Lee hums a nameless tune as he gently drags a soft brush through Vulpix's pelt, and the little fox is little more than a blissful puddle under his gentle ministrations. The man stops for just a moment to pull some loose fur from the brush and place it in the small pile to his side before he gets back to brushing. Lee yawns and glances up at the sun from their shady spot in the lab's shadow.
"Must be about ten AM now..." He murmurs, getting no reply from his dozing pokemon. "Were we doing something today? I forget."
Vulpix purrs a short note, but otherwise doesn't answer.
As Lee holds a tail in a gentle grip to brush, his mind starts to wander.
'How are things going to play out?' He wonders with a frown. 'Will things run as they did in the anime? The games? Maybe some mishmash of both? Have I already caused irreversible harm to the timeline just by being here? Should I even rely on meta-knowledge?' He moves to another tail and starts brushing idly. 'Maybe not. Thats a convenient, but perilous route to take. The instant something plays out in a way I don't expect or we stumble on something I forgot, then things could get hairy. Plus, all of that relies on us traveling with Ash and his friends, and considering all the insane shit that follows him around, our lifespans would probably be much longer on our own.' He thinks with a grimace. 'Oak said that Ash would be here in about a week's time. It's been eight days so far and nothing. Should we just start off on our own?'
"What do you think, love?" Lee softly asks.
The thin psychic channel between him and Vulpix widens just enough for her to convey a sense of patience and contentment. No real words, not yet, but her meaning is clear.
Lee hums and scratches just at the base of her middle-most tail, making Vulpix wiggle in pleasure. 'The pointers from Medicham really worked well, didn't they?'
The vixen replies with a sleepy, verbal, "Vulpiiiix." She then turns over in Lee's lap, presenting her belly for brushing.
Lee just smiles and readies the soft-bristled brush in his hand. 'To think I hesitated over this and would have outright said no a month ago. I don't know why more trainers don't use psychic communication... Or maybe they do? Hrm. More things to research and consider.' He starts brushing the soft belly before him when Vulpix's impatience begins to leak over the psychic channel. 'You really make things too easy for me, love. I'm going to lose my edge if you keep spoiling me.'
Vulpix just chuffs and leans her head back, eyes closed.
The man and pokemon sit together in the shade, basking in each other's company and enjoying the cool breeze carrying the smell of grass and the tang of salty sea air. The pair ignore the sound of squealing tires out front, already knowing Birch's reckless driving habits. A door slams, then it's quiet again.
Then an explosion rocks the lab with the ring of shattering glass.
Stench of ash.
Flash of light.
Storm of glass.
MAKE IT STOPSTOPSTOPSTOPSTOP!
I WANT TO DIE
A stabbing pain in his hand shocks Lee back into the real world. He barely has enough to register the pain before he falls to his hands and knees, his breakfast vomiting from his rolling stomach and onto the grass with a chunk-filled splatter. The man tries to blink the tears from his eyes and stand, but falls to his side and coughs weakly. The lingering acid in his throat burns and forces him to breathe in painful sputters. Bright stars dance in his watery eyes and his ears ring with a terrible din, but when something warm, furry, and comforting presses itself to his chest, he hugs it tightly. The feeling of someone there with him, letting him feel, confirming that he's alive fills Lee's eyes with a fresh wave of tears.
He's not sure how long he sits there, on his side and stewing in his relief and shuttering when the scars on his face pulse with phantom pain, but he blinks when something touches his mind.
Lee wipes his eyes and filth-smeared mouth on his sleeve with a grimace and sits up, opening up his mind to the psychic poke.
All his thoughts are drowned out by a frantic wave of terror and relief not his own so intense that Lee almost jumps. He looks down to his lap to see his shaking vixen hugged to his middle. She looks up to him and Lee's heart drops.
Her chocolate eyes are wide and filled with tears, some of them escaping and running down her cheeks to be caught and absorbed by her fur. Her teeth are gritted in a canine parody of a grimace and a wounded whine that stabs at his heart comes from her throat. She presses her head to his stomach and her whines grow in volume.
'I had to let her back in, so I shut her out before she felt or even saw too much, right?' Lee hopes to himself as he hugs Vulix a little tighter and curls around her. He gulps and turns his thoughts outward to her. 'Vulpix? Love? Are you okay?'
Vulpix looks hit him, her clenched jaw slackening as her disbelief bleeds over the psychic channel. She then lets out a shaky sigh and nods her head.
"You certain?" Lee continues verbally, stroking her gently across her back. "I didn't mean for you to see any of that. I'm sorry for putting you through that," he murmurs, bowing his head enough to rest on hers.
Exasperation leaks across the link, and Vulpix nods into his chest again.
"If you're certain..." he sighs, looking at the mark on his hand where Vulpix bit him. The skin is red, but not broken despite how her teeth could have easily sheared through flesh and bone. "Now, lets go see what the fuck just happened."
Man and fox untangle themselves and stand, with Lee needing to fight off a sudden bout of exhaustion. He stands for a moment, vertigo threatening to take hold before he takes a deep breath and forces it down. The pair circle around the front of the lab just in time to see a young brunette girl in red pedal away down the lab trail on a bike.
"Hey wait!" one of the lab aides, a green-haired man (Joshua, Lee dully remembers) calls after the girl.
"Sorry!" she calls over her shoulder. "I've never been good at waiting!"
Joshua slumps with a sigh as the girl disappears in the distance. Then he looks up and spies Lee and Vulpix. "Oh. Lee!"
"Joshua," Lee nods back. "What happened? And what was that explosion?"
The young aide sighs again and adjusts his glasses. "Professor Birch brought this young trainer, Ash to the lab to treat his Pikachu, who was suffering from electric overcharge-"
'Wait. This is it. This is the start of Pokemon Advanced.' Lee's sluggish brain finally connects the dots. 'The explosion was Pikachu overloading that... that... whatever that very specific electric-draining machine was.'
"-achu then ran away in his confusion," Joshua finishes. "The girl you ran off after them was May Maple, Gym Leader Norman's daughter. We need to go after her!"
"By 'we' you mean Vulpix and I, right?" Lee asks dryly, fingering one of the shoulder straps of his bag.
Joshua has the decency to blush and look away. "My pokemon aren't really the battling type... But either way, if something happens to May on our watch, then the whole lab could be in hot water. Since you're one of the lab's trainers, can you..?"
Lee looks down to Vulpix, who just rolls her eyes and nods.
"Alrighty, looks like we have to play hero," Lee grumbles. "Stay put, Josh. And tell Brendan not to come running after us, okay?"
"Got it," Joshua says with a nod. "Good luck."
Both Lee and Vulpix turn and take off down the forest trail May rode down.
Lee's feet pound heavily on the ground in sharp contrast to the feather line steps of the vixen beside him. The man huffs and tries to keep his breathing steady as he runs, but can already feel an ache forming in his legs that is only going to be worse tomorrow. The feeling of lead in his limbs from his earlier... vivid memory only makes the experience worse.
'At least the forest trail keeps us out of the sun,' He relays to Vulpix, pulling at the collar of his shirt with a finger. 'I can still feel sweat starting to soak my shirt though. Eck. Why couldn't we have been dropped in Sinnoh and their more agreeable temperature?'
Vulpix looks up at him and gives him the mental equivalent of a shrug, her easy stride not faltering at all. A human's pace isn't much to her.
The trees begin to thin as the pair run, and the yowls and yips of angry canines and the fearful yelling of Birch becomes audible. Lee and Vulpix lock eyes for a moment before speeding up.
"Get a pokeball from my bag and chase off the Poochyena!" Birch's faint voice yells.
"In here?!" Returns the voice of a young girl.
The man and fox burst from the trail and skid to a stop right at a short, grassy cliff. Fifteen feet below, a trio of Poochyena bark and yap up a tree where Birch fearfully clutches a high branch. Just to their right, a panicking May digs in the brown field bag that Birch dropped before presumably falling down the cliff. May looks exactly as Lee expected. Her red attire, bandanna, distinctive hairstyle and all.
'Lets hold back and see how this plays out. We'll step in if needed.' Lee thinks to Vulpix as he catches his breath.
"Vul..." Vulpix verbalizes her affirmative.
"Which one do I pick!?" May asks, looking between the three pokeballs in her hand with growing uncertainty.
"Any one! All of them are fine! Just throw the ball and call an attack!" Birch yells back.
"U-uh, okay," May palms one of the balls with a frown, letting the other two drop back into the bag. "Go pokeball!"
The pokeball is thrown up before splitting open with the pop! only a pokeball can make, and in a flash of light, a Mudkip materializes in a flash of white light at May's side.
"Alright, a Mudkip!" Birch says with a cheer. "Now, call out one of his attacks!"
"Uhhh..." May draws a blank and looks around unsurely.
Birch sighs and shakes his head. "Just say Use Watergun."
"Okay. Use Watergun?" May orders, her tone still uncertain.
The young Mudkip either senses her nervousness or totally misinterprets the order, because he opens his mouth, takes a breath, and douses May with a blast of water. The girl can only scream under the torrent of cold water.
Birch groans before finally taking notice of Lee and Vulpix with a relieved smile. "Lee! You're just in time! Some help please?!"
Lee steps forward as Mudkip stops blasting a now shivering May. He glances over to May who takes one look at his face and freezes. "Hey, stand back. Get into the sun and you'll dry out faster." He then turns inward as he glances down at the trio of angry Poochyena still circling the tree. 'Ready love?'
Vulpix looks up at him, her eyes glinting as she settles into a low ready stance.
Lee looks down focusing intently on several spots just at the feet of the three angry Dark types, eagerness overpowering his tired mind. 'Ember!'
Vulpix leaps into the air, her mouth open, and with hardly any charge time shoots a barrage of tiny fireballs down at the three Poochyena.
The pups perk their ears and turn just in time for the Embers to impact the ground at their feet, the exploding fireballs throwing all three onto their backs with frightened yelps.
Lee has to fight back a giddy grin.
A number of the Embers flew wide, but quite a few landed in the places he had Vulpix focus on, right at the feet of the Poochyena. He can strategize with Vulpix at the speed of thought.
Vulpix's mind pokes at his with an inquiry as she falls back down to the ground lightly.
'You bet your cute ass we're going to abuse the fuck out of this.'
The vixen chuffs and Lee doesn't even need to feel her mind to know she's amused.
By now the trio of frightened Poochyena have scrambled back to their paws and look up to Vulpix with equal parts fear and anger flashing in their red eyes. The middle Poochyena growls and looks at the pulverized ground where the Embers had detonated, his hackles slowly falling as he steps backward. Vulpix growls and all three Poochyena turn tail and run, yelping and howling like hell was on their heels. The three trundle into the bushes and take off out of sight, leaving the forest silent sans the wind through the leaves.
Birch lets out a sigh of relief, but freezes when the branch he's on creaks before snapping, sending him to the ground with a painful "Oof!"
Lee winces and looks down the short drop-off. "You alright Professor?"
"I'm fine, just some bruised pride..." The man mutters. "What a day to leave Medicham at the lab. Thank you for the save, Lee!"
"Thank Vulpix, she did all the legwork for me," Lee says lightly before turning to May. "And you must be May Maple, right?"
The girl shrinks on herself as Lee addresses her, poking her pointer fingers together and looking at the ground. "Y-Yeah. Thats me."
"Lee is the name, and my lovely friend here is Vulpix," the scarred man introduces himself, then he dryly adds; "Try not to run towards danger next time, please? If something happened to you then Norman would come down like a ton of bricks on the lab."
May flushes red and nods.
'It's hard to believe she becomes an expert coordinator and a pretty good battler. Eh. Humble origins and all that.'
Lee turns to Birch after letting Vulpix hop to his shoulder. "So, what are we doin-!" He's cut off when a massive bolt of lightning cleaves through the sky in the distance with the sky-rocking crackle, rousing countless bird pokemon from the trees with a medley of trills and cries.
Birch and May flinch at the sound. Vulpix folds her ears, but Lee blinks and feels cold sweat slowly break out on his brow.
'The hell was that? Did a Zapdos or something wander into Hoenn?'
Another surge of unearthly electricity shoots up into the sky and lights up the forest, this time with a rumble of ominous thunder that reverberates in Lee's tightening chest. 'That's not Ash's Pikachu, is it? The electricity was red, so...' Lee's eyes widen when he remembers the details of Pokemon Advance's start. 'The red lightning. That is Ash's Pikachu! And we're going towards that?!'
He looks back towards May and Birch, and the professor clears his throat to explain. "Anyway, Lee. I was out here trying to help Ash Ketchum find his Pikachu. The Pikachu in question is suffering from electrical overload and is feverish, so he ran off. One guess where Pikachu is..." Birch trails off, looking at yet another titanic bolt of red lighting that shakes the forest with its thunder.
Lee groans. "Great, let's all wander right towards an angry and confused Pikachu. This can't end badly."
Birch falls in step beside Lee as he begins running with May trailing a little behind on her bike. "No need to be so pessimistic. I'm sure we can handle Pikachu."
Another bolt cracks the sky with a tooth rattling crackboom!
"You mean Vulpix will have to handle Pikachu," Lee huffs, flinching as the lightning only gets louder the closer they get. "If Medicham is at the lab and all you have are the three starters, then Vulpix will have to fight that little monster. I'm not keen on throwing my best friend into the grinder like that."
He can see Vulpix frown from the corner of his eye as she pokes his mind with a trickle of annoyance.
"Is this Pikachu really that strong?" May asks, worry coloring her tone.
"Didn't this Ash kid do pretty well in both Indigo and Silver, professor?" Lee asks like he doesn't already know.
Birch nods. "Ash did remarkably well in both despite his young age, and his Pikachu was a key player in both."
"So pretty strong, yeah," Lee says back to May. The girl gulps and falters slightly in her pedaling.
The men, girl, and pokemon get closer to the electrical blasts cutting through the quiet of the forest, each blast more unnerving and ear-battering than the last. During the last hundred or so feet away, the electric charge in the air makes the whole group's skin tingle and makes Vulpix's carefully groomed fur stand on end, much to her chagrin. The biggest lightning bolt yet makes Birch and Lee shield their eyes, Vulpix turn away, and May stifle a scream.
The four cut through a finale copse of trees into a small cliff-side clearing just in time to see a young boy, Ash, struggle to his feet with gritted teeth, electricity still arcing between his shaking limbs before it finally disperses. "P-Pikachu..."
Pikachu stirs from his place on the ground with a delirious "P-Pika..." and stands on all fours, his red cheeks sparking. The electric rodent then sprints full tilt away, moving like the wind despite his impairment.
And because of said impairment, Pikachu takes no notice of the cliff he's hurtling towards.
Ash's eyes widen in abject terror. "Pikachu!" He cries, sprinting towards his pokemon.
The vixen leaps high into the air from Lee's shoulder, flames licking the edges of her mouth. She takes a deep breath and fires a stream of screaming Embers right in Pikachu's path, cutting him off.
Pikachu's ears twitch and he stops almost a dozen feet short of the Ember's impact point, cheeks sparking ominously with red electricity. "Piiiikaaaa..." He opens one blurry eye and locks into Vulpix.
'Quick Attack down now!' Lee frantically orders.
Vulpix glows white and shoots down toward the ground as little more than a blur. Even with the mental order being infinitely faster for Lee to issue and for Vupix to process than a verbal one, Vulpix dodges the Thunderbolt with only inches to spare.
'Jesus fuck there was almost no charge time to that! And while much slower than actual lightning, Pikachu's electric attacks are still stupid fast.' Lee thinks, feeling a cold bead of sweat run down his face.
Vulpix lands on the ground roughly, but on her paws, taking a defensive stance before Lee, Birch, and May as Pikachu keeps sparking with a bleary-eyed glare.
Ash rushes between them and Pikachu before snagging up the yellow mouse and hugging him tightly. "Pikachu it's okay! It's me! No one's gonna hurt you!"
Pikachu struggles and sparks the entire time, before finally biting down on Ash's forearm.
"Ahhhh!" Ash cries out, gritting his teeth as Pikachu's teeth sink into his arm, drawing several thin lines of blood.
Lee looks over to Birch, who looks terse, but is content to watch for now. May, meanwhile, just watches with her hand covering her mouth and her eyes open wide.
Slowly, Pikachu blinks and clarity seems to return to him. He releases Ash's arm then runs his tongue over his bloody teeth with growing alarm. When he looks down at Ash's bleeding arm, Pikachu squeaks out a sorrowful. "Pikapi!"
Ash just smiles like the pain isn't bothering him. "It's alright, Pikachu. I know you didn't mean it. I'm just glad you're feeling better."
Pikachu's face is still picture-perfect remorse. "Pika..." He says, licking Ash's wound to stem the slow trickle of blood.
Lee can't help but smile at the scene, as do Birch and May. 'Say, why do I feel like I'm forgetting something?'
Vulpix hops back up to his shoulder and paws his cheek.
"Prepare for... Prepare for... Oh, what's the point?"
Everyone turns and steps back in shock when a twenty-five foot tall, red-painted robot that looks like a battery on legs stomps into the small clearing. Standing on top of it are none other than Jesse, James, and Meowth of Team Rocket, all three already in a flamboyant pose.
'And I already hate all of them,' Lee scowls, feeling his brow twitch. The instant that James opens his mouth, Lee tunes them out and turns his attention to Vulpix. 'Love, be ready to jump into action. This should play out as I expect it, but if it doesn't...'
Vulpix purrs an affirmative.
Lee turns his attention back outwards just in time to see the trio of criminals hop down the hatch to the robot's interior. A speaker on the outside crackles, then Meowth's voice comes from it to explain the ridiculous robot. "Old Meowth has whipped up a good one this time! No matter how much Pika power yous output, our battery will take it all and juice our big bad bot up!"
"Who... are these guys?" Birch asks, looking totally lost.
"Team Rocket!" Ash growls, holding his glaring Pikachu close. "They're a bunch of thieves who keep trying to steal Pikachu."
"I think the things an organization like Rocket do is more terrorism than just common theft." Lee sneers.
"Hey, scarface!" Meowth calls from the grainy speaker, prompting Lee to scowl and Vulpix growl. "We ain't that bad! We just want Pikachu! Here we go!"
A porthole opens on the front of the bot, then a thin mechanical arm tipped with a grabbing claw shoots out and snatches the shocked Pikachu right from an equally shocked Ash. The main arms of the robot pivot around to point at the struggling Pikachu, and what looks like suction cups on thin metal rods extend from the arms to latch on to Pikachu's sparking cheeks.
The three laugh over the speaker. "Draining away!" James calls with the sound of a lever being pulled.
Pikachu lets out a strangled cry when the massive robot begins draining the red-tinged electricity from him, sending crackling arcs all over the clearing and making everyone shield their eyes from the light. Team Rocket can only laugh as a charge meter on the front of the robot rises near the top. "Once you're out of Pika power, catching you will be a cinch!" Jesse laughs haughtily.
The meter on the robot hits full just as the red electricity peters out, leaving Pikachu looking much more alert and less stressed than before. The yellow rodent blinks then smiles evilly at the Rocketbot. "Piiiiikaaa..." He clenches his tiny fists and sparks with his usual yellow lightning "Chuuuu!"
The robot lights up like a Christmas tree hooked directly up to a powerplant, electricity arcing everywhere as smoke starts to pour out the cracks.
"The robot must have drained Pikachu of his overcharge!" Birch says over the crackling as he shields his head with his arms. "He's back to normal!"
"Cool shit! Now let's hope he doesn't fry us!" Lee yells, grabbing his squirming vixen and turning to shield her.
One stray bolt lances right towards the tree where May's bike is leaned up, crashing into the bike with a frightful ZAP! Despite how the rubber tires should have grounded the bike against electricity, the bike is reduced to a partially slagged heap of metal.
May lets out a wounded scream and holds her head as she looks at her wrecked bike. "My bike! My dad is going to kill me!"
Ash groans and facepalms. "Not this again..." he mutters, tipping his hat down and looking away.
Pikachu lets a last powerful cry rip from his throat and totally overloads the robot, electricity dancing off every inch and finally reaching the screaming trio of criminals inside.
Even if he's expecting it, Lee still grimaces and hugs the now unmoving Vulpix tight when the robot explodes. The sound and battering pressure wave makes Lee's stomach roll, but Vulpix is quick to gently grasp his mind with her own as a pleasant distraction.
"Looks like Team Rocket is blasting off agaaaaaaaaain!" The three criminals cry as they're flung away into the distance with impossible speed.
'Like actually impossible. They should be flying mach 1 at least. And how does the landing not kill them?' Lee shakes his head.
Pikachu stands in a defiant stance until Team Rocket vanishes over the horizon, then the little rodent sways on his feet with an ill "Piiikaaaa..." before falling to his stomach, eyes closed.
"Pikachu!" Ash cries, running forward and gently lifting his pokemon.
Back in the lab after a long walk and a short talk with the local Officer Jenny about Rocket, Lee leans heavily against the wall of the exam room Birch dragged Ash and Pikachu into as he gives the little electric mouse a short physical. Vulpix sits at Lee's feet with her eyes closed, seemingly dozing, but her twitching ears tell a different story.
"I'm no Nurse Joy, but I'd say that's a clean bill of health!"
Birch gives the sleeping Pikachu on the table a final look over with a smile of his own. "All the overcharge is good and gone. Pikachu should be right as rain tomorrow. I guess those crooks were good for something after all."
"For once," Ash adds-on glibly. "Thanks for everything professor!"
Birch waves away the thanks. "It's not a problem at all, Ash. I'm glad to help. It's what a pokemon professor is for."
Ash smiles at the man as Pikachu slowly blinks his eyes open before going back to sleep. The young trainer then turns to Lee. "Lee, right?" He asks, holding out his hand for a shake. "I'm Ash Ketchum from Pallet. Thanks for having your Vulpix head off Pikachu. If he fell off that cliff, I have no idea what I would have done," the boy says with a shiver at the memory.
Lee steps off the wall to take Ash's hand and give it a shake. "Lee Henson, and it's not a problem," Lee says absently. 'If someone told me a month ago I'd take a nuke to the face then be shaking hands with Ash Ketchum I would have called the nuthouse.'
Everyone in the room turns sharply to the door, just in time to see May step inside and fumble with a vase by the doorway that she almost knocks over. She catches the vase in the nick of time and puts it back. "Uhhh..." she starts with a sheepish smile. "Sorry about that. I don't think I ever introduced myself. My name is May Maple."
Ash smiles at her. "I'm Ash Ketchum."
May glances up at Lee for a scant moment before looking away and nervously swaying in place. It takes him a second to realize she wants his name as well. "Lee Henson. It's a pleasure, May."
The girl brightens up before turning to Pikachu, her smiling falling some. "Will Pikachu be okay?"
"Should be fine in the morning according to the Professor," Ash says with a nod. "Nothing can keep Pikachu down for long."
"Pikachu certainly seems like the resilient sort," Birch quips with a smile. He then turns to May. "Sorry for all the delays, May. Are you ready to pick your first pokemon?"
Ash turns to the professor and May, a sudden gleam in his eye. "First pokemon?"
Birch walks over to the coat rack where he hung up his bag upon returning and pulls out three shiny, new pokeballs. He palms one whole the other two stay shrunken in his other hand. "Okay, first up..."
With a pop and flash of light, a Treecko takes form in the center of the room. The little lizard opens his yellow eyes and crosses his arms, taking in everyone coolly. "Treecko?"
"Oh wow!" Ash says with a grin. He bends down to Treecko's level and the pokemon looks him over with a raised brow. "What type is he?"
"Grass," Lee chimes in, finally fighting away his exhaustion and stepping up to the group with Vulpix on his heels. He stands next to Ash and observes Treecko, who does the same to Lee in return. The Grass lizard's small scales are all uniform and shiny like he just underwent a molt. His yellow eyes are clear and alert. Lee tries to recall other indicators of reptile health but gives up. "The Treecko line is mono Grass all through its evolutionary chain," Lee says, rubbing his burns when he sees Treecko's eyes linger on them.
Treecko finally turns his attention to May with an aloof upturn of his lips. The girl shivers and steps back. "He's kinda creepy..."
Treecko's shoulders slump just the slightest amount.
"He's not creepy. I think he's really cool!" Ash chimes in, restoring Treecko's bruised pride.
Birch rubs his chin. "If not Treecko, then how about Mudkip?"
In another burst of light, the young mudfish from earlier appears at May's feet with a blink of his beady eyes. He looks up to May and grumbles deep in his throat.
"This is the same one who wouldn't listen from earlier..." May grumbles right back.
Mudkip looks up at the girl with narrow, irritated eyes, seemingly debating with himself. Then without warning, he unleashes a short Water Gun right at May again, making the girl squeal as the cold water batters her. Both Birch and Ash cringe some and step back as to not be hit with stray drops.
Lee shakes his head. 'The little guy obviously doesn't like the disrespect. I know May becomes a great trainer later, but is this really how she starts?' He pauses. 'Ash got electrocuted by Pikachu more times than I can recall when he started, and he becomes world-class. Maybe I'm being too harsh.'
May shakes the water from her clothing as best she can with a sigh. "Not that one either..."
Picking up the final pokeball, Birch eyes May with no small amount of concern. "Okay, this is the last one. If there are no takers here, then you have to wait until the next batch, May."
May just screws her eyes shut and crosses her fingers.
The pokeball in Birch's hand snaps open and white energy surges out, coalescing into a small, orange chick next to Mudkip.
"This is Torchic, a fire type," Birch explains as the now named Torchic looks up at May and steps closer with the quiet tip-tap of talons on linoleum floor. Torchic and May only hold their shared look for a moment before Torchic fluffs himself up and rubs against May's legs with a content "Torchic!"
For the first time, May's face slowly lights up. "Oh wow..." She reaches down to pet the little chick on his soft, downy head, and Torchic gladly leans into her touch. "I think I know which one I want," she says, a growing smile on her face.
Treecko turns his nose up slightly and Mudkip sighs in relief before both are returned to their balls.
Birch replaces both pokeballs into his lab bag and wipes the sweat from his forehead. He then turns to May with a smile and hands her Torchic's ball. The girl takes the ball and looks up to the professor. "Alrighty, May. Come with me to my office. We have a few final things to fill out then I can give you your Pokedex. Lee, Ash," The man turns to the pair of trainers. "Feel free to rest up. Today has been really eventful."
"Will do Professor. Thank you!" Ash says with a grin. Lee just sighs and nods, trying hard to fight of the weariness of the day.
'And to think it's hardly even the afternoon yet,' Lee mentally grumbles to Vulpix, who just presses herself to his legs.
Birch leaves the room with the still starstruck May and Torchic in tow.
Lee stumbles over to a chair by the corner of the exam room and sits heavily into it, his limbs feeling like lead. He leans his head back, just barely noticing Vulpix hopping into his lap.
'Yeah, a nap sounds nice.'
He lays a hand across Vulpix's back, and a scant moment later, sleep takes him.
"Hey Lee. Lee!"
Lee cracks a bleary eye open with a growl. In his lap, Vulpix stirs. He deftly catches the hand reaching for his face. "What do you want, Brendan?"
Brendan snatches his hand back and crosses his arms. "You've been conked out for like four hours. Dad ordered some takeout for everyone, so you better come get some before that Ash kid eats it all," he grumbles.
Lee debates just going back to sleep, not feeling particularly hungry, but a mental poke from Vulpix tells him that she's not of the same opinion.
He sighs and begins to stand as the now awake vixen in his lap hops down to the floor. "Sure, thanks, Brendan." He says, taking stock of the room. Pikachu is gone from the exam table where he was rested, so he must be with Ash. Everything else is unchanged.
The boy brightens up instantly. "No problem. Also, why didn't you call me when that whole thing with the terrorists earlier was going down? I could have helped!"
Lee shakes his head follows after Brendan. "You're twelve, kiddo. You shouldn't even know what terrorism is, so there was no way in hell I was letting you get involved." Then as an afterthought, he adds; "I shouldn't have gotten involved either. Nor should have Ash, May, or the professor. That was stupid of all of us. We should have called the police and let them deal with it, as is their job."
Brendan stops mid-step and looks back to Lee, his face screwed up in disbelief like Lee had just sprouted a 2nd head. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about how trying to do the work of law enforcement is asking for trouble," Lee says with a raised eyebrow, stopping with Brendan. "Are you of another opinion?"
"Yeah..?" Brendan says slowly, an unspoken 'duh' punctuating his answer. "Lab sponsored trainers are League first responders when the cops aren't around. Same with gym leaders, elite trainers, other League officials, the Champ, and all that. You know?"
Brendan nods, and Lee curses inwardly when he realizes he spoke aloud again. "Yeah. Did you not go through the League guidelines and all that?"
"I'm... still slogging through it..." Lee admits with a frown. 'Love, remind me to finish that stupid book ASAP,' he sends to Vulpix, getting an affirmative feeling and nod from the little fox. "So we're obligated to run toward emergencies?"
Brendan starts walking to the lab's main room again with Lee and Vulpix following closely. The closer they get, the more they can hear the muted chatter of people. "We're not obligated but... You know? You have to but no one is going to force you?"
Lee rubs his forehead with an open hand, feeling yet another headache coming on. "Fun..."
'I really need to finish that fucking book. I'm not in over my head, am I?'