards him until it hit him in the back of his head. He looked round at the source, glaring at the boy responsible.
"Sorry Ash! I did try to warn you" The boy yelled, running up to pick up his ball. Ash recognised him as one of the kids from school; a boy from his year named Josh. Ash knew it was an accident yet at that moment something in him snapped. Without warning he lashed out at the boy and punched him square in the face. This got out Ash's initial frustration, but as the boy turned to run-obviously now remembering who he was with-that emotion was replaced with something else; something a lot darker that wanted to give chase. In a flash Ash caught up with the boy and grabbed him.
"I'm sorry! It was an accident I swear!" Josh cried out in panic, but Ash wasn't hearing anything right now. Without a second thought he rammed him onto the broken fence railings, effectively impaling him there. The sound of Josh's agonised screams brought the possessed boy back to his senses and he started to panic, wishing wildly for him to shut up. As if listening to Ash's mental pleas Josh suddenly emitted a strangled sound then fell silent, his head drooped downwards. For one brief moment Ash stood staring at his impaled classmate-completely dumbstruck over what had just happened-before sense returned to him and he immediately bolted towards home before anyone caught him at the scene. He didn't see the eyes of his best friend watching all this unfold.