It was late at night and Kukui was half asleep, just beginning to doze off when he heard Ash talking upstairs. It wasn't that unusual for Ash to stay up a little later than he should to talk things through with Rotom, especially when he had something on his mind. Kukui knew that Ash felt conflicted about what he should be doing during vacation.

Kukui wanted to assure Ash that there was really no pressure for him to do anything special for vacation. There was nothing wrong with staying at home and enjoying the time off with family and pokémon. He knew that Ash wouldn't be reassured. Ash didn't like to just stay in one place for a long time. He was an adventurous spirit. He was also hard on himself. Nobody pushed Ash harder than he pushed himself. If Kukui even implied that he wanted the kids to better themselves in some way during vacation, which he did, Ash would go above and beyond.

No matter how much Kukui tried to explain that you don't have to do anything extraordinary to become a better person, It would go just in one ear and out the other with Ash.

Kukui didn't want to discourage Ash from talking through something that was so important to him that he felt the need to stay up so late to discuss it with Rotom, so Kukui let him be. He continued to doze off, just listening to Ash's voice that was just muffled enough for him to not understand the words themselves. Suddenly though Kukui heard a loud exclamation that he understood all too well. Though Kukui had been half asleep just moments before, he found himself wide awake.

Kukui sat up, Ash's words ringing in his head. He had just barely heard it, so Kukui knew that it was quite possible that he had just misheard Ash, but he really didn't think he heard. The exclamation had been said with so much confidence and conviction, and what Kukui had heard made sense with what he knew Ash had been trying to figure out.

Deep down, Kukui knew that he hadn't misheard anything. Ash wanted to go home, back to Palette Town, and then find a new place to travel to and explore.

Kukui had known that it was only a matter of time. Ash had decided to stay in Alola to go to the pokémon school and get to know the culture, people, and pokémon of Alola. Ash had been to all four of the Alolan islands, he'd really embraced the culture and spirit of Alola, and school was out for a long vacation. Ash had accomplished everything he'd come here to do, and much, much more. There was a lot keeping Ash here, but Kukui knew that there was a lot calling him away. He'd known that all along, but it was odd to think that it was actually happening.

Kukui got out of bed and went to Burnet's side. He shook her shoulder to wake her up. Burnet had been half asleep, just like Kukui had been. She rolled over and blinked when she saw the expression on his face. He'd let his shields fall more than he normally would. Despite knowing that this was coming, Kukui still felt vulnerable and caught off guard, and it seemed to be apparent.

"Is something wrong?" Burnet sat up and brushed her hair out of her eyes. "What happened?"

"Nothing's wrong," Kukui said, and it was technically the truth. Ash wanting to go home wasn't exactly wrong, and it wasn't really right, it just was. "I just think that we should have a family meeting tonight."

"Tonight?" Burnet looked at him in concern and confusion. "Why can't it wait until morning?"

"It's important," Kukui said. "If you really want, it can wait until morning, but I don't think I'd be able to sleep tonight, and I don't think Ash will be able to either."

"Well, in that case," Burnet got to her feet and gave Kukui a quick kiss. "If it's that important to you, of course I don't mind doing it now," And Kukui knew she meant it.

"Come on," Kukui led the way upstairs and turned the kitchen light on. Burnet went to the fridge and pulled out some pinap berries and a pitcher of lemonade. Kukui raised an eyebrow at her. "What are you doing?"

"It's a little warm tonight, and I thought we might all need something to relax," Burnet cut some of the pinap berries in half and began to juice them. She poured the juice into three glasses, filling them just a third of the way or so, and then filled the rest with the lemonade.

"Professors?" Ash looked down over the loft. "I thought you were asleep."

"I wanted to talk to the two of you," Kukui said. "How about we all go out onto the porch and just chat for a bit?"

"You called it a family meeting earlier," Burnet said with a small frown.

"It can be a chat and a family meeting," Ash commented as he scaled down the ladder. He went into the kitchen and grabbed two of the glasses of pinap lemonade that Burnet had put together. Burnet took the last glass and the three of them made their way outside to the front porch. The night was a little warm and somewhat stifling, but the ocean breeze and juice helped to cool them down so the heat wasn't too uncomfortable.

"So, what's up?" Ash asked. The three of them sat on the steps of the porch, with Ash in the middle.

"I heard you talking to Rotom earlier," Kukui said. "I know I've asked this earlier, but I wanted to ask again." Kukui had to be sure of what he had heard. And even if Ash wasn't planning on going home now, this was a discussion that they should have at some point anyways. "Ash, what are you planning on doing for vacation?"

"Oh," Ash grinned excitedly, though there was a small hint of sadness in his eyes. "I, well, I was thinking of going home for a little bit."

"Well, I think visiting your mom during vacation sounds like a great idea," Burnet smiled gently. She gave Kukui a questioning look, obviously wondering why he was making such a big deal about this.

"What about after vacation?" Kukui asked pointedly. Ash paused slightly and looked at Kukui in slight alarm. He looked a little nervous. Kukui smiled at Ash and nodded encouragingly at him. He was upset about this new development, but the last thing Kukui wanted was for Ash to think that he was upset with him. Kukui needed Ash to know that he supported him, no matter what.

"I don't know exactly what I'm going to do," Ash admitted. "But I know that I want to explore more of the world." Burnet's smile fell ever so slightly.

"You're...not going to come back to Alola," Burnet realized.

"I mean, it's not like I'll never return to Alola again," Ash said. "I can always come back for a visit, but...I just don't think I'll be staying here." Ash blinked and Kukui noticed in alarm that his eyes were wet. "I'm...leaving Alola." Ash's face scrunched up ever so slightly and he drew inwards. "I'm actually leaving…"

As someone who regularly worked with kids, Kukui knew how it looked when they were emotional and just barely holding it together, and that was how Ash looked now, though he seemed to be trying very, very hard to hide it. Kukui wasn't entirely sure how he should respond, even after all this time working with kids. Some children liked to be comforted and held, while others wanted to deal with it on their own because they didn't want to be seen as weak.

When Kukui heard Ash sniffle and choke back a small sob, he made up his mind. Kukui put his glass of pinap lemonade down next to him and pulled Ash's glass away from him too. He then put his arm over Ash's shoulder and pulled the boy close. Ash let out a very small whine as he leaned into Kukui's chest. He didn't begin to cry, but Kukui could feel how wet Ash's eyes and cheeks were, and he heard how the kid's breathing was staggered and short. It was almost like Ash had completely skipped the actual cry, and skipped straight to the distressed, emotionally exhausted after effects.

"It's okay," Kukui tightened his hold on Ash, rubbing his upper arm with the hand that was draped over Ash's shoulder. Burnet scooted closer to them and took Ash's hand.

"I don't…" Ash seemed to choke on his words as he burrowed closer to Kukui. "I love Alola so much," Ash let out a watery laugh. "I don't want to leave."

"No one's forcing you to," Burnet said quickly. "You can stay here as long as you want,"

"I know," Ash nodded. "But…" Ash trailed off.

"But?" Kukui urged.

"But I want to see more places," Ash said. "I want to see just how big the world is, and everything that's out there. I want...I want to see everything from here to the horizon, and then everything from there to the next horizon, and then the next one, and the next one." A small smile slipped onto Ash's face. "I want to see it all."

"So it's not about you wanting to leave or stay" Kukui nodded in understanding. "It's that you want to see more of the world, but you're sad to leave," Kukui knew that if there was a way for Ash to both see the world and stay in Alola for a longer time, the kid would do it that way without hesitating. Some people, such as traders and sailors, were able to find a compromise, but Kukui didn't think that Ash would be completely content with that particular method. Ash didn't have a problem with the sea, but he certainly didn't love it as much as Lana did. Kukui doubted that Ash would want to spend the majority of his time out on open water.

"I'm always a little sad when I leave a region or say goodbye to some friends," Ash said. "But it's never been this bad. Not even when I was first leaving home."

"But you still want to leave," Kukui commented. It wasn't a question. He knew what Ash wanted. Still, Ash nodded. "It's okay to be sad about leaving. It means seeing new places and getting to experience new things, but it also means saying goodbye to what you've gotten used to." Kukui smiled sadly. "This is what we'd call bittersweet,"

"Like a haban berry," Ash said. "It feels really bitter right now, and kinda makes me want to just stay here, except when I think of all the adventures waiting out there for me," Ash tensed as he grinned excitedly. "It'll be really sweet, I know it will,"

"I'm sure it will be," Kukui said encouragingly. He'd left his home to go on adventures. He knew how it felt, to both be excited about what was to come, while still being sad about what he was leaving behind. Change was really hard, and some people thought it was better to just stay where they were. There was nothing wrong with that, but Kukui knew that it wasn't for Ash. Sooner or later, Ash wouldn't be able to stay where he was. He would decide to leave. If Ash felt that this was what was best for him right now, Kukui thought he should follow his gut, or he might come to regret it.

"Oh, we'll miss you so much," Burnet wrapped her arms around Ash as well, bringing the three of them into a slightly awkwardly positioned, but very comforting hug. "Wherever you end up, they'll be incredibly lucky to have you,"

"Most definitely," Kukui agreed. "Do you know when you want to leave?"

Ash shook his head. "I haven't really thought a lot about that," Kukui should have expected as much. Ash wasn't exactly in the habit of planning out the small details, and he'd only decided that he wanted to go home just a few minutes ago. "Soon. I think the longer I stay, the more I won't want to leave,"

"I guess we'll have to start looking for flights back to Kanto," Kukui said. Ash shifted slightly and looked up at him.

"You're...you're really okay with me leaving?" Ash asked.

"I would love it if you stayed here forever," Kukui said honestly. "But I knew this was coming sooner or later, and I can't hold you back. Whatever you want to do with your life, I want to help you make it happen." No matter what, Kukui was going to support Ash, even if it hurt.

Ash grinned and leaned back against Kukui again. "Thank you,"

"What about your pokémon?" Burnet asked. Ash frowned slightly.

"I don't know," He admitted. "Pikachu goes with me everywhere, but a lot of pokémon don't really like to travel all over the place. Especially if they're traveling in a region that they're not used to. It's why I leave most of my pokémon at Professor Oak's lab, so they can have a stable home and I can still visit them, but I don't know if Lycanroc and the others will like that as much,"

"Why not?" Kukui asked. If it worked for all of Ash's other pokémon, why wouldn't it be okay for these ones?"

"Lycanroc's home has been with you since before I even got here," Ash said. "I know that my Incineroar would love to learn more from yours. Rowlet has friends here, and wherever Rowlet is, Melmetal will want to be," The two of them really were close, and always had been. "Melmetal's also a really rare pokémon. I don't want it to attract unwanted attention, and that might happen if it goes to another region." Especially if Melmetal was staying with Professor Oak, who was a really renowned scientist. People from all over the world knew about him and visited his lab.

"Well, our home is always open to them," Kukui said, and Burnet nodded. Ash looked up at them in slight shock and appreciation.

"You'd let them stay here?" Ash asked. "It wouldn't get too crowded."

"Your pokémon are as much a part of our Alolan family as you are," Kukui said. "They'll always be welcome," Kukui hoped that Ash knew that he too was welcome here anytime.

"I'll have to talk to them about it first," Ash said, which Kukui had expected. Ash tried really hard to not make decisions for his pokémon. He wanted them to have a say in their own lives, which was a wonderful trait for a trainer to have. "But thank you." Ash took a deep breath and brushed away his stray tears with the palm of his hand.

The three of them fell into silence. Kukui grabbed Ash's glass and handed it back to the boy, who began to slowly sip at it. Kukui took a drink as well. The lemonade was warmer than it had been, but still cooler than room temperature. Kukui was suddenly extremely grateful that Burnet had thought to make them some drinks. The taste, which was more sour than sweet, with just a hint of spicy heat from the pinap berry, was not something that they could just finish off in a moment. Sipping at the drink, really enjoying the flavor, was really the only way they could drink the lemonade. It gave the three of them something to do as they sat there, just enjoying each other's company.

They all knew that this would end soon, even just in a few days, but they were all planning on enjoying it for as long as they could.

The sweet and sour pinap lemonade almost felt appropriate for this situation. Kukui was happy for Ash, and he was also excited at just what kinds of experiences Ash might find. Saying goodbye was really hard though, and very sad. Kukui hadn't been wrong when he'd said that it was bittersweet.


A/N: We are so close to the end here. The show gave us Ash talking to his friends about him leaving, but while we got a beautiful goodbye between Ash and the professors, we don't see him actually tell them that he's leaving, and I wanted to do that.

Now I'm curious though. How many middle of the night conversation have I had Kukui and Ash have? And how many of those conversations were accompanied by a drink of some kind? Did I ever repeat a drink?

There's just one more chapter after this. A little expanding on Ash's goodbye to the professors, and you know that I gotta have Kukui and Burnet tell Ash about their little happy news, because there's no way they wouldn't tell him.