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Lost Him Again

One Piece
Dragonheart287 - Fanfiction

It was late New Year's Eve. Professor Oak was holding a party in his house in Pallet Town and everyone in the village and neighbouring towns where invited. So too, of course, were Ash, Misty and Brock. Everywhere you looked, guests were chatting, eating and drinking. All of the trainers' Pokemon had been let out so that they too could enjoy the party. Professor Oak himself, with a glass of sherry, was chatting merrily to a tall man in a suit who gave the room nervous looks. At the far end of the room stood the buffet table. It was covered in all kinds of tasty nibbles, while a huge punch bowl served as the centre piece. A group of teenage girls stood nearby, each one with a near-empty glass of punch. Brock, who had just spotted this, was stealthily emptying a bottle of brandy into the punch, while Bulbasaur sniffed it curiously. Misty was sat in a comfy armchair, cooing and playing with Togepi. The infant Pokemon smiled and waved his tiny arms. Next to them, in a similar armchair, sat Ash. He slowly sipped on a can of soda while looking at nothing in particular, deep in thought. Pikachu stood on the armrest looking at him with a tilted head. In one corner, the ornate grandfather clock's minute hand jumped, showing there was only a minute to go until the New Year.

One of the first people to notice were the group of girls by the punch bowl who had been keeping a wary eye on the clock ever since they had noticed that midnight was ten minutes away.

"Better get a move on," one of them said, her voice high and bubbly. Flicking some of her curly blonde hair over her shoulder she and her friends approached the punch bowl to refill their glasses ready for midnight. However, they stopped when they saw Bulbasaur still sniffing the drink, its curious eyes now looking a little cautious as well.

"That’s weird," a girl with dark short hair pushed her small glasses back up the bridge of her nose as she watched the little Pokemon. "Why would a plant Pokemon be nervous about a fruit punch?"

"I think I know why," the one who spoke this time had long ginger hair tied back in a ponytail that cascaded down the skin of her back that the green top that she wore left uncovered. Stepping closer into the circle of her three friends she indicated the corner where Brock was sat, only half paying attention to whatever it was Tracey was telling him. Every so often his gaze would quickly slip over to the table where they were stood before turning back. "That creepy guy with the squint has been checking us out all night, I think he’s hoping to get lucky."

"Yeah, I saw him too," the last girl with short light brown hair nodded. A sly smile stretched over her made up face as she waved her hands to gather the circle of girlfriends around her. "And I think I have a great idea on just how to make his night complete."

As the group of teenagers started plotting Ash too had noticed that there were only a few seconds until a brand new year began. Usually it would be a joyous occasion for everybody, humans and Pokemon alike. A new year meant a new beginning. But sometimes there were things that you just couldn’t let go.

Letting out a heavy sigh Ash put on one of his usual smiles, just because this time of year held bad memories for him it didn’t mean that everyone else had to suffer. Besides, since it had happened he had seen his mother become a lot happier, a little more insecure maybe that was why she had him and, after he had left, that Mr. Mime who now went by the name ‘Mimie.’

Although that humanoid Pokemon annoyed the hell out of him sometimes Ash was still grateful that it kept his mother company. She needed it.

"Here we go Pikachu," he rubbed the top of the yellow mouse’s head to make its ears sway from side to side. Pikachu gave a happy squeak in response as it leapt down to the floor to tickle the baby Togepi with it’s tail before the boy stood up and the countdown began, all eyes on the ticking hand of the grandfather clock as it creeped close and closer towards the top.

"10 – 9 – 8 – 7 -"

Among the crowd Brock moved closer to the group of teenage girls, his eyebrows raised as high as they can go and a distinct shade of red starting to appear on his tanned skin.

"6 – 5 – 4 – 3 -"

The stranger that Professor Oak had been talking to shifted nervously from foot to foot at the edge of the crowd of all the guests that had gathered. His movement caught the corner of Ash’s eyes but he quickly dismissed it.

"2 – 1 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!"

A large cheer rose up as everybody lifted their drinks in union to welcome in the New Year. All around the mass of people swarmed like insects to hug each other and exchange their good wishes. As soon as the happy cheer rose Brock moved in on the group of teenage girls ready to grab as many new years kisses as he could. However, he suddenly came to an abrupt stop when he saw the four girls kissing not other men but each other.

His mouth went dry, not sure whether to feel let down or even more excited. The site of a group of girls making out in front of him was certainly something that he had never come across before within all his time spent travelling. Eventually it became too much for him as his nose started to bleed and he fainted with a crash on the floor, one eyebrow still twitching.

Exchanging hugs with just about everyone within sight Ash slowly made his way to the door and, when he was sure that no one was looking, slipped out into the cold air of the fresh year. The young boy slowly closed the glass doors behind him so as not to make a noise and draw attention to himself. Shoving his hands deep into the pockets of the jeans that he wore Ash slipped away from the light of the room that spilled out onto the grass just outside the door; the last thing that he wanted now was to be spotted. He had done as much as he needed to on the happy occasion and now just wanted to be by himself.

Through his aimless wondering he came to a small ridge that was covered with grass and decided to rest there, sitting at the edge with his legs dangling down. In the distance he could still hear the faint buzz that was the sound of the party and ahead of him there was the occasional sound of one of the Pokemon that were kept on Oak’s large sanctuary, most likely the roar of an Onyx or a Golbat as they were usually seen during the night.

Instead of thinking about what had happened in the past he tried to identify the noises of the Pokemon that he could hear. Rapidash. Gyardos. Houndoom, someone must have been very lucky to come across that sort of wild Pokemon and be able to catch it.

Ash was so preoccupied with trying to keep his mind busy that he didn’t notice the soft scuffling of feet making their way through the long grass. He didn’t even notice the long shadow that fell over him as the figure came to a stop.

"What’s up kid? What are you doing out here all alone?"

"Huh?" Ash jumped a little as he heard the stranger’s voice and, as he twisted around, he recognised the man that he had seen at the party but wasn’t able to identify. When Ash had first saw him there seemed to be something familiar but he had dismissed that. During his travels he had seen and met so many people that he almost expected to get some mixed up from time to time. "I - - just needed some air. It was getting pretty hot in there."

"Alright, fair enough," the stranger said as he sat down next to the boy, his feet dangling over the edge of the ride like Ash’s did. There was a silence between the two for a minute as Ash glanced over to inspect him. Deep eyes stared out into the mountains that lay in the distance, now half lit up by the fireworks that had been set off in celebration of the events. The fireworks also briefly lit up some of his dark raven hair that had been combed neatly just behind his ears, some of the strands almost looking as if they wanted to spring out of place as if that was what they usually did. "Now how about you tell me the real reason why you’re out here. I saw you, you weren’t looking happy at all shut up in your own little world. Your friends and family around you were all having a good time yet you seemed down in the dumps all the way through. Now what’s wrong kid?"

"Hey, you’re pretty good," embarrassed, Ash looked down to stare at his feet. Had it really been that obvious? "No offence sir but it’s kinda personal. Not really something that I wanna go telling some random guy."

"I can understand that," he nodded. "But if I didn’t think that there was something that you really needed to get off your chest then I wouldn’t have come out here. I work with wild Oynx, Steelix and other rock Pokemon way up in Silver Mountain in the Johto region. I only came down here because Oak sent a Fearow message that practically begged me to come. Who am I going to tell?"

"I - - don’t know," Ash shifted a little uncomfortably. "Even so, you seem nice enough but I’m not that dumb sir. No offence but I’m just - - not sure."

"Alright then," the man nodded again, keeping a calm and cool composure. "How about I tell you my story first? You don’t know me but I don’t know you either. Sometimes talking to a stranger help when there’s something that you feel you can’t tell your friends. Besides, I know what you’re thinking kid and that’s not the deal with me. That kind of person makes me sick to the stomach!"

"I’m - - sorry."

"Don’t worry about it," for the first time he looked over to Ash and smiled, the gesture warm and genuine. "First off are introductions I guess. They call me Hemlock and, like I’ve said, I work up with the rock and ground Pokemon way up in Silver Mountain. I’ve got a little cabin up there but no communication, signals just can’t reach up that high. The only way I can communicate with the outside world is by sending out flying Pokemon but that’s strictly for emergency only."

"So you don’t have any contact with your family at all?"

"Nope," Hemlock closed his eyes as he lowered his head a little. "I don’t really have family anyway. I used to have a wife and kid but we split up years ago, around this time of year in fact. It started out well but it was the classic case of rushing into things. As the years went on we just fell out more and more so maybe going our separate ways was for the best."

"Kinda reminds me of my dad," Ash said a little quietly. "He left around New Years too, that was just before we moved here to Pallet town. I don’t remember much about him, I think I must have been two or three when it happened but - - still - -"

"Still what?"

"I just wonder why you know," Ash shrugged his shoulders but continued anyway. "I mean maybe it was like you, they rushed into things too quick but I found some old photos and they looked pretty happy together there."

"Your mum seems happy now," Hemlock’s fingers seemed to bind together as he clasped his hands, propping his elbows on his knees so that he could rest his chin on his knuckles.

"Only cos she still had me, then that Mr. Mime," Ash grimaced a little thinking about the annoying clown Pokemon. "I guess I don’t really blame them, it was for the best. I know that sometimes you just have to let people to go for them to be happy. But - -" Ash cut off there, his head lowered enough for his eyes to be hidden underneath the peak of the Pokemon League cap that he wore.

"But what?"

"I - - I think he hates me," Ash’s voice jumped a bit, almost as if he were holding back tears. "I’ve never seen him since he left, not once. Not even a phone call or a birthday card or anything."

"Cummon kid, I’m sure there’s good reason," Hemlock’s hand rested gently on Ash’s shoulder, feeling the boy shuddering a little beneath his touch. "I’ll bet your dad loves you a lot and misses you with all his heart."

"No he doesn’t!" Ash’s voce suddenly seemed to become angry. "If he does how come I’ve never ever heard from him, he’s probably forgotten that I exist. The main reason that I became a Pokemon trainer was so that I could win the Pokemon League and make him proud of me but I doubt that he’d care! He doesn’t give a damn!"

"That’s a little harsh don’t you think?"

This time there was no reply from the boy as he drew his legs up against his chest to hug them tightly. His shoulders hunched right up to duck his head into his knees, almost as if putting up a protective barrier.

Feeling the sudden tension on Ash the older man sighed sadly and removed his hand. Standing up he hesitated for a moment before slowly turning away and leaving the boy to let out his sorrows alone as he had wished.

"You know Ash," his voice was so quiet that Ash could only just hear it when he raised his head a little. "You’ve never been a disappointment to me and you never will. I miss you a lot - - son."

Out of nowhere a cold wave suddenly struck Ash to feel him feeling numb and in a state of slight shock. Son? Had he heard him right? This man had just called him - - son?

And he had known his name! Ash could clearly remember that he hadn’t told Hemlock his name at all. Perhaps he had heard it at the party but still - -

The rest of his story checked out too. His father had left his mother around New Years, just like when he said he had split with his wife.

That was why he had never heard from him. He was working up on Mount Silver. Limited communication. Sending down only messenger Pokemon only in an emergency. If he did have a family there was no way that he could reach them.

But he did. He had him.

And he had practically said that he hated him! Dammit!

Spinning around fast, Ash stood up, ignoring the sudden rush of blood that shot to his head to leave him feeling dizzy and causing his vision to swim for a moment. A slither of light spilled out onto the grass as the door was opened but disappeared again as it slid to a shut.

"Wait!" crying out Ash forced his legs to move forward, reaching the door in no time, the short journey feeling like some sort of hazy dream. It all seemed so simple. Just open the door, go in - -

- - and fall flat on his face.

"What the - ?" Ash cried out, startled as he landed flat him his chest with a painful thump. Twisting he saw a pale lump attached to his leg, nuzzling it with its head causing the large flat leaf to bob up and down.

"Chica! Chica!" Chicorita squeaked with excitement, happy to see its trainer again and showed it by attaching itself to his leg.

"Not now Chicorita!" Ash’s stern and impatient voice took the little leaf Pokemon by surprise and suddenly found itself pushed off onto the smooth wooden floor as its trainer got up and disappeared into the crowd.

"Chica?" the monster blinked, tilting its head a little in confusion.

Standing on his toes Ash looked around the room again and again but there was no sign of the man who he was now certain was his father. Desperately he scanned and re-scanned every face there. He just had to be here! He had to tell him that he was sorry, that he hadn’t meant what he had said.

Panic set in as Ash realised that he was no longer in the room but hope raised in his chest when he saw Professor Oak standing there. The professor had been speaking to him for most of the night, surely he knew where he was.

"Professor!" Ash called as he pushed his way through the crowd. "Professor Oak, hey!"

"Hey there Ash," the old man smiled at him. "What can I do for you?"

"Professor, that man, that man who you were talking for most of the night, you know him right?"

"Slow down boy. You mean Hemlock? Sure I know him, he sends down data that he gathers from his studies to me sometimes. Why?"

"Do you know where he went?"

"He just left, got in his car and went," Oak waved a hand towards the door in indication. "Why? Did he say something to you?"

"No, it’s okay," whatever hope Ash had left was crushed as he felt his heart sink right down into the very depths where it was hidden by darkness and despair. The boy once again felt his body go numb but this time with disappointment as his arms hung loosely by his sides as if dead as his head lowered, the peak of his cap once again hiding his eyes.

His father was gone and Ash may never get to see him again.

"Ash?" Oak leaned down a little but couldn’t see Ash’s face. Now the man was genuinely concerned, it was unlike Ash to suddenly go so quiet all of a sudden. "Ash? Is anything wrong?"

Ash’s response was soft and his voice shaking, once again holding back tears.

"I’ve lost him again."


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