The Journey Continues

Chapter 2

Making A Home Out of Pallet!

Kanto Region – Pallet Town

Ash was leading the charge back into Pallet Town. It had been nearly two years since he'd been back, and there wasn't much he was looking more forward to besides one of his mom's home cooked meals. It was hard to beat Brock's cooking, of course, but his mother was one of the few who could produce dishes of his caliber.

The final stretch into the main square of Pallet Town was a steep incline. Ash had run the incline a couple of times on his way back from journeys, but in his rush to get home he had managed to completely forget that Dawn was even with him. The Sinnoh-born Coordinator was having more than her fair share of trouble with the incline. Boots did not make good shoes for running down hills, so she had to slow herself to a modest jog. Piplup, meanwhile, had already lost his footing and was bounding down the hill in circles, kicking up dirt each time a different part of his body hit the ground, wailing angrily the whole way down.

Piplup reached the foot of the last hill before Dawn did, but as soon as the Coordinator reached level ground she bent down to pick up the poor penguin starter. Ash then stopped as he remembered he wasn't alone this time. He had managed to get halfway down the block in his haste, and sprinted back to reach the Coordinator and disgruntled Penguin Pokémon.

"Hey, are you guys o—"

Piplup interrupted Ash with a series of angry "Pip" and "Lup" comments, swinging its almost-pitiful flippers in the air as it made its discontent heard.

Ash nervously laughed and scratched the back of his head, "Sorry, I'm just so excited to be back!" he defended. Dawn, meanwhile, didn't get on to him like her starter Pokémon had, simply giggling at his childlike demeanor.

"So, this is Pallet Town, huh?" Dawn asked aloud as she looked around the main square. It was actually very quiet, with no one moving around the place.

"Yeah, it's usually really quiet around here, nobody actually lives in the main square." Ash explained, "Everybody lives a little ways out. My house is down that way, all by itself." The Pallet native pointed directly ahead, where houses could be seen in the distance.

"No need to worry, Piplup will get over the not-so-fun trip here." Dawn assured Ash. "Let's head to your house then."

"I promise I'll walk from now on." Ash conceded as he took his place next to her.

Dawn carried Piplup tight in her arms now, and the penguin Pokémon looked more than content with being suspended in midair by her grip. The water-type looked back and forth carefully at the buildings before Ash broke the silence.

"If you look over there by that hill, where the building with the windmill is…that's Professor Oak's lab. He's got a big ranch behind the lab where I've left all of my Pokémon over the years."

"Oh, can we go and see him later? I'd love to hear some more poems and see some of your Pokémon." Dawn pleaded.

Ash laughed, "Sure thing."

The rest of the walk was made in relative silence until they reached the path leading to Ash's house. Dawn could see over the typical white fence surrounding the property, and picked out a Mr. Mime calmly sweeping a broom back and forth on the porch.

"Hey, Mimey!" Ash called out, getting the psychic-type's attention.

"Mime!" it called, taking a hand off of the broom to wave and welcome the Trainer back.

"It has been a while! Do you know where Mom is?"

Mr. Mime gestured to the house, but didn't reveal much else.

Ash and Dawn walked through the fence, and Mr. Mime appeared to only just notice the bluenette. "Mime?" the Pokémon asked quizzically, glancing up and down at both the Coordinator and the strange blue Pokémon in her arms.

"Mimey, this is Dawn. She's from the Sinnoh Region."

"And this is my partner Piplup." Dawn added. The penguin chirped at its acknowledgement with a raise of its flippers. The psychic-type nodded calmly at the newcomers and went back to sweeping dust off of the porch. Ash then knocked on the door, pulling on the doorknob next and finding it to be unlocked.

"Moooo-ooooom!" Ash called, "I'm home! And I brought a friend!"

There was a clattering noise coming from the kitchen. "Oh, my Ash!" Delia cried as she left the kitchen. She ran up to her raven-haired son and grabbed him into a hug. "Now you aren't calling home enough, Mister! I didn't expect you to be back yet!"

"Well, we kind of ran!" Dawn interjected with a laugh and a chirp from Piplup.

"Oh my, you must be Dawn!" Delia squealed, her inner mother bursting out as she went to hug Dawn. She pulled the bluenette in tight, and only stopped when she heard an angry squawking from Dawn's chest. Piplup fidgeted from in between Dawn and Delia, complaining at the tight squeeze, and Delia immediately crouched down to meet the Pokémon's height. "Well, I am so sorry. You must be Piplup."

"Hehe, that's right!" Dawn answered, "It's so nice to meet you, Mrs. Ketchum."

"Oh, dear, please just call me Delia. Any friend of Ash's is a friend of mine. It's wonderful to finally meet you in person! But I must say, the videophone doesn't do justice how beautiful you are! Just a perfect young woman for my Ash!"

"Mom!" Ash complained as he pulled down his hat to cover his eyes, "It's not like that."

"Oh, I see that I'm embarrassing you, so I'll stop talking about you and your future wife." Delia teased some more, earning a groan from Ash and an awkward smile from Dawn, "Anyway, lunch will be ready in a couple of minutes, I made a lot since Ash always eats big when he gets home, but I'm sure that it's more than enough for three. And then maybe after you're through eating Ash can take you to Professor Oak's lab."

"Oh, that sounds great!" Dawn approved.

"Lup!" Piplup agreed.

Delia then waltzed back into the kitchen, grinning to herself.

A few moments later, Delia was bringing in sandwiches on a handful of plates, carrying them expertly at once. Ash, meanwhile, was showing Dawn his collection of badges. In all, he had 28 from the previous four regions he'd traveled: Kanto, the Orange Islands, Johto, and Hoenn. A case displaying each of his badges from those regions hung above the TV in the living room, along with a picture of Ash and his companions at the time. Brock was in all but one of the pictures, and May was alongside her brother Max in the picture representing Hoenn.

"All right you two, lunch is served!" Delia declared, putting her hands together.

Ash practically leaped from the badge-covered wall and into his chair, snatching a handful of sandwiches and putting them on his plate. No sooner than that though, the sandwiches he'd grabbed were practically gone. Dawn walked over, much more calmly, and grabbed a single sandwich. Delia then came back from the kitchen, carrying two cans of Pokémon food. Both Pikachu and Piplup's eyes lit up at the sight of the cans as Delia popped the tops off of them. Piplup forced its way out of Dawn's grasp and was at Delia's feet sooner than the food can was, with Pikachu in tow.

As the two Pokémon calmly munched on their Pokémon food, Ash was going in for sixths.

"Ash Ketchum you calm yourself this instant. Dawn needs to eat food too!" Delia lectured as Ash went pale. He then started to laugh, causing Dawn to do the same.

"It's okay, Delia, Ash always ate a lot on our journey." Dawn assured, but this didn't appease the mother. However, she didn't drag the disagreement any further, instead going out back to the garden.

"Well, um, whenever you're done we can go to Oak's." Ash explained, leaning back in his chair and occasionally eyeing the leftovers.

Dawn calmly ate her sandwich, knowing that Ash was itching to leave the house. Out of the corner of her eye, she could easily see him twitching. Her mind wandered back to yesterday on the docks, and then this morning with Brock.

"Take good care of Ash."

"Make your feelings known."

It all seemed pretty obvious. Both her mom and Brock thought that Dawn had a crush on Ash. The whole idea of it was ridiculous, Ash and her were just friends. Sure, she had dressed up in a cheerleading outfit for all of his gym battles, physical contact between them was common, and she really enjoyed talking to Ash, especially when they were alone. But that didn't mean anything.

"Uh, Dawn? You're…chewing on nothing." Ash commented, breaking the coordinator out of her trance. Dawn woke up and looked down, seeing that she had finished the sandwich and had, in fact, been feeding herself air for a couple of seconds.

"Oh, sorry, I'm just…lost in thought."

Ash got up out of his chair. "That's fine. Besides, now we can go to Oak's place, if you want."

"Yeah, that'd be awesome! I want to see all of the Pokémon you've caught in your journeys." Dawn beamed. She looked down to see Piplup and Pikachu had finished their cans of food. Ash ran to the back door, yelling out something along the lines of 'Mom, going to see my Pokémon', and then sprinted back into the kitchen.

"C'mon, Dawn, let's go!"

The Pallet native was out the door before she even got out of her chair. After eating five sandwiches, he was now at full steam. Piplup raised his flippers at Dawn, asking nonverbally to be picked up. Dawn obliged, and headed out the door with Pikachu after the raven-haired Trainer.

A few minutes of running later, Dawn reached the top of the steps. Ash had sprinted up them two at a time, seemingly not even breaking a sweat, but he graciously waited on his Sinnoh companion to make it to the top. Dawn, meanwhile, was gassed. Piplup leapt off of Dawn's head and waddled over next to Pikachu.

Ash then rang the doorbell to the laboratory as Dawn regained her composure and walked up next to him. A few moments later, the door opened. A teenager just a little bit taller than Ash and with dark brown hair poked his head out the door, recognizing the Pallet native and opening the door fully without hesitating.

"Ash, you're back!" Tracey greeted.

"Hey, Tracey? Is the Professor here?"

"Yeah, he's just out back right now. You want to come in?"

"Totally! I was going to visit my Pokémon!"

"Hey, Ash? Who's your friend?" Tracey asked, looking up and down at Dawn.

"Oh, this is Dawn! She came back with me from the Sinnoh region!" Ash introduced rather cheerfully, "Dawn, this is Tracey. He traveled with me through the Orange Islands."

"You're the Tracey from the pictures! I thought you looked familiar. It's nice to meet you." Dawn smiled.

"Likewise!" Tracey agreed with a smile. "Anyway, y'all come on in. The Professor should be—"

"I'm right here, Tracey, who's at the door?" a familiar voice asked.

"Professor, it's Ash!" Tracey declared excitedly, "And he brought a friend, too."

"Ah! Ash, how do you do?" Oak asked, before noticing Dawn follow him into the lab, "Well I'll be a Mankey's uncle, look at that! Dawn, it's been quite a while."

"Hehe, hi, Professor." Dawn greeted. "I decided I wanted to travel with Ash some more, so I came here from Sinnoh."

"Ah, 'tis the set of the soul, that decides its goal." Oak remarked, "Anyway, Ash, I imagine you're here to see your Pokémon and drop off some more, eh?"

"That's right Professor. Dawn's never seen my other Pokémon, so if we could go to the back and see them that would be awesome."

"Well then, follow me, youngsters." Oak gestured, turning to walk to the back ranch where Ash's Pokémon were.

Oak led them through the lab and to the back doors that prefaced the ranch. Various Pokémon of all shapes and sizes could be seen just through the window. Oak and the teenagers walked out onto the patio.

"Pikachu, wanna call everyone over?" Ash asked the electric mouse.

"Pika!" the electric-type cried in agreement, leaping down from Ash's shoulder. The nearest Pokémon still hadn't noticed that their Trainer had arrived, normally being used to Oak or Tracey moving about through the ranch.

"Pika Pi! Pika!" Pikachu called out, waving his stubby arms and long ears as he called. The mouse's voice echoed from the patio to the ranch, immediately catching the attention of the nearest Pokémon, while the noise echoed down into the unseen areas of the ranch.

And then suddenly, there was a thunderous cacophony of noise as all of the resident Pokémon realized what the mouse's calling meant. Various calls rang out across the ranch, and each and every kind of Pokémon in the ranch raced over to where Ash now stood.

The herd of Pokémon came to a halt where their beloved Trainer stood, and the Pallet native couldn't help but wear a huge grin on his face. The ground then suddenly started to shake, and a cloud of dust could be seen over a collection of trees in the distance. Ash knew what it meant, and became nervous as upwards of two-dozen Tauros came thundering toward him.

"Calm down, Tauros!" Ash yelped as the herd of Bull Pokémon neared. Amazingly, they listened, skidding to a halt at the back of the group, though a handful of the bulls pushed their way further by themselves. Seeing all of his Pokémon assembled, Ash put on a smile.

"Hi everyone, I'm finally back from my Sinnoh journey!"

The group of various Pokémon roared with approval, turning their attention back to their Trainer a few seconds later, apparently expecting to hear about his exploits in the faraway Region. Ash unclipped the miniaturized Poké Balls from his belt, enlarging them as he did so. "And these are our new friends!" Ash whooped, releasing the Pokémon from their capsules at once. The capsules burst open and several flashes of white materialized into Staraptor, Infernape, Torterra, Gible, Buizel, and Gliscor. The assembled Pokémon marveled at the never-before-seen breeds, and Professor Oak even eyed the newcomers with interest.

"Together with the Pokémon I caught in Sinnoh as well as several of you, I reached my highest League ranking ever! We placed in the Top 4!" Ash declared.

Again, the Pokémon roared, this time much more cheerily.

"Wow, Ash, the Top 4?" Tracey butted in, "That's awesome!"

Ash then went dark. He was happy that his old friend from the Orange Islands was excited for him, but being reminded of his final placing only brought back the memory of losing to Tobias. "Yeah…" the Pallet native muttered, "we got all the way past my strongest rival ever, only to get practically swept by this weird Trainer with a Darkrai. And he had a Latios too! We couldn't even compete!"

The Pallet native then crashed into a seating position, and his Pokémon collectively murmured sadly as they recognized his distress. "After we beat Paul I got so excited that I didn't do enough to prepare for my next opponent. I was just so happy that we had finally overcome that hurdle, it was the first time we'd ever beaten him!" Ash admitted, looking at the grass below him, "…Maybe that's as far as we'll ever get."

"Ash, don't say that!" Dawn shouted at him, "You came so far, and you can do it again, no need to worry!"

"Thanks, Dawn, but…I don't know." Ash grumbled, pulling his hat down over his eyes.

"Okay, I know what'll cheer you up," Dawn decided, "Ash Ketchum, I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!"

The Pallet native immediately looked up, and saw the competitive smile on Dawn's face. He recognized that he'd come to enjoy seeing her confidence, and immediately pushed himself up, clenching a confident fist, "'Kay, Dawn, you're on! Let's go!"

Tracey raised his arms to grab everyone's attention, acting as the referee for the battle. Ash's assembled Pokémon quieted as they recognized that the battle was about to begin. They had been murmuring amongst themselves about the mysterious blue-haired girl on the other end of the makeshift battlefield. Sceptile had been leading the discussion, with several snickers happening in the group while he did so.

"The battle between Ash from Pallet Town and Dawn from Twinleaf Town will now begin! This will be a one-on-one battle, and the battle will be over when either Trainer's Pokémon are unable to battle!" Tracey read the standard rules from memory, "Now! Battle begin!"

Ash glanced over to his collection of Pokémon, each of them watching and waiting silently. Finally, his eyes settled on a certain grass-type.

"Bulbasaur, c'mon!"

"Saur?" Bulbasaur croaked. The grass-type's eyes widened and it eagerly galloped onto the battlefield, "Bulba-saur!"

Dawn eyed the Kanto starter and pulled out her Pokédex, immediately scanning Bulbasaur and learning all the basics in just a few seconds. She slipped the Pokédex back inside her back and picked her Pokémon, tossing the capsule into the air.

"Okay, Buneary, spotlight!"

The Rabbit Pokémon hopped playfully and ruffled its cotton-topped ears before registering her opponent on the other side of the field. Ash called, "You can have the first move, Dawn."

The coordinator accepted the right, before pointing her finger. "Buneary, Bulbasaur is a grass-type, so let's use Ice Beam!"

"Buuuuuuunnnneary!" the Rabbit Pokemon cried as a spiky beam of ice burst from its mouth. Bulbasaur tensed, awaiting command.

"Bulbasaur, dodge it and use Leech Seed!"

The Seed Pokémon bolted to the side, avoiding the spiky beam of cold energy, and then lowered its front legs in order to aim. A short volley of seeds sprang out at Buneary, striking the Rabbit Pokémon easily. Dawn didn't waste any time, knowing the effects of the health-sapping move would soon hit. "Use Bounce!"

The Rabbit Pokémon leaped into the air, soaring in the air currents before aiming its feet down and rocketing toward the Seed Pokémon. "Bulbasaur, knock Buneary out of the sky with Razor Leaf!"


A volley of curved leaves circled around toward the descending Rabbit Pokémon, but Dawn was expecting the signature grass move right from the start. "Now Buneary, spin!"

The normal-type aborted its move and then curved, spinning like a top out of the way of the leaves before reassuming her position and shooting down toward the grass-type. Gravity took control, and before Ash could plan another counterattack, Buneary landed her feet square on Bulbasaur's head. The Seed Pokémon complained at the attack, shaking vigorously as Buneary hopped back and forth, smacking the grass-type multiple times.

"Bulbasaur, catch Buneary with Vine Whip!"

Bulbasaur did as told, effortlessly sending out a long vine in hardly a split-second. The vine wrapped around Buneary's foot and suspended her in the air, causing the normal-type to briefly panic.

"Now, throw Buneary back!"

The Rabbit Pokémon wailed as she went flying backward toward Dawn, but managed to regain her footing and skid for the last several feet.

"Let's try to hit them from far away, use—"

Buneary flinched and staggered back as a red light appeared over the normal-type's form and trailed over to Bulbasaur. The budding seed on Bulbasaur's back glittered as it absorbed the red light, and the grass-type stretched its legs in response. Leech Seed had just sapped some of Buneary's energy, and Dawn knew she'd just stumbled into a hole.

Dawn gritted her teeth, "We'll have to end this quick. Buneary, use Ice Beam!"

The normal-type regained its composure and immediately began charging up another blast of cold energy. Suddenly, Bulbasaur's seed began to glitter, this time much more radiantly. Ash knew exactly what this meant, and grabbed the brim of his hat. It had been a long time since he'd done this regularly, only having pulled the hat around during his recent battle with Tobias. Out of habit, he flipped the hat backwards, feeling the rush of energy that came with it. "Bulbasaur, use Solarbeam!"

Dawn bit back a gasp, but regained her focus. "Buneary, don't let up! Use Ice Beam now!"

But the command was already issued. Bulbasaur soaked up enough sunlight and aimed the seed on its back just as the volley of cold came searing toward him. A magnificent ray of golden light burst forth, easily overtaking the beam of ice and turning it to nothing before continuing toward its target.

"Ah! Buneary, dodge!" Dawn panicked, but it was far too late. The Rabbit Pokémon didn't have time to register the command, and the ray of light struck her hard, bowling her over multiple times as she rolled backward toward Dawn. As she came to a stop, Buneary rolled over on her back, her eyes gone swirly.

"Buneary is unable to battle! The winner is Ash and Bulbasaur!"

"Bulba!" the Seed Pokémon cried as it ran into Ash's arms. It had been quite some time since the pair had last battled together as Trainer and Pokémon, but the old grass-type still had its skills. Dawn, meanwhile, crouched down by the wiped-out Buneary, who looked nothing short of apologetic.

"It's okay, Buneary, Ash's Pokémon are much stronger because they're so experienced. No need to worry. Now, get some rest." Dawn returned the Rabbit Pokémon into her Poké Ball, before going back to her feet and walking over to Ash, who was praising Bulbasaur.

"Hey, thanks for the battle, Dawn! That really got me pumped up." Ash grinned, letting go of the Seed Pokémon so that he could return to his fellow Pokémon. Tracey and Oak then walked up, the older professor wearing a big smile.

"Well you certainly still have your battling skills, Ash. I must say I'm impressed, and Dawn, you battled well against a seasoned Trainer such as Ash. Bulbasaur has always been one of Ash's strongest Pokémon."

"Thanks, Professor." The pair both said in unison, looking at each other and sharing foolish grins as they realized they'd said the same thing at the same time.

"Now, if you don't mind, it would be of great boon to my research if I were to examine some of your Sinnoh Pokémon. Those species have never before been spotted in Kanto!"

"Sure thing, Professor, you can have your pick. Although Gible might cause some problems." Ash decided, earning a frown from Oak, who looked at the land shark Dragon-type. In turn, Gible stared stoically at Ash, as if he were a stone statue. There was no telling what the little land shark was thinking, but odds were that it wasn't anything particularly good.

"Gible gets a little bit excited sometimes." Dawn tried.

Professor Oak simply let the topic drop. "Well, why don't we head back into the lab? Oh, and Ash, your mother offered to cook dinner for Tracey and I, before any of us knew you were coming back. So, I hope you don't mind us dropping in."

"Sure thing, Professor Oak. Man, I'm starving!"

"Ash, you ate barely an hour ago!" Dawn chastised, putting her hands on her hips and sticking out her chin. Ash reached and nervously scratched his head, grinning awkwardly. Dawn then started to giggle, followed by Tracey laughing, and then finally Oak.

"Why don't we stay for a bit and Ash can formally introduce you to all of his Pokémon," Oak suggested, "And later we can head to the Ketchum house and have dinner."

"Sounds good to me!" Ash declared confidently with a puff of his chest. He was really looking forward to showing Dawn all of the unique Pokémon he had at the ranch. Even though she had gotten a glance at all of the new species, Ash firmly believed that each and every one of his Pokémon had a personality that set them apart by more than just type and species.

And so while Ash Ketchum's Grand Oak Ranch Pokémon Tour began, Professor Oak and Tracey began running physical checks on both Ash and Dawn's Sinnoh Pokemon, first starting with the gargantuan Torterra and Mamoswine and working their way down to the slender Buizel.

With the grand tour over, Dawn was still trying to wrap her head around how Ash had managed to capture thirty Tauros from the Safari Zone. Even with the explanation that the herd of Bull Pokémon ran in front of him each time he went to throw his Safari Ball, it still amazed Dawn that someone could have such ridiculously poor luck. Then again, it was Ash.

Oak and Tracey had just finished examining Buizel, taking particular note of the water-type's overarching confidence in everything he did. Ash had mentioned the trait before, but seeing it in person was something else. The water-type held itself in a calm crossed-arm pose most of the time, and when showing off some of its moves to the old Professor, Buizel took great steps to ensure that he looked impressive.

There was supposed to be one more Pokémon for Oak to examine: Ash's Gible. However, the little land shark had gone missing. Suddenly, a painful scream from over in the ranch drew Tracey and Oak's attention, only to see Ash thrashing about with one Dragon-type shark chomped tightly on the Trainer's head and showing no signs of letting go. Normally they would've panicked, if not for Dawn simply standing there and allowing it to happen. Noticing that she was being stared at, Dawn looked to the two researchers sheepishly, and Ash was able to detach Gible from his head.

"What in the name was that?" Oak asked with a mixture of curiosity and shock.

"That was Gible getting excited." Dawn explained with a giggle as Ash readjusted his hat. The land shark turned to look at Oak and agreed with a "Gib-Gible."

The foursome eventually began making their way back to the Ketchum household, where they were all welcomed back handsomely by Delia and Mr. Mime. The cuisine prepared for the evening's dinner was plenty for the group of five. Ash made sure to stuff himself full, making a point to grab seconds after beating everyone else to the punch. Soon enough, the talk turned to what Ash was going to do next.

"Well, I really haven't thought very far. Dawn turned down this crazy fashion-designing offer just to come all the way out to Kanto with Brock and me," Ash admitted, "After coming so close in the Sinnoh League, all I really know is that I want to get stronger than ever before. I guess I'm just going to train really hard, like I always do. Seeing how close we came, all it really tells me is that we're far from our ceiling."

Professor Oak nodded. "And Dawn, what about you?"

"Well, I finished as the runner-up in my first-ever Grand Festival," Dawn started, "I haven't really thought about what I would be doing next, either. I wanted to compete in the next season of Contests, but now that I'm in Kanto I don't know where I'm going to do that. I guess I had thought about Johto…"

"Well, Johto is right on the other side of the mountain range!" Oak explained, "And the highest peak is Mt. Silver, where the Johto Region's Silver Conference has been held for many years. It's extremely difficult terrain, and Ash once climbed the mountain with Brock and Misty to take part in it. Johto's slate of contests is quite prestigious."

"You know, May has been training in Johto ever since we split up. She had three Ribbons when she competed in the Wallace Cup." Ash remembered, "I wonder what she's up to now."

"We should totally call May!" Dawn piped up, suddenly wearing a smile on her face, "I would love to see her again, and maybe we could work together on some new combinations!"

"You know, that's a great idea!" Ash agreed, pushing himself out of his chair, "Tomorrow, we're gonna go to Johto!"

Dawn brushed her hair carefully in front of the mirror of the Ketchum's upstairs bathroom. The small washroom was remarkably clean, most likely due to Ash's prolonged absences at home. Watching herself brush her hair, she briefly reminisced to the early days of her Sinnoh journey with Ash and Brock, where she had started brushing her hair before facing the camera of the "Sinnoh Now!" reporters. Ash had remarked that after she was done, she didn't look different at all, which had only succeeded in infuriating Dawn.

They hadn't gotten along at all in those days, thanks to their very different perspectives on training. But during her time with Ash, she'd learned how to be confident in herself and develop her own style.


The Pallet native was somewhere outside the washroom, perhaps sneaking a late night snack before bed. Dawn's view on the fourteen-year old Trainer had changed drastically in the past year. She couldn't pinpoint exactly when these changes started to happen, but knew that by the time they arrived in Snowpoint City that she had a thing for him. Earlier she had wanted to deny it, but thinking back, she refused to ignore it anymore, especially in light of Brock's final words to her. Unfortunately, her mother and Brock had both apparently picked up on it, although the dense Pallet native was as clueless as ever.

A knock at the door shattered her train of thought.

"Hey, Dawn? You almost done?"

The 13-year old coordinator rolled her eyes. "Yeah, almost Ash."

Dawn finished stroking her dark blue hair before slipping the brush into her kit and handling the doorknob, exiting the room.

In Ash's room were a double bed and a cot at the bed's foot, with a pillow and blanket on the latter. Ash said nothing as he walked over to the cot, rearranging the blanket quietly. "I thought I'd let you have the bed." He remarked, not looking up at her as he began to crawl onto the cot.

"Aw, thanks Ash. That's really sweet."

The Twinleaf native hopped onto the double bed and crawled under the bedspread, glancing down at Ash as she did so. Piplup sputtered as it jumped onto the bed with his Trainer, crawling up close enough to cuddle. One way or another they would be on opposite sides of the bed come morning, but each night started with Trainer and Pokémon cuddled tightly next to each other.

"Man, it's been two years since I was last in Johto." Ash broke the silence.

"Excited to go back?"

"Yeah, actually. We have to call May tomorrow morning, and the only way to get to Johto is either a ship from Vermillion to Olivine or the Magnet Train. The Magnet Train is much closer; it's only in Saffron, but the trip there is almost as far as Vermillion."

"No need to worry, let's talk about it tomorrow when we call May. How's that sound?"

"Sounds great." Ash agreed, quieting back down. Then, he broke the silence again, "G'night, Dawn."

The bluenette coordinator hardly hesitated, "G'night, Ash."