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His Softer Side [RespectShipping]

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Cross-posting from AO3 (and FFNet). Please read the first two sections--there's important stuff in them.

Helpful general information

(Copy-pasted from AO3) Rating: General Audiences Archive Warning: No Archive Warnings Apply Category: M/M Fandom: Pocket Monsters | Pokemon (Anime) Relationships: Satoshi | Ash Ketchum/Shuu | Drew, vaguely implied Drew/May and even more vaguely implied Ash/May if you squint Characters: Satoshi | Ash Ketchum, Shuu | Drew, Shuu's Roselia | Drew's Roselia, Satoshi's Pikachu | Ash Ketchum's Pikachu Additional Tags: Sickfic, Whump, Fluff, Hurt/Comfort, Questionable caretaking, but Drew is like eleven here and HE'S TRYING HIS BEST, I wrote this for me but y'all can read it if you want Language: English | Words: 4714 | Chapters: 1/1

Author's note

Hopefully there are other people on this site who remember AG and love it as much as I do because I spent WAY too long reformatting this for PFQ. I love RespectShipping and sickfics, so I was bound to write something like this eventually. This is set at some point in mid-AG, and is probably not canon compliant unless these boys are exceptionally terrible communicators who just decided to never mention anything that happened here ever again. It was going to be canon compliant but I got carried away. Whoops. Shoutout to my friend Wendy (MadiYasha on AO3) for beta reading this! If it weren't for them I might've been wrestling with this thing for weeks. I take prompts over on Tumblr @ respectful-ramblings if y'all want to give me an excuse to write more about these dorks.

The actual fic

Why did it rain so hard in Hoenn? Ash held Pikachu close to his chest in an effort to protect him from the worst of the downpour. Thanks to Team Rocket, the two of them had been separated from their friends, and all Ash could do was look for shelter and hope May, Max, and Brock were okay wherever they'd ended up. Pikachu's ears perked up and he pointed into the distance. "Chu?" Ash looked where Pikachu was pointing, straining to see through the curtain of rain and mist, and spotted a familiar figure heading their way in a hurry. "Is that… Drew?" He dashed to close the space between them. "Drew! Hey, what're you doing out here?" "Rescuing you," Drew said, confusion and curiosity apparent on his face even in this weather; he probably hadn't expected Ash to be alone. "Now stop standing there like an idiot and come with me." Ash bristled at the insult, but followed him without argument. Clearly eager to get out of the rain, Drew led the way at a quick pace, and they soon came to a small cave. A fire was already going near the back of it, safely out of the rain, and Drew's roselia trilled a greeting from beside it. Drew acknowledged Roselia with a nod before looking back at Ash. "You're one of May's friends, right? Where's the rest of your little group?" "I have a name, you--" a forceful sneeze interrupted him. He heard Drew snort and shot a glare at him. "Jerk. My name is Ash." "Ash," Drew repeated. "Got it. You look dreadful, by the way." "And I don't know where the others are," he said to answer Drew's other question, deliberately ignoring that remark--though with how chilled and shaky and wet he felt, it was probably true. "We got split up and I couldn't find them. I hope they're okay…" Drew glanced outside with a frown, forest-colored eyes clouding like the sky they had just been under. "It's pretty nasty out there," he said, possibly more to himself than to Ash. Ash sneezed again and that got Drew's attention. "But we can't worry about M--them now. Come on; lucky for you, I had the forethought to gather firewood and take shelter before things got bad out there." They joined Roselia by the fire, Drew sitting beside his pokémon while Ash settled at his other side, taking off his soaking wet backpack, hat (a little reluctantly), and hoodie to dry, away from his already wet enough body. He didn't understand what the look Drew was giving him meant and he didn't ask, more interested in taking in the fire's warmth; seemingly enjoying the heat just as much, Pikachu squeaked contentedly as he settled on Ash's lap. "It's gonna be getting dark soon," Ash said. "Can me and Pikachu stay here with you for the night?" "You really think I'd throw you out into the stormy night?" Drew gave Ash an injured look. "That's hurtful, Ash. Just because I like giving you and May a hard time doesn't mean I'm heartless." "So we can stay?" Drew's eyes narrowed. "Are you delirious or something?" He rested his palm on Ash's forehead and frowned. "Hm. You do feel warm. Well, I definitely couldn't throw you out in good conscience now." "Thanks, Drew." Ash grinned, then sneezed again. "Don't mention it," Drew said, withdrawing his hand with an expression of disdain. "Just let me make two things clear--all bets are off if you sneeze on me, and we are absolutely not cuddling under any circumstance."
Drew wasn't sure whether to be relieved or concerned when Ash stopped talking. Instead of thinking about that, he chose to instead focus entirely on tending to the fire and figuring out how he'd make it to the next contest--where he would hopefully be earning his fifth ribbon with time to spare--despite the delay the weather had caused. If he picked up the pace a little more and took fewer and shorter breaks, he could probably still make it there in enough time to scope out the competition and shift his focus entirely to preparing for the contest. A snore broke into his thoughts at around the same time he noticed a weight on his shoulder, and he was reminded of another potential delay--Ash, who had fallen asleep and was now using Drew's shoulder as a pillow. Fantastic. He didn't have to glance in Roselia's direction to know the look she was giving him; he could feel it, and heat rose to his face. "This is not cuddling," he told her sternly. "He's asleep and his head ended up on my shoulder because I'm right next to him. That doesn't count." "Roseliii," Roselia drawled, her voice dripping with skepticism. At least Ash's pikachu was asleep on his trainer's lap, so Drew wouldn't have to deal with two pokémon bullying him about the situation he'd ended up in. Thunder boomed outside and Drew started at the sudden noise. Ash shuddered and mumbled something, but didn't wake, and his pikachu didn't even stir; the two of them must've been wiped out by the ordeal that brought them here. (Drew still didn't quite get the details of said ordeal--Ash's explanation had been very confusing--but it sounded like a lot.) Drew wasn't sure what to do about the position he was in. He was pretty much stuck this way unless Ash decided to wake up and move, and it didn't seem like that would be happening any time soon; he was both out cold and, though he was shivering slightly, getting alarmingly warm. What was Drew supposed to do if Ash got really sick out here? Even if the storm blew over, they were at least a full day's travel from civilization and there was no way Drew would be able to carry someone his size that distance. He'd just have to look after May's friend the best he could and hope it didn't come to that.
Ash groaned. Everything ached and he didn't know where he was, or if he was hot or cold. He tried to lift his head from whoever's shoulder it was resting on and open his eyes, but he was immediately hit by a surge of vertigo that forced him to shut them again and go back to where he was, instinctively grabbing onto the other person's arm for stability. "Ow," complained a drowsy voice that didn't sound like anyone Ash traveled with. Where was he? Where were they? "Can't a guy get a minute's rest around here?" He tried opening his eyes again without moving and took in his surroundings. His head was on Drew's shoulder. What was he doing with May's rival? "Drew?" His voice sounded rough to his own ears. "What happened?" "I gave you shelter from this weather and you thanked me by drooling on me," Drew said, politely muffling a yawn into his free hand. "And I'm losing feeling in my arm, so I'd appreciate if you'd loosen your death grip." "Oh. Sorry 'bout that." Ash released Drew's arm, a little sheepish. Everything was coming back to him now--getting separated from his friends, the storm, running into and sheltering with Drew, later nodding off beside him. Rain was still coming down hard outside. He coughed roughly. "Ugh. You know, Drew, I don't feel so good." "I can tell." Drew was tense. "You must've caught a nasty cold in that rain. Do you have anything in your bag that could help?" "No, Brock handles the medical stuff." Drew muttered a word Ash never would've expected to hear from him. "Well, that sure is helpful." "You travel alone," Ash pointed out. "If you don't have anything, what's your excuse?" "I don't get sick," Drew said flatly. He softened. "Just try to sleep. If we're lucky, you'll be able to sleep this off and be fine in the morning." "You know something, Drew? You're an okay guy." "Jeez, you're delirious already." Ash couldn't tell if Drew was joking or not. "Shh. You're sick and I'm tired. Let's try and catch some Zs." He chuckled lightly, and without looking up at him Ash could just picture his half-smile, green eyes bright enough to almost glow in the shadowy cave. "We can talk about how okay I am tomorrow."
It didn't take long for Drew to give up on getting any sleep for the rest of the night. Ash and his pikachu stayed asleep through every crash of thunder, but Drew was too light of a sleeper to have any hope of managing that. Until the weather stopped being so loud--and hopefully it would soon, he could feel an overstimulation headache coming on from the noise alone--he would be awake. He looked at Ash. Despite his flushed cheeks--a sign of a fever building, had Drew not already been able to feel how unnaturally warm he was--he looked peaceful. He'd never seen him not wearing that hat before, and that added to the look of vulnerability. It was an odd way to see May's most brash and boisterous friend--and it might have something to do with that warm, fluttery feeling in Drew's chest. "Roseli," Roselia remarked. He turned his attention to her, feeling his ears heat up. Did she know? "I stand by what I said. This still doesn't count." "Rose, roselia." She shrugged, seemingly willing to let the subject drop even if she didn't believe him. "Is--" thunder cut him off ”--is this weather keeping you awake too? I can recall you, so at least one of us could get some rest." She shook her head adamantly. "Roseli, rose." He caught her meaning. She wanted to keep him company. "I appreciate that. Let me know if you change your mind, though--I'm not a little kid who gets scared of thunderstorms anymore, I'll be okay if you need to rest." She leaned against him with a gentle trill and he stroked her head, mindful of the thorns--the last thing any of them needed was poison point complicating this situation further. Speaking of the situation, Ash started coughing. Drew rubbed small circles on his back until he quieted down and his breathing steadied again, dread weighing in his chest as if his lungs had turned to solid stone; as much as he'd hoped the bug Ash caught could be slept off, it seemed like he was getting worse rather than better. It was going to be a long night.
Ash awoke to daylight and lifted his head, blinking sleep from his eyes. The rain had eased to a drizzle during the night and the fire had gone out. He could hear Pikachu engaged in a conversation with Drew's roselia. "Oh, good, you're finally awake." Drew's voice was thick with exhaustion. He looked like he'd hardly slept all night--if he'd slept at all. Ash shook his head to try and clear the fog that had built up in it. "It's morning and it's not raining hard. I'm gonna find my friends." He stood, swaying slightly on his feet. As soon as he took a step, his knees buckled. He didn't see Drew leap up to catch him, but it must've happened, because the next thing he knew he was in the arms of a wide-eyed, red-faced Drew. It was a surprise to see May's cool and composed rival like that. Ash noticed an odd fluttery feeling in his stomach and hoped he wasn't about to be sick; that really wouldn't help this situation. "Easy there," Drew said lightly, like he was trying to deflect from their awkward position. "As much as I'd like for you to be somebody else's problem, I don't think you're in any condition to leave. We're stuck with each other for now." Nice attitude there. "You can, uh, put me down now." "Right." It seemed like Drew tried easing gently to the ground, but he lost his balance and the two of them ended up in a heap on the cave floor. "Pikapi!" Pikachu cried out in alarm. "I'm okay," Ash assured his partner. "Drew broke my fall." "You're welcome." Drew pushed Ash off of him and sat up, rubbing the back of his head. "But I'll have to disagree with what you just said considering you fell on top of me." "Like that was my fault!" Ash argued, his throat burning and head pounding in protest. "You should've had more sense than to try to get up and leave in your condition, so yeah, it kind of is." "You're the one who--" a painful coughing fit cut his sentence short. He heard Pikachu squeak worriedly, rushing to pat his back with a gentle paw. Drew stiffly ran a hand up and down Ash's spine--he could feel how nervous Drew was; his hand was shaking. As soon as he could stop coughing, he flopped wearily onto Drew's lap to catch his breath and Pikachu nuzzled his cheek with a sympathetic murmur. Drew rested a comfortingly cool hand on Ash's forehead and muttered something under his breath, too low for Ash to make out the words. "You're burning up. Why'd you even try to get up anyway?" "I still need to find my friends." Talking made his throat hurt more. "They're probably worried." "They should be worried if you do that to yourself on a regular basis." Drew looked down at him. "To be blunt, you're an idiot. You've had me worried sick and we're acquaintances at best." Ash smiled up at Drew. "You're that worried about me?" "How could I not be?" Hard as Drew tried to keep his tone casual, Ash didn't miss the tremor in his voice. "Look at you. You're a feverish puddle on my lap." "You know, I've never seen you act so nervous before." To Ash's surprise, Drew blushed. "Well, this isn't exactly familiar territory for me." There was a note of defensiveness in his voice, like he thought Ash was making fun of him. Of course he would think that. "Hey, don't be embarrassed about it. I get it, no one can be all confident all the time, it's just… different seeing that side of you." Ash flashed a grin. "Don't worry, I won't tell anyone." A ghost of a smile flickered across Drew's face. "Good; I have a reputation to uphold. Though with the things you're saying, I don't know if you'll even remember most of this." He looked off to the side. "Hey, Roselia, could you do me a huge favor? Find a cloth and just hold it out into the rain until it's soaked." A pause, then he nodded. "Yeah, just like that." A few moments later, Drew's roselia approached and held out a dripping cloth. Drew took it, murmuring thanks to his partner, and gently ran it along Ash's face. Ash was convinced in that moment that nothing had ever felt better. He let his eyes close with a contented sigh and heard a light laugh, so warm and devoid of tension or condescension that he almost didn't recognize it as Drew's voice; it was a nice sound. "Feels good, huh? Good to know I'm doing something right." Drew really was being upfront now; Ash never would've expected to hear such an open admission of self-doubt from him. He felt a light tug at his hair, slim fingers brushing against his scalp as they worked through tangles he wouldn't have noticed. Drew softly hummed a tune Ash didn't recognize--a Hoennese lullaby, he guessed. He wouldn't mind seeing this gentle, caring side of Drew more often.
Drew still had no idea what he was doing. It was easy to be confident on the contest stage or the battlefield--he knew his pokémon and how to play to their strengths and cover for their weaknesses, and he knew how to captivate an audience--but this was new. He didn't know how to act as a caretaker. All he could do was fumble through his memory for what his moms had done the last time he was sick at home, long ago as that had been, and do what he could with the limited resources he had access to now. And it was the worst possible time to be uncovering potential feelings for the boy who had melted into a feverish puddle on his lap, congestion audible in his snore as he slept. Ash was cute even as the mess he was now, and as frustrating as it was that he'd tried to push through an illness that was clearly doing a number on him just so his friends wouldn't be worried (as if seeing him in this state wouldn't worry them?), there was something respectable about it. But he couldn't be thinking about that now; he had to be focused on the task at hand. Cautiously as possible, he moved himself out from under Ash, grabbing Ash's hoodie and putting it beneath Ash's head so his head wouldn't have to rest on the hard cave floor; Drew wouldn't wish that on anyone, he concluded as he stood and stretched, wincing at the soreness from his earlier fall. He considered looking through Ash's bag for anything remotely helpful, but dismissed the thought; regardless of the circumstances, he couldn't bring himself to invade another person's privacy like that. His mind should've been racing for solutions, but the fatigue creeping in had seemingly robbed it of the ability. Lack of sleep was catching up with him. Finally, he had a useful thought, and reached for a poké ball. With a light toss, he sent out Masquerain. "You remember May, right? Can you go out and look for her?" If one of Ash's friends had the supplies and experience to deal with this, Drew could leave him in more capable hands and go on his way. "Rain, rain!" Masquerain affirmed. Drew smiled; of course Masquerain would be eager for any reason to go out into a little rain. "Great. But be careful, okay? I think Ash mentioned running into some bad guys who steal pokémon and they might still be around." Suddenly he was second-guessing this plan. What if Masquerain got into trouble out there? No, he couldn't think that; he had to trust that Masquerain was smart enough to stay safe. "If anyone tries to hurt you, don't hesitate to fight back, get away and come back here. I don't need to be worrying about you and Ash both. Got it?" A realization hit him. "Oh, jeez, I sound like my moms right now." Masquerain flew right up to him, brushing against his cheek as if to offer reassurance. "Rain, masquerain." Then, quick as a flash, his pokémon had flown out. Hopefully Masquerain would be able to find them and come back safely. In the meantime, Drew needed to stay busy. He knelt beside Ash, nodding to his pikachu, who had nestled in the crook of Ash's arm, and cupped a hand to his cheek. Without waking, Ash leaned into the touch as if on instinct. He was still too hot, but to Drew's relief, it seemed like he might've cooled down a little. He removed the cloth from Ash's forehead and walked to the mouth of the cave, where he held it out at arm's length until it was soaked again; this weather had its advantages. With that done, he returned to Ash, again running the cloth along his face before leaving it to rest on his forehead. He held out a hand to pet Ash's pikachu, an offer of reassurance, only for his hand to freeze when he realized he didn't know how to pet Ash's pikachu. "He likes when you scratch between the ears." Ash's hoarsely spoken sentence was punctuated with a sneeze. "Under his chin, too." Drew scratched between Pikachu's ears, earning a satisfied chaaa, and looked at Ash. There was a feverish haze in his warm brown eyes, but he managed a weak smile. Drew tried to smile back at him. "Hey, Ash. How're you feeling?" "Terrible," Ash said, the smile not leaving his face. "Everything hurts." "You know, your throat might not hurt so much if you'd stop talking through it," Drew pointed out. "But who'd tell you how to pet Pikachu then?" Drew felt a short, nervous chuckle escape him. "You've got me there." Ash found the strength for a triumphant grin, only to immediately start coughing. He groaned and flung an arm over his eyes. "Drew, I'm so ready to be over this." A fresh stab of sympathy pierced Drew's heart. "I'm ready for you to be over it too. Just keep resting and I'll keep doing what I can."
The first thing Ash noticed when he woke up again was a weight on his chest. He blinked open his eyes and found that Drew's head was resting there, Drew snoring softly. It was the first time he had seen Drew sleeping, and he didn't dare move and risk disturbing him. His body had other plans. He tried to stifle the sneeze, but the movement still caused Drew to stir. "Wha'?" He looked blearily at Ash and brought up a hand to touch his cheek. "Fever's gone down… Good." And he was out again. He must've been tired. Ash put an arm around his waist to pull him a little closer; he felt colder with the fever gone, and Drew was warm. No other reason.
Drew wasn't sure what surprised him more--waking up snuggled against Ash's chest with Ash's arm around his waist, or realizing he didn't mind being there. Sure, Roselia was going to tease him forever because this definitely qualified as cuddling, but it felt nice; Ash was warm--fortunately less warm now, his body probably either a healthy temperature or getting there--and the position was about as comfortable as one could get on a cave floor. He didn't think he'd slept so close to another human being since he was a little kid. His feelings about Ash, whatever they may be, were irrelevant. Ash stirred and yawned loudly. "Mornin', Drew." His voice was thick with sleep and slightly hoarse. "Sleep well?" "I suppose." Feeling a thousand times more awkward now that Ash was awake, he pushed himself up into a sitting position and stretched, muffling a yawn. He didn't want to know how long he'd slept. "How about you? Feeling better?" "For sure." Ash sat up and stretched the same way Drew had. The faint flush on his face couldn't have been from fever now, but Drew wasn't ready to consider what else it could mean. Ash's breath hitched and he sneezed more violently than Drew had ever witnessed anyone sneeze. "Gross." Ash grinned. "Hey, I can breathe through my nose now!" "Congratulations," Drew deadpanned. "Still gross." Ash huffed. Then he smirked, looking more devious than Drew had thought possible. "Hey, Drew? Didn't you say we weren't gonna cuddle 'under any circumstance'?" Roselia trilled a confirmation before Drew could say anything and he gave her a betrayed look. "Okay, I did say that. What's your point?" "You were wrong about something," Ash said pleasantly. "And I'm not gonna let you forget it the next time you start acting all high and mighty." "Oh, really?" Drew raised an eyebrow. "And you plan on telling your friends the details?" That seemed to put Ash at a loss for words. Drew smirked, victorious. "That's what I thought." Speaking of friends, Masquerain zipped in. "Rain!" Drew stood to greet his pokémon. "Masquerain! Good to see you. Any luck?" At that moment, May dashed in, followed by the other two Ash traveled with. "Ash! You're okay!" When he stood up, she pulled him into a fierce hug, and for the first time Drew wasn't sure whom the jealousy stirring in his chest was for. Instead of sorting that out, he focused on his pokémon. "Oh, you found her. Well done, Masquerain." He took the pokéblock case out of his pocket and held out one of Masquerain's favorites, which was eagerly accepted, before recalling Masquerain. He had a favor to ask of Roselia and a feeling he was about to make a really foolish decision.
Drew cleared his throat nervously. "Excuse me. Before you go, can I talk to Ash for a minute? Alone?" Ash didn't know why Drew said that, but it really didn't help with the suspicious looks his friends had been giving them. "Don't worry, guys. I'll talk to Drew and then we can go. He's not gonna hurt me." Once they were alone, Ash turned to Drew to ask what was up and a rose was shoved in his face. He blinked in surprise before taking it. "Who's this for?" "Figure it out," Drew said coolly. Was he… blushing? He stifled a sneeze--not blushing, then; probably just feverish. "Ugh. Great going, germ boy. I have a contest to win and you've infected me." "Sorry." Ash twirled the rose's stem between his thumb and index finger. "You know, if you're getting sick, you should probably come with us. Brock's good at taking care of people, and I'd like to be able to help you after you helped me like that." "Thanks, but no. I'll be fine." He stifled another sneeze. "I have places to be and so do you." "I guess so." Ash didn't like it, but Drew didn't seem like he was going to budge. "Can I get Brock to leave you some medicine at least? So you can take care of yourself?" "No need. I'll be fine until I can get to town." "If you're sure…" Ash was still reluctant to let him be like that. "Feel better soon. Thanks for the flower, and everything else." Drew took a couple steps closer, and now that Ash's sense of smell was back, he noticed the scent of roses. He heard Drew take a deep, shuddering breath and then felt soft lips brush against his cheek. "Don't mention it, Ash. Take care." Without another word, Drew was gone, his roselia close behind. Ash touched the spot Drew had kissed him, struggling to process what just happened. "Hey, Pikachu… is my fever back and worse than before, or did that really just happen?" Pikachu tilted his head like he himself wasn't sure. "Pika." "Ash?" May called from outside. "Drew didn't kill you, did he?" Only a little bit. "Nope, still alive!" Ash answered cheerfully, shoving the rose in his backpack. Whatever just happened should probably stay between he and Drew for now, but he had some questions to ask Brock once they could talk one-on-one.
Drew was still burning from the neck up even after he'd put some distance between himself and those four. What had he been thinking? And he'd probably looked unbelievably suspicious bolting like that, ignoring the questions May and the two non-Ash boys had thrown his way. They probably thought he'd murdered Ash or something--at least seeing Ash alive would clear that up. Would Ash tell them what had happened? "Drew! Hey, wait up!" Speak of the devil. Drew was tempted to run from the consequences of his actions. Mentally scolding himself for being a scaredy-skitty, he instead stopped and turned to face Ash, who was running hard enough that no one would know how sick he'd been recently. Then Ash stopped in front of Drew and doubled over, panting, proving he was still worse for wear. Once he caught his breath and righted himself, Drew expected to hear accusations or "What was that about?" or something along those lines, but instead Ash just grinned and handed him a bottle of cold medicine. "Thanks again. See you soon, I hope?" Drew felt the smile playing across his face. "Sure, Ash. Take it easy--I didn't do all that just for you to get sick again the minute I leave you." Ash nodded. "You bet, Drew. Bye!" He turned around and ran the way he'd come from. "Hey, what'd I just say?" Drew called out to him. "Take it easy!" Ash slowed down, flashing a sheepish smile over his shoulder. Satisfied, Drew turned around and kept going the way he was going. He had a lot to think about.
Andrew/Drew | he/him | not a minor I'm autistic, and consequently I often struggle with tone and social cues. Please assume good faith, as I'm usually trying to be polite, and be patient with me. Human rights aren't politics, they're a matter of humanity.

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