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.



9. Of Squirtle Squads and Lighthouses

It was exactly two weeks to the day the gang had left Cerulean City, and it was now the day Brock had been waiting for. The day he would finally know if he had won the Cooking For Pokémon contest or not. He awoke at five-thirty, unable to sleep any longer. Taking his laptop out of his backpack, he logged into his e-mail account. There, among the junk mail, was a letter from the Pokémon Breeders Association. Holding his breath, he opened it, and….


Everyone jolted awake at Brock's shout; the jumpier ones like Trevor and Tabitha, Misty's Oddish, jumping about ten feet in the air. Everyone else just gave Brock a funny look. "What the-" Ash started before Brock scooped him up, sleeping bag and all.

"I did it! I mean, we did it! Thank you, Ash!" Brock shouted, twirling the smaller boy around.

"Run for your lives! Brock's finally snapped!" Venom yelled jokingly. However, Aidan, who was still half asleep, thought he was serious. He was about to fire a Flamethrower at Brock in order to defend his trainer, but thankfully Kiara stopped him before he could.

"He's kidding, Aidan." she reassured and the little Charmander powered down his Flamethrower, blushing in embarrassment. She glared at Venom. "Stop scaring Aidan. He's only been here two days. He's not used to our craziness yet."

"Sorry." Venom said sheepishly.

Misty smacked Brock with a mallet she had pulled out of nowhere. "What is the meaning of waking me up and acting like a nut at five-thirty in the morning?!" she screamed. Unfortunately, this made Brock drop Ash, who probably would have landed on his head had Judy not run over and caught him. "Sorry, Ash." Misty mumbled. She really hadn't thought that part through…

"Where'd Misty get the…Never mind, I don't think I really want to know…" Trevor muttered as he went over to check on Ash.

"Sorry about that, guys." Brock said sheepishly, rubbing his head where Misty's mallet had struck it and turning red with embarrassment. "I just got some really great news though. I won first place in my contest!"

Managing to detangle himself from his sleeping bag, Ash looked at Brock, confused, until he remembered the contest Brock had entered while they were in Cerulean City. "That's great, Brock. Congratulations!"

Misty smiled, her anger cooling down. "Congratulations, Brock. Just next time, please check contest results at a more reasonable hour of the morning." she teased.

"And you each get a third of the prize money." Brock said, smiling.

Ash and Misty blinked at him. "You're the one who did all the work." Misty told him.

"Yeah, neither one of us can cook. We didn't even help you with your Pokémon food." Ash added.

"Ash, you were the one who gave me the recommendations with the aid of your gift and helped me with my recipes. And this all happened because you guys invited me to join you. You two made this all possible. So you each get part of the prize." Brock told them.

"Thanks, but you really don't have to do that." Misty said and Ash nodded.

"I know, and that's exactly why I'm doing it." Brock assured.

Everyone decided it was pointless to go back to sleep after that, so Brock got started on breakfast, Ash and Misty helping him. They figured it was a good idea to learn how to cook at least a little so Brock wouldn't have to do it all the time.


Later that morning, they continued along Route 24, Ash humming an annoying song.

"Ash, will you knock it off?!" Misty grumbled. "You've been humming that song for almost an hour!"

"It's not my fault!" Ash protested. "That stupid song was playing on Brock's radio this morning and now I can't get it out of my head!" Suddenly the ground underneath them gave way, and they fell into a giant pit trap. "Ow." Ash groaned. "I think that knocked it out…" His voice was barely audible due to his face being pressed into the dirt.

"Is everyone okay?" Kiara asked worriedly as she and Venom flew down to them.

"Ow! I landed on my head!" Brock complained, unknowingly answering Kiara's question.

With a lot of jostling, everyone managed to get up. Ash rubbed his head where a lump was already beginning to form, and handed Trevor, Aidan, and Judy up to Venom, who lifted them out of the hole. He made a running jump and grabbed onto the side of the hole. He nearly slid back down again, but Kiara grabbed him by his backpack straps, hauling him out. Brock gave Misty a boost, and Ash gave her a hand up. Kiara carefully reached into the hole and pulled Brock out.

"Why the heck is there a hole here?" Misty exclaimed as she brushed herself off.

"It's either a sinkhole, or a sick prank." Brock said.

"Who would pull a prank this mean?" Misty asked.

They heard laughter from nearby, and turned. There was a group of five Squirtle, pointing at them and laughing. Each wore a pair of sunglasses; four of them wearing round ones while the one in the middle had lenses that were more triangular-shaped. "Looks like they fell for our prank, boys. Literally." the one with the triangular lenses chortled. Ash had the strange feeling that that Squirtle was the leader.

Ash's Pokémon glared at them. "Dude, even as a fellow prankster, I have to tell you that was not funny at all." Venom said, his voice unusually serious. "You could have seriously hurt my trainer and his friends." The way he had seen the group lying in the hole, he had been seriously frightened that they may have broken their necks in the fall.

"Venom's right." Kiara added, checking over Ash and her teammates to make sure they were okay. Besides a lump on Ash's forehead(she'd keep an eye on him, just to make sure he didn't have a concussion), they all seemed fine. "Dangerous practical jokes aren't funny; they're stupid."

"Chill out." the Squirtle leader retorted. Then he smirked. "Here, I can help you with that." He shot a Water Gun at Kiara. She nimbly dodged it, then zoomed at him in an Aerial Ace attack.

"Loki, look out!" one of the Squirtle with the round glasses cried, pushing the leader out of the way and taking the attack. It was a one hit K.O.

Loki screamed in anger at seeing his friend knocked out. He and his gang were about to challenge Kiara when a motorcycle engine was heard. The group of Squirtle grabbed their knocked-out friend and hurried off.

Ash and his friends turned to see the paranoid police officer in Cerulean City coming up on a motorbike. Uh-oh. I hope she doesn't think that WE dug this big hole. Ash thought.

"Is everyone okay?" the officer asked worriedly. "Has anyone been hurt?"

"We're fine, Officer Jenny." Ash assured.

She scratched her head. "Have we met? Your face doesn't look familiar to me…"

"We met you in Cerulean City." Brock explained. "You were investigating a burglary there."

Officer Jenny snapped her fingers. "Oh, you must be thinking of my cousin, Jenny. It's easy to get us mixed up." she said with a laugh. "My cousins and I are all police officers, plus we look identical and share the same name." She showed the group a photo of at least a dozen women that looked exactly alike.

"Okay, that's…really weird." Trevor stated.

"Talk about family resemblance." Ash murmured, looking at the photo.

"At least they never forget their names." Misty said brightly.


A few minutes later, they arrived at the police station. Ash recalled Kiara and Venom as he always did whenever they entered a building. As they sat down, Officer Jenny explained what had happened. "The group of Squirtle you encountered is a Pokémon gang that calls themselves the Squirtle Squad."

"Squirtle Squad?" Ash asked.

"I never heard of a Pokémon gang." Misty said.

"They're all Squirtle that were deserted by their Pokémon trainers." Jenny told them, sadness in her voice.

"Deserted?" Ash asked softly, stroking Aidan's head as the little Charmander sat in his lap next to Trevor. Judy sat in a chair next to him. Misty and Brock were saddened by this as well, especially after Aidan. The Charmander still acted like he was walking on eggshells around them; as if he feared they'd abandon him if he made even the tiniest mistake.

Officer Jenny nodded. "They don't have a trainer, so they run wild and play tricks on the whole town." Taking some photos out of her desk drawer, she showed them what the Squirtle had done; everything from graffiti to stealing food from fruit stands. Ash knew they would have to be cautious around this area. Though he seriously doubted the Squirtle Squad were anything like Pikachu, he could tell they didn't like humans and might target the group again.

"It really is kind of sad." Officer Jenny continued. "Because if they had somebody to care for them, they never would have turned out as bad as they are. It's a real shame." Ash, Misty, and Brock nodded, feeling bad for the Squirtle.


After leaving the police station, the group went to the post office, where Brock picked up his check and certificate for six month's worth of ingredients from the Poké Mart. Brock cashed the check, giving Misty and Ash each a third of the money. Both tried to tell him to keep it, but Brock made them take it, telling them again that he wouldn't even have it without them.

As Brock got his ingredients at the Poké Mart, Ash picked up some Paralyz Heals, Burn Heals, and Antidotes, as well as replenishing his supply of Potions and Revives. After leaving the Poké Mart, they made a quick stop at the used bookstore at Ash's request, and he picked up a few books on Pokémon training; How To Teach Your Pokémon Moves Without A TM, The Complete Encyclopedia of Kanto Pokémon(Outdated since the Pokédex had been invented, but still a great wealth of information), and some small books about the Pokémon he had in his team.

Brock bought everyone lunch at a small café and they ate, laughing and talking. Brock couldn't wait to enter another contest and Misty and Ash were incredibly happy that their friend's career as a Pokémon Breeder was off to a great start.

After lunch, Misty rented a fishing pole, hoping to catch a sixth Pokémon for her team. They went to the lake, and all three let out their Pokémon to enjoy the weather. Misty settled down to fish, Tabitha on her lap and Alex, ever the protective and loyal Butterfree, next to her. Staryu, Starmie, and Bella, her newly named Goldeen, played in the water, careful to avoid Misty's pole. Borrowing one of Ash's books, Brock curled against Onix's side to read. Bulbasaur sat next to him, watching the other Pokémon play.

Ash snuggled up to Kiara's side with Trevor on his lap and was about to read one of his new books, but Judy had other ideas. She grabbed the book from his hand(ironically, it was the book he had bought on Mankey) and took off with it.

"Judy!" Ash called, trying(and failing) to hide a laugh. "Bring that back!"

"Come and get it!" she challenged playfully.

"I will! Just remember, you asked for it!" Ash replied, laughing. He gently lifted Trevor off his lap and began to chase Judy.

"Wait for me!" Kiara yelled, chasing after her friends.

"And I was just getting comfortable too…" Trevor grumbled, then had to duck as Venom tried to grab him. "Don't you DARE pick me up again, Ven!"

"What's the matter?" Venom taunted playfully as he chased the Rattata. "You scared of heights?"

"No, but I'd rather not be dropped and land on my head!" Trevor told him, dodging as Venom swooped at him again.

"Come on! I probably won't drop you!" Venom teased as he tried to catch his friend again.

Trevor rolled his eyes. "Oh, that's REAL reassuring, Cornelius!"

Venom gasped, pretending to be angry. "You DARE to call me Cornelius?! Now it's on!" He managed to corner Trevor in front of a tree.

"I'll save you, Trevor!" Ash called, running over with Judy close behind. Laughing, he playfully grabbed Venom around the middle, careful to avoid his stingers. "Run! I'll hold him off!"

"Thanks, Ash! You're a lifesaver!" Trevor said, running around Ash and his "captive," only to be pinned by Judy.

Twisting out of Ash's grasp, Venom began chasing his trainer, who let out a noise somewhere between a shriek and a laugh before running away as fast as he could. "You may have saved Trevor, but who will save you?"

"I will!" Judy called, letting Trevor go and tackling Venom to the ground. Ash turned to look at them while he was running away, only to crash into Kiara, who had landed in front of Ash while his attention was diverted.

"Got you." she said, wrapping her wings around him. Laughing, he tried to wriggle free, managing to slip out from under her wings and take off running again. "You're not getting away from me that easily, Ash!" Kiara yelled, chuckling as she chased her trainer.

As he ran from Kiara, Ash noticed that Aidan was standing a short distance away, looking unsure. Ash stopped and Kiara had to hit the brakes to avoid bumping into her trainer. "Don't you want to play too, Aidan?" Ash asked, looking at his Charmander in concern.

"I'm allowed to play?" Aidan blurted out. Both Kiara and Trevor looked concerned at that, and Venom and Judy stopped their wrestling match and walked over to their friend.

"Of course you're allowed to play with us, Aidan." Ash told him, wanting to punch Damien. "We'd love to have you play with us, if you want to."

"I do." Aidan said softly. He looked up at his trainer. "But I'm not sure how to play. I've never played before." Damien had certainly never played with him before, and neither had Damien's other Pokémon.

Ash felt another burst of anger at Damien, as well as sorrow for Aidan. "Don't worry, Aidan. It's not hard. Basically, all you do is chase someone and try to catch them, while avoiding being caught yourself."

Aidan nodded, then suddenly dived at Trevor, who dodged, then ran off while Aidan was getting up from the ground. With a little laugh, Aidan quickly chased after him. The Charmander was a little nervous at first, but began to relax as he got into the game.

"Will you guys tone it down just a tad?" Misty complained a few minutes later. "I'm trying to fish here, and all your noise is scaring away the…" Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her line, and her bobber went under the surface. "Hey, I've got something!"

"I guess we didn't scare away ALL the fish…" Trevor muttered.

Ash walked over to Misty. "What'd you…" He was cut off by a Squirtle popping its head out of the water. It smirked, then shot a Water Gun at Ash and Misty, who cried out in shock as the cold water hit them.

"I'm soaked!" Misty complained.

"Hey! That was uncalled for!" Kiara yelled, flying over to check on her trainer, the others close behind. "Are you all right, Ash?" Ash nodded, and Kiara glared at the Squirtle. "Why can't you just leave us alone?"

"Chill out. It was just a joke." the Squirtle retorted, trying to hide the fact that he was rather nervous. He wasn't expecting that many Pokémon to be out when he planned his prank…

"Well, it looks like the Squirtle Squad can only do surprise attacks." Misty taunted. Ash looked at her strangely and she winked. "But they're too scared to face us in a REAL battle."

The Squirtle fell for the taunt. "I fear nothing!" he yelled, taking a battle stance. "Bring it on!"

"Staryu? Are you up for a battle?" Misty asked. Staryu popped out of the water and gave Misty a coo. "Use Rapid Spin!" Staryu flew at the Squirtle so quickly that he couldn't dodge in time and was thrown onto shore. The Squirtle got up shakily and shot off a Water Gun, which Staryu dodged.

"Good job, Staryu!" Misty told her starter. "Now use another Rapid Spin!" Staryu zoomed at the frightened Squirtle, but before it could reach him, something rushed between them, shoving Staryu into the water.

It was Loki, leader of the Squirtle Squad. "Let's teach that starfish a lesson, boys." he called to his gang. They each shot a Water Gun at the Staryu.

"Oh, no! Staryu!" Misty screamed as the attacks struck.

Seeing her friend under attack, Tabitha growled in rage, her entire body glowing. "No one gangs up on my friend!" she screamed, leaping off Misty's lap as she rapidly grew, becoming a Gloom. Rushing over to aid Staryu, she shot a powerful Acid at the Squirtle Squad, making them cry out in pain.

Ash's Pokémon and Alex began to go over to aid their friends, but Misty held up a hand to stop them. "Shh…I have a plan." she murmured. "Alex, lift Tabitha and Staryu out of the way with Confusion, then use Sleep Powder on the Squirtle Squad." Alex nodded, carefully lifting Tabitha and Staryu with his psychic powers and moving them to the side. The Squirtle Squad stared at him in confusion and shock. Flapping his wings, he sent a green powder over them. The gang collapsed to the ground fast asleep as the powder took effect.

Misty took out five Poké Balls and threw them at the Squirtle Squad, making sure to hit the leader first. Asleep and weakened by Tabitha's Acid, they were easily caught. "Yes! We caught the Squirtle Squad!" she cheered. She opened her arms for her Pokémon and both Staryu and Butterfree went into them. Tabitha stood a short distance away, looking down at her new form and then up at Misty uncertainly. "Tabitha, what's wrong?" Misty asked in concern.

"Do you still like me?" Tabitha blurted out. Looking worried, Ash translated Tabitha's words to Misty.

Misty looked at her Gloom in shock. "Of course I still like you, Tabitha! Why do you think I wouldn't?"

"I'm not cute anymore." Tabitha whispered. "At-At the Village a few months ago, a Gloom was abandoned by his trainer after he evolved because she-she said he was ugly. And now I'm…"

Misty's eyes filled with tears as Ash told what the Gloom was saying and she went over to Tabitha, hugging her tightly. "Tabitha, you're still cute to me and you'll always be cute to me no matter what form you're in. I'll never abandon you, ever. I promise." Tabitha burrowed into Misty's arms, hugging her trainer as best she could.

Suddenly, they heard sirens and saw Officer Jenny speeding towards them on her motorcycle. "Is everyone okay?" she asked. "I thought I saw a battle going on down here. Did the Squirtle Squad bother you guys again?"

"Yes, but they won't be bothering anyone else ever again." Misty told her happily. "I caught them."

Officer Jenny blinked at her in surprise. "You-You actually caught the Squirtle Squad? No one's ever been able to catch them, and a lot of people have tried."

"Well, my Staryu, Gloom, Butterfree, and I did." Misty said, telling Officer Jenny the story.

"That's amazing, and thank you." Officer Jenny told her. "The townsfolk will be very happy." She looked thoughtful for a few minutes. "What are you going to do with all those Squirtle?"

"Well, the leader is in my party now, and I guess I'll send the other ones to the Cerulean Gym. My sisters are the leaders there. Why do you ask?"

"I'd like to ask you a favor. There's a young man in town who is starting up a volunteer fire department in the town, but he doesn't have enough Water Pokémon to help the volunteer firefighters do their jobs. They need Pokémon that have enough water power to fight raging fires, yet have the ability to walk on land. If you could spare any of your Squirtle, he would really appreciate it if you sold one or two to the fire department." Officer Jenny said.

"Of course, I'd be more than willing to give him a few Squirtle. I don't need all five." Misty assured her. "Can I meet this guy first though?"

"Of course." Officer Jenny said, smiling. She led them to a small house and knocked on the door. A brown haired young man in a blue T-shirt and black pants opened it. "Yes?"

"Brad, I have some great news for you." Officer Jenny announced. She explained that Misty had captured the Squirtle Squad and was willing to give him some to help with the volunteer fire department.

Alex's eyes lit up. "Thank you. Thank you so much. I can see if I can trade you something for them, or pay you…"

"No need." Misty said, waving her hand. "I want to keep the leader, but I'll give you the other four for free. You guys work so hard to keep people safe; you deserve them." Then she remembered something. "Oh, wait. Ash, Brock, I never asked you guys if you wanted one first. Do you?"

Brock shook his head, smiling. "No, I don't really need a Squirtle."

Misty turned to her raven-haired friend. "Ash?"

Ash hesitated for a second, but only a second. He had always wanted a Squirtle. But the firefighters needed them more. They risked their lives to save people from raging fires. If they could make that sacrifice, Ash could certainly make a much smaller sacrifice for them. "No thanks, Misty. I appreciate it, but the firefighters need the Squirtle more than I do."

Misty gave Ash an 'are you sure?' look, to which Ash nodded. "Now that that's settled, how do I transfer the rest of the Squirtle to you?" Misty asked. "They were all teleported to the Cerulean Gym."

"Come with me to the Pokémon Center and I'll show you." Officer Jenny said, leading the group and Brad to the Pokémon Center. There, Officer Jenny showed Misty and Brad how to go on the Pokemon Link Trade system and transfer her Squirtle to Brad.

"I can't thank you enough." Brad said happily as they exited the Pokemon Center. "Are you sure I can't pay you?"

"Yes, I'm sure." Misty told him, smiling.

"At least let me give you this. It's just a little something to say 'thank you'." Brad told her. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out a teal-colored ball that had a red pattern with three yellow lines across the top and held it out to Misty. "It's a Lure Ball," he explained. "A special type of Poké Ball that works especially well on Water-type Pokémon. I know it's not much, but…"

"It's perfect. Thank you." Misty replied, taking it.

"You're welcome." Brad responded, smiling.


After saying goodbye to Brad and Officer Jenny, the group left the town, heading towards Vermillion. After an hour or two of walking, they found a clearing to set up camp for the night. Brock released his Onix, Geodude, Zubat, and Bulbasaur, and Misty began letting her team out of their Poké Balls as well. Ash's team, of course, was already out.

"Well, here goes nothing." Misty said, throwing the Poké Ball that contained her newest teammate. Tabitha and Alex stood at her side protectively, just in case the Squirtle tried to attack Misty upon finding out he and his gang had been captured.

"His name is Loki, by the way." Ash whispered to Misty.

Upon being released, Loki looked around in confusion. "Where am I?! Where's my gang?!" He noticed Misty, Ash, Brock and all their Pokémon staring at him. "Oh, crap…" He'd have to think quickly or run for his life to get out of this one. No way could he fight off all those Pokémon by himself…

"We're not going to hurt you, Loki." Misty said soothingly. "I'm your new trainer…"

Loki cut her off. "How the hell do you know my name? Where's my gang?! You better not have hurt them!" He took a battle stance.

Ash translated Loki's words to Misty, and she was quick to reassure him. "My friend Ash can understand Pokémon and he told me your name." She told the Squirtle Squad leader, gesturing to Ash. "Your gang is safe. I'd never hurt them. They're with a man who is running a volunteer fire department and need some Water Pokémon to help the firefighters out. I talked to him and he is very nice. He'll take good care of the Squirtle Squad, and keep them out of trouble."

Loki searched Misty's face, trying to determine whether she was telling the truth or not. Realizing she was sincere, he relaxed a little. "How did you even capture…" Then he remembered. She had had her Butterfree give them a good blast of Sleep Powder while they were distracted by her Gloom and Staryu. He narrowed his eyes at Misty as Ash relayed Loki's question to the group. "You pulled a sneak Sleep Powder Attack with that Butterfree of yours while we were distracted. That was a dirty trick!" Misty's Butterfree and Gloom moved between Loki and Misty protectively, fearing an attack. But they were caught completely off guard by what Loki did next.

The Squirtle Squad leader burst out laughing, then grinned up at Misty. "I like that. You think like one of us. You're alright, Red."

His eyes wide, Ash told this to Misty, who stared at Loki, her eyes as big as dinner plates. This was the weirdest way she had ever heard of gaining a Pokémon's trust. Misty wasn't going to question it though.


Two more days passed, and Loki fit in as easily with the group as if he had been with them his entire life. Despite their rocky start, he, Venom, and Judy became fast friends due to their shared love of pranks, often teaming up to play harmless pranks on the other Pokémon. But despite his goofy side, the Squirtle put as much effort into his training as he did his pranks, and quickly learned Skull Bash and Bubblebeam.

Ash and his Pokémon were also working hard in preparation for the Vermillion Gym. Kiara mastered Assurance and began working on Roost. Ash was doing his best to teach her Steel Wing with the help of the book he had bought, but it was proving to be difficult without a TM.

Trevor mastered Super Fang and learned Double Edge, which Ash decided to use only for emergencies, as it hurt Trevor to use it. Judy learned Swagger and was close to mastering Cross Chop, her most powerful move yet. And while practicing strengthening his Twineedle, Venom learned Poison Jab, an extremely powerful(and as his opponents would attest, painful) move that usually sent Ash running to get the antidotes when he used it in a mock battle.

But Aidan was having some problems. Though his training was progressing quickly and he had learned Smokescreen and Skull Bash, Ash feared that Aidan was pushing himself way too hard. Aidan would practice past the point of exhaustion, and was incredibly harsh on himself when he didn't get a move exactly right the first time. Ash had to practically order him to take breaks so that he wouldn't collapse.

And it looked like he'd have to do it again today. Ash had started teaching Aidan Dragon Rage this morning and Aidan was struggling to master it. He tried to shoot out the blue flames, but it kept coming out as Flamethrower. Brock had just made lunch, and the rest of the Pokémon stopped training to eat, but Aidan was still practicing his Dragon Rage.

"Aidan, it's lunchtime." Ash announced, walking over to his Charmander. "Time to take a break."

"I haven't got Dragon Rage down yet." Aidan told him, frustration in his voice, though it was directed at himself, not Ash. He tried once again, but failed. "Why can't I get this right?"

"You'll get it, Aidan." Ash said soothingly. "But right now, it's time to take a break for lunch. I don't want you over-tiring yourself. Dragon Rage is a tough move. I don't expect you to master it in only a day."

Reluctantly, Aidan nodded and went to go eat with the others. But it was obvious that something was still bothering Aidan as he picked at his food. Ash, Brock, and Misty looked at him in worry. "Aidan, what's wrong?" Ash asked.

"Nothing." Aidan murmured.

Ash's Pokémon looked at each other in concern. Aidan was about as convincing a liar as Ash, which meant not at all.

Ash sat down next to Aidan. "Aidan, please don't be so hard on yourself. You're doing completely fine with your training. You'll be able to master Dragon Rage soon, just give yourself time."

"I hope so." Aidan whispered.

"You'll get it." Trevor assured. "I had trouble when I first learned Super Fang, but I managed to master it."

"And you saw me the first time I used Cross Chop." Judy said, chuckling. The first time she had tried to use Cross Chop while sparring with Trevor, she missed him completely, gotten off balance, tripped, and landed flat on her face. "Relax, Aidan. You'll get it in time. I did."

That got a little smile out of Aidan and he relaxed a little. Ash rubbed his fire type's head. "Like Mom always says, the most important thing is that you try your best, and you're doing a very good job. Just try not to be so hard on yourself, okay? I want you to have fun and be happy while you're training."

"Okay." Aidan replied, smiling up at his trainer.

After lunch, Aidan practiced Dragon Rage again, much more relaxed then he had been before. After a few tries, he shot off a stream of blue flames.

"Great job, Aidan! You did it!" Ash cheered, hugging his Charmander. Aidan grinned and hugged him back.


The next afternoon, they were traveling down a shady forest trail. Trevor had taken over Kiara's old spot on Ash's shoulder, and Kiara and Venom flew above the group as Judy and Aidan walked at Ash's side. Loki, who hated being inside a Poké Ball as much as Judy did, walked by Misty's side.

Aidan let out a huge yawn and rubbed his eyes. "Tired, Aidan?" Ash asked.

"Yeah." Aidan admitted. "I had a really weird dream last night and couldn't get back to sleep after that." While not a nightmare, the last part of the dream had been rather…disturbing.

Ash scooped up Aidan, letting the Charmander rest in his arms. "It must have been the hot sauce we ate with dinner last night, because I had a weird dream too."

"What was it?" Misty asked curiously.

"It was the weirdest thing ever. I dreamed my team and I met several parallel versions of myself, almost all of them had Pikachu, and one was…" He shuddered. "Never mind. You guys REALLY don't want to know what that one was doing…"

"Huh." Misty said, deciding not to press Ash on details when she saw the disturbed expression on his face.

Ash shook his head. "Brock, I love your homemade hot sauce, but I am NEVER eating it right before bed again."

Ash's Pokémon looked at each other. Should they tell Ash that they had all had the same dream he did? Nah. Hot sauce induced nightmares like that were better left forgotten.

They walked quietly for several more minutes, admiring the scenery and watching wild Pokémon run around. Misty turned to Ash. "Ash, can I ask you something?"

"Sure, what?"

"We've seen a lot of Pokémon today that you don't have and you haven't tried to capture even one. I was wondering why."

"Mist, I only have room for one more in my party." Ash explained.

"Ash, trainers can capture more than six Pokémon." Brock told him. "The rest will just get transported to wherever you got your Pokédex. Professor Oak's Pokémon Laboratory, from what you told me. And you can exchange them out using the white button on your Pokédex."

Ash felt Trevor tense for some reason. He reached up and stroked the Rattata gently before turning to Brock. "I know, Brock. But I'm not planning to capture more than six Pokémon. It's not fair to just capture a Pokémon and leave it at the Lab for the rest of its life. And I can't just trade away one of my team for something else. I'll miss them way too much." He smiled at his team and they smiled back. "They mean too much to me. I can't send them away."

"Aww, he loves us!" Judy said with a smile. Trevor relaxed. He'd been a little bit worried about what would happen when Ash got more than six Pokémon, but it looked like his fears were needless. And plus, even if Ash did get more than six, there was no way Ash would forget them. Ash laughed and nodded, rubbing Judy's head.

"We should have reached the road by now!" Misty grumbled a few minutes later, checking the map.

Brock took the map from her, looking at it. "I think you led us down the wrong trail, Misty."

"Ha! Now I'm no longer the only one that gets us lost!" Ash joked. Misty punched him in the shoulder. "Ow!"

Misty rolled her eyes at her raven-haired friend, then turned to Brock. "Brock, how do we get out of here?"

"I have no idea." was Brock's very reassuring reply.

"Let's just follow the trail." Ash suggested. "All roads gotta lead somewhere, right?" His friends reluctantly agreed to his plan. It was either that or backtrack, and possibly get more lost in the deep woods.

Ten minutes later, they emerged from the woods to find a beautiful white sand beach and a sparkling blue ocean. Misty sighed happily. "Look at that beautiful sunset! I love the beach!"

"Me too." Brock agreed, pulling off his shoes and socks and rolling up his pant legs.

"Hey, look over there!" Judy said, getting the group's attention. They looked in the direction she was pointing, and saw a lighthouse shining in the distance.

"Good find, Judy." Brock told her. "Every lighthouse has a keeper, right? Maybe they can tell us where we are."

"And maybe they'll have a bed." Misty added happily. "I'm tired of sleeping in a sleeping bag. I need my beauty sleep." The group ran towards the lighthouse, hoping to get there before it got dark.

But Brock should have watched where he was going. As he ran, he accidentally stepped on a small Krabby, which was understandably not too happy about that and clamped its pincer down onto Brock's big toe.

"YEEOOOWWW!" Brock screamed, hopping around on one foot and trying to shake the Krabby off, but it hung on. Ash and Misty ran back to help him, but one of Brock's Poké Balls started shaking and Bulbasaur popped out.

"What happened? I heard scr…." Bulbasaur started, before turning to see his trainer dancing around and screaming with a Krabby firmly attached to his big toe. Bulbasaur sighed. "Hold still, I got it." He sent a Vine Whip at the Krabby, but missed because Brock was still jumping around and hit Brock's foot, making Brock yelp in pain.

"Sorry." Bulbasaur told his trainer before wrapping his vines around Brock to prevent him from moving. He struck out again with Vine Whip, this time hitting his intended target and making the Krabby let go. Bulbasaur unwound his vines from Brock as he went to face the Krabby, but accidentally knocked a Poké Ball off Brock's belt, which landed on top of the Krabby and sucked it inside. It rocked once, twice, three times, before clicking shut.

Venom stared. "Did that just happen?"

"Are you okay, Brock?" Ash asked. Both he and Misty were holding back laughter at the sheer ludicrousness of the situation. Both Judy and Loki had lost their own battle with laughter, which set Venom and Aidan off.

"Yeah." Brock told them, rubbing his swollen toe. "I don't think anything's broken, thanks to Bulbasaur's quick thinking. Thanks, Bulbasaur." he told his Grass type, who nodded. "Wow, that was embarrassing. Too bad no one had a video camera. That would have won us the $100,000 grand prize on Kanto's Funniest Home Videos." he joked.

Ash picked up Krabby's Poké Ball and handed it to Brock. "At least you got a fifth Pokémon out of this whole crazy incident."


They reached the lighthouse just as it began to grow dark. "Whew, that was further than it looked." Brock said.

"Look at those carvings on the door." Ash put in, pointing out the detailed carvings of hundreds of Pokémon. "I wonder who lives here."

"Let's find out." Brock told him, pressing the doorbell, which let out an ominous sound that made everyone huddle together.

"That is officially the creepiest sound I have ever heard." Trevor muttered.

"Who's there?" a man's voice over a loudspeaker asked.

"Excuse us, sir, but we're travelers and we're lost." Brock said.

"We've been camping out for quite a while and we were wondering if you had some extra beds. We can pay you for the stay." Misty added.

"And I was wondering if I could use your kitchen to make bacon double cheeseburgers for our group. I have all the ingredients with me. I'd be more than happy to make something for you too." Brock continued.

"That sounds great." the voice said, sounding happy even through the loudspeaker. "Can you cook without using tofu?"

Brock nodded. "I can cook lots of things without using tofu."

"That's good." the voice replied. "I've been eating nothing but tofu since my cook went on vacation. Come on in." The loudspeaker went silent and the double doors creaked open. Ash recalled Kiara and Venom as the group walked inside.

The lighthouse was huge inside and dimly lit with a winding staircase and huge windows. The group looked around curiously, wondering where the keeper of the lighthouse was. Ash spotted a phone shaped like a Bellsprout. "Sir, may I use your phone please?" Ash asked politely. "I'd like to call my mom."

The loudspeaker crackled again. "Of course. It's right near you."

Ash set down Aidan and picked up the phone, dialing his mother's number. He was extremely surprised when Professor Oak's face appeared on the screen.

"Hi, Ketchum Residence… Oh, hello, Ash!" the Professor said with a smile. "I bet you're pretty surprised to see me here." he added, noticing Ash's slightly confused expression. Your mother was kind enough to invite me to dinner. My cook's been on vacation and I've been eating nothing but tofu since she left. Anyway, let me get your mom… Delia, Ash is on the phone!"

Ash's mother came running into the room. "Hi sweetheart! I'm so glad you called! How are you doing? Is your journey going well?"

"I'm doing great, Mom." Ash told her.

"I wonder where the keeper of the lighthouse is." Brock mused, looking around. "Wow, it's dark in here."

"I'll find a light switch." Misty said, feeling along the wall. "OW!"

Ash whirled around. "Are you okay, Misty?"

"I'm fine. Just stubbed my toe."

Delia frowned. "Ash, who's there with you?"

"Oh, sorry Mom." Ash said sheepishly. "These are my friends, Misty and Brock."

"Hi, Mrs. Ketchum!" Misty greeted cheerfully, walking up to Ash.

"It's nice to meet you." Brock said.

Delia smiled. "It's nice to meet you both too. I'm glad you made some new friends on your journey, Ash. So how are…" She was cut off by a timer ringing in the kitchen. "Oh, the casserole must be done! I'll be back in just a moment." She left the room.

"So how many Pokémon have you caught so far, Ash?" Professor Oak asked. "I haven't gotten any from you yet."


"That's good." Professor Oak replied. "Gary's caught forty-five so far. You better get catching if you want to catch up to Gary." The last part was said in a light, teasing tone. He knew well of Ash and Gary's constant rivalry with one another. Even as little kids, they were always competing about something.

Ash rubbed the back of his neck. "Actually, Professor Oak, I'm only planning on capturing six Pokémon…"

"What?! Only six?" Professor Oak exclaimed. "Ash, you can't be a great trainer if you only capture six Pokémon!"

Ash winced slightly at the tone, and Judy, Trevor, and Aidan glared at the professor. "Ash already IS a great trainer." Judy growled.

Professor Oak noticed the slight hurt in Ash's eyes and the anger in those of his Pokémon's. "Ash, I'm sorry if that came out sounding like an insult. I'm not saying you're a bad trainer. What I mean is that it is best to have a wide variety of Pokémon to cover any type weaknesses. With only six Pokémon, your opponents will be able to exploit those weaknesses and you'll have a lot of difficulty competing in the League. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes I do, sir." Ash said. "But if I teach my Pokémon a wide variety of moves and come up with good strategies, I can cover those weaknesses. Plus, with a smaller number of Pokémon, I'll have more time to train each of them to their full potential and bond with them, instead of having to switch around all the time. I know it might be difficult and that I'll have to work hard, but I'm willing to do it to keep my Pokémon with me."

Professor Oak sighed. "Ash, I understand your reasons and while I think that forty five Pokémon may be too much for a beginning trainer, I still don't believe six is enough. Even with teaching them a wide variety of moves, you'll never be able to completely cover all weaknesses, and if your Pokémon get hurt and can't battle and you have to do a full battle, you'll be stuck. Plus, there are benefits to sending your Pokémon to the lab. It gives them a chance to relax, but they can also continue with training, and there's a wide variety of Pokémon here that can help them learn new moves. While I don't suggest catching tons of Pokémon, I recommend that you think about catching at least two or three past your limit so you can cover your problem areas."

Ash was quiet, thinking about Professor Oak's argument. He did have a good point, and Ash would discuss it with his Pokémon later and see what they thought. The problem was that any time the idea of being separated from any of his beloved team for a long period of time came across his mind, he felt a pang in his chest. He knew Professor Oak would take good care of them, but he would miss them terribly if he sent them away. "I will think about it, Professor. Thank you for your advice."

The professor smiled. "You're welcome, Ash."

Delia came back into the room. "Hi again, sweetie. Sorry I took so long. So where are you at now?"

"I'm at an old lighthouse on top of a cliff between Cerulean and Vermillion." Ash answered. He didn't want to mention to his mother that they were lost. It would probably make her worry.

"Oh, that must be my friend Bill's lighthouse." Professor Oak told them. "He's a young Pokémon Researcher that knows even more than me. See what you can learn from him. He could teach you just about everything there is to know about Pokémon and then some."

"This is Bill, Professor." the loudspeaker suddenly announced, making everyone jump. "It's good to hear from you."

"Oh hello, Bill!" Professor Oak greeted cheerfully. "Please give my friends a crash course on Pokémon!"

Ash and his mother talked a few more minutes and then Delia had to go to finish getting dinner ready. With an embarrassing reminder to be careful, to eat right, and to make sure to change his underwear every day, which had Ash turning beet red and Brock, Misty, Loki, and Ash's Pokémon struggling to hide their laughter, Delia hung up.

"Well, there's no way I can ignore a request from the great Professor Oak." Bill's voice boomed over the loudspeaker. The lights suddenly turned on. "I am Bill of the lighthouse." Everyone slowly turned to look at the top of the stairs, and gasped in shock as they saw not a human, but a giant Kabuto.


At the same time, Team Rocket were scoping out the lighthouse using their binoculars. "According to the phone book, this lighthouse belongs to Bill, the famous Pokémon researcher." Jessie announced.

"I guess we've come to the right place, huh?" James said.

"There must be zillions of rare Pokémon stored inside that lighthouse!" Jessie added gleefully.

Meowth grinned. "Then there's only one thing left for us to do!"

"Right." James replied. "Sneak in and take everything we can grab!"

"How should we sneak in?" Jessie mused. She spotted a road that led right up to the lighthouse. "We could take the road, or risk our lives climbing the cliffs."

"We certainly can't take the road." James retorted.

"We have to climb those cliffs." Jessie agreed.

Meowth climbed on top of Jessie's head. "Because we're the bad guys. And the bad guys ALWAYS have to sneak in."

The group of idiots recited their motto as they prepared, though who to was anyone's guess. "To be truly great criminals, we have to do things the hard way." Jessie said.

"And then we'll be hardened criminals." James added.

Jessie pointed to the cliffs. "But it will be tough to reach the top." She and James clung together, suddenly frightened. "Because we're afraid of heights!"


"What the heck is that thing?!" Trevor yelled. He, Judy, and Aidan took defensive positions in front of Ash and Loki in front of Misty.

"It can't be!" Brock exclaimed. "That's Kabuto, an extinct Pokémon! What's it doing here?"

"No! I'm not a Kabuto! I'm Bill, the Pokémon researcher!" the Kabuto told them.

"So that's a costume or something?" Ash asked.

"Yes, and I'm kind of stuck inside it." Bill admitted sheepishly.

Ash walked up the stairs. "Need some help getting out of it?"

Bill sighed with relief. "Yes, please!"

"What do you need me to do?"

With the claw on the costume, Bill gestured to a small button on the right side. "Press the button."

"You mean this one?" Ash asked, not wanting to hit a wrong button and make the situation worse.

"Yes. These arms are too short. I tried to get out, but I couldn't reach the button." Bill replied.

Trevor frowned. "Why would you put the button to get you out of the costume on the outside?" Judy, Loki, and Aidan looked at him and shrugged.

Ash pushed the button. "Here you go." The costume popped apart to reveal a green haired young man in a red suit.

"Thanks for helping me get out." Bill said gratefully as he stood up and stretched. "I've been stuck in that costume for hours!"

Loki rolled his eyes. "You could have been out ten minutes ago if you had turned on the lights and told us when we walked in."

"Did you come from a costume party?" Misty asked.

"No, it's not for a party." Bill replied. "It's a special costume I use in my research. Getting inside its skin helps me get inside its head."

"What do you mean?" Ash questioned curiously.

Bill gestured to some carvings of an Omstar, Omanyte, and Aerodactyl. "There are many types of extinct Pokémon and I want to understand how they lived. Putting on a costume is one way of trying to figure out what they were like."

Ash was still a little confused at this. "You can understand what a Pokémon was like from wearing a costume?"

Bill nodded. "Yes indeed. Or I'm beginning to. This planet was created 4.6 billion years ago. During that time, all kinds of Pokémon existed, and they had many ways of living. In Kanto alone, there are at least one hundred and fifty known species of Pokémon, not even counting the ones brought in from other regions. And new ones are discovered all the time, so we need to keep searching."

"I wonder how many there are?" Ash mused.

"No one knows exactly and so the search goes on. There's always something new to look for in our lives and in ourselves." Bill told him.

"Something to look for?" Brock asked.

"Yes. There's a lot for us to look for, inside and outside ourselves. There's a meaning for every creature. A meaning for all the Pokémon, and a meaning for all us humans too."

"At least he didn't burst into rhyme.Trevor muttered to Judy, who covered her mouth to hide her laughter. Aidan and Loki looked at him in confusion. "Long story. I'll explain later."


Outside the lighthouse, Team Rocket struggled to climb the cliffs. "Sometimes I wonder what the meaning of it all is." Jessie groaned. "Why do we go to all of this trouble just to be bad?"

"It's so we can snatch other people's Pokémon." James answered, not getting that the question was probably supposed to be hypothetical.

"I'm all for it just as long as there's something in it for Meowth." Meowth said with an evil grin.


Bill turned to Ash. "Ash, is it?" Ash nodded. "I know you're not looking to catch all the Pokémon in the world, and that's okay. You'd probably be at it for the rest of your life if you tried to catch them all." Bill added with a laugh. "Just remember to always keep your eyes out for new Pokémon and new discoveries. It's as vital to me as it is to you." His eyes took on a faraway look. "Right now, there's only one Pokémon I'm searching for."

"What kind of Pokémon?" Ash asked curiously.

Bill started to head up the stairs, gesturing for them to follow. Confused and curious, the group did. "It's probably the biggest Pokémon ever, bigger than all the rest, and no one has ever seen it. It's been wandering the world for years and years, looking for friends."

Loki gave him a strange look. "If no one has ever seen it, how do you know it's bigger than all the rest or what the heck it's looking for?"

"Maybe someone talked to it with their eyes closed." Judy joked.

"But doesn't that Pokémon have any friends or family?" Misty asked softly.

Bill opened the door at the top of the stairs, and they all walked out onto the balcony. "The Pokémon wanders because it's alone. It's the only Pokémon of its species. One of a kind."

"But if no one's ever seen it, how do you know… Never mind…" Trevor sighed.

"One night, I heard this very strange sound coming to me from across the ocean." Bill said. He hit a button, and a sweet, but mournful call came from speakers atop the lighthouse.

Though it was garbled and not coming through very clearly, Ash could make out a soft male voice saying, "Is anyone out there? I am alone. Please, if someone can hear me, I'd like to be friends. I'd like to meet you!" The pure sadness in the call went straight to Ash's heart.

"I'd like to meet you, that's what it was saying to me." Bill told them.

Ash looked at him in shock. "Can you understand Pokémon?" Was Bill a Speaker, just like he was?

"In a way." Bill replied. "I have spent many years researching different Pokémon calls. This is definitely the call of a Pokémon looking for others, for someone to be its friend."

"That's amazing." Ash breathed. It must have been hard, figuring out what each call meant. He certainly wouldn't have been able to do it without his new ability.

"Some time ago, I recorded a similar sound and played it back towards the ocean." Bill added, hitting the button again. A slightly different call began playing. "Let's be friends. I want to meet you." To Ash's amazement, the call said exactly that. Bill looked off into the distance, a small smile on his face. "One day, I heard the same voice calling to me from across the ocean. "I want to meet you too. I want to be friends." It was answering me back."

Bill stepped closer to the railing, peering out into the fog. "Some foggy night, that Pokémon might come here to meet a friend it's been seeking for a very long time." He smiled softly. "I would be so happy to meet that Pokémon!"

"But would you try to capture that Pokémon?" Ash asked, a little bit worried.

"Why would I need to capture it? Just meeting it would be enough for me. Just a chance to study it would make my long wait worthwhile." Bill assured him.

Suddenly, a strange cry in the distance interrupted their conversation. "I have heard your call, my friend. I am coming." Ash gave a soft gasp. This was too clear to be the recording. It was the mystery Pokémon, and it was coming to meet them tonight.

The silhouette of a giant Pokémon began coming towards them through the fog. "It's here! The signal!" Bill cried, pressing the button. The lighthouse's signal beam began flashing different colors, and the call Bill had recorded began to play.

Ash took out Kiara and Venom's Poké Balls, and released them onto the balcony. "You guys have to see this!" he whispered. Kiara and Venom looked at him in confusion, then saw the shadowy figure of the giant Pokémon.

"What is that?" Kiara asked, beginning to take a defensive stance. Venom stared at the creature, his eyes wide.

Ash placed a hand on Kiara's back and gently scratched Venom behind his wings. "It's okay, guys." he whispered. "It's a Pokémon who's been looking for a friend."

"I am here." the giant Pokémon called. He began asking excited questions, talking so fast that even Trevor, who had the best hearing, could barely understand him. The obvious friendliness in the Pokémon's tone relaxed Ash's Pokémon, and they looked at it in awe.

"It sounds like it's singing." Misty said.

Brock mock-bowed to her. "Would you care to dance?"

She looked at him strangely, then smiled and gave a curtsy. "Thank you."

Loki squinted to see what the Pokémon was as the creature came closer. Then he rolled his eyes. "Well, he was wrong about it being a new species."

Ash checked to make sure Bill wasn't paying attention to him, but the researcher's eyes were focused on the approaching Pokémon. "What is he?" he whispered to Loki. "It's really foggy out here."

"Looks like he's a Dragonite." Loki answered.

Trevor's eyes were huge. "A BIG Dragonite."

"I can't wait to meet him." Ash murmured.

But what neither our heroes, Bill, or the giant Dragonite knew was that there was danger lurking below.


"What beautiful music…" Jessie murmured as Team Rocket held on to the cliffs.

"It's very haunting, yet so sweet." James added.

Meowth glanced behind them, then did a double take, his eyes widening with horror. "Look! It's coming from that thing!" he yelled, pointing. Jessie and James gasped in fear as they saw the head of a huge dragon, its eyes glowing white.

"That's a big Pokémon." Jessie said.

James stared at the shadowy Pokémon. "So size does matter."

"Something so rare and unusual, you know what that means!" Jessie exclaimed. "We should grab it for ourselves!"

James grabbed a bazooka out of seemingly nowhere. "Quite right. I'll attack it at once." Then he paused, struck by a guilty conscience. "But it seems a shame to aim at such a sweet creature…"

Jessie gave him a strange look. "Of course it's a shame! We built our fame on shame!"

"Go on! Fire! It's all the shame to me!" Meowth yelled.

James obeyed, firing the bazooka at the Dragonite. It screamed in pain as it was struck by the rocket.

The group on top of the lighthouse screamed in horror. "What's happening?! Who's shooting?!" Ash yelled. He scooped up Trevor and Aidan, and grabbed Judy's arm, rushing them towards the lighthouse. Kiara and Venom quickly flew after him. "Dragonite, look out!" he screamed, but the Dragonite didn't hear him.

"Bill, what's going on?" Brock shouted as he picked up Loki and grabbed Misty's hand, herding her towards the door.

"I don't know, I don't know!" Bill cried, terrified and panicked.

Thinking that he had been betrayed, the Dragonite angrily swiped at the top of the lighthouse, destroying the speakers and lights. Ash ran over and pushed Bill out of the way just in time. Dodging debris, the group ran out of the lighthouse.

"Please don't go, Pokémon!" Bill pleaded with the frightened and angry Dragonite. "Please stay with us! I've waited so long for a chance to see you here!"

The Dragonite simply shook his head. "You betrayed me. I thought you were my friend." he said sadly.

"Dragonite, it's not us! We're not the ones shooting at you!" Ash cried. He noticed another rocket heading towards the Dragonite. "Look out!"

The Dragonite heard his warning just in time to dodge the rocket. He looked back at the frightened group, suddenly realizing that whatever was going on, that the group on top of the lighthouse had nothing to do with it and they were just as scared as he was. He tried to find and take out the attackers, but was stopped by another rocket. Thankfully, he got out of the way just in time.

"I see the shooters!" Kiara shouted. "They're on the cliff!" She started to take off.

"Kiara, no!" Ash yelled. "If you get close enough to attack them, they'll shoot you too! Aidan, is there any way you can hit them with Flamethrower from here?"

"Not at this distance, but that gives me an idea." Aidan answered. He quickly jumped on Kiara's back. "Can you get me within range?"

Kiara nodded, and took off. When they were close enough to the attackers who were still firing upon the Dragonite, Aidan fired a massive Flamethrower.

Jessie, James, and Meowth screamed, dropping their weapons as they were hit by the Flamethrower. Careful not to hit Aidan and Kiara, the Dragonite swung his tail, sending Team Rocket flying. "We're blasting off again!" they screamed.


Kiara and Aidan flew back to their trainer, and the giant Dragonite followed them. "Is everyone okay?" Ash asked worriedly, running up to them.

"We're fine." Aidan reassured him, jumping off Kiara's back.

"I don't think they even know what hit them." Kiara added. "That was some quick thinking, Aidan." Aidan smiled back at her.

Ash scooped up Aidan, hugging him, then shifted him to one arm and hugged Kiara as well. "Great teamwork, guys. Thank you so much."

"Yeah, that was awesome." Venom said.

Ash turned to the giant Dragonite. "Are you all right?" he asked softly. He approached carefully, not wanting to scare the large Pokémon. He reached into his backpack to pull out a Super Potion, and the giant Dragonite started to go into a defensive stance, nervous that he was pulling out a weapon or Poké Ball.

"It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you." Ash reassured. "I'm just taking out a Super Potion to heal any injuries from where those rockets hit you." He held the container of Super Potion out to the Dragonite. "See?" The Dragonite looked into Ash's eyes, checking to see that he was sincere. Realizing he was, the giant Pokémon relaxed. "Is it okay if I heal you?" Ash asked, not wanting to do anything without the Dragonite's permission. Dragonite studied him for a second more, then nodded. Ash took a flashlight out of his backpack and turned it on, then looked over the Dragonite, noticing some nasty bruises and cuts on the Pokémon's chest. He sprayed the Super Potion on them, warning Dragonite that it might sting for a second.

Dragonite winced at the potion's sting, then sighed with relief as the pain went away and the wounds healed. "Thanks." Dragonite said gratefully, very gently nuzzling Ash.

"You're welcome." Ash told him. He applied one more Super Potion just to be safe, and checked over the Dragonite as best as he could to make sure he had no more injuries.

Bill approached the Dragonite. "Dragonite, I am so, so sorry about what happened. When I sent you that signal, I did it because I really wanted to become your friend. I swear I did not know those…things… who attacked you were there. I am so sorry you got hurt, and I wish I could have stopped them before it happened."

Dragonite looked into Bill's eyes, seeing nothing but sincerity. "I believe you." he said softly, gently head-butting Bill. "And it wasn't your fault, only that of the ones who attacked me." Bill smiled and petted the Dragonite, who gave a soft coo. Misty, Brock, and Ash came over and began playing with and petting the Dragonite as well.

Dragonite turned to Kiara and Aidan. "Thanks for saving me." he told them.

"No problem." Aidan said. "My name's Aidan by the way."

"And I'm Kiara." Kiara put in.

Ash's other Pokémon and Loki introduced themselves as well. Dragonite smiled. "It's nice to meet you. I'm Mizuchi." He nodded towards the humans. "What are their names? I'd ask them, but I doubt they could understand me."

"Actually, our trainer, Ash, the one with the black hair who healed you, can understand Pokémon." Judy told him. "But he's keeping his ability a secret. His friends, the tall one with the brown hair, Brock, and the red-haired one, Misty, know, but he's trying to keep it secret from the rest of the world. The green haired one who sent you the signal; his name is Bill."

Ash's stomach rumbled loudly, interrupting the conversation. "Sounds like it's time for dinner." Brock said with a smile. "If it's okay to use your kitchen, Bill, I can whip us up some burgers, and of course some more Poké Chow."

"That's fine." Bill assured. "Can I get extra bacon on my burger?"

"Of course. Ash, Misty, what do you want on yours?"

They told him, and Brock went into the lighthouse to start dinner. Ash, Misty, and Bill offered to help, but Brock smiled and said he'd be fine and to keep the Dragonite company.

Bill turned to Ash. "Ash, have you ever considered looking into becoming a Pokémon doctor?"

Ash shook his head. "I've never given it much thought." he admitted. "Brock is interested in Pokémon breeding and I've learned a few things from him, though."

"Well, you definitely have a good touch with injured Pokémon. I'd recommend looking into careers in Pokémon care and breeding. I think you would do very well in that field."


"Really. I know you're working to become a great Trainer, but remember, you can be a trainer and a Breeder at the same time."

"I can?"

"Yes. The options are limitless, as long as you work hard and keep your mind open to new possibilities. Anyway, if you do find out you're interested, there are several books I'd recommend." Bill gave Ash several book titles, which Ash wrote down. "Also, talk to Professor Oak. He knows even more on the subject than I do."

"Thank you, sir." Ash said.

Bill chuckled. "It's Bill, and you're welcome."

The group talked for a few minutes until Brock came out carrying a plate of burgers and some big bowls of Poké Chow. They ate on the picnic blanket under the stars, and Brock was delighted to find that the giant Dragonite loved his new recipe.

After dinner, they talked and played with the giant Dragonite for another half hour. Finally, Brock let out a huge yawn. "I'm ready to hit the sack."

"Me too." Misty said. "May we stay in the lighthouse tonight, Bill?" He said yes, and Misty turned to Ash. "Are you ready…" She stopped in midsentence as she saw that Ash was fast asleep, cuddled against Kiara's side in what looked like a very uncomfortable sitting position. Trevor and Aidan were asleep in his lap. Judy and Venom were beside him, awake and watching Ash in amusement. Misty stifled a laugh. "Okay, that CANNOT be comfortable…" she whispered.

"It has to be or he'd move." Brock murmured, letting out a soft chuckle.

Misty went over to Ash, taking Trevor and Aidan off his lap, and handing Aidan to Brock. The Charmander woke up, looked around, yawned, then fell back asleep against Brock's shoulder. Shifting Trevor to one arm, she shook Ash's shoulder.

"Whass' goin' on?" he mumbled sleepily.

"Wake up, Ash." Misty said, smiling. "It's time to go to bed."

"Okay." he mumbled, getting up and walking a few steps before what she had said registered in his half-asleep mind. He gave her a slight glare. "Hey!"

She smirked. "You'll thank me tomorrow when you don't wake up with the mother of all backaches. Now, c'mon. Let's go to the lighthouse and sleep in a REAL bed."

Unable to come up with a good comeback, Ash nodded, recalling Kiara and Venom, and saying goodnight to Mizuchi before heading into the lighthouse, Judy next to him, and Trevor and Aidan still fast asleep in Misty and Brock's arms.


After breakfast the next morning, the group said goodbye to Bill and the giant Dragonite. They offered to pay Bill for the stay, but he refused, saying their help last night had been payment enough.

As they walked towards Vermillion, following the directions Bill gave them, Judy turned to Ash, who was being quiet and staring off into the distance. "A berry for your thoughts?" she asked.

Ash jumped, then looked down at Judy. "Oh, I was just thinking."

"Well, duh." Trevor teased from his spot on Ash's shoulder. "She already knows what you were doing. She asked you what you were thinking ABOUT."

"I was just thinking about what Professor Oak said last night." Ash told them.

"You mean about him telling you you need to catch more than six Pokémon?" Trevor asked.

"Yeah." Ash sighed. "I don't know what to do."

"About what?" Misty asked, having only heard half the conversation.

"About what Professor Oak said about catching more Pokémon." Ash explained.

"Do what feels right to YOU." Kiara said, flying closer. "Think it over, and do what your heart and instincts tell you is best. Keep his advice in mind, but remember, in the end it's your choice."

Trevor nodded. "Kiara's right. And you still have time to think it over. You only have five of us right now."

"Just remember, we'll be with you no matter what." Judy said, taking Ash's hand. The others nodded.

Ash smiled. "Thank you." Like always, his Pokémon had given him good advice. He would keep Professor Oak's advice in mind, and Bill's, but in the end, he needed to do what was right for him and his Pokémon. Right now, he didn't quite know what that was, but he had the strange feeling that he would know when the time came.

And that's the last bit of that extremely long chapter! Please review and tell me what you think!

Teaser: Ash must face his fears and come to terms with his past as he faces the Vermillion City Gym Leader, Lieutenant Surge. Can Ash literally fight his fear? And how will Aidan react to finding about his new trainer's past?

Pokémon List(Species and Name)

Ash's Pokémon:

Fearow- Kiara

Rattata- Trevor

Mankey- Judy

Beedrill- Venom

Charmander- Aidan

Brock's Pokémon



Zubat- Nightwing



Misty's Pokémon



Goldeen- Bella

Butterfree- Alex

Gloom- Tabitha

Squirtle: Loki

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