(I own nothing. Take your lawsuit and shove it.)

((This is a pearlshipping story, or at least one with such content. I wouldn't go so far as to say that's what the story's about, but it's definitely there.))

(((It's called horror for a reason, people. Wait, and you shall receive...in the form of bloody pokepocalypse.)))

Reunion Tour

I was too busy on our pokemon adventure to realize it then, but the world I lived in was an amazing place. There was beauty and fascination all around me at every turn, and the sights continued to pour on as our trek together continued. Wonderful, amazing things...things I can't hope to replicate in words.

Our world is a beautiful place.

But, with every rose comes its thorns.

Life is great, but life must end. I'd known it for a while; my late father before me was a perfect example of how quickly things could change in a second. That every life is finite and precious, and it should be cherished to the very end. If you don't, and it's suddenly gone, what will be left? Memories are forever. A picture speaks a thousand words. Mementos symbolize the great bonds formed and the pain of saying goodbye, the feeling becoming bittersweet as you can't help but miss them despite the knowledge that they're headed to a better place to be happy...if you haven't experienced it yourself, you'll never know what it's like until it happens. If it doesn't happen all your life, you'll never know what it's like, and you'll never learn to prepare and embrace things as though it would vanish tomorrow. Until you know life is limited, you'll never find a purpose to live your life to the fullest. Sheltered lives free of death are disasters in the making; a ticking time bomb of grief and disillusion with the world you thought you knew. I knew a lot of people like that, several of which were and still are dear to me. I tried the best I could to let them know, and that they should appreciate what they have while they have it, but one can only say so much, and without knowing first-hand, there's no way for the person to know. I tried to warn them.

For Ash, my warnings came too late.

It started when Mimey died. It was a perfectly avoidable thing, if taken into perspective. Mimey - Ash's mother's Mr. Mime - was a hard worker. A workaholic, one would call him; always on the move, sweeping up this, mopping up that, dusting off these and putting away those. He worked diligently and without rest, sometimes going entire days on end without food or water if things needed tending to. He worked and worked his very best, never once receiving a thanks from anyone, but continued on anyway, bound and determined that he would prove himself and impress Ash's mother yet. He quit sleeping at night. He quit eating in the morning. He worked twice as hard and three times as long, cleaning the entire house top to bottom and back again in less than 4 hours, and he'd only continue so long as there were tasks to be handed out. Taking him for granted, Ash's mother did just that: kept him busy. And he stayed busy. He kept on working for as long as there were jobs until, weak and exhausted, Mimey collapsed. He was taken in to the pokemon center and diagnosed with acute exhaustion, malnutrition, and lack of rest. His will to work never ceased, but his body simply couldn't hold out.

Mimey died two days later, a broom in hand. His heart gave out while he was trying to clean up the floor around his own life support.

Ash's mother was beside herself with grief. She knew as well as everyone else did in Pallet town that Mimey wouldn't hesitate to push himself to get things done, and with her constantly handing things out, he wouldn't stop. He wouldn't take care of himself so long as the most tedious of tasks remained unattended, all in the name of earning the praises that he rarely if ever received. And, when the jobs never stopped, his own well-being was never taken into account. Mimey was willing to give up his life to take care of the house he lived in.

Ash's mother Delia called Ash. Far away in another region in the midst of his pokemon journey, Ash's signal couldn't be received, and with him having not visited a pokemon center with wireless communication capabilities-as he was too far east at the time to be in sync with the satellites-he couldn't call his mother to learn what happened. Unable to find comfort and believing herself to be abandoned, Delia sank deep into depression, glued to the phone 24 hours a day; if she wasn't desperately dialing her son's number, she was sitting by praying that he would call. He never did.

By the time Ash learned what was happening, it was too late. Three months after Mimey's passing, Delia Ketchum died from grief. She overdosed on sleeping medication and never woke up.

Ash was in a battle with the second of the Sinnoh Elite Four when he received the call. He forfeited on the spot and left for home that very day.

We came with him, of course - what friends wouldn't, with their friend in such a crisis? - and went with him to Kanto. Her funeral was held two days later. She was buried beside her late husband, as per her will.

Ash was devastated. Having never heard the news of Mimey and not remembering his father's death, the loss of his close pokemon friend and mother hit him all at once and crushed him like nothing else had. It was a splash of cold water to the face for him; he learned that day that life doesn't last forever, and that happiness isn't eternal. All of his friends - me, Brock, Gary, Misty, May, Max, Professor Oak...just about anyone and everyone he'd come close to over the years - came to offer solace, but we were all disappointed to find that there was little we could do. Ash isolated himself from the world; he hung up his trainer's hat for good, somehow deciding that it was to blame for his mother's death - if he had been home or somewhere closer when Mimey died, he could have been there for her, and she wouldn't have killed herself. He openly refused comfort, shrugging off our hands, saying it was something he needed to face alone. Not even his best friend Pikachu could get through to him.

He's never been the same since then.

Life went on. Disheartened to lose such a companion, we eventually disbanded and went home. Brock went back to Pewter city to work at the gym once again, eventually handing off the title of gym leader to another and pursuing his dream as a pokemon breeder. I went home to Sinnoh, trying to pick up the pieces and move on, but there was too much missing in my life. Contests lost their luster; battles suddenly didn't give me that thrill anymore. I became dissatisfied, and my pokemon along with me, growing more and more restless as time went on.

In a period of a mere one year, I had lost my love for contests. I settled back in with my mother and tried to live the normal life of home. I couldn't do it. There was a void in my heart that I couldn't seem to fill, no matter what I did. No amount of running could leave it behind, and no number of pokemon battles could make up for the lost spark. Without my friends there to support me, there was nothing there to keep me going.

I went to high school like a normal teen girl. I learned to drive; I bought a car. I moved out of my mom's to an apartment as I went to college, taking up part-time jobs to pay the bills I realized were part of life. I dropped out of college and tried again to become a trainer, hoping the money from winning battles would be enough to support me. My wishful thinking was in vain; I went under quickly, the credit I earned from all those contests draining away until I had nothing else but a little rainy-day money in the back of my room and my precious pokemon that had accompanied me through it all. I moved back in with my mother, who left the house to me as she went on a trek to Hearthome to take back her contest career by storm - ironically enough, my dropping out of the competition left room for her to enter. For her, life could be good, as she had her dream to pursue.

As for me, I was left with nothing but a sense of longing and a heart I hadn't realized had been empty. With nothing to do and only my thoughts to occupy, I spent most of my time thinking - pondering the meaning of life, questioning the morals of pokemon training and capture, judging petty politics and their mechanics, regretting past mistakes. More and more my thoughts drifted back to those days where I had been happy alongside my best friends, pursuing my dreams I secretly knew I'd never be able to meet but wasn't willing to admit it. Living life to the fullest had lost its significance to me since then. I became depressed, realizing I had nothing to live for and no goal in mind to keep me moving on. Nothing to keep me going forward, or to go to bed excited, eager to know what the next day would bring. I knew exactly what the next day would bring: nothing. My life lost its spark, and with it, my will to keep going. I quit living life to the fullest until I quit living life entirely.

I couldn't stop thinking about Ash.

I found myself more and more drifting into thoughts of our adventures together - the battles we had, the days we spent side by side, the laughs we shared...it all stopped one day, all at once, like a dream. When his mother died, a piece of Ash died along with her. He was never the same again. None of us were.

It took me a while - 9 years, to be exact - to realize how much that boy affected my life. Before he was there, I was nervous and insecure, terrified to take that first step forward into the unknown. It wasn't until he came along that I realized I was even headed forward at all, my fears swept away by the knowledge that he was right there beside me, facing the same challenges I was. While I was with him, I was happier than I remember ever being in my entire life. The adventure was a blast; every day brought about something new and meaningful, and our friendship was something I treasured every day. Together with him, me, Brock, and Pikachu were one big happy family. We could go on in safety knowing that we were all there for each other, and that we'd never let anything befall the ones we cared about. We were all happy together. We were just like a family. Like a family, we shared the good times together. Like a family, we felt every happy moment along with each other to make it worth the very most.

And, like a family, when one of us lost what was dear to us, we all shared the pain.

I don't know why I felt so strongly for Ash. What about Brock? He was important, too. I cared about him. He was there for me just as much as Ash was. He was always there, listening to our problems, helping to solve them, providing a reason to laugh when we had no other...he was a light for me. For all of us. But no, something about Ash was different. Something made his loss hurt the most, and made me think about him more than any other. Something made him more special to me. He had a place in my heart that Brock didn't. Why? Did I sympathize with him over his tragedy? Did I feel like I could relate to him, now that he knew what it was like to wake up and realize things wouldn't be the same as before? Maybe it was his close relationship with his mother - a relationship like I have with mine, where she's the only one we could fall back to as family - and seeing how much it hurt him that made me feel for him so strongly. I could be going through the same thing he was, but I wasn't. He didn't deserve that. He didn't deserve to not be able to relate to his friends over something. Maybe it was remorse. Maybe it was compassion. Maybe it was pity.

Maybe it was love.

I'm not one of those dramatic high school girls anymore. I know what love is - what love feels like. My first boyfriend on my return to normal life was the last one to hear the phrase "I love you" come out my lips, bar my mother. True love is something irreplaceable and unable to be broken. The fact that none of my past boyfriends are with me and that they just as quickly found new "love" goes to prove that it wasn't love at all. Love for the idea of love, perhaps, but not love for one another. I learned that when I lost my first boyfriend and saw how little our "love" meant. Love meant that I wanted to be with them always, and that I would give my life for them, be it to save theirs or to spend the rest of my days by their side. It was like how I felt about my pokemon, or my mother, or the love I thought I found.

Like with Ash.

Maybe I did love him. And maybe I still did, at this point. I realized something that day: Pokemon contests hadn't become not exciting. My life hadn't lost its luster. My life had lost something even more precious and dear to me than any contest in the world: Ash Ketchum. The boy who helped me find my life.

I picked up the phone almost without hesitation or thinking. Piplup had given me a funny look, but didn't say anything when I had gone digging through my room searching for a number long-since filed away in the back of my mind. I found what I was looking for, and dialed Ash's number. The phone rang for what felt like an eternity before he answered. I sat down and my bed, introduced myself again to him, praying he hadn't forgotten. He hadn't.

I never stopped talking with him. He never stopped talking with me. We had so much to catch up on - so many years of solitude and isolation to make up for, so many memories to reflect over and laugh at, so many things we had to say to each other. I found out that Ash's life hadn't gone much better for him since our group broke up. He stayed in Pallet town, never moving from his mother's house - hence why I was able to contact him so quickly - and tried to take up the same kind of normal lifestyle I had. Pokemon battles didn't mean the same to him anymore. High school was a drag; college seemed pointless, and he didn't even try. He jumped between jobs, having 4 going at one point, lucky if he made it home in time to get an hour's nap before he was off again, leaving Pikachu alone in the house for hours at a time. Both he and his yellow friend were feeling run out and restless, like their lives simply didn't have any meaning anymore. I told him I felt the same way.

When we both reluctantly had to hang up, it was dark out. We'd talked on the phone for nearly 6 hours that day.

The next day he had work, and couldn't talk. I told him I would wait, and so I did. I waited all day for him to call, never once leaving my room except to use the bathroom, and even then I carried the phone with me for fear that it might ring while I was gone.

He had some free time at 1 in the morning that night. He called me anyway, and I answered happily. We talked until the sun rose the next morning and he had to go to work yet again, starting the process over.

Arceus only knows how long we'd go about this. He'd wake up and go to work, and I'd sit around all day in the hopes he'd get home early. He'd come home and call late, and I'd answer without hesitation, talking for as long as I could with him before the night was spent and he had to go to work again. The days he was free were wonderful - they were few, but I cherished them nonetheless. We had the whole day to ourselves, and we spent every minute talking, bringing our phones everywhere we could while we talked, never once stopping, only pausing long enough to use the bathroom or switch ears because the other went numb. I don't think either of us had ever seen a phone bill so large in our lives. In a matter of three weeks I spent more time on the phone than I had an entire year before this.

I was so happy during that time. I managed to dig up Brock's number as well, catching up with his life, spending equally meaningful hours on the phone listening to each others' voices flow through the devices all but surgically attached to our ears. We'd often have 3-way conversations going on, though it was usually just me and Ash, talking like there was no tomorrow. We both knew that happiness wasn't eternal and that it could change at any moment.

Things did change, but not between us. Mom had stopped coming home entirely, feeding back a steady stream of money from the contests she was so engaged in. I never realized how much money we had all of a sudden. The only major bills being the phone, we were incredibly well off, and I had never noticed while spending all my time attached to the phone to pay attention to much of anything else. I could afford to do things I'd never been able to do before...but I only continued to do what I always had: talk to Ash. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else meant so much to me. My living conditions were on the rise, and could have continued to rise, if I cared about them. All I could think about was Ash - what he was doing today, what he was planning for tomorrow, what had happened during his day, wondering what prank an ever-impish Pikachu had pulled on him. Even Pikachu was feeling joyful at the relationship we had restarted. I was so pleased with having such a good friend back again, I never considered what was going on in my day or what feelings I was having. It didn't matter; all I could think about was hearing his voice again. And, when I again heard his voice, all I could think about was how good it was to hear him. Nothing else mattered or crossed my mind for the longest time.

For me, things were great. Over on Ash's side, though, things weren't so hot. I didn't noticed at first that he was spending more and more time talking to me and less time at work. I asked one day, and found out that he'd been in some trouble. He'd been going to Celadon city to try his luck at the game corner. He'd either strike it rich, or go under trying. And so he went under. He lost his jobs, quit devoting time to his hobbies, had to sell things to make ends meet, had to call in favors and ask for money he knew he'd never be able to return...things were getting hard. So hard that he began to wonder how long it would be before he had to sell his house and put Pikachu up for adoption.

I would never let that happen. Not Ash. Never Ash. I wouldn't let him go down like that.

I called Ash one day wondering if he could talk. He said of course he could, and wondered what was on my mind. I asked him about his economic status; he said he didn't want to talk about it. I pressed in until he admitted that he couldn't keep himself afloat by himself, where he put that horrifying scenario about him being homeless and selling Pikachu into my head to haunt my dreams. I couldn't allow that to happen. Naming the only thing I could think of, I asked if he'd let me send him money to help. He said no, that he could take care of this. I begged; he adamantly refused. I tried coming up with a dozen different solutions; he denied them. Naming the first thing that would come to mind, I asked if I could move in to help him. Surprised, he tried to wave it down, but I wouldn't back off about it. I was going to be a friend, I told him; I was going to help him get through the hard time in his life, like I should have with him before. I was moving in, and that was that. He argued no more.

And so I moved.

I hadn't been to Pallet town in nearly 10 years, but I knew the way by heart. I had memorized the map of Kanto prior, using some of the money I had stored away to buy a flight ticket to Viridian city. Ash agreed to meet me at the airport. The plane arrived, and he hadn't come yet. Trusting he would come as he promised he would, I sat down by the entrance to the Viridian city airport and waited.

I sat there for nearly two hours.

The sun was down. I looked over down the street, looking for a car. There were none. The airport was almost completely empty behind me, only the last of the staff going about cleaning as they awaited the latest-flying planes to come in. I stood, I paced, I got tired and sat, only to get tired of that as well and resume one of the other two. A pair of Pidgey came down at one time, pecking absently at the ground. I released Piplup, who got a conversation between the three started, which I watched as long as I could before they flew off again. I chatted with Piplup a little before I returned him to his pokeball and continued to wait.

I sat now, chin in my hand, elbow resting on my knee. A lot of people say I look a lot like my mother and looked like the spitting image of her, but I don't think so. Lately, when I compared the pictures of me before to the image of me in the mirror, and I saw an almost perfect copy of my younger self. The only differences were the minor features of my face, my change in height, and my figure, which had developed a bit more since I was a kid. I didn't think he'd have any problem recognizing me. I still wore the same scarf I always did, though it was a bit worn in places. I had planned to sew it a bit, but the hobby lost value when I discovered talking to Ash again.

Speaking of Ash, where is he? I thought for the umpteenth time, looking down the road and back up it, searching for a sign that he was coming. I went over to the parking lot, trying to find one that might be his. There weren't any, the only cars present being the employees of the airport. I sighed, closing my eyes, beginning to think that maybe he wasn't coming after all. But why? We're friends, and he said he would...maybe something happened? Or maybe he doesn't want me to move in after all? It hurt to think about, but with no sign of him for the last two hours, I couldn't shake the thought. Had Ash forgotten about me?

A battered blue ford came rolling down the road, engine grindy and noisy as it made its way over. I saw a man in the front seat with a pair of pokeballs dangling on the rearview mirror in place of lucky dice, and I saw two pointy things in the passenger seat. It pulled up in front of the airport across the street. I didn't wonder who it was for a moment.

The engine was cut, and the car fell silent and still. There was a pause, which seemed to me like someone taking a deep breath before continuing on. The passenger door opened, and a yellow blur was all I saw before I was tackled by a little yellow rodent, red cheeks dancing with sparks as he rubbed against me and licked my face affectionately, piping "Pika! Pika!" excitedly between licks. I laughed, bringing my arms up to hug the little pokemon. "Hi there, Pikachu!" I said happily, landing a big, wet kiss of my own on his forehead. "Did ya miss me, little guy?"

Pikachu didn't mind the kiss at all, beaming happily, eyes dancing with joy at the sight of his long-time friend as he nodded hard enough to send his ears flopping about.

I giggled, hugging him tightly to my chest. "Aw, I missed you too, little buddy..." Remembering I wasn't the only one who missed him as well, I plucked a quintuplet of pokeballs from my belt and flung them into the air, releasing all of the pokemon within to join in on the reunion. Quilava, Buneary, Pachirisu, Piplup, and Togekiss all formed out of the pink energy, momentarily blinding me until the balls snapped shut and floated back to me. I had Mamoswine as well, but he was pretty big, so I figured I'd wait until we were out somewhere more open before bringing him out. "Hey guys!" I announced, waving them over to get their attention. "Check it out! It's Pikachu!"

All of my team instantly snapped around to look; even Quilava, who had been eying the car across the street suspiciously. Pikachu waved happily, saying something in his tongue that came out as a series of fragments of his name. The pokemon stood there for a moment, eyes widening in surprise...until delight lit up their features, and the group engulfed Pikachu like a tidal wave, showering him with hugs and affectionate gestures of greeting. Piplup tried his best to hug Pikachu with his stubby wings, shoving to get a chance to hug him; Buneary leaped up and threw her arms around him, landing kisses all across his face in joy; Pachirisu jumped onto Pikachu's head before nibbling one of his ears and leaping off to do laps around the group, sparks flying as she burst with energy and excitement; Quilava wrapped herself around Pikachu and licked the side of his head lovingly; Togekiss, seeing the crowd that had grouped around their friend, fluttered her wings and scolded them lightly, urging them to "give the poor boy some breathing room!" before proceeding to land a single, heartfelt kiss on Pikachu's head, who was relieved to be free and blushing slightly, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.

I laughed at seeing how happy everyone was to see their friend again, so caught up in the happy moment they were having that I didn't notice Ash hadn't come out of his car yet. Pikachu waved him over, saying "Pikapi!" encouragingly as he did so. I'd heard him talk to Ash enough times to know who "Pikapi" was, and guessed by his motions what he was insisting.

A moment of stillness ensured. Slowly but surely, I saw the man in the driver's seat move slightly; he turned his head to look at us. He looked around at the pokemon watching him eagerly, Pikachu waving enthusiastically, and his eyes finally rested on me. Even from where I sat across the street I could tell he was scared. Scared...of what, though? To see me again? Was he ashamed that we lost contact over the years like we did? If so, then I just had to tell him I had nothing to hold against him. He'd had a rough time, and I certainly wasn't going to be mad at him for seeking solitude when he lost his mother. I offered a gentle smile to him, raising a hand to lightly wave him over. I wanted to see him again...and I wanted to see him up-close. In-person. Just the two of us.

After a while, Ash sighed and shook his head. At first I thought it was at me until the door to the truck opened and he stepped out, closing it behind him. He stepped out from around his car, visibly took a breath, and made his way over. It felt like slow motion - every footstep felt like a mile until I realized that he was standing right over me, offering a hand to help me up off the sidewalk. I looked up at him in wonder, and he smiled, betraying the way he shook inside. "Sorry I'm late. Had to get my car back from the repo."

I was feeling a million things all at once, but somehow I managed to stifle a laugh and take his hand, smiling as he pulled me to my feet. I just smiled and stared into his eyes, observing all there was to see about him in those eyes of his. When I was traveling with him, I always thought Ash had black eyes, thinking maybe it was some birth defect or something, but never being sure, as we were always on the move and I never had time to just stand there and gaze at him; now, as I stared into his eyes up close, I could see that his eyes weren't black but an incredible shade of navy blue, clouded with the ever-present haze of fatigue from his tiring lifestyle. Through the sheen of being tired and the lack of sleep I could see a sparkle there, shimmering ever so slightly as his eyes looked me over, eventually meeting mine as well. I swam in those gorgeous oceans a while before thinking how I could have missed such a beautiful set of eyes and snapping back to reality. Remembering I hadn't answered his apology, I shook my head. "It's alright. I didn't mind the wait." A lie, of course, but I didn't want to make him feel bad. Seeing him now was more than enough to make it worthwhile.

We both stood there in a comforting silence, smiling as we stared into each other's eyes a while longer before I began to probe his features, realizing how little he'd changed over the years. His eyes had a hint of bags beneath them, indicating that he hadn't slept well lately; his features were clear and defined, and he wasn't wearing his hat, giving me a chance to see his head of slightly spikey black hair that I had only seen on one or two occasions prior. It made him look...a little strange. He always wore that hat. Oh well; it didn't matter. I was just glad to see him now.

Once again I came back to reality to realize he'd opened his arms, waiting for my response. It took me a moment to figure out he was offering a hug, which I happily provided. I reached up, put my arms around his neck, and hugged him, giving him a good squeeze. "I missed you," I told him wholeheartedly.

Ash didn't hesitate to return the hug, arms wrapping around my shoulders. "I missed you, too," he replied, just as earnest as me. "It's been a while, huh?"

I nodded into his chest. "Oh, nothing big. Just 9 years or so."

"Eh, sounds about right. I dunno; I was never good at telling time."

I chuckled, pulling away out of our embrace to look back into his eyes again. Those beautiful, gorgeous eyes...how I wish I'd taken note of those sooner. I had missed out on so much. "It's good to see you again."

Ash nodded, arms still around me ever so slightly. "So it is."

For the longest time he and I stood there together, arms hanging lightly from one another - not as lovers, but as true friends that hadn't seen each other in years, blissfully jubilant to see each other but willing to hold our excitement back, remaining calm and smiling warmly into each others eyes. It felt like it had been an eternity since I'd heard his voice last, despite the fact that I'd spoken to him the very same day. All the troubles we'd had, all the pain we'd felt in the years of solitude, the loneliness...it all seemed to wash away while we stood there, smiling, just enjoying the fact that we could see each other after so long. He was the best friend I'd ever had, and all the time apart had hurt, my shifting and questionable emotions and feelings aside. It felt nice feeling his touch, being in his presence...we finally were together after all this time. We could be friends again, just like we used to. We could be happy.

And so we were.

I know moving in with each other is generally something that a boyfriend and a girlfriend would do, but hey-he was in a bit of a yank, and we were friends. Good friends, at that. We could live in the same house together, couldn't we? We could give each other some privacy, and act civilized around one another. We could have a nice understanding like we did. He needed the money, I had the money, and we could both use the company from being alone at my mom's. So, I dragged my suitcases over, unloaded into what had been his mom's room, and promptly made myself at home, which he welcomed. He joked that it had been a while since he'd had a woman in his house.

Turns out, he needed it pretty bad.

If anyone's ever wondered why husband and wife move in together when they get married, it's because of one simple reason: men are slobs. At least, as far as organizing and keeping a house tidy. It was actually pretty pathetic. Spent paper cups and bulk food wrappers were scattered everywhere and tucked in every available place that you wouldn't notice right away in an attempt to feign order. The bookshelves were disheveled; magazines lay sprawled open across every available surface and table top, consuming at least 2/3's of the living room. His room was a disaster area; no way I was getting in there for anything, even if I wanted to - which I didn't. The couch was a wrinkled mess, the impression in the seats hinting that someone had fallen asleep there more than once. The kitchen...well, I sure hoped he wasn't eating off of them all stacked up by the sink in a teetering pillar waiting for a good chance to tip over and shatter everywhere…although the amount of instant meal containers and snack wrappers suggested he'd been living off of ramen and mac'n'cheese for the last, like, ever. Basically, his house was a hole.

When I walked in, I stopped, looked around, and gave him a look that suggested I wanted to beat my - or his - head repeatedly against a wall. He offered a sheepish grin, rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment, and said nothing, waiting obediently for the orders to start cleaning up I had no doubt planned on giving him. I had a nice list ready, in fact, but not that night. We'd sleep for now.

The next morning, however, we kicked it into overhaul.

That day lasted forever. We worked hours on end, our hands and feet well and truly sore by the time we had made any real progress. After what felt like an eternity, the sun set, and with it the longest state of disrepair the house had ever seen. When we went to sleep that night, the house was positively sparkling.

The day after that was mostly economical. I went about the process of transferring some money over to his account, the amount of which present nearly knocking Ash off his feet from shock. I asked him what he thought, and he just shook his head, though I doubt I could pry that smile off his lips with a crowbar.

After that, he and I went about living a life worth living.

Ash's bills got paid. His car got paid off, and we could even afford to fix it up. That Ford had never seen a better day. We worked around the clock, systematically paying off the bills and doing the math Ash knew how to do but couldn't due to the sheer size of the debt he'd had piled up and how unreliable his income was. He seemed a bit embarrassed by the size of the number when we started out, but I just laughed and said it was nothing. I knew Ash was a bright one; he just didn't always have the resources to work with that intelligence of his. Now, with some money to work with, he got pretty clever. He made a few investments that I knew would pay off very quickly, and the way he paid off the bills as we got to working on what remained went to show just how excited he was to be able to put these methods to good use. Back when we were kids, the prospect of paying bills would have put us both to sleep, but now he couldn't be happier to get those damn numbers written down and scratched off.

I had to make two more meager withdrawals before things were going back into the green, and after a few short weeks, things were looking good. Really good. I had begun to really feel comfortable around his house, which I started referring to as our house the more comfortable I got. The feelings I had felt a few months ago resurfaced, and more than once I sat down and pondered what I was feeling. Maybe I did love him; maybe we were just friends. Regardless, we became as inseparable as brother and sister, and the people around the neighborhood that saw he and I started to wonder what our connections were. I even heard a few kids riding by on bicycles wave and call "Hi, Mrs. Ketchum!"

Mrs. Ketchum. How flattered I was to hear the name...even if I was quite embarrassed, Ash having been in earshot when they said it. Our faces became as red as Pikachu's cheeks and we found it uncomfortable to look into each other's eyes for a little bit afterward.

Overall, though, life living with Ash was as fun as it was enjoyable. I was almost always smiling, him along with me, and it started to feel like maybe we really were husband and wife. It was something that I would have blushed profusely at, but now I was starting to like the idea. It had a nice ring to it...Dawn Ketchum. I'd say it to myself quietly when he was away, working at his new more reliable job, and I'd just stare into the mirror and smile. It made me feel...special. I'd fantasize about it often, sometimes pretending that Pikachu was our child and that I was the mother of the household, flitting about the room happily while humming a tune to myself, unusually perky. To people in the supermarket in Viridian, I would sometimes even be so bold as to introduce myself as Dawn Ketchum. Dawn Ketchum...such a nice ring to it. Such a nice sound...

A mere three months had passed since I first moved in with Ash, and I was happier than I could remember ever being in years.

A phone call in the morning was all it took to throw all that into jeopardy...and signal the start of the most terrifying period of my entire life.


Edited and tidied up...not that anyone will read back and check it out. Honestly, who rereads fanfictions? -_-'