Chapter 1 - 12 Years Later
"Ash, honey, are you going to wake up yet?" comes the soothing voice of his mother from behind the door. When there's no response, she looks over at Mimey. "Maybe Pikachu can wake him up?"
"Mime Mr. Mime!" Mimey agrees.
Sighing, Delia now calls, "Pikachu, can you wake up Ash please?" Delia can't wait for the day she won't have to use Pikachu to wake up her son.
"Piii…" Pikachu nods. He usually wakes up before Ash, but Ash never wants to get up until Delia forces him to. Shocking his trainer, Pikachu manages to get Ash awake.
"Stop doing that, Pikachu!" scolds the annoyed man.
"Pi pikachu pikapi pika." Pikachu knowingly remarks, earning him a glare.
"I wouldn't have to use Pikachu if you'd wake up before noon." Delia says.
Ash groans at his locked door. "Mom, I have nothing to wake up for. Just let me sleep."
"That's no way to live your life, young man. And unlock this door! You shouldn't be talking to your mother through it!"
Grumbling to himself, Ash groggily walks over to the door. He swings it open to see his disappointed mother and Mimey. "Morning, mom."
"It's not morning, Ash." Delia narrows her eyes at him. "It's almost 3PM! How long were you planning to sleep?"
Forever. He thinks to himself but decides to change the topic. "Are you going somewhere?" She's dressed in her nice outdoor clothes. Not her usual gardener attire.
Sighing, Delia looks at Pikachu who sweatdrops. "Gary asked us to represent him at the League dinner tonight."
Pikachu's ears flatten out. His trainer really forgot about today? Mew, just what has happened to Ash Ketchum? "Chaaa."
Delia furrows her brows in frustration. There was a time Ash made her really proud. Regardless of all his losses, he always bounced back. He was always trying to be the best he could be, but all of that changed a few years ago. "Ashton Satoshi Ketchum. You need to get it together!" She takes in his ragged appearance. The shirtless man with his facial scruff and unruly hair. The tired look on his face despite sleeping all day everyday. That hole in the knee of his pajama pants that's growing by the day.
"Mew, mom. It's too early for the yelling."
"It's 3PM!" Delia exasperates, causing the Pokemon to sweatdrop. Tired of the routine conversation, Delia exits the musty dirty room with dim lighting seeping through the closed curtains. "Shower, shave, and put on your suit. We're leaving in an hour."
"What suit?" Ash hasn't worn a suit since he was 17, which he borrowed. Feeling the ache in his chest, he looks at the ground.
Pikachu recognizes that look that sometimes creeps onto Ash's face. Thus, the mouse leaps on Ash's shoulder. "Pikapi pikachu."
"I'm fine." Ash hates the pity he gets from his Pokemon and mother. "Why does Gary need us at this dinner?"
"Pi?" Pikachu shrugs. He also finds it strange. Gary is the new Professor Oak while his grandfather formally retired. Therefore, Gary attends a lot of events, though he can't attend all invitations. According to Delia the other day, which only Pikachu seems to remember, this dinner is to signify the commencement of the Kanto League Tournament next week. Gary is busy making sure there are enough starter Pokemon for beginning trainers. He's had a much larger pool of trainers this year than normal, so he's been scrambling to get enough Pokemon.
Nevertheless, Delia never goes to these events for Gary. He'd send an assistant or politely decline. This is the first League Commencement dinner he's missed, so it could be the reason he wants to send someone more personable. However, Delia and Ash? Delia isn't a trainer. She's just a motherly figure to Gary. And Ash… Ash hasn't competed in years nor has he even battled or trained. Ash fell off the trainer scene years ago where he now hides away in his mother's house.
Although curious about why Ash and his mother need to attend this event, Ash isn't one to question anything. He just wants to be in his bed. It's all he cares about. He'll go to this stupid dinner and then leave as soon as it ends. This should only be a three hour affair with the transportation. Mew, he hates leaving the house, especially his room, but it's rare that he does. Being a momma's boy, Ash gets catered to by Delia, though her patience is running thin at this point.
After a nice shower and shave, Ash managed to find some presentable clothing. Not a suit, but a button down shirt and slacks. Of course, Delia made him strip them off to iron. She's not even surprised to have seen him in wrinkled clothing. Somewhat satisfied with his appearance, even with his unruly hair, Delia forces him out the door. There's not enough time to tame those tangles on his head.
Pikachu and Mimey are left on house-sitting duty. Usually, Delia would want Pikachu to tag with and get out of the house, but the mouse wants a break from his trainer. He'd rather stay home and relax, letting Delia take care of Ash. Of this 30 year old recluse. Ash knows he's a disappointment, contributing to him hiding. Occasionally, Gary has seen him, though that's it. Gary will tease him to try and get him out of the house; however, the efforts are to no avail.
"We're here for the professor." Delia tells the receptionist once they arrive.
Ash has his hands in his pockets, his shoulders are slumped, and his head is hung low, causing his bangs to shield his face. He doesn't want to be here at all. Having not competed in Kanto since he was 14, Ash hopes no one can recognize him. He's a lot taller and bigger than back then. Maybe he should've kept his facial scruff to make him unrecognizable?
"Ash Ketchum?" the receptionist curiously asks Delia who had told her their names.
Ash shies away. Being here just reminds him of how big of a disappointment he is. Why didn't he put up more of a fight against his mother? He misses the solitude of his dark bedroom already. "Thank you, ma'am." Delia takes both nametags and walks away with Ash. She hands him his. "Put it on."
"Do I have to?" He'd rather no one know he's here. Ash Ketchum's name is somewhat known since he was one of the top Kanto trainers during his youth. Delia's sharp look tells him to listen to her. Reluctantly, he places the nametag on his chest, but he makes a mental note to take it off when she's not looking.
"We're here early. I'm going to catch up with Lance." Delia informs Ash.
"How do you know Lance?" Ash asks.
"I see him around. He needs to eat more." She notes how Lance is always on GMen missions. Whenever Delia sees the Elite Four member, she gives him a warm meal. Ash was wondering why his mother brought a tupperware of food when they're coming to a dinner. "I can introduce you two." Delia offers.
Ash quickly shakes his head. "No thanks." He's met Lance a few times when he was younger. Would Lance remember him? How would Lance take in the sight of the once aspiring Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town?
Used to Ash's reclusiveness, Delia leaves him. "Stay out of trouble. Dinner starts at 6." She points to the dining area.
Sighing, Ash nods. There are lots of people at this dinner. Typical of the League events. He spots Elite Four members, gym leaders, and board members. There are some top trainers here too. He recognizes the Top Coordinator and what looks to be judges. So the League combines this dinner with the contest scene? Ash knows there's always a League party after the dinner, and he's glad his mother won't be staying for that.
With Delia out of sight, Ash takes off his name tag. He'll just feign like it fell off if his mother questions him. Maybe he'll hide in the bathroom until all of this is over? He wishes he'd brought one of his flying Pokemon so that he could just escape, though he'd have to deal with his mother's wrath later. Internally groaning, Ash sits on a bench in a secluded part of the lobby. He'll hide his face with his bangs so that no one wants to approach him.
"Do you think they're gonna get married soon?" Ash overhears a woman speaking. He recognizes the voice as Erica, the Celadon City gym leader.
"They better." comes the snarky reply of a Kanto judge, who Ash also recognizes as Melody. Since when did Melody become a Kanto judge? He thought she was on Shamouti Island. Mew, Ash really hopes she doesn't recognize him, though she was smitten with him back then. He was the chosen one.
"She's been seeing him for years now, and no one knows who he is." Erica notes.
"The tabloids are having fun whenever they catch a picture of those two together."
Ash tries to ignore the conversation, but it's difficult when they're near him. Maybe he'll just quietly get up to use the bathroom? However, before he can muster the nerve to sneak off, Erica's voice freezes him, "She's the only Waterflower who's been single." Waterflower?
Another reason Ash wanted to avoid this event is because of her. His old friend who he hasn't seen since Alola. He doesn't even remember her much anymore, and he doubts she'd want to associate with him. Gary only hangs out with Ash out of pity. Ash doesn't need that from her too. Plus, Ash has been able to avoid his other best friend because Brock is married with a child in Hoenn.
Nevertheless, he's heard that the Cerulean City gym leader doesn't come to these events. She's a serious gym leader who would rather spend the days leading up to the tournament checking on her Pokemon and making sure her gym is ready. Despite all the fines she keeps getting for missing these mandatory events, she still doesn't show. Ash hopes this is an event she'll avoid too. He can't face her. She's the only one who he knows for a fact will recognize him, and she'll reprimand him. It's already enough that he gets that from his mother. He can't let his old friends see him like this too.
"Well, Misty's not single anymore. She has that mysterious lover she sees every month at the cape." Melody reminds Erica.
"I wonder why she just won't go public with her relationship?" wonders Erica.
"Because she's embarrassed." Melody answers. "And you know Misty likes keeping her personal life private."
"True. She's a much better gym leader compared to her sisters, but there's more to life than being a gym leader."
"Leave her be." Melody says with disgust. "She thinks she's too good for everyone. It's why she's never here."
"Yeah." Erica sadly replies. She recalls the time she met Misty during Misty's travels. Misty seemed like a totally different person back then. People really can change. "As long as she's upholding the League's reputation, there's not much we can do."
"She can stay boring." Melody rolls her eyes. "C'mon, Erica. They're opening the doors. I'm gonna find you a date tonight."
"Uh. I'm fine, Mel-" Before Erica can finish her statement, Melody drags her away.
With Ash's head hung low, the man feels his chest ache again. Hearing Misty move on with her life just reminds him of how shitty his is. He's at a standstill, and it's his fault. Despite knowing how successful his previous companions are, Ash isn't motivated to follow them. It discourages him instead. Just what happened to him?
As Ash sits on the now quiet bench, he starts dozing off due to boredom. He decides that he'll only go to the dining room if his mother finds him and makes him. Hoping she's going to be preoccupied mingling, Ash drifts off to a light sleep. He's slightly awoken by the loud speakers announcing the start of dinner in a few minutes. Ignoring it, Ash continues to sleep. After some time, the loud speakers start playing the speeches in the dining hall, making Ash groan. He'll have to drown out this noise himself.
When he finally manages to ignore the speeches, he's about to comfortably sleep again until he hears, "Mind if I sit here?" Mew! He's hiding here so that no one talks to him! Pretending to be asleep, Ash doesn't reply. He hopes she'll leave him alone if she sees he's sleeping. On the contrary, she sits down next to him muttering under her breath, "This is so stupid. Fucking Gary. Lying ass Ekans."
Ash's lips can't help but twitch up hearing this. Gary annoys him a lot too. This must be one of Gary's fangirls who Gary promised to meet at the dinner, but he stood her up. Ash feels somewhat bad for the woman, though these women should know how much of a playboy Gary is by now. Hopefully, this woman learns her lesson.
Eventually, Ash hears her hiss, "Where the fuck are you?" There's some silence, and she adds, "You fucking liar! Gary, you said you needed to give me something here. I'm here, and they tell me you're not!" More silence, so Ash assumes she's on the pokenav. How else would she be able to communicate with Gary? "Why would you send Mrs. Ketchum here?" Ash's interest is piqued. How does this woman know his mom? Well, he's seen his mother mingle with lots of people tonight that surprises him. "I should've known you weren't gonna be here when Leaf said she couldn't make it. You two are always scheming against me."
Ash knows who Leaf is. She's the Viridian City gym leader. How does she have a relation to Gary? Well, Ash doesn't know much about anyone because he doesn't care. He's apathetic towards life, so why would he care what Gary is doing? Ash lets out a defeated breath. It was a mistake accompanying his mother to this event. All it's doing is reminding him of what a disappointment he is.
"Screw you, Gary. Tell Leaf I say the same thing." the woman hangs up. Muttering to herself again, she says, "Stupid fucking Gary." Glancing over at the sleeping man beside her, she quietly whispers, "Thanks for letting me sit here, stranger."
When she stands up to leave, Ash cracks open an eye to get a peek at her. He didn't recognize her voice at all. Seeing that bright orange hair makes his breath hitch in his throat. Well, it doesn't just hitch. He chokes on it. Coughing out loud, this noise gets the redhead's attention since she hadn't gone too far away from him.
She rushes over to pat his back. "Are you okay?"
He nods. Keeping his head low, he doesn't want her to see his face. Would she recognize him? No one has so far, but that's because no one else traveled with him for two years straight. "Yeah." He tries to say in a deep voice.
"Stay here. I'm gonna get you some water."
"I'm fine." He gruffly tells her.
"Stop being stubborn, sir. I'll be right back."
"No." Ash doesn't want her to come back. He wants her to leave him alone. Maybe he'll slip away when she leaves for the water?
"I'll be back!" she stands up.
Gathering his breath, Ash quickly enters the dining hall. He threw away his nametag, which has his table number on it. Wow. He's really a piece of work. At least he caught his breath by now. Thus, Ash tries to silently walk around looking over heads for his mother. Why does his mom have to have brown hair? So many people have brown hair. Maybe he can hide in the bathroom? There's no way a woman would come into the mens room, though that'll mean he needs to walk through the lobby unnoticed by the redhead.
Internally groaning, Ash brings his hands up to massage his temples while he shuts his eyes in frustration. Why can't he just be in the safety of his room already? If only he knew how to drive...he would've driven away from here and then came back in time to get his mother. Due to his travels, he never learned. After returning home, he doesn't have a passion for anything.
Deciding that Gary Oak's table must be towards the front, Ash begrudgingly makes his way up there. The food looks great, and something that hasn't changed about him is his large appetite. Another thing that hasn't changed about him is his clumsiness. Due to being flustered, and the many people in the dining hall, Ash trips over a cord, which knocks over a spotlight. The light comes crashing down towards one of the tables, causing all the occupants to flee. When the light hits the table, it shatters as well as splatters the food everywhere.
All eyes are now on the culprit. Another light illuminates him where he lowers his head in embarrassment. His long hair shields his face, but he's sure everyone can make out his really red ears. Moreover, Ash is the least dressed for this event where wealthy famous people have the means to wear extravagant clothing. Even his mother looked like she fit right in earlier.
"Young man, are you okay?" Director Goodwin, who was giving the speech at the front, awkwardly asks in the silence.
When there's no response from Ash, a high pitched voice comes to his rescue. "I'm so sorry, director! He's with me." Delia quickly runs over to grab Ash's arm. He allows her to drag him to their table, which isn't too far away. Despite also being embarrassed for her son, Delia won't give anyone the satisfaction of seeing them run away from this. They said they'd come here for Gary, so they will stay.
"Oh. That's okay. Any friend of the professor is a friend of ours." Director Goodwin then motions to the staff in the back. "Please clean this up and find somewhere for our guests to sit."
People start moving, and murmuring stirs up in the crowd. At least it's not quiet anymore, but Ash preferred the quietness over this. Everyone knows Delia Ketchum is representing Gary here. The crowd is going to put two and two together to figure out that he is Ash Ketchum. The once renowned Kanto boy who was projected to be a Pokemon Master is just a socially awkward failure hiding away.
"Ash." Delia whispers to the man with his head still hung low. "Ash!" She hisses.
"Can we go, mom?"
Sighing, Delia looks around their table where she sees the people trying to avoid eye contact. She knows they're itching to say something. Delia doesn't see Ash as an embarrassment. He's her son who she loves. However, she won't put him through this torture from the public eye. Clearing her throat, she nods to the table. "Thank you for the company. We'll be on our way."
The table bids her goodbye as she drags Ash by the arm. The defeated man has zoned out everything to escape from it. He can feel the eyes burning on him. He can feel his mother's disappointment. He can feel his heart sinking. The once young, confident, headstrong, optimistic Ash Ketchum returned to Kanto years ago as a heartbroken, apathetic disappointment.
Once in the parking lot, Delia releases Ash. He doesn't follow her when she walks towards her car. Sighing, Delia turns to face him. "Are you coming, Ash?"
"Are you ashamed of me?"
That sad tone of his tears at her heart. No mother wants to see their child like this. What happened to him? "Ash…"
"Just be honest, mom." He feels his heart aching, but he wants to hear her words.
Delia takes in a deep breath. "I haven't recognized you since you came home years ago. What happened to you?"
With his gaze still on the ground and his shoulders slumped, Ash replies, "Not now."
She shakes her head. "It's never now, Ash." Looking behind her at her car in the distance, she tells him, "Let's go. I'm not going to wait for you. You've done enough tonight, Ash." Delia notes the missing nametag on his chest, which she knows he took off.
"So you are disappointed." he confirms.
Breathing out of her nose, Delia tries to stay calm. Ash was the one who wanted to leave after embarrassing himself. Now, he's arguing with her in the parking lot. "Ashton Satoshi, Ketchum, I can never be disappointed in you. Let's go." She'd rather not stand in this parking lot much longer. When Ash still doesn't budge, Delia exasperates, "Ash!"
"I'm a failure, mom."
"What do you want me to say? I love you? You know I do! I will always love you and support you."
"But you're ashamed of me."
"I'm not!" She insists. "I wish you'd leave your room. I wish you'd wake up before noon. I wish you'd train your Pokemon! Ash, I wish you'd do anything but sleep all day!" Calming down from her unusual outburst, Delia recomposes herself. "I wish I knew how to help you." She adds in a soft voice.
The two stand in the dark in uncomfortable silence. The lights from the parking lot illuminate the area brightly. Ash knows his mother is correct. He's always known, but hearing it reminds him of how hard he's making his mom's life. After his father passed away, Ash wanted to be the one to take care of his mom. He wanted to be a Pokemon Master to make her and his late father proud. However, here he is, 30 years old and still being taken care of by his mom.
Ash stiffens up from the voice he recognizes from earlier. It's not enough for him to raise his head, though he does hear his mother respond. "Oh my! Misty! You're beautiful!"
"You are too!" Misty smiles while hugging Delia. It's been years since Misty has seen Delia. In the past, Misty used to frequent Pallet Town often where she'd keep the woman company. About eight years ago, these trips to Delia's stopped because Misty felt awkward being there. "I knew I recognized your voice." Misty was on her way to her car when she couldn't find that stranger to give him water. Not wanting to even be at the dinner, she left, though she heard Delia shout from across the parking lot. To make sure Delia was safe, Misty went to check it out where she's glad to see Delia is fine.
"Yes." Delia's face flushes in embarrassment. She's usually soft spoken.
Glancing at the frozen man a few feet away, Misty raises a curious eyebrow. It's the same man from before. That unruly jet black hair and those tan hands. That description could fit anyone, and she didn't want to get her hopes up. However, seeing him with Delia only confirms to her who he is. The friend she hasn't seen in 12 years. The friend who always forgets her. The friend who dropped off the face of the earth years ago. "Ash?"
All of my stories have Ash as the champion. However, that involves a lot of things with fame and the media. It gets messy and annoying when I have to take the media into account. I wanna switch things up and make him ordinary. Here he is as a recluse. I like it!