By: Hugo Reed
Chapter 5: Best Laid Advice
Ash walked around the back of his home and found Duplica there, trying to salvage something of her hair.
"Hey there," he said simply sitting down next to her.
"Hey," she said simply.
He took notice that her voice was soft, and she made no playful jab at him as she usually would. He reached out to her to put a hand on her shoulder, but decided against the movement and instead forced his mouth to form words.
Ash cursed inwardly. Could he have sounded any stupider? Well… he could've actually said the word stupider.
"Just girl's issues," she said softly. "Can I ask you something?"
"Anything," he said. "You know I got your back!"
He made a weak attempt at a fist pump, but Duplica didn't respond at all.
Wow, Ash thought. Whatever is eating at her must be serious.
"How do you feel about Misty?"
"Misty? Hm…" Ash pondered it, realizing he'd never actually paid her much mind. "Well she's a good trainer, and is nice to have around when she's not yelling about something. I suppose I'm glad to have her along more than not. Don't know if I would want to travel alone with her though. She can really be a bitch in the morning."
Duplica sighed softly and lay her head on his shoulder. Ash's mind almost froze. He had never been in any situation like this and wasn't sure he wanted to be. Was he supposed to do anything? When his mind finally slowed a bit, he felt that his shirt sleeve was slightly wet and he knew she was crying, and wasn't doing a great job at it.
"So Duplica," he asked, trying to end the awkward moment. "What was up with you and Misty this morning?"
Duplica gulped softly.
"I… Ash we… dammit I hate it when I have to explain stuff. We were competing against each other."
"What for? I mean, Gary and I have been rivals for years, but you and Misty just kind of seemed to go at it randomly."
"Because we… I mean... I like you."
"Oh," he said.
He had literally no clue what that meant. He was thirteen (almost) and had began to notice girls, but never thought of Misty or Duplica romantically. In fact, being romantic wasn't something he didn't fully understand at this point. Did she even mean it romantically, or was he over-thinking everything again? It wouldn't be the first time after all.
"Sorry," she said, letting go of him.
She got up, and walked inside to the bedroom she and Misty had slept in last night.
"Not at all," he whispered, but knew she couldn't hear.
His young mind quickly tried to figure out what to do and knew he needed advice. Of course, it wasn't like he could go to Brock and sure as hell not Misty or Duplica. He resigned himself and walked into the house, following the sound of the vacuum.
"Mom," he said softly, grabbing her shoulder. "Can we talk?"
She didn't hear exactly what he said, but knew what he wanted from years of practice. She turned off the machine, instructing Mr. Mime to finish the cleaning while she and Ash went out to the garden. Ash wasn't in the habit of being direct about his feelings. About battle? About pride? Sure, but this was different.
"Mom," he asked softly. "Who was my father? I can't remember anything about him, and I want to know. I think I'm old enough now."
Delia looked right at her boy. He was still so young. Much too young to understand about teenagers and their hormones. How could she ever explain that she'd been for a fling and that the man she'd used for it was now a powerful and dangerous man.
"Sit down honey," she said. "Who your father is isn't real important sweetie. You are who you are, and that's what matters."
"You're hiding it from me," he accused, but not harshly. "Please mom, can you tell me honestly?"
"Very well," she said. "You do have the right to know. When we were both a lot younger, I dated a young man named Amos Costa. We traveled together as he went on his pokemon journey, but he didn't have your heart for the pokemon, and raised them wrong. He didn't understand being compassionate with them and viewed them as tools. We fought often about it. Eventually Professor Oak, though he wasn't a professor yet, defeated him, badly. Amos took it badly."
Ash stared at her wide-eyed, trying to see if this had any further importance to it.
"I stayed with Amos for a time after that but he eventually got angry with his failure and left me pregnant with you. After Professor Oak graduated, he stepped in and helped me with you as much as he could while dealing with his own children. Amos… disappeared."
Ash stared at her more intently. She was hiding something, and he knew her too well to be deceived.
"You know what happened to him, don't you?"
"He changed his name and became the leader of a street gang determined to get the most powerful pokemon they could lay their hands on… He called it Team Rocket."
"Giovanni," he said softly.
"Right. If you want the DNA you're from there's where you'll find it. But that man's not a father to you Ash. Professor Oak's closer to a father than he is."
She was trying to console him, make his feel better. But the young pokemon trainer didn't want to be consoled. He stood and walked away, and left his pack and Pikachu behind. He wasn't really sure where, he was going, he just wanted to think. He was grateful that for all the flaws his mother did have, being clingy wasn't one of them. She knew when he needed to be left alone. Ash wasn't sure what to think about Duplica's words, or his mother's.
He was the son of Giovanni, leader of Team Rocket and one of the most ruthless men alive. Had something been wrong that he'd left Ash before he was even born? Ash groaned and put his head in his hands. He knew he didn't want to become what his father was.
"I won't," he said softly. "Whatever happens in life, I will not be anything like you."
Hate was something Ash had often tried to push away and usually could. He had thought he hated Gary, but now knew he hadn't understood anything about hate. He promised himself that if he ever did meet his father, he'd force the tyrant to pay for his crimes. He leaned back against a tree, staring at the clouds. He knew he didn't want to follow in Giovanni's steps, but what did that mean for Duplica, and Misty for that matter?
"I don't know what to do. I mean, Duplica's great and all, but I don't know anything about women. It's not like I can ask her either and Brock's idea of women is just sex… maybe the professor can help me out."
He slowly moved up the dirt road to the professor's laboratory. He arrived as the professor was pulling out several bags of pokemon feed.
"Oh," he said as Ash approached him. "Hey there Ash, you mind giving an old man a hand? My grandson's off again."
"Sure thing," Ash said, lift a bag and throwing it on his shoulders. "Mind if I ask you something professor?"
"Not at all," said the older man, tossing some seed out to several bird pokemon. "What's on your mind?"
"Couple things," said Ash, handing him some more feed. "My mom said you beat Giovanni of Team Rocket when you were younger. Why'd you do it?"
The professor's face grew serious and he turned to the twelve-year-old boy.
"Ash," he said. "You're not quite old enough to know all about it, but love will make people do the craziest things. I cared very deeply for your mother and never liked Giovanni, or Amos as he was at the time. He didn't have the right views, towards women or pokemon. But your mother was in love and couldn't see what I tried to explain to her. Amos and I fought against each other in every way we could: pokemon battles, your mother's affections, badges earned. We had to be better than each other at all times, and it nearly destroyed us both."
"I see," said Ash simply. "Did you ever tell mom how you felt?"
"How could I?" Professor Oak asked. "She was with Amos and then grieved for him for a long time. By the time she would've gotten over him, i was too old and you and Gary were getting ready to start your own journeys. No, it was best I just stayed the old friend up the road."
"You aren't so old," Ash said. "And I'd bet she'd enjoy the company. She even said you were more a father to me than Giovanni."
"Did she?" asked Professor Oak.
He spent so long in this state of musing that Ash decided to ask his next question unprompted.
"Anyway, I also wanted to ask you a couple things about my friend Duplica."
"Ah," said Oak. "The young ditto trainer. I remember seeing her act a while back."
"Right her," said Ash, and then remembered her plan. "She said that Charizard doesn't respect me because it views physical strength as power, not my badges. She said that's probably the reason it won't listen to me. I just wanted to get a second opinion."
"Hm…" said the professor, as interested as when they'd been speaking of Delia. "Well it's a good theory, but I can't be sure. I've never seen a case like Charizard's that lasted throughout gaining so many badges. I would try it, after all, what can you lose?"
A couple limbs for a start.
He didn't say so outlaid.
"Also," he said. "She told me earlier today that… she likes me… and she was crying."
The professor studied him carefully.
"And what do you think she means by that?" he asked.
"I think she… like me… you know? That way. But I can't know, can I?"
"And how do you feel about her?"
Ash stalled over the questioned. He hadn't really considered it.
"Well," he said slowly. "She's a nice girl and all, but really I'm more focused on my pokemon training. And I'm too young right now to really start thinking about stuff like that."
"Well," said Oak. "You are very young. There's no arguing that. If you want my advise, hang around with her. Use her strategy with Charizard, and consider how you feel about her for a year or so. Then decide what you want to do. You've had a lot of good judgement, at least on important things."
Ash smiled softly.
"Now," said Oak to lighten the mood. "Why don't you tell me how you whipped my grandson?"
Ash was instantly deep in discussion about battle and how he'd fought.