Act ii Stage iv

A Visit to Box Five

Misty didn't sleep well.

By the cool glint of the light peeking in through the window it wasn’t quite dawn when she awoke. She groaned and rolled over, curling up in a tight ball to try and keep as much body warmth near her as she could. Rudi’s bed was so large it seemed to remain perpetually cold; she didn’t like it.

Her legs ached. As soon as she remembered why, her chest began to ache. She groaned and rolled over again, trying to shove the guilt from her mind and go back to sleep, but a quick mental calculation told her she’d already slept—albeit fitfully—far longer than she usually did. She sighed, then yawned and stretched, the cold sheets jolting her back to consciousness much more effectively than any amount of blinking could. Guh, October. She hated the cold.

Was she really going to pull herself out of bed at six in the morning? What day was it? She actually had to recount past events to remember. Wednesday? Then her first class wasn’t until eleven. She didn’t know what she could do for five hours. Feed and work out her team, maybe; they hadn’t been out since Monday evening. Find some breakfast. Catch up on homework.

Apologize to Ash.

Misty was surprised that thought had come from her own mind, but now that it was there it refused to go away. She felt guilt overtake her again as she remembered the way she’d treated him. Like a monster, like something subhuman, and after everything he’d done for her. After everything he'd risked to help her. She felt horrible.

She did owe him an apology, she acknowledged ruefully. She wasn’t an apologetic type of person—when she was wrong she simply admitted it, case closed—but after the way she'd acted...Yes, Ash definitely deserved an apology. A good one.

The room was no warmer than the sheets, and the lush carpet felt cool beneath her bare feet. She wanted socks—thick ones, preferably made of wool. A quick scan of Rudi’s bathroom revealed that her clothes from the day before had vanished, but she wasn’t particularly worried. Rudi’s suite was six floors above her skimpy dorm, but the elevator was near and she was fairly certain she wouldn’t run into anyone so early. She could grab some clothes from her room and then...and then...

Find Ash.

She supposed she could. She’d be damned if she knew where to look, but she could try. Maybe he would find her? He always seemed to know where she was, but was he still looking? Did he even want to see her? She forced herself not to worry about that yet. She’d tame that Dragonite when she captured it.


Rudi was startled awake by the soft click of a door closing.

He peered at the clock he’d set up on the low table next to the couch and groaned. Only five-thirty? How long had he been asleep? How much longer did he have before he had to meet the headMasters for breakfast?

It took him a few moments of groggy backtracking to remember what had woken him up in the first place. But that couldn’t be; Misty was the only one in his rooms and she liked to sleep in. She wouldn’t have been awake at this ungodly hour.

Unless she wasn’t the one who had made that sound.

He jerked upright, suddenly wide awake. That—that—his sleep-drugged mind struggled to come up with the right term—that Phantom­! But no, he wouldn’t dare. Not in Rudi’s own territory, not with Rudi just scant feet away, only one room over.

And wouldn’t hurt to check on her, would it?

He dragged himself out from under the dozen or so blankets he’d heaped on himself the night before and shivered in the early morning air. He’d forgotten to turn the heat up last night. Careless of him. He’d have to make sure he did that before he went back to sleep or Misty might wake up shivering.

He was careful to ease the door to her room open silently so as not to startle her, but a quick peek revealed that his bed, though rumpled, was definitely empty. He froze, his eyes widening as his stomach dropped. There were no signs of a struggle, but—

Oak’s words rose unbidden to his mind: He’ll probably lure her somewhere familiar...

He cursed, as foully and fluently as he could, and yanked open the door that led to the hallway. He looked up and down it frantically, but it was empty. She wasn’t anywhere. His heart was beating madly.

Arena Five, he remembered suddenly, and nearly raced down the hall in his haste to get there. Ten steps away he remembered exactly what he was dealing with and cursed, then tore back to his room. He couldn’t handle an Elemental alone, should this ‘Ash’ prove to be as dangerous as Oak thought. He needed backup.

As much as he hated to admit it, he needed Oak.

Who wasn’t answering his cell phone.


The hallway outside Rudi’s suite was even colder than the bed, and the carpet ended at the elevator. Misty danced from foot to foot as it descended, but it barely helped. Her floor had thin, scratchy carpet that was barely warmer than the elevator.

It wasn’t until she reached her door that she realized she had no keys. She cursed.


Misty jumped, her eyes roving up and down the hallway in search of the source of that tiny voice. She finally located it just above her; Pikachu was dangling his tail down from the rafters, the only portion of him visible.

“Pikachu!” she whispered loudly. “Oh thank God, I was hoping I’d find you. Can you...Is Ash up there with you?”

Pikachu flipped around so that his tail was wrapped around the wooden beam and his head was low enough for her to see. “Chu, Pikachupi. Pikapi ka pikachu pi pikachu. Pikachu pika chu pi pika?” His chocolate eyes were roaming up and down her clothing, and Misty suddenly remembered why she had come down here in the first place.

“Oh, I um, I’m locked out. All my clothes are in there...”

Pikachu regarded her with a frown for a moment, then burst suddenly into angry chatter. Misty didn’t have to fully understand his language to know what he was saying; he didn’t like the way she'd treated Ash, and he was letting her know it.

“I know,” she interrupted guiltily. “I know, boy, and I’m sorry.” He stopped, his eyes narrowed, and Misty hastened to explain herself. “I was scared at the time, and I had no idea that Ash that. I freaked. I know I shouldn’t have and I know I probably really hurt him when I ran away like that, and I know...” She trailed off when the burning in her throat reached a level that prohibited her from speaking. Her chest started to ache again. She forced herself to meet the Pikachu’s eyes, her own filling with tears. “I know what I did was stupid and wrong, and I hate it. I want to apologize to him. Please, can you tell me where to find him?”

Pikachu didn’t move for a moment, and when he did it was with a relieved smile. “Pi pikachu, Pikachupi. Pika pika.” He rolled up into the darkness and disappeared. A moment later Misty heard a soft scrabbling sound on the other side of her door. When she tried the knob experimentally it opened, albeit heavily, and she saw Pikachu hanging from the doorknob on the other side. She stared.

“You get in my room from the rafters? Exactly how big is that hole?” Her heart was fluttering wildly. Ash had never come in from up there, had he? Or—or sat up there without her knowing?

The mouse grinned devilishly and dropped to the floor, where he immediately padded between her legs and out the door. “Pika pika chu pi, Pikachupi. Pikapi pi pika chu pika chu ka.” He glanced at her once more, then scrabbled up the wall and out of sight.

Misty slipped into her room gratefully and closed the door behind her. Arena Five again. That worked. She didn’t know exactly what she was going to say to him, but anything was better than nothing, and she really did want him to know that she was ashamed of her actions. Elemental or no, he’d been nothing but good to her for months now, and she’d thrown it back in his face like a stupid child. He hadn’t deserved that, and she should have known better.

She threw on some old Training clothes as quickly as she could, pausing when she reached for the ‘Belt that normally rested on her nightstand. Dammit. She’d left it in Rudi’s place. Yet again, her hips felt cold and naked without its familiar weighty warmth. But she didn’t dare go back up there now; she didn’t want to wake him up, and Ash might already be waiting for her. Sighing at her own stupidity—how could a Pokémon Trainer keep forgetting her PokéBelt?—she briefly hesitated over whether or not she should lock the door, then decided she’d rather return to Rudi for her keys than have something stolen.

Arena Five was dark when she got there, and the door squeaked ominously when she pushed it open. A cold shiver rolled through her and she realized that she was afraid.

No, she told herself firmly, not afraid. Apprehensive. She was only going to see Ash, and there was nothing scary in that. Even if he was an Elemental, he’d made it obvious to her that he intended no harm, and she was going to prove to him that that...part of him was all right by her. Still, she couldn’t suppress a shudder when she reached along the wall in the pitch black to find the light switch.

The room was empty. Somehow that was scarier than anything else she could come up with.

“Um, Ash?” Her voice sounded small and weak in the large arena. She cleared her throat nervously and forced herself to take a few steps inside, though she was clutching her arms tightly as she did so. It was cold in here, too. “Ash, are you in here? Pikachu?”

“I’m here.”

Misty nearly fell over. Ash’s voice was soft and cheerless and it came from somewhere above her. She clutched her pounding heart in shock and ordered herself to calm down.

“Will you come down? I want to talk to you.” Once again, his silhouette was blurred by the bare lightbulb’s glare. She had no idea where he was.

“Why?” he asked flatly. “I can hear you fine from up here.”

“But I can’t see you. I don’t like it.”

He laughed, low and harsh and lacking warmth or humor. Misty’s brow creased. She couldn’t blame him for being mad at her. It was actually nice of him to have come at all.

“You don’t want to see me,” he said in an accusatory tone. “That’s the last thing you want.”

“No it isn’t, Ash,” she said firmly, and shielded her eyes in an attempt to pinpoint his exact location. “I want to—”

“You don’t have to lie to me, Misty.” His voice had lost that harsh edge, though it was obvious to Misty that he was struggling to keep it strong. “I don’t blame you. I knew this would happen sooner or later, that you would find out and that would be the end of it. I’m actually surprised it lasted so long.”

“Well I’m not, Ash!” Misty protested loudly. “I’m glad it happened! Now I know the truth, and you don't have to lie to me anymore. It doesn’t have to end like this—”

“Yes it does,” Ash cut her off. “It always does. I don’t want you to force yourself to hang around me out of pity, and I don’t want you to lie to make me feel better. Let it go. Don’t tell anyone about me and I’ll call it even.”

“Dammit, Ash, I don’t want to let it go!” Misty found herself choking back angry, frightened tears. She didn’t want it to end like this. She didn’t want to never be able to see him again. She didn't want to have shoved away one of the best friends she'd ever made. “I didn’t come to see you out of pity or—or some vague obligatory duty. I came here to apologize. I’m sorry I reacted the way I did. I’m sorry I ran away. I’m sorry I screamed at you, and shoved you, and—oh hell, Ash, I’m sorry for everything I did! It was stupid and childish of me, and I feel horrible for it. You’ve done nothing but help me for months now; one little...little thing shouldn’t be enough to just...just rip us apart like this. You’re my friend, Ash, and I want to be yours, and I don’t care about...about...”

She was really crying now, and she hated it, but she didn’t know what else to do. She wasn’t one of those girls who randomly burst into tears, but her emotions had been so out of sync in the last few days that now that she’d started again, she couldn’t seem to stop. She’d probably cried more today and yesterday than she had since her parents died.

Above her Ash was silent. Misty struggled to control herself, wondering if she’d frightened him away, and angrily wiped at the tears in her eyes. “Please come down, Ash,” she pleaded weakly, hoping he could still hear her. There was a pause and the lightest of shuffles and then he was there, lowering himself down into a crouch on the low arena wall as he eyed her warily. His sunglasses were back, and Misty briefly wondered if wearing them in the dark affected his vision or if his Elemental powers allowed him to see normally anyway. At least she knew why they were there now. She offered him a tentative smile, sniffling as she wiped away the last of her tears.

“Thank you,” she said softly, and he looked at the floor. It was obvious he was nervous. Misty was too.

“I’m the one who should be apologizing,” he said quietly, then paused. Misty watched him in confusion. “I should have told you a long time ago,” he continued ruefully, “instead of tricking you into accepting me like I was just a normal—”

“You didn’t trick me,” Misty interrupted forcefully. “I—”

A muffled thud from behind her made her jump. Ash, startled, immediately sank into the thick shadows that coated the back of the arena—only to be knocked roughly out again an instant later. He landed on all fours and quickly rolled to his feet, hand over his PokéBelt as he searched the wall for any sign of movement. A Ghastly’s face appeared in the gloom, grinning, and Misty saw Ash pale, eyes wide.

Before she could react a large shape darted past her and tackled him from behind. Ash cried out in surprise and fell beneath its weight, electricity sparking to life all around him. There was a cry from the rafters and then Pikachu was there, fangs bared as he went for the creature's eyes. It took a moment for Ash to throw it off—a Sandslash, Misty realized with a start—and a voice just behind her kept it from darting back in.

“Stay back, girl. We’ve got him right where we want him.”

Ash looked up from his crouch, panting as a thin trickle of blood seeped from a cut hidden beneath his hairline, and hissed angrily, “You—”

Gary stood beside Misty, smirking as he fingered a Pokéball. Misty stumbled away from him in surprise, but his hand darted out and caught her arm, squeezing it painfully as he dragged her back to him. He met her eyes evenly, one eyebrow arched. “Not planning to leave, are you? Not before I’ve thanked you, please. I never could have gotten him out of those damned rafters without you. And all that information...” He clucked at her mockingly, then turned to Ash. “Arena Five, eh? I expected some place a little more...primitive. Never would have guessed on my own. Again, Miss Waterflower, you have my gratitude.”

Misty gaped at him, her mind caught on his words, then numbly turned to Ash. He didn’t believe him, did he? He had to know that Misty would never turn him in, didn't he? Didn’t he?

Ash’s eyes were wide behind his glasses, his gaze on her. Then they narrowed and focused instead on Gary. An instant later he was back on the arena wall, reaching for the rafters, halfway up before the Ghastly materialized out of the shadows lining the back wall and forced him down again. He landed catlike on his hands and toes beside Pikachu, who sparked defiantly when the Ghastly tried to approach. Gary chuckled, his grin now more of a sneer.

“Not so fast, Ash! You can’t run away before my reinforcements arrive!”

The Sandslash barely flinched when Pikachu Shocked it. Ash had barely regained his feet when the Ground- Type arched a clawed paw and brought it down on the mouse, sending him flying toward Gary, who scooped him up without hesitation. He turned and passed the Pokémon to the pair who had just slipped into the arena—Jesse and James were there, panting, and they quickly stuffed him into a small ovular glass cage. Ash was furious.

“Pikachu! Dammit, Gary, how many times to we have to do this...”

He darted forward angrily, a blur in Misty’s eyes, but was yanked abruptly back by a thick purplish coil that caught him around the middle. The Arbok, only just finished materializing from the ‘Ball in Jesse’s hand, twisted its tail tighter, pinning Ash’s arms to his sides and squeezing a pained grunt from his lungs. By now his glasses were askew on his face, dangling freely from one ear, so Misty could see clearly how the yellow in his eyes swirled brightly until the darker colors were swamped, then sparked. Electricity flowed down around his body and into the Arbok’s, which hissed angrily and released him. He managed to land awkwardly on his feet, steadied himself, and immediately darted toward Pikachu.

He was stopped by a soft click, eerily audible in the cool room. Gary held Pikachu’s glass cage in his left hand and leveled a gun at it with his right. Misty’s stomach dropped at the sight of the weapon as her heartbeat quickened exponentially. Guns were illegal in the Stadium! What did he think he was doing, aiming one at a Pokémon like that?

“I wouldn’t move if I were you, Ash,” he said with a cocky grin. Ash hadn’t, his swirling gaze fixed heatedly on Gary as he strengthened his stance in the arena’s thin dirt floor, sunglasses crushed and forgotten at his feet. The yellow swirled over the black and brown suddenly, sparking.

“Eh, eh, eh, Ash,” said Gary loudly. He shifted the container into a more comfortable position under his arm. “This cage is Electric-proof, not bullet-proof. Care to test it?” He angled the pistol to point at Pikachu’s head. The mouse bared his teeth and flashed bright yellow, but the Attack couldn’t make it through the treated glass.

Ash cursed and released his electricity. It cackled and fizzled out around him while Gary watched, his grin widening.

“There. I knew you’d see sense if it was beaten into you hard enough. Now let the nice security ‘cuff you and your precious rat will keep its adorable little head in tact for one more day. There’s a good boy...”

There was a metallic click as James unhooked a set of handcuffs from his security belt, then cautiously approached Ash with Jesse at his side. They looked nervous under Ash’s furious gaze, his eyes swirling faster than Misty thought they had before. Ash’s only response was to take a wary step back from them, which made them pause. His eyes flickered over Gary, who was clearly enjoying himself, and Pikachu, who was scratching madly at his glass prison, then fixed angrily on the floor. Jesse and James exchanged glances before hurrying behind him. Jesse grabbed his shoulders and forced his arms back while James quickly clicked the handcuffs closed around his wrists. Misty was breathing heavily as she watched, one eye on Ash and the other on Gary, waiting for him to let his guard down. She’d done this somehow, she knew, and she’d be damned if she wasn’t going to undo it.

She was distracted when Ash sparked again, but this time his eyes were almost entirely black and they didn’t glow. He cried out and collapsed, shivering violently as jagged lines of electricity crackled over him in waves, then seemed to shrink back into the handcuffs. He was panting when James knelt beside him, one knee pressed lightly against his back as a warning.

“Much better,” Gary said with a sniff, then raised the gun and pointed it at Misty. She froze, shocked, and Gary smiled. “I’m not stupid, Miss Waterflower. You’ve just witnessed what I can do to Mr. Elemental here if you—or him—try anything heroic.” He swung his gaze to Ash, who looked visibly paler. “That was a bit of negative current, Sir Phantom. It attaches itself to your positive charge and nullifies it—drains it, if you will. And we’re all aware of that happy little problem that arises when Elementals are drained of their Element now, don’t we?” Misty’s eyes widened. Pikachu stopped struggling to claw his way through the glass and stared at Ash, ears lowered in fear.

There was a clatter of hurried footsteps in the hall. An instant later Rudi burst through the door, followed by the headMasters. They skidded to a stop just inside the arena. Rudi’s frantic gaze swept once around the room before he dashed to Misty’s side, his hand swiping away the gun that Gary was still leveling at her.

“What do you think you’re doing, Oak?” he barked. An unusually large group of guards, armed with firearms and Pokémon, were shuffling through the door and quickly filling the room, though none of them dared come within five feet of Ash. Misty was stunned. What was going on? What were all these people doing here? How did they know Ash was here? And what exactly did they plan to do with him?

Icy fear swept through Misty as she remembered what Delia had told her. But they couldn’t...they wouldn’t...kill him, would they?

Gary’s voice took on a lazy tone as he addressed Rudi. “Merely securing my charge, Trovita. Take your precious girlfriend out of harm’s evil way if you want. I’m done with her.”

Rudi glared at him, but didn’t hesitate in taking a step back and wrapping an arm around Misty’s waist. Misty had to stop herself from flinching away. It took her a moment to figure out why, and with the realization came a wave of betrayed rage.

She’d only told one person that she and Ash met in Arena Five, so only one person could have possibly told one other person where to find him. Where to wait for him. Where to lay a trap.

Giovanni and Koga were watching Ash uneasily, as if worried he would attack them from the floor. Gary had to assure them that the Elemental was securely bound before they would actually approach him—he spat Ash’s name out like a dirty word, and the headMasters treated it as such. Misty wanted to slap him. She was so angry for his tricks and his lies that she was nearly shaking with indignation. Rudi mistook it for frightened shivering. He tried to draw her closer, murmuring reassurances into her ear like she was a frightened child, but she refused to let him. It didn’t seem right to coddle with her boyfriend—if that’s what Rudi really was—while Ash lie panting in the dirt, especially if that boyfriend was the reason Ash was trapped. It didn’t seem right for another, more foreign reason as well, but Misty didn’t have the time to contemplate that now.

“You actually did it, Oak,” Koga murmured, sounding awed. “Mew, you’ve actually done it! An Elemental, a real one! I don’t think one’s been captured alive in—in—”

“Not in centuries,” Giovanni finished for him, crouching a foot or so in front of Ash with his chin in his hand. “It’s rumored they’re extinct. I expected some crazy old fool, not a—Mew, he’s nothing more than a kid. A freak kid. He’ll live for years yet. Koga, we could make millions with this!”

Koga’s eyes lit up. He crouched beside his partner and the pair exchanged fevered whispers for a few moments. Misty made to approach them, determined to explain to them that Ash was a person, not some ancient evil to be auctioned off or ogled at, but Rudi’s hands on her shoulders pulled her back. She whirled to face him, whispering heatedly, “What are you doing? We have to help him!”

Rudi’s grip remained firm, his face set. “Misty, stay here. He’s bewitched you somehow.”

Misty stared at him incredulously. “What are you...what? No! Don’t be stupid! Now let me go, I have to help him—”

“No, Misty...I said no.” He forced her back to him and held her close, meeting her livid aqua gaze with his own. “He’s dangerous,” he said firmly. “Stay here and let the headMasters deal with him. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“Like hell I don’t!” Misty hissed angrily, and tried to jerk away again. Her struggles drew the headMasters’ attention and they turned to her, beaming.

“Miss Waterflower! I understand you were the one to lure him out?” Misty bit back a nasty comment. Before she could respond with something more suitable for the headMasters’ ears, Giovanni cut her off. “Excellent work. You’ll receive our highest recommendations, of course, and perhaps a few promotions, if all is in order?” He turned to Koga expectantly.

“Of course.” Koga bowed to her. “You have our sincerest gratitude, Miss. Waterflower. You’ve rid this excellent establishment of a great blemish. We thank you.”

“We do indeed,” added Giovanni, joining him. When he stood again he turned to Ash. “And you. Not at all what we were expecting, given the stories, but it’ll only make you that much easier to deal with. Your ‘legend’ here has lasted long enough, I think. Time to show the students exactly what they’ve been afraid of all these years." He turned to address the fascinated guards staring openly at Ash from a safe distance. "Take him away; you know what to do with him.”

Misty made another bid for freedom as they hauled Ash to his feet. This time Rudi wrapped both of his arms around her and covered her mouth with his hand. He leaned close and whispered furiously in her ear. “Would you stop it? This is for the best, Misty! He’s an Elemental. He tricked you into believe he was good.”

Misty wanted to kick him. Giovanni approached her curiously, frowning, while his guards and Jesse and James forced Ash out of the room behind him. Ash refused to meet Misty's eyes as he was dragged past her, clothes dirtied and shoulders slumped. Misty felt a pang of apprehensive guilt shoot through her chest. This was all her fault. Mew, what had she done?

“Mr. Trovita? Is Miss Waterflower all right?” Giovanni stared as Misty ceased struggling and slumped in Rudi’s arms, her eyes blank as she tried to think of some way to set things right again. Because Ash and Pikachu caught and caged like this just because of what they was just wrong.

“Fine,” Rudi grunted, struggling to hold her up. Misty bit back the urge to bite his hand. “She’s just a little...confused right now. The Elemental’s been toying with her for weeks now. Maybe even months.”

Giovanni’s eyes flashed with understanding. “Of course. Will she be all right, then?”

“Fine, given a little time. We’re fine. Thank you.”

His dismissal was obvious. Giovanni inclined his head slightly, then followed his partner and their men out the door. Misty could hear Gary’s laugh echoing down the hall, taunting and arrogant as he knocked on Pikachu’s cage in his hands.

“Looks like I finally won, Sir Ghost. Your counterfeit reign here is over!”