When One Door Closes, Two More Open

On the first day of his journey with his rebellious starter, Ash befriends a Spearow and a Rattata. Ash is seriously injured by Pikachu after saving the young spearow from a Thunderbolt, but the Spearow, her flock, and the Rattata save his life. With not one but two new starters, a strange new ability to understand Pokémon, and a calmer and smarter attitude, a new journey begins.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10779528/1/When-One-Door-Closes-Two-More-Open

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6. Cerulean City Gym Battle

After a few minutes, Ash's run slowed to a walk. Why did Gary always feel the need to taunt him? He tried to follow his mother's advice; to ignore it, to not retaliate, but it didn't stop the insults from continuing. And now Misty, Brock, and Ash's Pokémon knew. Would they think he was a loser too?

"Ash, slow down! Wait up!" he heard Kiara call. He turned to see his team running towards him and remembered that he had sent Kiara flying off his shoulder when he had taken off.

"I'm sorry, guys." he said sadly. "I shouldn't have run off like that. It's just…"

"Ash, it's okay." Kiara soothed. The look on her trainer's face broke her heart. If she ever saw that Gary guy, if he insulted her trainer ever again, she was going to teach him a lesson he'd never forget. "That message was disgusting; you have the right to be angry."

"Who was that jerk anyway?" Judy asked angrily. "Does he always do things like that?"

Ash nodded, sitting down. Trevor hopped into his lap and Kiara flew back onto his shoulder and preened his hair. Judy took a seat beside him and put her arm around him. Venom just hovered in front of him, not sure what he should do to comfort his trainer.

"He-He's my rival. We used to be friends when we were little, but…things changed." Brock and Misty arrived just as Ash said that.

"What happened?" Misty asked gently.

"When we started school, Gary found a lot of new friends, and I could never fit in with them no matter how hard I tried. His new friends didn't like me, and…I didn't really like them either. Gary and I started getting into stupid arguments, and just…drifted apart."

Misty frowned. "Wait. Is that the reason why you back down and let me win every time it looks like we're about to get into an argument or something?"

Ash looked down. "I- I guess so. Yours and Brock's friendship means a lot to me. I don't want to lose it over a stupid fight."

"Ash, friends will sometimes get into stupid arguments. Trevor and I do it all the time and we're still best friends." Kiara reassured him.

"Are you really that afraid of losing us?" Brock asked softly.

"Yes!" Ash exclaimed. "I-I've never really had friends before." he admitted, ashamed. "Well, except maybe for my cousin Ethan in Johto, but I could only see him a few times a year. I never fit in anywhere at school. Most of Gary's new friends made fun of me…and then Gary started doing it as well. Gary was always ahead of me with everything; friends, Pokémon battles, school… and he never hesitated to let me know about it. And it's going to get even worse when he finds out about Pikachu…"

"If he makes fun of you over that, then Gary will have to deal with ME." Kiara growled.

"Me too." Judy added. "And I'm ready to punch him in the face already. No one gets away with insulting my friends."

"Same here." Trevor told him.

"Me as well." Venom said. "We're all here for you." He nuzzled against Ash, who hugged him, careful of his stingers.

"This Gary sounds like a real jerk and a horrible friend." Misty told Ash. "And Ash? You don't have to fear losing me as a friend. You see, I never really had a lot of friends either. I didn't exactly fit in with the other girls at my school. Besides my Pokémon, you and Brock are the best friends I've ever had."

"Same here." Brock sighed. "Raising a family of ten and being a full time Gym Leader didn't leave me a lot of time to make friends. And wanting to be a Pokémon Breeder rather than a trainer; well, a lot of guys thought it was strange." Brock wouldn't tell Misty and Ash what most teenagers his age had called him; they were far too young to hear words like that.

"Thanks for sticking with me, guys." Ash told them. "You have no idea how much that means to me."

Misty smiled. "You're welcome."

"That's what friends are for." Brock said.

…...

Ash asked his friends if it was okay to stop and train for a day or two before heading to the Gym. Brock checked their supplies, then said that it would be completely fine. Misty agreed as well, though something seemed to be bothering her. Ash asked, but she just smiled and said that she was fine.

With Brock and Misty's help, and a lot of hard work, Ash's Pokémon were soon up to Level twenty and ready for the Cerulean Gym. Venom learned Fury Attack quickly and was close to mastering Pursuit. Like Kiara, he was incredibly quick and evasive; swooping in to attack his opponents and getting out of the way before they even had a chance to react. Judy learned Seismic Toss while sparring with Geodude, scooping him up and sending him flying face-first into a tree. As you can imagine, Geodude wasn't too happy about that. Kiara didn't learn any new moves, but she improved her Speed and Attack.

Like Venom, Trevor also learned two new moves. While practicing Bite on a big log, he had ended up using Hyper Fang, slicing the log completely in half. It was by far his strongest and most devastating attack. He also learned Sucker Punch, completely by accident. Venom had snuck up behind Trevor to scare him, and his prank backfired in the worst possible way. Startled out of his wits, Trevor had whirled around and punched Venom right in the eye. Venom learned something too that day. Never sneak up on Trevor or you risk getting a mean right paw right to the face.

Much to Misty's joy, her Metapod evolved, becoming a beautiful Butterfree. The Bug was a quick learner, and soon knew Confusion, Poison Powder, Stun Spore, and Sleep Powder.

On the morning of the third day, Ash decided his Pokémon were ready and they made their way towards Cerulean City. Misty was acting even more nervous then she had before, and for at least the fifth time in the past few days, Ash asked her what was wrong.

"Nothing!" Misty replied quickly. "But are you sure you want to go to Cerulean City? You don't want any Pokémon from there! They're all big, scary Ghost Pokémon that look like…this!" She made a face that was obviously meant to be scary, but turned out to be more funny then anything.

Ash nearly fell down laughing. "Nice face, Misty." Noticing that she didn't seem too amused, he stopped. "I'm not going there to get Pokémon anyway. I'm going to try for my second Badge."

"You don't want to go to the Cerulean Gym!" Misty said. "It's all dingy and disgusting! The Vermillion Gym is much, much nicer! Plus Vermillion is right on the water, has a lot of neat Pokémon and you can watch all the giant yachts pulling into the harbor! Plus, there's a little park up on a hill where you can watch the sunset and it's so romantic!"

"I've heard of the Vermillion Gym City Leader." Ash told her. "His name's Lieutenant Surge, and he's retired military. He's really tough, and I'd like to get a little more experience before I go up against him. Plus, I'll need to get the Cerulean Badge eventually anyway. I wonder who the Gym Leader is and what Pokémon they use? I can't believe I forgot to check!" He pulled his Indigo League handbook out of his bag and started to flip through it.

Misty snatched it out of his hand. "You don't need this! Do you really want to wreck the surprise?" She threw the book into a nearby bush.

"Hey!" Ash objected, retrieving his book. He glared at Misty. "Okay, what is with you? Something's clearly bothering you and you're acting kind of crazy! I'm your friend; can't you trust me enough to tell me what's going on?"

Misty opened her mouth to yell at him, then closed it again, knowing he was right. "Okay." she sighed. "It's my sisters. They're the Gym Leaders at Cerulean and they're always putting me down because I'm supposedly not as "glamorous" or as "talented" as them." She made air quotes around both words. "I stormed off a few months ago, vowing to never return until I became the best Water Pokémon trainer in the world."

"Sounds like you have the same problem with them that I have with Gary." Ash sighed. "They sound like real jerks. I do still have to try for that badge, but you don't have to go near the Gym or even into the city if you don't want to. But why didn't you tell me or Brock earlier?"

"Same reason you never told us about Gary." Misty told him. "I was embarrassed and I didn't want you to know. I'll take you to the Gym because knowing you, you'll get yourself lost, but I'm not going inside."

"That's fine." Ash assured her.

The group headed into Cerulean City. But what they didn't know was that three very unwelcome visitors had arrived in Cerulean the night before, and that they were about to be caught in the middle of a sinister plan that involved the Cerulean Gym…

…...

Cerulean City was beautiful, at least in Ash's and Brock's opinion. Misty kept glancing around nervously like she was expecting her sisters to pop up out of nowhere.

Suddenly they heard sirens and came upon a huge crowd of people surrounding a small store. Several police officers were examining the scene.

"Excuse me, do you know what happened here?" Ash asked someone in the crowd as he, Brock, and Misty walked up to the scene.

"Some burglars broke into that store last night." the man said.

"Burglars?" Ash asked.

"What do YOU know about burglars?" a suspicious voice asked. It was a young policewoman with teal colored hair. "You three look very suspicious to me!"

"Wow, SOMEONE"S paranoid." Judy grumbled, rolling her eyes.

"We just came into town and saw the crowd, so we came over to see what was going on." Brock protested.

"The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime." the police officer asserted.

Trevor moved between Ash and the paranoid police officer and so did Judy. Kiara glared at her from her spot on Ash's shoulder and Venom rolled his eyes, obviously thinking the whole thing was ridiculous. "That must mean every single person in this crowd is a thief." Trevor said sarcastically.

"And it appears your Pokémon were in on it with you!" the policewoman continued.

"What?!" Kiara screeched. "Look lady, my trainer is no thief and neither are we!"

"We are NOT thieves!" Ash yelled. "I'm ten! I'm just a Pokémon trainer who came to challenge the gym, saw the crowd, and came over to see what was going on! I have my Pokédex right here!" He pulled it out and showed it to the police officers.

"I'm Dexter, a Pokédex programmed by Professor Oak for Trainer Ash Ketchum." the Pokédex droned.

"Yeah, and I was the Leader of the Pewter City Gym." Brock said, showing the policewoman his Boulder Badge and Gym Leader certificate.

"And I'm Misty Waterflower. My sisters run the Gym here." Misty told her, showing her photo ID.

"Well, that's evidence enough for me." the policewoman said sheepishly. "Sorry I was so suspicious. Late night and way too much coffee, I suppose."

"Um, miss? I was wondering, since I'm new in town, if we could get together tonight and maybe you could show me around?" Brock asked.

Venom stared at him in disbelief. "Do you just ask out the lady that accused you of being a thief? And I thought I was weird…"

The policewoman laughed. "Well, I'm not off duty till past your bedtime…" Brock flinched and Ash tried to give him a reassuring smile.

Venom winced. "Ouch. That had to hurt…"

"And I may even have to work round the clock to catch those burglars." she continued.

"Jenny, we need your help over here." another officer called.

"Fine, I'm coming!" she said, leaving.

"I wonder what they stole." Ash mused.

A nearby officer who was controlling the crowd overheard. "It's the oddest case I've ever been on." he told them. "They stole a massive vacuum and a giant hose. Completely ignored the cash register. You kids didn't happen to see anything strange while you were entering town, did you? Any suspicious characters or large trucks?"

Brock shook his head. "No, sir."

"Why would anyone steal a giant vacuum cleaner and a hose?" Ash asked.

The officer shrugged. "If I knew, we'd be a lot closer to solving this case. Now, we're pretty busy over here, so if you folks could just move along…"

Ash, Brock, and Misty left the scene and made a stop at the Pokémon Center to heal their teams before heading towards the Gym. "It's this building right here." Misty said, pointing out a building with a magenta and orange roof and a giant Dewgong on the front. "I'll meet you at the Pokémon Center once you're done. Good luck." She smiled at them and walked away.

"I've got to go do something as well." Brock told Ash.

"What?" Ash asked curiously.

Brock grinned. "I wasn't going to tell you until afterwards, but I'm too excited to wait. There's a Pokémon Breeder's Association office here and I'm going to take them some of my Pokémon food recipes. They're having a Cooking For Pokémon contest this month, and if I win, my recipes will get published in Pokémon Breeders Digest and I'll get a big prize!"

"I bet you'll win!" Ash told him.

Brock smiled. "Thanks. I'll try to make it back in time to watch your match." Ash waved goodbye to him as he left, then walked into the Gym.

…...

Much to Ash's surprise, when he entered the Gym with his Pokémon, they saw not a battle arena, but a giant stadium with a pool. The building was packed with people.

"Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the stars of our show, the Sensational Cerulean City Synchronized Swimming Sisters!" someone announced.

"Try saying that five times fast." Judy muttered, looking confused. Wasn't this supposed to be a Gym?

Three beautiful girls, one with orange hair, one with pink hair, and one with violet hair dived off the top of a diving board that had to be at least twenty feet up, and began to do an excellently choreographed synchronized swimming show. The crowd went wild, but Ash and his team were completely confused. "I thought this was supposed to be a Pokémon Gym." Ash whispered to his team as they sat down. "Could Misty have gotten the wrong building?"

"I doubt it." Kiara replied. "This is her hometown after all. Maybe this weird swimming thing is a side hobby."

"I'm bored already." Judy sighed. "I wanted to have a battle, not watch humans swim."

"Maybe the Gym's on the other side of the building or something." Ash mused. They exited the stadium through a side door just as the show was ending.

"I don't understand it." Ash told his team as they went down some stairs. "The Gym's got to be somewhere around here…" As they entered the next room, they came upon a giant aquarium full of non- Pokémon fish like trout and bass. "Okay, there's a giant aquarium, but no Gym. Maybe I AM in the wrong building…"

"That was so great." a female voice cooed. "Daisy, the dive you did was super!"

"The practice really paid off." another girls voice said.

"Totally!" There was a high-pitched giggle. Ash turned to see the three girls from the show.

"Excuse me?" Ash asked, walking up to them. Maybe they could give him directions.

They glared at him. "I'm sorry, but if you want an interview, you have to, like, call our manager." the one with the pink hair told Ash.

"No, it's not that…" Ash started.

"We don't do autographs." the pink-haired girl retorted.

"I don't want one. I just wanted to know if this was a Pokémon Gym!" Ash protested.

"It sure is." the girl with blue hair replied.

"Are any of you the Leader of this gym?" Ash questioned.

"All three of us are." the girl with the orange hair said. They struck a pose. "I'm Daisy." she said. "Her name's Violet, and this is Lily." She pointed to the violet-haired girl and then the pink-haired girl.

"We're the three Sensational Sisters." Violet added.

"We're world famous!" Lily put in.

Kiara rolled her eyes. "If this is what Misty has to put up with, I'm not surprised she left."

"Huh? Then what's with all the swimming?" Ash questioned. Weren't Gym Leaders busy enough with all the trainers coming in for Badges?

"It's, like, our hobby, and our fans love to watch us perform." Lily explained.

"We pool our talents to make a big splash!" Violet crowed, and they all let out a high-pitched giggle that made Ash and Trevor cringe.

Judy shook her head. "I don't know what's worse. The annoying laughter or the horrible puns."

"I'd go with both." Venom muttered.

"Am I supposed to face one of you or all of you?" Ash asked. The girls looked at each other and frowned. "We don't feel much like battling anymore." Daisy muttered.

Ash gaped at them. "What? This is a Gym!"

"We just got beaten three times in a row by these kids from this nowhere place called Pallet Town." Violet grumbled. "It was one defeat after another. My eyes were spinning from all of the losses."

"We, like, had to rush all our Pokémon to the Pokémon Center." Daisy continued.

"This is the only one left." Lily tossed a Poké Ball and a Goldeen popped out, flopping on the floor and trying to make its way into the pool.

Ash bent down and helped it in. "Thanks," the Goldeen said gratefully.

"If it would evolve into Seaking, we could use it, but all it can do now is its Horn Attack." Violet said.

The Goldeen glared at them. "You know, it would help if you actually tried training me." it grumbled before the pink-haired girl returned it to its Poké Ball.

"So, there's no point in even battling." Violet told Ash.

"And now, instead of having matches, we have time to make ourselves more beautiful than ever!" Daisy put in.

Kiara was disgusted. "These girls have more ego than Viridian Forest has Beedrill!"

Daisy noticed Ash's disappointed expression. "I know what you want." She clapped her hands and called, "Seel!" The Pokémon swum over and stuck out its tongue. On it was a blue Badge shaped like a water drop.

"Okay, that's just plain weird." Trevor stated.

"A Cascade Badge." the girl said. "This is what you want, right? You can have it." She held it out to him.

"Thanks, but I'd rather EARN my Badges." Ash told her, taking a step back.

Daisy rolled her eyes and smiled. "Take it. A Badge is a Badge. Here."

Ash looked at the Badge, then at his Pokémon, unsure of what to do. Garrett's words ran through his mind. "Victories won't just be handed to you. You need to earn them." He knew his mentor would probably be disappointed in him if he took a Badge he didn't rightfully earn. And Ash would be disappointed in himself as well. He looked the girl right in the eyes. "No. I'm not taking a Badge I didn't earn." Disappointed and angry, he turned to walk out of the Gym.

"For what it's worth, I'm proud of you for doing that." Kiara said, nuzzling him.

"I am too." Judy added, taking his hand.

"So am I." Venom told him. "A true warrior never takes the easy way out."

"I'm proud of you as well, Ash." Trevor said. "We'll figure out a way to get a Cascade Badge the right way. Maybe Brock can help."

"HOLD IT!" a voice shouted from the bleachers. Ash turned to see Misty standing there. Leaping over the guardrail, she faced her sisters angrily. "All right, Daisy, if you don't want to battle him, I will!"

Ash smiled at her. "You came?"

Her scowl turned into a smile as she turned to him. "I had to. When I was in the Pokémon Center, I heard a trainer talking about those three just giving away Badges. That's an insult to our Gym and I knew you wouldn't take one, or that if you did, you'd be disappointed in yourself. So, now you're getting your battle with me, the fourth Sensational Sister!"

Lily sneered. "There are only three Sensational Sisters and one runt!" Misty glared at her, and so did Ash and his team.

"Hey! Don't talk to her like that!" Ash yelled.

They just ignored him. "So, little sister, it's a surprise to see you back so soon." Daisy said.

"That little girl with the big mouth that said she was going to be a great Pokémon trainer; wasn't that you?" Violet taunted.

"I guess I did say something like that when I left…" Misty admitted. Ash could see how hurt she was, though she hid it.

"Misty, you left here pretending you wanted to become a Pokémon Trainer because you couldn't compare with us. Because we're obviously more beautiful and talented than you." Lily gloated. Misty had to grab Kiara to keep her from pecking out that sister's eyes.

"The only thing you're better at than Misty is being complete and utter jerks!" Ash shouted. "Misty is a FAR better trainer than any of you! And you may think you're so beautiful, but inside, you're UGLY!" Misty stared at him, her eyes wide as saucers. She had never seen her timid friend lose his temper like that before or insult anyone. Ever.

"Go Ash!" Judy cheered.

"Wow. I've never seen Ash like that before." Trevor said, wide-eyed.

"You heard what Hector said. Ash has the heart of a Spearow. And we never let anyone insult or hurt our friends." Kiara explained, calming down.

Lily gasped. "How DARE you speak to us like that!" She raised her hand to slap Ash. All of Ash's Pokémon went to defend him, and unfortunately for the pink-haired sister, Judy got there first. Jumping between them, Judy shoved Lily backwards. Ash had to grab Judy around the waist to keep her from making mincemeat of the girl who dared to try to hurt her trainer. Judy struggled for a few seconds, then relaxed, not wanting to accidentally hurt Ash.

"Well, he's definitely not someone I would choose for a boyfriend, but you're no prize yourself." Daisy muttered to Misty as she helped her pink-haired sister up.

Misty couldn't tell if Ash was red with rage or embarrassment. "I'm her FRIEND, and I'd be a pretty lousy one if I just stood there and let you three insult her!" he yelled.

"Look, I'll prove I'm a better trainer than any of you!" Misty yelled at her sisters. They shrugged and handed her a Cascade Badge, saying she was the only one with a Pokémon that could actually battle. Misty took Ash's hand and dragged him to the battle area. "C'mon, Ash, let's have our battle. If you want your Badge, you're going to have to beat me. And I'm NOT going easy on you." She swam out to a floating platform in the middle of the pool.

Ash smiled as he climbed on his own floating platform. "I wouldn't have it any other way. How many Pokémon?"

"Two on two works for me." Misty said.

"Venom? You up for a battle?" Ash called to his Bug-Type. The Beedrill nodded eagerly and flew over to join Ash. Kiara, Trevor, and Judy cheered Ash on from the side of the pool.

"Well, in that case… Misty calls Staryu!" Misty threw Staryu's Poké Ball, and the starfish Pokémon landed gracefully on the platform in front of Misty.

"Do you think Misty could really win?" Daisy, who was watching, asked her sisters.

Lily snorted. "In her dreams, maybe."

"Venom, use Twineedle!" Ash commanded. Venom's speed worked to his advantage, and he hit Staryu before the Starfish Pokémon could dodge.

"Oh no! Staryu's in a lot of pain!" Misty cried. "Staryu, use Recover!" The Starfish Pokémon glowed, looking much healthier.

"Venom, use Fury Attack!"

"Staryu, use Water Gun!"

"Dodge it!" Ash ordered. Venom got out of the way just in time, then swooped in on Staryu, managing to hit it three times before having to dodge again.

"Now use Twineedle!" Ash called.

"Staryu, Counterattack!"

Both attacks landed, causing both Pokémon to cry out in pain.

"Can you continue?" Ash called to his Beedrill. Venom nodded. "Use Twineedle again!" Venom jabbed Staryu with his stingers twice before the Staryu could react. But it wasn't out yet.

"Staryu, hang in there!" Misty called. "Use Water Gun!" It sent out streams of water four times. Venom managed to dodge three of them, but was hit by the fourth.

"Use Fury Attack!" Ash commanded. Venom struck his opponent four times, knocking Staryu out.

"Staryu, return." Misty said. "You did a great job." she whispered. "Now, go Starmie!"

"Do you want to come back?" Ash asked his Beedrill, knowing Venom was exhausted.

Venom shook his head. "No. I'm going until I'm out."

Ash knew he had to respect his Pokémon's wishes. "All right. Use your Twineedle attack!" Venom rushed at the Starmie, striking it twice.

"Use Water Gun, Starmie! Knock him into the water!" The Starmie shot off several bursts of water, one right after the other. Exhausted, Venom dodged the first couple but was soon hit, falling into the water. He struggled to stay afloat.

"Misty's totally awesome." Daisy said in awe.

"Well, we three got all the good looks. She had to get at least SOME of the talent." Lily replied.

"Venom!" Ash cried. He grabbed Venom's Poké Ball, sucking his Beedrill in before he could sink. "You did wonderful, buddy." he whispered. "Take a rest." He turned to the rest of his Pokémon. "Kiara, I choose you!" The Spearow flew to his side.

"Kiara, use Aerial Ace!" Ash ordered.

"Starmie, Water Gun!" Misty called. The Starmie shot off several Water Guns. Kiara evaded them all, slamming into Starmie.

"Starmie, Rapid Spin!" Spinning so fast it was a blur, Starmie headed straight for Kiara.

"Dodge it, Kiara!" Kiara got out of the way by inches. "Now use Aerial Ace!" Kiara obeyed, once again slamming into the Starmie. Starmie was still in the battle, but barely.

"Starmie, use Recover!" Misty called.

"Use Aerial Ace while it's using Recover!" Starmie managed to finish using Recover, but Kiara slammed into it before it could fire off another attack.

"Use Water Gun, Starmie!" Misty ordered. Kiara managed to dodge all but the last one, which glanced off of her.

"Use Peck, Kiara!" Dodging another Water Gun, Kiara pecked at the Starmie several times before being forced to dodge again. Starmie was extremely close to fainting now.

"Finish it off with Aerial Ace!" Ash called.

Kiara zoomed in, striking the final blow. It was too much for Starmie, and the Starfish Pokémon fainted.

Misty recalled her Starmie, whispering a thank you to it. She turned to Ash. "Congratulations, Ash. You…"

Suddenly there was a huge rumbling and something crashed through the Gym wall.

…...

It was Team Rocket; the same three idiots that Ash and his friends had run into in Mount Moon. They were riding a massive vacuum with wheels attached.

"What's up with that hair?" Daisy queried, pointing at Jessie.

"Like, who invited the party crashers?" Lily asked.

Trevor stared at her, dumbfounded. "They just crashed through the wall and you're worried about HAIR?!"

"Sorry for the interruption, ladies." Jessie said with a grin.

"Allow us to introduce ourselves." James continued. They went through the same motto they did on Mount Moon.

"Are these guys for real?" Trevor muttered. His eyes widened as he realized what they were planning to do. "ASH! MISTY! Get off the platforms!"

"Misty! Get off the platform!" Ash yelled as he dived into the water

"In the water, Water Pokémon have the advantage!" James said.

"But if we steal that water away.." Jessie continued.

"The Pokémon are ours for the taking!" James finished.

"And Meowth knows just how to do it!" Meowth said, hitting a lever. A gigantic hose fell into the pool and began sucking up the water. Seel and several Goldeen, who had been swimming in the pool were quickly sucked into the vacuum.

Misty, a strong and quick swimmer, had made it to the nearest side of the pool, but Ash wasn't so lucky. Just as he had grabbed the side of the pool to haul himself out, a floating platform knocked into him, and he lost his grip on the pool's edge and was sucked towards the vacuum. He swam frantically, trying to escape the vacuum's pull, but to no avail.

"Ash!" his Pokémon screamed. Without hesitation, Judy dived in, grabbing hold of Ash with one arm, and desperately trying to swim away from the hose. Misty watched in horror, knowing she was no match for the vacuum's suction and that Ash and Judy were too far away to reach. Then she saw the switch at the end of the pool; Team Rocket standing in front of it. Her sisters were close by, cowering, but not doing anything to stop Team Rocket. She rushed towards the switch, hoping she'd make it in time. Trevor and Kiara had the same idea and ran for the switch.

Judy and Ash were doing their best to fight the current, but even Judy's immense strength couldn't break them free, and she was tiring. They were pulled closer and closer to the hose.

"NO!" Kiara screamed, knowing her friends weren't going to make it. Suddenly, a white light covered her and she evolved into a majestic Fearow. She quickly flew towards her friends, grabbing them just as they were pulled under.

Team Rocket screamed. A red-haired demon and a purple-furred one were amongst them, punching, scratching, and tackling. James ended up being hit in a place no man wants to be hit, and fell to the floor groaning. Jessie was quickly tackled to the floor, and Meowth was taken out by a Hyper Fang. Misty quickly pulled the switch, stopping the vacuum as Kiara pulled her friends out of the water.

Gently, Kiara put Ash and Judy down outside the pool. Ash coughed up some water he had inhaled and turned towards Judy, who was catching her breath. "Are you okay?" he asked. She nodded, hugging him.

"But they won't be." Kiara growled, turning towards Team Rocket. She flew at them in an Aerial Ace attack. Trying to get out of the way before they were creamed, they dived into the pool, and Kiara hit the vacuum, accidentally pushing the lever to the "on" position. Team Rocket were sucked in, and got blasted out the other side thanks to the second hose that they had neglected to attach to anything.

"Team Rocket's blasting off again!" they screamed in unison as they flew through the air. Misty and her sisters rushed out through the hole they had made, finding Seel and the Goldeen safe outside a short distance away. They put them all back safely in their Poké Balls.

With Team Rocket safely out of the way, Kiara went back to check on their friends. Both were still shaking from the shock, clinging to each other. Ash looked up at his newly evolved Pokémon. "Kiara, you saved us. Thank you." He hugged her.

Kiara checked him over, and her eyes widened. "Ash, you're bleeding!" There were several scratches on his arms. She looked over Judy as well. Thankfully, the Mankey was unhurt. Kiara lowered her head guiltily. "I must have scratched you when I pulled you guys out of the pool. I'm sorry…"

Ash cut her off. "Kiara, don't you dare feel guilty. You saved our lives. Without you, we might have drowned. And it's just a tiny scratch. It doesn't even hurt!" It did, but he certainly wasn't going to let her know about it. He knew it would make her feel worse. "If you have to blame someone, blame Team Rocket, but don't blame yourself."

She nodded, nuzzling him and wrapping her wing around them both. "I'm so glad you both are okay." They both hugged her tightly.

Misty and Trevor ran over, asking if they were okay. Misty ran for the first aid kit and began bandaging Ash's wounds, thankful for the first aid class she had taken before starting her journey. Trevor climbed onto Ash's lap. The Sensational Sisters came over and he glared venomously at them. "Thanks for doing absolutely nothing while my trainer and friend nearly drowned." he growled. "Glad you thought your precious hair or whatever was more important then their lives."

Ash hugged Trevor and the Rattata slowly calmed down. "Trev, Misty, thanks so much for stopping Team Rocket." Ash told them. "We owe you guys one."

"I'm just glad you two are alright." Trevor whispered. "I was so scared I was going to lose you." The Rattata was shaking worse than Ash and Judy.

"Well, we're fine thanks to you guys and Kiara." Ash reassured. He hugged both Trevor and Judy, and snuggled up against Kiara's side.

"I never did get the chance to give you this." Misty said, pressing a Cascade Badge into Ash hand. "Congratulations, Ash. You beat me fair and square and earned this Badge the right way."

Ash just grinned. He hoped Garrett would be proud of him.

…...

Reluctantly, Ash recalled Kiara to her Poké Ball, knowing that with her new size and huge wingspan, she would not be able to fit comfortably through the doors. Though he loved her new form, Ash kind of missed Kiara being able to sit on his shoulder. He vowed to make sure she was able to spend as much time outside the Poké Ball as possible when they were traveling outside.

As they left the Gym, Ash saw Brock running up to them. "Sorry. Things ran a bit late. There was a ton of other Breeders there." Brock said sheepishly. "Did you win your match?"

Ash grinned, holding up his new Cascade Badge.

"Congratulations!" Brock told him. He noticed the bandages on Ash's shoulders. "What happened?"

Ash told him of what happened in the Gym. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to help." Brock murmured, wishing he had been able to help his friends.

"Not your fault." Ash reassured. "You couldn't have known. Did you win your prize?"

"I'll know in two weeks." Brock said.

"What prize?" Misty asked, confused.

"I entered my recipes in a contest for Pokémon Breeder's Digest. If I win, I'll get my recipes published in the magazine, five hundred dollars, and a six month supply of ingredients." Brock explained.

"Well, as far as we're concerned, Brock, you've already won the grand prize for best food in the world." Trevor said. Ash relayed Trevor's words to Brock, whose smile became so huge, it could have lit an entire city block.

They headed off to the Pokémon Center, and Ash and Misty handed over their teams to Nurse Joy. As they waited, Misty turned to Ash.

"I never thanked you for sticking up for me in there." she whispered. "Besides my Pokémon, no one's ever done that before."

"You're my friend, Misty." Ash replied. "And like I said in there, I would have been a pretty lousy friend if I didn't stand up for you."

She smiled, slipping her hand into his. "And I promise that I'll always do the same for you."

After a few more minutes, the bell dinged, and both of them went to get their teams. As soon as they were outside, Ash let his Pokémon out of their Poké Balls, and the happy group began heading off on the next leg of their journey.

Ash will be much more willing to stand up for his friends than he was in canon, going from Jekyll to Hyde in their defense. He will have trouble standing up for himself however, as his self-confidence is still low.

There may also be an embryonic romantic relationship between him and Misty. They're ten; they're not going to be kissing or anything, but it may be hinted that they will become a couple when they're a little older.

 
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