It was late. Most of the ship was sleeping, the lights dimmed in the hallways and all the stores closed for the night. Which was actually proving kind of annoying, since Alexa was working late on her overdue article and was in desperate need of caffeine.
Which left her wandering the halls, begging the Legendaries for Porter to still be up. He would know where she could find an espresso. A cappuccino. A latte! Even instant coffee would do at this point! She fell against a doorway, bemoaning her decision to ever leave Kalos and its beautiful cafes behind.
“Okay, Pikachu, one more time! Volt tackle!”
“Pikapikapika pika… pika!”
“D’yngnn! Okay. Good. Ah.”
She looked up, frowning slightly at the noise. It sounded like Ash, but first of all – what he was doing awake at this hour was beyond her. And second, he almost sounded hurt. She pushed herself back up and poked her head through the door, realising she’d walked herself to the arena without noticing.
“Yeah, I’m fine. That was a good one! Looks like your power’s getting loads better, buddy!”
“Aw, stop worrying. I asked for it, and it’s not like I haven’t taken worse. C’mere.”
She stepped up to the mezzanine in time to see Pikachu jump into Ash’s arms, worry obvious even from this distance. But Ash was smiling, and stroked its back. “Heck, I’ve taken worse from you, remember? Your power’s getting better, but Zekrom really did a number on you. It’s gonna take a while before you’re back to where you were.”
Alexa frowned again. Zekrom? As in the Legendary Dragon of… what was it…? Illusion? Inspiration? Ugh, whatever. Ash had met a Legendary?
He turned away from her, carrying Pikachu a few steps as they both looked up at the moon. “These last few months have been so weird. Like a dream, almost. It’s nearly over, but… I wonder if things are gonna get back to normal. What do you think?”
“Pika… pika pi pikachu.”
Ash chuckled, ducking his head again. “I guess you’re right. Normal isn’t exactly us, huh?”
He fell silent and lifted his head back toward the sky, and Alexa folded her arms over the railing. They’d only known each other a couple of weeks, but already she’d grown pretty fond of him. More than the other two if she was honest. For all his bluster and hot temper, Ash was a sweet kid, intensely interested in absolutely everything, and he obviously loved pokemon more than life itself. Which was pretty impressive, because she didn’t think she’d ever met anyone who took so much pleasure in experiencing every moment of the day. And sometimes, when he didn’t think anyone was looking, he’d get this look to him, like he had a lot more going on with him than they realised. Honestly, she wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he had met a Legendary. He had that kind of quality to him.
“Ash!” she called, and he turned, both he and Pikachu blinking up at her.
“Alexa? What’re you doing up?” he asked.
“I should be asking you that,” she said. “It’s kind of late for pokemon training, don’t you think?”
“It’s never too late to train!” he replied cheerfully. “Wanna help us out?”
“I think I’ll pass. My pokemon are all sleeping, like you should be!” she said, and he laughed but nodded, exchanging smiles with Pikachu before he started heading for the stairs. She waited until he was on the same level as her before speaking again. “What was that about Zekrom before?”
“Huh? Oh, well, when we first got to Unova, it was really weird,” Ash said, as Pikachu clambered up onto his shoulder. “We’d literally just gotten off the plane when this huge storm came out of nowhere, and Zekrom appeared!”
“Zekrom?” she repeated. “Are you sure?”
“Uh huh. It blasted me and Pikachu right off our feet. Did some pretty bad damage to Pikachu’s electrical pouches,” he added with another glance at his partner, but then smiled and shrugged. “I guess it was trying to give us a warning, but mostly it just freaked us out. We’re still working on getting Pikachu back up to scratch.”
“Pika pikachu!” Pikachu reported, slapping its cheeks so sparks flew out. Ash giggled as one fizzled against his cheek, but he didn’t say anything in response to Alexa’s doubtful look.
“Zekrom came out nowhere to give you a warning?” she asked. “Zekrom. As in, the big black dragon Unovians revere?”
“The Dragon of Ideals,” Ash confirmed cheerfully. “Yup.”
He was so… blasé. To the point that she almost believed him. “…What was it warning you about?”
“Dunno,” he said with a shrug. “Could’ve been lots of things. And I never actually got a chance to talk to that one.”
She kept staring. She’d met kids—and adults—that lied about their experiences with pokemon before. Talking themselves up, saying they’d caught fifty pokemon in a single region, met pseudo-legendaries or even the real deal. But they were usually boasting. Even when they ‘tried to play it down’ there was a kind of smug edge in their voice. A reporter could pick these things up.
But if Ash was hiding any kind of emotion, it was mild annoyance. Like meeting and speaking to Zekrom had been a hassle.
Also… ‘that one’? As in… multiple?
“So, anyway, Alexa, what are you doing up?” he asked curiously, before she could follow that one up. “If all your pokemon are sleeping, why aren’t you?”
She took a second, still stuck on the Zekrom part of the conversation, but forced herself to move on. “I’m just finishing up my article. But I needed coffee.”
“Mm... I always think that if you think you need coffee, what you really need is sleep,” he said. “Do you need to write your article now? It’s still a day or so before we’ll get anywhere with an internet connection.”
“Yeah, but…” This article was boring. Days could be filled with investigations and experience!
But… he wasn’t wrong. He sounded a lot like her sister, actually.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she sighed, and turned around, leading the way back to the cabins. “What about you? Training can come in the morning, right?”
“For any other pokemon, sure,” he agreed. “But Pikachu’s different. The others can get jealous sometimes, and Iris and Cilan look at me weird when I train with Pikachu.”
“Pipika pika,” Pikachu said in an undertone, and Ash gave it a sideways look but didn’t otherwise acknowledge it.
“So if me and Pikachu train during the day, it’s on pretty basic stuff, like aim and speed. Actual power is something we have to do at night,” he explained instead.
“Isn’t that backwards? It’s been a long time since I did any competitive battling, but I thought power was ‘the basics’.”
“Yeah, I know a lot of people think that, but that’s just because power’s easy. It comes naturally to pokemon. But what good’s a bubble beam if it can’t hit anything?”
Alexa had to give him that one.
He continued explaining his theory as they walked, talking around something about fire-types getting overwhelmed with their own power, but didn’t actually get to the point before they reached his cabin. He cut himself off to bid her goodnight, and she smiled, wishing him good dreams before continuing on.
Even as she got ready for bed and tucked herself in, she found herself remembering his enthusiasm for training, the constant smiles he exchanged with his partner, the almost absent concern he gave her personally. His mentioning of Zekrom didn’t even enter her mind.
Weird, when she thought about it later.