So, this chapter was inspired by a guest review that believed my Ash could beat Canon!Ash with eight badges.

Now, since it would be impossible for my Ash to meet Canon!Ash in this story, this entry of Common Sense: BtS is decidedly non-canon to the story (although it's debatable for the first portion).

Also, to save confusion, Canon!Ash will be referred to as Satoshi in the narration.

EDIT: In an unfortunate accident, I lost a good chunk of data and had to rewrite this entire chapter. Sorry for the delay.

Location: Chapter 22


Forged by Pressure

Ash lay in his bed on the cabin he and Brock were sharing. The breeder was already asleep, and Pikachu was tucked in beside his Trainer. But still he lay awake thinking of the call that he'd made to Delia.

The Pallet Trainer knew very well that he wasn't the brightest. He'd always been more focused on battle instead of sitting down with books, even if he got basic schooling the same as every other pre-Trainer. But he could tell that his mother missed him dearly.

'She said not to fly home, but I know that she'd love for me to visit,' Ash mused. 'If I could find a quicker way to travel between wherever I am and Pallet Town, then there wouldn't be a problem.'

He saw Dexter sticking out of the pocket of his jacket next to his hat and belt of Poké Balls, but didn't want to wake Pikachu and Brock. The Pokédex was massively helpful for information, but not so much on staying quiet while giving advice.

'Tomorrow,' Ash decided. 'I'll look up any moves to travel quickly tomorrow.'

Something glimmering caught his attention and he looked out the window to see some silver fog gathering outside the window. Ash raised an eyebrow, but figured it was the moon coloring the watery substance.

'I should get some sleep.'

Pulling Pikachu closer, to the Pokémon's unconscious comfort, Ash settled into bed and was asleep in moments.

Unnoticed by any of the sleeping inhabitants, the fog started to seep in through the window, retaining its glow even in the shade of the room.


Ash's eyes snapped open when he hit solid ground, having felt like he fell out of bed. He shot up to sit and look around, expecting Team Rocket and startling Pikachu awake with the sudden movement. The Electric Mouse Pokémon released a shock in defense by instinct, causing Ash to yell in pain. Once Pikachu cut the electricity off with a sheepish apology, the Pallet Trainer spent a bit of time to shake off the pain before resuming his survey of the surroundings.

Everything around him seemed to be covered in the same fog he'd seen before, forming a border in a vaguely rectangular shape and covering the floor at about ankle-depth. He brushed his bare hand on the ground underneath while still holding Pikachu close and felt grass, and could barely make out the outline of some trees beyond the wall of fog. A look up revealed the night sky above with the full moon shining down and two clouds made of the same fog, one above him and one on the other side of the clearing.

The cloud over his head started writhing and spat out some familiar items. Eyes widening, Ash stood up and rushed to catch his belt of Poké Balls, leaving his jacket, hat and shoes to fall to the ground.

Once he had it in his hand, he let out a sigh of relief while Pikachu jumped out of his arm. The Pallet Trainer then fastened the belt around his waist while moving over to his jacket.

A cheerful call rang out while he was putting it on, "Pika!"

Ash looked down and saw Pikachu offering his hat up with a smile. He smiled back with a chuckle and took the item, "Thanks, Pikachu."

Pikachu nodded, and the two of them turned serious again as the boy continued, "Whatever brought us here, I get the feeling it's bigger than Team Rocket."

"Pi-kachu," the Electric-type agreed in a low tone as he looked around the foggy glade.

Ash reached for his shoes when the cloud on the opposite side from them started writhing as well. Pikachu climbed up Ash's body to his usual perch and looked from his Trainer's shoulder with his cheeks sparking.

The Pallet Trainer simply put his hat on and slipped one foot into a shoe on the ground as he kept his eyes trained on the cloud to see what, or who, it dropped.

A bound form in a blue sleeping bag fell out of the foggy substance, crying out at the rather harsh landing before squirming around with groggy grumbling. Ash's eyes widened at the sight of the sleeping gear. It looked just like the one he kept in his backpack.

The cloud proceeded to drop a Pikachu onto the padded surface of the sleeping bag as its occupant sat up, causing the newly arrived Pokémon to roll into their lap and begin waking up as a result. Ash's eyes widened as he gaped in shock. Pikachu looked from his Trainer to the boy across from them.

Said boy looked exactly like Ash, right down to the last feature. Black hair, blue and white jacket, fingerless green gloves on the hands now rubbing at his eyes. And as if completing the picture, the cloud spat out the same Pokémon League expo hat, the item drifting down through the air to land on the double's head. This was Satoshi of Pallet Town.

Ash could only stare in morbid fascination as he slipped his other shoe on and walked towards the other boy. Taking off his hat and grabbing the other one off his double, he checked the inside of each side-by-side. Official Pokémon League expo hats had a special emblem stitched on the inside with a number printed over it since they were so rare.

Sure enough, both hats had the Poké Ball shape with the green symbol over it and a "07" printed beside it. Ash remembered that day that he'd thought his hat to be the luckiest of the bunch with that number, which was why he treasured it so much for his journey.

Looking back, Ash mused that it seemed ridiculous to believe such a thing. He still liked his hat, and it had managed to get him out of a tight spot once or twice, but it probably wasn't luckier than any other hat. He put his own hat back on while continuing to stare at his double's own.

Regardless, Satoshi had come out of his half-groggy state and realized that his hat was missing, seeing it in a hand in front of him. With Ash's hands missing his gloves, the similarity didn't register. He shot up while still in his sleeping bag, unintentionally sending his Pikachu falling to the ground.

"Hey!" he shouted. "That's my hat, give it back!"

Ash placed Satoshi's hat back on his head and pulled the bill over his eyes, "Calm down, I just wanted to check something."

Pikachu, meanwhile, jumped down and helped his double up, much to the latter's surprise once he got a good look at the Electric-type and his Trainer.

Satoshi shrugged off the sleeping bag while mumbling in confusion, "Wait, that voice…" He straightened his hat to look up and stumbled back, nearly tripping over his sleeping bag when he saw Ash.

"You're me!"

Taking on a thoughtful expression, Ash replied, "Well, kind of. There's something weird going on. We look the same, but you don't act like me."

"And you're acting like you're used to this," Satoshi commented as he regained his bearings and both Pikachu climbed up to their respective Trainer's shoulder.

"I've had to deal with a lot of surprises since my journey started, and none of the good kind," Ash deadpanned. "Freaking out doesn't fix anything, so I just try to figure it out, but I'm stumped on this."

The two Trainers stared at each other for a minute before Satoshi snapped his fingers, "If we've been on the same journey, maybe looking at our badges will help us figure out who's from when."

Ash raised an eyebrow before nodding. Both boys lifted the side of their jacket and both of Ash's eyebrows raised when he saw that Satoshi had eight badges.

"So you're from the past?" Satoshi wondered while looking at Ash's three badges. "When?"

"I just got past Hutber Port, you know, the Tentacool and giant Tentacruel," Ash replied while closing his jacket again. Something didn't add up for him, though. If Satoshi was from the future, then why did he seem so… He didn't even know the right word for it, but something seemed different.

Satoshi nodded, "Ah, right. It's a good thing Misty stopped them from wrecking anything else."

Ash's eyes snapped up, "What? Misty?"

"Yeah, I sent my Pokémon out to try stopping Tentacruel, but it didn't work," he explained. "Pikachu tried reasoning with Tentacruel from there, but it would've kept attacking if it wasn't for Misty."

Narrowing his eyes in suspicion, Ash asked, "Who won at Cerulean Gym?"

"Well, uh… Pidgeotto managed to defeat Starmie, but-"

"Who won?" Ash demanded, already seeing another inconsistency.

Satoshi sighed, "Well, nobody. Team Rocket interrupted before we could finish our battle, and the Gym was wrecked. Pikachu managed to send them packing, and Misty's sisters gave me the badge as thanks."

Ash bristled at the fact that his double had accepted instead of continuing the battle since it clashed with his own sense of pride. But he kept it down since he needed more information.

"Team Rocket," he started. "Did you ever deal with them if you're from the future?"

"I dealt with them pretty much every week, sometimes twice a week," Satoshi answered with an eye roll. "They're pretty harmless, but annoy-"

"That's enough."

Satoshi blinked and Ash seemed to be deep in thought again with the brim of his hat shadowing his eyes. His Pikachu also seemed more dismissive of the alternate Trainer than before.

"You're not my future. You can't be."

"What do you mean?"

Ash looked up with a glare, "I bet you've had a pretty easy journey. Sure, you have Team Rocket, but they never pushed you like they did me. And you accepted a badge without working for it. Don't you have any pride as a Trainer?"

"Hey!" Satoshi snapped. "I may not have won all of them through battle, but I worked hard to get where I am! Who do you think you are?"

"You think you know what hard work is?" Ash asked incredulously. "If I were like you, I'd lose everything." He turned around, "We're done here. I'm going to find a way out."

Starting to walk back to the cloud he'd (probably) come from, Ash was contemplating trying to fly back through with Pidgeot when Satoshi rushed ahead of him and blocked his way with a growl.

"I'll show you pride! I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!"

Ash raised an eyebrow with a slight smirk, "Will that make you feel better to pick on a three-badger with your eight badges of experience? You remind me of my Misty."

"You think you can't do it?" Satoshi challenged.

"Reeeaaally reminding me of Misty," Ash replied with a chuckle. "All right. Win or lose, it doesn't matter to me. I think I stand a fair chance, but if not then that just means I need to train that much harder."

He walked past Satoshi until there was a good enough distance between them and turned around, "Six-on-six, then. Is a free battle with substitutions all right with you?"

Satoshi already had his hat turned around, "Whatever, let's battle!"

But his Pikachu tapped the side of his head and pointed to his belt while speaking. Satoshi raised an eyebrow, but then his eyes widened in realization.

"What is it?" Ash asked.

Satoshi twitched as if he hated to admit it, "I… don't have six Pokémon on me. Only five."

"So? Switch one in with your Pokédex, then."

"My Poké…? Oh!" Satoshi took out Dexter, "Right! The white button!"

Ash took out his own, "Now that that's settled, I'm going to pick out my own team."

The Pallet Trainer thought carefully about which Pokémon to use. Pikachu was a given, of course. The screen showed his current team, split six ways to display Pikachu, Squirtle, Kingler, Bulbasaur, Horsea and Butterfree. Each had a number at the bottom of their partitions, labeled one through six.

Dexter's mechanical voice prompted, "Please select the Pokémon you wish to switch out."

Ash looked at the bunch and decided to keep only one Water Pokémon. He was already decided to send Horsea back since the Dragon Pokémon didn't have much experience with battling yet. Trying to pick between Squirtle and Kingler, Ash chose the former since his recent acrobatic training made him more versatile. Clicking 3 and 5 on the 0-9 keypad, Horsea and Kingler's images became outlined in blue.

Thinking it over some more as he stared at the screen, Ash also clicked 6 to send Butterfree back. He didn't want to take any chances, so he decided to switch him out for Pidgeot since the Bird Pokémon was more of a direct battler. He was only second strongest (physically) to Kingler, but his speed and flight gave him a definite edge.

He pressed the white button again to confirm, and the images changed to show Tentacool, Rattata, Pidgeot and Charmander numbered one through four.

"Please select the Pokémon you wish to receive."

"Are you done yet?" Satoshi called.

Ash held up a finger without turning around and clicked 2, 3, and 4 with his thumb before hitting the white button with the outstretched finger. He felt the Poké Balls leave his belt one-by-one and caught each of the shrunken spheres as they sequentially appeared a few inches over the screen.

Hooking them to his belt as he turned around, Ash twisted his own hat back, "There. Now I'm ready."

The fog receded from the ground to the walls, revealing that the ground was exposed dirt with patches of grass marking the unofficial Trainer boxes. A large pond was also near the center and off to the side.

"All right! I've got my first Pokémon ready to go," Satoshi called as he held up one of his Poké Balls and threw it forward. "Bulbasaur, I choose you!"

Ash gave his choice a brief moment of consideration as the sphere flew out. If he picked one with too strong an advantage, then his opponent might just switch out.

Picking one of his Poké Balls off his belt, he expanded it and threw it forward as Satoshi's opened to release Bulbasaur.

"Squirtle, go!"

The ball released the Water-type just as Bulbasaur fully formed, and the Tiny Turtle Pokémon looked up before raising an eyebrow and lifting his sunglasses to get a better look. Satoshi's Bulbasaur seemed equally confused, and both turned back to their Trainers.

Ash shrugged at his Pokémon with his free shoulder, Pikachu holding his hands up as well in a similar gesture as the Trainer replied, "Just roll with it."

Satoshi seemingly said something similar to his Pokémon, though Ash couldn't hear him. Both Pokémon focused back on the battle.

"Vine Whip!" Satoshi commanded.

Ash smiled, "Withdraw, and move in close for attack!"

Bulbasaur released his vines and Squirtle drew into his shell. The Seed Pokémon slapped one vine uselessly against the top of the shell before deciding to send it spinning with a side swipe. But Squirtle simply used the spin to curve around and start moving closer.

Satoshi scowled in thought before ordering, "Grab him!"

The Grass/Poison-type's vines swept forward low to the ground from either direction, cutting off Squirtle's avenues of escape.

"Wait for my call…" Ash urged. Right as the vines were almost on him, he urged, "Forward flip!"

To his opponents' surprise, Squirtle launched off the ground over Bulbasaur's vines, spinning end over end before popping his limbs out and winding up for a punch. He connected while the Seed Pokémon was still staring, hitting him between the eyes with Mega Punch.

The blow sent Bulbasaur stumbling back, his vines retracting on instinct, but Satoshi pressed on, "Leech Seed!"

A seed sprouted from the bulb on his back and shot forward. However, Squirtle was more than familiar with the move from sparring with his own teammate, so he didn't need a prompt to sidestep the projectile and jump away so that his feet didn't get tangled by the ivy spreading across the ground.

"Mega Kick!"

Lunging forward again, Squirtle jumped and connected with Bulbasaur's side in a double jump kick, flipping off from the impact as the Seed Pokémon was knocked on his side and landing on his feet while looking to see if he got up.

Bulbasaur rolled to his stomach again, admittedly painfully, and stood up again with a growl, refusing to give in. Satoshi, meanwhile, searched through his Pokédex for any moves that he might have overlooked. (1)

"Ah, here! Bulbasaur, use Poison Powder!"

Ash tsked, "Water Gun that bulb!"

Squirtle did so right as the purple dust started gathering at the top, ready to spew. The attack hit and Bulbasaur was thoroughly soaked with his bulb being waterlogged. The attack itself didn't seem to do much, but his bulb only spewed up water instead of powder.

"What's going on?" Satoshi wondered.

"Stun Spore doesn't work if you wash it off with water," Ash explained. "By that logic, powder moves shouldn't be able to fire if you get the source wet; the powder's too heavy to fly."

Internally, he thought, 'Thanks, Misty.' If it weren't for their Gym battle, he wouldn't have figured that out.

"Now, finish him with Skull Bash!" the Pallet Trainer commanded.

His double hurriedly urged, "Bulbasaur, catch him with Vine Whip!"

Squirtle charged forward faster than he had before and Bulbasaur called his vines out to grab him only for the Water-type to shoot another Water Gun into his face. While it did hardly any damage, it forced Bulbasaur to close his eyes from the liquid irritating them. And while he was stunned, the Tiny Turtle Pokémon launched forward like a torpedo and connected with a solid headbutt between his opponent's eyes.

Bulbasaur was sent flying back and Squirtle landed on his belly before pushing himself to stand up again while rubbing the crown of his head. Skull Bash reinforced his head like Mega Punch and Mega Kick did his limbs, but there was still a thrum from the impact.

The Grass/Poison-type was sent onto his back, head on the ground and rear legs in the air since his bulb prevented him from lying flat.

When he didn't move at first, Satoshi called out worriedly, "Bulbasaur!"

Surprisingly, he started moving again, slowly rolling to his side (the one that hadn't taken a Mega Kick) and struggling to his feet. Bulbasaur had a bad bruise on his forehead, but he kept trying to stand.

Squirtle and Ash watched, admittedly impressed. What the other Trainer seemed to lack in knowledge, he and his Pokémon made up for in raw determination.

'But that can only get you so far,' Ash mused, recalling his first defeat in Viridian Forest.

Satoshi was having a different line of thought as he watched his Pokémon struggle to stand.

'How are they so strong? I was nowhere near this level when I had three badges.' He was willing to admit that now, but couldn't believe that the gap between them was so big. 'Darn it! I need to ready Solar Beam, but there's no way that Bulbasaur can take another hit. I need to buy time…'

His eyes happened to pass over the still writhing Leech Seed ivy, and he got an idea as Bulbasaur finally managed to stand up fully.

"Bulbasaur! Leech Seed everywhere! Form a net so they can't get closer!"

The Seed Pokémon obliged, and Satoshi was glad that the water didn't stop the pods from being launched. Squirtle was forced to leap back to avoid the rapidly expanding web of vines and clicked his tongue in annoyance at the stalling tactic.

"Now, ready the Solar Beam!"

Ash's eyes widened, as he hadn't heard of that move before. Bits of light started gathering from the sky into Bulbasaur's bulb and he took out his Pokédex.

"Move identified: Solar Beam, the strongest Grass-type attack. Light is collected and formed into a powerful beam with intensive force." (2)

Squirtle, on the other hand, realized that he was in real trouble since there was no way a long distance water attack was going to take down Bulbasaur before he was ready to fire. The Seed Pokémon was determined to win.

Seeing the pond, he broke into a run and dove in as Bulbasaur turned towards him, his bulb glowing white from within.

"Fire the Solar Beam!" Satoshi commanded.

With a roar, the Seed Pokémon did so, firing a beam of energy that carved a trench in the ground by its proximity as it skirted towards the pond. It pierced the bank and shot straight into the water from the low angle and the light flashed up from the water before an explosion sent water shooting up in a geyser and raining back down.

Everybody waited for the result as they stared at the pond, Bulbasaur breathing heavily. Ash and his Pikachu knew that it was still up in the air since they hadn't seen Squirtle come up with the burst of water.

The first sign they got was when the ground under Bulbasaur's chin rumbled, but it was too late and he was too exhausted to dodge. Squirtle shot up from a newly made hole and delivered an uppercut to the Grass/Poison-type's chin. He was unconscious before he hit the ground, and the circle of ivy withered away around them.

The Water-type let out a breath of relief. Even with the tunnel he dug from the pond, the blast had still forced water towards him. If he hadn't withdrawn into his shell at the last second, he might've gotten hurt by the pressure. Or worse, his sunglasses could've been broken.

"Squirtle knows Dig?" Ash commented in confusion. He didn't remember teaching him that. Then he glanced at the hole leftover and realized. "Ah, so that's how they set up their pitfall traps…"

"Bulbasaur, return!" Satoshi called after a brief moment staring at his unconscious Pokémon. He then muttered to himself, "Guess I underestimated him. Pikachu, you ready?"

The Electric Mouse Pokémon nodded determinedly and hopped down before stepping forward.

Squirtle regarded his new opponent, knowing that he didn't stand much of a chance. His maneuverability was completely overshadowed by Pikachu's speed and wouldn't help him much. Touching him was out since he could shock him with the contact, and even water attacks had a risk of conducting electricity back to him.

"Squirtle, return!"

He nodded his thanks back to Ash as the beam connected and recalled him back to his ball.

The Pallet Trainer shrunk the sphere and replaced it with a different one, "Go, Charmander!"

The Fire-type materialized in the air with a happy "Char!" at getting an opportunity to battle. He landed on the ground and regarded his opponent. He blinked in surprise, and then turned around to make sure that he hadn't wound up in somebody else's possession. When he saw Ash, he scratched the side of his head in puzzlement, but shrugged and decided that a battle was a battle, regardless of weird circumstances.

"[It's some sort of alternate Ash,]" Pikachu explained in as few words as he could for time's sake.

Charmander nodded and got ready for battle. He was a bit nervous, considering how much faster his own teammate was than him, but hid it. If Ash believed he could beat this alternate Pikachu, then he would win.

'All I need is one clean hit, and the rest of the battle will be easy,' he reassured himself.

Testing the waters, he shot a Flamethrower straight at his opponent, to see how he'd react. Predictably, Pikachu dodged to the side, and Satoshi commanded, "Pikachu, Thunderbolt!"

Charmander started running, grateful for the spars with the likes of Ash's Pikachu and Pidgeot. They trained him to react quicker and notice fast opponents. He still had no hope of keeping up with either of them, but he could see them coming if they weren't using Agility and try to time his attacks to match.

The first bolt hit where he was, and he skidded to a stop to avoid the second bolt before tumbling backwards to dodge a third. From there, he shot a Flamethrower to get Pikachu on the defensive and give himself time to get back up.

"Keep it up, Charmander!" Ash encouraged. "You're doing great!"

"[Just one hit and his speed will be cut down!]" Pikachu added.

Satoshi realized that he was wasting electricity and decided to try a different approach, "Pikachu, Quick Attack!"

The Electric-type blinked out of sight, reappearing for brief instants flitting from side to side as he charged closer. Charmander, however, recognized the opportunity that he had here.

'Wait for it…'

He knew Pikachu (or at least his teammate), and figured that he would attack head-on from the front, likely in the stomach. The Fire-type saw him reappear right in front of him and was moving even before the impact.

As Satoshi's Pokémon tackled him, Charmander locked his arms around his opponent, even as he was knocked back. Pikachu looked up from his bind in surprise and saw Charmander looking down at him with a grin despite his pain. The Fire-type opened his mouth as they hit the ground.

"CHAAAAAAAAAR!"

A Flamethrower roared out of his mouth at point-blank range and seared Pikachu along with Charmander's arms. The Fire Lizard Pokémon was able to resist thanks to his typing, but Pikachu wasn't so lucky. When Charmander cut the attack off, he threw Pikachu off him to avoid getting shocked and backed away.

The Electric Mouse Pokémon slowly got up to all fours, but he was covered in burns.

"[You're done,]" Charmander said. "[You can't move at your top speed now, and without that I have the advantage.]"

"Pikachu, fill this whole area with lightning!" Satoshi ordered. "Thunder!"

This time, instead of surprise, Ash and his Pikachu watched closely to see if they could find what they were doing wrong with their use of Thunder.

Charmander only nonchalantly looked up as his opponent charged massive amounts of electricity and fired it up to form a whirling vortex that continued expanding even after Pikachu stopped feeding it energy.

"A circle, not a sphere," Ash realized. "We've been using too much electricity in Thunder, no wonder you always get so tired after using it. To make our version, you must've been packing everything you've got in there."

Meanwhile, electricity started raining down over the area of the glade Charmander was in, but he simply burrowed downward, his claws easily digging through the earth. One of the bolts did go down the hole, but by then he'd tunneled laterally from that position and was completely unaffected.

Satoshi and his Pokémon watched in dismay as the attack completely missed its target and Charmander resurfaced after it passed and walked closer to his panting opponent.

"[You didn't give up,]" he noted while stopping before him. "[I respect that.]"

The Fire-type then whipped around and slammed his tail into Pikachu's jaw, sending him rolling across the ground and knocking him out.

Satoshi ran out to retrieve him, "Pikachu! Are you okay?"

"Pi…" the Pokémon muttered while starting to wake up.

Looking around, the Pallet Trainer retrieved his formerly discarded sleeping bag and folded it up beside him before laying Pikachu down on the padded material.

"You get a good rest," he gently urged with a smile. "I'll keep up the battle."

Pikachu fell asleep again to recover, and Satoshi turned a serious look to his counterpart.

"I've been taking it easy on you, but not anymore," he warned. "I wanted to save him for last, but now I'll show you how strong I am."

Holding up a Poké Ball, Satoshi threw it out, "I choose you! Charizard!"

"Chari-WHAT?" Ash wondered incredulously. As a large draconian shape started forming, he took out his Pokédex and pointed it at the materializing Pokémon. They stood upright on rather short but thick legs. A large body supported a long neck with a blunt-horned head at the end. Wings grew out of the Pokémon's back and their arms seemed rather skinny in comparison to the rest of his body, but Ash didn't doubt that their punches would still hurt. But the most familiar features to him were the orange scales and yellow belly, along with a large flame at the end of the Pokémon's tail.

At that moment, Dexter spoke up with a ping, "Charizard, the Flame Pokémon. The final form of Charmander. Charizard's powerful flames can melt absolutely anything."

Gritting his teeth, Ash clicked for the type information. He needed to know what would be most effective.

"Charizard has qualities of both Fire and Flying-type Pokémon."

'Either Pikachu or Pidgeot, then,' he decided. 'I need electricity or another Flying-type to even the score.'

He held out his Poké Ball to recall Charmander, but the return command died on his lips when he saw Charizard not ready for battle, but reclining for a nap.

Ash stared for a moment, wondering if it was some sort of trick before lowering his Poké Ball with a raised eyebrow.

"…What?"

"Charizard, come on!" Satoshi groaned. "You can't do this to me now!"

The Flame Pokémon simply let out an obnoxious yawn.

Trying a different approach, the Pallet Trainer said, "It's another me! What's a more interesting battle than that? He's already beaten Bulbasaur and Pikachu! I need you to battle!"

The dragon didn't react except to open one eye and regard Ash before snorting dismissively.

As Satoshi continued to beg and plead for Charizard to fight, Ash watched in half fascination and half pity. But he was curious about the sight before him, so he took out his Pokédex again.

"Dexter, disobedient Pokémon?"

With a ping, the image of a Poké Ball came up, "If a Trainer does not have enough experience relative to a Pokémon's power, the Pokémon will not respect the Trainer and will grow disobedient."

"So it's a matter of respect…" Ash had no doubts that all of his Pokémon respected him, and even liked him. He guessed that the rest of his double's Pokémon still liked him, but Charizard didn't respect him anymore for whatever reason.

Meanwhile, Pikachu had jumped down when he saw Charmander staring in open disbelief.

"[You know that's not you, right?]" he asked.

Charmander snapped out of his trance and turned away in revulsion, "[I can't believe any version of me would be so ungrateful. Ash saved me. That version of him must have done the same, but the other me is just so… so…]"

"[Rude? Terrible? Lazy?]"

"[All of them,]" the Fire-type growled. "[I want to teach him a lesson so badly, but… I'd get destroyed the instant he fought back.]"

Pikachu smiled and patted him on the back, "[That's why we're a team, Charmander.]"

He turned around, "[Ash!]"

At hearing "Pika-pi!" something Ash had learned was Pikachu's way of referring to him, he looked down to see his starter point to himself and then towards Charizard.

"You want to tag in?"

"Pi!" the Electric-type nodded.

Ash nodded back, "Then show Charizard what you're made of! This is still a battle." He raised his voice, "Hey! I'm done waiting! If Charizard's not going to battle, then we'll just have to start without him!"

Pikachu charged forward and Satoshi's eyes widened, "Charizard, you have to move!"

"Thunderbolt!"

"Darn it! Charizard, return!"

The bolt struck uselessly into the ground as the beam connected to Charizard's back and pulled him into his Poké Ball.

Ash raised an eyebrow, "Do you want him to battle or not?"

"I'm… saving him for later!" Satoshi reasoned. "I choose… Uh…"

At that moment, he realized that he didn't actually have any Pokémon that could reliably counter electricity. Bulbasaur and Pikachu were already out, Pidgeotto and Squirtle would have a disadvantage, and his last Pokémon was a long shot if Ash's Pikachu was stronger than his.

"Pikachu, return," Ash called without a Poké Ball. "I'll save you for later, too, then." Pikachu nodded and moved back to Ash and Charmander's side.

Satoshi gritted his teeth at the rather patronizing statement, but knew there wasn't much he could do about it. Moving between his three remaining Pokémon, he picked one and threw it out.

"I choose Squirtle!"

Ash picked out his own, "Then I choose Rattata."

The two Pokémon emerged, having heard their respective Trainers talking through their Poké Balls and knowing what to expect. Ash raised an eyebrow at the other Squirtle not wearing his sunglasses, but decided that it didn't really matter right now.

"Quick Attack, Rattata!"

The Mouse Pokémon flitted forward and Squirtle raised his guard only for her to circle around at the last second and attack him in the back of the head. With her small size, she was able to lend her entire (if light) weight to targeting the area.

Squirtle was knocked forward, but managed to land on all fours as Rattata tumbled in front of him to roll back to her feet. He shot a Water Gun, but Rattata easily burrowed underground to dodge. Squirtle's eyes widened and he threw himself away from his current location right in time to avoid Rattata's snapping teeth as she surfaced right where his belly had been. He had his shell, but it wasn't as tough on the underside.

"[Even without acrobatics, it seems the other Squirtle's no slouch in dodging,]" Charmander commented. "[Though I'm faster than him.]"

"[Knowing Ash, he'll probably decide to make it easier to hit him,]" Pikachu replied.

"Rattata, Quick Fang!"

"[See?]"

"Squirtle, Withdraw!" Satoshi hurriedly ordered since that move didn't sound like good news.

The Tiny Turtle Pokémon did so, but Rattata smiled as she blurred away. She reappeared by Squirtle's leg hole and stuck her head in, her teeth glowing with Hyper Fang. A moment later Squirtle popped back out of his shell, screaming in pain as he hopped around trying to shake and pull Rattata off as she gnawed on his leg.

Charmander laughed, "[I guess small size can have its advantages the same as being bigger does.]"

"Gah! Squirtle, return!"

Rattata landed on the ground once her opponent's body turned to energy and stood firm as she waited for her next opponent to come out.

"Go, Muk!"

Ash raised an eyebrow at the unfamiliar Pokémon – a blob of purple sludge with two short arms, a big mouth and two narrow eyes – while Rattata recoiled in disgust. He couldn't blame her considering that her main method of attack was biting. He took out his Pokédex.

"Muk, the Sludge Pokémon. The evolved form of Grimer. Use extreme caution, as its slimy form contains poison."

Humming in thought as he put the device away, he held out Rattata's Poké Ball, "Rattata, you can't do much against an opponent like that. Return!"

Granted, she might be able to do some damage if she activated Guts with Muk's poison, but he wasn't going to send her into battle to get intentionally hurt.

"Charmander, you good to go another round?"

The Fire Lizard Pokémon nodded confidently and stepped forward. Muk raised his arms with an intimidating "Muuuuuk!" revealing his hands to have three fingers each. The Sludge Pokémon slithered forward, and Charmander leveled a flat look at the almost insulting speed he was approached.

'I'm just going to finish this quickly,' he decided. 'Shame. I was hoping to save the reveal for a more dramatic battle.'

Taking a deep breath, Charmander shot out a spiral of flames that wrapped around Muk in a ring before flaring upward.

"Muk!" Satoshi called worriedly.

Ash's eyes widened as he pointed Dexter forward, "Whoa!"

"Move identified: Fire Spin. A ring of powerful flames blocks the opponent from moving before inflicting great damage."

"Nice one, Charmander," he complimented, to the Fire-type's beaming pride.

But the exchange was cut short when sludge started bleeding out, snuffing out the flames at the base. Muk spread himself over the wall of fire and his body steamed slightly before he reformed into his basic form.

Charmander growled at having his move overpowered so easily, and shot a direct Flamethrower, but Muk flattened out again and it went over his head as he kept moving forward. The Fire-type simply kept leading Muk in a circle as he took small hops back while periodically firing off streams of fire.

"Charmander's too fast," Satoshi grumbled. "Muk! Do you have any moves that can hit at a distance?"

Muk stopped his slow pursuit and scratched the side of his head while another Flamethrower hit his side, but he paid it little mind. Looking at the hand he was holding up, he got an idea.

"Muk! Muk!" he triumphantly cried while whirling his arm around.

Charmander raised an eyebrow, but got caught off guard when the Sludge Pokémon swung his fist forward, more of his mass extending from his body to elongate the limb. The fist at the end connected with his stomach, sending him tumbling back, and Muk had slimmed out slightly. But Satoshi's Pokémon retracted the arm and regained his bulk while seeming satisfied at coming up with his new move. (3)

The moment was brief, however, since Charmander shot back to his feet. His tail flame blazed considerably larger as he tapped into Rage. It was pretty easy since he was furious at having actually been hit by such a slow opponent. Worse, it had actually hurt quite a bit, which stung his pride and made him look bad in front of Ash.

"[I am done!]" the Fire-type snarled as he charged forward.

Satoshi grew worried. He recognized Rage from the last time his own Charmander had used it, and it had taken out a fully evolved Pokémon in one move.

He called out to his Pokémon, "Take him out, Muk! Quickly!"

Muk shot out another elongated arm, but Charmander saw it coming now and sidestepped it as his claws gained a flickering white glow and grew in length. With a swipe of his arm, he cleaved Muk's hand off at the wrist.

"Mu-u-uk!" the Poison-type blubbered in surprise before the smaller pile of sludge started returning to him, but Charmander was making much swifter progress and already had fire blazing behind his gritted teeth.

"Body Slam!" Satoshi ordered. "But keep the tail free!" He didn't want to accidentally kill Charmander by smothering his tail flame.

Muk loomed over the approaching Fire-type and piled over him before he could attack. Charmander's tail was still poking out from beneath him, and was thrashing about now. Cuts were carved through Muk's back, but they started mending as the struggle died down.

The Sludge Pokémon waited a moment before letting out a sigh of relief as his disembodied hand returned to him. Then his eyes widened as he felt a rapidly building heat and his body started swelling. He looked at the tail to see that its flame had swollen to giant proportions.

Muk's body blew up, splattering him all over in a broad area and allowing a pillar of fire to continue up into the sky unhindered. Charmander stood in the center of a patch of scorched earth once the flames died down, and he was burned from his own attack since the heat had gotten harmful even with his resistance.

Satoshi looked devastated, "Muk…" Then he saw a piece of sludge near his feet start writhing before it slithered back towards the center. "Huh?"

The pieces of sludge started gathering back together as they crawled across the ground and Satoshi took out his Pokédex, pointing it at the gathering pile.

"Grimer and Muk are unconscious regenerators, and can survive virtually anything so long as the pieces can regroup. It is this unconventional constitution which makes them the only species of Pokémon that can use Explosion to its fullest power." (4)

Satoshi let out a sigh of relief as the gathering blob of sludge regained the familiar features. Even if Muk was visibly exhausted, his posture slumped low to the ground instead of at his full height and panting hard, the Trainer was just glad that he was alive. While he'd never used him much in battle, the thought of any of his Pokémon being gone forever was frightening. He made a promise to himself to show Muk more appreciation from then on.

"[That hurt… a lot…]" Muk muttered to himself. The Sludge Pokémon wasn't used to pain since he could absorb a lot of punishment before being knocked out. And even when that happened, it was more from exhaustion than actual hurt.

Charmander, meanwhile, started charging again, his rage gone, but with his claws lengthened and glowing white. The Fire-type had learned Slash during his earlier berserker charge.

"Uh-oh! Muk, return!" Satoshi called.

The Sludge Pokémon disappeared and Charmander stood up straight again, catching his breath.

"You were great out there, Charmander," Ash said as he held out his Poké Ball. "Return."

The Fire Lizard Pokémon was grateful, because he was actually quite tired and wanted to sit down for some rest in his Poké Ball.

Satoshi knew that he was running out of able Pokémon to use, but refused to give up. Throwing out his next Pokémon, he called out, "Pidgeotto, go!"

"Pidgeot, you're up!"

The Trainer gawked at the bigger bird that came out of Ash's Poké Ball and took out his Pokédex again.

"Pidgeot, the Bird Pokémon. The evolved form of Pidgeotto. It can fly at twice the speed of sound at an altitude of nearly one mile."

"How…?" he muttered in disbelief.

Ash ordered, "Pidgeot, Clothesline Dash!"

The Bird Pokémon disappeared and hit his counterpart in the neck with his wing, knocking him for a loop and making it hard for the lesser evolved Pokémon to breathe as he tried to stabilize his flight.

"Now, finish with Quick Attack!"

Pidgeot dive-bombed his opponent in the chest and drove him all the way to the ground, carving a trench and leaving a cloud of dust that he surfaced from afterward. When the dust cleared, Pidgeotto was knocked out.

Satoshi fell to his knees clutching the grass with one hand as he held out Pidgeotto's Poké Ball and recalled him.

"S-Squirtle, maybe…?" he muttered, feeling no real hope behind his words. "Maybe I could… try convincing Charizard again…?"

He felt a tiny hand go over his and saw that Pikachu had woken up and moved next to him. The Pokémon was still burnt, but stood on all fours with little apparent difficulty. Satoshi looked into his Pokémon's eyes and found reassurance from him. After staring at him with a lost look for a moment, he set his face into a determined frown as he stood up again while taking Pikachu back onto his shoulder.

He looked to Pidgeot and his counterpart across the clearing, "You're right, Pikachu. We may not win today, but we're sure gonna go down fighting!"

"Pi-ka!" the Electric-type agreed.

Taking out another Poké Ball, he threw it out, "Squirtle, get into the water!"

The Water-type appeared and dove straight into the pond, emerging in the center.

"Pidgeot, return," Ash called before exchanging the sphere for another. "Go, Bulbasaur! Leech Seed!"

Bulbasaur moved to the edge of the pond after his release to shoot several pods into the water, which Squirtle dove down to avoid. A small stream of water shot them out of the pond one-by-one, causing them to burst harmlessly on the earth.

"Hrm… Fish him out with Vine Whip!"

The Seed Pokémon extended his vines and searched around in the lake before flinching with a yelp of pain. He withdrew the appendages and blew on one that had a visible bite mark on the end.

Satoshi took that opportunity, "Skull Bash!"

Squirtle shot out of the water faster than Ash's had done since he'd been able to build up speed underwater. He connected solidly with Bulbasaur's head, but the Grass/Poison-type lashed out with his vines and managed to grab his opponent to drag him along for his tumble. Squirtle curled into his shell to endure any attacks.

Standing up again and growling at the Tiny Turtle Pokémon, Bulbasaur shot a Leech Seed that burst over Squirtle's shell. Since it was his own, the Seed Pokémon didn't have to worry about the ivy growing over his own vines. Bulbasaur's injuries started to fade, and before long, the energy started to diminish, so he willed the ivy away and tossed Squirtle away. The Water-type emerged from his shell unconscious.

"Squirtle, return!" Satoshi called without missing a beat, holding two Poké Balls with Squirtle's extended to retrieve him. He tossed the other one out, "Go, Charizard!"

The Flame Pokémon emerged still reclined, but Satoshi called out to him, "You're my last Pokémon." Crossing his arms, he gave his ultimatum, "I won't give you orders since you won't listen, but I'm also not pulling you out again. Either battle or just let yourself get beaten up."

Ash frowned at this new development as he saw Charizard open one eye, still not standing. Recalling Bulbasaur, he took out another Poké Ball. Popping it open, Charmander emerged sitting on the ground, but opened his eyes to see that he was beside his Trainer instead of on the battlefield.

"I figured that you'd want to see this part of the battle," Ash explained before turning to his shoulder. "Looks like it's for real this time, Pikachu. You're up."

Pikachu nodded and dropped down, giving a reassuring smile to Charmander before running into the battlefield already charging up electricity.

Letting out a sigh at what he saw to be a waste of his time, Charizard shot a Flamethrower wider than Pikachu was tall on his hindlegs, still in his reclined position. His eyes widened when Pikachu effortlessly dodged to the side and shot a Thunderbolt at him. With a beat of his wings and a rather undignified scramble, he barely got out of the way.

The dragon glanced back at his own Trainer before narrowing his eyes at Pikachu, deciding that he didn't need Satoshi's help. Charizard took flight high into the air, using Flamethrower in a huge sweeping bank that seared much of the dirt ground and headed toward Pikachu.

Concentrating, Pikachu thought to himself, 'Just the right speed… Just the right speed…'

Right before the fire hit, Pikachu blurred away in a flash of speed. Charizard scanned around while cutting off the flames and saw Pikachu hunched over a short distance away, seemingly catching his breath. He shot a Flamethrower that eclipsed the smaller Pokémon, but there was nothing left when the flames died.

More and more images of Pikachu appeared, some running on all fours, others standing with their arms crossed or out to the side in a ready position, and even a few making rude faces at the flying Pokémon.

'Double Team,' Charizard internally grumbled. 'This might take longer than I thought.'

He heard a bolt firing and turned to the source to see a scorched spot of earth. The same sound rang out again, and he saw massive bolts of electricity heading straight up for him as the afterimages started vanishing.

The Flame Pokémon dodged out of the way, but his tail lagged behind and still got clipped. He gritted his teeth as he felt a strong zap go through him. Not as much as from a direct hit, but it still stung regardless.

Charizard bared his teeth at Pikachu, who barely stopped his attack. But crackling from above caught his attention and he turned upward to see a vortex of electricity growing above him. By the time he realized what it was, the mass burst and rained down several smaller bolts than the ones that made it up.

He tried to dodge, but there wasn't enough space between the blasts for a Pokémon of his size. One bolt hitting him became two which became several as the rest struck the ground.

Satoshi bit his lower lip as he watched the display. Despite everything, he still hated to see Charizard so badly hurt. He felt bad for not warning Charizard about the Thunder attack, but before he could, his Pikachu discouraged him from doing so.

The Electric-type felt that the Flame Pokémon had a lesson to learn, and a loss would be the first step.

When the attack ended, Charizard's smoking form was falling from the sky. Satoshi got ready to recall him when the dragon suddenly thrashed about, flailing and beating his wings to try slowing his descent. He managed to level out, but still landed flat on the ground with a heavy thud.

Charizard began struggling to get up the instant he hit the ground, "[No…! I won't lose! I don't lose!]"

Charmander watched from his Trainer's side with pity. While he himself had his pride, he'd lost many a spar with his teammates and grew stronger from them. His eyes then widened at that thought.

'That's the only difference between us,' Charmander realized. 'He's the strongest on his team, and it went straight to his head, didn't it?' Then his lip curled with disgust at the thought that he could've wound up just like his counterpart in the future.

"[That's why we're a team, Charmander.]"

"[A team…]" the Fire-type muttered. 'Pikachu battled on my behalf, so we're… friends?'

He looked up at Ash and remembered all the times that he'd helped Charmander alongside the others during their training. Pidgeotto offering a wing to help him up after he lost a spar one time. Rattata taking time out of her training to help him learn Dig. Squirtle sticking strictly to his hand-to-hand combat when fighting him, even though his water attacks could give him an advantage. Butterfree, Bulbasaur and Kingler, he didn't know much about – Tentacool and Horsea even less – but they were always there with the rest of the team, like one big family.

'We're all friends,' he realized. It felt like a weight lifted off him as he looked up and smiled at Ash.

The moment was interrupted by another roar from Charizard, having managed to push himself to all fours.

"Charizard, you're hurt badly," Satoshi said as he moved closer. "We need to find a way out of here and get you to a Pokémon Center."

"[Go away!]" the Flame Pokémon roared while shooting a Flamethrower at the ground near his Trainer's feet, making the boy scramble away. He would have aimed at his face as usual, but it hurt to lift his head.

Charizard painfully pulled himself to his feet, glaring at Ash's Pikachu, "[This battle isn't over!]"

Pikachu sighed, "[Fine.]"

But as he charged up electricity, Satoshi got between them with his hands spread out.

"That's enough. Charizard's clearly in no condition to battle anymore. You win."

He turned around when the Flame Pokémon growled again and held out his Poké Ball, "I'm still your Trainer. You may not care about that, but I do, and I'm not letting you get even more hurt. You can hit me in the face with a Flamethrower later. Return."

The beam connected, even as Charizard continued glaring at his Trainer. Once he was recalled, Satoshi let out a sigh.

"Looks like I still have a long way to go till I'm ready for the League…" he muttered.

Ash looked around as he approached and his Pikachu ran back to him, "So how do we get back?"

"I don't-" Satoshi stopped as he stared past Ash, "Wait, wasn't that wall further away?"

The two Trainers looked around and saw that the fog walls were indeed closing in on them, making the distant trees obscured again. The substance also closed over the ground again while eclipsing the sky, leaving only a faint silver glow as the sole light source.

"Charmander, return! Pikachu, stay close!" Ash ordered as Pikachu climbed up his Trainer.

Satoshi took his Pikachu from his shoulder to keep his hands on him, "Pikachu!"


Ash woke up with a jolt, Pikachu snapping awake at the same time. They looked around and saw that they were back in their cabin on the ferry. Brock was still asleep nearby and a look out the window revealed the fog to be gone.

All the same, Ash knew it wasn't a dream. The items he'd removed to go to sleep, hat, jacket and shoes, were all on his body again.

He took a deep breath and removed said items, carefully adjusting them to look as if they'd never been moved from their previous spots. One look at Pikachu confirmed their decision.

As far as anyone else was concerned, the events of that "dream" didn't happen. Meeting and battling alternate versions of yourself? Ridiculous!

With that promise made, the two went back to sleep.


Friendly reminder that this is non-canon to the story. Charmander is still unsure of his place on the team, he hasn't revealed Fire Spin, and Pikachu hasn't perfected Thunder.

Notes:

1. Canon!Ash looks through his Pokédex once at Fuchsia Gym to check Psyduck's moveset. He does the same thing here to see if Bulbasaur has anything that he never used. On that note, if he knows Razor Leaf, he should be able to use Poison Powder.

2. I changed the entry to say "Grass-types'" because it, in fact, not exclusive to Bulbasaur, even in Gen I. Granted, it's not lying either when it says it's Bulbasaur's strongest attack, but I decided to make its description more neutral for the aforementioned reason. Also, for those who might say that Solar Beam can't draw in sunlight at night, two things: 1) It was used at night before, on its debut, no less, and 2) Moonlight is just reflected sunlight and they're fighting under a full moon.

3. This is from one of my older stories. A Muk in said story figured out that he could transfer his mass to elongate/expand his limbs to hit from a distance or boost his punching power, among other abilities.

4. As I mentioned before (in Chapter 17 of the main story), Self-Destruct and Explosion are not kamikaze moves in anime canon. But, while the likes of Weezing, Electrode and Forretress only release enough energy to create the burst while not overly injuring themselves, Muk have no such limits here. With their uncommon ability to re-amass when cut up or blown to pieces, they could create a much larger burst in order to damage the opponent(s) without needing to hold back for their own safety.

See you when I see you.

-AJ203