“...Twenty!” Leilani removes her hands from her eyes and turns around, beaming. “Ready or not, here I come!”
Ash peers at her from where he’s hiding on top of the aquarium (don’t even ask). She’s craning her head around the living room, petting each pokemon as she passes by and nearly tripping on the mix of pokemon and human toys strewn on the rug.
“I’m gonna find you...” She pads along on the hardwood, sparkly-painted toes glinting. Her face falls just slightly as she loses faith. “...where are you?”
“Psst!” Ash hisses very quietly, hoping to just pique her attention.
“Onii-chan!” Her head whips around and up, her long black braid smacking her neck. “You’re on the akwharyoom!”
“Aquarium, Lei. You found me! Good job!” Ash jumps down behind her and scoops her up in his arms while she squeals and giggles. Ash sets her down to stand on the couch. “Are you ready for dinner?”
“Mm-hm!” She nods emphatically and rocks on her feet, making the couch bounce.
“How does mac and cheese sound?” Ash migrates over to the kitchen.
“Yay!” She leaps off the couch and sneaks behind Ash, hugging his legs. “Will you put some extra cheese in it like you usually do? Please?”
“‘Course I will, Lei.” He picks up the microwave cup set out on the counter, reading the post-it note stuck to the side: Don’t put extra cheese in this, it’s got plenty. Kukui accents his scrawling handwriting with a tiny (and not at all passive aggressive) smiley-face.
Whatever. Ash can spoil Leilani however he wants when he’s babysitting.
“Okay, let’s see…” Ash rips off the lid and puts tap water into it up to the marked line. “It’ll be ready before you know it.” He pops it in the microwave, careful to set it for three minutes—not three hours, not three seconds. It’s happened before.
“Okie!” Leilani peers into the glass door of the microwave, mesmerized by the spinning dish, then zooms off somewhere else. Before Ash can turn around, she’s already back in the living room. Rowlet is clutched in her embrace—still sleeping—as she jumps up and down. “Onii-chan! Can I watch TV?”
“Go for it.” Ash sets down the cheese powder packet that he had been fiddling with and scoops Pikachu up from where he was dozing on the floor. He makes a small, disgruntled ka , but snuggles down into Ash’s neck. “Moana?"
“Moana!” Leilani starts up the DVD player—she’s done it at least ten thousand times, Ash is sure—fast forwards to her favorite song, and crashes down on Ash’s lap. She spots Pikachu in his arms. “Ooh! Palāla!”
“Here, I’ll trade you.” Ash takes Rowlet from her arms and hands her Pikachu.
“Palāla! Howzit?” She cuddles him close, like a stuffed toy.
“Pikaka!” Pikachu cries with delight. He loves Leilani; she gives him all the attention in the world and calls him “brother.” How could it get any better? As soon as Lei lets go of him, he moves to give her an Iron Tail high-five, sending a loud boom through the house.
Ash jumps, but lets himself relax when he sees Lei laugh and nuzzle Pikachu. He always forgets how she can’t be hurt by pokemon moves; it scares the living daylights out of him, Kukui, and Burnet when she gets hit by them. But then she’ll giggle and say, Again! Again! and the fear melts away.
Leilani giggles, running her hands through Pikachu’s sparking fur. “I’ve been staring at the edge of the water …” She starts up, crooning in her little high-strung voice along with the movie. Pikachu hums with her, and Rowlet coos softly as he wakes. The microwaves beeps with urgency, and Leilani frowns as it interrupts her concert.
Ash transfers Leilani off his lap and to the couch cushions, then zooms to the kitchen. He was excited for mac and cheese, honestly. Ash pours the powdered packet of cheese—or, what tasted like cheese but might not actually be cheese—into the noodles and stirs, then reaches in the fridge for the bag of shredded cheddar. He sprinkles a generous amount into the noodle bowl, perhaps taking a bit for himself straight out of the bag.
“Lei, dinner’s ready!” Ash calls.
“Coming, Onii-chan!” She scrambles to sit at her spot at the bar. Ash sets the mac and cheese in front of her.
“Enjoy.” Ash gives her braid a playful tug. But as soon as he moves to sit next to her, he hears a loud whoosh of wind outside, then a booming thump of something on sand. He sits up straighter. An Ultra Beast?
Lei pauses from eating, spoon in her mouth. “What was that?”
“I’m not sure. Stay here, hime-sama,” Ash instructs firmly, then runs to the front porch.
He swings open the door, and nearly stumbles with surprise. “…Giratina?”
“Gi-ROAR!” It calls, sounding…happy, almost. It stomps in the sand and crawls over to the porch to nuzzle Ash.
“Woah, woah! I’m happy to see you too, buddy, but…what are you doing here?” Ash giggles nervously.
“Gi…” Giratina sniffs the air and licks its chops, then pauses as he locks eyes on something behind Ash. “Gira?”
“Onii-chan…who’s that?” Lei peeks around from Ash’s leg, grasping his hand.
“Leilani Kukui! What did I say about staying inside?” Ash takes a minute to frantically scold her. This could be very dangerous, even for someone who isn’t affected by moves. Giratina could open up a portal to the Distortion World, and she’d be gone just like that—strange move immunity or not.
“I’m sorry, Ash. I just…I wanted to know what was going on,” she squeaks out, thumbs twiddling nervously. She looks up curiously as Ash protectively pulls her a little closer. “Who’s that Pokemon? Can we be friends?”
“It’s Giratina, the Renegade Pokemon. I’m not sure if—"
“Gira!” Giratina interrupts Ash and leans in close to Lei, then gives her a sloppy lick on the cheek. “Gi-ra!”
“Oh! Alola!” She grins. “I’m Leilani!”
“Ra!” He shoots a Shadow Ball at her, almost testing to see how she would react, and she catches it with a giggle and throws it back.
“You want to play catch? I’m really good at catch!” She proceeds to jump off the porch steps and toss the smoking Shadow Ball back and forth with him. “You’re fun! I’m gonna call you Wormy, because you look like a worm!”
“Tina!” He roars happily.
Lei frowns as the Shadow Ball fizzles out in her hands when she squeezes too hard. “Oh! I know! Do you want some macaroni, Wormy?”
Ash takes a short gasp. He didn’t want her anywhere near its fangs. "Lei, I dunno about—“
“ROAR!” Once again Giratina interrupts Ash, nodding wildly.
“Onii-chan…” Leilani gives him the Baby-Doll Eyes that he can’t resist. “Can you make us some more mac and cheese?"
“I…okay. Guess I better, huh?” Ash shakes his head in disbelief and leaves Leilani to play another round of Shadow Ball Catch.
After three pots of mac and cheese, sixty-seven Shadow Balls, and one exhausted Ash, Giratina finally opened up the Distortion World with a wave and a toothy grin. Ash nearly passed out on the couch with Lei on his lap once he was sure it was gone.
“Daddy! Daddy! Mommy! Mommy!” Lei jumps up and down once she hears the door open. She had settled down on the couch with Ash’s Incineroar—Roar-Roar, as he was coined—to finish Moana once Giratina left.
“Hi cutiefly, how was your night?” Kukui scoops her up into his arms while she reaches over to give her mother a smooch.
She beams. “It was really fun! We ate mac and cheese with Wormy!”
“…Who is Wormy?” Burnet’s eyes narrow, and she and Kukui look to Ash.
Ash winces. He’s got a lot of explaining to do.
“I, um, Giratina payed a visit.” Ash gestures to the three pots soaking in the sink.
“GIRATINA!?” Both Kukui and Burnet exclaim.
“Yup! Wormy!” Lei giggles. “We’re good friends!”
“Ash...” Burnet growls, mouthing a quick What the fuck?
“Everything is fine, I swear, I had no idea it was coming.” Ash shrinks down under the glare of Kukui and Burnet.
“I…okay. Okay. As long as you’re both alright.” Burnet throws her hands up with an exasperated chuckle.
“You’re not hurt, are you?” Kukui looks over Lei, then over Ash.
“We’re fine, Daddy!” Lei giggles and hugs him tightly. He clearly melts.
Burnet claps her hands together. “Well! Sounds like the two of you had a long night. Off to bed with you, baby girl. We’ll all be in for a bedtime story as soon as you brush your teeth and get your PJs on.”
“Okay, Mommy!” Leilani zooms off to her bedroom downstairs, while Ash almost collapses in the Professors’ arms.
“Thank you, sweetheart.” Burnet kisses his hair gently and Kukui rubs his back.
Oh boy. He shouldn’t even be surprised, should he? It could never be an average day in the Kukui house.
Ash wakes up with a start when he hears a tap on the window.
“Pika?” Pikachu leaps up and swings the skylight open, leading his trainer to the roof.
I heard Giratina stopped by.
Ash would recognize that voice in his head from anywhere.
“Necrozma? Is that you?” He calls into the night.
But of course, keiki. I am sorry I could not warn you beforehand, but Giratina wished to see the young Princess’ power for itself.
“Is that what that was? It nearly scared me to death, showing up like that. I wish you would tell me these things.” Ash sighs, stroking Pikachu’s fur. “It’s not fair. I’m used to being…y’know, a legendary magnet, but why Lei? Why put that kind of pressure on her? She's only five!”
She is the Princess. That is how it will be.. One cannot simply gain superhuman powers against Pokemon and not be…visited every once and a while.
“…You’re right, I guess. Just…keep her safe. Keep her safe, Necrozma.”
Don’t worry, Chosen One.
She will be kept safe.