Ash stared into the water, as if that simple action would be sufficient to make fish materialize out of thin air. Or, rather, out of thick, murky water. He glanced around, and was suddenly distracted by something shiny on the shore.
“Ash!” the voice cut into his “shinyness reverie” as it had been called on many occasions, and brought him back to the present. “Ash!” the voice came again, and he as suddenly aware once again of the cold, cutting wind; the barely up sun; the drizzle of rain; and the sharp bend in his pole.
Ash felt a sudden rush of adrenaline, and stood up. “I’ve got something!” he screamed in a high-pitched voice, stepped forward to counter-act himself as he started to reel in the line, and promptly fell backwards over the side of the boat, managing to lose his fishing pole in the process.
For several seconds, panic ran through his body, but then he felt the water around him fall away, and he was in the safety of a protective Psychic bubble, courtesy of the Starmie that he saw approaching him rapidly. He knew that the Starmie wouldn’t be able to lift him up to the surface, but he knew that his companion had more than one water type. Sure enough, a rather dumb-looking Golduck swam up beneath him, took the Psychic bubble in both of its webbed hands, and swam towards the surface, bringing him up to the waiting boat.
As the bubble broke the surface, a pair of slender hands reached out, grasped his, and pulled him back aboard the boat. “Ash,” a rather annoyed voice said rather loudly, “I knew that you didn’t like fishing, but did you really have to fall over the side and scare everything away in the process. We might as well just call it a day. I’m sure that you can get Torkoal to dry you off once we get back to the cabin.”
Ash nodded, looking back at the shiny thing that he had been distracted by before, a rather reflective satellite dish sitting outside his fishing partner, Misty’s, fishing cabin.
Misty was a rather unique individual. They had known each other for years, and had actually traveled together in the beginning of his journey. She was tall, lanky, red hair, and a temper to match it. She was also one of the most powerful water trainers in the world.
Ash, on the other hand, was a has-been. He’d had his time in the sun, but after Misty had left, it hadn’t really been the same. For a little while, he’d been fine, but then he’d started to lose matches. And once his career as a Pokemon trainer started to nosedive, he’d never been able to pull himself out.
So now, here he was, retired from Pokemon training, looking for a job, and taking a vacation with an old friend before returning to “real” life in earnest. He’d had a crush on her, once. She had been the only girl in his life for any serious amount of time during puberty, and it had made sense that he had developed affection for her. But it had been some time, and he’d moved on.
They were participating in the dubious sport of fishing. Well, it was only dubious if you were planning on catching fish Pokemon and then eating them. They were participating in the Blackthorne City Fishing contest, which would last nearly the entire summer, and the Pokemon caught in that time period would be sold to hotels and cities to stock fish tanks and ponds.
Ash looked up as Misty wrapped a towel around him, and he smiled at her. She was certainly beautiful, even more so now than she had been before. For one thing, her hair had grown longer, and she had allowed it to trail down her back, rather than sticking it in ponytails, as she had when they were journeying together.
“Look,” Misty said quietly as they neared the dock, where some of Ash’s Pokemon that had chosen to stay with him waited. “I’m sorry that I yelled at you like that.” That was another thing that had changed. She actually stopped to apologize now, “Sometimes I—I just get mad.”
Ash hung his head, “No, it’s my fault. You had this all planned out. I know how much the start of fishing season means to you, and I ruined it.” He looked away from her, and tears started to well up in his eyes, “I’m sorry,” he whimpered, “I didn’t mean to.”
Misty grimaced, and put her arm around his shoulders, “Ash,” she said quietly, and, when he didn’t respond, she repeated, “Ash, it’s okay. I pretty much knew that this would happen.” She smiled, “Not that I wanted it to happen, but I was pretty sure that it would. So I’ve got stuff in the cabin to help us pass the time until the fish Pokemon settle back down.”
She smiled, “At least we got a few Goldeen.” Ash still looked at his feet. Misty sighed, killed the motor, and grabbed one of the poles that stuck up from the dock, to keep the boat from slamming into the dock, and to guide it the rest of the way in. “Ash, I’ve won this five times already. I don’t have to win it again.”
“But I wanted to help you win!” Ash snuffled as Misty helped him up onto the dock, where Pikachu greeted him with a friendly Thundershock. Ash shrugged it off, having been used as the electric type’s main form of target practice for nearly the entirety of his journey. “I wanted to help you have something that you’d never forget.”
Misty’s heart melted as she watched Golduck help Ash walk down the dock, and towards the cabin. She had developed a crush on him when they had been traveling together, and it had never worn off. Many times she had wanted to tell him, but something had prevented her from doing so. For some reason, she had thought that he returned her feelings, but she could never be sure.
Then she had left Ash. She had gotten fed up with waiting for Ash to make a move, and had returned home to Cerulean City, hoping that she could get her life back on track. It had been the single most horrible decision she had ever made in her life. Nothing had seemed to work out for her. She had made a fool of herself many times, she had turned down guys who asked her out, even though they were perfectly eligible and she was supposed to have gotten over Ash. But in her heart she had always known that that was not the case.
So when she had heard that Ash had retired from his journeys and was coming back to Kanto, she had invited him to join her on the fishing trip, vowing to herself to try one last—well, only—time to get Ash to go out with her. If she failed, then she would force herself to move on. If she succeeded, however…
A squeal from Togepi brought her back to reality. The little egg Pokemon was still in the boat, and it had started to drift away from the dock. Misty grimaced, reached out, and snagged the boat, and dragged it back to the dock. “You doing okay?” she asked Togepi, pulling him out and tying up the boat.
Togepi responded crossly, and Misty smiled as she picked him up and walked towards the cabin that Ash was just now disappearing into.
It had been an uncomfortable day for Misty. They’d watched TV. Misty couldn’t think about anything but Ash, and was too nervous to look over at him. If she had, she would have seen that Ash was all but ignoring her, totally engrossed in the shows, not really paying any attention to her.
Afterwards, they sat in rocking chairs by a large window overlooking the Lake of Rage, and watched the clouds roll in. Misty had to admit that she was glad that they had come in when they had. A storm had blown in, and would have made fishing even more miserable for Ash than it already had been. Now, they could both sit here, watching the thunderstorm, and enjoying the thunderstorm.
Then the first bolt of lightning ripped through the air, and the crack of thunder reached the cabin. Misty was startled by Ash bolting out of his chair and running towards the back of the cabin, screaming. “Ash?” she asked, quickly getting up and following him. “Are you okay?”
She found Ash in the guest bedroom that she’d let him have while he stayed in the Waterflower Cabin, cowering in a corner. “Ash?” she repeated quietly, “Are you okay?” Ash looked up at her, fear quite evident in his extremely wide eyes. “It’s just lightning. Just like what Pikachu does.”
Ash quickly shook his head, “Nope! Pikachu doesn’t make all that noise!”
Misty sighed, walked over to Ash, and sat down next to him. “It’s exactly the same, except on a much larger scale.” Ash looked at her, his face a veritable question mark. “It’s more powerful.” She said quietly, internally laughing.
Ash’s face lit up, “You mean like Zapdos?” he asked, suddenly excited at the prospect of seeing a powerful electric type.
Misty, who had been nodding and looking at Ash, paused, grimaced, then half-smiled. “Yeah,” she said hesitantly, “Just like Zapdos.”
Ash grinned, “Then we should go out there and look for him! Somewhere where there aren’t any trees.” He paused, thinking. Then his entire body seemed to jump. “I know!” he exclaimed, “Let’s take the boat out onto the lake and look for Zapdos!”
He started to get up, but Misty’s hand pulled him right back down. “Ash, it’s not Zapdos. I said it’s LIKE Zapdos, but it isn’t Zapdos himself.” Ash looked away, crestfallen, “and besides, being out on the lake in the middle of a thunderstorm? It’s suicide.”
Ash sighed, then seemed to have a thought. “Can we at least go back to the window and look for Raikou?” he asked, suddenly perky again. Without waiting for an answer, he leaped up out of his chair and ran back to the window.
Misty sat there for a moment longer, wondering if this was what it was like to have kids. Then she got up and hurried after Ash. He was staring out the window, and she knew from her time with him that he’d ignore her if she tried talking to him, so she did the next best thing.
She started cooking. She knew that she wouldn’t get his attention by making chicken, rice, or beef, so she made cookies. As soon as the first batch was out of the oven, Ash had completely forgotten about looking for Raikou, and was at her side, waiting eagerly until the cookies were cool enough to eat.
“Ash?” Misty asked, while he was on his third cookie, “I need to talk to you.” She felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach, and was suddenly light headed.
Ash nodded, “Pass me the cookies and get Pikachu a bottle of ketchup!” he replied, grinning, cookie crumbs falling out of his mouth.
Misty got up, went to her fridge, pulled out a bottle of ketchup, handed it down to Pikachu, and returned to the table with a glass of milk, which she handed to Ash. “Ash,” she said quietly, “There’s something that I’ve been meaning to tell you for a long time.” Ash looked up, and Misty noticed with a somewhat squeamish stomach that now there wasn’t only cookie crumbs coming out of his mouth. “Something that I’ve put off too long.”
“Me too!” Ash interrupted, spraying her with crumbs. Msity recoiled and wiped her face off with one hand as Ash grabbed the other enthusiastically. Mist felt a thrill run through her as their skin touched. “Great cookies!” he exclaimed.
Misty smiled, “Yeah, Ash, thanks. But that’s not what I was going to say. I had been going to say-“
“You weren’t?” Ash demanded, “Because I was. These are great! Why wouldn’t you compliment…” he paused, “Yourself on baking the cookies…” he trailed off, and scratched his head with the hand htat had held Misty’s hand, “Uh,” he said, “I kinda forgot where I was.”
Misty smiled, “Then I’ll steer us back to where we were. I was saying-“
“Yeah!” Ash piped up, “You’re good at steering. I was kind of mad when you wouldn’t let me drive the car over here, but now I’m glad that you did. I don’t think that I could have made it.”
Misty glared at her, the temper that she had worked so hard to put under control threatening to come to the fore, “Do I need to put some duct tape over your mouth so that I can say something?” she demanded, suddenly wishing that she hadn’t thrown that mallet away that she had used to carry. When she was sure that Ash wasn’t going to say anything more, Misty tried again.
“Look, Ash, I know that we’ve had our ups and our downs.” Ash opened his mouth, but another withering glare shut it again. “But I think that there’s something that I need to tell you. Something that I’ve been meaning to tell you for years.” She paused, and was gratified that Ash didn’t say something about just saying it. Although for some reason she heard him say that in her head. “Ash, I love you.” She said, and felt a rush of relief flow through her. She had finally admitted it to him. Ash stared at her blankly, and she smiled weakly, “Um, maybe do you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend?” she asked.
Ash frowned. “Wait a minute, I thought we already were!”
Misty blinked. “What?” she asked.
Ash took a drink of his milk, took a bite of a cookie, and nodded, “Yeah. Isn’t that why you invited me here? I mean, I like you too! Always have since I started my journey. Except for the month that I liked Giselle. And the three months I liked Duplica. And the year I liked May. And-“ Misty’s frustrated sigh made him stop talking on that bent, and pick up on another. “I thought that you asking me if I wanted to come here was you asking me out on our first date. I thought that you were going to ask me to marry you just now.”
Misty stared at him, still shocked that he had thought that they had been more than friends even before she had asked him about it. “Ash, are you serious?” she asked.
Ash nodded quickly, “Yeah!” he exclaimed, “I’ve liked you for about six years, all together. Why shouldn’t I be your boyfriend?”
Misty smiled, and felt joy rushing through her body, “Thanks, Ash,” she said, blushing, “I’ve liked you longer than that, total, though.”
Ash grinned, and leaned forward. “Then there’s only one question left.” He stared into her eyes, and Misty felt the butterflies return full force, and with some friends along with them.
“What is it?” she asked, feeling as if she were in a dream.
Ash lowered his eyes to the table, looked everywhere but her, then opened his mouth. “Do I still owe you that bike?”