DISCLAIMER: pokemon is not mine. Too tired to think of anything clever to add to that...
AUTHOR’S NOTES: time travel. One of my favourite mediums, and so much fun to play around with. There’s some of it in this. Also, this will switch back and forth between time periods, so sorry if you get confused. Anything in italics is dream/thinking stuff. This is an AAMRN, but you get to see the before & after as well. That’s about it, so enjoy.
To Challenge Your Fate.
She smiles shyly at him as he pulls up at the traffic lights.
He’s only had his licence for two weeks, but she seems confident to let him drive, even though it’s her car. And so, he’s very careful. Doesn’t want to scratch the paint, or go too fast, or break the law in any way.
It’s not only his licence that’s at risk.
He stops, and they wait, and she’s smiling, and he thinks he’s never seen a more beautiful creature in his life, and he’s gods-damn lucky that she asked him to come with her.
She reaches across, almost without looking, and takes his hand in hers.
She says nothing, he says nothing, and nothing is needed to be said.
He lets go of her hand for a brief moment, moves the car out of neutral, releases the clutch, and drives forward, her hand once again tangled in his. They get half-way across before-
This Ash woke with not a start, as is typical in such situations, but with a thud.
Unsure of how he’d ended up on the floor, he sat up, blinked, trying to remember what had caused him to fall out of the bed. It was only a small camp bed, his bed being taken up by Max, who was the youngest and in his mother’s opinion, the one who deserved to be comfortable. May was in the guest room, Misty on another camp bed in that room, and Brock had the couch.
It was only a small camp bed, the fall would have been little more than twenty centimetres, but for a moment, he had the brief sensation of an endless drop, vertigo and the speed of which making his head spin...
Bile burned in his throat as he realised he was going to be sick.
Feet skidding on well-worn carpet, he managed to make it out the room, down the hall, around the corner and into the bathroom.
The tiles are cold on bare-feet.
He rinsed his mouth, and was alarmed to see his mouthful of water, red with blood, gurgle down the drain.
He looked up and met the eyes of his reflection, which were dark and shadowed in the dim light. For a moment, he watched, trying to remember what had caused him to wake, and why his mouth tasted of copper.
Finding no answers in the depths of his eyes, he headed back to his room, where Pikachu had curled into the warm hollow left by his body. Moving the golden mouse pokemon to one side, he climbed back onto the camp bed, and slipped into an uneasy sleep.
This Ash, unlike the other one, did wake with a start.
He passed from awake to sleep almost immediately, finding himself alert and upright in the bed before he even knew why. He still didn’t know, couldn’t understand what had been so alarming that he had woken.
He laid back down, slipping back into the warm covers of the bed and shivering for the sudden wave of cold that passed over him.
His wife, still asleep, felt him move, and curled up against him.
He smiled slowly, comfortable in the fact that she could at least rely on him to ease her dreams.
He absently smoothed back a lock of hair that tickled his bare chest, and she sighed, pulling closer to him.
He wrapped his arms around her, and tried to regain that sense of peace that had fled upon his awakening.
He closed his eyes, and almost reluctantly, slipped into sleep.
-the other car, rushing towards them, running the red light, he turns-
“Good morning everybody!”
His mother’s voice, loud and boisterous even at –Ash blearily looked at the clock- a quarter past seven, invading his conscious thought, and he was forced to get up.
On the other bed, Max grunted, and rolled over.
“Good morning to you too, Mrs K. Sleep well?”
Brock’s voice, deeper now, and with that musical timbre to it that made all the girls in every pokemon centre they visited sigh.
“Thankyou, Brock, and yes I did. Oh, good morning May!”
May, not what you would call a morning person, mumbled a reply, and he could hear her footsteps leading to the kitchen.
He yawned, stretched, decided it was about time he got out of bed, crawled off the camp bed, taking no chances after his fall the night before and that curious snippet of dream lingering in his memory.
Pikachu, still snoring, didn’t notice, and Ash pulled his shirt over his head as he headed for the stairs, the kitchen and eventually food.
His stomach growled.
“You’re always hungry, aren’t you Ash?”
He stifled the urge to laugh, and turned to her.
“Well, yeah. I’m a growing guy. I need food.”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“More like you’re a bottomless stomach.” She smiled at him, and it was a sleepy smile, her eyes half-closed, and her mouth soft.
“’Morning to you too, Mist.”
She smiled at him again, and ever the gentleman, he let her head down the stairs first.
Still trying to stifle the huge grin that seemed intent on plastering itself across his face, but failing miserably, he almost leapt down the stairs, still relishing the thought of the way her eyes had lit up when she saw him.
“Hey, sleepy-head, wake up.”
Ash ignored the voice, attractive as it was, having decided that the warm covers and the warm bed –not to mention the warmth of her body within it- were a much more enticing deal than him getting up and having breakfast.
Unfortunately, his stomach disagreed with him.
She laughed, and he loved the sound, it seemed to him she doesn’t laugh as much as she should these days.
“You’ve got to get up before your stomach starts digesting itself, and then I won’t have any husband left.”
“You’ll just have to remarry,” he murmured, slipping his head under the pillow.
She laughed again, laughed harder, dissolving into a fit of giggles.
He raised his head.
“It wasn’t that funny, you know.” She was still laughing as he reached out to touch her face. His hands were strong and gentle, and she nuzzled into him.
“Maybe breakfast can wait...” she murmured, and he agreed with her, as did another part of his anatomy, his stomach completely forgotten.
Beside the bed, and in his wicker basket, Pikachu shook his head, and muttered something about humans only having one thing on their minds.
Ash, whose hearing is sharper these days, contradicted him.
was the one I had to threaten to neuter if he didn’t leave those Pikachu in
She broke the kiss gently. Ash, helpless to resist, sighed.
“Mist, you’ve got me wrapped around your little finger.”
She laughed, and kissed him again, her mouth murmuring two words against his.
-sees the other car, sees the red paint, it’s coming too-
“So what’s the plan for the next few days, amigo?” asked Brock, buttering his toast.
Ash shrugged, mouth full of pancake.
Misty rolled her eyes, and asked him to pass the syrup. He did, and for a brief moment, their hands touched. Ash swallowed nervously, and turned back to the food on his plate.
“Did you see that? He must’ve swallowed a whole pancake-”
May shook her head at her younger brother’s incredulity, and concentrated on figuring out exactly what was going on between Ash and the newest member of their party, Misty.
Ash, still uneasy for a reason he couldn’t quite define, but knew had something to do with her, decided he might as well answer Brock’s question, if only to distract the others from his discomfort.
we’ve only just got back from the
“Who are you, and what have you done with Ash Ketchum?”
May looked incredulous, as did Max. Brock continued his chain of thought.
“I mean, Ash, seriously, when have you ever considered taking a break?”
“Since I realised that I’m seventeen and haven’t done a lot of things in regards to my approaching adulthood,” snapped Ash, “I’ve only just got my licence, and I’m out of practice; I still haven’t registered to vote –even though I became eligible to two years ago- and I haven’t had a chance to really, really, relax since I was twelve.”
“Ash Ketchum, there’s something wrong with you.” Ash turned to Misty, who was watching him with a stern expression. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’ve become responsible.”
Ash, serious, responded in a tone as stern as hers.
growing up, Mist. That’s all. Everybody does it apparently, and I don’t
understand why you are all acting like I’ve grown another head. And besides,”
he added, sure his next comment would calm the others, “
Collectively, the table sighed in relief, glad that this was just another endless competition with the other boy from Pallet, but only Misty knew that that hadn’t been his reason at all.
“Well, Ash, you’ve changed a lot. But, not too much I hope.” She smiled at him, and Ash to her eternal surprise, gave her a look that was enticingly enigmatic.
“Just enough, Mist. Just enough.”
“Ash! Honestly, you have no control,” murmured Misty as her husband continued to nuzzle her neck, “anyone would think you never got any by the way you’re panting after me.”
“I can’t help it if I think you’re the most desirable woman in all the world. And besides, I’m married to you. I have every right to pant after you if I want.”
Misty rolled her eyes, determined not to give in to her husband’s administrations.
“Yes, well, if you continue to do this, I will have no stamina left to get out of bed.”
Ash kissed a milk-white shoulder, working his mouth up her neck.
“That’s okay with me. You can stay here all day if you like. I’ll just have to keep you company.”
Misty laughed, but laughter quickly turned to gasps and moans as her husband found her weak point, and nibbled her jawbone, just below her ear.
“Oh, that’s not fair... why do you have to tease me?” she breathed.
“Well, personally, I think it’s no fairer than what you do to me. Gods, woman, you just have to kiss me, and I’m a goner. Not even that, just a touch, that’s all.” His mouth moved to her neck. “And well, I’m a guy, right? We’re not known for thinking with our brains, and you, well, you can turn me on like a light switch, and then you’ll leave me like that, and I’ll be horny all day and by the time you’re ready I feel like my head’s gonna explode. So I think it’s high-time I paid you back for all of those cold showers I’ve had to have.”
Misty shivered as Ash’s hands somehow found their way to her stomach, and his fingers traced lazy circles on her skin.
“Besides, it’s our tenth wedding anniversary in two days. I can’t help it if I want to be romantic.”
“What you want to be, Ash Ketchum, is laid.”
“Yeah, well, that too.”
Misty laughed, and snuggled closer to him.
“You’re hopeless, Mr Ketchum.”
Ash laughed too, moments before he kissed her, his lips murmuring against hers.
“So are you, Mrs Ketchum.”
-fast, much too fast, he sees the other driver, sees the fear in his eyes and knows-
“So you’re really serious about taking a break for a few weeks, huh?”
Ash sighed, and turned, clean shirt hanging on one arm.
“Mist, you could give me time to get dressed you know.” The boy from pallet, who was suddenly much more than a boy in Misty’s opinion, gave her a world-weary look. “I mean, I haven’t even put my shirt on yet, or finished buttoning my jeans. I’m practically standing here in my boxers.”
Misty shrugged, apparently not concerned with his current state of undress.
“I’ve seen you in boxer shorts –and a hat- heaps of times.”
“Yes, but I was ten at the time. Not seventeen. There’s some considerable difference. Believe me.”
Once again, Misty shrugged.
Ash sighed again, and finished his buttons, pulling his shirt over his head.
“That took me all of three seconds, so why couldn’t you have waited? What’s so important that you need to speak to me now?”
Misty straightened from leaning on the doorframe, and moved to sit on Ash’s bed.
The bed itself was far too small to accommodate Ash now, as he’d grown considerably between the age of twelve and the age of seventeen.
She regarded him for a moment, watching him, and Ash couldn’t help but feel alarm at the inscrutable expression in her blue eyes.
“May has got the idea in her head that there’s something going on between us. I know there’s not, and have tried to convince her many times so, but she won’t believe me. I need you to talk to her, and tell her that we are merely friends, nothing more, nothing less.”
“Best friends, Mist,” corrected Ash, “best friends.”
Misty gave him a small smile.
“Yeah. That’s all I wanted to say. Oh, and your tag’s sticking out.”
She stood, moved behind him, and tucked in the small white tag with cool fingers.
“Gah! Cold fingers!” exclaimed Ash, and Misty cuffed him over the head.
“Don’t be such a cry-baby Ketchum.”
Ash turned to face her, snatching up her hand before she could lower it.
“Ye gods, woman, how cold are your hands? What did you do? Put them in a freezer?”
Misty tried to tug her fingers away, and was shocked to find that she couldn’t. Ash was a lot stronger than he used to be, and she was slightly disconcerted to find that his hands were much stronger than hers. His hands were also warmer, and quite slender, with tapered fingers, and calloused palms.
“Sorry. Off with the Clefairy. What did you say?”
“I said, I’m going to hold your hands here until I warm them up. You’re too cold for an early morning like this. You’ll get frostbite.”
“Ash, it’s a quarter past nine and it’s a balmy twenty-eight degrees outside. I doubt I’m going to get frostbite. Let go.”
“No. Not until your hands are warm.”
Pikachu, who’d been woken by the ruckus, lifted his head and flicked an ear curiously as he watched the exchange.
Ash shook his head, a gleeful grin spreading across his face.
Misty was getting impatient. She tugged her hands, only succeeding in pulling Ash closer to her.
“Uh-uh.” Ash shook his head, shaggy black hair sliding over his shoulders.
Misty frowned, tugged again, and ended up pulling herself to him, thumping against his chest. For a moment, she found herself just leaning against him, her head resting just below his chin. For a moment, Ash was too startled to react, and they just stood there, trying to understand how each ended up in such a position.
“Ash, I think you better let go.” Misty’s voice wasn’t raised, or angry, but quiet and it seemed to Ash there was a note of sadness in it.
“Mist, you and I both know I’m not letting go of your hands until they’re warm, or you tell me what’s bothering you. And don’t bother denying that there’s anything wrong. I can hear it in your voice. Now spill the beans, or...”
“Or what?” asked Misty, pulling her head back slightly to look up at him –since when was he taller than her?- and raising a curious eyebrow.
Pikachu, the silent observer, was alarmed. By now, one of them –usually Misty- would be attempting to kill the other –usually Ash-, but nothing was happening. The small yellow pokemon didn’t like the way this was going and decided to go find someone to help.
Neither Ash nor Misty noticed as he slunk out of the room.
“I’ll have to... uh, actually, I don’t know what I’ll have to. Usually you’re the one interrogating me by now. You’ll start hitting me, and then I’ll be shielding my head, crying out for mercy.” Ash stopped, and frowned. “Do you enjoy hurting me or something? Because it seems to me, that’s all you ever do.”
Misty sighed, and bit her bottom lip.
“No, Ketchum, believe it or not, I don’t like hurting you. It’s just sometimes that you deserve it.” She sighed again, and turned away from him.
A few moments later, Ash heard a muffled sob.
“Hey, hey, hey, don’t cry! Oh, Mist, don’t cry. Please.” He turned the girl’s head towards him with gentle fingers. “Hey, it’s okay. Please, don’t cry. If someone sees you like this, they’ll assume it’s my fault, and then I’ll be in real trouble. Shh, it’s okay.”
He held her to him, letting go of her hands, and rubbing her back.
Misty said nothing, burying her head in the space under his chin.
Ash, disconcerted by her tears, was even more so when he realised he was quite enjoying having her so close to him. With her head just below his chin, he could smell the lingering scent of her apple-flavoured shampoo, and the faint scent of her apple-flavoured soap.
“You smell like apples.” He announced, seemingly pleased with himself.
Misty burst into laughter, wondering why he sounded so gods-damned pleased with himself when he reached that conclusion.
She met his eyes, and couldn’t help but smile when she saw the grin on his face.
“Ash, you are such a... a...”
“Genius? Spunk? Incredibly powerful trainer? Any one of those is fine, Mist.”
“I was going to say ‘idiot’, but somehow I don’t think you’ll be too happy with that answer.”
“Damn right. Now let’s go and...”
“Hah! I knew there was something going on between you two! Wait till Mrs K hears about this!”
May –who’d been standing in the doorway after being summoned by Pikachu- ran off, and startled, Ash ran after her, dragging Misty after him.
“See, Mrs K? I told you there was something going on between those two! They were getting all cosy in Ash’s bedroom before Pikachu came and got me!” Ash and Misty, who stood at the base of the stairs, hotly denied this.
“Mist was upset and I was trying to make her feel better. That’s all. I said she smelt like apples, and she called me an idiot, and that’s all.”
Brock, who’d been helping Mrs K with the dishes, raised an incredulous eyebrow.
“If that’s all it is, why are you holding her hand?”
Both Ash and Misty blushed, and Ash let go of her hand as though it were a venomous Spinarak.
Brock grinned and turned back to the dishes, and Mrs Ketchum laughed at her son’s feeble attempts to deny what he was accused of.
Ash dozed happily, aware of only his wife’s sighs and the warmth of the sheets underneath him. Misty slept on, and Ash knew he probably should get up. After all, she was right in saying that she couldn’t get out of bed without his help.
“Hey Pikachu,” he whispered, and smiled when his pokemon chirruped an answer. “Where’s Misty’s wheelchair? Is it up here, or down in the lounge? I think I carried her upstairs last night, I can’t remember.”
Pikachu muttered something about that not being surprising considering what Ash’s attention usually was seized by.
He looked around, ears flopping madly, and spotted the object of his search. Misty’s chair, custom-made and still in good condition.
“You find it?”
Pikachu nodded, then realised that Ash probably couldn’t see his nod.
“Cool, thanks Pikachu. Where is it?” Ash, sliding out gently from underneath Misty, followed the pokémon’s directions, and headed to the chair, slowly and carefully, hands outstretched.
“Ow!” he cried as he connected with the steel of the chair, and froze, listening out for any sounds of movement from his sleeping wife.
“She must be sleeping like Snorlax,” murmured Ash as he grasped the handles, and wheeled it towards where he knew the bed was.
“Hey, Mist... wakey-wakey. It’s a quarter past ten. Brock and May are going to be here in fifteen minutes.”
Misty mumbled sleepily, turned her head away from him before jolting awake.
“Fifteen minutes! Gods, Ash, you could have woken me earlier! Oh, you got my wheelchair! Good. I’ve gotta have a shower, do my hair, get dressed... you should get some clothes on. Hurry up, Ash!”
“Gods woman, how do you do that?” he asked as Misty pulled herself into her wheelchair, “I mean, I find it hard to wake up in the morning, let alone go from awake to organising my day in two point five seconds.”
“Don’t worry about it. Get you gone! You’ve got clothes to put on Ketchum! Pikachu, make sure he puts matching socks on this time.”
Pikachu chirruped an agreement, and Misty wheeled herself towards the bathroom.
“And Ash, if you can’t do the buttons up, there’s no shame in asking me to do them for you.”
Ash turned to her, or at least in the direction of her voice.
“Just because I can’t see doesn’t mean I can’t do buttons up, thank you very much.” He poked his tongue out at her, and smiled when he heard her laugh.
“She thinks just because I’m blind that I’m completely dependent. I can cope just fine, you know.” This Ash declared shortly before he walked into the end of the bed, bruising his shin.
“Gah! Stupid lump of-”
Misty grinned as she heard Ash cursing the furniture, and realised that if she started laughing, she was likely to swallow her toothbrush.
In her opinion -and to Ash that was the only one that mattered- she thought he coped really well with being unable to see. His eyes had been damaged in the same crash that had damaged her spine. Her legs were useless now, but that didn’t faze her. She could still swim, she was alive, and most importantly, she had Ash, who was currently cursing Pikachu for trying to trip him up.
Laughing again, and almost swallowing the toothpaste, she decided that she’d better get a move on.
Ash, still cursing randomly, managed to get himself into pants and socks. It was only when he reached the shirts he had a problem.
These days, Misty was the one that bought his clothes, and she had decided that buttoned shirts were the way to go.
Buttons proved a problem for Ash, who couldn’t see if he was putting the right button in the right hole. Pikachu was no help; the small electric mouse tended to lie to him and laugh when Ash got frustrated.
“Damn you, Pikachu, why can’t you help me out here? You tell me if I’m likely to walk into anything, or where stuff is, so why can’t you help me do my damn buttons up?”
“Calm down, Ash. Come here.” Ash dutifully turned and walked in the same direction as his wife, and she carefully and slowly, letting his fingers trail over hers, buttoned the shirt.
“There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? You’re just lucky I can shower quickly.” She grabbed him by the collar, and kissed him.
To Ash’s dismay, it was only a short kiss, but he was smart enough to realise that if he delayed her any longer, she was more likely to kill him than kiss him. Both of them heard a knock on the door.
“Oh! Brock and May are here! Do you want to answer the door? I’ve gotta tie my hair up.” The squeak of Misty’s tyres informed him that he was alone in the wardrobe. Alone apart from a sniggering Pikachu.
“Shut up, and don’t you dare tell anyone I need my wife to button my shirt.”
Pikachu retorted with something that sounded like why should he do that?
“Well, if you don’t I’ll tell everyone I meet that you still sleep with a soft toy in your basket.”
The shocked silence from Pikachu told him he’d made his point.
“Hah! Not so cocky now are we? C’mon, if we wait any longer, Brock’ll probably knock down the door.”
The stairs proved no problem.
A hand rail had been equipped long ago, and the stairs were more of a ramp anyway. It had been hard for Misty to wheel her chair up stairs, so a ramp had been installed years ago.
The knocks on the door grew louder.
“Hold your wild Ponyta!” called Ash, “I’m coming, I’m coming!”
The door had a simple, easy to turn handle, and was opened.
“’bout bloody time. How long does it take you to get dressed, Ketchum?”
Ash muttered something under his breath, but Brock couldn’t quite hear, except for ‘buttons’ and ‘Misty’.
“Hey, Ash!” May grinned at him, and Ash smiled back in her general direction.
“Hey May. How’s the breeding centre going?”
“Great. Me and Brock-” a cough from Brock’s direction “- okay, Brock got a contract with the Pokemon League. They want to start breeding Dratini in order to replenish the wild stock.”
“Damn right. The fact that we’re being paid upwards of $10 000 for every Dratini that’s born helps too.”
Ash whistled appreciatively.
“Ash, have you answered the door yet?” called out Misty from upstairs.
“Yes!” shouted Ash. “You guys better come in before I get yelled at some more.”
“Married bliss, huh Ash?”
“Shut up.” said Ash as he led the pair into the kitchen.
-that it’s too late, can’t turn back now, nothing can be done to-
“Ash, do you want lunch or not? You can’t just lie on the couch forever, you know.”
“Hat boy, if you don’t get up, Pikachu’s gonna eat it all. And you shouldn’t wear a hat inside. It’s rude.”
Misty leaned forward and snatched it from his head, causing shouts of protest from the hat’s owner.
“HEY!” cried Ash as Misty –with the hostage hat in her hands- headed back to the kitchen.
As he followed her, Ash realised he could smell spaghetti.
Hat forgotten, he took his place at the table.
“’Bout time. Thought you weren’t hungry.” said Brock as he laid a plate in front of the boy.
Ash snorted in derision as he began to eat.
Misty rolled her eyes, took her plate from Brock, and sat across from Ash.
Head bowed, the boy had managed to clear a plate full of spaghetti in less than three minutes.
Misty sighed, and continued to eat her meal slower and more reservedly, ignoring the pleading look Ash was giving her.
“Ketchum, you are not eating any of mine. This is my meal. Mine. You are not getting any. If you’re still hungry, it’s your own fault.”
Ash fluttered his eyelashes at her.
“Ash, that only works when a girl does it. And it’s not going to work on me, even if you do have long eyelashes.”
Ash clicked his fingers, and tried to think of another way to gain her meal by cunning.
Unbeknownst to the pair, Brock grinned as he watched from the kitchen. He hushed Mrs Ketchum and May, who’d just come in from the garden.
She and May nodded, and slunk into the kitchen. Pikachu, who was seated next to the spaghetti-pot on the bench, grinned.
Ash, who’d decided to try and distract her, pointed over her shoulder.
“Look, there’s a wild Spinarak behind you!” he cried, and Misty –who wasn’t falling an inch for his trick- had to admit the depth of emotion he’d squeezed into his voice was pretty impressive.
“Sorry Ketchum,” she said, around a mouthful of spaghetti, “you’re not fooling me with that.”
Ash pouted, game spoiled. He laid his head on his arms –crossed as they were on the table- and watched her.
Slowly, delicately, she took a mouthful –each strand cut neatly from the nest of pasta on her plate- and placed it in her mouth. A single strand lay loose, and she slurped it up, but with considerably less noise and more grace than Ash Ketchum would have done.
Ash found himself fascinated by the red tomato sauce on pink lips, and shook his head to dispel such an unfriend-like feeling.
For a moment, he would’ve sworn he’d thought of her in a non-friend, non-Misty context; he’d seen her as a very attractive girl, who’d wiped sauce from her mouth with a delicate pink tongue.
He didn’t think he liked where that train of thought was going; he’d been thinking about her in that way too much lately.
Snapping his thoughts from her, he considered her meal again.
Being cute hadn’t worked, nor had cunning; perhaps it was time to use brute force.
Pikachu held out his paws for the bowl of spaghetti Brock handed him; May and Mrs Ketchum each received theirs, and each of them held bowls in one hand, fork in the other, standing and watching the in-meal entertainment.
Ash stood, sighed, and walked around to Misty’s chair.
Misty laid her head back and eyed him warily. From his position behind her, the boy from Pallet towered over her, and his eyes gleamed with mischief.
She swallowed her mouthful and spoke.
“What are you up to Ketchum?”
Ash shrugged. “Sorry Mist, but I am really hungry.”
Misty gasped as Ash picked up the chair, and carried it –with her still seated- to the lounge.
Misty shouted in protest as Ash shook her onto the lounge, guaranteeing her a soft landing at least. Then, chair in hands, he bolted back to the kitchen table, sat the chair down, and was in it and eating before it had even stopped rocking.
“I’m thinking we should go out to a café. Not that you don’t make great coffee Misty, but I’d like to eat out for once. I hear there’s a really great place on the sea-shore.” May stirred her coffee as Misty passed it to her. “After all, what with all the work Brock and I have been doing, we’ve hardly had any time to do things for ourselves.”
“Actually, May, I’ve been doing all the work. You sit there, and tell me what to do.”
May, indignant, opened her mouth to protest, and was forestalled by Ash.
“Please, guys. No fighting. Misty’s not supposed to get stressed out by anything. Doctor’s orders.”
Ash smiled crookedly, and took a sip of his coffee.
“Doctor says if she stresses out, she’s less likely to hold on to the baby this time.”
May burst into joyful laughter.
“Baby! Misty, you didn’t tell me!”
Misty gave the younger woman a wan, but hopeful smile.
“I don’t know if I am. The doctor said it was too early to tell if the treatment had worked. And I don’t feel any different. And besides,” she added, lifting herself from her wheelchair, and into a chair at the table, “she did say that the chances that we could conceive would be very slim. Ash is just getting his hopes up, that’s all.”
“Why not? It’s gotta work this time. I know it will.”
Ash turned his blind, but hopeful gaze onto his wife.
“You said that the other seven times too, Ash.” Misty sighed, and brushed a lock of hair from Ash’s eyes. “And I miscarried then as well.”
Brock sat back in his seat, shifting to get comfortable.
“Ash has got every right in Kanto to hope, Blue Eyes. He wants a baby just as bad as you do. And he’s not the only one hoping too. I hope you both get lucky, too. It’ll stop those wistful stares I see you give your nieces.”
“I hope. I do. But... we’ve failed so many times. What’s to say we won’t fail now as well?”
“Fate.” said Ash finally. Everyone seated at the table turned to him, wondering what the hell he was going on about.
“Fate wouldn’t be that cruel to do that to us again, Mist. Gods know we don’t deserve it. Gods know you don’t deserve it. Someone up there has gotta let it work this time. They have to. Or else everything I believed as a child is wrong.”
Stunned at the depth the young man had revealed in those few simple words, all those at the table blinked in shock.
Unknown to Ash, they continued to stare at him as he drank his coffee, wondering how the hell he’d suddenly become so deep when it was a common-known fact that Ash was born to be blonde, and a mere chance of genetics had resulted in him having black hair.
-help them, he tries to look away but can’t and everything speeds up-
Ash was bored. Admittedly, it was nice once in while to stop and put his feet up, and relax, but now he was so damned bored that he was watching May paint her toenails.
If he had to watch one more layer of pink polish being painted on with incredible technical precision, he would go insane.
Across the lounge room, Max was reading a book, Misty was filling in the cross-word in the daily newspaper (“What’s a six letter word for uninterested? It starts with a b...”), and Brock was helping his mother knit by holding her yarn.
At the moment, the older man’s hands were tied with complex knots of blue wool.
It seemed to Ash that all the excitement had leached out of the lounge, and was being distributed to places where stuff of greater interest –although that was not hard considering the current occupations of the members of the group- was happening.
If he heard the flick of a page turning, the rattle as May once again coated her brush with nail polish, or the click of knitting-needles one more time, he was going to scream...
“Ash, do you want to go to the movies tonight?”
Ash blinked, and looked towards Misty, who was still looking down at the newspaper.
“Do you want to go to the movies with me? There’s supposed to be a great thriller on at half past six.”
She looked up, and there was nothing on her face to suggest anything other than she was asking if her friend wanted to go to the movies with her.
Her friend, thought Ash, her friend. Nothing more. Remember that.
“What’s it called? Maybe I’ve heard of it.”
Ash could tell that the others were watching them: Max curious, and everybody else with smug smiles on their faces. He ignored them.
“Uh, says here,” Misty looked back at the newspaper, scanning text, hoping for a glimpse of something-
“Ah! Here we go; it’s called ‘Double Team’, about some lady who gets wrongly charged with the murder of her husband, who isn’t actually dead. She and her Abra go and hunt him down. It’s got car chases...” she wheedled and Ash smiled.
“Sure. I’ll go.” He though for a moment. “How’re we gonna get there? It’s a long walk to Pallet’s local cinema...”
“We can take my car. I’ll drive, and if you’re lucky, I’ll let you drive home.”
Ash nodded, ignoring the gentle jibe at his own lack of transportation.
“You’re paying for your own ticket though,” he added.
“’course, Ketchum. Don’t expect you to pay for me, although if you’re feeling generous, you’re more than welcome to.”
Misty winked at him, and Ash, to his horror, felt his ears go slightly red.
“Okay then, it’s settled.”
Behind them, Brock chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” asked Ash.
Brock sighed theatrically.
“Just you two. Organising your first date. Ah, young love. Makes you feel so old, doesn’t it, Mrs K?”
Ash’s mother nodded, smiling slyly.
“That it does, Brock. That it does.”
Ash blushed furiously, denying any such thing, as did Misty, whose protests were a little more vehement then Ash would’ve expected.
He looked towards her curiously, but she said nothing, eyes downcast and cheeks a vibrant red.
Curiosity piqued, he filed her appearance and the fact that she was more upset about the allegations than he was under Interesting in the cabinets of his mind.
He didn’t have time to consider it though, as his mother decided it was time for tea and biscuits, and he, Misty, Max and May were enlisted by Brock to untangle his hands from the mess of blue wool Mrs Ketchum had left him with.
May sighed happily.
“Just smell that sea air,” she remarked, leaning back in her chair. “It’s beautiful here... I just love this café.”
The Staryu Coffee Shop was Cerulean’s trendiest and most popular coastal café. Considering the length of Cerulean’s coastline, and the amount of café’s, boutique coffee shops, and tea parlours, this was an impressive achievement.
Misty agreed with her, edging her wheelchair closer to the table as the waiter deposited their drinks –two lattes, one strong black, one chocolate milkshake- and left.
“Yeah, we always come here when we go for our morning walk, don’t we Ash?”
Ash nodded in agreement, slurping his milkshake.
“Mm. It always smells good here, and it’s not too noisy either. Misty tells me the view is beautiful,” he added, smiling at his wife.
Brock rolled his eyes as Ash drained his milkshake in one, long, noisy slurp.
“Gods, hat-boy, when are you gonna grow up?”
“Never.” He laid his –now empty- glass on the table, and leant back in his seat, Pikachu on his lap. “I mean, I don’t have to work, pokemon training’s harder now I can’t see, and besides Pikachu can practically train himself, and I haven’t really got much else to do. All I do these days is sleep, eat, go for long walks with my –very beautiful- wife, and sleep some more. Don’t have any responsibilities, so don’t have to worry about anything.”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“Ketchum, if I’m pregnant, and we have a baby this time, I guarantee that you’ll be the one getting up in the middle of the night to change nappies.”
“But it’ll be dark!” he protested, and Misty laughed.
“Well, that won’t bother you, will it? It’s always dark for you!”
“Hey! Just because I’m blind doesn’t mean I can’t see!” Ash froze, and thought for a moment.
“Wait a sec...”
Misty rolled her eyes.
“Ash, you’re an imbecile.”
Ash was just about to protest this when he felt it.
-and, for one blinding, painful moment, he hears her gasp, and suddenly there’s no time to scream.
Ash hummed a tune to himself as he buttoned his shirt. No matter what Brock, Pikachu and his mother might say, this was not a date. He’d had to explain this to Brock in no uncertain terms, and threaten the older man with slow, painful death if he kept making jokes about it.
Pikachu had been bribed with copious amounts of ketchup to drop the subject, and his mother had been warned sternly.
“I still say it’s a date,” remarked Brock, leaning in Ash’s bedroom doorway.
“What is it with this place? Everyone only talks to me when I’m getting dressed. Gods, do I have to put a sign on my door saying ‘Do Not Disturb’ or something?” Ash turned to Brock, taking in the man’s confused expression.
“Never mind. Why do you keep saying that? You know it’s not a date.”
Brock rolled his eyes.
wearing a shirt with a collar.”
“So what? I can wear a shirt with a collar whenever I damn well want to. And besides,” he added, brushing past Brock, and heading down the lounge, shoes in hand, “we’re getting something to eat afterwards. There’s this café that Misty likes on the seashore, and she says they do this great fish teriyaki, and-” Ash stopped himself mid-sentence, taking in Brock’s incredulous look. “What?”
“You’re getting dinner afterwards?” asked Brock in an amazed tone of voice.
“Yeah. No big deal. The movie finishes about half-past nine, so you guys will have already had dinner, so why not? I mean, sure I like mum’s pot-roast, but I wanna eat out now and again, you know?” Ash perched himself on the couch, and began tying shoelaces.
“Ketchum, look at the facts. One: you’re taking Misty to the movies. Two: you’re grabbing dinner afterwards. Three, and this is the most startling piece of evidence: you’re wearing a collared shirt! If you’re not going on a date, I’m a pickled Exeggcute.”
Ash stood, straightening shirt collar.
“Well, egg-man, you’ve got your facts wrong. I’m going to the movies with Misty, I’m not taking her. We’re getting dinner afterwards ‘cause popcorn isn’t very filling, and I’ll be starving by the time we get home, and I’ve worn shirts with collars before. Why are you making such a big deal about this?”
Brock smiled slowly.
“Because we both know that you like Misty more than you should as a friend.” He murmured, and Ash froze, looking at Brock with a horrified expression.
“That’s right, Ketchum. I’m not blind, you know. And besides, you can practically smell the pheromones pouring off you two.” He tapped his nose. “It’s the old sexual alchemy. And it’s so obvious you two have got the hots for each other.”
Ash said nothing, aware of the fact that he was blushing, and not particularly enjoying it.
Brock laughed at his younger friend’s discomfort.
“Relax, I won’t tell her. It’s more fun to watch you two stumble around the fact anyway.”
“Around what fact?” asked Misty as she came down the stairs, “what fact are we ‘stumbling around’, Brock?”
Brock laughed, and turned to Misty.
“Nothing, nothing. I gotta say, Misty, you look particularly beautiful tonight. You do something with your hair?”
Misty’s hair was, as always, down around her shoulders. Misty laughed.
“Brock, you’re an idiot. You ready to go Ash?”
“Yep,” said the dark-haired teen as he turned to face her, “ready as I’ll ever- whoa...” he whispered, eyes wide.
Misty, aware that there was something strange going on, paused mid-step, exactly three steps above the ground floor.
“What? What is it Ketchum?”
Ash, unable to answer, shook himself, and blinked.
“It’s just...” Ash paused.
How could he describe the fact that he’d only just realised now how very, very attractive she was?
And that for the first time in many, many years, he’d just realised that she was female.
Shockingly female. Incredibly, fantastically female.
Somehow, the gods had played a trick on him.
This woman in front of him could not possibly be the girl who had fished him out of the river.
For starters, that Misty would never wear a skirt, and this Misty was; a soft blue cotton skirt that swished around her calves with every step she took.
And that Misty had been little more than a child, but this one was most definitely a woman; her blue tank-top fitted snugly around the convexities and concavities of her slender frame.
And that Misty’s voice had been downright annoying, whereas this Misty had the kind of voice that spoke of many things Ash had never considered before, including a lot of very interesting uses for chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
Ash blinked again, and Misty continued her delicate steps down the stairs.
“Well? It’s just what?” she asked, pausing in front of him, hands on hips, causing her bangles to clink and jangle.
Misty cocked an eyebrow, and Ash found himself staring at her shoes, rather than meet her scrutinising eyes.
“Okay... well, you being weird aside, are we ready to go?”
Ash, relieved the topic of conversation had moved away from her appearance, nodded.
“Yep. Pikachu’s safely locked in my room so he can’t follow me, and we have about twenty minutes before the movie starts.”
“Cool. I’ll go warm up my car. Oh, and you might have to show me where to go. I’m not sure I remember where the movies are.”
Ash nodded again, finding it incredibly hard to resist the urge to turn and follow her every move with his eyes as she entered the garage.
“Tell me now that you don’t think she’s the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen, and I’ll believe you.” said Brock.
Ash said nothing, struck dumb by the sight of Misty in a skirt.
Brock leaned back against the kitchen bench as Misty’s car started.
“Here’s something to consider, Ash. You’ll be in a darkened room for about three hours, watching a thriller. Remember that Misty’s the one who’ll be seated next to you. Who’s she going to turn to if she gets scared? Play your cards right, Ashy-boy, and you’ll end up with more than just the movies and dinner tonight.”
Ash blushed furiously at this suggestion, and Brock’s lewd tone of voice, opening his mouth to protest, and shutting it with a click when no words would come.
A beep from the direction of the garage cut off an angry admonishment, and Brock just grinned as Ash ran out of the kitchen.
There was nothing but silence.
No breeze, no noise, no light.
Only the cold, dark space around him.
“Misty?” asked Ash, unable to tell whether the question had been actually spoken, or merely thought.
He tried to turn, but realised to turn, he would have to have a body. Here, he was little more than a spirit of some kind.
Disembodied, caught in some nexus of time and space.
Ash shivered, or at least thought about shivering.
Where am I? And where’s
As though something –or someone- had heard him, brightest light flared; bright enough for Ash to be able to see, even if he was blind.
Nothing around him but whiteness, like he was caught in a snowstorm of some kind.
Ash didn’t know if he was dreaming, or this was real and he could see.
Great. For the first time in a decade I can see and it has to be a place as boring as this. Now how the hell do I get home-
The thought stopped, mid-think, as more light flashed and a scene unrolled before his eyes, like some sinister film-strip.
“Somebody’s quiet.” Remarked Misty as they stopped at the traffic lights.
Ash, who’d been watching the traffic pass by, blinked.
“Sorry, did you say something?”
Misty sighed as she pulled into gear.
“It seems to me you’re quieter than usual. What’s got your baseball cap all twisted up?”
“Uh huh. And I’m a Magikarp.”
“Well, whatever you say Misty.”
“Huh. Well, if you wanna talk, I’m listening.”
Silence fell between the pair for a while, lasting for almost a whole five minutes before Ash spoke.
thinks this is a date.”
Misty cast Ash a quick glance, and noted he refused to look at her.
“Well, it’s not. And since when have you let Brock bother you?”
“He says I like you more than I should.”
This statement was proffered hesitantly, almost as though he were afraid of her reaction.
Misty said nothing for a while.
“Well, you’re my friend. Of course you like me, unless of course you’re secretly planning to kill me, and steal my pokemon.”
“No. I don’t plan on doing that. It’s just...”
He turned to her, and for a brief moment, she turned away from the road, meeting his gaze.
In the shadows of the sunset, her eyes were deep blue, with violet in their unreadable depths.
What if I do like you too much? I know there’s something... something else about our relationship for it to be just friendship. There’s something more. It’s in the way you look at me when you think I’m not watching, and it’s in the way I can’t seem to take my eyes off of you. Maybe Brock’s right.
As though she could sense his thoughts, her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing, turning back to the wheel after an angry beep from passing cars, due to having allowed the car to slip into the opposite lane.
“Whatever you say, Ketchum.”
It was him.
That was his first thought, followed by the quick realisation that this wasn’t quite him. After all, this Ash looked a little older than he was now, maybe mid-thirties, and a few faint strands of grey wound through his dark hair at the temples.
Slumped as he was in the chair, he looked asleep.
And the house was slightly different, too.
He knew the walls in his bedroom were currently blue, because Misty had chosen the colour herself some six years ago. These walls seemed to be covered with red. Paint, perhaps...?
To his horror, Ash realised it wasn’t paint that was splattered over the walls.
His bed came into view and Ash retched.
That’s not Misty. That can’t be Misty. It’s not Misty. It doesn’t even look like her. I mean, for starters, she has a head...
The body –for it couldn’t possibly be his wife- was still, although judging by the blood still seeping over the sheets, she’d only just died.
And he, the other him, was sitting there.
Perched on a chair in the corner of the room.
Staring at her corpse.
Ash wanted to shout at the other him to wake up and look at her, but realised that such a thing would be useless as the body toppled forward.
A hole in the back of the other Ash’s head told this Ash that the other was gone to a place where no sound could ever reach him.
The gun slipped from the other Ash’s dead and bloody fingers.
By the looks of things, this was murder.
Murder on his part.
Ash retched again, or at least attempted to in his non-corporeal form.
He’d never do such a thing. Never. He was incapable of considering such a terrible, terrible thing!
The deafening silence around him gave him no comfort.
The scene faded, and once more he was in the cold, the dark and the silence, still reeling from what he’d just seen.
“Do you want salt on your popcorn, or icing sugar?”
Ash considered this most serious of conundrums thoughtfully as Misty opened her packet of M&M’s.
Popping one of the brightly-coloured chocolates into her mouth, she watched Ash incredulously as he layered his popcorn with both salt and sugar.
“You’re an idiot.”
Ash rolled his eyes.
“Don’t blame me if your feeble tastebuds can’t contemplate the wonderful combination of flavours that is sweet and savoury.”
“Sweet and savoury, I can handle. I like sweet and sour pork. However, I don’t know how you can eat icing sugar and salt on your popcorn, at the same time. One or the other I could understand, but not both.”
Ash said nothing, and grinned at her as a handful disappeared into his mouth. Chewing exaggeratedly, he smiled as he swallowed.
“Mm-mm. Want some?” he asked, taking a slurp of his soft drink.
Misty just stared.
“C’mon, we want to get a good seat.” Ash started to head towards their theatre, past the usher, before noticing she wasn’t following.
“You coming or what, Mist?”
Still in stunned silence, she followed him.
“Gods, Ash. You have to be the strangest person I’ve ever-” she cut herself off, thinking back to all of the strange people she’d met over the course of her short life.
“No, not the strangest, but you’re definitely up there.”
“You can’t talk yourself, Mist. Hey, there’s a couple of empty spots in the back row! C’mon!”
One hand clutching his precious popcorn, the other seizing hers, he dragged her up the stairs and into the plush velvet seats.
Seating himself in the middle of the row, Ash leaned back in his seat.
Misty managed to squeeze her way past a cuddling couple, and perched herself in the empty seat on Ash’s left, only to find that her armrest had been taken up.
“Hey, that’s my armrest.”
Only the shushing from the elderly woman on Misty’s left stopped their arguing.
“Look, we’re gonna have to share,” whispered Ash as the lights dimmed.
“Fine, but it’s still my armrest,” Misty whispered back.
As the trailers started –‘She thought she was the only woman in Rick’s life. She thought wrong’- the pair seemed to have reached some accord, Ash’s arm resting on Misty’s, and their fingers casually touching.
Neither commented on this, and both concentrated explicitly on the trailers flashing across the large screen.
‘“I’m not leaving! Not without my Growlithe!” the new, heart-warming film by acclaimed film-maker, Jacob Atkins-’
Something slapped Ash’s face, and he knew he was back.
His metal chair squealed against unseen pavement as he pushed it back, stumbling away from the table.
“Ash? Honey, take it easy. It’s me. It’s okay. It’s okay.”
Misty voice was, at that moment, the most comforting thing Ash had ever heard.
“Hey, hat-boy. What’s wrong with you? You’ve gone all pale.”
Ash’s hands quested for his seat, pulled it towards the table.
Seating himself back down, he felt Misty’s hand tangle in his own.
“Ash, you’re shaking. What’s wrong?”
His voice sounded hoarse to his own ears.
“You just started whimpering. And staring at nothing. And then you started to scream. I slapped you, and you pushed your chair back. What happened, Ash?”
Ash was speechless.
Hadn’t the others seen it too? Was it just him? But had he really seen anything, or was it just some sick dream?
But who dreams whilst they’re awake, and in the middle of the day, and in the middle of a conversation? She said I started screaming... I don’t remember screaming. There was just nothingness...
“Ash, don’t ignore me.”
Misty’s voice was scared. Maybe she thought he’d spaced out again...
“Sorry. Nothing happened, Mist. I guess I must’ve fallen asleep or something... and had a nightmare.”
He could feel her incredulous stare.
“Maybe you should see a doctor, Ash.” Added Brock, sipping his coffee.
“Yeah,” chipped in May “cause that ain’t normal.”
He turned to his wife, whom he couldn’t see, but knew would be watching him with a worried expression on her angelic face.
Inwardly, he cringed.
Misty, never a fool, knew something was up. Ash, always stubborn, would always refuse to tell her his troubles, knowing that she had her own to deal with. And this was true; she did have troubles and stresses which he could not cure. But that did not mean she should not be involved in his problems.
As he calmed down, and conversation gradually flowed back through the crowd that had fallen silent at his scream, her grip tightened on his long, slender fingers.
She knew something bad was coming.
She could feel it.
“See? That wasn’t a bad movie.”
“I dunno. Could’ve done with more car chases.”
Ash grinned as Misty tried to whack him over the head with her rolled up program, but missed as he ducked.
“C’mon, let’s get to that restaurant you were telling me about.”
Ash nearly skipped to the car, receiving strange looks from the passers-by, and laughter on Misty’s part.
“Settle down, Ash. You’ll get in trouble with the usher.”
Ash merely stuck his tongue out at her, and laughed when she replied in kind.
“You know, I’m glad I came.”
Misty raised an eyebrow at her younger companion as she unlocked his door, then crossed to her side of the car.
“Mm. It was a good movie, although the special effects were terrible. I mean, c’mon, no one’s gonna believe that a psychic attack looks like that.”
Misty laughed as she buckled herself in.
Something about her laughter... he didn’t know why, but he liked that sound. Especially when it was because of him, not directed at him.
“Well, maybe the director’s never seen a psychic attack before. Or it could just be artistic licence.”
“Huh. Artistic licence, my foot.”
The rest of the drive was quick, and interspersed with conversation, laced with laughter and the subtle glances sent between the pair.
Perhaps it was the fact the moon was no where to be found that night, perhaps it was the stars that burned in the night sky, but for whatever reason, both found in the other something they hadn’t known was there.
“Right, we’ll see you again on Sunday?” asked Brock.
“Yeah, for the traditional Sunday dinner at our place.”
“And I promise I won’t let Ash anywhere near the kitchen this time.”
As Brock and May left the café, Ash slumped back in his chair.
“You okay, Ash?”
“I’m fine. Really.”
“Yeah, and I’m a Snorlax.”
“Um, okay. I mean, I always thought you were human...”
Ash’s poor attempt at humour did nothing to alleviate Misty’s concerns, and even though he couldn’t see her, Ash knew her gaze was focused on him.
fine, Mist. Really, I am. It was just a daydream. Nothing more.”
“Yeah, well, daydreams don’t make people scream like that.” There was an edge to her voice which told him she was afraid.
Afraid of what?
“Mist, maybe we should just go home. I... I’m not feeling that well.”
This was true. Fear curdled in his stomach like hot milk and left him weak.
“Yeah, me too. C’mon, Pikachu. Up you hop.”
As Pikachu snuggled himself into Misty’s lap, and as Ash paid the bill the waiter presented, taking the handles of Misty’s chair and pushing them down the path, towards their coastal house, it seemed to Ash that the everyday mundanities of the real world hid a clawing, gaping fear which snatched at the corners of his mind.
Maybe he was just imagining things.
Even so, foreboding settled in his stomach like a brick.
The restaurant was small, intimate and cosy. Paper lanterns were strung across the roof, sending cheerful light into the booths that lined the walls. The booths themselves were high-backed and encapsulated- the perfect place for a lover’s rendezvous.
Each table was lit by lanterns hanging directly above.
Silk calligraphies dotted the backboards of booths and benches.
It was, Ash had to admit, a pretty nice place.
The chief waiter seemed to know Misty by name.
At Ash’s curious look, Misty had to explain.
I was little, every summer my mother would take us to the coast of
“Mum loved the ocean. So anyway, every summer, we’d do our tour, and we’d always end up in Pallet just before autumn. The night before we left to go home, we’d come here, and have a farewell dinner of sorts. That’s how I know about this place. I haven’t been here for years now, but it’s just the same as ever.”
“So do they make just seafood, or...?”
“I like the seafood platter best, but they do have other dishes. Ah, have a look at the menu.”
Bringing their drinks, the waiter passed menus along to them with what Ash considered to be a sly wink.
“And would the gentleman like to order?”
“Um... I haven’t quite made up my mind yet... Mist, what do you want?”
“I’ll have the fish teriyaki with noodles, thanks. Ash?”
“Uh, that sounds good to me. I’ll have that as well.”
With that the waiter departed, leaving them alone.
As Ash watched Misty sip her wine, he came to the conclusion that Brock should not be told about the events of this night. It was highly unlikely that Brock would believe that he and Misty were capable of having a small, quiet dinner to themselves without killing each other. Not to mention he had assumed that this was a date. Not that Ash would’ve minded if it was...
Wait. I didn’t just think that, did I? This is not a date. If it were a date, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting across the table from her in a small restaurant. No, by now, we’d probably be on the way back to her place...
“Ash, you’re blushing. What are you thinking about?”
“Uh, nothing. And I’m not blushing.”
A single, elegant brow was raised at this, but Ash didn’t comment.
“Whatever you say, Ash. Hey, dinner’s here.”
The teriyaki was indeed the best Ash had ever tasted.
“Maybe you should have an early night Ash. You do look a bit pale.”
The concern in Misty’s voice as she surveyed her husband was obvious. No matter how he protested otherwise, the day had had an effect on him. His normally bright demeanour seemed a little tarnished, and even his cheeky smile was forced.
If she had been able to walk, she would’ve taken him by the hand and led him up the ramp to their bed.
Unfortunately, she could not walk, just as he could not see. The doctors agreed that she could not walk due to the massive spinal trauma she had suffered within the crash. Why Ash could not see was unknown. Physically, there was nothing wrong with his eyes. The doctors had at first assumed it was a temporary mental condition, psychosomatic blindness, but after a decade, Ash still could not see.
The doctors and specialists they went to could not accredit that to psychological issues on Ash’s part.
And as there was apparently no cause, there was no cure. In all likelihood, Ash would never regain his sight, even if Misty was undergoing physical therapy in order to regain her ability to walk.
“You’re right, Mist.”
He smiled wanly at her, and Misty felt tears prick.
She pulled him down to her height, wrapping her arms about him.
He sighed into her soft hair, kneeling with his face buried in the curve of her neck.
She was crying; he could feel the tears splash onto his face, and there was nothing he could do for her.
How could he reassure her when he himself was lost?
He didn’t understand what he had seen, nor did he understand the sense of terrible loss that had settled into his soul.
His life, while not perfect, was certainly better than that of many other people’s.
He had Misty, and that was all that mattered.
He lifted her out of the wheelchair and up, her legs draped uselessly over his arm.
Pikachu pushed the door shut.
He made his way up the ramp that led to the bedroom without needing to see, knowing the pathway by heart, his feet having trod this same path thousands of times.
She sobbed louder, her tears trickling down his neck.
“Why, Ash? Why us? What did we do to deserve this? What cruel thing did we do to deserve this fate?”
Ash couldn’t answer her.
What did we do, my love? Why am I blind and why can’t you walk? You can’t even have children anymore. What right do the gods have to take that from you? You were innocent; you had never done anything to deserve the punishment handed to you. Why do you cry when you think I’m asleep, and why do I have nightmares? Why is our life like this? What happened to our dreams, our hopes? And why, and why oh gods, can I not do anything to ease your hurt?
He didn’t need to see to know that she was in pain now as he laid her upon the bed.
Her fingers tangled in his hair as she cried, tremors racking her.
He would give anything to ease her pain. Anything.
All he could do was comfort her, and hold her, and love her.
But, it was not enough.
The night air was crisp and cool, and a pleasant contrast to the warmth and stillness of the small restaurant they left behind them.
The sand of the beach was wet and soft between Ash’s toes.
Misty laughed as she flirted with the waves, daring them to wet her bare feet. Her sandals were in her hand.
She spun, her skirt flaring out and catching the glimmer of the stars that shone on the water.
“C’mon Ash, the water’s beautiful!” she threw her shoes onto the sand, hitching her skirt up to her knees, and wandering into the gentle shallows.
Ash rolled his jeans up and followed her, ignoring the cool bite of the salt water.
“See, I told you you’d like coming out with me.”
Ash just smiled.
“Yeah, tonight was great. If we were home, we’d be in bed by now. I mean,” stammered Ash as her eyes sparkled with mischief, “our own beds. Not each others.”
“What are you thinking about, tonight, Ketchum?” asked Misty, hands resting on hips. Her skirt fell back towards the water, billowing in the gentle breeze, mimicking the movements of the small waves.
“Uh, nothing,” said Ash, even as she drew closer to him, eyes half-closed and mysterious in the darkness.
“What a pity. And here I was, thinking you might attempt to seduce me.” Misty sighed theatrically.
She shrugged and turned away, once more seizing her skirt-ends in her hands, skipping through the wake.
“H-hey...” spluttered Ash, running after her, feet slipping on the wet, uneven sand.
“What was that?”
The look in her eyes as she turned back to him was something he would never forget. Enticing, pleading, shy and mischievous, it was enough to make him go weak at the knees.
Why had he never seen this in her before?
Because when did I ever allow myself to think of her in that way? I always kept her at arms length. She was always my friend, nothing more. I was so intent on keeping her as my friend I never noticed that she could be so much more.
“I think that’s the plum wine talking.”
He managed to snare one of her hands, and pulled her to a stop, leading her out of the surf and onto the shore.
“I wish it wasn’t though,” he murmured. A quiet smile spread over Misty’s face as she let go of his hand, gathered her shoes up, and started running for the car.
“Catch me if you can, Ketchum!” she called over her shoulder.
Ash grinned, and broke into a run.
In this brief moment, he was able to forget everything.
Her pain, his sorrow, the creeping sense of doom. Everything.
All that was important here was the scent of her skin, the silk of her hair, her frantic cries and the small pain as her fingernails dug into the flesh of his back.
Her hands spasmed, and her cries increased in pitch.
Her mouth tasted as sweet as ever.
But even now, even as the crescent broke, sending them both spiralling into the warm, welcome darkness of release, even as her sobs faded and her long-forgotten tears ceased their slow descent down her cheeks, the fear was there.
Foreboding, as powerful as anything he’d ever felt, crashed over him.
Her back arched, her body moved against his, and again she collapsed against the bad, breathing wild, but calming.
He slumped beside her, unable to breathe for the terror that coursed through him.
She dozed, slipping into a sleep welcome and a gentle respite from the grief of mere hours before.
He could not.
He lay there, listening to her breathing for a good half hour before he moved away.
The carpet felt cold against his feet as he fled the warmth of the bed.
He scrambled into clothes –boxers, track pants and a t-shirt- without even knowing why.
And as he stood, as he turned, faced the pricking sensation at his side, he found himself again confronted with the same nightmare as before.
Not the vision, but instead...
He brushed the sand off his feet, and clambered into her car. Both of them were slightly breathless, the chase over the sand being quite enough exertion for one night.
“Hey, you’re in the wrong side Ash. You’re driving.”
“Me? But, it’s your car...”
“Yeah, well, I had two glasses of wine with dinner. That’s enough to put me over the limit, remember? You’ll have to drive us home. And besides, I’m not sure I could find the way back to your house on a night like this.”
was true. Although the stars shone bright, it was quite dark around them. No
clouds floated above to reflect light, and a rich velvety darkness had settled
They swapped sides, Misty climbing into the passenger’s seat and stretching.
“Oh, I’m tired. I’m gonna go straight to bed when we get home.”
“Don’t say that. Now you’re making me tired.”
Misty smiled sleepily, shutting the door and snapping her seatbelt on with a click.
Ash followed suit, and the car started with a gentle hum.
“Yeah?” said Ash as he switched the car into gear, and backed out of the parking space.
“Thanks for coming with me tonight.”
“It was nothing, Mist. Oh, hang on,” he said, switching the car into neutral, and turning to her.
“What?” she asked sleepily.
Ash said nothing, but brushed a strand of hair away from her eyes.
Misty shivered, but her eyes never left his.
Ash bit his lip.
Dare he risk it and kiss her, and pay the price for it later, or should he just stick with caution?
Screw caution. When have I ever backed down from a challenge?
She tasted of some rare fruit, sweet and spicy at the same time, and of just a hint of plum wine.
The ground beneath his bare feet was not the same ground as the room he had just left. Hell, Ash wasn’t even in the same part of the world anymore, let alone his house, or even the same room.
He was at a crossroad.
A four way intersection, one that looked terribly, terribly familiar.
The roads were bare of all but a few oily smudges. Not a car in sight, and the traffic lights were set on green.
Ash drew in a sharp breath.
I can see.
He could too, and he whirled around trying to make sense of his sudden disappearance, not to mention the sudden return of his ability to see.
Why am I here? This is where we...
His voice trailed off as recognition, which had been nudging him for some time now, finally made its point.
This was where the crash had been.
A lot of pain, and the screech of metal as it is bent into unnatural shapes.
Stars behind his eyes, and he cannot see.
She’s silent, and he panics.
That’s not good.
Hands questing blindly for her, running down her face –her eyes are closed- trembling in the sticky blood dribbling down, dripping onto her singlet, past her stomach and down-
He feels metal, and blood, and warm, wet flesh.
She’s hurt. Badly, and there’s nothing he can do-
He cups his hands over the wound, ignoring the hot flash of pain in his head as he moves, and his ears strain for the sound of sirens.
In the distance, the other car bursts into flame, and he can hear it burn.
The other driver screams, yells for help, and he can do nothing.
The screaming stops.
Sirens. Loud, insistent, and hopefully not too late.
She doesn’t make a sound, and her pulse is weak.
“Please,” he whispers, and he’s not sure whether this is to her, or the gods, or the approaching sirens.
Ash drove slowly, carefully, aware that he was in her car, and his passenger, although asleep now and very placid, could be prone to attacks of rage at any time should he damage her vehicle.
He can still taste her on his lips though, and one small part of him marvels that he would have the courage to do such a thing.
Gods knew, he’d never actually thought he would kiss her; he’d wanted to, certainly, but never considered actually closing the distance between them and doing so.
He’d always thought such a thing would be very, very stupid and probably fatal; evidently, she’d been waiting for him to do such a thing for a very long time, judging by her favourable reaction.
He smiles; a slow, lazy, self-satisfied smile.
He’s not far from home now; only three more sets of lights, and a final left and they’re done.
The flush of blood in his cheeks fades out as he suddenly realises he won’t be able to explain the reason they’re so late back without proving his mother –and Brock- right.
His heart pounds, and he backs away from that hated sight, the place where all of his hopes for the future went up smoke and fumes.
He didn’t know what time it was, when it was, but if he was here, it was for a reason.
If I could do anything to end her pain, and stop the whole stupid thing from happening in the first place. I’d stop the crash and save our lives.
And he knew then that the single most hated memory of his life would soon be re-enacted before his eyes.
He thought he could hear a car coming up the very road he stood upon.
I’ve gotta do something! I’m not going to let this Ash ruin his life the way I did.
He knew about the standard laws of time travel; he had read science fiction after all.
You could never change the past without affecting the future.
So be it.
If fate and the gods played games with his life, by all rights it was his turn.
Even if it did nothing for him, at least one Ash –the Ash that was driving the car in the distance, the blue one with the bright headlights that was coming up the hill- wouldn’t have to hear her cry herself to sleep and be able to do nothing.
Squaring his feet, he planted himself firmly on the road.
In the distance, cars screeched.
Ash peered at the windscreen.
that a mirage, or was there really a man on the road...?
Slamming the brakes on, and jolting Misty awake, the car screeched to a halt in front on the man in the middle of the road.
“What the...?” murmured Misty sleepily as she sat up.
“There’s a guy on the road.”
“What’s he doing?” she asked.
Obviously, this guy had something planned, judging by the determined look on his face. Ash would’ve said this guy was in his late twenties, only a decade or so older than Ash himself. His hair was dark and so were his eyes- but that could’ve just been the poor light. Aside from the headlights, no other illumination could be found.
The traffic lights turned red, and still the man stood there.
Why the hell a man should be standing in front of them at this time of night, clad in what appeared to be track pants and a t-shirt and bare feet, Ash didn’t know.
Misty leaned over and beeped the horn.
The lights turned green.
“Right, that’s it-” said Ash, revving up the engine, and then let the key fall from his hand as a red streaked blistered across the tarmac, a car roaring across the intersection, not caring about the red light, swerving suddenly off the side of the road and smashing into a pole, and bursting into flames.
The man wasn’t looking at them anymore, but had turned to watch the car.
Misty’s hand fell from the wheel in shock.
She’d gone stark white and was shaking.
Her hand felt for Ash’s, and he too trembled as one single, frightened though sunk in.
If that guy hadn’t been standing there, that car wouldn’t have hit the pole. It would’ve hit us.
“That could’ve been us,” he whispered, and Misty squeezed his hand. Both of them turned and looked back to the man, and saw something like a smile spread across his face.
Not quite a smile, for no smile could be that sad.
He stepped away from the road, and waved them through the intersection.
As Misty dialled an ambulance on her mobile, Ash pulled up alongside the man, winding his window down.
“How did you...? Who are...? You saved our lives,” he breathed.
The other man shrugged.
“You’d probably do the same for me.”
Something about the man’s voice was familiar; it was warm, and kind, but at the same time, terribly weary.
“Thank you.” said Ash, and it was all he could do. “Listen, do you need a lift, or something...?”
The man laughed.
“Thanks, but no thanks Ash. I’ll be fine. You can do one thing for me though,” he added, nodding his head meaningfully at Misty.
The older man grinned, and his whole face lit up with something akin to joy.
“Marry her. Gods know you ain’t good enough for her, but you’re as close to perfect as she’s going to get.”
Stunned, Ash’s jaw dropped as the man walked back down the road, seeming to disappear into the cloaking night.
Sirens screamed in the distance, and in front of them a police car and an ambulance pulled up.
“Ash, Officer Jenny’s waving us through.”
Ash blinked, and turned back to Misty. She hadn’t heard what the man had said, and was watching him.
He let go of her hand, changed gears, and drove slowly forward.
Only two more intersections and a final left, and then he was home.
A smile from Misty as she took his hand caused a grin as wide as river to split across his face.
Correction. Then we are home.
He drove off into the night, all thoughts of hairs-breadth escapes forgotten, chased away by the warmth of her hand in his, and the myriad of possibility that stretched before him.
Unbidden, the stranger’s suggestion rose to his mind.
Marry her, huh? Who knows?
He turned to her and grinned, and she smiled back.
It was only as he pulled into the driveway that a final, confused though made itself known.
How did he know what my name was?
“Ash, stop staring at the garage door. Let’s go inside.”
Shaking his head, he took her hand as he locked the car, and let her lead him to the door.
It burst open, flooding the dark front garden with warm light.
“See, Mrs K! It was a date! Look, they’re holding hands!”
Ash was falling.
Tumbling into the dark...
And then he was home, standing in his bedroom, the dim light of the moon pouring through the window and lighting everything in shades of silver and grey.
He turned, and there she was, fast asleep, curled around a pillow, arms stretched out to where his body should have been, legs still slack and useless above the covers.
He could see her...
He fell to his knees beside the bed, hand reached out almost in supplication.
Gods, she was beautiful. Not in appearance –that she was too- but in her vulnerability.
A few strands of hair fluttered over her mouth, moving with every breath she took. Her eyelids fluttered as she dreamed and her mouth, perfect as always, trembled with a sigh.
“Misty...” he whispered.
Those eyelashes fluttered and her eyes opened, slowly, sleepily.
As blue as the ocean on a clear summers day.
“Ash...?” she asked, confused, her voice blurred with tiredness.
“What are you doing...?”
“Looking at you.”
She sat bolt upright then, clutching the sheet to her in shock.
A stunned, shy, hopeful smile spread across her face.
“I can see you,” he whispered, drawing himself up onto the bed, leaning down to kiss her mouth even with his eyes open.
Gods, he never wanted to close them again.
She stammered to a stop as he kissed her again, her eyes fluttering closed.
The sheet fell to the bed, followed soon by his clothing.
“How did this-”
“Don’t ask, Mist, cause it doesn’t matter.”
He didn’t understand it himself; was this because of what he had done, or was what he had done because of this?
Either way, it didn’t matter.
All that did was the warmth of her skin, the blue of her eyes, and the sweetness of her mouth.
She tasted of some rare fruit, sweet and spicy at the same time, and of just a hint of plum wine.
END NOTES: hmm. That was quite a short piece compared to some of the stuff I write, but hopefully you enjoyed it. It was a little strange I admit, and I’m not even going to attempt to explain how exactly Ash ended up back in his past. I don’t know how I thought of this; there’s no big story over how I got the idea for it. I guess I just wonder a lot about fate. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed, and please read and review. Thanks.