Pokemon – “Lighten Up, Charizard!”

It was a calm, cool day on the bank of a river, and our heroes had stopped in their trek to have a picnic. With Brock’s cooking on the table, it meant that even the Pokemon were out and about… That is, all except one. Charizard, stubborn and self-absorbed as ever, was simply sleeping atop a rock. Or, rather, pretending to sleep. It was rather hard with the sounds of all the Pokemon and the three humans having what sounded like a lot of fun so close by. It was… distracting. That’s right. Distracting. The fire Pokemon turned his back on the noise, curling his wings over his head to block out the sounds. But even that couldn’t block out the tinny voice that roused him from his pretend slumber.

“Pi pika?” Hungry?

“Zard,” the fire type snorted. Go away. He turned his back on the Pikachu, and curled his flame-tipped tail around himself, using the embers to ward off the electrified rodent.

Pikachu made an indignant sound, then sighed, looking down at the PokeChow he held in his little yellow paws. It seemed like so long ago that the hulking orange form in front of him had been his playful, loyal friend, Charmander. But ever since Charmander had evolved… first into Charmeleon, then into Charizard, he had changed… Changed so much that it had doubled the little electric mouse’s resolve NEVER to become a Raichu. Even though it would take a Thunderstone to force his evolution, he had firmly set in his mind that he would never, EVER touch the hated thing. If it changed him the way it had changed Charmander… No. He would never evolve. The little yellow Pokemon took another sad look at Charizard, before hopping down off the rock and wandering back to join the other Pokemon and their trainers.

One large orange/red eye cut to follow the Pikachu as he walked away, and Charizard barely turned his head to follow the mouse’s retreat. He snorted quietly. It served them right… Why should he be around them, anyway? He was stronger, faster, and the ONLY fully evolved pokemon in the group. Flying/Fire… Who could beat that combination? His Flamethrower alone could MELT the rock he was laying on, if he so chose to use it. He’d taken down opponents he was supposed to be weak against. Water… That one Gyarados hadn’t even known what hit it before it was smoked sushi… The dragon laughed to himself at the memory. Of course, his ‘trainer’ didn’t know about that particular battle. It had happened one of the times he’d chosen to fly away from Ash rather than fight for him…

He couldn’t believe he’d EVER fought for a human, really. He’d been young and naive… He’d allowed himself to be abandoned by Damien, hadn’t he? He couldn’t believe that he’d ever been that gullible. Stay on the rock, and he’d be back for him… Right. Sure. He should’ve just flamed him THEN… If he ever saw Damien again, he’d show that wimpy little human what a Charizard’s Flamethrower was capable of… Not just the way he flamed Ash from time to time, barely blackening him… If he saw Damien again, he’d do more than make the human faint… He’d kill him. He’d burn him to a crisp, then use his claws and wings to tear the burnt pieces to shreds…

Charizard gritted his teeth, grinding the sharp points together as he continued to fantasize over what he would do to Damien, if he ever got the chance. Small puffs of smoke began to rise from his nostrils, and his claws gripped the rock he laid on so tightly that they began to dig into the hardened surface itself. His muscles were tense, and his claws and teeth were at the ready. Any Pokemon would know to stay away from the obviously angry dragon… But Ash wasn’t a Pokemon.

“Charizard, c’mon! Join the party… Here, just take this- WHOA!!” The young trainer dove for the ground just in time to avoid a Flamethrower that turned the trees behind him into blackened ash, that collapsed the next time the wind hit them. The small bowl of PokeChow that he’d brought over for his Charizard hit the ground, and the food went rolling every which way, as Ash slowly sat up and stared at his one and only Fire Type in shock. That wasn’t Charizard’s normal Flamethrower… That attack would have KILLED any living thing it hit… Including him.

“ASH!”, Misty and Brock cried in tandem, the former running over and putting a hand on her friend’s back. “You should call him back,” she whispered, looking fearfully at the dragon who still laid on his rock, regarding both of them with an inscrutable look on his reptilian face. To his friend’s shock, however, Ash shook his head, still looking at Charizard. “No… No. Something’s wrong with him… He’s never done that before.”

Charizard, for his part, just blinked his large orange eyes slowly, regarding the two humans. Internally, however, he felt a strange… tearing feeling. He’d almost killed Ash. And while he still had no desire, or even the HINT of one, to obey his ‘trainer’, he also had no desire to see the human killed. It was Damien he hated. Damien who had abandoned him to the cold, rain, and Spearows, with no regard for his safety, or even his life. “Charizard,” he grunted at the two humans. The roughly translated ‘oops’ was as close to an apology as he was willing to come, especially when talking to people who didn’t understand a word he said. And when it had been the human’s fault. He hadn’t ASKED Ash to come up and disturb him while he was brooding, right? Right.

Ash rescued you, a strange, internal voice, softer than his own beastial roar, reminded him. And he raised you well enough that you became what you are today. Heloves you… The voice became softer as it continued, He loved me.

Externally, Charizard grunted again, then laid down and closed his eyes. Seemingly indifferent to the humans and Pokemon he knew were staring at him. But it was all in order to face the source of the little voice that spoke to him now. To speak to an internal voice.. to a memory, you must go where memories lie… Into your mind. And that is where Charizard went, even as his body seemed to doze off on the rock, his muscles going slack.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

On what appeared to be a path through woods, sitting atop a small rock, Charizard saw the source of the little voice. A Charmander, sitting on a very familiar rock, with a large leaf tucked tightly in his clawed paws, fully ready to shield himself should the rain begin. Charizard came to a stop directly in front of the smaller Fire Type, fully aware that he was looking at himself. “What’s your point?”, Charizard asked, looking down at the smaller version of himself, that he now towered over without even standing to his full height. “Why do you refuse to obey him?”, the Charmander replied, his head tilting quizzically as he blinked up at his older self.

“I am Charizard,” the dragon responded. “I need no ‘trainer’. I need only my flame, and my wings.”

“If it weren’t for Ash, your flame would have gone out a long time ago,” said the Charmander. “And you never would have become Charizard. You would have died a Charmander. I would have died without him.”

Charizard growled. “You were weak, as Damien said.am NOT weak now. I no longer require a trainer.”

“If I was so weak,” the Charmander whispered, the softness of his voice making the large dragon’s own sounds seem guttural and violent. “Then why didn’t Ash abandon me the way Damien did?” The Charmander nodded at his older self’s sudden speechlessness. “It doesn’t make sense without love, Charizard. Ash loves me… And he loves you. All the times he’s tried to hug you… To give you food, and encourage you to spend time with the other Pokemon… Pikachu used to be our best friend. Remember? Remember how we’d play? I loved it… And if I did, so did you. You were there, Charizard… And the only thing that’s stopping you from having those relationships again is your own stupid pride.”

Charizard grunted and looked away from the tiny creature on the rock… a rock that, like the Charmander on it, only existed in his mind and memory.

“It’s time to let go of the past, Charizard,” Charmander whispered after a few seconds of silence. “Damien hurt me… And he hurt you because of that… But, in the same sense… Ash, Pikachu, Squirtle, Bulbasaur… They loved me… And they love you. Don’t you think it’s time you at least acknowledged that?”

Charizard stared off into space for a moment, then looked back at his younger self and blinked slowly. “I cannot change who I am, now. I can never be you again.”

Charmander nodded. “I know… But you can always be yourself. Think about it, Charizard. Please… For both of us…” As Charizard nodded in agreement, the scene slowly began to fade out… and Charizard began to wake up.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

When his orange/red eyes opened, he found himself staring into two worried faces. One was Ash, and the other face, small and yellow with two red spots on the cheeks, belonged to Pikachu. He grunted an acknowledgement to both of them, then slowly sat up on his rock, regarding them quietly.

“Are you okay, Charizard?”, Ash asked quietly, starting to reach out as if to touch the Fire Type’s clawed hand, then thinking better of it and pulling his hand back. If whatever had caused that… Fire Blast from before was still wrong with his Pokemon, he didn’t want to risk the next one actually HITTING him.

“Pika pi, Pikachu?”, the electric rodent added, hopping up onto Ash’s shoulder so he’d be closer to Charizard’s face. What happened to you?

“Charizard char… Zard,” the larger Pokemon responded to Pikachu’s query. Talked to an old… friend. He couldn’t help but smile a bit at Pikachu’s confused look. He didn’t blame the electric mouse for being confused… He didn’t fully understand what had just happened, either. But, somehow, he felt a little different than before. More… relaxed. Calmer. As if some strange weight he hadn’t even realized he’d had, had been lifted from his broad shoulders. And he told Pikachu so, in a voice that barely resembled his usual roaring growls.

Ash watched the exchange between the two Pokemon carefully. He couldn’t understand them, of course, but his long association with Pikachu had lent itself to a bit of understanding, when it came to postures and sounds. It was enough to let him know that something important had happened, though he was fully aware that he’d probably never know exactly what that important thing WAS. However, he actually made a shocked sound when Pikachu, after staring at Charizard consideringly for a few moments, suddenly LAUNCHED himself at the larger Pokemon with what sounded like a battle cry.

Pikachu hit Charizard in the belly, and knocked the larger Pokemon onto his back with pure momentum, causing Charizard to let out a shocked roar. Ash leaped to his feet, calling for Pikachu to back off, thinking that, for some reason, one of his Pokemon had just instigated a battle with another… Until he began to recognize the growling, snorting sounds his Charizard was making.

Laughter. Charizard was laughing. Hard, from the sound of it. And, when Ash looked closer, he couldn’t help but laugh as well. Pikachu was attacking Charizard… Tickleattacking, that is. His tiny yellow fingers and toes, combined with his ears and tail, were sending the larger Pokemon into fits of laughter as they scrabbled around on the Charizard’s belly. Ash remembered suddenly, with something akin to shock, that he’d seen them do this before… A long time ago, when Charizard was still a Charmander. He and Pikachu used to have mock battles that would almost always end in tickling contests… Of which Pikachu, armed with soft, tickly fur, almost always won. And now, with Charizard’s belly being three times the size of his former Charmander entire body, Pikachu had a much larger target… And Charizard wasn’t even fighting back. In fact, he seemed to be enjoying the game thoroughly.

Ash smiled a little as he backed away from the playful duo, going to sit down with Misty, Brock, and their Pokemon. He didn’t know what had brought about this change in Charizard, but he was certain it was a change for the better. And all three trainers laughed when several of the other Pokemon chose to join in on the game… Some ‘attacking’ Charizard, and others doing the same to Pikachu to defend the dragon. And, as the three trainers settled down to watch the playful free-for-all, Ash couldn’t help but smile again.

After all, he’d just known that Charizard would lighten up, eventually.