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A Pokémon Trainer’s Guide to Romance Using Modern Technology and Terrible Pick-Up Lines

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In all honesty, this whole debacle started out as a well-intentioned joke and, in Ash’s humble opinion, from a hard-learned lesson in safeguarding his phone against his asshole friends.

If anyone were to ask him, Ash would swear up and down that he was happily and innocently celebrating his twentieth birthday back at home, surrounded by food, his family, and his friends – Pokémon or otherwise. His mother had really outdone herself with the party preparation. Bouquets of balloons were crammed into every empty corners of the house, colourful streamers were hung from the ceiling, and confetti, bright and sparkling, decorated the tables laden with snacks and drinks.

Frankly, Ash was busy basking in the warmth and attention from the people he loved. He was understandably caught off guard when he heard his mother say to Professor Oak –

“Maybe next year, Ashy can bring someone special home for his birthday!”

“Aw, Mom,” he groaned out loud. His cheeks flushed even brighter at the sound of all of his friends’ cooing in unison at the comment. From his perch on his shoulder, Pikachu gave him a sympathetic nuzzle to the cheek.

“A mother can dream, Ashy! A mother can dream!” His mother giggled, and Ash could feel himself flush harder.

“Not to worry, Mrs. Ketchum,” Brock said slinging an arm over Ash’s shoulder, barely missing Pikachu. He let out an annoyed chirp. “We keep a good eye on him.”

Ash scowled as he tried to elbow Brock in his gut, only to have the other dodged away nimbly, laughing. He could see Misty shaking her head at them from her spot beside the chip dip. “Mom, I’m fine,” he declared. “Besides, I’m too busy on the road for romance.”

“Oh pish-posh!” His mother waved a dismissive hand. Professor Oak nodded along, the traitor. “You’re never too busy to find the girl of your dreams.” She added after a small pause, “or the man of your dreams.”

The red on his face came back with a vengeance. “Mom!”

“I just wanted you to know that I’ll always be proud! As long as you’re happy, Ash!”

“I’m as happy as a Clamperl.” Ash gave a well-aimed jab to Brock’s ribs. The responding yelp and the sudden weight off of his shoulders felt like sweet, sweet victory. “Besides,” he said as he straightened out his clothes, “I have my Pokémon and my friends. What else can a guy ask for?”

He could see Dawn mouthing the words ‘in denial’ to an amused Cilan from the corner of his eyes.

Ash gave her a dirty look.

She grinned back, completely unabashed.

He opened his mouth to retort but a heavy weight over his shoulders knocked him off balance, and a familiar set of arms wrapped around his torso. Pikachu dove to the ground for safety with an annoyed ‘Pika’.

“Brock! Get off,” he cried.

“Mrs. Ketchum, we’ll find Ash someone special,” he heard May said while he struggled to free himself from Brock’s tackle hug. “Just you wait and see.”

If Ash hadn’t been so distracted at the time, he would’ve caught the familiar gleam in May’s eyes.

That was his first mistake.

His second mistake was letting his friends drag him out later that night to sleep under the stars.

His third mistake was falling asleep, thinking he was safe amongst his friends without realizing that they were all treacherous traitors.

His ignorance bought him a night of blissful sleep, and a morning filled with confusion when he checked his phone to find:

 

From: Todd Snap

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Re: ;)

???

Am I missing something?

 

From: Ritchie S

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Re: ;)

Hahaha, omg. WTF man?

 

From: Cheryl C

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Re: ;)

Oh my! lol!

 

He scrolled through his messages and he blanched when he saw:

 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Sent All

Subject: ;)

I think I'm going to need a Burn Heal because baby, you're hot. <3

 

“You guys!! What the hell?!

Pikachu, who had been curled up beside him, jolted awake in shock. “Pika?”

“Oh, you’re awake,” Tracey slowly sat up from his sleeping bed to Ash’s left and yawned. “In my defence, I tried to stop them.”

Them?!

“Way to throw us under the bus, Tracey!” Dawn grumbled from her pink sleeping bag. And then, because she was secretly evil, she asked not-so slyly, “So, did you get any responses back?”

Looking around the campsite, Ash could see the rest of his friends’ peering over their sleeping bags in an obvious attempt to eavesdrop. Iris was trying to smother her snickering, judging from the violent way her shoulders were trembling.

“C’mon! Don’t leave us hanging,” piped Misty from somewhere to his right.

He did not deign to give her a response.

At least, he wasn’t planning to until his phone vibrated again.

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Re: ;)

I think I need a Paralyze Heal, because you're stunning.

 

“What the – “

Another message popped up.

I don’t know what happened last night but that must have been some birthday party. I’m sorry I had to miss it. Happy belated, Ashy-boy!  

 

“Wooowwww, someone actually answered you!”

Ash whipped his head back and saw May grinning behind him. Her expression was that of pure evil.

Instinctively, he hunched over his phone in a futile attempt to protect it from her wicked ways. “May! I should have known it was you!” he scowled. He could feel the heat radiating from his face. “Stop trying to match me up with random people!”

“And from the glow of your cheeks, I’d say that my job is done. You’re welcome!” she sing-songed without an inch of regret.  

Ash shoved his phone in his pocket, picked up Pikachu, and buried his face in his soft fur. “I hate all of you,” his voice came out slightly muffled and 100% mortified. “I hate you all so much.”

As expected, his friends answered with ringing laughter. Bastards.


 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: I’m so sorry!!!

Gary!! I’m so sorry about that! That was from my friends pranking me, the very same people who are no longer invited to any of my parties. Ever. They stole my phone while I was asleep.

How’s your research coming along, by the way?

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Re: I’m so sorry!!!

Hey Ash,

No worries. That message gave me a good laugh. Of course, why am I not surprised that you got your phone stolen by your friends just for them to send cheesy Pokémon pick-up lines to hapless receivers? Only you, Ash. Only you.

Research is starting to slow down at the moment. We just finished wrapping up a big set of experiments last night and we’re waiting for a delivery to arrive to our lab before we can start the next phase of our project. I’m using the time to catch up on all the paperwork I’ve ignored for the past three weeks. Life as a researcher is glamorous like that.

Hope your break is going well! Are you making any plans to travel?

PS: I saw your cheesy Pokémon pick-up line and thought to raise it with my own, though I’m not surprised that you weren’t the one who came up with it. Maybe it’s for the best. You do not want to go against me in a battle of wordplay, Ashy, because I will win.

 

“That cocky little –” Ash cried out from his bed in his gingham pyjamas. Pikachu gave him an annoyed glance from his spot on his pillow before dropping back to sleep with a yawn. Ash gave him a gentle pet on the head as an apology.

Slowly, he reread the message again and scowled. Sure, his relationship with Gary had grown from the petty rivalry that once dominated their childhood into a comfortable friendship, but there were some things that just don’t change. Gary’s ability to simultaneously be friendly and irritating is one of them. Gary’s ability to bring a competitive streak out of Ash that’s a mile wide is another.

His fingers flew over the touch screen of his phone on reflex when he typed out his response:

 

I’m going to Hoppip into your pants.

PS: Prepare to lose big.


 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Your jokes are so old, they’re written in hieroglyphs

Did you use Confuse Ray ‘cause you’re making me dizzy. 

PS: Glad to hear that you’re taking some time off, although I hope you’re not slacking as hard as you are with your responses. Any plans of revisiting Sinnoh?

 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: Your jokes are so bad that when you say hi, everyone laughs

I can act like a Mismagius and make all of your wildest dreams come true.

PS: I haven’t really thought of visiting Sinnoh, but I don’t see why not. It’s been a while since I’ve travelled there, and I’d like to my friends who are in the region. Maybe, I can even get a few battles in to see how I compare against them. I can also bring a few of my Pokémon who haven’t been to Sinnoh before and make this into a proper trip. That way, they can get a chance to battle different opponents. I’m liking this plan more and more!

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: That last title almost hurt. Who thought you had it in you? I’m so proud.

You remind me of Pokémon, I just want to Pikachu.

PS: I noticed how your conversation went from “maybe, I’ll visit Sinnoh” to “all the Pokémon battles. All of it.” One track mind, anybody?

PPS: I’m almost offended that you made no mention of dropping by the lab and seeing me. Almost offended since I know that you will most definitely be tainting my lab with your giddiness and blinding optimism. I do have something to show you in the near future. No, that is not a euphemism. It’s related to a new project that we’ve just started.

 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: Awww, you can’t make a joke about Pikachu! Two can play that game.

Like an Umbreon, I also evolve at night.

PS: I love Pokémon battles! Of course they’re all I think about. How are you still surprised by this?

PPS: Ooh, a surprise! Is it some super ultra rare Pokemon that you’re bringing alive?

PPPS: Tainting?! I’m bringing some much needed joy and happiness in your otherwise sad and grumpy life, you ungrateful nerd.


 

Pikachu cringed at Gary’s pun about his name when Ash read the message out loud from his desk chair.

“I know, it’s terrible,” Ash laughed. He gave his best friend a pacifying scritch under the chin. “I got him back with an Umbreon line though.”

“Got him back for what?” Mrs. Ketchum poked her head around the bedroom door and peered at her son with suspicious eyes. “What did you do, Ash?”

“Nothing Mom! Just playing a joke on Gary.” He tucked his phone in his pocket, got out of the chair, and picked up Pikachu. “Do you need me for something?”

She opened the door and beckoned her son to follow. “I was wondering if you can help me with the groceries. How is Gary doing, anyway? That poor boy works too hard. I hope you’re not being a bother!”

“Mom! How is it always my fault?” he cried, trailing after his mother. “Besides, he’s doing fine in his nerd cave in Sinnoh! I probably have to drag him outside when I visit him so that he’d remember what the sun looks like.”

Later that evening, as he finished changing into his pyjamas, he checked his phone again:

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: So we’re using each others’ Pokémon now? You’re on!

You must be a Charizard because you're getting me hot.

PS: Ash, us bringing alive a “super ultra rare Pokemon” pretty much describes the entirety of my job. If you’re going to guess what the surprise is, at least be more specific. Don’t be a lazy guesser.

PPS: For the record, I am a perfectly happy nerd, so excuse you. You’re just the one who’s unnaturally giddy and overly enthusiastic about everything. You’re the outlier, not the norm.

 

Chuckling quietly to himself and feeling inexplicably warm, Ash powered down his phone and went to bed.


 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: I hope you know, I can’t look Charizard in the eyes today, you bastard.

Are you a Hitmonlee ‘cause your body is kickin'.

PS: I may be vague in my guess, but I noticed how you didn’t say I was wrong. HA! I WIN!

PPS: I went to see Prof Oak today to do some training, and I blame you for how disastrous that went. You and your stupid Charizard comment. I couldn’t get through the training exercise without cringing at the memory. I had to lie to your grandfather when he asked me what was wrong, so don’t you dare tell him the truth. I did tell Charizard what you said though. He was not pleased.

You owe me a new hat.

PPPS: A happy nerd wouldn’t use the term “outlier” in their everyday parlance, Gary.

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: I’m sorry that I’m not sorry.

You make me erupt like the Cinnabar Island Volcano.

PS: In light of the Charizard-incident, I thought I’d let up on making any jokes using the Pokémon you have. You’re welcome.

Oh, and I totally won that round.

PPS: I’ll buy you a new hat. It will be pink and decorated with roses and daisies. Again, you’re welcome.

PPPS: Any scientist worth his or her mettle uses the word “outlier” in his or her everyday conversation. What I’m surprised to see is how you even know the word “parlance”, let alone know how to use it correctly. Colour me impressed.

Px4S: Fine! You were right. We think we found a fossil of Tirtouga and we’re trying to resurrect it. Are you happy now, Mr. Buzz Kill?


 

Ash choked violently on his cereal. Beside him, Misty, who had been visiting for the day, drew back in alarm.

“Oh my God, Ash!” Misty snatched the water jug at the middle of the breakfast table, poured out a mug of water and handed Ash the full cup. After he drank a few deep gulps, she asked, “Are you alright? What’s gotten into you?”

“Sorry, didn’t mean to make you worry,” Ash coughed out. He waved the phone in his hand. “Read something funny is all.”

Mrs. Ketchum placed a stack of freshly made pancakes on the table before taking a seat. “You’re getting awfully distracted by that phone of yours. Are you still talking to Gary?”

“Gary?” Misty blinked, surprised. “Since when do you speak to Gary?”

“We speak all the time!” Ash responded with annoyance. He wasn’t sure why he felt so defensive all of a sudden, but the idea that Gary was too much of a stranger for Ash to speak to on a regular basis irked him. “Besides, he’s been telling me about his research in Sinnoh. Said he wanted to show me something. I think I’ll go visit him.”

“Let me guess, he found a fossil of a super rare Pokémon and he’s looking to resurrect it?” Misty said dryly.

“Heh, that’s what I said too.”


 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: OMG, I CHOKED ON CEREAL BECAUSE OF THIS!

Gary Oak, the Cinnabar Island Volcano Eruption was a tragedy, and to make an innuendo out of it was inappropriate. So inappropriate. I can’t even. You’re lucky that I share your same sick sense of humour. I almost died choking on my cereal.

Also, you’re cheating. That wasn’t even related to Pokémon names or items!

Here’s my perfectly, non-cheaty submission of the day: Aipom's pretty good with his hands, and so am I.

PS: Just because you decided to stop using our Pokémon’ names does not mean you won that round. However, I definitely agree that we should avoid using their names, or at the very least, we should avoid using Charizard’s name. I don’t want to be flambéed again.

PPS: If you buy me that pink hat, I will buy you the most hideous lab coat I will find, one that’s tie-dyed in all the colours of the rainbow. ALL OF THEM.

PPPS: When you hang around Cilan, you learn some new words.

Px4S: I KNEW IT! It’s amazing that you even found a Tirtouga though! Have you started your experiments yet? Where did you find it? How old is the fossil? I want to see it!

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Your tie-dye threat does not scare me. Bring it.

Cinnabar Island Volcano is where Pokémon live so a joke referencing that location should count towards our game! You never specified that our pickup lines have to be related to Pokémon names and items. Who’s the rule-bending cheater now?

I’m also glad you acknowledged that you’re a horrible person considering how you laughed the hardest out of us two. Heh.

Here’s my submission: Is that a Sudowoodo in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

PS: This project is a partnership between our lab and Professor Sycamore’s lab. Their lab is in charge of the fossil’s excavation, while our lab is in charge of running certain sets of experiments, including performing genetic tests and carbon dating everything.

At the moment, we’re still in the process of excavating the fossil from the Glittering Cave in Kalos, but the excavation work is going smoothly. We anticipate that the fossil should arrive in three weeks or so if things continue to go well. When we have it, we’ll be able to determine the exact age of the fossil. I’ll keep you updated and I’ll let you know when to come over.

PPS: Check your mail.


 

“Ash?”

Ash paused his battle against Brock and looked at his mother, who was slowly approaching him with a package in her hands. He turned back to Brock and at Pikachu. “Sorry, you guys, do you mind if we pause for a sec?”

“Sure,” Brock shrugged and recalled his Croagunk. Pikachu let out an enthusiastic “Chu!” in agreement.

“What is it mom,” he asked, running a short distance up to her with Pikachu following closely behind.

“There’s a package for you,” Mrs. Ketchum looked puzzled. “It’s from Gary.”

Ash sighed. He had a feeling he knew exactly what was in the package. “I think I know what this is,” he confessed, half-resigned and half-amused.

Brock peered over Ash’s shoulder as the younger slowly ripped the packaging paper off the box. “Gary? Since when does Gary send you anything?”

“Since he found out that he can embarrass me by sending me stuff. Look at this thing!”

Scowling, Ash pulled out the fluorescent pink cap from the box. The hat had daisies and roses embroidered along the front and the sides of the cap, paired with dainty green leaves and delicate looping vines.

Brock and Mrs. Ketchum burst out laughing.


 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: I got your package. Prepare for revenge.

Your pickup line of the day: Are you a Flareon, because you're a sexy fox ;)

PS: Thanks for the hat. It is as hideous as you described it. Where did you manage to even find something like that?

Unfortunately for me, Mom and Brock also saw the cap when I took it out of the box, and they insisted that I send you this picture of me wearing it. Here’s an attachment. Now you can’t say I’ve never done something nice for you.

Prepare to receive the ugliest tie-dyed lab coat in the history of ugly lab coats.

PPS: It’s good that your project is going well! I’ve had a chance to visit the Glittering Cave a few years ago. Rumour has it that it was a hotspot for fossils. Didn’t they find a fossil for Amaura there?

Where would you keep the Tirtouga? Please don’t tell me that you’re planning to keep all your resurrected Pokémon in this massive public park. That plan sounds like a recipe for disaster. Didn’t they make a movie about all the horrible things that could go wrong in that scenario? Jurassic something or other?

Px4S: Aside from work, what else have you been up to in your nerd cave?

Attachment: photoID01.jpg

 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: That picture is getting framed.

Hello Beautifly, you're looking absolutely Goldeen tonight.

Especially in that hat. ;)

PS: I found that hat in a random gift shop on my way to see Professor Sycamore. The shop owner who sold it to me thought I was crazy when he saw how hard I laughed.

PPS: Yes, they found an Amaura there; Professor Sycamore was in charge of that project. It was actually through that project that he established his reputation as a specialist in Pokémon genetics. Currently, he and Professor Rowan are interested to know what other fossils can be found so that those prehistoric Pokémon can be brought back to life. We’ll need to establish an efficient way to resurrect Pokémon before we can get that far though, and that includes designing brand new equipment and experimental procedures to get the job done.

If we can get the machine and the experimental steps down, we will open up a field of prehistoric Pokémon study previously unknown to the world. Pretty exciting stuff.

The Tirtouga will be kept at our lab. We’re currently also building a home for him or her. No, we won’t throw all the prehistoric Pokémon together in a close setting where ignorant park visitors can risk irritating Pokémon that can eat them like popcorn. Let Jurassic World be a lesson to us all.

PPPS: Casa Oak is a classy establishment and I resent you calling it the Nerd Cave. Mind you, I haven’t really spent much time at home lately. Too much work to do. What about you? How’s your training coming along?


 

Ash was just about leave from Professor Oak’s lab with Pikachu in tow when he suddenly remembered his promise to seek vengeance against Gary.

“Professor Oak?”

The scientist paused in his note-taking. “What is it, Ash? Would you like to take another Pokémon out for some more training?”

Ash shook his head. “No, I’ve done all the training I can for today. I was just wondering if you knew what lab coat size that Gary wears.”

“I –” Professor Oak looks flabbergasted and Ash reddens a little. “I honestly don’t know, Ash. But he’s a little bigger than you, so you can try some of the lab coats here to get an estimation on what size he wears. I must say that this is a surprising question though.”

“Oh, it’s um, it’s a bit stupid.” Ash idly scratched his cheek in embarrassment. “Gary sent me something so I thought I’d return the favour, you know. I also thought I’d get something that he can wear while working that’s…personalized.” With all the colours of the rainbow, he added snidely in his head.

Professor Oak stared a little. Then, he broke into the broadest grin that Ash has ever seen, one that positively lit up his face and made his eyes sparkle.

It almost felt like that he was getting a strong sense of approval from the older man.

“Oh my boy, I understand completely! It’s so nice to see Gary finding someone he can – oh, but never you mind! Let’s go find those lab coats, shall we?”

As Ash was being quickly ushered to the next room with Pikachu, he could honestly say that he had no idea why the Professor was walking with a spring in his steps.


 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: Casa Oak is just a fancier name for Nerd Cave and you know it.

If I were a Pidgeotto, I’d gust your clothes off.

And replace them with clothes that looked like a rainbow puked all over them, starting with your lab coat.

PS: What you’re doing sounds absolutely amazing! No wonder you’ve been so busy. I hope you’re getting enough sleep and food. I want to see these prehistoric Pokémon, and you’re my golden ticket to do that. I can’t have you be like, half-dead or unresponsive!

PPS: I’m doing good, thanks! I think I definitely made the right call by taking the year off. I needed the time to get myself reacquainted with my Pokémon. So far, I’ve managed to fit in all the different types of training sessions that I’ve always wanted to do without killing myself with the workload. It’s nice to be able to take things a little easier after spending so much time on the road.

PPPS: The tables have turned. Check your mail.


 

“Why are you grinning at your phone like that?”

Ash blinked to attention. Dawn and Max were staring at him with twin looks suspicion from across their lunch table. Meanwhile, Pikachu continued sipping on his extra large strawberry milkshake without a care in the world.

“Oh, I’m just waiting to hear back from Gary. I sent him something.” Ash grinned at the memory. With the help of Professor Oak, he was able to find out what Gary’s lab coat size was. What he couldn’t explain to the Professor was why he needed one dyed in every shades of colour known to man. The Professor only stared at Ash before shaking his head, muttering something under his breath about ‘the youths of today’ and ‘young love’.

“So what did you send Gary?” Max asked after they’ve left the restaurant and were slowly meandering their way back to Pallet Town.

“More importantly, why?” May interjected.

“Oh, I sent him a little something in thanks for what he gave me. He’s going to hate it.” Ash’s grin turned devilish. At Pikachu’s disapproving ‘Pika’, Ash plucked him off his shoulder and cradled him in his arms. “Aw, don’t be like that, Pikachu. You know he deserved it.”

“He gave you something?” May paused in her track. “Since when does Gary give you things?”

Why does everyone say that, Ash mused before brushing that thought aside. “Since he started talking to me,” he answered instead. His look turned accusatory. “You know, from that time you stole my phone. He thought it was hilarious by the way.” Ash added after a brief pause, “He’s also not sending me things. He sent me a thing. There’s a difference.”

“Still doesn’t explain why he’s sending you anything,” Max muttered.

Ash rolled his eyes. “He gave me a gag gift because he thought it would annoy me. I’m sending a gag gift back to stop him from bragging.”

“Ah, you’re doing it out of a petty need for revenge,” Max nodded in understanding. “I gotcha.”

“I don’t know. You’re sending things to each other and from the looks of it, you’re speaking to each other regularly. It sounds like it’s more than just petty revenge.” May looked at Ash with a sly expression. “Are you telling us everything?”

Ash looked back in confusion. “We’re just good friends is all.”

“Oh, if you say so Ash. You just continue doing your thing with Gary.” May giggled. For the umpteenth time, Ash felt like he was missing something.

That sensation promptly fled the moment his phone started vibrating in his pocket.

“New message!” Ash crowed, quickly checking his phone. A few seconds later, he burst out laughing. “He hates it!! I knew he’d hate it! This is the best! I’m going to have to get him something even better to top this!”

“Just good friends, huh?” he heard May utter but he was too busy typing a response to answer.


From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: Well played, Ash Ketchum. Well played.

You're worth more than a thousand nuggets.

But not your gift though. That lab coat is a travesty that ought to be burned. I’m still trying to figure out how you managed to find a tie-dyed lab coat, let alone find one that fits me. Colour me (heh) surprised and wrong.

 

Professor Rowan also saw it and insisted that I wear it to the lab from now on. I hope you’re happy with the damage you’ve done, you monster.

PS: In the spirit of fairness, I’ve included a picture of me in that lab coat to this email.

PPS: I’m glad to hear that you’re only concerned about my wellbeing because it could affect your chances at seeing that Tirtouga. Gee. Thanks.

PPPS: So with all the training that you’re doing, does that mean that our next Pokémon battle won’t end with me thoroughly kicking your ass? On the note about training, you better not be working yourself to the bone. I refuse to carry you to safety if you faint from exhaustion when you’re here.

Attachment: Labcoathell-01.jpg


 

Ash found himself developing an unexpected, but comfortable, routine in the following weeks. He would start his day reading and responding to Gary’s messages, have breakfast while checking for updates on those messages, and head out for a light run with his Pokémon. He would break, check his phone, and double back home in time for lunch with his mother or with one of his friends. After his meal, he would either visit Professor Oak to train the Pokémon at the research centre, or he would train the Pokémon he had on hand using the obstacle course he’d set up. The training would last until dinnertime, after which he would spend the rest of his day relaxing, checking his phone, and talking to Gary.

Truth be told, Ash had not felt this close to Gary since they were young children, before they both decided to become Pokémon Trainers, and their competitive nature created a rift between them. Their rivalry had certainly cooled once Gary decided to become a researcher, but the closeness they had once shared had not returned. Instead, Ash had been perfectly content in remaining distantly polite to his childhood friend. In his defence, he had plenty of other things to focus on at the time, like satisfying his relentless need to be the best Trainer in the world.

There was another reason why Ash wasn’t so quick to rekindle their friendship; to be completely honest, Ash was still feeling hurt from the way Gary had treated him. After all, Ash had never truly understood why Gary had become so mean. Just because they were rivals, didn’t mean that he had to be a grade A jerk bag all the time.

But as the saying goes, time heals all wounds, and it certainly was the case for Ash. He started visiting Gary’s lab, partially to talk to Professor Rowan, and partially to check up on his old friend. Over time, his visits went from being once in a blue moon to once every six months, to once every couple of months. Slowly and steadily, Ash was starting to get his friend back.

Funny how he hadn’t even realized how much he had missed his friendship with Gary until now that they were talking so much.

“Ash! Gary sent you another package!”

Ash paused writing a reply to Gary. (Today’s submission was an inappropriate, but hilarious, “Babe, you just gave me a Cubone” that was guaranteed to make Gary cringe in disgust.) “Coming Mom!” he shouted back.

The package-sending thing is a new element to their friendship though, but he wasn’t complaining at all. He was, however, marginally concerned about running out of shelf space to hold all the things he was getting.

“Well, what is it? Let’s open it!” exclaimed Dawn when Ash emerged into the living room with Pikachu perched in his usual spot on his shoulders. Brock, Tracey, May, Max and Mrs. Ketchum were lounging on the sofas around the package. Dawn was the only one standing and peering at the box with undisguised curiosity.

His friends and family have taken to this package giving business with a fervour that Ash did not understand. Package opening days have become a minor cause for his friends to gather around his living room just to see what sort of horror that was awaiting Ash.

For some reason, Cilan had described this whole event as “the most bizarre courtship ritual” he has seen.

“Alright, alright. Hold on.” Everyone leaned forward as Ash ripped away the wrapping paper, opened the box and rummaged through the packing peanuts.

From the depths of the box, he pulled a small rectangular case made from rich, dark blue velvet.

“Oooh,” everyone gasped.

“I haven’t even opened this yet, you guys.” Ash rolled his eyes. He gingerly popped open the lid. What was Gary planning?

Nestled inside the box were two pokéballs, each containing a purple top with two bright spots of pink at the sides of the top. A large, white letter M was printed in between the spots. Wait a minute –

“Holy – are those Masterballs?” Tracey blurted out. Everyone else was staring at the velvet box in stunned silence. Pikachu leaned down to take a tentative sniff at the present.

“Oh my!” Ash heard his mother gasp. Ash could relate to that sentiment. Of all the things he has received from Gary, mostly gear he could use in his adventures painted in tacky colours, these were by far the most expensive.

“I don’t – I don’t understand where he’s going with this,” Ash confessed in a hush, still reeling from the fact that he was holding master balls. Silph Co. only made a handful of these every single year, and they were always auctioned off at astronomical prices. How did Gary manage to get his hands on them?

“What do you mean, you don’t know where he’s going with this?!” Misty threw her hands in the air. “Clearly, he’s in lo– “

A shrill pinging noise from Ash’s phone interrupted her tirade. Ash automatically placed the box on the table and pulled his phone out to read the message:

I’ve got a real pair of Masterballs, baby ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

 

Before Ash could reply, a second message appeared:

And now, so do you! \o/

 

“Is that Gary? What did he say?” Max asked.

“I – er.” Ash stared at the messages, at his friends, then back at the box of Masterballs.

Then, he burst out laughing.

That huge, massive dork! “I can’t, I can’t believe him!” he gasped out, clutching at his stomach. Of course Gary Oak would pull something like that, that competitive, over-achieving nerd! “He sent me those just to make his joke work. Who, who even does that?”

Brock snagged Ash’s phone from his loose fingers and read the message with raised brows. “Romance is well and truly dead,” he deadpanned, passing the phone to the rest of the crowd.

“I think it’s sweet,” Mrs. Ketchum smiled with approval as the rest of Ash’s friend groaned at the message. Even Pikachu shook his head in exasperation.


 

From: Gary Oak

To: Ash Ketchum

Subject: It’s alive!!!

But first - Are you a Rattata, ‘cause I’d rattatap that!

Now onto business! You know how I told you a few weeks ago when we finally brought the Tirtouga in our lab? It took us all this time to get our equipment properly calibrated and working but I am happy to announce that we now have the first ever, living and breathing Tirtouga in the world! Well, since prehistoric times at least. 

It’s alive, Ash! It’s really, really alive!!

In other words – Will you be able to drop by next Friday? Take my Pidgeotto or my Fearow to fly here if you want. I have them with Gramps.

 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: YESSSSSS!!!!! TIRTOUGA!! TIRTOUGA!!

Congrats Gary!!! I’m so happy for you! This is amazing news!! You should be throwing the biggest celebration right now. You’ve worked so hard for this and you deserve the break.

I can definitely do next Friday. I’m planning on asking Charizard to fly me there, but thanks for offering your Pidgeotto and your Sparrow. What time should I drop by the lab? Let me know if there’s anything that you want me to bring as well!

Again, all the congratulations. You did it!

PS: before I forget, here’s your daily pick-up line – You make me feel like an electrode. You give me an explosion in my pants.

 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: Re: YESSSSSS!!!!! TIRTOUGA!! TIRTOUGA!!

Hey Gary! I haven’t heard from you, so I thought I’d touch base with you. Are we still on for Friday? Thanks!

PS: Pick-up line of the day – Wanna watch my ekans evolve?

 

From: Ash Ketchum (Me)

To: Gary Oak

Subject: Re: Re: YESSSSSS!!!!! TIRTOUGA!! TIRTOUGA!!

Gary? I haven’t heard from you in days and it’s starting to scare me a little. Is everything okay?


 

“I don’t understand! It’s been a week!” Ash cried to his mother as he paced the living room. “I’ve been getting nothing but radio silence from him and that’s weird. I normally hear back from him at least three times a day!”

He whirled around, eyes wide. “What if something happened? What if the Tirtouga escaped, went on rampage like Jurassic World, and ate him? I warned him about this!”

“Ash, sweetie, I don’t think Tirtouga eats people,” his mother said soothingly, which didn’t help any because the rampaging was still a very real possibility.

On the floor beside Mrs. Ketchum, Pikachu drooped his ears and made a sad “Pika” at his Trainer’s distress.

Ash picked up Pikachu and gave him a quick hug. “Has Professor Oak heard back from Professor Rowan?” he asked.

Mrs. Ketchum shook her head. “Nobody from the lab is picking up, I’m afraid. Professor Oak said that he’d call the moment he heard anything.”

Professor Oak never called. Instead, he showed up at the door later that evening.

“Ash, Delia,” he greeted, but his face was gray and sombre. “I’m sorry for bothering you this late in the evening, but I’m afraid I have some urgent news. It’s about Gary.”

Ash felt his heart drop. “Is Gary alright?” he asked after inviting the professor in.

Professor Oak nodded. “He’s fine for now. There has been an attack on Professor Rowan’s lab. It’s Team Rocket.” He spat out the name in disgust. “They stole a Pokémon and destroyed the lab in the process. Gary chased after them and was able to get the Pokémon back.”

“Where is Gary now?”

“In the hospital. Recovering.” Professor Oak rubbed the bridge of his nose, sounding drained, “that reckless boy chased after Team Rocket for a week. He just got himself hospitalized an hour ago.” He shook his head. “I’m planning to leave for the Sinnoh General Hospital now. I was wondering if you wanted to come with me.”

“You should go, Ash,” Mrs. Ketchum ushered. “You have most of your things packed for your Friday visit anyway. I can finish packing for you. Why don’t you run to the lab first to pick out your Pokémon? I can meet you there with your things.”

Ash nodded. “Thanks a lot Mom. I’ll see you in a bit.” He turned to the Professor. “Lead the way, Professor.”


 

At the end, Professor Oak had opted to travel by plane because “these old bones cannot handle travelling by Pokémon, Ash.” Since Ash decided to travel using his Charizard, he will be arriving to Sinoh General Hospital a good four hours before the Professor.

Professor Oak was noticeably relieved by the arrangement though. “I’d rather one of us get there as soon as possible for Gary,” he explained. “Besides, I think Gary will be more than happy to have some time alone with you.”

As soon as possible equated to a total travelling time of one hour for Ash. Charizard, as if sensing Ash’s distress, soared relentlessly through the air, barrelling through other flocks of birds unapologetically. Ash had to lay low while holding Pikachu against his stomach to keep him from flying off.

“Thanks a lot for your help, buddy,” Ash said once they landed outside of the hospital. He quickly recalled Charizard to its pokeball, and with Pikachu cradled in his arms, he rushed through the hospital, stopping briefly to get directions to Gary’s room.

He drew a sharp breath of relief to find Gary in a hospital gown, sitting up reading a magazine. He was hooked to an IV line, and his head and arms were wrapped in bandages. “Gary!”

Gary dropped his magazine. “Ash? What are you doing here?”

“I came here as soon as I heard what happened!” All the anxiety that had been building up for the past week left in a rush. Ash let himself sink into the chair beside Gary’s bed. He dropped his backpack beside him, and let go of Pikachu so that he can explore the room. “How are you feeling? Are you hurt?” he asked, voice more sedated.

“I’m fine, Ash. Just a bit sore.” Gary gestured to the swaths of bandages around his head. “I managed to get myself scratched up going after Cassidy and Butch. Head wounds always look worse than they are though.” His eyes widened all of a sudden, “Aw, shit, I completely kept you in the dark for a week! My phone got busted when Team Rocket attacked! I’m so sorry!”

“What? Don’t apologize over that!” Ash balked. “I’m just glad that you’re fine. I thought that Tirtouga attacked you. Or it ate you like how a snake eats its prey with its unhinging jaw and all.” Ash shuddered at the image in his head.

Gary levelled him an unimpressed look. “Tirtouga doesn’t eat people, Ash. It also doesn’t have an unhinging jaw.”

“Well, how was I supposed to know that?”

“Tirtouga is a turtle Ash. You’ve had a turtle Pokémon. Remember Squirtle?”

“Squirtle isn’t a prehistoric Pokémon.”

“Just because it’s prehistoric doesn’t mean the Pokémon has an unhinging jaw.” Gary said, sounding more and more incredulous. “How are you even equating those two lines of thought together?”

“Fine! Maybe it doesn’t have an unhinging jaw. It’s still big enough to crush you to death!” Ash crossed his arms and stubbornly looked away. Pikachu had apparently gotten bored of exploring, and had settled in the chair next to Ash for a nap.

“I was worried,” he confessed quietly after a moment of silence. “And it didn’t help when Professor Oak said you went after Team Rocket for a week after the lab was attacked.” He balled his hands tightly until his knuckles went white. “I thought, I thought you were…”

“Hey.” Ash shifted his attention back on Gary, who was staring at him with gentle eyes. “I’m fine Ash. See?” He tapped himself in the chest with a grin. “Right as rain.” His grin turned teasing. “Besides, I still have to kick your ass in our pun war.”

Ash scoffed, and he felt the last of his fear dissipate like smoke in the air. “As if! You’re two behind!”

“Two?”

“Here.” Ash handed his phone to Gary. “Read ‘em and weep.”

Watching Gary grimace at his bad pick-up lines made everything infinitely better. 


 

Four hours later, Ash and Gary found themselves distracted by their card game. Pikachu sleepily watched them from his seat, his long ears twitching on occasion.

“Squirtle isn’t the only one that can use water gun,” Gary uttered. “Also, do you have any sixes?”

“Nope, go fish.” Ash replied on automatic. Then, as if registering just what Gary had said, he cringed. “I thought you agreed not to use my Pokémon against me! No fair! You agreed to the rule!”

“I didn’t break the rule,” Gary said with a smirk. He drew from the deck of cards. “You told me not to use the names of your Pokémon because working with them will be awkward. You currently don’t have a Squirtle on hand to work with so the Squirtle joke stands.”

Ash spluttered.

“You should have specified that the rule includes all past and present Pokémon!” Gary tsked. “Your turn by the way.”

“Do you have any threes?” Ash grumbled. He brightened when Gary handed him three cards. “I like to compare myself with Smeargle. I’m pretty handy with a paintbrush.”

“Oh now you’re recycling puns! You already made a reference about Aipom and hands,” Gary complained.

Ash smirked. “You should have specified in the rules that I can’t recycle my own jokes. Your turn.”

A loud throat-clearing brought everything to a grinding halt.

“Ack!” Ash flailed, and the cards he was holding flew out of his hands.

“Gramps?!” Gary cried, flushing slightly when he caught the sight of his amused grandfather standing by the entrance. “What are you doing here?”

“I left with Ash but I took the earliest flight to get here instead,” Professor Oak walked in, pulled up a chair and took a seat. “How are you doing, Gary?”

“I’m so sorry, Gary, Professor Oak. I forgot to say anything about Professor Oak coming to visit.” Ash winced and rubbed the back of his neck. “I – ah – I should leave the two of you alone to catch up.” After all, he monopolized Gary for four hours already, and he had done so without even realizing just how much time he had taken. The least he could do now is offer the Professor and Gary some privacy.

“It’s quite alright Ash. You can stay if you want,” Professor Oak offered, but Ash had already stood up, gathered his playing cards, and motioned for Pikachu to follow him.

“Thanks, Professor, but I’ll let you have your time with Gary.” Ash bent down to pick up his backpack with his free hand. “I can grab us some food and drinks in the meantime. Any requests?”

As he head out the door with drink requests in mind, Ash wondered what Professor Oak asked Gary because all he could hear was Gary choking out, “It’s not like that, Grandpa!


 

Gary hadn’t been lying. His injuries were minor enough that by the next day, the doctors removed his bandages and deemed him healthy enough to leave. He hadn’t managed to escape before Professor Rowan and his slew of lab mates dropped by for a visit though.

According to Professor Rowan, the lab was currently closed for repair, and should reopen in two weeks’ time when the basic equipment will be installed. Tirtouga, however, would be staying with Professor Sycamore for a bit longer, until the Rowan lab has fully restocked its reagents to run its experiments. As for Gary, he was effectively put on forced (but paid) vacation, whether he liked it or not.

“I’m sorry, Ash. I knew how much you wanted to see that Tirtouga.” Gary ran a hand through his hair and sighed. They were milling about in the hospital’s cafeteria, waiting for Professor Oak to finalize all the paper work for Gary’s release. “It looks like you travelled all the way out here for no reason. I hope I haven’t wasted your time.”

Ash scoffed. “I travelled here to see you. That’s plenty of reason for me and that’s never a waste of time.”

“I –” Gary looked a bit lost for words. “Thanks, Ash,” he finally said in a hush.

“No sweat.” Ash grinned. “Don’t even worry about the Tirtouga. There’s always next time. Besides, now that you’re on vacation, you can show me around Sinnoh. It’s been years since I’ve had the chance to wander around Jubilife City! Are you up for some ika somen?”

Professor Oak, however, declined their invitation to join them on their site seeing tour.

“I’m sorry boys, I left the lab in a rush in Tracey’s hand. I really should be getting back to check up on him. I do hope the two of you have fun though.”

Was it just Ash, or had Professor Oak given Gary a knowing look with the tiniest of smirks?

Gary seemed to have realized something from his grandfather’s expression because he went beat red. “Just…go you meddling old man! I’ll see you around.”

Perhaps it was a fortunate thing that Professor Oak had not tagged along, Ash later mused as Gary, Pikachu, and him stood under the blinking lights of the Jubilife TV Tower, beneath the backdrop of an orange and pink-lit sky from the setting sun. Had the professor not left, he could not do something like –

“Gary,” he leaned close to the brunet’s ear and breathed, “You may want to catch them all, but all I want to catch is you.”

Gary whirled around with eyes so wide that Ash instantly broke into loud guffaws. “Your face!” he howled, slapping his knees. “It’s priceless! Oh, I can’t breathe!”

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Gary rolled his eyes and grumbled, but Ash should have known better than to think that Gary would let this go without retribution.

As they were walking though Odori Park, guided by the soft glow of the lamplights along the path, and surrounded by the sound of summer cicada, Gary gently stopped Ash with a brush of his hand on his shoulder.

“Ash,” he said so softly that he may have whispered it. He reached up and gently brushed a stray lock of Ash’s hair away from his cheek, his fingers lingering at the curve of Ash’s jaw. “You must be a Magnemite,” he murmured, “because I'm ridiculously attracted to you.”

Gary gave a small quirk of his lips at Ash’s stunned silence. “I’m going to win this if you don’t keep up,” he teased. He took a step back. “Come on, let’s go find us someplace that will serve some ika somen. I’m famished.”

“Yeah,” Ash swallowed. He watched his former rival turn around to continue strolling down the lamp-lit path. “Yeah, let’s go eat.”

He could still feel the hammering in his heart and the lingering warmth on his cheeks.


 

Ash hadn’t realized just how little he had seen of Sinnoh during his travels until his time spent with Gary.

He had been to Sinnoh before, but his visits were always coloured by the underlying drive to win more badges, to train his Pokémon, to catch more Pokémon, to build his team so that they are stronger. He never really slowed down to enjoy all the beauty that Sinnoh had to offer, natural or man-made. He never found the time or, frankly, the attraction to do so.

Gary seemed to know where to take Ash, even when they visit locations at random. Most days would start off with Gary throwing out suggestions like, “Would you like to see the flowers in Floaroma?” or “Want to visit the windmills at Windworks?” Ash always went along with the suggestions. After all, Gary knew the land much better than he did, and if he thought that those places were worth visiting, then who was Ash to argue?

No, Ash had no issues with where they were visiting. However, he found himself slightly bothered by something else entirely. Lately, Gary had taken their joking game up a notch, not so much by making the jokes raunchier, but by delivering the jokes in a more…effective manner.

“I wish we were Weedles, so you and I could make a Kakuna and evolve together,” Gary purred as he stepped close to Ash to pass him his soda, holding Ash’s gaze with his half-lidded eyes before backing off with a slight smirk. Ash hated him a little for being able to pull that line off without sounding like a complete schmuck.

Ash also hated himself for flushing bright pink like a sucker.

“If you were in a Pokémon contest, you’d win first place in the beauty category.” Gary again, this time, whispered from behind when they were standing in a packed line to get their mille crêpes, his chest pressing against Ash’s back. Ash was only saved from stuttering a response when the vendor asked for his order.

“You remind me of Deoxys because you're out of this world.” Gary said bright and cheery the first thing in the morning from the kitchen of his Nerd Cave. Ash had just clambered down the stairs with his hair dishevelled and his brain barely functioning. The only response he could muster was a bleary-eyed look and a grunt. “Good morning Ash,” Gary continued without missing a beat, “the bacon is ready, by the way. I’ve set out a plate for you.”

…Alright, maybe Ash was more swayed by the timely bacon delivery in that last scenario than by the actual pick up line, but his observation still stands. Just where the hell was Gary coming up with these sappy one-liners anyway, and why was he so good at this?!


 

"Hey Pikachu, do you think that maybe, just maybe Gary meant some of the things he said?”

“Pikapi. Chu!”

“Yeah, maybe I’m thinking too much about this.” Silence, then, quietly: “Or maybe, I’m starting to sort of, kind of, want him to mean all those things he said?”

“Pika pika.”

Laughter. “I’m an idiot. I know. I’ve just been thinking and well…”

There was a hitch in his voice, followed by a rushed: “I’m starting to think that I wouldn’t mind if he said those things to me and mean what he said, you know?”

“Pika.”

“And maybe some of the things I said weren’t a complete lie. Some of them.” A pause. “Don’t you dare tell him I said anything though!”

“Chu!”

“Yeah, yeah. I know you wouldn’t. You’re my best friend.” A yawn. “Good night, Pikachu. Sleep well.”


 

The two weeks flew by in a blink of an eye. To celebrate the last full day of vacation, Gary had taken Ash to Lake Verity to fish and to stargaze. “It’ll be like what we did in the good old days back in Pallet Town,” Gary had said with a bright, excited grin. Ash had found himself hard pressed to disagree.

“I’m going to miss Sinnoh,” Ash confessed when the evening sky made it too dark to fish comfortably. He picked up a flat stone from the grassy shoreline and tossed it towards the lake. He watched the stone skip gracefully across the water before sinking with a small splash.

Gary hummed in agreement from his spot on the grass beside Ash. He had made himself comfortable lying on his back with his hands tucked behind his head. “Well, there’s always next time if you ever want to come back for another visit?” Gary asked with a touch of hesitance.

“Of course I do!” Ash whipped another stone across the lake. This time, the stone managed to skip five times before sinking. “I had lots of fun and so did Pikachu!” He nodded towards the Pokémon who was busy chasing fireflies a few feet away. “Besides, I haven’t seen Tirtouga yet so I’ll be back when you’ve got your lab sorted. Just let me know when!”

Gary pushed himself to his elbows and grinned at Ash. “Deal,” he said. “It may take us a few months but I’ll let you know.”

“I look forward to it.” Ash smirked, his eyes lighting up. “Just how I look forward to seeing what’s in your poke ball bag.”

Gary groaned in disgust. Ash laughed as he dodged the clump of grass thrown at him. “That’s disgusting and you’re really stretching that line to make that joke work!”

“You’re just jealous of that smooth transition, don’t lie.” Ash plonked down beside Gary, sitting crossed-leg on the cool grass. “Thanks for showing me around though. Maybe next time, I can return the favour?”

Gary snorted, lying back down. “Ash, knowing you, you probably blazed through the places you’ve visited, going straight for the closest gyms. If I let you guide me, our trip will entirely be made of gym visits.” He paused as he reconsidered. “And Pokecenters. It would be a trip made up entirely of gyms and Pokecenters.”

Ash made a face and poked Gary in his side. He scowled a little when the only reaction he garnered from his friend was a smug look and a sarcastic brow lift. “You make me sound like some crazy Pokémon-obsessed nerd, like those crazy cat ladies except with Pokémon.”

Gary’s silence was very telling.

“I am not!” Ash defended. He jabbed Gary in the ribs harder.

“Ow, I actually felt that one! Fine! You’re not a crazy cat lady, or crazy Pokémon man, yeesh!”

“Good.” Ash harrumphed and shifted his body so he was lying beside Gary with his back against the cool grass. The sun had finally set, leaving the sky a deep indigo speckled with twinkling, silver stars. This was another aspect he had missed from his travels – being able to lie down, look at the vast night sky, and just breathe the cool, fresh air of the country.

“Hey Ash, have you ever wondered what would have happened if I stayed as a Pokémon Trainer?”

The unexpected sombreness in Gary’s tone made Ash look over at his friend.

“I sometimes wonder if I made the right choice being a Pokémon Researcher,” Gary continued. “I mean, I love what I do, but what if I had missed out on something bigger? What if I made the wrong choice and walked out of something I was destined to do?”

Ash gave a thoughtful hum. “Well, first of all, if you’re destined to do something, you’ll eventually end up doing it regardless of what other paths you take. Second of all, why did you become a Pokémon Trainer in the first place?”

“I wanted to learn, travel, discover, do all of those things.” Gary shrugged. “And honestly, a good chunk of why I wanted to be a Trainer had to do with you.”

“Me?”

“Yup. You knew exactly what you wanted to do and you were so passionate about it. I guess I wanted to feel what you were feeling, and I thought becoming a Trainer would do that for me like it did for you.”

Ash didn’t know how to respond to that. Gary, who had always seemed so sure with what he wanted, who had always been able to excel at anything, just admitted that he became a Trainer just because of Ash?

That thought was humbling and at the same time, deeply flattering.

But before Ash could mull over that new discovery, Gary spoke again, “I’m not sure if I told you this Ash, but I am sorry.”

Ash blinked, confused. “Sorry for what?”

“Sorry for being such a little snot-nosed shit when we were kids.” Gary smiled wryly at the memory. “I think I was just jealous that you figured out what you wanted to do while I’m left floundering.”

“Aw Gary, we were ten-year-olds! There’s nothing to forgive! Besides, I was an arrogant moron with a big mouth. I probably deserved some of the ass kicking I got from you.”

“Well, technically, you’re still a moron with a big mouth so – ”

Ash shoved a snickering Gary by the shoulder. “You know what, never mind, I take that back. I don’t forgive you, Gary Oak. I’m taking this grudge against you to my grave.”

He probably should feel more offended by Gary’s amused snorting. Instead, he just rolled his eyes and sighed, his heart feeling nothing but fondness towards the person who played such an important role in his life. How could he stay mad at Gary when for the longest time, he was the sole driving force for Ash to become better and stronger?

Ash wondered if Gary knew just how important he was to Ash. Well, he may not be able to fully describe what he felt since he was never good with words, but he could certainly try.

“How can you expect me to stay mad? No one else pushed me to become a better Trainer than you did. No one else motivated me more than you did,” Ash confessed. He gave Gary a gentle smile when it was the brunet’s turn to look at him, stunned. “You know, when you left, I was sad to see my rival go, but I would rather see you be happy.”

Ash lay back down on the grass with his arms resting by his side. He didn’t need to look over to know that he had Gary’s rapt attention. “Now, as to whether or not you should have stayed as a Trainer, here’s the way I see things: if, at the end of the day, being a Researcher makes you happy, so happy that you’re genuinely excited to get out of bed every single morning to get to work, then what does it matter if you should or could be doing something else? What you have works just fine.

“And besides,” he murmured, staring at the starlit sky, “Who’s to say that this right here is not your destiny? Who’s to say that everything you’ve done so far, all the trials and errors you’ve been through, all of that are not just leading you up to this moment?”

And isn’t that a nice thought, how all of Ash and Gary's actions have culminated into this one moment of perfection?

If that’s the case, Ash couldn’t say he regretted the things he did to get here.

“My destiny is to be right here, huh?” Gary repeated quietly after a few moments of sleepy silence.

Then, “Hey Ash?”

“Hm?”

“If I said that I meant all those jokes I said,” Gary said, sounding uncharacteristically nervous, “then, what would you say to that?”

Ash felt his mind come to a screeching halt. “Wait, what?”

He sat up, turned to face Gary, and at once, he was locked by the gaze of the other’s obsidian eyes. Gary was staring at him with an intensity driven by a turbulent swirl of emotions, ones that Ash could not begin to identify. Ash swallowed nervously. “Gary? I don’t – ”

“What would you say if I told you that I meant all those jokes I said,” Gary repeated with a touch of desperation after pulling himself up to sit upright.

“What jokes?”

“Everything. All the jokes.” Ash watched as Gary shuffled closer until they were almost touching, and why was he just noticing the features of his face: the straight, regal slope of his nose, the angles of cheekbones and jaw, the curve of his bottom lip?

“The Pokémon puns,” Gary clarified, and Ash had to force himself to focus. “The ones I texted you and the ones I told you. If I said that I meant all of it, what would you do?”

It took him a few seconds to register, but his eyes widened once it did.

Oh.

His heart was pounding a million miles a minute; his body could barely contain the mess of excitement and sheer jubilation surging through him at the revelation. His mind turned to what Gary had just said, on all those jokes that Gary had made, and the damned purring way he had said them to Ash, and oh God, the Masterballs

Gary had meant all of that. Gary had meant all of that when he said them to him, Ash, of all people on this planet. How the hell did he manage to get so goddamned lucky?

Ash swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the dry feeling in his mouth. “I’d say,” and he could hear himself sound shaky, but there’s no backing out now, not that he wanted to, “that if you meant all the stuff you’ve said to me, then you should kiss me right now.”

It was Gary’s turn to freeze. He looked at him pole-axed, as if it was impossible for his wildest dream to come true, and Ash felt his heart hurt for him.

Well, he was going to rectify this situation right here and now.

With that last straying thought, Ash pulled Gary to him by the front of his shirt for a kiss that took ten years in the making.

Gary’s mouth was hot and desperate on his as he kissed him like he was drowning and Ash was air. His hands, strong but gentle, cupped Ash’s face before they trailed down the other’s neck, across the shoulder, then finally resting on the small of his back with fingers splayed to take up as much room as possible in an act that screamed possessiveness. Ash keened and arched into the touch, the warmth of Gary’s hands made his body burn bright and his head spin. Tentatively, he returned the gesture; his hands snaking up Gary’s sides and past his shoulder blades to settle at the back of his neck.

Gary pulled away when their bodies reminded them to breathe, but his arms remained firmly around Ash to Ash’s amusement. “I don’t think I’m quite understanding what you mean, Ash,” he said hoarsely with a teasing smile. Ash felt a thrill of smug satisfaction at how wrecked Gary looked with his pupils blown and his lips swollen. “Can you, er, repeat everything you just did? And I mean everything?”

“Dork,” Ash breathed against Gary’s lips, and pulled him into another searing kiss, his chest pressing against the other in a line of warmth. He ran his hands down the brunet sides, relishing in the tremors he could feel under the thin cotton fabric of Gary’s shirt.

Gary had other ideas, and without breaking the kiss, he tugged Ash closer so that the Trainer was straddling his lap. Ash moaned Gary’s name in his mouth when he felt a jolt of heat raced up his spin from a hitched knee between his legs. Gary tangled his fingers in his hair as if he couldn’t get enough of Ash, and wow, that realization will never cease to amaze him.

And then Gary broke away to trail nipping kisses under his jaw and along his neck, and whatever semi-coherent thoughts remaining in Ash’s head promptly fled.

Later, much later, when the night has truly fallen, Ash and Gary found themselves with their arms wrapped around each other on the grass, hair and clothes utterly dishevelled. Ash had tucked himself to Gary’s side, his head resting on the other’s chest right above his heart. The steady thump of Gary’s heart beat gently lulled Ash into a light doze.

“One more question, Ash.”

Ash tipped his head up, gave Gary a small, sleepy kiss under the jaw. “Yes, Gary?”

“Wynaut go out with me?”

Groaning, Ash buried his head in Gary’s chest in mortification. Oh he did not just do that!

Admittedly, he did not mind the chest-deep rumbling laughter that followed.


 

“Happy twenty first birthday, Ash!”

Ash laughed at the sound of party poppers setting off around him, and at the rain of confetti that fell on his hair and shirt. Pikachu, who had been perched on his shoulder as usual, was significantly less impressed. He let out an annoyed ‘Chu!’ at the confetti stuck to his fur.

“Aw, you guys! Thanks for coming!” Ash said after dusting himself and Pikachu off of the glittering mess.

“As if we’d miss Mrs. Ketchum’s cooking!” Brock exclaimed just as Mrs. Ketchum entered the living room, carrying a plate of finger sandwiches. Cries of ‘hear, hear!’ from his friends followed.

Mrs. Ketchum laughed, utterly delighted. “I’m just so happy that Ashy’s friends can make it. It’s not every day that my little boy is turning twenty one.”

Ash flushed. “Aw, Mom! I – ”

The sound of doorbell ringing stopped him from finishing.

“Oh, I wonder who that is?” Mrs. Ketchum said. “Ash? Why don’t you get the door? I still have some more things to bring out for our guests.”

Ash nodded, placing Pikachu down on the couch. “Sure, Mom.” He headed down the hallway, strode towards the door, opened it and – “Gary?!”

Gary smiled from the entrance, looking deliciously dishevelled with his wind-mussed hair and red cheeks. He was wearing his dark brown leather jacket (the one they got in Kalos when Ash said it made him look like a sexy rebel), and his dark jeans (which they also got in Kalos when Ash said it made his ass look great).

“Happy birthday, Ash.” Gary stepped forward and gave a beaming Ash a peck on the cheek that still managed to make Ash melt a little on the inside despite his confusion.

“Not that I’m not happy to see you, but what are you doing here?” Ash ushered Gary inside, and shut the door gently behind him. “I thought you wouldn’t get here until tomorrow at the earliest because of work.”

“I wanted to surprise you, so here I am.” Gary smirked, wrapping his arms around Ash and pulling him closer until their bodies were pressed flushed against each other. “Well, are you surprised?” he asked against Ash’s ear.

Well, Ash reasoned as their lips met hungrily, he could hardly be blamed for giving into his urge to kiss the smugness off of his dork of a boyfriend’s face.

“Gary! If that’s you, then get your hands off of Ash and get him here! It’s time to cut the cake and we’re starving!” Ash jumped back at the sound of Misty’s voice from the living room. Not like Misty’s interruption, or his friends’ raucous laughter did anything to wipe the shameless, dopey grin that he could feel himself sporting.

“We’ll be right there!” Gary called out, sharing that same bright grin but his eyes were tinged with a sparkle of mischief. “I’m just telling Ash how he Weedled his way into my heart!”

The round of pained groans, followed by Professor Oak’s audible muttering of “I just don’t understand the youths of today!” never sounded so sweet.

Ash huffed out a laugh and wrapped his arms around Gary once again. “Well Gary,” he breathed, “my Kadabra just used Future Sight and it looks like we’ve got a bright future together.”

Nobody went to interrupt them this time around.

 

END