Okay, I lied about the chapter name. But here we go anyway. XD.
So Far Down, No Way Out
Chapter Two: Changes
“Now I’m going through changes, changes
God I feel so frustrated lately
When I get suffocated, save me
Now I’m going through changes, changes…” -- "Changes" by Three Doors Down
Several hours had passed since the incident occurred, and May sat in an uncomfortable silence by herself outside the room Ash was taken. In all honesty, she was glad she didn’t have to sit through what was likely the worst moment in the young boy’s life; she wouldn’t be able to take it.
“I hope he’s okay,” May sighed aloud as she stared up at the clock. The second hand ticked painfully slowly, echoing in the unnaturally quiet lab. No one was bustling about and doing research, and no Pokemon were walking around freely. The only thing audible aside from the clock and May’s own breathing was the hum of various electronics.
Another hour came and went with the same silence, and May was growing more worried by the second. Eventually, the young girl couldn’t take it anymore, and stood up, venturing towards the door where Ash and Birch had disappeared.
Carefully, May twisted the knob, and creaked the door open a crack, just to see what was going on: Ash was sitting on a bed, looking down at the floor solemnly in a new set of clothes. Professor Birch was nowhere in sight.
Taking in a deep breath, May ventured into the room, “Hi there.”
Ash looked up at May, his eyes barely registering anything aside from the fact that she’d moved towards him. He didn’t even respond to her greeting. May frowned, but closed the door behind her.
It was only when the door clicked shut that Ash spoke up, “Hi.”
May whipped around, surprised that Ash had even said anything. His voice was still hoarse from his screaming earlier, but overall, he looked a whole lot better. May let out a warm smile, and reproached Ash. This time, Ash followed her movements until she came to stand in front of him.
“I guess we didn’t get a chance to really introduce ourselves. My name’s May,” she said, extending her hand.
Ash stared at it for a few moments, and then brought up his own hand for a handshake, “Ash.”
The two gripped hands for a moment, and barely shook before letting go. An awkward silence filled the room and the air seemed to grow heavier. May wanted to speak, but resisted, unsure of anything she could say at this point.
It was Ash that broke the silence first, “Thanks for helping me back there.”
“Yeah… it’s no problem,” May responded. “Are you… feeling any better?”
Ash cringed, but nodded. Meanwhile, May mentally slapped herself. Of course he wasn’t feeling better. He was probably still in shock… hell, she was still in shock. Empathy filled her heart for the young boy before her, “I’m really sorry about what happened.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Ash responded immediately, to which May gave a slight smile. It didn’t take a lot of knowledge about him to see that he was a pretty selfless person, but that kind of reaction just confirmed it.
Suddenly, Professor Birch burst into the room, his eyes wide with panic, “Ah! The Pokemon got loose again! Watch out!”
May and Ash simultaneously blinked at the man as he crashed into a desk, sending supplies flying off the edges and onto the floor. May laughed nervously as the elder man fell to the floor, completely dazed.
Moments later, a Pokemon came running passed his feet. Actually, three Pokemon: a Torchic, Mudkip, and Treeko. May let out a surprised yelp as the Torchic came running up to her, jumping to her arms.
“It’s okay,” she said awkwardly. From one insecure being to another, her mind added.
Ash, who had been watching the entire time, got up and crouched by the other two Pokemon, a light smile adorning his face. “This one is cool. Is this a water type?” he asked, pointing to Treecko.
Treecko seemed almost offended at this statement, and placed a twig in its mouth, “Treecko tree!” It turned its nose up, and crossed its arms.
“Well, that answers your question,” Professor Birch cut in. “Treecko’s a grass type. Mudkip here,” he continued, picking up the blue finned Pokemon, “is a water type.”
“Mudkip!” it chirped.
“And what about this one?” May inquired, holding up the Pokemon in her arms.
“That’s Torchic, a fire type,” Birch replied. “I was going to wait for a little while, but these are the Pokemon you have to choose from May.”
“Oh!” Ash exclaimed, shooting up from the ground. His face was lit up completely in a genuine smile as he turned his attention to May. “You’re just starting your journey? That’s so awesome! Congrats!”
“Um,” May started, a little surprised at his sudden cheerful outburst. Either way, she was glad he seemed to be happy. Smiling, she replied, “Yeah I am. Thanks Ash.”
“Ah, I forgot to introduce you two to each other, but I guess you already did. One step ahead of me,” Birch said wistfully. May blinked at the Professor again, tilting her head a bit. Ash had the same reaction. The man just laughed, “Take your pick May!”
“Oh, okay,” she replied, shaking off the feeling that Birch was implying something she didn’t get. She put down Torchic next to the other two Pokemon and inspected them carefully. She came up to Treecko first, but the lizard Pokemon seemed completely unamused. Plus, to be perfectly honest, May thought it was a bit creepy looking. She moved onto Mudkip, who was giving her a blank stare.
“Kip?” it asked, tilting its head right as May tilted her head left. May finally frowned, feeling as though Mudkip seemed bored with her. It was with that that May turned back to Torchic.
“Tor!” it exclaimed, jumping up to May once again. May blinked in surprise, but then laughed.
“Looks like that Torchic chose you,” Ash commented, smiling. His expression suddenly became sullen though, and his eyes seemed to dim, “There’s nothing like getting your first Pokemon…”
May stopped laughing when she heard that, realizing that Ash was making a connection back to his Pikachu. So, Pikachu had been his first Pokemon….
May felt for him once again, wondering if he would ever truly get over it. Thankfully, the tension was lifted by Professor Birch’s assistant coming in through the door, “It’s a shame that Treecko hasn’t been chosen. It’s gone through three rounds of beginning trainers and no one will pick it due to its attitude problems.”
At hearing that, Treecko leapt forward, smacking its tail into the assistant’s face.
“Hm, that does seem to be a problem,” Professor Birch sighed as his assistant retreated behind the door to avoid a second attack by the extremely aggressive Pokemon. Treecko continued to pound against the door angrily whilst the two young trainers and the professor looked on.
Ash shifted slightly, causing May to turn her head towards him. He still seemed like he was deeply distraught, but then to her surprise, he walked forward to the Treecko, crouching down beside it. He gently placed a hand on its shoulder, “I think… you just really want to get out of this lab huh?”
Treecko stopped its assault and turned to stare at Ash. It’s eyes were filled with longing. Clearly, it was made for the outdoors… not for this enclosed place where no one was taking it. Ash picked up the lizard-like Pokemon, and then turned to Professor Birch, “If you don’t mind, I’ll take this Treecko. I mean… I only brought Pikachu with me here….”
Ash trailed off, averting his gaze from everyone. His ears were burning red in an attempt to hold back emotions, and his body shook a bit, earning a concerned glance from everyone, including the Pokemon in his arms.
“We wanted to make a fresh start,” he continued quietly, choking back a sob. “And I still intend to go on that way. Pikachu would have wanted me to keep going.”
This time, Ash couldn’t hold back, and a tear dropped off his face and onto his arm. May and the professor said nothing as Ash let out another whine. It was clear that he was still trying to hold himself back in front of the two of them.
“Treecko tree,” the lizard Pokemon muttered, staring up at the young boy.
It took several more moments, but Ash finally managed to collect himself and stare back at Professor Birch. He wanted his answer.
“You’re an experienced trainer from what I’ve heard. You’ll be able to handle that Treecko,” the elder man finally replied, his face still holding a look of concern. Ash muttered a thank you quietly, earning a nod from the professor. The man turned around, and picked Treecko’s Pokeball off the floor, “This belongs to you now.”
Ash took the Pokeball, staring at it for a few moments. Eventually, he nodded, and returned Treecko to its Pokeball.
May stared at the raven haired trainer before her thoughtfully. The boy was clearly not ready to be setting out on a journey in an unfamiliar land with a brand new Pokemon. In all honesty, watching him made May wonder if she herself was prepared for such a journey. The thought somewhat scared her. What if something terrible happened to her too?
“Hey Ash,” May said suddenly before she even finished thinking. The boy looked up at her expectantly, but said nothing. “Um. Do you want to, uh…” May trailed off, sighing. She knew what she wanted to say… except she had no tactful way to say it.
“Do you want me to lead you to the next town?” she asked finally. Inwardly, she sighed in relief, realizing that her question had come out much better then she expected. “I happen to know the way there.”
“That’s a great idea!” Birch bellowed, looking at May with a peculiar expression. May laughed nervously, deciding that Professor Birch was kind of creepy. “Much better to travel with someone else. The road is less lonesome, right lad?”
“I used to never get lonely by myself, because I had Pikachu,” Ash muttered.
May glared at the elder man. Just as soon as he had calmed down, the stupid professor had to go and make him feel terrible again. Birch thankfully got the hint, and left the room.
When I get back home, I’m going to ask Dad just how he met Professor Birch and if he’s always been so tactless, May thought as she approached Ash once again. She placed a hand on his shoulder reassuringly, “What do you say? We can travel together.”
Ash hesitated to answer, looked up at May with puffy eyes. May somehow mustered up a kind smile, and added, “You know he’s right. If we go together, we won’t get lonely. That goes for me too.”
Ash blinked a few times, and then looked away from May. May sighed, letting go of his shoulder. She tried, she supposed. If he didn’t want to accept her help… then she couldn’t give it to him….
“Y-yeah,” Ash finally said. “Let’s travel together. That sounds good.”
May blinked in surprise, and beamed at Ash, “Alright. I’ll go get my stuff together and we can leave.”
With that, May dismissed herself from the room, Torchic in hand. She stared down at the birdlike Pokemon, and whispered, “I know I’m helping him out too, but he has no idea how much better I’ll feel traveling with someone. I didn’t realize how nervous I was until just now.”
“Torchic?” Torchic asked. May smiled at it, and then returned it to its Pokeball.
The brunette haired girl let out a sigh as she attached the Pokeball to her belt, and scanned the room for her things. Her bag was sitting on the chair just in front of her, all packed up and ready to go. It was just waiting for Ash now.
Soon enough, Ash walked into the room with his bag on his back and his hat on his head, “Let’s go.”
May nodded in agreement, and together they walked out of the lab, saying their last farewells to Professor Birch.
“Ash, why would you bring up that day?” May had to ask as the winds continued to howl outside the cave. The temperature was still dropping, and the night was hardly dented. Even with Blaziken’s body heat protecting them from freezing to death, the cold was seeping in slowly… and May didn’t like it.
“I…” Ash started, looking at the cave wall instead of May. “That’s a good question. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what I want to say.”
“Oh?” May asked. “Well it must have something to do with what you’re thinking. And--”
Another gust of wind cut May off completely, bringing in a bone chilling batch of snow. It started to melt almost immediately due to Blaziken’s energy, but it still sent shivers down both May and Ash’s spine.
“I wish our coats weren’t wet or it would be a little easier to keep warm,” May said, looking at their soaking snow-clothes. She turned to Ash again, staring at him for awhile. He met her gaze, and immediately, the air became awkward. They were both thinking the same exact thing at that moment:
“Blaze,” Blaziken said, staring at the two trainers expectantly.
“I think Blaziken has the right idea,” Ash said suddenly, getting up and walking towards May. He sat down beside her a moment later, refusing to look at the brunette’s face, but May could see his ears burning red. She was half tempted to call him out on it, just to lighten the mood, but Ash spoke up suddenly, his voice serious and quiet, “I guess what it is kind of related to what I want to say. Just… remembering what we’ve been through.”
“Yeah,” May continued. “It has been a lot. I definitely couldn’t have gotten so far without you.”
Ash let out a light smile. So, her thoughts echoed his own, at least on the most basic level. Silently, he wondered just how much of an impact he had had on May, and if it paralleled how much she had helped him.
“Remember my first contest?” May asked suddenly, breaking Ash’s thoughts off completely.
“What… about it?” Ash asked, relishing the memory. It wasn’t the contest itself that he didn’t like… but someone he couldn‘t stand.
“I wouldn’t have kept going if you hadn’t encouraged me after my loss. Remember?” May continued before Ash could delve into dark thoughts. Her voice then became wistful, “And then look how far I got in Hoenn.”
“Yeah,” Ash said, smiling at the memory.
“I guess I have to thank you for that too,” May said, turning to smile at Ash.
“Man, you make it sound easy,” Ash muttered, smiling back. May tilted her head in question, and Ash elaborated, “I mean… you make talking seem to easy.”
“Oh come on Ash,” May laughed, punching him in the shoulder playfully. “We’ve been traveling together for a long time. You can tell me whatever.”
“It’s not that simple for me,” Ash admitted.
“What could you possibly have to say that you haven’t told me yet?” May asked, now curious.
Ash went silent, and looked back down to his feet. May awaited his answer, but in truth, Ash had no idea what he wanted to say, or how to say it. He just knew something needed to be said….
“Do you remember when I went through my… uhm… spiral?” Ash started. He shifted awkwardly to see that May was frowning at him. “I promise, this is leading to something…”
So, chapter two...
For those following the story, should I make a PM list? Let me know.
Also, a few things to note:
-The Treecko is the same Treecko Ash caught in Advaced
-The "someone" Ash didn't like at the contest was Drew, and yes, he will be in this story. He is not to be bashed however, because I love his character. XD.